So excited to see a kid’s picture book about Michael Faraday! (I have been working my way through John Tyndall letters as co-editor of volume 6 of The Correspondence of John Tyndall [volumes 1 and 2 have been published], and there are plenty of letters between Faraday and Tyndall). It would be fantastic if this author and illustrator work together on more history of science stories.
Darcy Pattison, Burn: Michael Faraday’s Candle (Little Rock, AR: Mims House, 2016), 32 pp. Illustrated by Peter Willis.
Publisher’s description WHAT MAKES A CANDLE BURN? Solid wax is somehow changed into light and heat. But how? Travel back in time to December 28, 1848 in London, England to one of the most famous juvenile science Christmas lectures at the Royal Institution. British scientist Michael Faraday (1791-1867) encouraged kids to carefully observe a candle and to try to figure out how it burned. Since Faraday’s lecture, “The Chemical History of a Candle,” was published in 1861, it’s never been out of print; however, it’s never been published as a children’s picture book – till now. Faraday originally gave seven lectures on how a candle burns. Pattison has adapted the first 6000-word lecture to about 650 words for modern elementary students, especially for the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) curriculum. Known as one of the best science experimenters ever, Faraday’s passion was always to answer the basic questions of science: “What is the cause? Why does it occur?”
Speaking of creationists, Comfort clowns passed out copies of the faux-Origin inn Texas at a Dawkins lecture. They posted some photos online, take a look at this one. The book now has “As seen on CNN” on the cover:
I hadn’t heard this song until last year – it accompanies a display about the periodic table of elements at the Royal Institution in London. You can hear it from the archives. After three afternoons in the reading room, the song became very annoying.
Adam Sedgwick (Born 28 Sep 1854; died 27 Feb 1913). English zoologist, a grandnephew of the geologist Adam Sedgwick, who is best known for his researches on the wormlike organism Peripatus, which he recognized as the zoologically important connecting link between the Annelida, or segmented worms, and the Arthropoda, such as crabs, spiders, and insects.
Arnold Henry Guyot (Born 28 Sep 1807; died 8 Feb 1884). Swiss geologist, geographer and educator. With glaciologist Louis Agassiz, he studied the glaciers of his native Switzerland and proved that they were moving – building a foundation for the theory of ice ages. Upon moving to the United States (1848), Guyot began the first systematic instruction in geology at Princeton University. Later, as head of the meteorological department at the Smithsonian Institution, he set up a system of weather observatories that utimately grew into the U. S. Weather Bureau. Using a barometer to measure altitude, he proved that Newfound Gap is the lowest pass through Appalachia’s Great Smoky Mountains. The guyot, a flat-topped volcanic peak rising from the ocean floor, is named after him.
Louis Pasteur (Died 28 Sep 1895; born 27 Dec 1822). French chemist who became a founder of microbiology. He began as a chemist working on the optical properties of tartaric acid and its stereochemistry (1849). He moved into microbiology when he discovered the role of bacteria in fermentation – that it was micro-organisms in yeast causing the formation of alcohol from sugar – and proved that the growth of microorganisms was not spontaneously generated from non-living matter. This led to understanding of the germ theory of infection, and his method of killing harmful bacteria in liquids by holding them for a time at a given temperature, which is now known as pasteurisation [also see tyndallization]. He created and tested vaccines for diphtheria, cholera, yellow fever, plague, rabies, anthrax, and tuberculosis.
John Needham (Died 30 Dec 1781; born 10 Sept 1713). John Turberville Needham was an English naturalist and Roman Catholic priest, born in London. He experimented, with Buffon, on the idea of spontaneous generation of life. After boiling mutton broth and sealing it in sealed it in glass containers which were stored for a few days, then reopened, he found numerous microorganisms therein. His conclusion was that the organisms had arisen from non-living matter. (However, two decades later, Spallanzani indicated this was invalid since some spores could still survive the short period of boiling temperature Needham used.) He was the first clergyman of his faith to become a member of the Royal Society of London (1768).
Robert Boyle (Died 30 Dec 1691; born 25 Jan 1627). Anglo-Irish chemist and natural philosopher noted for his pioneering experiments on the properties of gases and his espousal of a corpuscular view of matter that was a forerunner of the modern theory of chemical elements. He was a founding member of the Royal Society of London. From 1656-68, he resided at Oxford where Robert Hooke, who helped him to construct the air pump. With this invention, Boyle demonstrated the physical characteristics of air and the necessity of air for combustion, respiration, and the transmission of sound, published in New Experiments Physio-Mechanical, Touching the Spring of the Air and its Effects (1660). In 1661, he reported to the Royal Society on the relationship of the volume of gases and pressure (Boyle’s Law).
In 1772, the British chemist, Joseph Priestley, stood in front of the Royal Society and reported on his latest discovery: “this air is of exalted nature…A candle burned in this air with an amazing strength of flame; and a bit of red hot wood crackled and burned with a prodigious rapidity. But to complete the proof of the superior quality of this air, I introduced a mouse into it; and in a quantity in which, had it been common air, it would have died in about a quarter of an hour; it lived at two different times, a whole hour, and was taken out quite vigorous.” Priestley had discovered Oxygen, or had he? Soon a brilliant French chemist, Antoine Lavoisier, would claim the gas for himself. And so began a rancorous dispute between the British and French chemical establishments, undertaken as chemistry itself was in the process of being rediscovered, even revolutionised.
Simon Schaffer, Professor in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge
Jenny Uglow, Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Warwick
Hasok Chang, Reader in Philosophy of Science at University College London
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