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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post [Also see an earlier post here on Air-Punk & Underwater 19th Century Cyborgs]


This land-whale of a vehicle, a bus design for "Land Crusing De Luxe", is left mostly to our imagination so far as specs and stats go. It looks as though it would accommodate perhaps 14 people on a long haul. There were two levels of living space as well as room for two (or four?) in sleeping quarters…perhaps a more luxurious class was seated downstairs. In any event there were three attendants on the bus for its not-many passengers, including a chef, a seward and a driver. (Elsewhere in the article the driver is referred to as a "pilot".)

I'm sure this would have been a beautiful thing–I picture is red on black, with an ultra-shine. I'm also sur ethat it would have been a delsight.

Source: Popular Mechanics, August, 1934.

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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1878

There is, buried deep within this engraving, a small but penetrating snapshot of working life in very early 19th century England. Very working life. We'll get to that in a moment, after introductions are made to the brilliant composer of these images.

Blogtunnel_full239 J.G. Heck wrote and compiled a fascinating and complex work entitled The Iconographic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature and Art, and was published in America for the first time in 1851 following Spencer Baird’s translation from its original German.

The key to his work is the amount of data displayed on each of the 500 engraved plates illustrating this work and the way in which it is arranged. The design and layout of the 30,000 items on these 500 plates was a work of genius, and for my money it is easily the best-presented complex means of the display of data and objects that was published in the 19th century.

Take for example this illustration in the technology section (a subdivision of the applied arts which is a sub division of the plastic arts) and, continuing in this complicated scheme, was Plate 1 from Section X Number A1 with a description found in the text on a dozen pages in Section 2 of Volume 2 on section pages 134-150 and overall page numbers 835-851 (!). The plate contains 35 figures, very finely executed and rendered (many of the other of the 500 plates have 100 or more figures), and is in general related to the construction of roads and tunnels (and further, part of the “communications” section).

This of course would be a perfect Hypertext candidate.

The illustration itself contains an enormous amount of information. The row along the top third or so is dedicated to street construction and paving stone, showing stones in plan and profile, as well as a cross section and ground plan of a “typical” street (including sidewalks). It is interesting to note the detail of the cross section and the stonework that is placed beneath the horse and wagon section of the street. There are some other beauties here as well–details of wooden paving blocks, the plan for a Laves of Hanover road, different ways of cutting stone blocks—but we won’t deal with those right now, except to point out that there are several renderings of street cleaners and road rollers (of Shettenmann and another of Schaefer) used to border the street section from the tunnel section.

Blogtunnel_middle241 The middle section of the engraving is of course a cross section of the Thames tunnel of the beautifully-named Isambard Kingdom Brunel (begun in 1825 and completed 1843, the tunnel 35 feet wide (11 m), 20 feet (6 m) high and 1,300 feet (396 m) long, running between Wapping and Rotherhithe at a depth of 75 feet (23 m)). The representation here is only one inch high and ten inches long but is loaded with just fabulous detail, no the least of which are the (less than) 1mm tall workmen that can still be seen in the tunnel.
The enlarged detail shows a section of the tunnel being built according to Brunel’s new specifications: a larger, shielded tunnel being constructed around the interior construction of 12 individual tunnels (each about tall enough to allow a (short) man to stand erect.

It is unneccessary to say how difficult this work must have been. Cramped, dirty, dark, stale-aired, and dangerous, this was the very definition of a compromised working environment.

In short, the engraving is a superb example of *correct* design of great artistic ability, all accomplished while displayed heaps and gobs of interconnected, complex information.

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1853

Diving bell horizontal656

Well, not really. It is however an early diving suit (and perhaps the earliest apparatus worn on the person and submerged) the creative and comparatively lightweight effort of Karl Heinrich Klingert, who produced it at the very end of the 18th century, in 1797 or thereabouts. The suit was made of a metal helmet and wide metal girdle, with the vest and pants made of a waterproof leather, and with leather (?) leg straps. The air would be pumped down to the diver from a turret above (see below, just) and would arrive in the diver's helmet via weighted air tubes.

