Principles of Astronomy as detailed in an atlas by James Ferguson

Ferguson’s planetary phases diagram.

While combing through the vast amount of science related items we hold in Special Collections & Archives, I came across quite the peculiar book. I decided to scour the stacks for it as astronomy has always interested me and I was hoping for some interesting images. I knew from my initial search in the catalog that this item held images; a total of 25 plates, in fact, however what exactly those were was a mystery.

James Ferguson’s
Atlas of plates illustrative of Ferguson’s principles of astronomy is a book that holds multiple illustrations of astronomy related technology from the 1800’s. Ferguson was a Scottish astronomer best
known as the individual who improved and invented many astronomical and other scientific instruments, many of which can be found imaged in this atlas. Surprisingly, the totality of Ferguson’s formal education was met at a single grammar school at Keith in his younger years. His works within the field of astronomy and other sciences can thus only be attributed to his own self discipline, and an ambition to study the sciences.


Remaining cover of the atlas.

The cover of the atlas was made of a cloth fabric that was designed to look like leather, a cheaper alternative for the time, and only has a few pieces left attached to the bare surface show in the image to the left. It is a delicate artifact that needs support when opened however the pages themselves are mostly intact.

I couldn’t help think the images I found in this atlas were the epitome of aesthetic pleasantries. The amount of suns with faces was something I enjoyed most along with the inclusion of zodiac related constellations. Although this is a nice book to look at, there aren’t very many descriptions to go along with them, save for those found on the Orrery illustration on the first page and that found on the map of the world found in the very back of the atlas (see slideshow below for map). As someone who isn’t versed in this subject, I found it difficult to understand not only what these devices were but what they were used for. Despite this, the appreciation for the work itself is still present as it is clearly a magnificent collection of one man’s journey of discovery and invention.

Although his inventions are used for scientific inquiry, they were an item that caught the eye of a totally different set of individuals. I find it funny when researching Ferguson that many of his creations lean more toward the genre of clock-making than scientific discovery, despite the fact that they go hand-in-hand in this particular case. Many of his books detail designs for astronomical clocks that give time of day as well as day of the month, phases of the moon, and the position of the stars. Sometimes, his clocks would even include the state of the tide. If I had a clock like that, I’d want to show it to everyone and, clearly, this sentiment was not lost on clock-makers as they used his designs to build some of the greatest functioning timepieces of the time.

Fascinatingly enough, I’d never heard of James Ferguson until now. When most people think of the sciences, astronomy in particular, names like Nicolaus Copernicus, Isaac Newton, or Johannes Kepler come to mind and rightly so. These scientists created many works and made many discoveries that have led up to where we are today. Ferguson is not lacking in these works either. He produced a number of books during his life, including The use of a new orrery… (1746), Astronomy explained upon Sir Isaac Newton’s principles… (1756), The young gentleman and lady’s astronomy (1768), and The art of drawing in perspective… (1775). 

Regardless of how well-known Ferguson is today, he was widely influential in his own time and has been mentioned by personalities such as Founding Father Thomas Paine and German experimental physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, who is most known for his discovery and study of the Lichtenberg figure which is named after him. Ferguson died in London on November 17, 1776, leaving works like this extraordinarily illustrated atlas as a legacy.


You can explore this item further at the Special Collections Research Center at Strozier Library.

  • Plate 11 of the 17 still present in the atlas.

Sources:

https://blogs.adelaide.edu.au/special-collections/2016/11/28/astronomy-explained-upon-sir-isaac-newtons-principles-james-ferguson-1757/

All image are taken by and credited to the author of the blog.

Wildflowers of North America


Mary Vaux Walcott sitting on some rocks facing the camera with waterfalls behind her. (original image)

Special Collections here at FSU holds a large collection of books on botany and herbal medicine that go as far back as the 16th century. As much as I would love to scour through the many many herbal encyclopedia we hold, I found myself more interested in the different types of flowers and plants collected and depicted through either art or scientific study that can be found in the archives.

The full collection as it sits in the archives.

Here is Special Collections, we have the five volumes of a collection that holds some of the most beautiful prints of flowers created in the early 1900s. This collection, titled North American Wild Flowers, includes some 400 plates illustrated by American artist and naturalist Mary Vaux Walcott and was first published in 1925 by the Smithsonian Institute.

