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Exhibition: Level 1, Barr Smith Library
24 June – 9 August 2019

In 2018, drawing on her experience as a History of Science student, intern Kate Corcoran conducted a survey of Rare Book holdings to identify items that would be useful both for teaching purposes and online displays for students. This display presents the results of her survey.

“The history of scientific knowledge and illustration has become an area of increasing interest for study in courses at University.

During my survey, I selected 100 texts according to three main categories. First, there were texts that were representative of the scientific fields of either natural history or medical science. These works were chosen because they were written during significant time periods of the development of these sciences and/or the author was a major figure in the history of this science. Secondly, there were books that were particularly special because they were unique to Australia or very rare with few copies throughout the world. Thirdly, texts that were especially useful for teaching, promoting or showcasing the history of science due to their spectacular illustrations were also selected.

My recommendations contain 20 texts with 10 on the subject of natural history and 10 on the subject of medicine.

The texts found in my survey include many scientific illustrations. Observational drawing is common in natural history and medical science. According to Gemma Anderson, an artist, scientific researcher and lecturer at the University of Exeter, these illustrations are personal and often more expressive than language. Illustrating necessitates a first-person view of the item being studied. It allows for the comparison between what is observed and what is already known. Drawings offer a unique perspective of objects that during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was not possible without the patience of illustration. Through these drawings, the reader can simultaneously observe and compare details of objects.

The scientific naming system still used currently called binominal nomenclature was established by taxonomist Carl Linnaeus and required a precise drawing practice. Linnaeus’ scientific drawings contain detailed information about the natural world. This information would not be presented so concisely if it was expressed in writing rather than illustration. Species cannot be defined properly and classified without knowing what they look like. Illustrations offer this clarity and help with scientific classification. Scientific drawings also provide scope for comparison as knowledge develops over time.”

Extracted from Kate Corcoran’s 2018 Arts Internship Report “Which items in the Barr Smith Library Rare Books & Special Collections are most useful for teaching, promoting and showcasing the history of science?”

 

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Isaac Barrow, mathematician and Christian theologian, was born to Thomas and Ann Barrow in London in 1630. He is believed to be the only child, surviving at least, of that marriage, with the death of his mother just four years later giving some credence to such reports.[1] Within two years of her passing his father remarried, sending Isaac to live with his grandfather in Cambridgeshire and starting a new family with his second wife, Katherine Oxinden.

Barrow’s education began at the Charterhouse School in London, one of the original ‘Great Nine’ English public schools. Literary accounts suggest that he was quick to quarrel,[2] and his father had supposedly been heard to say that if it pleased God to take any of his children he could best spare Isaac.[3] Perhaps he was simply bored, for his precociousness served him well when he later studied at Felsted. Under the brilliant, leading puritan Headmaster, Martin Holbeach, Barrow thrived, learning Greek, Hebrew, Latin and logic in preparation for University studies. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1643, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1648 and distinguishing himself in mathematics and classics. By 1652, he’d received an MA from the College and though he became a candidate for the Greek Professorship he travelled abroad instead, spending four years in Italy, France, Symrna and Constantinople.

When he returned to England in 1660 he was ordained in the Anglican Church and appointed Professor of Greek at Cambridge. Just two years later, he was also elected Professor of Geometry at Gresham College but resigned both positions upon his election as Cambridge’s Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. During his tenure as Lucasian Chair, Barrow delivered a series of twenty-three lectures on mathematics, Lectiones mathematicae, which he had hoped to publish. He sent the manuscripts to entrepreneur John Collins, in London, but the latter was unable to find a stationer willing to take on the project and Barrow’s work remained unpublished.[4] It was not until 1683, that the lectures made it to publication – the year that Collins died and six years after Barrow’s death. Sadly, the work did not sell well; perhaps, as Whiteside argues, it was due to the fact that the content contained very little that was original, being instead a compilation from the works of ancient philosophers such as Aristotle and Proclus.[5] Whitehead does, at least, concede that Barrow’s themes of the nature of mathematical truth; the complementarity of discrete and continuous magnitudes, and their Euclidean proportion and commensurability were handled “with a distinctive freshness and sparkling wit”.[6] Barrow followed these lectures with a further series on geometry. Published as Lectiones Geometricae in 1670, they were decidedly more technical. They showed, through his investigation of the generations of curves by motion and his recognition of the inverse relationship between integration and differentiation, just how close he came to articulating the fundamental theorem of calculus. His last lecture series, on optics, was delivered in c1670 and later republished as Lectiones opticae et geometricae (1674) with a few minor alternations. Arguably one of Barrow’s most important works, it was here that he made significant contributions to determining image location after reflection or refraction; opened new avenues for the study of astigmatism and caustics, and made new suggestions toward a theory of light and colours.[7]

Though an innovative mathematician and a well-respected teacher, Barrow relinquished his professorship in 1669 in Isaac Newton’s favour. Although Barrow was never Newton’s official tutor, the pair both attended Trinity College and the latter was known to attend Barrow’s lectures. It’s clear that Barrow appreciated the young student’s natural talent, and he encouraged his mathematical pursuits.[8] On resigning from the post, Barrow accepted a position as a royal chaplain in London and, a couple of years later, was made Master of Trinity College. His treatises on mathematics would still prove influential, but it was actually Barrow’s sermons that solidified his place as a literary master. Widely esteemed for his writings on behalf of the Church of England, including A treatise on the Pope’s supremacy: To which is added a discourse concerning the unity of the church and A Brief exposition on the creed, the Lord’s Prayer and Ten Commandments, Barrow’s texts were reprinted well into the 1800s.

