Great Men of Science and Technology
From the Mystery of Fire to Alchemy
Science and How it Began...
Today we have people living in the USA and elsewhere who would love to turn the clock back when it comes to science.
There are those who knock Darwin and go for Creationism.
There are those who would murder a free press as in the case of Charlie Hebdo a few years ago. By murdering a free press you can promote superstition and radical forms of religion while stifling knowledge.
From the very beginning Science and technology, in one form or another, have transformed our lives.
If I could, I would give credit to the person back in prehistory who first came up with the spear for hunting or the knife for cutting up meat.
The big one was finding a way of creating fire. Prior to the discovery of flint it has been assumed that families or clans had to keep alive a fire created by nature such as produced by a lightning strike.
If the fire went out then it might be some time until it was possible to again come across fire.
Having fire readily available and without the fear of it going out for good meant food could always be cooked. This doesn't seem a big deal in the 21st Century but can you imagine trying to tuck into a slab of raw meat for dinner?
This problem of eating raw meat rather than cooked meat was in the very first adventure of the very first Doctor Who. Having hot foot in the cold of winter could mean the difference between life and death.
Another big one for whom we can't give any credit is the fellow who first came up with the idea of creating shelter rather than using a hollow in the ground or a cave for the night.
After much experimentation this of course led to the housing we enjoy living in today.
A third big one would have to be advancing communication into language in which both reality and fantasy might be expressed. With verbal language established there then came written language.
Scientists today feel that written language began as a way of tallying up who bought what and what was owed. In other words, math led the way.
There is something abstract in the idea of a stroke representing a single object and, say, two strokes representing two objects.
People have to be in agreement about the significance of these strokes for it to be so. Hence cooperation and understanding were needed as they are today with much more complex math.
Without complex math landing men on the moon and then getting them back to earth would have been impossible.
We know that in Mesopotamia stories were told of mighty heroes and there was a desire to write these stories down to preserve them for all time.
Verbal story telling, of cause, started much earlier but still the idea of putting down not just useful everyday information but also stuff to inspire people with must have been someone's stroke of genius.
Chemistry started off as part of alchemy which has its mystical side.
In the rest of this hub I will be dealing with some of the people we know of who have altered our lives and have, in one way or another, pushed science and technology of one form or another forward.
A New Way of Thinking About Mental Health
1. SIGMUND FREUD
Before science came onto the scene mental illness was often treated like it was a contagious disease in which anyone of the lower classes with it had to be locked away for their own good and that of society.
What's more, there generally wasn't any real chance of recovery in the places where the mentally ill were locked away. This meant thus zero chance of entry back into society.
Those of the middle classes or upper classes who had gone insane were given better food and accommodation but they, too, were rarely cured.
It was too often thought that punishing the body of the afflicted would lead to recovery.
Bedlam in England in the 19th Century, for example, was thus a place of horror rather than good, sound medicine.
Jewish mystics in Biblical times were known to be able to cure the mentally deranged simply by talking to them. Jesus apparently had this ability.
Even though the cure might only have been temporary it would have been dramatic. The evil spirit apparently left the afflicted because of the holy one. In truth, though, the mind of the sick person was simply given a new focus, a calming influence.
Hypnosis or mesmerism dates back to at least Ancient Egypt. Before Freud came on the scene, doctors were already beginning to use hypnosis to examine what was then called hysteria in patients.
Important questions were raised. Why did the symptoms in some patients disappear under this treatment only to reappear when the hypnosis was over and they were brought back from the trance?
If it is the subject's mind causing the problems and it has nothing to do with a physical injury then how did it come about? Why would a mind sabotage its very own body? Why would the power of suggestion offered up by someone who is in authority offer up, even for a short time, a way out?
No scientist in the 19th Century worth his or her salt was willing to go along with the notion that evil spirits or demons could and did inhabit the bodies of people.
Even the Church was unwilling to perform exorcisms unless pressed into doing so.
Yet sometimes exorcisms did work. If the subject truly believed they were possessed and truly believed they could be freed from possession then something happened in the mind of the supposedly possessed that freed them from something.
Belief was apparently the key. But why, from a scientific perspective, was belief so important?
Wise women had used for centuries in Europe what is known as sympathetic magic to grant the desires of others. Did this magic work and, if it did, could the reasons why it did so be examined scientifically?
Love spells require the person who wants to be loved by another to collect something from that person. They have to collect the item or items themselves or the spell will not work for them. The more difficult the object or objects are to come by the more powerful the spell that will be cast will become.
