The carnival is back in town and this time I don’t have to visit the carnival because the carnival is visiting us at The Renaissance Mathematicus. That’s Thony C. the man for all questions about the mathematical sciences in the early modern period and Sascha, that’s him up in the right hand top corner of the blog, who is your carnival barker for this edition of Giant’s Shoulders!
Let as take a look at the sights and delights that are on offer for this month’s carnival of science history. Last year saw many carnival contributions on or about Charley Darwin and the theory of evolution, as 2009 was a double Darwin anniversary. The theme extends into the first carnival of 2010 with an interesting essay from Steven Shapin in the London Review of Books about all those Darwin celebrations. Benny at Oh Know.You Know. No has written an equally interesting commentary to Shapin’s article. Staying with the biologists for a while, no Giant’s Shoulders would be complete without a visit to Brian at Laelaps. This month he entertains us with his Meat Makes the Man offering an alternative 19th century view of evolution! On a more serious note he takes us back to very early human history with his “Pithecanthropus” Goes to Paris. The folks at A Primate of Modern Aspect suggest another take on human origins with their The Seed-eaters, a review of Clifford Jolly’s book of the same name. Staying with the biologists but moving away from the primates, John Beetham at A DC Birding Blog discusses a fascinating Historic Paper on Cuckoo Behavior.
Moving up to my favourite period of history the Renaissance and the mathematical sciences, Jason teaches that you can find good history of science in the strangest of places. At the blog Executed Today he tells us all about Marco Antonio de Dominis rougue priest and physicist who managed to get executed after he had died! You want to know how, go read for yourself. Staying with the physical sciences Jost a Mon takes us back to the astronomer priests of Ancient Egypt.
Being your host and being of a humble nature I am naturally reluctant to recommend my own pitiful scribblings to such a select public but we at The Renaissance Mathematicus have been somewhat prolific over the holiday period and nearly all of our pieces are suitable for inclusion. We will start with a piece we wrote on parallax and measuring the dimensions of the universe, because Brian Koberlein at Upon Reflections Life, the Universe and sundry has also dealt with the same topic in his Astronomical Units.
On Newtonmas, the 25th of December Newton’s birthday, we concentrated on measuring the earth and Newton’s theory about its shape. Now Google celebrated Newton’s birthday on the 4th of January a discrepancy produced by the calendar reform, my birthday was Old Style and theirs New Style. I prefer to use the old style date because Christmas day was the day Newton celebrated his birthday. Rhett at Dot Physics commented upon the Google celebration, criticising the fall of their apple, as did Darin at the excellent Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science website PACHS in his Science Hagiography Google Style.
On Boxing Day our birthday boy was Charles Babbage and we examined his role in the invention of the computer, a post that attracted the attention, in the comments, of the worthy Mr John Ptak proprietor of the fascinating emporium Ptak Science Books a real treasure trove for all lovers of the history of science as Mr Ptak not only vends books on the history of science he blogs about them as well. On New Years he posted a charming piece on the history of the dot, very suitable in the age of the dot com, which includes Descartes use of dots for the illustrations in his science books.
Moving on to the 27th we celebrated the birthday of Johannes Kepler with a piece about his role in the history of optics, which attracted the attention of Darin at PACHS who had blogged about Kepler on supernova, theology and astrology. Matt at Built on Facts connected the dots between Kepler and Newton and showed us how to derive Kepler’s Third Law from the Law of Gravity.
To complete the list of scientific revolution greats, the 7th of January saw the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s discovery of the moons of Jupiter celebrated by Phil the Bad Astronomer. Even the biologists took some time off to acknowledge this anniversary with a nod from the Panda’s Thumb and one from John Lynch at a simple prop who offers us a PDF of the Sidereus Nuncius. Simon Marius discovered the moons of Jupiter exactly one day later than Galileo, which nobody celebrates but caused a big argument with Galileo when he published this fact. Galileo was famous for his arguments with other scientists one of which was with Christoph Scheiner about who first discovered sunspots. In fact it was Thomas Harriot, but the first person to publish this discovery was Johann Fabricius whose birthday on the 8th of January was acknowledge at Astronomy Today.
Another topic discussed by Newton was the existence of the aether as a medium to transmit light waves. In the 19th century as the wave theory replaced Newton’s particle theory the discussion on the aether became more and more important. In one of his excellent essays gg at Skulls in the Stars offers us Lord Kelvin’s take on the aether.
Moving into the twentieth century Will Thomas at Ether Wave Propaganda presents a fascinating two-part review essay on Richard Staley’s book Einstein’s Generation. As always with Will, offering the reader much food for thought.
Staying in the 20th we have two pieces of modern medical history. Firstly Virology Blog offers us Small Pox in New York City, 1947 and the Romeo Vitelli at Providentia presents The Coconut Grove Fire and its influence on modern psychiatric medicine.
Before we leave the carnival the National Library of Medicine offers us a wonderful collection of on line exhibitions, many of them historical, including one on Harry Potter and Renaissance Science Magic and Medicine. (H/T to Darin at PACHS)
To close, my choice of the month is gg’s post on a 19th century myth buster, read and enjoy
A small footnote: Bill Bryson and the BBC have been celebrating the history of the Royal Society and Michael D. Barton has reviews of both of them here and here at that wonderful repository of all things Darwinian, The Dispersal of Darwin
The Giant’s Shoulders #20 is being hosted by The Lay Scientist on the 16th of February