Originally published posthumously in 1685, the Library’s copy of The usefulness of mathematical learning… is Rev. John Kirby’s 1734 translation of Barrow’s set of 23 mathematical lectures delivered at Cambridge between 1664-1666. It includes “The prefatory oration”, Barrow’s inaugural address given at the formal occasion of his appointment as Professor at the University. The lectures within focus on arithmetic and geometry; causality of mathematical demonstration; the nature and division of first principles; composition, divisibility, congruity and equality of magnitudes; homogeneity and heterogeneity of quantities, as well as discussions on the works of ancient philosophers and mathematicians such as Proclus and Euclid. The lectures are eloquently written and clearly reflect Barrow’s efforts to institutionalise and broaden the study of mathematics at Cambridge.

The usefulness of mathematical learning… has recently undergone conservation treatment.  To learn more about this process and to see some interesting “before” and “after” photographs, visit the condition report.

 

Footnotes:

[1] ‘Isaac Barrow’, Wikipedia:The free encyclopedia, 3 December 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Barrow, accessed online 11 Janaury 2019
[2] Feingold, Mordechai, ‘Isaac Barrow: English mathematician’, Encyclopaedia Britannica, undated, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Isaac-Barrow, accessed online 11 January 2018
[3] ‘Isaac Barrow’, Wikipedia:The free encyclopedia, 3 December 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Barrow, accessed online 11 Janaury 2019
[4] Whiteside, D. T., ‘Book reviews’, The British journal for the history of science, vol. 6, issue 1, June 1972, p. 87
[5] Whiteside, D. T., ‘Book reviews’, The British journal for the history of science, vol. 6, issue 1, June 1972, p. 87
[6] Whiteside, D. T., ‘Book reviews’, The British journal for the history of science, vol. 6, issue 1, June 1972, p. 87
[7] Feingold, Mordechai, , ‘Isaac Barrow: English mathematician’, Encyclopaedia Britannica, undated, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Isaac-Barrow, accessed online 11 January 2018
[8] Feingold, Mordechai, ‘Isaac Barrow: English mathematician’, Encyclopaedia Britannica, undated, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Isaac-Barrow, accessed online 11 January 2018

 

Lee Hayes
December 2018

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Exhibition: Level 1, Barr Smith Library
1 May – 15 June 2019
Curator: Cheryl Hoskin, Rare Books & Special Collections Librarian

It was to be a great adventure – this skimming through ‘unknown skies’, over strange lands, and vast spaces of oceans. We were attempting something which had never before been done, so it is no wonder we went about our work with eagerness and light hearts.
Ross Smith. God ‘Elp All Of Us, p. 124.

In 1919, the Adelaide brothers Ross and Keith Smith and their two engineers, Jim Bennett and Wally Shiers, won the Australian Government’s prize of £10,000 for the first flight from England to Australia completed in under 30 days.

In the largely untried Vickers Vimy aeroplane GEAOU (dubbed “God ‘Elp All Of Us” by the crew) they completed the dangerous journey in just under 28 days despite lack of instrumentation, makeshift landing strips, poor maps and bad weather, achieved through determination and planning, initiative, courage and a bit of luck.

Their success fostered the realisation that connecting the empire through air travel was practical and promoted the development of the aviation industry within Australia and around the globe.

This pioneering feat is portrayed through photographs and memorabilia from the collection of Sir Ross and Keith Smith held in Rare Books & Special Collections’ manuscripts collection.

Among the many unique items on display are:

  • childhood and family pictures of Ross and Keith Smith and Mutooroo Station
  • Ross Smith’s medical certificate for scarlet fever (1915) and his’ Vocabulary of Bedouin dialect: To be carried in the coat pocket by all pilots and observers on desert reconnaissance’
  • Keith Smith’s Medical certificate of unfitness for war service, July 5th, 1916
  • Keith’s pilot’s licence and his Royal Air Force Appointment to the rank of Lieutenant (1918)
  • Warrant of Appointment for Keith Smith’s Order of the British Empire to Lieutenant [by George the Fifth], 6th December 1919
  • Air Ministry Certificate of airworthiness for the Vickers Vimy, November 3rd, 1919
  • Hounslow Aerodrome Weather bulletin for conditions over France, November 12th, 1919
  • ‘London to Australia’ photograph of the Vickers Vimy and crew by the famed photographer Harold Cazneaux.
  • Illuminated address welcoming Capt. Sir R. M. Smith back to Queensland from the King and Empire Alliance Organization
  • First aerial photographs taken for many of the cities on the route to Australia.

This exhibition is part of South Australia’s History Festival.

To discover more centenary events visit the Epic Flight Centenary website.

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