Archive for December, 2010

$163,197,125 Given In 1910 For Philanthropy

From January 1, 1911



1910 had some generous donors, including David Rankin, Jr., who this article describes as “giver of the year.” The 75 year old bachelor donated $3 million — his entire life savings — to a school in his name. It wasn’t the highest amount given by a millionaire, but it was everything he had.

2010 was no slouch, either. This year Bill Gates and Warren Buffet asked their fellow billionaires to pledge at least half their net worth to charity. Some who have agreed to do so include George Lucas, Ted Turner, Michael Bloomberg, Larry Ellison, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Today is the last day you can make a donation to a non-profit and have it be tax deductible for 2010. If you haven’t already done so, and you want to actually see your donation make a difference, check out where you can read about schools in need of help, and pick a specific classroom with a specific project that you want to see funded.

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Written by David

December 31st, 2010 at 10:30 am

Important Jewish Manuscript Older Than Gospels

From January 1, 1911


IMPORTANT JEWISH MANUSCRIPT OLDER THAN THE GOSPELS: Thought by Dr. Solomon Schechter to Tell of the Beliefs of a Band of Jews Who Broke Away from the Older Body About 290 B. C. — Dr. G. Margoliouth Dates It About 70 A. D. (PDF)

This Hebrew text was discovered in the genizah (storeroom) of an ancient synagogue in Cairo, but experts couldn’t agree on what it means:

In Hebrew learning Dr. Schechter has certainly no superior. With infinite patience and with that devotion that scholars know he sought the long-hidden manuscripts under the old synagogue at Cairo and deciphered and published them.

In this instance, however, the interpretation he puts on one document of his remarkable find is questioned by another great authority, Dr. G. Margoliouth of the British Museum, who suggests a meaning for the manuscript that is of startling interest.

The fragment just published by Dr. Schechter is called by him a Document of the Jewish Sectaries. He sees in it an extraordinarily interesting account of the beliefs of a band of Jews who broke away from the main religious body about 290 Bc. C., went to Damascus and founded a cult of their own, based closely on the Jewish Law, but with an additional belief in some sort of Messiah.

Dr. Margoliouth, on the other hand, finds an entirely different meaning. To him the document is of much later date, probably of the second half of the first century of the Christian era. To his min there are two Messiahs, not one, spoken of, the first a forerunner and the second a unique “Teacher of Righteousness” — the “Only Teacher.”

He identifies the first Messiah with John the Baptists and the “Teacher of Righteousness” with Jesus himself.

The University of Manchester has scanned 15,000 of the fragments found in the genizah, and you can browse them online. More information is also available through the Friedberg Genizah Project.

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Written by David

December 31st, 2010 at 10:15 am

Posted in Religion

“Fewer Marriages Among Women Of The Future”

From January 1, 1911


FEWER MARRIAGES AMONG WOMEN OF THE FUTURE: Mrs. Donald McLean Deplores the Trend of Modern Femininity — Suffrage a Cup With Bitter Dregs, She Says — Dangerous Tendencies That Threaten the Race (PDF)

Yes, that’s right. Modern femininity threatens the entire race. That’s according to Emily Nelson Ritchie McLean, wife of distinguished lawyer Donald McLean, charter member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

“First of all, the new conditions will be certain to have their grave effect on matrimony, which, in days gone by, was almost the only possible outlook for the intelligent and self-respecting woman who was not queer nor yet unfortunate. Here, undoubtedly, is where society will be most notably affected. Marriage will decrease as a result of the new tendency of womankind. In the old days there was always the fair chance that any given woman, no matter how long she might wait before she married, would eventually be wed, but under new conditions this is unlikely to be true of women who do not marry in their youth. Women who live far beyond the twenties without marrying are, in the future, more likely to pass their whole lives in celibacy.”

How quaint, the notion that women would remain celibate if they never married. She goes on to say that these unmarried women will be less happy than their married counterparts, and obviously won’t have any children. This could be suicide of the human race.

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Written by David

December 31st, 2010 at 10:00 am

Posted in Life

Sewing Woman, Nearly Blind, Wins Prize For Novel

From January 1, 1911


SEWING WOMAN, NEARLY BLIND, WINS PRIZE FOR NOVEL: Marguerite Audoux Amazes Paris by Getting the Academy of Women Prize of 5,000 Francs. (PDF)

This woman I’d never heard of has quite a remarkable story. She was born in 1863, but orphaned by age three when her mother died and her father abandoned her. She spent nine years in an orphanage, and then became a farm worker. She met a boy and fell in love, but his parents wouldn’t allow them to marry. In 1881 she moved to Paris and found work as a seamstress. In 1883, she had a difficult pregnancy that resulted in a stillbirth and left her sterile.

During her time as a seamstress, she found an interest in literature. She turned her own life story into the basis of a novel called Marie Claire, and it became a huge hit.

Her subsequent novels never reached the acclaim of her debut effort. You can read Marie Claire for free at Project Gutenberg.

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Written by David

December 31st, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Literature

A Skyscraper Built By The Nickels Of Millions

From January 1, 1911


A SKYSCRAPER BUILT BY THE NICKELS OF MILLIONS: The Wooworth Building Tells the Romance of a Business — How a Farmer’s Boy Started a Little Five and Ten Cent Store and Now Has 286 Big Ones. (PDF)

The Woolworth Building is one of New York City’s oldest skyscrapers, and its gothic architecture suggests an older era, so it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t even around 100 years ago. In anticipation of its planned erection, the Times Magazine published this retrospective on Frank W. Woolworth, the man behind the Woolworth’s five and dime stores.

Readers of The Times have already learned about the skyscraper. It is to look like a vast tower in the Gothic style, extending 105 feet along Broadway and 197 feet on Park Place. With forty-five stories, it will rise into the air to a height of 625 feet, or thirteen feet higher than the Singer Building. The skyscraper will cost $5,000,000. It will bear the name of its projector — the Woolworth Building.

“Do you mean to say,” you ask, “that this is to be built by the 5 and 10 cent store man?”

It is the same man — Frank W. Woolworth.

The building eventually surpassed its originally planned height, and is now 792 feet tall. You can visit to see how the Woolworth Building compares to other notable structures of the past and today.

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Written by David

December 31st, 2010 at 9:30 am

Can Record The Beating Of Your Heart Miles Away

From January 1, 1911


CAN RECORD THE BEATING OF YOUR HEART MILES AWAY: Delicate New Instrument Brought to This Country Accurately Registers Every Cardiac Motion — Test by Human Ear Will Be Supplanted. (PDF)

Until the invention of the electrocardiograph, doctors had to use their ears to figure out what was happening with your heart. But the EKG (the initials stand for the German name, elektrokardiogramm) took out the guesswork by measuring the electric pulses in your heart.

The article imagines a future where everyone has a terminal in their workplace connected remotely to “heart stations” where the main EKG lives:

“Hello! Is this Heart Station No. 1,000?”

“Yes; who is this and what will you have?”

“This is John Smith. Just hitch me up to your apparatus, take an electro-cardiogram, diagnose my case, and send me a prescription. I really haven’t time to go around and see you. Thanks. Good-bye.”

The patient pauses in his business rush long enough to attach his right arm and left leg to the wonderful electric machine with which his office, like all other up-to-date establishments, is equipped. The operator at the Heart Station takes the photograph of his heart action in a jiffy, and Mr. Smith goes back to his work.

In a few hours, or as soon as the heart expert has had time to examine the cardiogram he has taken, Mr. Smith receives the scientist’s diagnosis and knows whether the symptoms he has been experiencing are merely the temporary effects of some undue excitement he has recently undergone or are the more serious manifestations of some dreaded heart affection that will end his days unless he mends his steps and places himself under the physician’s care.

I guess in theory this could happen today. But we’d all need to be trained to make sure we are using the device properly. And they would probably not be cheap. So we still go in to the doctor’s office for an EKG.

The inventor of the EKG, William Einthoven, won the 1924 Nobel Prize in medicine for his invention.

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Written by David

December 31st, 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Science,Technology

Zero At The Equator Some Day, Says Dr. H. W. Wiley

From January 1, 1911


ZERO AT THE EQUATOR SOME DAY, SAYS DR. H. W. WILEY: But the Winds Will Keep People Warm, Adds the Head Chemist of the Agricultural Department — Which Doesn’t Mean What It Seems To. (PDF)

H. W. Wiley of the US Agricultural Department is worried that the world is cooling. But he has a plan: windmills.

Dr. Wiley has been at work for a long time, perfecting and polishing the processes by which he will make electricity out of the wind, but he has not talked about it until very recently. Then, at Washington, he delivered a lecture upon whether the human race ultimately will starve or freeze. His reply was that the earth was cooling so unmistakably that freezing was to be our lot. Starvation could be indefinitely forefended by means of artificial and intelligent cultivation of soil, but what could warm us satisfactorily if Broadway became like unto the north pole, and the equator as bleak and rayless as the Alaskan wastes?

The answer, said Dr. Wiley, was warmth and work by electricity, and electricity to be had from the winds.

He goes on to lament that nobody can come up with a way to get the planet to stop cooling and start warming.

If in 100 years we have 800,000,000 persons on this earth to feed, we can do it with the utmost ease. Starvation, in short, is a dim and remote occasion. But not so with the cold. Up to the present we have found no generally accepted method of making the warmth of the earth reproduce itself. We cannot fertilize our generators of heat, with the heat we had yesterday and have used. We may make our earth arable by allowing its own vegetation to fall on it, and lie till it is assimilated. How are we to make our heat reproductive?

Things Dr. Wiley got wrong: The world population is about 8.6 times greater than his estimate. Starvation currently affects almost 16% of the population. That’s about a billion people. And of course, we stumbled upon a way to heat up our planet in ways he didn’t even consider.

But we do use windmills for electricity.

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Written by David

December 31st, 2010 at 9:00 am

Is The Demand For Dickens As Great As It Used To Be?

From December 25, 1910


IS THE DEMAND FOR DICKENS AS GREAT AS IT USED TO BE? Book Dealers Tell of a Great Falling Off in the Popular Favor Accorded the Famous Novelist. (PDF)

Choice quote:

The further downtown you go, the less of Dickens the second-hand book-dealers sell. Far down, Gorky, Tolstoy, Karl Marx — serious, revolutionary writers — are the ones who make the hit. Dickens with his come-gather-round-the-fire-and-we’ll-all-have-a-fine-time-spirit seems completely out of touch with the people down there.

On the whole, judging from first and second hand book dealers both, it seems as if Dickens, like Kipling and Mark Twain in one hundred years, no doubt, can not be said to be widely cared for, any longer.

No Doubt.

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Written by David

December 24th, 2010 at 10:45 am

New York’s Sewage Problem A Hard One To Handle

From December 25, 1910


NEW YORK’S SEWAGE PROBLEM A HARD ONE TO HANDLE: Dr. George A. Soper, President of the Commission Dealing with It, Tells of Its Difficulties and What Is Being Done to Remedy It. (PDF)

“I suppose,” said Dr. George A. Soper of the Metropolitan Sewerage Commission, regretfully, “that the question of sewage and garbage disposal is not thought by the average person to be very interesting. As a matter of fact, it is no less interesting than a surgical operation and quite as necessary.”

In 1910 sewage was being emptied into the harbor at a rate of 700 million gallons a day. The Hudson River was so dirty that it could barely support fish. Part of the problem was that “the tide in New York Bay, for the most part, merely shifts the water about, but it does not thoroughly change it.” This had a lot of people worried and, I hope, disgusted. The article discusses alternatives to dumping sewage in the harbor, and is actually more interesting than I thought it would be.

Insert your own New Jersey joke here.

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Written by David

December 24th, 2010 at 10:30 am

Posted in Development

Growth Of The Nation And Growth Of New York City

From December 25, 1910


GROWTH OF A NATION AND GROWTH OF NEW YORK CITY: Dr. Walter Laidlaw Makes Interesting Comparisons of the Recent Census Reports and Those of Previous Years. (PDF)

The New York Times recently put together an impressive interactive map that lets you explore the data from a national census taken from 2005-2009. No doubt they will do something similar with the data from the 2010 census which has just been released.

For the census of 1910, nobody had Flash installed in their web browsers, so the Times published this analysis in print instead.

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Written by David

December 24th, 2010 at 10:15 am

Posted in Development