What’s most interesting about this collection is not the images themselves, but the sweet story of how they came to be. Walcott first took interest in watercolor painting after graduating from Friends Select School, a Quaker college preparatory school. She painted wildflowers she came upon during family trips with her brother who would study and record glacier flow in drawings and photographs as part of his mineralogical studies.

This was only the start for Mary Walcott. She would go on to marry Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Charles Doolittle Walcott at the age of 54. As she traveled with her husband for his paleontology research in the Rockies and throughout Canada, Mary made watercolor illustrations of wildflowers which can now be seen in the five-volume collection held in Special Collections & Archives.

During a 10 year period, Mary would spend somewhere between three and four months in the Canadian Rockies, finding and studying the finest specimens. More often then not, these illustrations were created under “trying conditions” such as on a mountain side of high pass, and at times when a fire was necessary to warm her numb fingers and body. Despite these conditions and others, such as diffused lighting and subjects which had a lifespan seemingly too short for creating art from them, the fruits of Walcott’s labor can be seen in these immortalized specimens.

Each box volume in this collection consists of a slipcase which holds a book listing each flower, describing them in detail, and a plate of each flower beautifully detailed by Walcott’s hand.

The North American Wild Flowers Collection, can be referenced here in the library catalog. For more information please call or visit Special Collections & Archives.

All photo credits go to the author.

“Field Flowers,” a bouquet of poetry from Eugene Field

Long known as the “Poet of Childhood,” Eugene Field is famous for his satirical and whimsical poems that evoke dreams, mischief, and romance. One of his most well-known poems “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” conjures images of the three eponymous sailors casting nets for stars in a crystal-brilliant sea in a child’s dream. 

All night long their nets they threw 
   To the stars in the twinkling foam— 
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe, 
   Bringing the fishermen home; 
‘T was all so pretty a sail it seemed 
   As if it could not be, 
And some folks thought ‘t was a dream they ‘d dreamed 
   Of sailing that beautiful sea— 
   But I shall name you the fishermen three: 
                     Wynken, 
                     Blynken, 
                     And Nod.1

Field continued his lighthearted and fantastic poems continued to be published after his early death in 1895, at the age of 45. The posthumously published “Field Flowers”  (1896) continues this streak of the magical in the pastoral “Cornish Lullaby”.  

Out on the mountain over the town, 
All night long, all night long, 
The trolls go up and the trolls go down, 
Bearing their packs and crooning a song; 
And this is the song the hill-folk croon, 
As they trudge in the light of the misty moon,– 
This is ever their dolorous tune: 
“Gold, gold! ever more gold,– 
Bright red gold for dearie!” 
 
Deep in the hill the yeoman delves 
All night long, all night long; 
None but the peering, furtive elves 
See his toil and hear his song; 
Merrily ever the cavern rings 
As merrily ever his pick he swings, 
And merrily ever this song he sings: 
“Gold, gold! ever more gold,– 
Bright red gold for dearie!” 
 
Mother is rocking thy lowly bed 
All night long, all night long, 
Happy to smooth thy curly head 
And to hold thy hand and to sing her song; 
‘T is not of the hill-folk, dwarfed and old, 
Nor the song of the yeoman, stanch and bold, 
And the burden it beareth is not of gold; 
But it’s “Love, love!–nothing but love,– 
Mother’s love for dearie!” 

As a popular poet of his time, Field’s work was commented in other publications, such as the article “Some Current Literature” by Van Der Dater in the journal Bradley, His Book (1897).

If Field’s poetic works intrigue you, you can further explore the digitized copy of “Field Flowers” at the Special Collections Research Center at Strozier Library or here at the FSU Digital Library.

  1. “Field, Eugene. Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” from “The Golden Book of Poetry” (1947), Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42920/wynken-blynken-and-nod; originally published in “Trumpet and Drum” (1892). 

Updating the P.A.M Dirac Collection

At the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester, I began working with the Paul A. M. Dirac Collection found in the Special Collections & Archives at Florida State University. I didn’t really know what I would come across when I got started, but the photographs in this collection would end up being the very beginning of my utter fascination for the theoretical physicist.

