A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.6 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
Frederick Erastus Pierce (1878-1935) is the creator of the extraordinary The Tenement-House Committee Maps: printed on one sheet of paper for Harper's Weekly in 1895, Pierce presents his data on the distribution of the population of Manhattan with two maps, one showing the densities of Manhattan populations (on top) and the other the distribution of nationalities (at bottom).
[I should point out that the original of this map is for sale at our blog bookstore, here.]
Here's an overall view of the maps--this example from the Library of Congress, as I could not make an accurate image of the one I have here--I do include some details of the maps from my own copy, however, which are found just above, with several below.
One of my favorite popular technical illustrators of the 20th century was G.H. Davis (1881-1963), who worked enormous accomplishments for the Illustrated London News for some forty years. His specialty seemed to be the cut-away schematic, showing half-exposed/half-not technical schematics on mostly oblique angles. The example below is a fine one, showing the (not-named) British 1925 tank, which I believe must be the Vickers Medium I or variation thereof. It was certainly an improvement over the tanks used in WWI, and for all intents and purposes it seems a "modern" tank.
In 1929 Germany was still abiding by the Treaty of Versailles, which was the peace treaty ending WWI and signed in 1919. The 440-clause treaty spent the first two dozen or so clauses were spent on President Wilson's League of Nations, while the rest was a distribution of punishment and reparations against/on Germany. The German military as directed by Versailles was limited to 100,000 soldiers, and had 1926 machine guns, and 2886 cannons. as stipulated Germany could have no tanks and no air force, and was limited to six ships and no subs, and had to keep the Rhineland free of all armed forces.
By 1928 Germany was certainly having multiple regressive thoughts about the Treaty, and public demonstrations of questioning its efficacy began to appear with more frequency. In this example--from the Illustrite Zeitung (Leipzig)--a strong statement was graphically displayed showing the state of the German military situation. As you can see, there is scant measurement for just about anything in the military sphere for Germany--and to press the matter home ever more so, in addition to the nulls and tiny numbers, there (in the sixth section down, and magnified above) is a helmeted German soldier with a large magnifying glass inspecting the German totals of the nearly-invisible machine gun totals.
This would all be completely changed by 1934, when the Nazis were already well on the way to having a competitive (and modern) fighting force which counted 4.5 million troops. It would only get worse.
In January, 1915, in the pre-Luistania/post beginning of WWI (by six months) days, Scientific American declared an interest in the state of the United States military and found it lacking. It posted this very strong statement to advertise a coming special issue investigating the status of the armed services.
Perhaps the most telling image in that special issue (of 5 February 1915) was an image of soldiers scaling a fortress wall--that's pretty much the polar opposite of what training should have been happening, what with trench warfare and all. There is also a photograph of practicing cavalry--and not a hint of a tank. There was little or no attention being paid to the developments in aerial/gas/tank/trench warfare, the armaments and munitions of war were ancient-esque, and the standing army numbered around 100,000 (plus 120k in National Guard), which was hardly anything at all compared to the fact the French Army on a single day (August 22, 1914) in the Alsace-Lorraine region lost 27,000 dead and 40,000 wounded, and that there were already 3 million dead/wounded in the European theater. There would be readiness factions and peace factions at work for the heart and mind of the U.S., but that wouldn't really start for another month or two. In the meantime, though, Scientific American took stock of the military situation, and found that the U.S. was militarily-prepared for almost nothing, so far as global war was concerned.
In one of the articles celebrating its 70th Anniversary, Scientific American published these two graphs showing the development of patents from 1836 to 1915. They appeared in the June 5, 1915 issue, and distributed the patents also according to type. It is interesting to note that for decades that the magazine kept one page (or part of it) devoted to displaying newly-recorded patents--that practice was abandoned by the time the 1915 article appeared, which is too bad, because it was enjoyable to dip into the archive and see what was being patented at weekly intervals over the years. In any event I'm not sure that I've seen visual displays quite like this, and so I share them:
This is an image of a philosopher's cabinet, engraving (on copper?) by "I. Friedlein fec", who was Johnann Friedlein, an emigree from North Germany to Denmark, and who worked ca. 1680-1705. It shows the tools of the trade for someone working in natural philosophy (the name "scientist" would not come into use for another 130+ years or so1) and is an interesting insight into a small, polite gentleman's club for experiment and investigation.