So what has this collecting of objects and the casting of spells to do with the mind? Well, while the hopeful lover is collecting the necessary materials he or she will inevitably have to spend some time with the desired other.
For example, in order to pick up hair they will have to be near the other's comb. Thus the wise woman, in getting the wannabe lover to pick up these items is taking the hopeful person's mind off the original goal and at the same time placing them close to the person they wish to form an attachment to.
In other words, if the wannabe lover is thinking about other things, such as the collecting of these items,he or she won't be as nervous as they normally would be and thus they will have a better chance of getting what they want.
Is this a form of trickery? Yes and, if you think about it,you'll probably come to the conclusion that, for those who don't know the trick involved, it can work.
Hence not all magic was and is pure hokum. Some magic was and is, in fact, hokum with some intelligence behind it. Without scientific study applied to it, however, it could not and cannot have scientific value.
The reading of dreams is nothing new. Like the so-called casting out of evil spirits, it dates back to Biblical times.
Yet Freud came to realize that there might be some value to be had in reading and perhaps interpreting the dreams of the mentally ill.
Could some part of a disturbed mind reveal what is troubling it in dreams? Perhaps what could not be spoken out loud by the sufferer or even fully understood could still be there in night images.
Freud understood that scientific methodology needed to be created and applied to the study of the sick mind. There had to be weights and balances others could understand if cures were to come to light.
The mentally ill had to be interviewed and notes taken before useful discoveries could be made. This Freud did.
Freud came to an understanding of some forms of mental illness and also possible causes and possible cures. He used hypnosis and also the interpretation of dreams.
Instead of seeking to punish the bodies of his patients, Freud set about putting them at their ease so that he could discover from them clues as to what had happened to them to put them in a bad state of being.
Two elements kept reoccurring - fear and guilt. Could the mind actually hide things from itself and could these hidden things then resurface later as psychological problems?
Freud found that sex was often at the heart of fear and guilt. This isn't that surprising since sex was something not to be talked about in the so-called best homes in the Victorian age and even in the Edwardian age.
Legs were limbs and even the limbs of tables had to be hidden from plain sight. People may have had sexual urges but these urges were to be controlled.
Freud's writings involving sex and the mind didn't always go down well with contemporaries. They sometimes made him more intellectual enemies than friends. Sex was such a touchy subject.
The First World War saw relatively new mental problems arise.
One such relatively new mental problem was shell shock which was examined by Freud.
Over the years doubt has been placed on hypnosis and how it is to be used.
Doubt on the interpretation of dreams was first forwarded by Freud himself when he said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. In other words, there was and is the possibility of images in dreams being over analysed.
Freud's methods of research and his conclusions when it comes to mental illness were controversial in his own time and some of his research and conclusions have remained so to this day. Even so, he paved the way for others to follow which definitely earns him a place here.
A Man who Understood Masks
2. CARL JUNG
Carl Jung was, for a time, a friend of Sigmund Freud.
Even so, Jung's understanding of the human mind was somewhat different from that of the man who had inspired some of his work.
Where Jung grew up may have made the difference. It was a place where there was an very different understanding of human nature and how the mind could be revealed.
Jung was born in the village of Kesswil, Switzerland.Every year there was a festival involving masks in which people were free to show off some aspect of their nature that may have been hidden away from view during the rest of the year.
Masks exaggerate but what they do exaggerate Jung found fascinating.
In researching masks, Jung discovered that they are prominent in many cultures. Were they prominent for similar reasons? If so then what did they have to do with the workings of the human mind?
The art of clowning remains strong throughout the Western World. It's origins date back to pre-medieval times. In donning face paint the clown is thus free to reveal something hidden about himself and also about the world he lives in.
There are clowns that are happy-go-lucky and are fine for entertaining the children.
There are also clowns that pop up every now and then in Western culture as a challenge to our sensibilities and also our sense of who we are as a collective people.
In Punch and Judy, which for some centuries now has appeared as a form of puppetry, you have the sinister aspect of wife bashing and also revenge for such actions.
The audience is called upon to enjoy the violence and can do so because the violence is not real.
It is an outlet for something in the audience that is there and has been there in our society for a very long time. It is obviously better to have puppets bash one another than to have real people bash real people.
In the Italian opera Pagliacci you have an unhappy, crying clown who has murdered his wife.
Today the clown representing revenge and turmoil can best be seen in episodes of the television show The Crow or in the movies and the comic books that came before it.
