Tag Archives: Ptak Science Books

One of the Most Beautiful Scientific Books of the 19th Century

JF Ptak Science Books  Quick Post

I no longer own a copy of this book, but at least I did find a version of it at Google Books–the rather walk-about title completely conceals the fabulous stuff within it. The  Chemical atlas: or, the chemistry of familiar objects, by Edward Livingston Youmans, published in New York City by Appleton in 1856 is the sort of title that you could easily skip by if you weren’t familiar with it or its author. Youmans is certainly a man worthy of high respect, and I like him a lot: in his career as an author and editor, he was (in addition to much else) the founder of two significant scientific publications that I have long enjoyed: the International Scientific Series (1871), which was a rapid/cheap reprint of important contemporary science which also sought to fairly compensate its authors (at a time where they were even more ripped-off than they can be today); and the great Popular Science Monthly (1872), which was a very meaty sci-tech instrument before it got to be more ‘popular” than “scientific” decades after Youman’s death in 1887. 


The Robot Lunar Adam and the Cosmologonaut Jean Perdrizet

JF Ptak Science Books    Post 2574

“L’histoire de la science du XXe siècle n’a pas retenu le nom de Jean Perdrizet” is the lovely opening remark on a terrestrial-based sidereus nuncius/sidereal messenger post–that the name of the Art Brut/Out Brut inventor, Jean Perdrizet, has not been remembered as part of the history of science of the 20th century.  And of course there is really no scientific reason for the basis of this memory to be formed, as M. Perdrizet is thinking well outside the confines of the generative envelope, making drawings of interesting and fantastic things, like the forceful  Selenite Adam/Adam-of-the-Moon/Cosmologonaut.  


Concentration Camps in Poland, 1921

JF Ptak Science Books  

The name of the concentration camp comes to us from the Cuban war of independence (1895-1897) with its first appearance in print (according to the OED) in 18971, when the Spanish imprisoned and impressed Cuban families in large compounds. The idea and the terminology was again used shortly thereafter in the Boer War (1899-1902), this time seemingly with more cruelty and savagery. These were the people who had escaped the systematic and revolting scorched earth policy initiated by Field Marshall Kitchener2 (who was in command of events after 29 November 1900), where the Boers were simply hunted and killed, or if not killed, then imprisoned; farms were destroyed, towns torched, livestock killed.  In general, the country of the Boers (all of whom were seen as guerrillas) was being taken and killed.  The survivors of this onslaught were sent to the concentrations camps.  

Concentration camp009


Great Cross Section of the HMS “Repulse”, 1939

JF Ptak Science Books   Quick Post

Here’s a wonderful cross section HMS Repulse, published in 1939 in the Illustrated London News.  It is the work of the endlessly energetic and resourceful G.H. Davis, who I’ve written a about a number of times before on this blog (just enter his name in the Google search box at left.)  This is a cross section of the 11th of 12 Repulses of the Royal Navy–it was launched in 1916, and unfortunately was sunk in a battle on 10 December 1941, north of Singapore in the South China Sea.  

Cross section REpulse 1939[Click for larger and more legible image]


Cross section Repulse 1939 detail


Mushroom over Manhattan: A-bomb Strike Images of NYC, Chicago, Seattle…1945-1958

JF Ptak Science Books  Quick Post

I’ve written perhaps 100 posts for the History of Fission and Nuclear Weapons series on this blog, and in that I’ve collected a number of (pre-1960) images showing a nuclear explosion over specific, recognizable U.S. cities. Some of these came as a result of Cold War propaganda, others were used to show the effects of the bomb on a familiar profile.  I’ve not put them together in one post before, so I thought to do it now.  (The very first image of any sort of nuclear weapon published in the popular press showing its effects on a U.S. city appears in PM newspaper, 7 August 1945–as I’ve said before, I have no idea how these folks put together such a comprehensive issue in the day+ after the Hiroshima bombing, but they did).