I enjoy going to museums and reading books over studying science and math and day of the week. Maybe that’s why when I started this journey through the life of Paul Dirac I was both curious and uncertain. On an average day, I would take one box out of the stacks and start on the latest file of images. A single box could have anywhere from six to forty folders and could contain over 100 photographs. As cheesy as it sounds, each photo really does tell a story. I worked with images from the early 1900s which depicted Dirac and his family in period-appropriate dress. I saw images taken in Russia and Israel and Japan. Truly, despite the man being known for his contributions to theoretical physics, I was coming to know him for much more than that. Dirac wasn’t just a phenomenal scientist–he was a fascinating character all in his own category who traveled the world in the name of scientific discovery.


The first color images I stumbled upon in the collection. (see carnations and group photo)

The majority of the work was done through a spreadsheet where I compiled metadata for each image. Doing this not only updates the information by double checking that dates and events are accurate with a fresh pair of eyes, but it also allows for proper digitization. Organizing hundreds of photos, dealing with copyright, and learning the language of metadata has helped me in understanding how vital this work is. Although looking at these pictures and reflecting on the history behind them was one of my favorite parts of this project, understanding the importance of background work was the true takeaway. I had never truly appreciated the time and effort many individuals put in to make something on the web easily accessible for others and being able to reap the rewards of such work has helped me to understand the many layers it takes to make such content.

Snapshot image of the metadata used to digitize the collections.

After finishing my work on the Dirac Collection photographs, I moved on to his manuscripts and notes. I am still going through this work as it’s a hefty bit of information which I alone cannot decipher. Another team member is working on translating the mathematical notes which I will then compile into another document which will allow the information to be neatly transferred online for the public to view.

Before starting this project, I expected to be apathetic toward the process of having to look up and research people, places, and events in order to most accurately describe an image or document. Instead, I found that, despite what many times looked to be dull and uninspiring images, each photo had a story of its own which bled into the next and created a snapshot collection of the story of one man’s life.

Dirac’s papers now reside in Special Collections & Archives at Florida State University. You may see a complete finding aid of the collection here.

All photo credits goes to the author.

Dirac at FSU

It wasn’t until his later years that Paul Dirac moved to work for the University we call home. In September of 1970, after retiring from his position at Cambridge, Paul Dirac moved to Tallahassee, Florida where he was appointed to work as a visiting professor for Florida State University. He was 68 at the time and could have fully retired, but the continuation of his work may be an example of the overwhelming desire Dirac had for the field of science and quantum mechanics.


Tallahassee. Holiday Inn marquee welcoming Paul Dirac on his first visit to the city. (original image)

Prior to his appointment, in June of that same year, Dirac visited the city to test his endurance against the subtropical climate. In the end, he decided to move as Manci, his wife, preferred the weather to that of Cambridge. In 1972, Dirac took on becoming a full professor, a position which allowed him to continue active research and to pass on the knowledge he’d accumulated through the years. During his time at FSU, Dirac supervised a few graduate students, his last being Bruce Hellman who went on to become a physicist for the CIA.


Paul Dirac in his office with last graduate student, Bruce Hellman. (original image)

Tallahassee. Paul Dirac, Leopold Halpern, and two unidentified women together for an outdoor excursion. (original image)

When barking dogs weren’t ruining his walks, Dirac could be found in his spare time visiting the local lakes and sinkholes in an effort to combat the humidity and intense heat of Tallahassee. With a thermometer in hand, Dirac would systematically check the waters and, if they were above exactly 60 degrees Fahrenheit, he would go for a swim.

Dirac had no teaching responsibilities beyond his supervision of graduate students until 1973 when he agreed to give a series of lectures on the general theory of relativity. These lectures were given until 1980 and were used as the basis for his book General Theory of Relativity. He would go on to teach until his death on October 20, 1984, at the age of 82.

The work that Dirac put forth on the subject of quantum mechanics and quantum theory is still an inspiration to physicists today. Dirac’s spirit and the spirit of mathematical beauty, of which Dirac was quite enamored, still persists through science as we know it as theories, he put forward such as that of the single magnetic pole, the magnetic monopole, have not been proven but are enthusiastically looked upon as possibilities for the future of scientific discovery. Dirac’s papers can and should still be read and studied. As it was so eloquently put in The Strangest Man by Graham Farmelo, the more you read Dirac the more you understand quantum mechanics and the brilliant mind of one of the leading pioneers of the fascinating subject.

Sources:

Farmelo, Graham, The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius, Faber and Faber 2009.

