(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘British Library

“The nature of things betrays itself more readily under the vexations of art than in its natural freedom”*…

 

Ernst Haeckel’s 1879 diagram of human evolution

The British Library is hosting “Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight” in its Folio Society Gallery from now through May 26th.  The show features selection’s from the Library’s extraordinary collection of scientific visualizations, charts, and maps.

Turning numbers into pictures that tell important stories and reveal the meaning held within is an essential part of what it means to be a scientist. This is as true in today’s era of genome sequencing and climate models as it was in the 19th century.

Beautiful Science explores how our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph and map the mass data of the time.

The exhibit features classic illustrations dating back to 1603, including John Snow’s map of London’s SoHo that’s credited with revealing a contaminated water pump as the source of a 1854 cholera outbreak; and it extends forward to beautiful modern visualizations of data from satellites and gene sequencers.

“Circles of Life,” specially commissioned this year for the exhibit, illustrates the genetic similarities between humans and five other animals (chimpanzee and dog are shown here). See the full diagram.

Read more, and see more examples for the show, at the British Library’s site and at Wired Science (from whence the images above).

(Special bonus:  Florence Nightingale’s extraordinary “rose diagram” infographic, demonstrating that more soldiers died of preventable diseases than in conflict during the Crimean War.)

* Sir Francis Bacon

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As we delight in the distillation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1870 that Congress authorized the formation of the U.S. weather service (later named the Weather Bureau; later still, the National Weather Service), and placed it under the direction of the Army Signal Corps.  Cleveland Abbe,  who had started the first private weather reporting and warning service (in Cincinnati) and had been issuing weather reports or bulletins since September, 1869, was the only person in the country at the time who was experienced in drawing weather maps from telegraphic reports and forecasting from them.  He became the weather service’s inaugural chief scientist– effectively its founding head– in January, 1871.  The first U.S. meteorologist, he is known as the “father of the U.S. Weather Bureau,” where he systemized observation, trained personnel, and established scientific methods.  He went on to become one of the 33 founders of the National Geographic Society.

Cleveland Abbe

source

 

The Sound of Silage…

click on the bar above, or here

Can readers identify these “bellowing bedfellows“?

More aural amusement at Sounds Like Science, a project of NYU’s Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program.  And for more, visit the British Library’s Listen to Nature.

As we rethink our concept of “cute,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1896 that Clement Hardy was issued a U.S. patent for the rotary disk plow (No. 556,972).  The plow disks were designed to be drawn into the earth by their own action and by the weight of the soil lifted by the disks and carried on their faces and have a cutting action on the bottom of the furrow instead of scraping– enabling much lighter (and more easily drawn) plows than had previously been necessary to force the disks into the soil and hold them to their work.

a modern version at work (source)

 

Pages through the ages…

(Roughly) Daily often visits the British Library (as does your correspondent, every time he’s in London: pound for pound, the best museum experience in the world).

Now, as part of that august institution’s on-going efforts to make its extraordinary collection more widely available, the BL has created an online English Language and Literature Timeline.

From the very early (c. 1000)…

Beowulf is the longest epic poem in Old English, the language spoken in Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest. It tells the breathtaking story of a struggle between the hero, Beowulf, and a bloodthirsty monster called Grendel. Poems of this kind would often have been recited from memory by a court minstrel, or scop, to the accompaniment of a harp.

This fire-damaged manuscript is the only surviving copy of the story. It was written down in about 1000, but the poem may have been created by storytellers as early as the 700s.

…to the very recent (1970’s)…

Sniffin Glue, the first punk fanzine, was produced by Mark Perry in July 1976 a few days after seeing US punk band The Ramones for the first time at the Roundhouse in London. He took the title from a Ramones song ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’. Perry’s fanzine was the perfect punk form. It reported the moment immediately as it happened, from an insider’s point of view. Because Perry used everyday tools that were immediately to hand, Sniffin’ Glue fitted with the do-it-yourself ethos which was already an important part of punk culture. A flood of punk zines followed, with identifiable cut and paste graphics, typewritten or felt tip text, misspellings and crossings out. Photocopying also contributed to the punk zine look by limiting graphic experimentation to black and white tones and imagery based on collage, enlargement and reduction. Sniffin’ Glue demonstrated that anyone could easily, cheaply and quickly produce a fanzine.

