Friday, June 30, 2006

On the Origins of Atmospheric Science

'Fire, air, water, earth, we assert, originate from one another, and each of them exists potentially in each, as all things do that can be resolved into a common and ultimate substrate. [...] Whenever a particle of air grows heavy, the warmth in it is squeezed out into the upper region and it sinks, and other particles in turn are carried up together with the fiery exhalation. Thus the one region is always full of air and the other of fire, and each of them is perpetually in a state of change.' [Aristotle]

[detail, touched up] [original frontpiece: W.Lampadius 1806]

'Meteorolgia De Igneis Aereis Aqveisq Corporibus' Franciscus Resta 1644 - 'deals in detail with comets, meteorology, earthquakes, rainbows, oceans, springs, rivers, precipitaion, and water in its various states.'

'Fumifugioum' John Evelyn 1661 - 'one of the earliest classics of ecology. Evelyn suggested two remedies: that certain trades be removed several miles outside London, and that a belt of fragrant trees and shrubs be planted around the city limits. His efforts at legislation, however, failed.'

'A Discourse Concerning the Origine and Properties of Wind. With a Historicall Account of Hurricanes, and Other Tempestuous Winds' Ralph Bohun 1671 - 'considered the first scientific attempt to present an explanation of weather phenomena.'

'Le Forze d’Eolo, Dialogo Fisico-Matematico Sopra gli Effetti del Vortice' Geminiano Montanari 1694 [The force of the wind {Aeolus?}: a physico-mathematical discussion of the vortex]

'Dissertation sur les Causes et les Variations des Vents' Nicolas Sarrabat 1730 - 'stated that winds are caused by the action of the sun's heat on the atmosphere.'

'Dissertation Sur La Glace' Jean Jacques d'Ortous de Mairan 1749 - 'concerned with meteorological phenomena, cold and heat, how ice forms, and sources of heat in the earth.'

'Experiments and Observations on Electricity Made at Philadelphia' Benjamin Franklin 1769 - 'Franklin's studies on cloud formation and the electrification of clouds constitute a major contribution to the science of meteorolgy.'

'Electrometers' in 'Traité de Météorologie' Louis Cotte 1774 - 'The first general treatise of meteorology...To Cotte, meteorology encompassed phenomena concerning earthquake, aurora borealis, terrestrial magnetism, atmospheric electricity, and lunar periodicity, as well as temperature, atmospheric pressure, winds, and precipitation.'

'Essais sur l'Hygrométrie' Horace Bénédict de Saussure 1783 - 'described his hygrometer, an instrument which measures humidity; described the general principles of hygrometry as a science; and dealt with evaporation and the application of his researches to meteorology.'

'The climate of London : deduced from meteorological observations' Luke Howard 1833 - 'probably the most important English meteorologist of the nineteenth-century'. Known as the 'Godfather of the Clouds': he applied the Linnean naming system to clouds in an 1865 publication - cirrus, cumulus &c.

'Gales in the Atlantic' Matthew Fontaine Maury 1857 - 'Maury's compilation of data on winds and currents was taken from manuscript ships' logs, enabling him to present a climatic picture of the surface winds and currents of all oceans, especially the Atlantic.'

'The Motions of Fluids and Solids, Relative to the Earth's Surface' William Ferrell 1860 - 'the first to understand in mathematical detail the significance of the earth's rotation.'

The above book images were of course arbitrarily chosen so they aren't necessarily indicative of relative importance of individual authors in the history of atmospheric science or meteorology. Mostly I just liked the images.

Aristotle's 'Meteorologica' was written in ~350BC and was virtually the only treatise on climate science until Galileo invented (?) the thermometer in the early 17th century and meteorology became a scientific discipline in conjunction with the development of measuring instruments.

San Diego's Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California have an old but extensive rare book exhibition: 'Weathering the Weather: The Origins of Atmospheric Science'. (The frames are a bit of a pain, but I just loaded each page as a new tab)

Timeline in the history of Meteorology at wikipedia

And off on a tangent: The Cloud Appreciation Society.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

India: 'Oriental Memoirs'

"During the first year of work in Bharuch as Collector of Revenues, Forbes had a 'most interesting' excursion to Turcaseer, 'a small Mahratta town which gives name to ruined districts once populous and cultivated'. Here he had a wonderful opportunity to observe all sorts of wildlife, both flora and fauna. 'Green pigeons... and the usual variety of songsters, animated the woods of Turcaseer...The bird in the plate is represented about half the natural size; it is of beautiful plumage and high flavoured. These pigeons are met with in most parts of Hindostan and particularly abound with Banian Trees, whose fruit forms their principal food. The Cur-Champah grows to a large tree, with a rich foliage and at most seasons is covered with white flowers, which emit a delicate fragrance to a considerable distance.' "