Documenting the Holocaust

This is a guest post from Julianna Witt, who is an archival assistant at the Jacob Marcus Rader Center of the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from FSU in 2018 with a Bachelor’s of Arts in History and will be attending University of Illinois for a Master’s in Information Science in Fall 2019. Julianna worked on this project while at FSU’s Institute on World War II and the Human Experience.

Buchenwald Survivors Showing their Tattoos
Buchenwald Survivors Showing their Tattoos [original item]

This collection of photographs captures the atrocities American GI’s witnessed when they liberated and toured the various extermination and concentration camps in Europe following the end of World War II. When they discovered these camps, the American military officials ordered all nearby units to visit and tour the complexes. Some of the soldiers had cameras with them and took photographs of what they saw to send back home. While most of the photographs are from ordinary soldiers, some came from licensed military photographers. These photographs were digitized to spread awareness of what happened less than a hundred years ago in a war that many individuals have relatives that participated in. While many individuals have heard of the Holocaust and know the common terms such as “Auschwitz” and “genocide,” not all have seen the graphic photographs. 

      Never Again. One of the most well-known sayings that was created in response to the Holocaust urges humanity to help prevent genocides worldwide by spreading awareness and advocates for action in order to stop mass murder and violence before it erupts. These photographs serve as reminders of what can occur when fascism takes control. While these photographs are very graphic, they need to be available to view. If not, the remaining items are not telling the full story of what happened and thus could spread misinformation of the events. Even today with all the evidence of the Holocaust, there are still Holocaust deniers who wish to prove the Holocaust was just propaganda. The hope of this project is to spread knowledge of what happened and to give many more examples of how this did occur.

You can explore this collection in DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository. Please be aware this collection does contain very graphic imagery and may not be appropriate for some audiences. You can explore other collections from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience at DigiNole here as well.

1925-1933: The Years That Count


Paul Dirac lecturing at blackboard, Iowa City, Iowa. (original image)

There is no question as to whether Paul Dirac was a great scientist. From his keen eye for mathematical beauties to his contributions as a pioneer in quantum mechanics, one can only argue that Dirac was anything but ordinary.

Dirac’s peak was between the years of 1925 and 1933. Despite being only one of many theoreticians who aided in the discovery of quantum mechanics, Dirac’s contribution was entirely special. He created a clear vision for quantum mechanics as it became a new branch of science and as Freeman Dyson puts it, “His great discoveries were like exquisitely carved marble statues falling out of the sky, one after another” (Farmelo 428).


Paul Dirac with W. Heisenberg (with newspaper) in street. (original image)

During this time, Dirac held an 1851 Research Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 which allowed him to fund his research for the next three years. He also made close connections with theoretical physicist and quantum mechanics pioneer Werner Heisenberg starting in 1925, which would start a fifty-year friendship. At the young age of 24, Dirac completed his Ph.D. and produced the first thesis on quantum mechanics ever to be produced.

Unlike other quantum theoreticians, whose papers were hard on the eyes and imperfectly formed, Dirac’s book The Principles of Quantum Mechanics gave this new field a fine, polished look. He presented quantum mechanics as if it were a work of art—and to him it most surely was. In 1933, Dirac was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics alongside Erwin Schrödinger for “the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory” which arose from his years of research.

Despite being somewhat of an unknown face in a scientific community where intellectual giants such as Einstein and Darwin are most remembered, Dirac can be “counted as one of the greatest of all scientist” because the notions which were put forth by him are still being developed and continue to contribute to modern thinking (429). Today, scientists can smash together particles at high energies. They have created a huge particle accelerator at CERN which can recreate the conditions of the universe to within a millionth of a millionth of a second of the beginning of time. Dirac acted as a stepping stone for the scientific community by taking the position of a co-discoverer and by authoring the action-principle formulation of quantum mechanics.

Sources:

Farmelo, Graham, The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius, Faber and Faber 2009.

Everglades National Park Commission Papers

Dew in the morning, NPSphoto, G.Gardner
Dew in the morning, NPSphoto, G.Gardner

In our current climate of growing environmental concern, the condition and protection of national parks has become a recurring part of our 24-hour news cycle. Everglades National Park is Florida’s most famous national park and is as central to the state’s identity as its famous beaches. According to the National Park Foundation, over one million visitors from all parts of the globe visit Everglades National Park every year. The park has also been lauded as a World Heritage Site, as well as an International Biosphere Reserve and a Wetland of International Importance. But how did the Everglades go from millions of acres of unprotected swampland to one of the United States’ most important and unique protected natural spaces?

