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Samuel Colt's Submarine Battery: The Secret and the Enigma
Philip K. Lundeberg
90 pages, 43 figures
1974 (Date of Issue: 30 December 1974)
Number 29, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.29.1
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Abstract

Samuel Colt's sustained efforts to secure the adoption of his Submarine Battery system as a major element in the coastal defenses of the United States have long constituted an obscure yet potentially significant episode in the technological development of undersea warfare. Stimulated not only by apparent threat of renewed British naval assaults on the Eastern seaboard early in the 1840s, but also by notable and well-publicized advances by British military engineers in galvanic underwater demolition techniques, the development of Colt's novel harbor defense system was supported by limited Congressional appropriations during 1841-44, as well as by the encouragement of Samuel F. B. Morse and John William Draper at the University of the City of New York. Colt secured no comparable assistance from the National Institute for the Promotion of Science, of which he was an early member.

The New England inventor's dogged secrecy regarding the precise character of his Submarine Battery, which he successfully maintained throughout four public demonstrations at Washington and New York, ultimately alienated cognizant military professionals, whose guidance or active participation Colt deliberately eschewed in refining his distinctive single and dual observer systems for mine firing control. Notwithstanding the apparent success of his climactic demonstration at the Washington Navy Yard in April 1844, the precise details of which yet remain open to conjecture, Colt was unable to secure War or Navy Department support either for the adoption of his galvanic mine system for coastal defense purposes or for Congressional payment of a contingent premium for the secret of his Submarine Battery.


United States Army Headgear 1855-1902: Catalog of United States Army Uniforms in the Collections of the Smithsonian Institution, II
Edgar M. Howell
109 pages, 63 figures
1975 (Date of Issue: 29 December 1975)
Number 30, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.30.1
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This volume brings the story of the evolution of headgear in the United States Regular Army from just prior to the Civil War to the opening of the modern era. Strongly influenced by French, British, and German styles, the U.S. Army tried and found wanting in numerous ways a number of models, and it was not until the adoption of the “drab” campaign hat in the early 1880s that a truly American pattern evolved. The European influence carried on until the 1902 uniform change, and, in the case of the “overseas” cap and chapeau, even beyond.


Early Auditory Studies: Activities in the Psychology Laboratories of American Universities
Audrey B. Davis and Uta C. Merzbach
39 pages, 36 figures
1975 (Date of Issue: 10 November 1975)
Number 31, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.31.1
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The last quarter of the nineteenth century was a formative period for experimental psychology. American pioneers in the field joined their Continental colleagues in basing the “new” psychology on the methods, apparatus, and experiments of physics and physiology. Hermann von Helmholtz, claimed by both fields, was a pilot in their new endeavors.

Auditory studies reflect this general pattern. Specialized equipment used in the psychology acoustics laboratory ranged from models of the anatomy of the ear, mechanical models to explain the functions of the ear, sound producers, receivers and measurers, to analyzers and synthesizers. Discussion of the role of the instruments in posing and answering subject-related questions of the psychologist leads to further questions on the development of the intellectual and physical institutions of psychological research.


Joseph Saxton and His Contributions to the Medal Ruling and Photographic Arts
Arthur H. Frazier
17 pages, 13 figures
1975 (Date of Issue: 10 November 1975)
Number 32, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.32.1
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Medal ruling is a little known art by which pictures are mechanically produced from coins, medals, cameos, and other objects presented in relief. It made a sudden and spectacular appearance very early in the 19th century, but with the advent of daguerreotype photography near the middle of that century, it disappeared almost as suddenly. Joseph Saxton (1799-1873), an extraordinary mechanician was caught up in those arts, and made exceptional contributions to both of them. His medal ruling machines were the first of their kind to have eliminated distortions from the resulting pictures. Among the scientific uses to which his final model was applied was a diffraction grating made for John William Draper, who took the first photograph ever executed of the diffraction spectrum. The only remaining model of the three machines Saxton is known to have built is now at the National Museum of History and Technology, Smithsonian Institution.

The daguerreotype Saxton took of Philadelphia's first Central High School and the State Armory is perhaps the earliest daguerreotype ever taken in the United States, and certainly represents the oldest American daguerreotype extant. It is now in the custody of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. A combination of Saxton's medal ruling and daguerreotype skills helped to produce a remarkable illustration of the second United States Mint, which was published in 1842 in Eckfeldt and Du Bois' Manual of Gold and Silver Coins, and which has been republished in this present study.