"Forbes spent seven years in a beautiful villa with extensive gardens on the banks of the Narmada while at Bharuch and at the Governor's Mansion with its courts and gardens when stationed at Dhaboi. His orange and lime trees were filled with peacocks, doves and bulbuls; monkeys and squirrels feasted on his pomegranates and custard apples. Of the squirrels he writes: 'There are larger squirrels in India, more like those in Europe; but the little beauty here delineated is common in every town and village throughout Hindostan; perfectly familiar in the houses and gardens of natives and Europeans: the stripes are sometimes of a darker brown. The Tamarind leaves and blossoms are of the usual standard; the fruit is shorter than is generally seen, on account of the size of the plate.' "

"During Forbes' residence in Bharuch as Collector, he often went out on sporting excursions with the English Chief in the neighbouring districts. However he wrote: 'not that I had any pleasure in those diversions' but that his tent was pitched in 'unfrequented forests and savage tracts, little known to Europeans'. Since a sporting camp was formed during the first year of his residence at Bharuch, Forbes had an opportunity to explore the rich wildlife of Turcaseer, a ruined town but 'once populous and cultivated'. Here, the 'woods and forests abounded with tigers, hyenas, wolves, ...and a variety of small game'including the floriken, a much hunted bird of the Bustard family. 'The Florican, or Curmoor, exceeds all the Indian wild fowl in delicacy of flavour; its varied plumage, lofty carriage and tuft of black feathers make him one of the most elegant birds in India.' "

"Forbes was a keen observer of nature, often making drawings of every interesting plant or animal he came across during his travels in India. Forbes wrote, 'These water lilies were drawn and coloured from Nature...they almost cover the Indian Lakes. When gently agitated by the breeze, they give them a beauty and freshness not easily conceived by the inhabitants of a colder climate.' "

"The subject of this plate is the 'exotic' plant known as the Fragrant Screwpine, Barbadoes Aloe, Kewra(Hindi) and Kewoda(Gujarati), is found wild in South India, and cultivated in Bengal. The fruits of the Pandanus are particularly beautiful and look similar to a pineapple. Forbes was interested in lithography, a fairly new method of producing images during his times and some of his natural historical studies such as this one was such an experiment."

"In January 1784, Forbes set sail for England halting briefly at Goa, Malabar and St. Helena. When sailing from St. Helena to Ascension, another island on the route, Forbes saw and studied interesting sea-animals like the Medusa or the 'Portuguese Man of War'. Describing it Forbes wrote: It'is the usual appellation to this beautiful product of Nature, which expands its light transparent sail at pleasure, and with thousands of its comrades scuds before a light breeze, and enlivens the surface of the ocean in the tropical latitudes.' "

"[Again,] when sailing from St. Helena to Ascension another island on the route, Forbes saw the 'most interesting scene of animated nature in the ocean, in the shoals of flying-fish abounding in particular lattitudes...This unfortunate inhabitant of the ocean was drawn of the natural size size and colours, from one which alighted on the deck of the ship, in its flight from its watery foes, and pursued by the sea-fowl hovering over the shoal from which it separated. When the oceanic flying-fish first emerges from the water, it is of the most beautiful silvery hues, softening the vivid shades of purple and blue.' "

" Of the mantis he wrote: 'There is as great a variety of plants cultivated for the oil which is expressed from their seeds as there is of the Mantis tribe of insects, in Guzerat. The plant here delineated is one of the most delicate of its kind; and the mantis, or Soothsayer, a singular variety among the creeping-leaves, begging-flies, and other insects of the mantis tribe.' "

"[Forbes] had an occasion to witness a flight of locusts 'extending above a mile in length, and half as much in a black cloud, cast an awful gloom like that of an eclipse over the garden, and caused a noise like the rushing of a torrent, they were near on an hour in passing over our little territory.' The locusts were known not only to cause famine in one place but also in the areas near the sea where they eventually drowned. Of the Faggot Caterpillar he wrote, 'The baubul tree (Acacia) afforded a curious specimen of insect sagacity in the Caterpillar's nests, suspended by thousands to the branches. This little animal, conscious of its approaching change...instinctively provides itself a strong mansion during that metamorphosis.

" 'These...grains...nutritive and valuable...were all drawn and coloured from nature; and when fully ripe, clothe the fertile pergunnas with the most luxuriant and varied beauty, in a province deservedly named the Paradise of Nations.' "

"Forbes, a keen observer of the manners and customs of the local inhabitants and the wandering 'holy men' described many in his letters to friends. The huge banyan on the island in the river Narmada was the favourite haunt of many of these 'holy men'.To quote Forbes: 'I beheld...reposing under the friendly banian-tree, the Gosanee in a state of nudity, and the Yogee with a lark or paroquet, his sole companion for a thousand miles: the Guroo, of the first rank in the brahminical hierarchy, travelling with oriental pageantry to visit the temple and superintend the seminars, meeting the brahmacharee (pupil), with a covered mouth and nostrils, that he may not inhale an animacule; and a soft broom to sweep the ground that he may not tread on an insect.' "

"James Forbes was born in London to a Scotch Protestant family. In 1765, he first traveled to Bombay as a writer for the East India Company, and spent most of the years until 1784 in residence there. He filled 52,000 manuscript pages with notes on all aspects of Indian life and culture, including descriptions of wildlife and personal encounters with the people. After returning to England, he married and thereafter traveled extensively on the European continent.