Here's a side and occupied view:

Diving bell horizontal654

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JF Ptak Science Books Post 1775

Pleasant_1bertha The 1895/1896 issues of Nature magazine are compliantly normal until the first weeks of 1896 when the first of a flood of articles is published about the astonishing discovery of 50-year-old Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. The English-language popular science journal announcement of his December 28, 1895 “Ueber eine neue Art von Strahlen" ("On a New Type of Ray"), appearing 16 January 1896, began the introduction of a new state of human experience. His experiments—built upon the work of J. Plucker (1801-1868), J. W. Hittorf (1824-1914), C. F. Varley (1828-1883), E. Goldstein (1850-1931), Sir William Crookes (1832-1919), H. Hertz (1857-1894) and the odious Phil Lenard (1862-1947 and who didn’t die soon enough)—revealed as much to humans as did the experiments and inventions of Hooke and Leeuwenhoek on the invisible worlds revealed by the microscope. There are more than 150 articles on the Roentgen (and soon to be “X-“) Ray, all published within 12 months of the original announcement, almost all excitedly, trying to comprehend, elucidate, expand, verify, this new world.

Blogxraybigads_2 [ The news of the discovery is first and most popularly reported in the January 6, 1896 London Standard: “The noise of war's alarm should not distract attention from the marvelous triumph of science which is reported from Vienna. It is announced that Professor Routgen (sic) of the Wurzburg University has discovered a light which for the purposeBlogxrayad of photography will penetrate wood, flesh, cloth, and most other organic substances. The Professor has succeeded in photographing metal weights which were in a closed wooden case, also a man's hand which showed only the bones, the flesh being invisible”. By the end of the month the news was completely absorbed, worldwide.]

I looked at the advertising in these issues (my copies of Nature for these decades generally have the original paper wrappers for the weeklies, complete with ad copy), looking for the first time that a Roentgen machine was offered for sale to the general public. As it turns out, they popped up 12 March 1896 (once), 19 March (twice), and then about once a week for the rest of the year. A little surprising, I think, a little light to my Monday-morning quarterback’s eye—I expected more; bigger, more, splashier. But the ads are small and sedate, hardly similar to the discovery they represent.

Blogfeb_22marey The rest of the world, the rest of the advertising world, stayed the same–the Roentgen discovery and the enormous possibilities and promises of his “new photography” lived in their own unique sphere, unencumbered by their sassy new brother. This mild response seems dimmer still when you compare it to that which greeted other (relatively) simple but still major advancements in the world of photography. Take for example Etienne Marey, who was a technoid and physician who was able to capture motion of all sorts–he was able to develop a picture so to speak of the movement of blood in the body via his instrument to calculate blood pressure, and he also created a shotgun-style camera that made the Blog_feb_22_nude world's first high-speed photographs of movement. And so it cane to pass that in the late 1870's and early 1880's people were instantly able to see what a horse looked like when it galloped or what the body did *exactly* when jumping over a chair. When you couple this with fourth-dimension material one wonders why it took several more decades to bump into these images in the art of 1907+.

(Duchamp Nude Descending series, 1915; above, Marey, 1881)

And what indeed was normal in these pages? Magic lanterns
and magi lantern slides appearMagiclantern at all levels; the gorgeous Wimshurst machine gets heavily advertised; the redoubtable Negretti & Zambra advertised all manner of excellent scientific instruments (biographs, thermogrphs. Nadeer Bros. advertised a pretty standard cell, and the ancient Crossley displayed their “new” oil engines, “suitable for all classes of agricultural work”. J.H. Stewart was selling their semi-automatic electric arc lamp, while across the page was Newton & Company’s “Newtonian” arc lamps for lanterns (“self feeding and focus keeping”). Microscopes and prepared slides abound, and Thomas Bolton advertises discretely and effectively for their “living specimens for the microscope”.

The Physical Review, the American upstart in the science world advertises that its third volume was available, while its distant cousin, the Psychological Review, advertised its own third volume. Booksellers seem to take the most space, thank goodness.

Blogxrayepps There are a few medical throwbacks: Epp’s Cocaine takes out occasional tenth-page ads for their “cocoa-nib extract, tea-like” selling its ‘gentile nerve stimulant”. Right underneath is “Holloway’s Pills”, promising to cure biliousness, sick headache, indigestion, and all (?!) internal complaints. These are brilliant simple samples of the skeleton of science in world-dominant Great Britain, in a world dominated at that time by H.A, Lorentz, Ernst Mach , Roentgen, Korteweg, de Vries, Bateson, Jean-Baptiste Perrin, Pierre Curie, Zeeman, Becquerel, Joseph Thomson, Ernest Rutherford, Marconi, Ramsay, Fitzgerald. And so on.

