Friday 4 October 2013

Cosmic View (1957)

Long before Charles and Ray Eames made 'Powers of Ten' (1968 & 1977) a Dutch writer called Kees Boeke wrote Cosmic View, it was published in 1957. It also inspired the computer game Spore.

The Introduction was by Arthur H. Compton:


What are we? Where do we live? Who are our neighbors? Children and grown-ups, we all ask these questions.

The answers that Kees Boeke gives are only the beginning of the story, but that beginning is straightforward and clear. The author shows us a series of pictures of a little girl as seen from different distances. Around her are the things that form her world. We see her also as it were from within, showing the parts she is made of. These various views present one school child in an immense range of perspectives. We begin to understand how big things are and how we are related to them.

It is not easy to do what the author has done so well, to tell accurately and in simple language what the world is like. Here is a reliable framework to which further knowledge can be added. In describing this framework, the author has gone as far as the present state of our knowledge permits. Fifty years ago our cosmic view would have been much more limited. Nothing could have been drawn with confidence in pictures 20 to 26 or in pictures -8 to -14. There is reason to question whether we shall ever be able to draw what would be the next pictures, 27 or -14.

So it is that only now, in our day, we can see ourselves so clearly. In this immense and varied universe we find ourselves indeed one with other boys and girls, other men and women. In showing us how we ourselves look in perspective, Kees Boeke as a skillful teacher helps us also to know how and what our neighbors are.

The author deserves our thanks for giving us his answers to our questions in this fascinating and understandable form.


A full set of the images and text are HERE.