The men surround a decent collection of scientific instruments--I can locate a compass, dividers, oil lamp, magnifying glass, microscope2 (at the right elbow of the figure on the right), terrestrial and celestial globes, a (large) clock, barometer, and various weights and scales, and behind it all looms a rather large refracting telescope3 (is it five inches?)
For all of these expensive and current instruments, the lighting these gentlemen set up for themselves is pretty poor, though of course it does add to the mystery and dark experience of the image.
Here's another example of Friedlein's work, a frontispiece to Cryptographia, oder geheime Schrifften by Johann Balthasar Friderici, printed in 1685:
Nyt dansk kunstnerlexikon: bd. Indenlandske kunstnere (fortsættelse ...)by Philip Weilbach:
1. "Scientist", in the Oxford English Dictionary ("science" is a much older word in English):
1. A person who conducts scientific research or investigation; an expert in or student of science, esp. one or more of the natural or physical sciences.computer, earth, mad, natural, rocket scientist, etc.: see the first element.
It is possible that the ‘ingenious gentleman’ referred to in quot. 1834 is Whewell himself.
1834 W. Whewell in Q. Rev.51 59 Science..loses all traces of unity. A curious illustration of this result may be observed in the want of any name by which we can designate the students of the knowledge of the material world collectively. We are informed that this difficulty was felt very oppressively by the members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, at their meetings..in the last three summers... Philosophers was felt to be too wide and too lofty a term,..; savans was rather assuming,..; some ingenious gentleman proposed that, by analogy with artist, they might form scientist, and added that there could be no scruple in making free with this termination when we have such words as sciolist, economist, and atheist—but this was not generally palatable.
1840 W. Whewell Philos. Inductive Sci. I. Introd. p. cxiii, We need very much a name to describe a cultivator of science in general. I should incline to call him a Scientist. Thus we might say, that as an Artist is a Musician, Painter, or Poet, a Scientist is a Mathematician, Physicist, or Naturalist.
2. "Microscope" (as a noun) in its earliest uses in English, in the OED:
1648 Bp. J. Wilkins Math. Magick i. xvi. 115 We see what strange discoveries of extream minute bodies, (as lice, wheal-worms, mites, and the like) are made by the Microscope, wherein their severall parts (which are altogether invisible to the bare eye) will distinctly appear.
1651 N. Highmore Hist. Generation viii. 70 The white circle..by a Microscope appears now to be the Carina or back and neck of the Chick.
3. "Telescope" (as a noun) in its earliest uses in English, in the OED:
[1619 J. Bainbridge Astron. Descr. Late Comet 19 For the more perspicuous distinction whereof I vsed the Telescopium or Trunke-spectacle.]
1648 R. Boyle Seraphic Love (1663) xi. 59 Galileo's optick Glasses,..one of which Telescopioes, that I remember I saw at Florence.
This brochure for the Computer Control Corporation Inc (of Berry Drive, Los Angeles) has that peculiar background feel similar to 1950's baseball cards--detail of the subject, while the rest of the platform is a sharp, no-nuance solid color. On the other hand I have no doubt that work was getting done in this place. For all of its simplicity, and for all that they were doing, this is a miniature and quiet monument to People Thinking.
Anthropologist Jesse Fewkes (1850-1930) was the first to use the Edison phonograph for recording legends, songs, stories, rituals and so on of North American Indians, making him a pioneer in field recording. Work like his was essential to the preservation of vanishing ways and stories and languages and music, and provided inspiration to people like Frances Densmore, John Lomax and Herbert Halpert.
This came up just now looking for a paper by Lord Rayleigh in the journal Nature, and to my surprise bumped into this short note by Fewkes in that issue for April 17, 1890 (volume 41, # 1068). This was undoubtedly the first notice of his field work reported outside of the United States. Music in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: An Encyclopedia (edited by William Forde Thompson) establishes Fewkes as making the very first field recordings of any kind (page XXX, chronology).
Recording sample via the Library of Congress, here.
( "Mr. Phonograph." (1:11) Text in A National Project with Many Workers. Jesse Walter Fewkes talking to the new Edison cylinder recording machine in order to demonstrate its capabilities to a visiting Passamaquoddy man. Probably recorded in Boston, late 1890-early 1891. Jesse Walter Fewkes Passamaquoddy Cylinder Collection.)