Nothing offered for sale here offered any significant clue to the pregnant world of modernity that was nearlyBlogxray3 there—the world would become ‘modern” almost immediately following Roentgen, with revolutionary, epochal changes in art (in non-representational form more so than Impressionism), theater, literature, music. Just about everything changed (except politics). But there is no hint to paradigm shift hidden in the ads, just as they were with the machines selling the promise of Roentgen’s “new photography. There’s something about the fine glass, superb turning of the screw, and a perfectly oiled gear though that makes this sort of perfection seem so lonely in the world of larger change. Bertha, Roentgen’s wife, sat for 15 minutes while her husband passed his rays through her hand; she ran from the room once she saw the results, revealing her very bones and no doubt a strong sense of the Blog_feb_22_malevich

fragility of life, and the strong presence of death. Many had the same reaction to the Kandinsky'sBlogxrayad2 shapes and Malevich’s white circles and red rectangles and Ibsen’s drama and Einstein’s dancing dust and the rogue syncopation of jazz. It is probably a very natural reaction to try and protect established memory—but memory should be more flexible than that, I think, to keep a healthy mind.

JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post

Here’s an ambitious alarm clock that I stumbled across–something designed so as to not be ignored, something for the people who regularly sleep through simple alarm clocks. This device, patented by Samuel S. Applegate in 1882, woke the sleeping client by dropping that cage-resembling apparatus on the sleeper’s head. Evidently the ends of the suspension were soft, but hard enough to cause the sleeper to get straight-away back into the waking world. There’s probably nothing quite so like being slapped awake every morning.

Patent waking people up
The apparatus is seen better here–it is an unusual contrivance:

Patent waking people up_edited-1

Such a pretty picture of the sleeper, though I must admit the perspective would’ve been a bit of a challenge especially to a challenged artist.

Okay, this one is walking people using water dropped on the sleeper’s neck:

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1479

Anatomia universale... by Paolo Mascagni and Antonio Serantoni

Species of explosions come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and basically release some sort of energy (chemical, nuclear, mechanical and so on), but in the cases we'll look at here they are none-of-the-above. The energy released in these explosions are in the form of potential, a knowledge-driven, controlled and reversibly ordered demolition, a deconstruction in slow motion. The medical "explosion view" for the study of anatomy is a remarkable thing, especially when you considered not only the pre-Cat and pre-MRI times, but also the pre-Xray (1895) days of imaging the inside of the body–the images not only show you the bits and pieces alone but also in relation to the other bits around them. The body becomes an archaeological dig, each level preserved so that a viewer could easily see the dependencies and relations between one thing and another.

Take for example Paolo Mascagni's (1755-1815) beautiful Anatomia universale (an example seen above), which was printed in Florence in 1833 and has the look and sensibility of something much later. Mascagni is able to achieve this depth not only from the exploded view, but also for the (somewhat exaggerated) coloring setting the specimen on top of a blank background the combination of the color and the background giving the whole thing a 3-D-ish feel–and if not that, then certainly a living image in which there is some fair amount of depth.

Anatomy exploded
Another version of the exploded view which is also quite effective from the same work by Mascagni is his "exploded thorax", showing a more limited display of the more closely-aligned organs.

When these views appear today–which is generally much more uncommon given the other technical ways of envisioning multiple layers of complex associated items–they have more of a sense of the antiquarian, retro feel to them, though they are no less useful for it. As a matter of fact I still prefer these views for understanding technical and engineering and architectural complexes than anything else. And the modern master of this genre for me is Stephen Beisty, who performs his magic mostly in the tech and engineering fields, but who occasionally dips into the messy wet stuff of biology, as we can see in this fabulous exploded view:

Anatom exploded beisty

There are of course many other examples of (drawn) exploded views in the history of anatomical illustration, but I think these will do for now as good examples of the art.

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1476 -part of the Blank, Missing and Empty Things series.

Carl Ernst Bock (1809-1874) was a physician and anatomist (and son of the anatomist August Carl Bock of Leipzig, 1782-1833), whose many publications include the very popular Hand-Atlas der Anatomie des Menschen nebst einem tabellarischen Handbuche der Anatomie.(first printed in 1841). This is a good example of his reaching out across the social strata to publish something that was accessible to the public-at-large, making him a pioneer in the distribution of medical information.

