Welcome to the latest edition of the Giant's Shoulders, the monthly blog carnival devoted to the history of science. With that mind, let's turn to the numerous and diverse contributions that have been made to this latest edition. Classified according to the different sciences they represent, we have:
Anatomy and Medicine
A big hat tip to Thony Christie who contributed numerous suggested posts for addition to this carnival. One of these posts is from the EvoAnth blog and shows the first evidence of prosthetic attachments in Ancient Egypt. I'll bet you didn't know that the first bionic woman lived 3,000 years ago! Me, neither.
How frequent were premature burials in the 18th and 19th centuries? Not only did fear lead to a brisk business in "safety coffins" but this painful post from the Chirugeon's Apprentice blog shows the extreme measures used by surgeons dealing with corpses to ensure that not-quite-dead patients wouldn't be accidentally dissected.
Being an amateur astronomer can be a frustrating business. But how frustrating would it be to prepare for years for a once-in-a-lifetime event and then end up missing it? Thony Christie gives us a sympathetic look at David Rittenhouse and his years of preparation to witness the 1769 Transit of Venus - only to faint due to poor health just as the cardinal moment arrived. Ouch.
That same fateful Transit of Venus generated enough public interest to inspire lecturer and instrument maker, Benjamin Martin, to create a special demonstration model in his London shop. Curious visitors could come into the shop to see the clockwork model. Multimedia in the 18th century! The Transit of Venus site has the details.
What is the Antikythera Mechanism? Was it the first true mechanical calculator? Ian Hopkinson provides us with a review of Jo Marchant's book on the Antikythera Mechanism along with videos of the mechanism and how it originally operated.
The race to measure longitude accurately seems important enough for navigation, but how much more important did it become in time of war? This fascinating post by the Board of Longitude Project at Greenwich's Royal Observatory helps recapture some of the drama of the 18th century longitude competition and how it quickly became a question of national security.
Considering how important the longitude race became, it's hardly surprising that the British government offered a hefty prize to anyone who developed a reliable method for measurement (which is why the Board of Longitude was first formed in 1714). Ian Hopkinson discusses the battle between the Board and John Harrison to claim that prize as well as all the other prizes that the Board handed out.
Back in the 18th century, telescopes were often considered luxury items despite their importance in astronomy and navigation. Talented craftsman often made telescopes that were designed to be works of art as well as being functional. This news item from Live Science shares the recent discovery of five telescopes recently discovered in Amsterdam with casings hand-carved from bone.
For many European countries, astronomical observatories often became a source of national pride. A post by Rebekah Higgitt on the Teleskopos blog provides us with a book review on a recently-published 200-year history of the Tartu Observatory in Estonia (formerly the pride of the Russian Empire).
Did anyone in Columbus' time actually believe that the Earth was flat? They actually didn't although this curious myth has a strange habit of persisting. Even President Obama made that same mistake in a recent statement (and you'd think he would have known better). Darin Hayton of the Philadelphia Area Center for the History of Science weighs in with two posts. The first titled "Why the Flat Earth Myth Bugs Me" (and he isn't the only one) on how the myth started and why people keep repeating it. In a second post titled "Columbus' Voyage Was a Religious Journey", he explores Christopher Columbus' apocalyptic fears and why they led him to make his fateful voyages.
The editors of Annalen der Phyik have launched a new section: "Then and Now" dedicated to the history of physics and the need for scientists to understand what went before. The editorial announcing the launch leads off with one of physicist Moritz Schlitz's most memorable sayings: "Anyone ignorant in physics is certainly a child in thought – but so too is anyone who does not know history."
Long before Darwin revolutionalized science with his theory of evolution, geologists faced the troublesome question of what fossils were and where they came from. The 18th century was filled with "giants" who weren't afraid to overturn orthodox thinking about how life began (and these giants had very broad shoulders in case you forgot the name of this carnival). Mike Rendell of the Georgian Gentleman blog tells us about one of these giants, James Hutton, the "Father of Modern Geology". While never receiving the recognition he deserved, James Hutton was one of the typical Renaissance men of his time who, among many other achievements, came up with one of the first modern theories of evolution.
The History of Geology blog also weighs in with the story of 18th-century surveyor and geologist, William Smith, his early life in England, and the curious fossils in a local quarry that changed his life.