There is also the newer television show Gotham where we see not only the coming of The Batman but also the costumed villains. They are not costumed, at least in the first season, but you can see the personalities evolving with the disintegration of the city.
There have been many masked fictional avengers from Zorro, to the Lone Ranger to, yes, The Batman.
The knights of the middle ages more often than not had their helmets on in battle so they, too, in a very real sense were masked.
The fact that masks are capable of revealing as well as concealing was nothing new when Jung came on the scene.
What Jung did, however, was take the notion of the mask one step further.
If one were to use the mask as a metaphor then do we all wear the same one for every aspect of our lives or do we have interchangeable masks tucked away in our minds for special people and special occasions?
In other words does the mind of an average person departmentalize in terms of attitude and appearance as part of living a healthy life in a society that has a multitude of different demands upon the mind?
We don't, for example, generally feel the same way about our siblings as we do our parents. Do we then interact with our siblings in the same way we do with our parents? The answer for most of us is that we don't.
Also there is often a marked difference in the way we interact with our employers as opposed to, say, other employees or our friends. We of course handle our lover in a very different way to our enemy or potential enemy unless one becomes the other.
It is when the internal masks are not properly formed or break down that people can fall into a deep pit of despair or worse.
Men who came out of the First World War badly scarred, for example, had to struggle to reestablish their own identities first to themselves and then to others.
A handsome man who is no longer handsome has to mentally find a new way of being. Half masks were used after this war to help disfigured soldiers adjust back into civilian life.
In the HBO television series Boardwalk Empire, which is set in Prohibition era USA, there is a tough guy whose face was so badly scarred in war that he wears a half-mask to give himself a more human appearance.
This was all before plastic surgery came along and became available throughout the Western World as a means of repairing facial injuries.
Today there are those who would sculpture society around so-called Reality Television.
The result for some viewers is a feeling of creeping alienation. Why do people who have cable and are therefore wealthier get all the good television dramas and those who are less well off get stuck with more and more 'Reality'?
Why is there this dumbing down of regular television? How are we to relate to the simple, even moronic internal masks of these simple, moronic people projected to us and at us on these programs? Are they clowns to laugh at? And, when the laughter is over, what then?
Are those who can only afford regular television the new peasantry and, until they can afford better viewing, they are to be considered and indeed treated like second class citizens?
Is it any wonder then that there are some people indeed feeling misused and, yes, alienated in all of this?
In 1909 Jung traveled to Clark University in Massachusetts.
There at Clark University Jung helped to establish the acceptance of psychoanalysis in the USA.
CREATOR OF THE SUPERMARINE SPITFIRE
3. REGINALD JOSEPH MITCHELL
Reginald Mitchell is best known for his development of the Supermarine Spitfire fighter. At a time when Britain was in danger from invasion by the Germans it was the Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane that provided the best way of dealing with German fighter aircraft and bombers.
One of the main differences between the Spitfire and the Hurricane was the shape of the Spitfire's wings. During the 1930s and early 1940s this was a revolutionary factor in design.
During the retreat of the Allied soldiers at Dunkirk in France during World War Two, it was the Spitfires that kept the German air force busy while the evacuation by sea worthy craft took place.
During the Battle of Britain there may have been more Hurricanes in service but it was the Spitfire that had the best chance of going up against the German ME BF109 fighters.Where it was possible the Hurricanes dealt with the bombers and the Spitfires the dealt with the enemy fighters.
One of the most famous of Spitfire pilots was Douglas Bader. He had lost his legs in a plane crash and had been provided with tin replacements. This should have ended his flying career but it didn't. He fought during the Battle of Britain and was familiar with both Spitfires and Hurricanes. Reach for the Sky, made in 1956 and starring Kenneth Moore, is an excellent film based on Bader's life.
Unfortunately, Mitchell did not live long enough to see his Spitfire creation in combat action helping to save his country from Nazi oppression. He died in June, 1937.
AN INDUSTRIALIST WITH EXTRAORDINARY VISION
Henry Ford was an industrialist American who developed the ways and means to mass produce goods such as cars via the production line method.
Cheap cars made by Ford and then cheap cars made by other manufacturers meant that more people could afford to have their very own automobile. One result was that more people could get to what were once out of the way places such as Yellowstone National Park. With more tourism such parks in the USA and also elsewhere in the world were assured of a longer future.
Ford got into the aviation business during the First World War. During the lead up to America's entry into the Second World War he unfortunately did business with rather than against Nazi Germany. With the USA in the war and on the side of the Allies this changed. The Ford motor Company made B-24 bombers for the American war effort.