I'm sorry to say that in all of this man's beautiful work I focused on this superior full-body anatomical–the odd thing here is that the only skin remaining on the body is on the head, where we see a face and full head of hair. To my experience this is a very highly unusual visualization.

Anatomy bock482

In an almost-the-opposite approach (which is much more common) Albert Adamkiewwicz (in his Taflen zir Orientierung an der Gehirnoberflaeche des lebenden Menschen...(printed in 1894, in Vienna) offers the following:

Anatomy adamkiewicz484

As with the other image above I only have a second generation image of this, and only in black and white–the color original is truly remarkable.

Another excellent example of an anatomical dissection leaving the face intact occurs several times in the massively interesting work of Jacques Gauthier Dagoty, whose work I remembered but whose name I forgot, making it fairly difficult to find the illustrations. But here they are, from Anatomie des parties de la generation de l'homme et de le femme, published in Paris, in 1773, with Dagoty (1717-1785) acting in multiple roles of author/designer/anatomist/painter, who produced these magnificent painterly dissection studies of great detail and warmth.

Anatomie des parties by Gautier D’Agoty and Duverney

And this:

Missing skin b
There are many other studies in the volume, but few retain the face.

Then there's this, the other end of the spectrum, where we see the flayed anatomical specimen and its skin though not in contact with one another, which is a special category indeedy:

Missing skin c

This copperplate engraving comes from Juan Valverde de Amusco (Valverde) (1525-1588 or thereabouts), Anatomia del corpo humano… (printed in Rome in 1559), and stands quite apart (though not alone) from the rest of the anatomical oeuvre of the 1550-1750 period.

And let's not forget Thomas Bartholin's frontspiece for his Anatomoa, published by F. Hackis in Leyden in 1651, which is similar to the Valverde:

Anatomy skin bartholoiin

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1473

Anatomy bauldeqocue483

One of the great thinkers in the history of gynecology was Jean Louis Baudeloque, whose 1781 book L'Art des Accouchemens was perhaps one of the most significant works in the history of obstetrics. This work was important not only for its great clarity and ease of explantion and control of its subject, but also for the exceptional illustrations. I find them incredible not only for their spectacular detail but also for their control of blank space, a feat not easily accomplished…and I think a somewhat courageous approach to illustration during this era.


For example, in the accompanying engravings (all of which are second generation and so are not nearly as sharp as the originals), we are left with a detailed image of only what was necessary for the explanation in the text, a terribly modern approach to illustration and clarity, so much so that it seems almost impossible that the image was made more than 230 years ago.

Baudelocque 2

Obviously the representation and the subject matter give away the age of the image, but certainly not the design or placement.

Note: It should also be pointed out that chief among Baudeloque's contributions was his teaching career, during which he would instruct upwards of 150 pupils per year (mainly at the Ecole de Sante) in clear and precise terms on his approach to obstetrics, not the least of which was in the use of instruments such as the foreceps and pelvimeter, a distribution of a very useful information base which seemed to have spread exponentially as his students went out into the midwifery field.

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1455

It is uncommon to see the life stages of the life of the Earth depicted in seven stages, seven Earths at seven different epochs, alpha to omega–but it is particularly rare to see them illustrating the fronstipiece of a book, and an antiquarian one at that. But that this is exactly what happened with Thomas Burnet's Theory of the Earth, in the English translation of 1684.1 Burnett was a quietly agitated writer whose underlying viewpoint of the existence of life on Earth and the planet itself was that it was the scourge of millennialism, that the cycle of seven Earths depicted on his book ws the life and death of the planet, all wrapped around the coming kingdom of Christ and teh book of Revelation.

And perhaps the most impressive image on the page is that the Earths of Paradise and the millennium were pretty much the same, perfectly well across from one another on a level plane.

Paradise is self-explanatory; the "millennial" part maybe less so–in Christian thought this is when after Certain Things have happened that Jesus Christ would come back to Earth and reign in a terrestrial kingdom, a heaven-on-earth, for a period of a thousand years. Or more. The eschatology is not clear on this so far as I can tell. It seems as though the Earth is devoid of whatever it is that clogs nature's bowels, as the planet looks remarkably sparse and tentative.

The business end of the image is this: rounding the images clockwise, the first is Chaos; the second, Paradise; the third shows the Deluge; the fourth depicts the present world; the fifth is the Conflagration; the sixth is the long-awaited Millennium; and the seventh, and last, the final seal, is the Consummation. So the Paradise/Millennial Earth are figures 2 and 6, and they do look pretty much the same.