His life in India later formed the basis of the four-volume 'Oriental Memoirs', described in its subtitle as “selected and abridged from a series of familiar letters written during seventeen years residence in India: including observations on parts of Africa and South America, and a narrative of occurrences in four India voyages.” This work remains a valued document of the natural history and culture of late 18th century India, by both Western and Indian scholars. Forbes also published a work in 1810 advocating the conversion of the Hindus to Christianity."

The drawings made by Forbes were translated into engravings by William Hooker and the series was published in 1813. There are 9 thumbnail pages of images available of 'Oriental Memoirs' at the collectbritain website of the British Library [put 'oriental memoirs' into the search box]

**Also, within the new Collectbritain 'Front Page' (newspaper) exhibition, there are more than 50 years worth of the 'Penny Illustrated Paper' available. [via: Resourceshelf]

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Brazil 1822

'Vallee da Serra do Mar (Chaine de montagnes pre de la mer)'

'Momie d'un chef de Coroados'

'Différentes formes de masques [coëffures (coiffures)]'

'Nègres chasseurs rentrant en ville [left]
Le retour des nègres d'un naturaliste [right]'

'Une mulâtresse allant passer les fetês de Noël, à la campagne;
Concours des écoliers, la veille de jour de St. Alexis.'

'Scène de carnaval [above]
Paveurs. Marchande d'atacaça [below]'

'Petit moulin à sucre, portatif'

'Nègres scieurs de long'

'Esclaves nègres, de différentes nations'

'Cabocle Indien civilisé'

'Vue générale de la ville de Rio de Janeiro prise de Couvent de St. Bento;
Vue de la même ville, prise de l'Église de Notre-Dame de la Gloire'

'Débarquement de la princesse Léopoldine à Rio de Janeiro'

'Cérémonie de sacre de D. Pedro I-er Empereur du Brésil,
à Rio de Janeiro, le 1-er Decembre 1822'

'Acclamation de Don Pédro I-er Empereur du Brésil,
au camp de Santa Anna, à Rio de Janeiro'

The Portuguese royal court fled Europe in 1808 for Brazil so as to avoid the advancing armies of Napoleon. In 1816 after Queen Maria I's death the Prince Regent became King João VI of Portugal, but he remained in exile, establishing an absolutist monarchy.

An independence movement gathered some momentum, despite scientific, literary, artistic and military successes generated under the King's patronage. An uprising was suppressed in 1817 but the desire for a republic continued.

The King returned to Portugal in 1821 and left his 22 year old Prince Regent son as ruler in Brazil. Dom Pedro I was to disobey the Portuguese parliament by establishing a government and appointed the renowned José Bonifácio as Prime Minister.

On September 7, 1822 an announcement was made declaring Brazil an independent nation and Dom Pedro was invested as Emperor in December of the same year. I'm doubtful whether there have been any other generally peaceful, royalty-initiated beginnings to a new nation state in history. (The empire was dissolved in 1889 in favour of a federated republic).

'Voyage Pittoresque et historique au Brésil, ou Séjour d'un artiste français au Brésil, depuis 1816 jusqu'en 1831 inclusivement, epoques de l'avènement et de l'abdication de S. M. D. Pedro 1er, fondateur de l'Empire brésilien. Dédié à l'Académie des Beaux-Arts de l'Institut de France. (published 1834-39)' is online in 13 thumbnail pages at NYPL. The artist responsible for the lithographs was Jean Baptiste Debret, who spent 15 years in Brazil.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tacuinum Sanitatis II - Rouen



Portulaca Citarea



Mala Acetosa

Melones Insipidi



Granata Acetosa


[click images for full size versions]

The 'Tacuinum Sanitatis' is an important medieval herbal/medical health treatise based on the manual 'Taqwin al‑sihha', written by an Arab, Ibn Butlan, in the 11th century.

It is an holistic work that provides advice regarding the most important elements of life: breathing, exercise, eating/elimination, sleep and mental wellbeing. In particular it provides information about plants in terms of the their health benefits and pharmaceutical properties.

I've posted about this treatise previously but I thought this was worth revisiting as I came across a digital copy of the Rouen manuscript from the 15th century. These are the best quality images I've seen - other examples suffered from poor quality colour balance and digitization artifact.

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