Nature and Evolution
Here's a question you probably never asked yourself. While historians have written extensively about the way the Church of England reacted to Charles Darwin's heretical new take on evolution, how did other religions react? The entertaining Michael Kay provides us with a look at how some of the most prominent Jewish rabbis of the 19th century responded to Darwin and his world-shaking new theory in this fascinating post on his Thinking Through My Fingers blog.
Can the discovery of new fossil evidence suggesting that the early model of a unique migration wave out from Africa may have been too simple lead to a vindication of George Dawson and his Piltdown Man (not to mention the reported sightings of mysterious human-like creatures around the world)? Er, probably not. Did I mention that this post by David Bressan at the History of Geology blog is dated April 1?
Again on the subject of Darwin, Athene Donald shows the odd relationship between Charles Darwin's grandfather Erasmus and equally eminent man-of-letters, Samuel Johnson. How did the two of them get along? Not very well, as it happens.
For many historians of science, one of the most thrilling aspects of searching through centuries-old books on natural philosophy is to sample the amazing handmade illustrations of plants and animals. The Origins of Science as a Visual Pursuit blog provides us with a beautiful post on Dr. Florike Egmond's story on the rediscovery of the original drawings for Conrad Gesser's Historia animalium.
Speaking of beautiful illustrations, Harvard's Houghton Library is announcing the opening of a new exhibition of natural history illustrations by the whimsical Edward Lear. Along with his legacy of literary works of nonsense poetry and amazing paintings, Lear also made hundreds of natural history sketches, many of which are on display for the first time at the library.
John Steinbeck, writer, novelist, scientist? A new Guardian post on Steinbeck's 1951 book, The Log From The Sea of Cortez about the six weeks he spent in the Gulf of California assisting in a marine biology project shows that his skill as a writer helped make the expedition experience come alive.
Also from the Board of Longitude Project site, there is a post showing some the amazing specimens that British explorers brought back from the Arctic (complete with latitude and longitude of where they were collected, of course). Many of those specimens became part of the British Museum's collection as well as being sent to herbariums throughout the U.K.
Speaking of herbariums and Arctic explorers, another post by Rebekah Higgitt of the Teleskopos blog provides a look at the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic garden in Edinburgh. Many of the specimens that are now part of the permanent collection there were originally gathered in the 19th century by Arctic explorers such as William Parry. Parry and his crew were awarded £5000 for reaching 110⁰ West within the Arctic Circle with help from the Board of Longitude who advised them on instruments and techniques.
While women scientists being left out of the history of science seems all too familiar, Emilie du Chatelet deserves better than simply being known as the love of Voltaire's life. This contribution from the Daily Maverick provides a tantalizing look at one of the greatest female intellectuals, mathematicians and thinkers in history.
Psychology and Anthropology
The eminent Dr. SkySkull weighs in with his own take on the John Derbyshire racism fiasco and an indepth examination of 19th century research in race and intelligence. A good look at what has and hasn't changed in 176 years on his Skulls in the Stars blog.
Mike Rendell of the Georgian Gentleman blog also shares a new post on Thomas Newcomen and his first working steam engine at a coalmine near Dudley Castle in Staffordshire in 1712. Not only did this help launch the Industrial Revolution but it was recently commemorated as part of a series of stamps released by the Royal Mail under the heading of “Britons of Distinction”.
Over at The Atlantic, there is a collection of delightfully weird sketches by famed inventor, Alexander Graham Bell. All of the sketches were taken from his numerous laboratory notebooks although his handwriting is hard to follow at times.
For my own modest contribution, I am including this post titled "That X-Ray Vision". How Wilhelm Roentgen, Thomas Edison and Superman joined forces to change the world (and sell shoes as well).
Not sure how else to classify this one but how could I not include this post on the British Library's recent discovery of a medieval cookbook containing recipes on the proper cooking of blackbirds, hedgehogs, and unicorns? Beginning with the phrase "taketh one unicorne", the unicorn recipe involves marinading the beast in cloves and garlic before being roasted on a griddle. Good to know.
With that, we close this edition of the Giant's Shoulders. The next edition will be hosted by blog carnival newcomer Medical Heritage Library (closing date for submissions is May 15). If anyone would like to host a future edition, please contact either either Dr SkySkull at Skulls in the Stars or Thony C at The Renaissance Mathematicus. Remember the future of the History of Science blog carnival rests on your shoulders.