Found Poetry Going into Nothingness (Gestapo Prison, 1944)

JF Ptak Science Books   Post 2565

El-De House inscription

“Everything is transient–even a life sentence.” [Image source: http://j.mp/1SszHMK ]

So reads the inscription on a wall in one of the cells in the former Gestapo “house prison” at the EL-DE House in Koln. There’s no real telling how many people the Gestapo brought to this place.  There were 10 cells in the basement of the building seized of Leopold Dahmen (the “L.D.” of “EL-DE”), but they could be made to hold many people (some as many as thirty) for interrogation and torture. From there, people were sent off to other Gestapo prisons, or to the Buchenwald sub-camp nearby at the fairgrounds,  or shot in the head, or executed right there in the basement on a mobile gallows built for seven that was stored next to the kitchen.


An Unusual Image Featuring a “Surrender” of London, 1917

JF Ptak Science Books  Post 2567

I came upon this image unexpectedly with the sneaking realization that I have rarely (ever?)  seen the words “London” and “Surrender” together. But there it was, in the high-end satirical and critical magazine, Punch, or the London Chiaravari, in the January 1917 “Almanack” section.  WWI was a war of stunning adjectives, and in 1917 their brutal nature grew even greater. The aerial bombing raids which commenced in 1915 extended to  London, thanks in large part to Ferdinand von Zeppelin. During the war there were 50-odd bombing raids to the U.K., causing 1900 casualties, the result of 5000 bombs dropped from airships. In 1917 the raids were more the result of airplane bombing, with 27 raids and 2700 casualties.  So compared to WWII standards the damage and casualties inflicted on the population was not great–except of course these people weren’t living in their future, and the practice of dropping bombs from the sky was only a few years old (and the Wright brothers’ flight took place only 11 years before the start of the war) the idea of being blasted by Zeppelins and airplanes must have been a furious worry. 


Glorious Gearworks, Extended–Models of the Solar System, 1817-182

JF Ptak Science Books  Quick Post

I’d like to make a quick addition to an earlier post on a form of  Pearson’s planetarium.  This is from the same source, though from a few years later, and involves Pearson’s Satellitian, which was a differently-abled device.  All of the images appeared in the magisterial if not occasionally problematic Cyclopedia of Abraham Rees (1743-1825).

The first image is a cross section for he “Satellite Machine by Roemer”, followed by “Janvier’s Jovilabe, and the with Willliam Pearson’s “Satellitian”, all appearing on the same 11×8″ sheet and printed in 1820.

First, the Roemer:

Planetary MAchine Roemer

Here’s a description from Rees on the Roemer instrument (this courtesy of Google Books; the images are my own):


The Shadows of a Color “Photograph”, 1436

Was it really Jan van Eyck and not J.C. Maxwell who produced the first color photograph?  Van Eyck’s after all is hanging up in Bruges in the Groeninge Museum, and Maxwell’s, well, Maxwell’s dissipated in about half an hour, leaving only an historical trace.  The problem of course is that Van Eyck’s oil (“Virgin of the Canon  van der Paele”) was done 403 years before the Daguerre invention (building of course on the work of others, notably Niepce, his former partner), so it really doesn’t count because it really doesn’t exist.  His work though *does* exist, but not as a photo—it was, is, a painting, finished in 1436, and it stands in my mind as looking so much like a perfect capturing of a moment that it seems a (luscious) snapshot. 


What Poison Gas Warnings Sounded Like, WWI

JF Ptak Science Books    Post 2564

I posted this thinking that I had never heard the sound of a gas warning siren–or any other noise-making instrument–signifying the onset of a poison gas attack during WWI.  So I went poking around the web, looking for an audio recording of one.  I did find contemporary audio of an antique instrument–this was a dreadful sound, sounding somewhat like a high-pitched pulse-jet engine.  It is an awful sound (linked below) though I am sure that it did its job very effectively.  

I haven’t yet found a contemporary recording, though I’ve got a notion that if no audio recording was made for training films and such that they may exist in movies.