Through the power of bureaucracy, of course!

As August Burghard, Chairman of the Everglades National Park Commission, notes in a 1946 letter, “To The Property Owners Within the Everglades National Park Area”, “The Everglades National Park is not a new thing. It had its beginning in 1929 when the Florida legislature passed an Act providing for the acquisition of the park lands and property in Dade, Monroe, and Collier Counties for the purpose of conveying the same to the United States Government to be used as a National Park.” The letter further details the reasons for the creation of the Everglades National Park and the Commission’s duty in acquiring land by donation to achieve this end. This letter, as well as the minutes from the first meeting of the Everglades National Park Commission are available for viewing in the Special Collections Reading Room. If you would like to dive into some of the earliest history of Florida’s most famous national park, you can start your journey here

A Portrait in Courage at the Norwood Reading Room

This post was written by Kacee Reguera, an undergraduate senior at FSU pursuing a Studio Art degree in Printmaking, Artist’s Books, and Photography. A love for art preservation and the history of our university led her to an internship with Heritage & University Archives at Special Collections.

During the summer of 2018, we received a collection of items belonging to Katherine W.  Montgomery and her family. Katherine Montgomery attended Florida State College for Women from 1914 to 1918 and became heavily involved in athletics. She was on the varsity team of several sports, a member of the F-Club, and the sports editor for The Florida Flambeau. In 1920, she began teaching Physical Education at Florida State College for Women (FSCW) and spent over 30 years leading the Physical Education department. She developed curriculum for the intramural athletics program at FSCW, spearheaded the construction of a new gymnasium, and even published a book titled “Volleyball for Women”. Katherine Montgomery’s contributions to our university have proved timeless. We used this collection as an opportunity to commemorate her lasting effect on our university.

1 red rose
Note from Katherine’s Diary

The collection contains items belonging to three generations of Montgomery family members. Katherine had two younger sisters that also attended FSCW during the 1920s. The collection includes diaries and scrapbooks belonging to each of them. These items brought to light how involved with FSCW the Montgomery family really was.

diary poem
Page from Katherine’s Diary

scrapbook page
Page from Anne Montgomery’s Scrapbook

This collection was gathered over time by Edwin F. Montgomery, Katherine’s nephew. Many of the items in the collection are ephemera relating to Katherine’s passing. These items provide a much broader understanding of the impact Katherine had not only on her community, but also on individuals.

telefax
Telefax from Dr. Grace Fox to Edwin F. Montgomery

With the new items acquired from this collection and some from previously held collections, we curated an exhibit in the Norwood Reading Room at Strozier Library that forms a better understanding of Katherine’s values and ideals, as well as her contributions to Florida State College for Women and Florida State University. The exhibit features Katherine’s original mortarboard and tassel, excerpts from her diaries and notebooks, and awards she received.

The Norwood Reading Room is located on the second floor of Strozier Library and is open Monday-Thursday, 10am to 6pm and on Fridays 10am to 5:30pm. Please stop by to see the new exhibit!

Looking back at High School in Tallahassee 1957-1987

Since September of last year, FSU Libraries has partnered with Leon High School, Florida’s oldest continually accredited high school, to digitize their school yearbooks and newspaper and provide access to those materials through the FSU Digital Library. This has been a rewarding community partnership for the Digital Library Center and Special Collections & Archives here at FSU as it has allowed us to work closely with members of the Tallahassee community and also given those of us working on the project, many not Tallahassee natives, a unique view into the life of high schoolers in our city starting in the 1920s.

A page spread from the May 15, 1981, Leon High Life. View entire issue here

A new batch of Leon High School (LHS) newspapers was just loaded into the FSU Digital Library. This set spans from 1957 to 1987 during which our area, and the world, saw a massive amount of growth and change, especially technological change. The 1950s issues sport ads for film-based cameras, record shops, and lunch counter drug stores. Fast forward to the 1980s where cassette tapes, college radio, and computers all enter the high school parlance. Not to mention the cultural and social changes these issues record from the point of view of a high schooler. It is a truly fascinating way to look at the history of Tallahassee, Florida and beyond.

You can browse all the LHS newspaper issues here and look at the entire LHS collection here which includes 80 editions of their yearbook, The Lion’s Tale.