The general Form of an Atom, including the spirals and 1st Spirillae, together with influx and efflux ethers, represented by dots, which pass through these spirillae. The 2d and 3d spirillae with their still finer ethers are not shown.
Edwin D. Babbit, Principles of Light and Color “Etherio–Atomic Philosophy of Force”, 1878
Badass Scientist of the Week: George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver (1864–1943) was a botanist, an agricultural researcher and an educator. He was born on a small farm near Diamond Grove, Missouri, where his mother and brother were the only slaves of Moses and Susan Carver. When he was a baby, his mother was taken by Confederate night-raiders, and the Carvers raised the two boys as their own.
George became interested in nature at a young age but schools were racially segregated—to get an education he was forced to leave home at twelve and work to support himself while studying. Racial barriers made applying to college a struggle, too but after four years he finally became the first black student at Simpson College, Iowa. Carver soon transferred to Iowa State College to study science, and he gained a Master’s in agriculture and bacterial botany in 1896.
He was renowned within the school for his academic talent and his gift as a teacher. He then took up a position as head of agriculture at the all-black-staffed Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. At the time, southern farming was devastated by years of civil war and the “loss” of slave labour, which was hurting the economy. Carver helped farmers recover: he recognised that years of growing cotton and tobacco had severely depleted the soil and so introduced “rotational” crops—alternating soil-depleting crops with soil-enriching crops like peanuts and sweet potatoes.
To encourage farmers, he proceeded to invent hundreds of profitable applications of the crops, including adhesives, axel grease, biofuel, bleach, ink, metal polish, shaving cream, synthetic rubber and wood stain. Soon, his ingenuity led to speaking engagements, and by the 1920s he was on lecture tours of white colleges, opening students’ eyes to racial injustices and serving as a mentor to black students. He became a national folk hero, and after his death in, 1943, President Roosevelt honoured Carver with a national monument.
Carver never patented or profited from most of his profits—as his epitaph reads: “He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”
An illustration from the 1840s of surgeon James Young Simpson and his friends who would spend evenings together sampling new chemicals to see if they had any anaesthetic effect. Simpson discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform and successfully introduced it for medical use where it quickly replaced ether as the anaesthetic of choice.
Adolphe Sax (1814-1894), a Belgian, created the saxophone, which was patented in 1846.
"Sax aware that there was a tonal disparity between strings and winds, as well as brasses and woodwinds. Sax noticed that the brasses were overpowering the woodwinds, and the winds were overpowering the strings. He saw the need to come up with a new instrument that would create some form of balance between the three sections (brass, woodwinds and strings). The sound that he was seeking would lie between the clarinet’s woodwind sound, and the trumpet’s brass tone. Sax combined the body of a brass instrument and the mouthpiece of a woodwind instrument, and the saxophone was born.” (x)
John Tyndall - 19th Century Physicist
John Tyndall was a physicist that lived between 1820 and 1893. He was born in County Carlow, Ireland in a village known as Leighlinbridge. He made many contributions to the world of science; In particular his work on magnetism, atmospheric physics, science education and promotion of separation of science and religion.
His work on magnetism gained him fame among leading 19th century physicists. One of the most prominent of which was Michael Faraday. As a result of this work, he was elected a fellow of the prestigious Royal Society. Tyndall also did investigations into the absorption of infrared radiation by the various components of air. Due to his experimentation, he found that water vapour is the leading contributor to infrared absorption in the atmosphere. This result was the first experimental evidence to support the now widely accepted Greenhouse Effect. Tyndall made countless other contributions and discoveries including the Tyndall Effect, Tyndalization (method of sterilizing food), invented a technique to remove suspended dust particles and microorganisms from the air, made contributions to Glaciology.
Besides his work in experimental science, Tyndall was also a great Science educator. His target audiences were often, in his own words, “intelligent persons who may not possess any special scientific culture”. He was the author of numerous books, some of which remained popular for decades. Apart from writing books, audiences watched his lectures on various aspects of physics. His lectures in the Royal Institution were crowded, a testament to his success as an educator.
Tyndall was a member of the X-club. The X-club was a group of 9 scientists and mathematicians that supported the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection and academic liberalism. The founder of the group was Thomas Henry Huxley. Huxley was referred to as ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’ due to his vocal support and defense of Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection. The members of the X-club were united by "devotion to science, pure and free, untrammelled by religious dogmas". Tyndall made it known that he thought there should be a clear separation of science and religion. Tyndall believed that religion should not be permitted to “intrude on the region of knowledge, over which it holds no command”.
This post has been a brief summary of the work of John Tyndall but there is a lot of things that I have failed to mention in the post. His Wikipedia page is a good place to learn more. I have also found a few of his books online which can be found here.
A Machine to Weigh the Soul
Newly discovered papers have shed light on a fascinating episode in the history of neuroscience: Weighing brain activity with the balance
The story of the early Italian neuroscientist Dr Angelo Mosso and his ‘human circulation balance’ is an old one – I remember reading about it as a student, in the introductory bit of a textbook on fMRI – but until now, the exact details were murky.
Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)
Lovelace’s mother, who had studied mathematics, devoted her daughter to the study of math and science, rather than literature or poetry (which Lovelace’s eccentric father, Lord Byron, was well-versed in). Lovelace also learned music and French.
In 1828, Lovelace produced a design for a flying machine. In 1833, at the age of 17, Lovelace met Charles Babbage who, among many things, was a mathematician, a mechanical engineer and professor at Cambridge. Lovelace was interested in Babbage’s invention, known as the Difference Engine then, later, she studied his Analytical Engine. He eventually became her mentor and helped Lovelace enroll in the University of London to study mathematics.
Since Babbage never wrote about his own inventions, in 1842 an Italian engineer, Luigi Menabrea, gave a description of Babbage’s Analytical Engine in an article published in French. Lovelace was asked to translate this article into English for a British scientific journal. She added her own notes to the translation, rightly showing the Engine as a general-purpose computer. She wrote the Engine was for
"…developping [sic] and tabulating any function whatever… the engine [is] the material expression of any indefinite function of any degree of generality and complexity."
Her notes showed how the Analytical Engine would work and also gave a set of explicit instructions for using the Engine for calculating Bernoulli numbers. She also wrote something Babbage did not consider, that
"…the Engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”
The translation was published under “A.A.L” in order to conceal Lovelace’s identity as a woman.
Lovelace married in 1835, had three children and became addicted to prescribed drugs (laudanum, opium and morphine), and gambling. In 1852, Lovelace died of uterine cancer.
In 1953, Lovelace’s notes on Babbage’s Analytical Engine were published. The Engine is recognized as the model for a computer and Lovelace’s notes as for the first written computer program. A programming language called “Ada” was established in the 1970s to honor Lovelace, who is known today as “the first programmer.” (x | x | x)
The Mohs scale of mineral hardness characterizes the scratch resistance of various minerals through the ability of a harder material to scratch a softer material. It was created in 1812 by the German geologist and mineralogist Friedrich Mohs and is one of several definitions of hardness in materials science. The method of comparing hardness by seeing which minerals can scratch others, however, is of great antiquity, having first been mentioned by Theophrastus in his treatise On Stones, c. 300 BC, followed by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia, c. 77 AD.