The Incompleat Chymist: Being an Essay on the Eighteenth-Century Chemist in his Laboratory, with a Dictionary of Obsolete Chemical Terms of the Period
Jon Eklund
49 pages, 4 figures
1975 (Date of Issue: 8 December 1975)
Number 33, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.33.1
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It would be preferable to be able to call this work “The Compleat Chymist,” but the existing title reflects an unfortunate reality. The truth is that our knowledge of the aspirations and activities of chemists in the eighteenth century is woefully incomplete. That this is so suggests first that we have an insufficient number of interested historians of chemistry; and if this remains so it may signify something unfortunate about current historiographic trends.

Specifically, there has been a tendency of late to treat eighteenth-century chemistry as an almost exclusively cerebral science. This is in part an understandable reaction to an earlier historiographic mode which is perhaps best described as Whig-inductivist. Although there were variations, the chemical variety of the basic Whig-inductivist scheme was to describe the experiment, give its contemporary interpretation, translate the phenomenon into modern terms, give the modern interpretation, and then make a normative judgment on the basis of the closeness of fit between the original and the modern interpretation. Sometimes the judgment was omitted, and the work became primarily a series of descriptions of important reactions. Even here, however, there was an implicit judgment in the selection process—those experiments most relevant to modern textbook schemes were the ones chosen for exegesis.

Surely it isn't necessary here to once again beat down the presumed phoenix of Whig-inductivism, as its evils seem well understood and agreed upon. But to be repelled by the narrow normative excesses of an earlier historiography is one thing; to shun all its practices uncritically is quite another. Thus, it seems to me a non sequitur to arrive at the idea that narratives of experiments are necessarily bad or that all translations of the results into modern terms (assuming one can avoid the all-too-obvious pitfalls) are useless.

More dangerous still is the tendency for historians to largely ignore the details of practice. Without doing an injustice to the intellectual content of the chemistry of that time, such an oversight seems to me to create a serious historical imbalance. Indeed, for historians to assume that the chemists of the eighteenth century were primarily concerned with theory may be to ignore most of their working hours. Certainly by far the greatest portion of the literature in contemporary journals was not concerned with theories of matter but with specific empirical problems related to the determination of chemical composition. Since they were personal vehicles which allowed greater depth, even treatises which one logically would expect to contain discussions of a more philosophical nature were composed, for the most part, of the details of chemical experiments. Surely we must characterize the chemistry of that period in accordance with the actual record left by the chemists of the time.

Although this work is concerned principally with the laboratory settings, equipment, and practices of French and British chemists of the period 1690-1770, nothing seen in the chemical literature of any country seriously weakens the remarks made above.


The Art Crusade: An Analysis of American Drawing Manuals, 1820-1860
Peter C. Marzio
94 pages, 47 figures
1976 (Date of Issue: 27 October 1976)
Number 34, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.34.1
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Between 1820 and 1860 approximately 145 popular drawing manuals were published in the United States. Authored by painters, printers, and educators the drawing books were aimed at the general public. Based on the democratic ideal that “anyone who can learn to write can learn to draw,” the manuals followed a highly structured system of drawing based on the theory that lines were the essence of form. The aesthetic system of Sir Joshua Reynolds often served as the principal artistic guideline, while the pedagogy of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi was used as a tool for making “drawing” part of a general approach to education.

Although the American drawing books are often seen as part of the general social effort to democratize art, their appeal went beyond art students to engineers, scientists, and illustrators. Drawing was considered a general skill, such as writing, which could be applied to numerous aspects of life.

The leaders of the amorphous art crusade were John Rubens Smith, John Gadsby Chapman, and Rembrandt Peale. Each was considered a fine painter and draughtsman, classical in approach and somewhat out of step with the advanced aesthetic movements of the pre-Civil War years. Their efforts formed a loose but intelligible approach to art promotion. But by 1860 their crusade disintegrated: new drawing theories popularized by the English writer, John Ruskin, placed shading and mass above line in the definition of form; specialization in art, in science, in education, and in mechanical drawing warred against the general approach of the art crusade; new theories of child development emphasized more subtle and open methods of learning that countered the rigid, formula approach of the drawing books; and finally, the common school movement of the post-1860 period failed to incorporate the system envisioned by Smith, Peale, and Chapman into the general curriculum.

