JF Ptak Science Books Post 1571
The wonderful Punch, or the London Chiarivari strikes again for the year 1879. The quick-browse is seldom complete, as I've witnessed again and again; 1879 revealed several fantastic images that were posed to this blog last week (here, for the Technology Museum of the Future and also here for Thomas Edison's Anti-Gravity Underwear and Kite Babies), and as it turns out just a few pages away, there existed a larger, two-page illustration that was again on the triumph of science, and which I missed completely, twice.
The message in this cartoon is the glory of "science", which was flying very high indeed in the newly-electrified times of 1879. Dominating the image is Mr. Punch himself, holding the electrical sun in one hand, illuminating everything. To his right, Mars and Heracles stand before an enormous cannon, with different reactions; Bacchus sits astride a barrel of coffee of all things with Pan enjoying a short cup of Joe, while in the lower left corner Hades himself is making a photograph of Eros (?), an hourglass slung across his back, finally coming to grips with capturing change. In the right corner at bottom is a young man who is intent perhaps on reporting on the situation via a handy public telephone--such things didn't yet exist in 1879, the telephone being just three years old, but the artist thought enough of its future power to add it into this scene of the triumph of science and technology over the panoply of gods and demigods.
On the right ide of the image the gods make no further advance against science and technology. Ares-as-workingman is puzzled by the giant Nasmyth hammer, with the Cyclops in the background a little more concerned, disbelieving what their eye told them. Poseidon is shuttled away in the lower left, accompanied by what looks to be a weeping mermaid., hustled to the exit by a torpedo, a diver in a deep sea suit, and what I think is a special life-preserving inflatable suit. In the middle of the image we see two women dressed in legal and academic garb, looking determined before a finicky Hermes; and above them, lording over it all, is a very dissatisfied Zeus, and a headache-y Hera.
Since the image is entitled "Prometheus Unbound, or Science in Olympus", I guess that Zeus must be reacting to electricity as the unbound Prometheus, a modern version of a kind power given to humankind via electricity. It is this new Prometheus that is the undoing of the god's retreat.
Overall, this is a very plain Victorian view in the trust of science and technology to lead in all things, even the very basis of much of European mythology. [I hope that I haven't abused the mythology too much.]