A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3 million hits| History of Science, Math & Tech | Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places...
America was obsessed with the Lindbergh Baby for years after the case was decided and the kindapper executed. Decided or not, the crime captivated many, and people continued to debate the case; and as time progressed, the conspiracy theories regarding the kidnapping seemed to reach out to explanations further and deeper into the Deep and Far.
This four-page pamphlet, published in 1944 by "The Lindbergh Witnesses", a conspiracy group evidently stationed on hapless Staten Island, pushes the barriers a little further, contending that the Japanese Empire and the German Nazis and a secret church and even the Republicans orchestrated the crime.
The "friends" of Japan turn out to be co-conspirators in the case to what becomes the "barbarian Japs" and their Berlin counterparts. This was easy stuff to believe, I guess, what with the world at war, even when most of their evidence seems to be exceptionally flimsy and invisible.
[Associated posts: The Mother of all Renaissance Logical Graphs, The Knight's Tour, Porphyry and Boethius and Census Art and the Display of Quantitative Data, 1860.]
Well now:I don’t know what the provocation or inducement is here to hurtle this axe-swinging monk to attack Porphyry’s Tree1, though it would be interesting in a forensic sort of way to know what the tree’s section might reveal. The “tree” was a diagrammatic creation of a 3rd century Syrian mathematician/logician/philosopher named Porphyry who-- much taken with Aristotle (and with the Categories in particular)-- developed a systematic approach to the organization of thought in diagrammatic form.
What’s inside a tree of logic and memory?Is there axylem-y/phloem-y stuff besides a three-dimensional representation of the structure of organizational thinking?Or is the 2-dimensional rip a fatal blow to other dimensions, and like Eddington’s Turtles, it’s a simple slice of Flatland all the way down?
Perhaps Porphyry’s tree rings would look like this, a magic circle or spiral, which would make some sense, and would bring to bear an associated use of turtles—or tortoises, I should say.It turns out that perhaps the very first use of the magic circle, rolling back its origins through the Islamic world to India and to Persia and then to Japan, and then finally to China where, in about 2000 BCE, the magic square appears in an image with the Emperor Yu, inscribed on the back of a tortoise.
1.This image appears in the rareDestructio sive eradicatio totius arboris Porphirii : magni philosophi ac sacrae theologiae doctoris eximii Augustini Anchonitani ordinis fratrum Heremitarum Sancti Augustini, cũ quadã decretali eiusde, published in 1503.
There is something exceptional about the exceptional. In this case, the category is maps, and in this instance the map that takes us away, far away, from the expected or standard is one showing the flow of human hair streams. (It fits very nicely with other exceptional maps found on this site, like Maps of the Cosmos of Moles--just browse the "maps" section in the archives.)
This unlikely title is the creation of Dr. Walter Kidd (Fellow of the Zoological Society, London) and his attempt to reconcile the the influences of gravity, inheritance, genetics, Weismannianism, and other assorted biological bits via his study of hair growth patterns. The article appears in the (many) pages of the ScientificAmericanSupplement for 13 September 1902, on page 22, 328. (Yes, the Supplement was paginated consecutively over dozens of years of publications, a cumbersome manner of ordering an 8-foot stack of paper over dozens of volumes.) In any event, this was an article to simply explain some of Kidd's ideas and the chart that would appear in a more lengthy treatise of 153pp published in the next year by Adam Black. Contemporary views of Kidd's book were not very supportive of his work. I should add that I was attracted to this article solely for the possibility that this may well be the first map of directional hair growth. (I think the idea is pretty interesting, but I'm just not in the mood for it presently.)
Some of the other posts on this blog dealing with unusual hairiana include the following:
At first I though that this pamphlet was going to led us into a way-of-thinking, or sensibility, about aboriginal non-technical people thinking and relating mechanical and technical ideas. I also thought it might relate in some way to the absence of the advanced Chinese civilization in the 17-19th centuries (for example) of drawing technical ideas in a standardized fashion, in perspective, which I thought was so well done in the West and which helped lead to the great scientific and industrial revolutions to come.
It relates to neither, but it does in a way tell us the story of an American Indian artist from the 1880's responding to outside influences in the Navajo world.