The drawing books remain important social and artistic documents. They carried a body of ideas about art and its place in American society that guided the work of numerous painters, educators, and promoters of high culture. They touch many present-day disciplines from the history of art to the history of science.


The Orchestra at San Petronio in the Baroque Era
Eugene Enrico
64 pages, 33 figures, 13 tables
1976 (Date of Issue: 20 August 1976)
Number 35, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.35.1
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The church of San Petronio in Bologna was one of the most important centers for the performance of instrumental music in the decades around 1700. The unique architecture of San Petronio, originally designed to be the largest church in Christendom, conditioned the nature of music performed in the church in several ways. The acoustics of San Petronio helped to determine both the balance and placement of the orchestra. Moreover, the size and semicircular shape of the cantoria, or musicians' gallery, influenced both the number and placement of musicians hired for special festival performances.

Records of payment document the size and instrumentation of both these festival orchestras and the resident ensemble permanently employed by the church. The collection of musical manuscripts still preserved in the church archives is perhaps the richest treasure of evidence central to the style of instrumental music played by the orchestra at San Petronio.


Georg Scheutz and the First Printing Calculator
Uta C. Merzbach
74 pages, 35 figures
1977 (Date of Issue: 1 November 1977)
Number 36, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.36.1
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The Swedish publisher Georg Scheutz (1785-1873) was a man who combined literary, political, scientific, and technological interests. Inspired by the difference engine of Charles Babbage, he and his son, the engineer Edvard Scheutz (1821-1881), designed and constructed a machine to compute tabular differences and print the results. The machine, built with a grant from the Swedish government and underwritten by a group of Swedish supporters of Scheutz, was completed in 1853. It was patented in Great Britain in 1854, shown at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1855, and purchased for the Dudley Observatory in Albany, New York, in 1856. A copy of the machine was constructed in 1857. For a short time, in 1858, work contracted by the United States Department of Navy for the Nautical Almanac Office was performed on the machine. Because of the departure (resulting from a major dispute) of the astronomer Benjamin A. Gould and his assistants from the Dudley Observatory, the machine was used rarely in later years and gradually fell into total disuse.

The arguments surrounding the construction, purchase, and use of the machine portray two recurring themes in the history of technology. One is the conflict between defenders of established procedures and those of new innovations within a given field. The other is the influence of social, economic, or political currents on the activities in that field.

The Scheutz calculator is significant because it made feasible the concept of a machine that computes and then retains results in printed form.


Science and the Instrument-maker: Michelson, Sperry, and the Speed of Light
Thomas Parke Hughes
18 pages, 9 figures, 2 tables
1976 (Date of Issue: 5 October 1976)
Number 37, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.37.1
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This essay focuses on the cooperative efforts between A. A. Michelson, physicist, and Elmer Ambrose Sperry, inventor, to produce the instrumentation for the determination of the speed of light. At the conclusion of experiments made in 1926, Michelson assigned the Sperry instruments the highest marks for accuracy. The value of the speed of light accepted by many today (299,792.5 km/sec) varies only 2.5 km/sec from that obtained using the Sperry octagonal steel mirror. The main problems of producing the instrumentation, human error in the communication of ideas to effect that instrumentation, a brief description of the experiments to determine the speed of light, and the analysis and evaluation of the results are discussed.


The Musical Instruments of Joseph Haydn: An Introduction
Helen Rice Hollis
33 pages, 18 figures
1977 (Date of Issue: 23 May 1977)
Number 38, Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology
DOI: 10.5479/si.00810258.38.1
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This paper is concerned with the musical instruments of Joseph Haydn's time—his early experiences with the instruments and his use of them. Sections are devoted to keyboards, instrumentation of the piano trios, wind instruments, timpani, and the baryton. The paper contains material that has not appeared previously, and it includes 18 illustrations of musical instruments, some of which are in the Smithsonian collection. The latter have never been assembled for publication in this context and some have never been published at all. Dr. H. C. Robbins Landon, internationally known musicologist and recognized authority on Joseph Haydn, has written a foreword.


Displaying 31 - 40 from the 59 total records