It is a very uncommon sight to see a book illustrated with the self-portrait of its engraver standing next to the unbound sheets of his own (and unrelated) travel book. But so it goes, and it goes in Jean-Jacque's great 1601 Baroque illustrated work on the occult arts, Tractatus posthumus Jani Jacobi Boissardi ... De divinatione & magicis praestigiis. The book was published by Johann/Jean Theodore de Bry, who also engraved the images after Boissard's designs, who had died 14 years earlier.
De Bry--who with his brother had earlier helped his father (Theodor de Bry) with his massive work on the American Indian and travel in general--completed some 30 volumes of illustrated travel, which was a monumental achievement, even if some heaping part of his work was based on very little reality. So Johann is standing there with the family coat of arms (on the right) and the family epigram (on the left). Theodor de Bry's self portrait also makes use of the same epigram, "Nul sans soucy", or "None without worry".
Ball bearings are exceptionally important and have a long history, I mean, long stretching back more than 2000 years (in its most primitive form), finding formative articulation in the Renaissance, and then their first patent in 1869. They are important parts in the history of technology, metaphorically similar to the elevator brake in the development of skyscrapers. And they can be lovely objects in addition to their fine engineering and application.
The Bearings Company of America (of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, established in 1897) published a fine catalog (in 1938) for their products, including a few pages of photos of their gorgeous goods. Sometimes photographs like these have as much artistic impact as the techno works of Paul Strand and Dorothea Lange--the images are just fine.
This beautiful bit of data visualization was a significant development in the history of statistics and was employed in pioneer Sir Francis Galton's "Typical Laws of Heredity, III", which appeared in Nature magazine on April 19, 1877.
[Image: Francis Galton, "Typical Laws of Heredity, III", Nature. p 513, April 19, 1877]
This contribution by Galton is the "first major step in the development of correlation and regression analysis" according to Judy Klein's Statistical Visions in Time: A History of Time Series Analysis, 1662-1933, (page 131). She continues:
The Battle of Supplies (1944)is an interesting propaganda publication, simultaneously celebrating achievements and promoting the new for greater production. The method of displaying the relatively simple data is pretty striking.
In the history of defensive warfare it was a revolutionary idea that painting the entirety of large ocean-going ship in sharp geometric shapes and in dazzling colors would make the ship in essence--disappear, a sort of camouflage-without -camouflage (sorry Flannery O'Connor). It wasn't like biological camouflage where all sorts of bits come into play to make an animal blend into its surrounding environment to protect it from predators, or conversely to make it a better predator by allowing the animal to stay completely hidden until their prey could do nothing but become their prize. Nor was it really like thermoregulation, or sexual or warning signals (again drawing from the bio world)--it was simpler than that, though are there many relational examples in the biological world as well. Nor was it similar to the camouflage schemes used by the air corps, with different and usually sky/ground-blended colors used for the top and bottom of SPADS and Nieuports and Albatrosses.
The effect of using the geometrical shapes on the whole of a 600'-long vessel was to make the speed and direction of the ship more difficult for offensive pursuit vessels like submarines to figure out and calculate so that the point-to-target launch of their torpedo would be far more complicated.
[Examples of razzle dazzle camouflage from the GoTouring website, here.] [A very nice selection of images can also be found at iO9.com, here; also, an even larger one, here, from Public Domain Review]
When the prolific maritime painter Norman Wilkinson (1878-1971) came to this realization for disguising the intentions of ships (around 1917) he instantly recognized its applicability in anti-submarine warfare: not only would it be difficult to distinguish bow/stern properties of a ship, but also how long it was, and whether it was coming or going, and how big it was--all major factors in determining the launch of a torpedo. Basically, dazzle camouflage made it difficult to produce a trajectory for the ship.
This must have been an extraordinary experience, seeing these things for the first time by military commanders, who not but a few years earlier were sending troops into combat with white gloves and red pantaloons.