The paper is "A Navajo Artist and his Notions of Mechanical Drawing" by R.W. Shufeldt (1850-1934), which was published in the Annual Reports of the Smithsonian Institution for 1886 in 1889, and it tells the story of a remarkable artist who seems to have rendered great tech details from scant experience and deep memory. (Shufeldt, an Army surgeon ornithologist, and osteologist and some sort of highly questionable ethnologist, published this just before he was relseased from his Smithsonian duties for disgraceful behavior. He abandoned wives, was an Indian graverobber, and other unsavory things, even while being the curator of the U.S. Amry Medical Museum. He lost much of his vaguely-tempered appeal for what he regarded as "savage races" over the next decades, publishing The Negro, Menace to American Civilization in 1907 and America's Greatest Problem, the Negro, in 1915. This in effect sums him up, and makes hm an early American version of Alfred Rosenberg-light, or at the very possibly least, a published racist of high order.1)
The paper--coming right at the end of the Plains Wars and just a few years before the Massacre of Wounded Knee--treats it subject with great distance and superiority. The artist's name is "Choh", the son of Esta-yeshi, who was the older sister of "one of the best-known sub-chiefs of the Navajo Indians", Mariano, who lived in "crudely constructed habitations" on the hillsides near Fort Wingate. (The Fort was established near Gallup, New Mexico, in the early 1860's to help control the Navajos to its north; from 1873-1886 it was used in actions to its south in the Apache Wars. At about the time the author of this pamphlet visited the Fort Douglas MacArthur was taking his first breaths.)
Choh's face was disfigured by an incident when an infant, though as a young man of 22 or 23 in 1886 "he (was) by no means a stupid clown we would take him to be".
The "thing" about Urs Graf's art, for me, is the utter humanness of many of his figures--many of them, even the significant characters in his works, have a certain unexpected everyday quality to them, a common touch, right down to unruly Homer Simpson hairs on bald men, disciples or not.
This is a detail from Graf's (1485-1527/9) Passionis Christi... which was printed in 1506, the date of which makes Graf's achievement even more remarkable.
From Grove Art Online: Urs Graf (b Solothurn, c. 1485; d ?Basle, 1527–9).
"Swiss draughtsman, goldsmith, die-cutter, engraver, woodcut and stained-glass designer,painter and glass painter. He was the most original and gifted artist of the early Renaissance in German-speaking Switzerland. His highly imaginative drawings, created as independent works of art, are works of exceptional quality, vitality, expressiveness and often humour. For northern European art, Graf played an important role in the liberation of drawing from its traditionally subsidiary status as preparatory study for works of art in other media."
Here's the full version of the print, showing the Last Supper and Christ washing the feet of the Disciples:
In my experience of paying attention to unusual found-art found in unusual places, I have paid particular attention to found-art in the sciences that have full lives out-of-context of their text. [See the series Unintentional Absurdist.] And so while reading through an issue of Die Naturwissenschaften (1931) for an article by Herman Weyl ("Geometrie und Physik") I found in its closing pages a review by Arnold Berliner of R.W. Pohl's Einfuhrung in die Physik--complete with these three fantastic silhouette illustrations. They're simply beautiful things, exceptionally designed, simplistic but detailed and dramatic and way beyond what was necessary to illustrate the intended physical principle. It is a nice and unexpected artistic find.
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post [Image: work station for Vannevar Bush's visionary Memex machine, the grandfather of the intertubeweba nd hypertext. Source: http://etec.ctlt.ubc.ca/510wiki/Hypertext]
Many have considered books and paradise and the ways to a great library and the correct books to read (and not read). Seneca was convinced of the efficacy of book on a shelf and their being much like a family, and Erasmus and others believing in books as libraries within themselves but without walls, and of course Borges and the infinity of books exceeding the size of the universe, perhaps having him come to the conclusion that hi sheaven would be a book. Thee are jusst a few examples of many--very few of all o fthese writers looked into the future at the book and the library. There was Kurt Lasswitz's 1901 novel The Universal Library (a source of inspiration for Borges' later work, The Library of Babelwhich was written in 1941); there was H.G. Wells' The Idea of a Permanent World Encyclopaediaand then the great Memex idea by the grandfather of the internet, Vannevar Bush, in As We May Think which was published in The Atlantic in 1945. And of course Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and Libraries of the Futureby J.C.R. Licklider (1965) are also standouts. Perhaps though the tandout in the practical and possible vision of teh future library was painted by Charles Cutter in 1883.
Johannes Gutenberg just couldn't last long enough to enjoy his vision. His venture--or at least his end of it--went bust after his business partner filed for teh return of his investment, and Gutenberg, not having the cash and with proceeds from the sale of his bible being slower than expected (and so on), was forced to pay off the debt with his business. He certainly got a lot of things right, and his vision was sound and accurate, but his financial planning was just not there. He need some more money-room, as the introduction of movable type printing did not take off as quickly as he would have liked. (THis is true even though it was widely recognized as a major achievement--it was just somewhat slow in taking footholds elsewhere.) Plus, the Gutenberg Bible was an expensive thing, equal to the yearly wages of a skilled mason--had he invested more effort (and paper) into publishing more popular titles, he may have been much better off, and wouldn't in the end wind up losing most everything, and broke.
