7 results
Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley
Early in the 19th century, as wagon trains streamed into the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, settlers came upon vast numbers of abandoned earthworks that they attributed to a sophisticated race of long-gone mound builders. Giving rise to often-loaded questions about human origins, the mounds and the artifacts found within them became the focus of early American efforts toward a science of archaeology. Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley (1848) was the first major work in the nascent discipline as well as the first publication of the newly established Smithsonian Institution ...
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Smithsonian Institution
The System of Saturn
Christiaan Huygens (1629–95) was born in The Hague, the Netherlands, into a prominent Dutch family. Unlike his grandfather, father, and brother who all served as secretaries and diplomats to the ruling house of Orange, Huygens dedicated himself to science and mathematics. He published three mathematical books, produced a manuscript on hydrostatics, wrote a work on the collision of elastic bodies, did research on centrifugal force, and invented the pendulum clock. Huygens was especially intrigued by the planet Saturn, whose protruding “handles” were visible through the telescopes of the day ...
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Smithsonian Institution
Botanical Description of Chiranthodendron
Little is known of José Dionisio Larreátegui other than that he was active in Mexico circa 1795, the date he published his work on the Mexican hand plant for which he is remembered. The late 1700s was a time of intense scientific activity in Mexico, then part of the Spanish Empire. In 1787, King Carlos III authorized a major botanical expedition, the establishment of a botanical garden, and a scientific course of study at the university in Mexico City. Larreátegui, a medical student at the Real y Pontífica Universidad de ...
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Smithsonian Institution
Instruments for the Restoration of Astronomy
Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) was a Danish astronomer who built the best observatory in Europe and set a new standard for accurate celestial observations in the era before the invention of the telescope. His noble birth enabled him to pursue his true interests in the humanities and the sciences, particularly astronomy. He became adept at designing scientific instruments and making observations during his early travels in Europe. Upon his return to Denmark he won favor with King Frederick II, who provided him with monetary support to continue his astronomical researches ...
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Smithsonian Institution
Theater of Instruments and Machines
A new type of book appeared in Europe in the late 16th century, representing a genre of literature known as the “theater of machines.” The first of the theaters was produced by Jacques Besson (circa 1540–73), a French Protestant, born in Grenoble, who worked primarily as a mathematics teacher until royal patronage came his way. In 1559, Besson published a book on extracting oils and waters from simple drugs. His second book, Le Cosmolabe, published in 1567, described an elaborate instrument that could be used for navigation, surveying, cartography ...
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Smithsonian Institution
Introduction to a Systematic History of Shelled Animals
Joachim Johann Nepomuk Anton Spalowsky (1752–97) was a veritable polymath in the Austrian Empire of the late 18th century. Little is known of his life, but it is thought that he was of Polish Silesian ancestry. He was a surgeon attached to the civic regiments of Vienna and a member of the Royal Bohemian Society of Sciences in Prague. His erudition is evidenced by the range of his publications. His 1777 inaugural dissertation treated poisonous plants and related topics. He went on to write works on shells, birds, and ...
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Smithsonian Institution
Ornithology
François Nicolas Martinet (circa 1725–1804) was an engineer and draftsman who became an engraver and produced illustrations for works by Denis Diderot and Benjamin Franklin and for books by the most influential ornithologists in 18th-century France. Before Martinet, illustrators often depicted birds disproportionately, incorrectly, or in stiff, unnatural poses. Martinet introduced realism to his illustrations, showing how birds appeared in the wild in their natural habits. In the early 1770s, he set out to produce his own plates for a collection entitled Ornithologie: Histoire des Oiseaux, Peints dans Tous ...
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Smithsonian Institution