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Here are two examples of Things That Almost Were But Weren't: Photography (1839) and Television (1928). The first item contains a woodcut of a heliotype (being the first image of a photograph produced by non-photographic means); the second displays the method for receiving images of radio shows but is not a television.
First: The first published non-photographic image of a non-photograph or "sunpicture") from a collection of papers on the basics of photography, published early in the birth-year of photography, 1839.
Golding Bird's (1814-1854) "A Treatise on Photogenic Drawing", published in The Mirrour, London, 1839, contains five1 significant and extremely early papers on the photographic process (appearing in The Mirrour numbers 945, 946, 947, 949 & 950, April 20-May 25, 1839). [A much larger, more detailed image is available here; I didn't want to lay the book flat on the scanner to get a more detailed image of the copy here at hand.]
It is page 241 (issue no. 945, Saturday April 20) that really peaked my imagination--it contains the first facsimile woodcut of a photogenic drawing, which is essentially the first publication of an image produced by any sort of photographic process. (The image is referred to as "iconic"2 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this via the wonder Luminous Lint blog for historical and contemporary photography, here. The process here is the 'sun picture", and while not exactly considered a photograph per se, it is a photographic process, making this the first image of a non-photographic photograph. It predates the first mass-published photograph by four years and the first (entirely) photographically illustrated book (The Pencil of Nature) by six years. The sun picture, or heliotype, was first described in print in 1801 by both Thomas Wedgewood and Humphrey Davy, and although the process was at least 39 years old at this time there are no recorded published images produced by that process. (The woodcut is much larger than usual for The Mirrour, and is also of a unique brown/red color, and of a different hue than any other woodcut that we have seen in any of the issues of the first 45 years of this publication. I was concerned at one time that this image was a photographic process of some sort, but it isn't, and I'm convinced that it is a woodcut--a very unusual species of woodcut for this publication, but a woodcut nevertheless.)
Published in Washington, D.C.: 1854. Prepared by J.M. Bigelow (botanist of the Expedition), and printed by Wagner and McGuigan by lithograph in Philadelphia. 47”x21”, printed in many colors.
(Here we see a detail of a 2x3" section for the map for the San Francisco Mountains range.) This spectacular map presents the forest trees encountered by Whipple on his expedition for the USPRR from Fort Smith (Arkansas) to San Pedro ( actually Los Angeles, California). The profile shows the trees and their leaves at the elevations encountered—actually the trees are graphically represented by either their shape or their leaves, each of which stand no more than ¼ inch tall. There is a key explanation to the tree symbols at bottom left identifying 42 different trees—including the Cereus Giganteus, which first identified only a few years earlier. There are three levels of graphical representation depicting the route containing more than 250 small images of trees. This is a charming and informative graphical display of data, and is one of the first published efforts to share this information--it certainly seems to me that this is the first representation of the elevation at which trees in the United States and territories might be found. Humboldt's map is certainly earlier, and there are occasional mentions of tree regions (worldwide and in general) that can be found in the atlas to accompany von Humboldt's Kosmos, but there is certainly nothing this large and detailed and exactly. This is just a very cool map.
Six-Foot-Long Blueprint for the Installation of an UNIVAC 490 at the UNIVAC Headquarters in Herkimer, NY
This is a rare blueprint for the layout of the new
UNIVAC 490 computer for installation at
the UNIVAC Utica (NY) headquarters. What
makes this blueprint particularly interesting is that it gives an overview for
the placement of the entire 490 system. The central attractive feature of this blueprint is the church-like feel
of the placement of the components, with the “control console” being roughly in
the center of the plan. The operator
would sit at the central console facing about 25 feet worth of Uniservos, with
the 490 itself located 18 feet away on the left; various drums (about 20 feet
worth) were located behind the CC as were various processors and the 1004
(card) punch. The whole plan seems to
incorporate something like an 18x40 foot space, *plus* five exterior rooms
(manager, confernece, tape storage, tab room, and (my favorite, service and
This fills me with memories of Victorian steam whistle
designs (lovely, ornate) and water-driven mills in Lowell (long and narrow, utilizing river bank and available sunlight). It is a document that speaks of its time,
elegantly portraying the size and scope of one of the leading computers of the
day and its placement at one of its
maker’s principal headquarters.
(Featuring foundation works in the search for extraterrestrial life: Morrison/Coconni, Schwartz/Townes, Dyson, and others.)
In thinking about the “mysterious” optical displays in Texas it brought to mind some of the early publications that we have here on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. I have no doubt that there is abundant life out there, somewhere, in the far-and-gone, but I think it too remote for Earthlings to make visual contact with these folks. It is disappointing that out of all reported sightings there is nothing really decent to say about any of them. And there’s a lot of eyes that have supposedly seen these things over the years—since 1947 I make a rough calculation that there has been a sighting of a UFO (oh please forgive me) every 10 seconds. It sure sounds as though if we were talking about making visual Contact in our own neighborhood that we might have stuck ourselves with one of the needles in the haystack—I think that there are abundant needles in many haystacks out there, but I think too that for all intents and purposes that they’re all pretty much invisible.
All I’m saying is the abundant life in the universe isn’t coming here, though there is no doubt that something is going on, somewhere. The wonderful Paul Butler has found 220+ planets now in an almost-infinitely narrow search spectrum (“around nearby stars”). It would seem that even in our own Milky Way of 400 billion stars that the chances for large number of planets is plausible,, and given the incredible range of life that we find on the Earth that some of these intra-galaxy planets would stand a good chance of supporting life as well.
A census of articles relating to quantum theory and relativity.
We offer for a casual amusement this search that we did on
the FANTASTIC American Physical Society website section PROLA (Physical Review
Online Archive) http://prola.aps.org/ We simply searched all years of the Physical
Review for the appearance of the words “relativity” or “quantum” in the
published titles and/or abstracts. It is
curious to see how long it actually took for these articles to appear in this
journal. The PROLA page is endlessly interesting and a big help to whatever it is that we're doing here.
RELATIVITY Physical Review articles with the word “relativity” in the
title or abstract:
Church's Mathematical Logic is offered here in a rarely seen format--namely, the one that was produced, printed and distributed by the members of the class. At the end of the description is an insightful story told by Albert Tucker about the mechanics of producing such a work.
Church, Alonzo: Mathematical Logic, Lectures
by Alonzo Church,
October 1935-January 1936;Princeton:
, 1936. 1st edition. 124 leaves 4to.
Original printed wrappers. Very good condition. $2,000.00
This is the Library of Congress' copy, with the original
mimeographed LC callcard laid in. +++Lecture notes of Church's class taken by
six of his graduate students (Ficken, Landau, Ruja, Singleton, Steenrod, Sweer,
Weyl) in the fall term of 1935 at the Institute for Advanced Studies at
The following is an interview between William Aspray and
Albert Tucker on the publication (so-called) of this work, taken from the Princeton University website on the Princeton mathematics community in the 1930's. Needless to say, Church was an enormous
influence, changing the entire face of mathematical logic. (It should be noted
to that A.M. Turing came to study with Church at Princeton and particualry in
this course in the fall of 1935.)