[Source: Gustave Silbermann, Album typographique, Strassbourg, 1840]
He is hardly alone in the history of science and technology innovators/discoverers/inventors who thought that they could manage the business-end of their scientific/tech expertise. Edison, Ford, Tesla, De Forest, Farnsworth--and I suspect an alphabet of other famous examples--all thought that hey could handle the transaltion of their discovery into the marketplace, but they couldn't. (Edison and Ford had many more successes than failures, but they had a number of interesting/bizarre bad calls as well.)
Anyway, Gutenberg to me is a different case because he got almost everything correct, except for timing the money.
I found this unusual heading in a half-page ad in March 1864 issue of American Agriculturalist for the Farm, Garden, and Homestead--as it can well be imagined it stopped me pretty quickly, if for no other reason than to make certain that the heading was correct. And it was. The seed manufacturer, James Vick (from Rochester NY) in the midst and throes of other oddness reprinted a letter from a correspondent named George Ford, who was writing from Lawrence, Kansas, about his experience in that town in 1863, and Quantrell, and (maybe bu tmaybe not) Vick's flowers.
Capt William Clarke Quantrell--a sociopath who led a group of avengers and bushwhackers and various sorts of murderers and guerrillas in service of the Confederacy--was in Lawrence in 1863 committing acts of vengeance and murder against its citizens. Mr. Ford expressed his admiration for Vick's seeds and how lovely they were, and that they were responsible for saving his house from destruction by Quantrell. It is a remarkable thing to include in ad advert for flower seeds, closing in on the end of the war--it is also the only mention of the war for this issue and one of the few acknowledgements of it in this entire year.
Quantrell eventually pissed almost all of his men off, winding up with a dozen die-hards, and then in Kentucky and dead in June 1865, ironically and mortally wounded in a Union ambush.
At the end of WWII there was a tale of two battles, both by the name of Kolberg. One was a propaganda tool filmed in Agfacolor at the demand of Josef Goebbels, a movie begun in 1944 about the mythically-endowed victory of Germany over Napoleon at Kolberg. It was an epic, costly movie made at a time when the 180,000 "extras" composed of Wehrmacht troops could not be spared, but it was seen by Hitler and whoever was around to agree with him that a movie selling selflessness and sacrifice (blood sacrifice) was more valuable than a military victory1. When it was finally put to bed, the movie "opened" virtually nowhere in Berlin in January 1945, as the city was becoming a bombed-away shambles--much more so in the next three month. The visions of resistance-to-the-last-breath played in few places outside of Hitler's bunker, where the dictator professed the qualities of sacrifice and the fight-to-the-death messages in the movie, though not applying those necessaries to himself.
The other Kolberg battle was the Battle of Kolberg (a Baltic seaport city in Pomeria located about halfway between Berlin and Koenigsberg), which took place in real life from 4-18 March 1945. It was a fight between the Germans and combined forces of the Soviet and Polish armies--it ended in Polish hands on the 18th following the retreat of the Germans and he destruction of most of the city.
It is ironic that the defeat of the Nazi forces in the real city of Kolberg occurred at nearly the same time as the wasteful film of the 1807 battle extolling the virtues of heroism and sacrifice was released.
It is interesting too that the actor depicting the leading German hero in the movie Kolberg (directed Veit Harlan and Wolfgang Liebeneiner) Heinrich George--who acted in a number of Nazi propaganda films after finding ways to get back into favor following his pre-Nazi pro-Communist politics--found himself arrested and imprisoned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he died of "complications" in 1946.
Sachsenhausen was one of the longest-lived concentration camps, being in operation from 1936 to 1950. From its beginning to May 1945 it was of course a Nazi concentration camp (Konzentrationslager Sachsenhausen), where from 1943 until the fall of Nazi Germany it was also an extermination camp. As many as 200,000 people were seized and sent through Sachsenhausen and its satellite/tributary camps. From the end of 1945 to 1950 it was operated by the Soviet Union, where another 15,000-30,000 people were imprisoned, Heinrich George being one of them.
In addition to the many horrors of Sachsenhausen, there was also this--it was the center of a plot to destroy the British economy with the production and distribution of a hundred million pounds worth of counterfeit British currency. The lead counterfeiter at Sachsenhausen, Salomon Smolianoff (a gifted artist who once said "why make art when you can make money?") was an inmate with exceptional skills and who basically headed the team of workers responsible for this effort, For good work in his part of pulling down the economy of Great Britain, Smolianoff was rewarded with an occasional go at a ping pong table, as well as less-rancid pieces of meat.
