JF Ptak Science Books Post 1074
This is the 28th installment in the history of dots series, looking at dots big and small, existent and non-existent, cute and level, individuals and groups. This selection looks at some dots on the micro/cellular level, the tactile visible level and the astronomical level.
Theodor Schwann (1810-1882) entered his contribution to the history of dots with his Mikroskopische Untersuchungen ueber die Uebereisnstimmung in der Struktur und dem Wachstum der Thiere und Pflanzen1 published in 1839, the same year as the announcement of the invention of photography by Daguerre. Schwann–a young experimenter and theorist and former pupil of the great physiologist Joahannes Peter Mueller-- generalized Matthias Schleiden’s general and evolutionary-necessary idea of cell-formation2 and developed it into an overall theory for the basis of life.
Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902) looked at cellular dots and determined (with enormous interest) that they were very significantly altered with the introduction of disease. These images from his Die Cellularpathologie (published in 1858)–a major work which basically founded the field of cellular pathology and introduced a rigorous new approach to scientific medicine--show the differences between normal and abnormal liver cells after having been subjected to disease.
A less-necessary but much larger dot that filled in the spaces of medical service to humanity is found in Der scaepherder Kalengier (“The Shepherd’s Calendar”), a beautifully-designed book printed in 1512. The book was an encyclopedic compendium of contemporary medicine, but it also contained s little less than that, having a section of zodiacal dots and semi-dots in relations to principal points on the body that could be used for bloodletting.
Between the images of the sun/moon and the cell fit the dots of cowpox blisters on the hand and fingers of Sarah Nelmes, famously and inspirationally observed and understood by the Edward Jenner (1749-1823)3. He extracted fluid from the blistered hand of Sarah the milkmaid and injected them into a very young “assistant” named James Phipps–essentially it was human experimentation carried out by a country doctor far removed from the culture of London, but who had a brilliant idea. He continued extracting the injecting the pus from the blister until it came one day that Jenner tried the efficacy of his anti-small-pox innoculations with the real thing, exposing the boy to the dreaded disease. Phipps did get sick but recovered in a few days4, documenting the revolutionary idea of Jenner and taking a great step forward in the treatment of disease. (It took years, by the way, for Jenner’s discovery to be recognized by the medical elite, whose opinion of Jenner was low given his simple medical life as a country doctor.)
1. An English edition was published in London in 1847 under the title Microscopical Researches into the Accordance in the Structure and Growth of Animals and Plants
2. For example, a plant is a community of cells and the cell is the essential unit of the individual plant.
3. Famously reported in his 1798 publication An inquiry into the causes and effects of the Variolae Vaccinae, a disease discovered in some of the western counties of England, particularly Gloucestershire, and known by the name of the cow-pox.
4. Described by Jenner so: “On the seventh day he complained of uneasiness in the axilla, and on the ninth he became a little chilly, lost his appetite, and had a slight head-ache....." but on the 10th day he was perfectly well.... In order to ascertain whether the boy, after feeling so slight an affection of the system from Cow-pox virus, was secure from the contagion of the Small-pox, he was inoculated the 1st of July following with variolous matter (Small-pox matter, ed.) immediately taken from a pustule......No disease followed.... Several months afterwards, he was again inoculated with variolous matter, but no sensible effect was produced on the constitution."