Dedications

One of my favorite parts of experiencing a book–whether it’s a nineteenth century treatise, or a trashy beach novel–is reading the dedication page.  I always wonder how much time and effort the author puts into deciding who gets the honor of the dedication (and of course, thinking about who I will dedicate my dissertation to…) and am at times marveled at the beauty of the words.

Having said that, here’s one of my favorite dedication from John Cunningham Saunders’ (1773-1810) atlas, The Anatomy of the Human Ear (1806):

To Astley Cooper, Esq., F.R.S.

Sir,

The dedication of this book to you indulges at once my gratitude and my ambition. I avail myself of this opportunity to acknowledge the many obligations which your kindness and uniform attention have conferred on me. With pleasure I render this tribute to your friendship.

In seeking the authority of your name I have consulted the means of enhancing my own reputation. Who can more properly patronize a work on the Ear than one who has signalized himself by the elucidation of its diseases? Who so well appreciate the merits which it may possess, or shield its defects against the severity of criticism? The world is acquainted with your professional abilities, and respects your opinion. Your enthusiasm and unremitting endeavours to cultivate the department of Surgery, are displayed in the works which you have already given to the public; and it is confidently predicted that your talent for observation, quickened by an ardent desire to improve the science, will contribute fresh accessions to our knowledge, and add lustre to the profession.

But it is not merely by your own labours, great as they are, that you benefit society. Placed as a principal teacher in the first medical school in Great Britain, you impart a portion of your energy to your pupils, many of whom will be excited by the influence of your example to professional exertions not worthy of the place where they received their education.

I am, Sir,

With respect and attachment,
Your most obedient Servant,

J.C. Saunders.

Ely Place, March 12, 1806.

On a related note: how come we don’t close our correspondence that way anymore? There’s some romantic flair in professing one’s respect to another…no? Too outdated?

Cliopatria Awards: Congrats, Thony!!

The Sixth Annual Cliopatria Awards for History Blogging announced the winners last night in conjunction with the American History Association meeting in Boston. Congratulations to all the winners, but I want to give a special congrats to Thony Christie, from Renaissance Mathematicus for winning Best Individual Blog!

Well done, Thony, for making the HoS community proud! Here’s the judges’ rationale:

If blogs are notoriously fragmentary and centrifugal endeavors, then it’s a particular accomplishment that Renaissance Mathematicus gives such a coherent picture of scientific and theological endeavor in the 16th and 17th-century. Calling himself a “myths-of-science buster,” Thony Christie convincingly shows the interconnections, idiosyncrasies, and rivalries (the “Royal Rumble”) of Renaissance scientists as well as their vaunted individual genius. And yet, if Christie writes authoritatively — sometimes obsessively so — the author’s sense of humour ensures that the reader is never intimidated. It is, in fact, a light-hearted blog, and that’s why it works: the history of science can be taken too seriously, and can be detached from life as it’s lived. Renaissance Mathematicus never lunges too deeply into esoterics, and often connects back to the present-day.

History Carnival: People, Places, and Points in Time

So pleased to host an edition of the History Carnival! Thank you to everyone who submitted nominations as well as promoted the tweet asking for nominations. And I also apologize if this is being posted quite late in the day—I failed to realize December 1st fell on a Wednesday, which is my busiest day of the week.

Without further ado—enjoy this month’s History Carnival, a collection of fantastic posts from November: People, Places, and Points in Time!


PEOPLE

Let’s start with This Day in History, as History Traven tells it: It was December 1, 1955 when seamstress Rosa Park refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white person. Her courageous defiance sparked a 381-day boycott of the busing system, led by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. We should all remember that acts of civil disobedience are sometimes necessary to stand up to injustice.

On that note, let’s also tribute to the Danish pianist and humorist Victor Borge:

And now, in honour of the 150th anniversary of Beethoven’s death, I would like to play “Clear the Saloon”, er, “Clair de Lune”, by Debussy. I don’t play Beethoven so well, but I play Debussy very badly, and Beethoven would have liked that.

Another significance on this date in 1539: Don Carlos Ometochtzin, an Aztec heretic was burned at the stake by the Spanish Inquisition for reverting to the pre-Columbian indigenous religion.