[One of the forged Sachsenhausen notes.]
This was operation Bernhard, named for its director, SS Major Bernhard Kruger (the leader of the VI F 4a Unit in theReichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office) or RSHA), who was responsible for the operation from 1942, and which eventually extended from Sachsenhausen to other camps, most notably a major operation at Auschwitz. More than 134,000,000 pounds of what the Brits considered to be the most perfect counterfeits ever were produced, but for various reasons--not the least of which was sabotage instigated by extraordinarily brave concentration camp internees--the vast part of the plan was never implemented.
As it turns out, Smolianoff survived Sachsenhausen, survived the war, and then became a puff of smoke. He was a wanted-but-not-found fugitive, and spent his last days in Brazil, painting. And creating toys. He died in 1976.
Bernhard Kruger (born in 1904), also survived the war. When the pound-forging plan was scuttled in 1944, he moved the idea over to American currency, which he worked on until the end of the wat. Although he was kept by the British for two years, and then by teh French for one year, he was eventually released, and faced no charges until a Denazification court ordered him to trial, where he was somehow acquitted. He died an old man, aged 85, in 1989, in his bed.
1. At least this is so as reported by Sir Ian Kershaw in his biography, Hitler, 1936-1945.
I found this sub-magnificent collection of Police-Sponsored Anti-Crime Bunko-Squad pamphlets in a collection of other material from long ago that today looks so mundanely sublime. They were published by the Boston Better Business Bureau, and listed an alphabet or thereabouts of small- (and not-so) time grifters and frauds and what-have-you who were set to produce ill among the good folks of Beantown, and how to recognize and avoid them. (The reports are all in the same format, printed via offset on 11x8.5 inch sheets, titled in pencil "Pamphlets on Fraudulent Business Methods and Schemes" and printed in 1936.) There are 34 in all, stapled sheets at left-top, each about 10pp long (making for about 350 leaves), with each having an example of a conversation between the consumer and the grifter.
[Source: ex-library with the occasional stamp from the Library of Congress ("Pamphlet Collection"), via the U.S. Copyright Office and then to my collection.]
These schemes have a colorful flavor, and some sort of antique pleasantness to them, except that they were all based on fraud and deceit. The schemes include numerous out-and-out bait-and-switch approaches: Bait Window Advertising Scheme, Free Permanent Wave Scheme, Smuggled Goods Scheme, Bait Advertising Scheme, Business Opportunity Scheme, the Re-load Scheme, A Switch and Sell Scheme, Bucket Shop Scheme, Tipster Sheet Scheme, Sewing Machine Scheme, Memorial Park Cemetery Scheme, Heir Scheme, Bait Advertising Scheme, Song Writing Scheme, Is It Bait? Bait Scheme, Action Sale Scheme, Stuffed Plate Scheme, Stuffed Flats (Furs) Scheme, Buy Wholesale Scheme, Insurance Association Scheme, Partner-Wanted Scheme, Long Distance Tailoring Scheme, Bait Advertising (T.C. System) Scheme, Free Lot Scheme, Home Work Scheme, Furniture Club Lottery Scheme, Charity Merchandise Scheme, Suit Club Scheme, Picture Enlargement Scheme, Puff Sheet Scheme, Territorial Rights Scheme, Obesity Cure Scheme, Territorial Rights Scheme, Cash Bond Scheme, Unordered Merchandise Scheme. Schemes enough for one and all, and all with a flavor of Mony Python's Spam routine.
It is interesting to think about the newness of old things, particularly English words that we have in use every day. In this case I'm referring to words in the sciences--and not necessarily the words coming in the 20th century following the explosion of modernity beginning in 1895. It is surprising sometimes to realize the relative newness of some terms, like, for example, "scientist". The word "science" is very old and very old in English, but the word "scientist" is coined only in 1833. It is surprising to think of the modernity of some of the words when by their constant use they seem as though they must be ancient, but of course are not so.
Here's a quick lising of some interesting candidates, everyday words with a not-very-old lineage, their dates taken from first-usages identified by the Oxford English Dictionary:
JF Ptak Science Books Post 692 (from 2009) Expanded
This post was written five yers ago when I was excited to find an illustration of a dreamer and numbers with some mathematical content. I thought that it was pretty unusual to find as an illsutrastion, even though I had read many stories of people being influenced byt their dreams, evem in the sciences, but that there were few images of the process. In Post 692 I psoted a found image of such a thing that was just a simple advertisement in a German magazine. There was also a series of images from Francis Galton on imaging arithmetical processes from Nature back in 1880, which may also be the first scientific article on synesthesia. And there doesn't seem to be a lot more than this, even in canonical illustration.