…and with fascinating contextual call-outs, e.g.

Language in the 11th Century

The Normans transform England, both culturally and linguistically. For over 300 years French is the language spoken by the most powerful people – royalty, aristocrats and high-powered officials – some of whom can’t speak English at all. French is used in political documents, in administration, and in literature. Latin is still the language of the church and of scholars, but most of the general population speak English in their everday lives.

Thousands of French words become embedded in the English vocabulary, most of which are words of power, such as crown, castle, court, parliament, army, mansion, gown, beauty, banquet, art, poet, romance, chess, colour, duke, servant, peasant, traitor  and governor.

…it’s all there– the extraordinary pageant that is our language.

As we re-visit Dr.Johnson, we might recall that it was on this date in 1990 that National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences awarded the Best New Artist Grammy to Milli Vanilli.  NARAS probably wishes that it could take back any number of Grammys awarded over the years; this is the only one they ever did.  Later that year German producer Frank Farian revealed that he had put the names and faces of the beauteous but voice-less Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan on the dance records he had created in his studio using actual (but less sightly) musicians. Four days later, Milli Vanilli’s Grammy honor was withdrawn.

Rob and Fab (source)

Say what?…

source

Trying to master a role in a Tennessee Williams play?  Place someone by their accent?  Steven Weinberger, a linguist at George Mason University can help.  He’s created The Speech Accent Archive, where one can click on a map to hear some native, some non-native English speakers from all over the world– but in each case reciting the same short English paragraph, crafted to contain every sound in the Queen’s Language.

(C.F. also the previously-reported British Library Map of Accents and Dialects.)

As we smooth our sibilants, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that Northwestern University conferred an honorary degree on ventriloquist’s dummy Charlie McCarthy (whose “partner,” Edgar Bergen, had attended Northwestern, but never graduated).

Lest we doubt that Bergen and his wooden friend were worthy of the academic accolade, we might note that they have been credited by some with “saving the world”: later that same year, on the night of October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles performed his War of the Worlds radio play, panicking many listeners, most of the American public had tuned instead to Bergen and McCarthy on another station.   (Dissenters note that Bergen may inadvertently have contributed to the hysteria: when the musical portion of Bergen’s show [The Chase and Sanborn Hour] aired about twelve minutes into the show, many listeners switched stations– to discover War of the Worlds in progress, with an all-too-authentic-sounding reporter detailing a horrific alien invasion.

Charlie McCarthy, BA (left), with his friend Edgar Bergen (source)

“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing.”*…

Peter Barber, Head of Map Collections at the British Library, has written a companion piece to the BL’s exhibition “Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art,” his personal selection of ten of the greatest– “Ten Maps that Changed the World“; for example:

click here for enlargement

The infant USSR was threatened with invasion, famine and social unrest. To counter this, brilliant designers such as Dimitri Moor were employed to create pro-Bolshevik propaganda.

Using a map of European Russia and its neighbours, Moor’s image of a heroic Bolshevik guard defeating the invading ‘Whites’ helped define the Soviet Union in the Russian popular imagination.

From the Henricus Martellus World Map (1490– used to convince Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile to support Columbus), the Evesham WorldMap (1400- the birth of English nationalism and patriotism– think Henry V and Agincourt), and the Chinese Globe (1623– exaggerated the size of China and placed it in the middle of a world that otherwise consisted mainly of small off-shore islands) to the London Underground Map and Google Earth, see them all.

(TotH to Flowing Data)

* Oscar Wilde

As we turn to plot our courses, we might recall that it was on this date in 1865, in the market square of Springfield, Missouri, that Wild Bill Hickok shot and killed Davis Tutt in what is regarded as the first true western showdown.

The victor

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