Science, as we know, is full of competing ideas. Thony C. describes how Galileo bluffed about the battle of the ‘two world systems’ of Ptolemy and Copernicus, when in fact there were seven different theories fighting for the “cosmic championship:” Copernican heliocentricity, Ptolemaic geocentricity, Gilbertian geocentricity with diurnal rotation, Tychonic geo-heliocentricity, Ursian geo- heliocentricity with diurnal rotation, the Heracleidian model and last but anything but least Kepler’s elliptical heliocentricity. All of these models had their own supporters during the 17th century.

Michael Robinson reviews a post by explorer Mikael Strandberg about Academics vs. Explorers :

The post described some of the tensions that exist between explorers and university professors on issues related to exploration.  I think that many of Mikael’s points ring true: academics are less than comfortable at times collaborating with travelers and explorers on matters of geography, science, anthropology, and exploration.

Rethinking Newton Again?  Rebekah Higgitt questions how popular media interest in Newton has narrowed its focus to Newton’s dabbling in alchemy and prophecy, revealing these interests as a “surprising and novel revelation.” The real issue, she remarks, is not about Newton’s involvement with alchemy,

but the on-going efforts at transcribing Newton’s archive, which demonstrates just how much and for how long alchemy/chymistry was among Newton’s major activities, and the scholarship of Newman and others, which has shown jthat it was part of the intellectual scenery of the time. The news is that although Newton is a familiar name and a hero of modern science, the world he lived in and the ways he – and his contemporaries – thought are, by and large, very unfamiliar to us today…

…I don’t blame Newman and other scholars for using the media to their advantage. But what does our apparent inability to take on board Newton’s so-called ‘dark secrets’ – and to move on from the apparently constant need to re-reveal Newton’s interest in alchemy – say about us?

A letter from US Sgt Sam Avery, written from the new AEF training center at Neufchateau, France offers a glimpse of life while preparing to enter the lines on the Western Front during the Great War.

J.S. Plaskett (1865-1941) was a Canadian astronomer known for his design of the 72-inch long reflecting telescope (since dubbed the “Plaskett Telescope”) at the Victoria Dominion Astronomical Observatory, in Victoria, BC. But he also designed other “lowly” instruments, including a resistance box.

And finally, in 1641, London physician Thomas Sherwood wrote a book of cures for the plague. One such cure he suggested was “the puppy cure:”

If any that are ancient or weak shall be infected with the pestilence, it shall not be necessary to give them any purge, vomit, or sweat, or to let them bleed; because they cannot bare the loss of so many spirits as are spent by such evacuations. Therefore you may lay upon the pit of the stomach of the sick a young live puppy, and if the sick can but sleep the space of three or four hours, they shall recover presently, and the dog shall die of the plague. This I have known approved; and I do believe that it will be a cure for all lean, spare, and weak bodies both young and old: provided, that the dog be younger then the sick.

Poor puppies!

PLACES

The 7 Most Advanced Ancient Civilizations in the World: this post offers an overview of some of the most incredible advances of the ancient world including medical knowledge and gender equality in ancient Egypt, sophisticated transportation from the Incas and and trail-blazing inventions in ancient China.

A town that went mad: Pont St. Esprit is a small town in southern France and in 1951 it became famous as the site of one of the most mysterious medical outbreaks of modern times.

Speaking some more about madness, Broadmoor Hospital (est. 1863) still maintains a celebrity status as the Victorian asylum for “criminal lunatics.” The institution can boast housing Edward Oxford, attempted assassinator of Queen Victoria, William Chester Minor, US army surgeon and murderer (and contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary), and Peter Sutcliffe, aka the “Yorkshire Ripper.”

Equindia, or a history of the trade of horses in India.

On the moon: Lunar Lost and Found, or the rediscovery of the rover and its retroreflector and how it will improve the precision of laser ranging experiments.

POINTS IN TIME

Today is also world AIDS day. The Wellcome Library published a selection of AIDS posters, based on its collection of AIDS posters, the fourth largest in the world. The posters range from the early 1980s to the early 1990s. Emphasizing the power of images, these posters

contain many of the highly recognisable visual symbols that we have come to associate with the battle against AIDS: the red ribbon, the AIDS Quilt, and the imagery of HIV-positive artist Keith Haring, as well as reminders that the fight against AIDS has also often involved controversy.

Romeo Vitelli writes a great post on the Battle of Solferino on July 24, 1859, which became largely unexpected and chaotic and spread over fifteen kilometers. An eyewitness described the battle:

the unending combat rages incessantly and in every place with fury.  Nothing stops, nothing interrupts the butchery.  They are killing one another by the hundreds… A rain of cannon balls is sending death to the distant reserves of Austria.  Their ranks are ceaselessly reforming….The French cavalry flings itself on the Austrian cavalry…The rage is so great that in some places after the exhaustion of the cartridges and the breaking of the muskets, they fight with fists and beat one another with stones

An humorous article examining the Industrial Revolution from a gamer’s point of view.

General history gives us two posts, one on the British Intelligent Services and another on the American Civil War.

Also, there’s a great series of posts on heraldry and chivalry in the Middle Ages.

Where does the history of agriculture fit in our historical discourse? Will Thomas gives us a survey on the literature on Agricultural Research to 1945.

Finally, I would like to end this carnival with two thought-provoking posts from The Bubble Chamber on how the history and philosophy of science can engage with more modern debates on the role of science and policy making. In his post “On the Shop Floor,” Matthew Wallace writes:

One could even argue that the raison d’être of modern science policy lies in the realization that science itself does not operate as an isolated endeavour—it’s too important to be run only by practicing scientists. But can we say something more specific about what ties the history of science and science policy in the making? I hope to put forth a few partial suggestions to help answer this question or, at the very least, provide some food for thought.

He contends that there has been little thought or discussion given to how knowledge and skills from the history of science can be directly transferred to science policy, stating that

there is also much to be gained from both a better sociological or historical understanding of the science policy process, as well as a more comprehensive understanding of how the history of science as a discipline can be used on the policy “shop floor”.

And Curtis Forbes asks us to wonder whatever happened to the Science Wars? Once a great battle over boundary lines in interdisciplinary studies, has the war merely died out? Or did it migrate and evolve into newer forms of scientific explanation, even propaganda?

So thank you, Dear Reader! I hope you enjoyed this edition of History Carnival! Keep an eye out on the carnival website for announcements about 2011 hosts. In the meantime, feel free to submit nominations to the carnival using the nomination form on the website.

Happy reading!

History Carnival

With all the chaos in my life right now, I completely forgot to mention I’m hosting the next edition of the History Carnival, a monthly showcase of blog writing about history. I’m SO sorry!

If you have a great historical piece to nominate, please send me an email or use the nomination form on the site.

Happy history reading!

Free Public Talk: “Supporting the DIY Citizen”

The Knowledge Media Design Institute is hosting the opening event for the DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media Conference on Thursday November 11, 2010, 5-7 pm at the Tanz Neuroscience Building, 6 Queen’s Park Crescent, West (enter through the side door). The event is FREE and open to the public, but you need to RSVP in order to help us figure out catering numbers (RSVP here).

Here’s some information on the speakers:

Henry Jenkins is the Provost’s Professor of Communications, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California and the former co-director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT. He is the author or editor of 13 books on various aspects of media and popular culture, including Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide and Democracy and New Media. He blogs at henryjenkins.org. His accomplishments as a public intellectual include speaking to the Federal Communications Commission, the United States Senate Commerce Committee, and the Governing Board of the World Economic Forum, as well as writing a white paper for the MacArthur Foundation on participatory culture and learning.

Corynne McSherry specializes in intellectual property and free speech litigation, with representative cases including Chamber of Commerce v. Servin, et al (trademark parody), Lenz v. Universal (copyright misuse), and MoveOn.org et al. v. Viacom (copyright misuse), as well as numerous amicus briefs on trademark, copyright and patent issues.  She regularly comments on fair use, free speech and innovation on radio and television, including NPR, CNBC, CBS, and Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor, and in news publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, the Boston Globe, CNET News, and Wired News, as well as numerous legal publications.  Prior to joining EFF, Ms. McSherry was a litigator at Bingham McCutchen, LLP, and wrote Who Owns Academic Work?: Battling for Control of Intellectual Property (Harvard University Press, 2001).

Should be super awesome–come and check it out!