So it came as a surprise today to find this photo to add to the small collection of math dreams and imagery of "doing" math (from ca. 1880):
Thinking big thoughts in dreams is generally not a common thing, as anyone who has read their own semi-conscious half-awake memory notes of a dream-based inspiration could attest. But it does happen:
Paul McCartney1 dreamed the song Yesterday, Gandhi dreamed the source of non-violent resistance, Elias Howe dreamed of the construction of the first sewing machine, and Mary Shelley the creation of her novel Frankenstein... For good or for ill, William Blake was evidently deeply influenced by his own dreams; on the other hand, Rene Magritte was deeply influenced by dreams but didn’t use any of his own for his paintings, or so it was said. Otto Loewi turned an old problem into not one in a dream, finding a solution to the prickish problem of whether nerve impulses were chemical or electrical (and resulting in the Nobel for medicine in 1935); the fabulous discovery of the benzene ring came to August Kekule in a dream as well. Artists have been representing people in dreams and dreamscapes for many centuries: Durer depicted a dream in a 1525 watercolor, for example, and thousands of artists have depicted famous biblical dreams (Joseph of Pharo) for long expanses of time.
What struck me, though, in this illustration found on the other side of the page of the Illustrirte Zeitung2 (for August 1932) that I used for yesterday’s post about damming Gibraltar and Shakespeare’s memories, was the depiction of someone dreaming mathematical thoughts…or at the very least, dreaming numbers. People have undoubtedly dreamed much in mathematics, but I can not recall seeing illustrations of these dreams.
I'm differentiating here from something like a Poincarean inspiration, or vision, or thunderstrike--I'm talking about drop-dead asleep sleep, dreaming sleep, REM and all that. Also I'm differentiating this from imaging mathematical thought, as in the work of Francis Galton in 1880 in which the subject of mentally seeing the process of mathematics is perhaps first addressed. I wrote a short piece on that here, way back in Post 9. )
The numerical sequence in this dream doesn’t look like anything to me: the backwards radicand doesn’t strike anything common in my head. The geometrical drawing under the portrait in the dreamer’s room though is the impossibly iconic Pythagorean theorem, and there is a nice picture of a conic section in the foreground; but the artist, who improbably signed the work “A. Christ”, doesn’t offer much of math in the dreamscape. Still, it is a rare depiction of someone dreaming about math.
Notes 1. "I woke up with a lovely tune in my head. I thought, 'That's great, I wonder what that is?' There was an upright piano next to me, to the right of the bed by the window. I got out of bed, sat at the piano, found G, found F sharp minor 7th -- and that leads you through then to B to E minor, and finally back to E. It all leads forward logically. I liked the melody a lot, but because I'd dreamed it, I couldn't believe I'd written it. I thought, 'No, I've never written anything like this before.' But I had the tune, which was the most magic thing!" from Barry Miles (1997), Paul McCartney. 2. This is really a great sheet of paper, coming from issue 4492, pp 518-519. Two pictures of dreams on one side, with three visionary images on the other (the Gibraltar dam, a sub-polar submarine, and a futuristic Indian railway/bridge.
I always thought that the word "scientist" came to us from William Whewell in his Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (volume 1, page 113) in 1840, the group of people dedicated intrepid seekers of standards and anomalies finally receiving a short and concise (if three-syllable) name for what it is they are (for even in death a scientist is still a scientist, no past tense there, like a Marine): once one, always one.
"We need very much a name to describe a cultivator of science in general. I should incline to call him a Scientist."
But I notice that an anonymous note in the Quarterly Review peeks its head under the tent, using the word six years earlier in 1834, though not favorably:
"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."--Quarterly Review, volume 51, page 59, via the Oxford English Dictionary
Later in the year a prettier offer emerges, though it has more to do with beauty than truth:
What brought me to the word "scientist" was an article/notice in Nature in 1873, where scientists are terribly put out by what the writer felt was a disparaging of the sciences--in short, a pissed-off mini-screed on the societal attack of ennui against the very idea of Science. The thing is in the two paragraphs the word scientist doesn't come into play. So far as I can tell, this is the earliest scientific screed in this high-ish Victorian journal of proper and popular science, Nature began in 1869, and even though it was eight volumes and four years into publication, I'm surprised that it took this long for a note like this to appear. It isn't exactly a white-knuckled jumbleup venom-bomb from Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, but the anonymous writer does get the message across: