Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Gassendi by Mellan 1637

A detail from an engraving of the scholar, priest and astronomer Pierre Gassendi by his collaborator the engraver and artist Claude Mellan. From the Met collection.

Image © 2000–2014 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Primum Non Nocere — Above All, Do No Harm!

This motto is often used to describe the moral obligations of medics (though it isn't the Hippocratic Oath).

The earliest solid reference found so far for the motto is from 1879:
The maxim that our first duty is to do no harm — primum non nocere — is not intended to reduce us to the rank of simple spectators; it is to stimulate us to attain greater accuracy in diagnosis, greater skill in treatment, and quicker perception of indications.
Stimson LA. On abdominal drainage of adherent portions of ovarian cysts as a substitute for completed ovariotomy. Am J Med Sci. 1879;78: pp. 88-100.

For a full history of the motto see; Cedric M. Smith, ‘Origin and Uses of Primum Non Nocere — Above All, Do No Harm!’, The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology,  Vol. 45 (4), (2005), pp. 371–377.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Y Rhiw

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Old Postcards

A huge collection of old postcards HERE.

San Francisco below.

Château de Blérancourt. Bastille day 1989.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Reconstruction of the Worlds largest flying bird

A great piece here in the Guardian about the reconstruction of the worlds largest flying bird from fossilised remains.

The paper includes the following clear illustration, complete with scale-bar.


Skeletal reconstruction of P sandersi with a California condor (lower left) and royal albatross (lower right) for scale. Illustration: Liz Bradford/PNAS  

Full paper HERE.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Apollo Image archive: Apollo 17 Mission CSM during rendezvous

NASA Image. Apollo-17 Hasselblad Magazine AS17-145/D - high resolution image HERE.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Pantograph. 1653

The Pantograph was invented by Christoph Scheiner in about 1603, but his book on the subject, Pantographice, was not published until 1631. 

The following image is from a later reduced Italian version -Prattica del parallelogrammo da disegnare, which was published in Bologna in 1653.

Image from HERE

Friday, July 4, 2014

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Neil Optical Illusions

Neil Illusions were discovered by Allan Neil, of the Institute of Behavioral Research at Texas Christian University, in the early 1970's. They are notable for the subtlety of the illusion effect - very many people with minor degrees of nonsanopia cannot see the illusion at all. The following article from the New Scientist of 1971 describes a number of the more obvious Neil Illusions. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

A postcard from Twin Peaks

Paul Willoughby is a London based illustrater and graphic designer who has worked on Huck magazine and Little White Lies magazine. He recently created some altered postcards for the Twin Peaks 20th Anniversary Art Exhibition in the Menier gallery, London.


Image Copyright Paul Willoughby.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bloomsday 2014

Bloomsday is celebrated on the 16th June by fans of the James Joyce book Ulysses.

Below are some of the elements of Ernest Reichl's design of the 1934 Random House edition of Ulysses.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Gassendi & Mellan

In 1637 the French engraver Mellan published three engravings of the Moon's surface captured by him from Gassendi's telescope HERE.

Image Copyright - The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1960

Monday, June 9, 2014

British Standard Whitworth

The British industrialist and entrepreneur Sir Joseph Whitworth (1803- 1887) was born in Stockport near Manchester. He was fascinated from an early age by mechanical engineering and was a great inventor and innovator.

Whitworth worked in London on screw cutting lathes, including  work at Joseph Clements workshop on Charles Babbage's Difference Engine. He returned to Manchester in 1833 to begin his own business making high quality lathes and other machine tools. 

Some of the innovations he came up with included the use of engineers blue and scraping techniques to make very flat metal surfaces. He devised a measurement technique capable of a precision of one millionth of an inch.

The innovation for which he is still remembered was the creation in 1841 of a  standardised screw thread which had an angle of 55 degrees. This became the basis of the first standard system of threads - British Standard Whitworth (BSW or "Whit").  

Image Copyright M.G.Reed 2014.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Birds of Asia - John Gould 1850

New York (1915) & New York Revisited (2002)

The Grolier club of New York was founded in 1884 to celebrate the graphic arts involved in making high quality books; page design, typography, illustration and book binding. The club is named after the renowned book collector Jean Grolier (1490-1565) the Treasurer General of France. Grolier was a patron of the Venetian printer Aldus Manutius and he had ornate bindings made for the volumes he bought. Both the British Library and the National Library in Paris have volumes from his collection.

The current home of the Grolier club is in an affluent part of Manhattan. They have a museum and large research library and host talks and seminars. They also occasionally publish limited editions of exquisitely designed, illustrated and printed books.
New York by Rudolph Ruzicka and Walter Eaton was published by the Grolier club in 1915. It captured a city in transition. Skyscrapers were transforming the city's skyline as it became one of the most populous and economically powerful city's in history. The book was beautifully designed and illustrated by the type designer and wood engraver Rudolph Ruzicka (1883-1978).  The colour wood engravings by Ruzicka were printed in Paris by Emile Fequet. 

Rudolph Ruzicka was born in Kourim, Bohemia in 1883. He moved with his parents to Chicago in 1894 and by 1897 he had became an unpaid apprentice in a wood engraving workshop. He studied at the Chicago Art Institute and New York School of Art. Ruzicka became well known as a type designer and worked for the Mergenthaler Linotype company. He designed the typeface Fairfield in 1940 and re-designed the Harvard Business Review in the early 1950's.

In 2002 Grolier published New York Revisited - a follow-on volume to the 1915 volume (in the world of fine art printing things can sometimes take time). The text in the book was written by a Grolier club member Kenneth Auchincloss and the book was designed, typeset, illustrated with colour wood engravings and hand printed by the fine-art printer Gaylord Schanilec.

In the Foreword to New York Revisited, the author refers back to the 1915 New York volume;
The highlight of the book is the wood engravings by Rudoph Ruzicka. Their muted colors and delicate line partially disguise the artist's reaction to the city, which one suspects was primarily alarm... His images are deceptively light, but what they convey is the enormous vertical weight of the city.  
A total of 250 copies of New York Revisited were printed. The first 50 were specially bound and each contained a portfolio of Ruzicka engravings that had been newly printed by Schanilec from the blocks that Ruzicka had cut in 1915 (the original blocks had been found in an old box by the Grolier club librarian).

Typical two-page spreads from (top) New York (1915) and (bottom) New York Revisited (2002) both published by the Grolier Club of New York.  





Friday, June 6, 2014

Long Grain White Oak - Schanilec print

Here is a piece on the work of fine book maker and wood engraver Gaylord Schanilec - in particular his book Sylvæ

Below a two-page spread from the book showing a piece of Long-grain white Oak on the foldout.

 Image copyright Gaylord Schanilec

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Rudolph Ruzicka

Hotel de Cluny

The Musee de Cluny is a museum of medieval art in Paris.

Recollections & Reflections - Yoshio Markino (1913)

Babar Maquette

The Morgan library also have a digital facsimile of a unique maquette created by Jean de Brunhoff in 1930/31 as a first draft of the first book in the Babar series: Histoire de Babar.  

The maquette (scale model or rough draft) is a small (20.5 x 15.5 cm) handmade booklet incorporating both text and illustrations.

 Image Copyright Morgan Library - HERE.

Rembrandt Etchings online

The Morgan Library in New York has just put its collection of 500 Rembrandt etchings online - HERE.

Below - one of the many self-portraits in the collection. 

Image Copyright The Morgan Library

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Rachel Carson is famed as the author of Silent Spring (1962) - a call to action about conservation and environment. 

Earlier though she had a career as a marine biologist with the US Bureaus of Fisheries. One of her technical monographs,Fish and Shellfish of the South Atlantic and Gulf Coasts (1944) is available here.

Original B&W image from Carson monograph

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Secret History of Hypertext

A great piece in the Atlantic on the Secret History of Hypertext HERE. It includes a good write up on someone I had never heard of before, the Belgian  Paul Otlet - the father of information science.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Everyone is totally just winging it

From Oliver Burkeman's blog in the Guardian today, a grand truth about human behaviour, dressed up in a semi-joking post:

Everyone is totally just winging it, all the time.

A Golden Plover - by Thomas Bewick from HERE

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Constructor - El Lissitzky

From Here.

Bioscience Illustrator

Illustration copyright Dr Maria Kuzma-Kuzniarska from HERE.

Compound Interest

Here is a blog offering a distinctively different view on chemistry.

Image Copyright Compound Interest

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Thinking Eye - Edward Tufte

The Thinking Eye - A Lecture by Edward Tufte 4th April 2013 Harvard University.

video platform video management video solutionsvideo player

See here as well

Friday, May 9, 2014

Home Life in Tokyo (1910)

 Copyright M.G. Reed 2014

Friday, May 2, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Seat of the Soul

Here is the catalogue for an exhibition of da Vinci's anatomical drawings that was held at Meteroploitan Museum of Art in 1984. All of these drawings are from the Royal Collection of nearly 600 priceless da Vinci drawings that are held at Windsor Castle.

Da Vinci dissected about 30 humans and his method was almost forensic. He made detailed notes and illustrated them as he went, applying his formidable skills as a draughtsman as well as his unrivaled observational technique.  More here.

Image copyright Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Country Life in a Big City

A panoramic view of New York from 1910, about twenty years prior to the completion of the Empire State Building.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Voyaging southward from the Strait of Magellan (1924)

Here is a copy of Rockwell Kents memoir of his sea journey in South America,Voyaging southward from the Strait of Magellan (1924).

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Golden Ratio (Divine Proportion)

The truncated octahedron is an Archimedean solid with 8 regular hexagon faces and 6 square faces.Here is Leonardo da Vinci's rendering of this shape in the 1509 treatise by Luca Pacioli De Divina proportione (divine proportion) including both mathematical and artistic proportion (HERE).


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Satsugu enso roku (1881)

The Internet Archive is an unusually rich source of high quality visual materials if you are prepared to search a little bit (I have found that using broad search terms such as "graphic" and "pictorial" uncovers the best material).

For example, here is Satsugu enso Roku, a stunning Japanese volume on tobacco growing from 1881.
The following notes are included in the volume:

Satsugu enso Roku (Tobacco Growing in Satsuma and Osumi Provinces).
5 vols in 1 (712pp). 156 figures in color, maps, charts, tables.  
Tokyo 1881.

This is a scientific work of that period and covers all phases of tobacco culture. It completely illustrates and discusses such subjects as morphology of the tobacco plant, planting, handling and care of seed beds, transplanting, weeding, use of wheat as a "nurse" crop, insect pests, tobacco diseases, harvesting, curing, etc. There is also an interesting illustrated section on the history of smoking.

The well known American botanist H.H. Bartlett says that "It is probably as interesting a monograph of a single crop plant as any nation could show at the same time."

It is lavishly illustrated with 156 figures in colour, most of which occupy a whole page, and many are tipped in and folded. Some of the illustrations of tobacco leaves are in natural size. Some of the illustrations are interesting from the view-point of printing. From a note by the author it seems that the outlines were printed from metal, colors were added with wooden blocks and some of these were overprinted by lithography for improvement. Bartlett says, "All in all, the printing of this copiously illustrated work with its effective coloring was a marvel of technical ingenuity".   

There is a ten - page English summary.

Friday, March 21, 2014

An Evening Walk in Ashton Park

The Brain of Hermann Von Helmholtz (April 14, 1899)

Original Science paper HERE.
Image of Brain from HERE
More on Helmholtz HERE.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Crayfish

Thomas Henry Huxley's monograph on the Crayfish HERE.

Dance of the Bumble Bee

Karl von Frisch (1886 – 1982) was an Austrian scientist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1973 for his work on the sensory perception of the honey bee. One of the things he did was work out the meaning of the waggle dance by which bees indicate distance and direction of food. 

 A diagram from his book A Biologist Remembers (1957) HERE. And his Nobel prize speech.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The elastic skin which is water's epidermis.

Ordinary water displays a strange property which is known as surface tension - it is almost as if water has a 'skin' of its own. 

From the novel Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician by the French author Alfred Jarry (1873 - 1907), comes the following lyrical piece on the strange phenomena of  surface tension.  It is dedicated, quite rightly, to the English scientist C.V. Boys, who famously lectured on the science of surface tension and soap bubbles.
To C.V. Boys
It is probable that you have no conception, Panmuphle, writ-carrying bailiff, of capillarity, of surface tension, nor of weightless membranes, equilateral hyperbolae, surfaces without curvature, nor, more generally, of the elastic skin which is water's epidermis.
The novel features the pataphysician Doctor Faustroll, a Circassian scientist who was born in 1898 at the age of 63, and who died the same year at the same age. His sidekick is a lawyer, Panmuphle, who narrates their adventures as they travel over a sea that is superimposed over the streets and buildings of Paris. The above is taken from an English translation by Simon Watson Taylor (HERE).

The following images from C.V. Boys volume of lectures on Soap bubles, their colours and the forces which mould them (1916) HERE.

Laetoli Footprints

About 3.6 million years ago a small group of bipedal hominids walked across a thin layer of volcanic ash on a sandy surface in what is now Laetoli in Tanzania. Their tracks were preserved by a second layer of volcanic ash, that later turned into a cement. In 1976 these footprints were discovered by a team of paleontologists led by Mary Leakey. The actual find was made by Andrew Hill (original Nature paper here). 

The chances of the above sequence of events happening are remote. To say the least.

The discovery of the Laetoli footprints are an outstanding example of the power of simple scientific observation. There was no need for any of the high-tech gizmos associated with modern high-energy physics. No GPS. No fancy computer analysis. There was no 'experimental design' as the events were a one-off. These footprints were recorded by a team of scientists and field workers who were diligently working in blistering heat, notebook in hand. They found the footprints by looking through the blinding glare at the sandstone or tuff surface of the ground. It is a lovely example of the power of intense seeing.

The discovery of the Laetoli footprints does not answer any of the fundamental questions about nature that big experiments like the Large Hadron Collider do. Nevertheless, from a parochial human point of view, these footprints and what they imply are probably more fundamentally important. 

Over the past 40 years this set of footprints have continued to be of keen interest to a wide range of scientists who are seeking to understand how humans evolved from ape like ancestors via bipedal hominids.  

A recent paper by Raichlen, Gordon, Harcourt-Smith, Foster and Haas uses the Laetoli footprints to carry out a nice piece of experimental anatomy. They got modern humans to walk in a sand track with a normal gait (extended-limb bipedalism) and with a more ape-like gait (Bent Knee Bent Hip - BKBH) and then compared the 3D shape and depth of their footprints in the sand from these two different ways of walking with those from Laetoli. They conclude:
These results provide us with the earliest direct evidence of kinematically human-like bipedalism currently known, and show that extended limb bipedalism evolved long before the appearance of the genus Homo. Since extended-limb bipedalism is more energetically economical than ape-like bipedalism, energy expenditure was likely an important selection pressure on hominin bipeds by 3.6 Ma.

Figure 1. Three dimensional scans of experimental footprints and a Laetoli footprint.

Image from HERE.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Interference of Waves - 1807

The English polymath scientist Thomas Young (1773-1829) studied languages, medicine and physics and his name is immortalised in a series of experiments showing the interference of waves. He presented his work on the wave nature of light to the Royal Society in 1803.    

In a recent poll amongst physicists about which experiments they rated the most beautiful the following results were found:

1. Young’s double-slit experiment applied to the interference of electrons by Jönsson (1961).
2. Galileo’s experiment on falling bodies (ca. 1590).
3. Millikan’s oil-drop experiment (1909).
4. Newton’s decomposition of sunlight with a prism (1665–1666).
5. Young’s light-interference experiment (1803).
6. Cavendish’s torsion-bar experiment (1798).
7. Eratosthenes’ measurement of the earth’s circumference (ca. 250 BC).
8. Galileo’s experiments with rolling balls down inclined planes (ca. 1608).
9. Rutherford’s discovery of the nucleus (1911).
10. Foucault’s pendulum (1851).

Thomas was not well known as a communicator of his science, nevertheless he composed a two volume set - A course of lectures on natural philosophy and the mechanical arts- published in 1807 (HERE)

From Volume 1 is Thomas's description of a ripple tank demonstration of interference in water waves.


p. 289

Many of the phenomena of waves may be very conveniently exhibited, by means of a wide and shallow vessel, with a bottom of glass, surrounded by sides inclined to the horizon, in order to avoid the confusion which would arise from the continual reflections produced by perpendicular surfaces, the waves may be excited by the vibrations of an elastic rod or wire, loaded with a weight, by means of which its motions may be made more or less rapid at pleasure; and the form and progress of the waves may be easily observed, by placing a light under the vessel, so that their shadows may fall on a white surface, extended in an inclined position above. In this manner the minutest inflections of the surface of the water may be made perfectly conspicuous. 

p. 290

When two equal series of circular waves, proceeding from centres near each other, begin their motions at the same time, they must so cross, each other, in some parts of their progress, that the elevations of the one series tend to fill up the depressions of the other; and this effect may be actually observed, by throwing two stones of equal size into a pond at the same instant; for we may easily distinguish, in favourable circumstances, the series of points in which this effect takes place, forming continued curves, in which the water remains smooth, while it is strongly agitated in the intermediate parts. These curves are of the kind denominated hyperbolas, each point of the curve being so situated with respect to its foci, as to be nearer to one than the other by a-certain constant distance. (Fig. 267.) 