In a "Letter to the Editor" ("Camouflage of Ships at War") in Nature (19 June 1919), Wilkinson explains his dazzle approach, saying that the whole point of this sort of camouflage was not necessarily "obliterative" as in biological camouflage, but rather was intended to "upset a submariner commander's estimate of a vessel's course, when carrying out an attack with torpedo", and stating further that it was not intended for "ships of the line" or to help deceive topside gunnery from another ship, especially at greater distances where the paint would simply not come into play. [An often-used but never-cited quote from a Wilkinson "lecture" runs as follows: "The primary object of this scheme was not so much to cause the enemy to miss his shot when actually in firing position, but to mislead him, when the ship was first sighted, as to the correct position to take up. [Dazzle was a] method to produce an effect by paint in such a way that all accepted forms of a ship are broken up by masses of strongly contrasted colour, consequently making it a matter of difficulty for a submarine to decide on the exact course of the vessel to be attacked.... The colours mostly in use were black, white, blue and green.... When making a design for a vessel, vertical lines were largely avoided. Sloping lines, curves and stripes are by far the best and give greater distortion."]
[ Another example of razzle dazzle at work: RMS Empress of Russia, from the University of British Columbia, here]
Edward Wadsworth (1889-1949) produced razzle dazzle designs during the war and also painted about it afterwards--something one really doesn't see much of--in his fine Painting of Dazzle-ships in Drydock, completed in 1919. (More of Wadsworth's works, as prints, here.) There are well-known stories of great artists--like Villard among many others as well as the questionable Picasso, who claims to have originated the idea, along with Cubism itself--who made contributions in this effort, from making designs to doing the actual painting. But it was the estimable Wilkinson who made the major contribution and invention of dazzle-at-sea.
The concept is still used, with more advanced applications, and appears on one of the world's stealthiest ships, Sweden's Visby Corvette. Apart from having an exceptionally low magnetic signature, it also has geometric low-radar reflective gray dazzle paint. (It also has applications for land warfare use in the camouflage of armored vehicles against RPGs.).
This beautiful network of lines tells the early story of weather in cartographic form. They appear on Karte der Isothermen, Isoklinen, Isogonen und Isodynamen mit der Magnetischen Meridianen, and was published in the atlas volume1 to accompany the best-selling encyclopedic presentation of the natural history knowledge of the world to that time, Baron Alexander von Humboldt's Kosmos, which was published over a period of several from 1845-1862. The map demonstrates and visualizes climatic information showing isothermes, isoclines, isogones and isodynamics, with the magnetic meridian.
[This is a detail of the Northern Hemisphere section of the double-hemisphere map, which is reproduced below.]
At bottom there is also a beautiful 32-point wind rose:
And this, the full version of the map:
And the detail of the Southern Hemisphere:
1. The atlas was by T. Bromme, Atlas zu Alex. V. Humboldt's Kosmos in zweiundvierzig Tafeln mit erlauterndem Texte. Herausgegeben von Traugott Bromme. Stuttgart. Verlag von Krais & Hoffman. (with second title page) Atlas zur Physik der Welt in ... Bromme, 1851.
England was last invaded in 1688 by the Dutch republic, following twelve other attempts from 1066, but Adolf Hitler was half-determined to do so (and several of his leading generals who were not-at-all determined, anti-determined to do so) himself, trying to follow in the lost footsteps of Napoleon with Operation Sea Lion (Unternehmen Seelöwe). Napoleon failed of course, as did his predecessors: three French, two Spanish, and an Austrian attempt since 1707. And so would Hitler, although he would never come close to implementing much outside of his terror attacks on cities in the U.K. and the war waged on the RAF (and particularly Fight Command)--control of the air being integral to any sort of invasion that he might try to mount.
It was at the beginning of this air attempt--the Battle of Britain--that the following interesting small graphic appeared in the Illustrated London News (June 29, 1940), a featurette on what it would require for the Germans to mount a successful invasion of England.
Some part of it doesn't make sense to me, (sitting here quietly in the future, not having Nazis flying overhead trying to kill my country)--like a convoy of troop carrier set at 250 to carry a million soldiers into the U.K. Plus there were all of the stuff of invasion--food, supplies, support, materiel of all shapes and sizes and description, and on and on. The D-Day invasion force used 5000 ships and watercraft to land 156k soldiers along a 50 mile front in Normandy, plus aircraft and paratroops and so forth. An utterly understated "spectacular" undertaking--and no doubt the Germans would have had to do something along similar lines, a lot of something that they just didn't have. But no one knew this yet, not really.
This small series of graphics probably served two purposes: one was to alert English readers that such an invasion was theoretically possible, and secondly, that, well, it was in some ways impossible, given the enormity of the task. So, beware, but do not fear, is what I think the message was here.
And by the way here are two bits of films about a successful Nazi invasion of England: