Tag Archives: Science History

New Book: Capital Region Radio 1920-2011


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9780738598468John Gabriel and Rick Kelly, two cousins who grew up together listening to radio in the Capital Region, have written one of Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series books entitled Capital Region Radio 1920-2011. The book tells the history of Albany region radio programs and personalities from its early days to recent years through more than 200 vintage images.

The General Electric Company, with one of its main plants in Schenectady, began experimental broadcasts in conjunction with Union College in the early 1900s. Using many culled from the miSci Museum in Schenectady, and others, this new pictorial history shares the story of when WGY officially began broadcasting in February 1922 and General Electric started a long and storied history of pioneering radio technology and programming, which ultimately set the pace for worldwide broadcast development. Capital Region Radio pioneer WGY provided entertainment and news nationally during World War II, WTRY kept listeners updated during the blackout of 1965 and WOKO introduced rock and roll to the area. Continue reading

Charlotte Friend: A Pioneer in Cancer Cell Biology


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charlotte friendThe story of Charlotte Friend is a true New York story.  Friend was a noted microbiologist who made important contributions to the study of cancer.  She was an advocate for women’s rights and worked hard to improve the position of women in science.

Charlotte Friend was born March 11, 1921 in New York City, a city she loved.  She received a Bachelor’s degree from Hunter College in 1944 and then entered the Navy, where she was assigned to help direct a hematology laboratory in California.  She left the Navy in 1946 and began graduate work in microbiology at Yale University.  By the time she received her doctorate in 1950, Dr. Friend already had a position in the laboratory of Dr. Alice Moore at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York City. She stayed in New York for the rest of her life. Continue reading

Ageless Billy Spinner, Folk-Weather Specialist (Part 2)


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02 Spinner NYHSpinner was known for his long-range predictions, but when he nailed the latest one―the mild winter he predicted came true, and six inches of snow fell in central New York in March 1937―he gained many new admirers.

On the heels of that success, Billy predicted that July would be hot and dry, and no rain would fall until the second Friday of the month. When a light rain fell early Saturday morning, he commented, “I was off just a couple of hours.” The summer played out as predicted, and his star continued to rise. Continue reading

Lecture: Thomas Cole, Frederic Church And Science


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unnamed(2)The Hudson River School artists worked at a time when great revolutions were sweeping through science. This Sunday January 12, at 2 pm at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, The husband and wife science team Johanna (biologist) and Robert (geologist) Titus will offer an in-depth look into the interactions of Thomas Cole and Frederic Church with the scientists of their time.

Highlights include the Titus’ discovery of the local mountain that Cole used as a model for the famous centerpiece of his series “The Course of Empire.” The Titus’ will sign copies of their new book, The Hudson Valley in the Ice Age, after the talk. Continue reading

New York State’s Most Destructive Earthquake


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Massena damageIn the early morning hours of September 5, 1944, an Associated Press agent in Albany received information about an earthquake in northern New York. “Anybody killed?” he asked. When informed no one had been hurt, he showed little interest. Likewise, when the state geologist in Albany was notified that a whole lotta shakin’ was goin’ on, he said, “There is no need to be alarmed. It is improbable they [the quakes] will be anything but quite small.”

You win some, you lose some. In this case, both the reporter and geologist lost―big-time. They missed the call on what still stands as the most destructive earthquake in New York State history. Continue reading

Size Matters: New York’s Mastodons


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Peale 1806 painting - The Exhumation of the MastadonTectonic forces and global cooling and warming set the stage for the dawn of New York State history. The stage was not a barren one and long before King Kong climbed the Empire State Building that scrapped the sky, giants walked the ground that would become the Empire State. These giants would be called “mastodons” and they became important in religion and nationalism in ways that before their discovery no one could have imagined.

The story of mastodons and New York begins in 1705 in Claverack, Columbia County. A Dutch tenant farmer picked up a five-pound tooth that had rolled down a hill and landed at his feet. Being a sensible sort of person, he naturally traded the tooth to a politician for a glass of rum. The tooth thereupon made its way up the political food chain until it arrived in London. Continue reading

New Book: Thomas Edison and the Rise of Innovation


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EdisonCoverThomas Alva Edison, one of the leading innovators of all time comes alive like never before in Edison and the Rise of Innovation (Sterling, 2013) by Leonard DeGraaf.  Perhaps America’s first business celebrity, Edison was more than history’s most prolific inventor.

Edison pursued more than a thousand patents by combining scientific knowledge, well-equipped laboratories, talented collaborators, investment capital and a bit of showmanship, according to DeGraaf, who argues that in the process Edison changed the way we innovate new technologies. Continue reading

Early Audio Recording Pioneer George Cheney


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01 NipperLogo 1921 WikiWhat you see here is one of the most recognizable trademarks ever, a logo that has been used by many companies around the world. The dog in the image is not fictional. His name was Nipper, and a few years after his death, Nipper’s owner sold a modified painting of his dog to a recording company. The rest is history, and part of that history includes a heretofore unknown North Country native.

From humble beginnings, he became famous for his wide-ranging knowledge of recording and his ability to invent. Perhaps most important of all, he traveled the world and was the first person to record the music of a number of countries, saving it for posterity. Continue reading

Coldengham: The Colden Family Seat in Orange County


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Colden_Mansion_Ruins-Daniel CaseJust about any morning, cars as well as trucks race back and forth through the intersection of Stone Castle Road and Route 17K in the Town of Montgomery. Many of these commuters, shoppers, or moms driving their children to school are oblivious to the ruins that stand right off to the side, in a wood lot, of the rather busy part of this Orange County road.

Only while stopping along the road, some years ago, I happened upon the remains of what seemed to have once been a beautiful mansion. A blue New York State Education Department sign alerts people that this skeleton, almost lost in the woods, was the site of “the Colden Mansion built of stone in 1767 by Cadwallader Colden, Jr.” How many families, like the Coldens, can boast about having Royal Surveyors, Lieutenant Governors, Acting Governors of New York, noted scientists, and even one of the first female botanists in the Americas among them? Continue reading

Chip Reynolds: Jupiter, Galileo and the Half Moon


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What follows is a guest essay by Chip Reynolds, Half Moon Captain and Director of the New Netherland Museum.

Don’t miss a great opportunity that presents itself over the next two months — and not on the ship, the Half Moon is in for the winter! Just step outside on a clear night and take a look overhead.

Jupiter is clear and distinct in the constellation Taurus, which can be seen in the east early in the evening, overhead about midnight and in the west before dawn. It is the brightest object in the sky (except when the Moon is around), flanked by Orion below and Gemini above. Continue reading

Documentary Shooting At Saranac Laboratory Museum


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While George Washington Carver would become known as “the peanut man,” because of his extensive research into the practical uses and agricultural advantages of peanuts, Carver’s life work and legacy went far beyond the peanut in his search for ways to “help the man farthest down,” as he put it.

His early years were fraught with struggle and rejection, beginning with his birth to a slave mother near the end of the Civil War. He witnessed mob lynchings, was denied admission at a white college, and yet became a well-educated scientist and teacher of national and worldwide influence and renown.

Signature Communications of Huntingtown, MD, has been engaged by the National Park Service to produce a centerpiece video for visitors to the George Washington Carver National Memorial, located at Carver’s birthplace in Diamond, MO. Titled “Struggle and Triumph: The Legacy of George Washington Carver,” this 25 minute film will be accompanied by an educational video and supplemental educational package tied to national Common Core curriculum standards.

As part of the filming process, and to augment the archival images and film available, Signature is bringing Carver’s experience and legacy to life through re-enactments of seminal experiences in his life, filmed in authentic period settings. Childhood scenes have already been filmed with actors at historic villages and farms in Missouri, as well as at Carver’s birthplace in Diamond, MO. Because the lion’s share of Carver’s lifetime of achievement occurred at Tuskegee University, the filmmakers want to reinforce the significance of his laboratory research and teaching there. Unfortunately, none of the interior settings where Carver worked at Tuskegee have been retained in their historical condition. After a wide search, Signature decided on the Saranac Laboratory Museum at Historic Saranac Lake, and will be undertaking location filming there on November 14.

Dating from 1894 – near the time when George Washington Carver was preparing to move from the Midwest to Tuskegee – the Saranac Laboratory’s white glazed brick walls, wooden cabinetry and period-accurate hood cabinet are very much of the same historical style as those of Carver’s later labs at Tuskegee. Period photographs reinforce that similarity. To round out the illusion, the filmmakers will be outfitting a professional actor with period attire to represent Carver, and are also seeking several young college age men and women to appear as supporting actors representing Carver’s African American students at Tuskegee. Acting experience is not required for these non-speaking roles, and Signature Communications will supply appropriate wardrobe as well as $100 stipend and a credit in the film. Contact: John Allen, 410-535-3477, FlickKid@Signacom.tv.

Photo Caption: George Washington Carver teaching in his Tuskegee University Laboratory, c.1905. Library of Congress photo archive.

Women’s Rights NHP Showing ‘Top Secret Rosies’


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Women’s Rights National Historical Park will show the documentary film Top Secret Rosies this Friday and Saturday, March 30 and 31, at 12:00 noon.

Top Secret Rosies documents the lives of the female mathematicians who designed ballistics tables and programmed computers for the United States Army during World War II. This film is 60 minutes long.

The film is being shown as part of Women’s Rights National Historical Park’s first Winter Film Festival. The park exists to commemorate and preserve the events of the First Women’s Rights Convention that was held in Seneca Falls in 1848. “We are proud to be part of the National Park system, and we invite everyone to join us in celebrating our shared history and culture through film,” said Superintendent Tammy Duchesne.

The park is also showing the film as part of its celebration of Women’s History Month in March. “We are inspired by the courage of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and countless other women and men who struggled for equal rights in this country,” said Duchesne. “Their stories continue to resonate with people across the globe.”

Top Secret Rosies is approximately 60 minutes long and intended for a general audience. All Winter Film Festival movies will be shown at 12:00 noon on Fridays and Saturdays, November through April, in the Guntzel Theater, located at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park Visitor Center at 136 Fall Street in downtown Seneca Falls. Because film lengths vary, visitors are encouraged to call if they are interested in a particular showing. All park programs are free and open to the public. For more information, please visit call 315.568.0024.

You can also follow the park’s social media sites for Facebook and Twitter to learn more about their upcoming events and programs.

Medical Center to Scan Albany Institute Mummies


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In preparation for the 2013 exhibition The Mystery of the Albany Mummies, the Albany Institute of History & Art’s two mummies, each thousands of years old, will be brought to Albany Medical Center for CT scans and x-rays, using modern imaging techniques to learn the mummies’ genders, causes of death, and more. Leading experts in body imaging and Egyptology will direct the procedures and analyze results.

The Albany Institute of History & Art’s two mummies were acquired from Cairo, Egypt in 1909, were brought to the Albany Institute from Cairo in 1909 by Samuel W. Brown, a member of the museum’s Board of Trustees. The mummies and their coffins have been seen by generations of visitors.

Arthur Pielli, Radiology Manager at Albany Medical Center, and two radiologists, Phuong Nguyen Vinh, MD, and Michael Edward Schuster, MD will examine the mummies. The results will then be analyzed with the help of Egyptologist and medical doctor Dr. Robert Brier, a Senior Research Fellow at Long Island University known as “Mr. Mummy,” and Dr. Peter Lacovara, the exhibition’s guest curator and Senior Curator of Egypt, Nubia and Near East at the Carlos Museum at Emory University.

The mummies were last examined by x-rays and CT scans on November 12, 1988. This preliminary analysis helped to determine the mummies’ sex, approximate ages, and various insights into the mummification process. The x-rays and CT scans show a number of bundles inside both of the mummies. Based on the last scan, it was determined that the partially unwrapped mummy is Ankhefenmut, a priest in the temple of Mut at Karnak in Thebes during Dynasty XXI (c.1085-945 BC).

Ankhefenmut is reported to have died in 966 and was probably between 55 and 65 years old at the time of his death. The wrapped mummy is a woman. Her name is not known because the top of the coffin was badly deteriorated and left in Cairo by Samuel Brown in 1909. According to Brown she also came from the cache at Deir el-Bahri. X-rays reveal that she was probably between 35-45 years old when she died.

During Dynasty XXI, a change in the practice of mummification occurred. The internal organs were no longer placed in canopic jars, but were usually wrapped in linen packages. These packages were then placed in the empty body or placed between the legs. Canopic jars, however, continued to be a part of the funerary equipment, but were made smaller.

Perhaps the most interesting discovery was a well-crafted fake toe, possibly made of ceramic, carefully attached to the right foot of the wrapped mummy. It is presumed that the toe was fashioned for the woman during the mummification process because of the belief that one had to be physically intact to enter the afterlife. This discovery was highlighted on The Learning Channel’s program, The Ancient ER, in February 2003.

The initiative is a collaboration between the Albany Institute of History & Art, Albany Medical Center, University at Albany Foundation, and the University at Albany Center for Humanities, Arts, and TechnoSciences.

Photo: Partially unwrapped mummy of Ankhefenmut, a priest in the temple of Mut at Karnak in Thebes during Dynasty XXI (c.1085-945 BC). Courtesy Albany Institute of History and Art.

Auto Museum Offers Pinewood Derby Clinic


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The Saratoga Auto Museum will be holding a workshop for area Cub Scouts on the science involved in building a winning Pinewood Derby Car. The event, which will take place on January 7, 2012 at the Museum (110 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs), will begin at 1:00 pm and include Tech Talk (The physics of speed), Speed Shop, and Track Time.

To participate in the full event, preregistration is required and will be limited to the first 40 registrants. Each registration includes a pinewood derby car kit with regulation axles and wheels which will be assembled during the Speed Shop segment. Once the cars are completed, a weigh in will precede a series of heat races on the SAM’s Garage Pinewood Derby Track.

Registration fee for the event is $10.00 and will include a car kit and Museum admission for the scout and an adult, so participants should come early to check out the “Porsche: 60 Years of Speed and Style in North America” exhibit before the Pinewood Derby event begins.

Participation in the Tech Talk and Track Time segments is also open to Cub Scouts who have previously completed their car and just want to join in the fun.

For registration, visit www.saratogaautomuseum.org and click on the Pinewood Derby link.

Photo: Pinewood Article from 1954 Boy’s Life magazine. Hat tip PinewoodPro.com.

Susan B. Anthony House Presents Kate Gleason Talk


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As part of its annual celebration of the theme “What Happens in Rochester Changes the World,” the Susan B. Anthony House welcomes Jan Gleason for a special conversation and presentation on her recently released book, The Life and Letters of Kate Gleason. Kate Gleason was a groundbreaking Rochester pioneer (and friend of Susan B. Anthony) who changed the world for women in science and technology. Continue reading