And so the Earth is a thing of three distinct periods: the first is the lost Paradise, the fated failure in the fall of man; the second is the world of today with its constancy of ruination and upheaval; and the third, paradise regained (but at a cost). As Kerry V. Magruder points out in his "Global Visions and the Establishment of Theories of the Earth"2 points out in his there are "transitions between these scenes are four ‘Revolutions
of our natural world’, accomplished through natural causes: chaos Noah’s universal deluge, a future conflagration, and a final consummation when the Earth will be transformed into a fixed star…"

Burnet (1635-1715) poured out his pounding heart into these pages, teaching people about the structure and history of the Earth with little or unsuccessful regard to science–but no matter. (Burnet did try to figure out where all of the water came for the flood, which is a great question. It is impossible for it to come from a natural rain of any sort, and Burnet probably came to the conclusion this the answer for the flood couldn't come from the surface of the Earth. So to keep things in compliance with his faith, Burnet established that the water necessary for the flood came not from the surface of the sphere, but below it, in the hollow Earth which was actually filled with water.) This was a work of structured faith and a belief system, and wasn't seen as much more than that except to the initiated.


1. Telluris Theoria Sacra, or Sacred Theory of the Earth was first published in 1681 in Latin and then again in English in 1684. Latin was after all the language of science. Newton's Principia remember wasn't translated into English

2. …which appeared in Centarus in 2006 volume 48, pp. 234–257

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1452.223221 and a quarter


I like the idea of having something called a Dividing Engine–perhaps it would divide seeds, or complex problems, or simple problems, or perhaps it would divide division.

What it really refers to here is a precision tool that whose effects were extremely wide felt but about which we don't really hear about today. This is the dividing engine of Jesse Ramsden,and Englishman who invented a circular instrument that would incise precise values on precision instruments like surveying compasses, delineate the linear and circular scales of measuring instruments used in astronomy and navigation, Before Ramsden, the engraved marks on instruments would have been made by each individual manufacturer, each of those depending on marks that they made in the past, generations of such things in a line, over and over, a quite individualized effort, necessarily dependent upon the precision of each manufacturer. In 1777 Ramsden produced an instrument1 of exception precision that was correct and fine and dependable2. [The image above was found in Abraham Rees' monumental Encyclopedic Dictionary..., and is entitled "Engine for cutting the screw of Ramsden's Circular Dividing Engine" and was published in 1814. Below is a detail of the plan for the winding of the gear works. In order for his machine to work at such a high degree of accuracy the component parts must also have been of a very high calibre--to that end Ramsden developed what is essentially the modern screw cutting lathe from which he manufactured the gear works for his Straight and Circular Dividing Engines.3]

And then there was the "Engine for cutting the Screw of Ramsden's Straight Line Dividing Engine", which is an absolutely gorgeous piece of drawing. A person could crawl all over this image in varying degrees of microscopic inspection and find all sorts of beautiful internal images, a large example appears here:


And its fantastic detail:


Basically though Ramsden's inventions were key additions to the developing scientific technologies of the Industrial Revolution, integral improvements necessary for integral improvements.


1. He published a Description of an Engine for dividing Mathematical Instruments in 1777.

2. "The dividing engine was simple to operate. The instrument being divided was fixed to a large wheel on top of the engine. When the treadle was pressed, the wheel and the instrument were turned through a fixed angle. Then with the right hand, a cutting tool guided by a system of swinging links was used to mark the instrument scale. The process was repeated until the complete scale had been divided. Although this was many times faster than hand-dividing, it was backbreaking work having to lean over the engine to work on a small instrument."-"Dividing Engine." Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

3. From WIki–"The first truly modern screw-cutting lathe was likely constructed by Jesse Ramsden in 1775. He appears to have been the first person to put a leadscrew into actual use (although, as Leonardo's drawings show, he was not the first person ever to think of the idea), and he was the first to use diamond-tipped cutting tools.[2] His device also included a slide rest and change gear mechanism. These form the elements of a modern (non-CNC) lathe and are in use to this day. Ramsden was able to use his first screw-cutting lathe to make even more accurate lathes. With these, he was able to make an exceptionally accurate dividing engine and in turn, some of the finest astronomical, surveying, and navigational instruments of the 18th century.