James Doohan, who was the first actor to play Montgomery Scott on Star Trek, has it in his biography that he once met Henry Ford.
BRINGING THE WORLD TO PEOPLE'S LIVING ROOMS
Guglielmo Marconi is an Italian inventor best known for his work on long distance radio transmission. He was one of a number of people that can be credited with contributing to the invention and development of radio.
It was possible after radios became cheap enough for the average person to purchase for Australians to be able to listen to cricket test matches as they were being played in England or elsewhere in the world. This added excitement to the test matches between England and Australian known as The Ashes. The latest music from anywhere in the world could also come into the average person's living room. The world in some ways became a smaller more intimate place thanks to radio and, to some extent, thanks to Marconi.
THE MAN WHO LOOKED LIKE A MAD SCIENTIST
Albert Einstein was born in Germany. He was born Jewish which would have presented a problem for him if he had been in Europe during the Second World War. In 1933, while on a visit to America, he wisely decided not to return to Germany. As it turned out, Germany's loss was America's gain.
In the early 20th Century Einstein spent two years in the patent office at Bern in Switzerland as an assistant examiner. Much was made of this drudgery Einstein was put to in an episode of The Big Bang Theory in which the fictional character Sheldon, stuck on a theoretical problem, decides to try menial labor as a way of freeing up his brain. If it worked for Einstein he thought it might just work for him.
In 1908 Einstein was appointed lecturer at the University of Bern. He later took up prestigious academic positions in Germany. By 1919 he was world famous for his Theory of relativity.
In 1939 Einstein wrote a letter with the aid of fellow scientist Leo Szilard to the American president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, outlining the risks involved in allowing Nazi Germany to be the first nation to have an atomic bomb. Thus the USA entered the race to develop the first atomic weapon. In 1940 Einstein became an American citizen.
The 1988 Australian movie Young Einstein, starring Yahoo Serious, has nothing at all to do with the real Albert Einstein's life.The only connection with the real Albert Einstein is the fact that he was noted during his time in the USA for having a wild sense of humor. Even so, the movie is quite funny and worth checking out.
In the television show Eureka, Einstein is credited with having founded a fictional town for geniuses of every stripe in the heart of the USA.
In the 2009 movie Night at the Museum 2, starring Ben Stiller, there is an army of highly intelligent Einstein bubble-heads that, not so surprisingly, think alike.
DO NO HARM
Hippocrates was an Ancient Greek healer. The healing arts was something that was passed to him from his father who got it from his father. In a sense it was the family business.
It was Hippocrates who came up with the notion that diseases were caused naturally and not as a result of the gods. He looked to environmental factors when it came to why disease occurred and also to environmental factors in arriving at cures that work.
The ideal that a physician should first do no harm is with us today and comes from the teachings of Hippocrates. In the television show House it is obvious that, in modern medicine, doing no harm can be a difficult thing to achieve while diagnosing some patients.
At the time of Hippocrates physicians were known to prescribe honey and sunshine as pick-me-ups to patients that had been bed-ridden too long.
Louis Pasteur was a French chemist and microbiologist. He created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax.
He is best known, however, for his process of treating milk and wine so it doesn't spoil quickly known as pasteurization. His idea that micro-organisms infecting animals and humans cause disease led Joseph Lister to develop antiseptic methods in surgery.
PIONEER OF TELEVISION
JOHN LOGIE BAIRD
Born in Helensburg, Scotland, John Logie Baird is best remembered as the inventor of the world's first practical television system. There had been numerous other inventors from the beginning of the 20th Century onward who contributed ideas resulting in Baird's success. Nevertheless, it was Baird who made the breakthrough.
In 1927 Baird transmitted a long distance television signal over 438 miles between London and Glasgow. In 1928 he developed an early video recording device.
Television has come a long way since Baird's day. For a start it is now in color and no longer has to be transmitted through a box. It can be transmitted onto a flat screen. Even so, Baird was one of the pioneers of something most of us tune into at least once a day.
TIGERS THAT FLY
10. DON BERLIN
Don Berlin was the American aircraft engineer responsible for the Curtiss P-40 fighter better known in the USA as the Warhawk and in British and Australian hands as the Tomahawk.
It was the first American fighter to take on the Japanese during the 2nd World War. Unlike the Zero it mostly came up against in combat, it could take a lot of punishment and still bring the pilot home.