Fig. 267. Two equal series of waves, diverging from the centres A and B, and crossing each other in such a manner, that in the lines tending towards C, D, E, and F, they counteract each other's effects, and the water remains nearly smooth, while in the intermediate spaces it is agitated.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Royal Society of Arts

London is full of dozens of historical, cultural and architectural gems. The RSA is an example of all three. The RSA, or to give it its full title the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, is based in John Adam Street very close to Charing Cross station. It was founded in 1754 and has included amongst its Fellowship over the years Charles Dickens, Adam Smith, Benjamin Franklin, Karl Marx, William Hogarth, Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Cabrera's Law 1932

Angel Cabrera Latorre (1879 - 1960) was a Spanish-Argentinian zoologist and paleontologist. He was born in Madrid in 1879 and emigrated to Argentina, becoming an Argentinian  citizen in 1925. 

Cabrera worked at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid from 1902 until 1925. He specialised in mammalian anatomy and led scientific expeditions to Rif in 1919 and Western Morocco in 1921. He also participated in 1923 in another expedition to the western part of the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco which was was led by Royal Navy Admiral H. Lynes.

He published Fauna Ibérica; Mamíferos in 1914 which included his own illustrations. The book is available HERE and an illustration of a Lynx from that volume is below.

Cabrera also illustrated and published volumes on Mamallian Genera (1919)

Cabrera emigrated to Argentina in 1925 and became an Argentine citizen that year. He worked at the Institute of the Museum of La Plata as head of paleontology. From 1930 he was professor at the Faculty of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine, University of Buenos Aires. He studied fossil fauna of Argentina including Megatherium, cetaceans, deer, camelids, Jaguars and marsupials. Cabrera also discovered the first Jurassic era dinosaur of South America in Patagonia.

Cabrera published extensively, including 27 books, over 200 scientific publications and more than 400 articles in national and international journals. Cabrera was a gifted scientific illustrator, often illustrating his own work and that of his colleagues.
In 1932 Cabrera published a paper on ecological incompatibility; La incompatibilidad ecologica una ley biologica interesante. Am. Soc. Cient. Argentina, 114(5/6) :243-260. (Biol.Abst.), that Ed Ricketts read and applied to the marine ecology he saw around him on the Monterrey peninsula. 

In the preface to his classic Between Pacific Tides Ricketts wrote a short Zoological Introduction that refers to this law; "In the same locality... directly related animal forms always occupy different habitats or ecological stations... Related animal forms are ecologically incompatible, and the incompatability is the more profound the more directly they are related."  The marine biologist Joel Hedgepath described it as a startling perception.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Animal Aggregations

Ed Ricketts attended the University of Chicago in the 1920's. One of the tutors he came into contact with was Warder Clyde Allee - a zoologist and ecologist who had a profound influence on Ricketts' approach to marine biology and ecology. Allee was the first to describe what has become known as the Allee Effect, defined as "the positive correlation between population density and individual fitness". 

In 2008 Franck Courchamp, Ludek Berec, and Joanna Gascoigne published a 270 page  monograph dedicated to the Allee Effect in Ecology and Conservation. In the preface they define the effect informally as the idea that "the more individuals there are (up to a point), the better they fare" and explain;

The Allee effect is an ecological concept with roots that go back at least to the 1920s, and fifty years have elapsed since the last edition of a book by W.C. Allee, the “father” of this process. Throughout this period, hardly a single mention of this process could be found in ecological textbooks. The concept lurked on the margin of ecological theory, overshadowed by the idea of negative density dependence and competition. The situation has appeared to change dramatically in the last decade or so, however, and we now find an ever-increasing number of studies from an ever-increasing range of disciplines devoted to or at least considering the Allee effect.
Warder Clyde Allee's classic from 1931 - Animal Aggregations. A study in General Sociology was published by the University of Chicago Press and is available to download in its entirety HERE.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Workman Keyboard

We all know that QWERTY keyboards don't help. Here are some alternatives.

Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight

At the British Library. Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight

20 February - 26 May 2014

The Folio Society Gallery; admission free


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

West Kirby Olives

Image taken 25th February 2014. 
Copyright M.G. Reed. 
All rights reserved.


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