The Zero could out climb the P-40 which was a weakness. Once a pilot understood not to try to out climb the enemy, however, this was not a problem. In the hands of a skilled pilot the P-40 handled well. It wasn't quite up to the standard of the British Spitfire or the German ME BF109 and was used mostly in the Pacific theater of action.
Those who first flew against the Japanese in P-40s may have been American but they were working for and fighting for the Chinese. They were part of the Chinese Air Force. The USA had not yet entered the war.
They were known as The Flying Tigers.
To check out the P-40 in action see the 1942 movie Flying Tigers starring John Wayne. Yes, it is a propaganda piece but still enjoyable viewing if you are a fighter aircraft enthusiast.
THE MAN BEHIND THE ZERO
Doctor Jiro Horikoshi was one of Japan's leading aircraft engineers. He was responsible for the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter.It was fast but lacked armor.
The idea was to make it light weight and therefore fast. This also meant that it was fragile when it came to enemy fire. A skilled Japanese pilot flying a Zero could out fly the enemy at least in the early days of America's entry into the 2nd World War. Later the Zero was to show its age as new American fighters were designed and sent to the Pacific theater of action. Its size and light weight made it suitable for storage in and take off from aircraft carriers.
A British commander at the beginning of the 2nd World War came up with the idea that the Japanese would make bad pilots because of their slanted eyes. He was proven wrong many times over during the course of the war. Not only were the Japanese who flew generally excellent at piloting they also had to be the best at navigation since their instrument panels were stripped down to save on weight.
To some extent the American P-40 Curtiss fighter was outclassed by the Zero. It did perform well, however, against the Zero in the hands of the Flying Tigers.
The Zero was used in the unprovoked attack upon Pearl Harbor, Hawaii that took place in December, 1941. This attack officially brought the USA into the war. In bringing the Americans into the war on the side of the Allies, the Japanese had made a huge mistake. Japanese industry could, not at this time, compete with the USA in the mass production of weapons of war including fighter aircraft.
For Zero action check out the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora! starring Joseph Cotten.
A MAN OF MANY TALENTS
Benjamin Franklin is credited with being one of the founders of the USA. In his time he was a man of many trades. Some of them included: politician, postmaster, printer, author, musician and scientist. He was also a Freemason.
In science, Franklin is best known for his discoveries in the field of electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals and a type of stove named after him.
If you were to visit Philadelphia today what you would find would be every 2nd museum that has anything to do with science with Franklin's name on it.
At one time he owned slaves but near the end of his life he freed them and became an abolitionist.
AN EXTRAORDINARY INVENTOR
David Unaipon was a preacher, writer and Inventor.
He was an Australian Aborigine and his picture can be seen on the present day Australian $50 note.
There are many inventions to his credit. His most successful one was a sheep shearing mechanical device which is the basis for the mechanical shears used today.
He was the first Aboriginal writer to publish in English. From the 1920s he studied Aboriginal mythology and compiled his versions of Aboriginal myths and legends. He was influenced by the classics and also by his study of Egyptology. He was also a poet.
Often he was refused accommodation because of his race. He did, however, influence government policy when it came to Aborigines.
The David Unaipon College of Indigenous Education and Research at the University of South Australia is named after him.
A GREAT HEALER
DOCTOR CHARLES RICHARD DREW
Doctor Charles Richard Drew was an African-American physician, surgeon and medical researcher responsible for the saving of countless lives. He developed new, improved techniques for blood storage which led to large scale blood banks.
In 1940 Doctor Drew was called upon to help set up and administer a program for blood storage and preservation. Blood plasma was to be sent to Britain to save lives and he was in charge of the collecting, testing and shipping.
The Blood for Britain program was a success. It was so successful that Doctor Drew became director of the Red Cross blood bank and assistant director of the National Research Council. He was in charge of blood collection for the United States Army and Navy.
In 2002 Molefi Asante, an African American historian, listed Doctor Drew as as one of the 100 Greatest African Americans.
HE BROUGHT A NEW KIND OF LIGHT TO THE WORLD
15. THOMAS ALVA EDISON
Thomas Alva Edison was an extraordinary American inventor. Among the inventions of his that have changed our world are: the light bulb, the motion picture camera, and the phonograph (which led to other more modern methods of recording sound.)
Edison invented and developed the carbon microphone which was used in all telephones, along with the Bell receiver, from the late 1870s right up to the 1980s.
Like Benjamin Franklin, Edison had a place in the history of Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia City Council named him the recipient of the John Scott Medal in 1889.This medal is presented to men and women whose inventions have improved the comfort, welfare and happiness of humankind.
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