Scientist of the Day

Gustaf Dalén

November 30, 2017

Gustaf Dalén, a Swedish inventor, was born Nov. 30, 1869; we see above a portrait of the young man at age 26, with a turn-of-the-century bicycle (second image). In the late 19th century, lighthouses were an expensive proposition. They had to be manned, lit and extinguished by hand, and continuously supplied with propane fuel, which gave an inferior light. It was known that acetylene gave a much brighter light, but acetylene was extremely hazardous to bottle and ship, since it was so explosive…

James Dalrymple Stair

November 29, 2017

James Dalrymple, 1st Viscount of Stair, a Scottish judge, died Nov. 29, 1695, at age 76 (third image). Stair was one of the most distinguished jurists in Scotland, publishing the Institutions of the Law of Scotland (1681) which is regarded as the foundation of modern Scots law. But Stair was also a natural philosopher of sorts, and in 1686, while seeking political refuge in the Netherlands, he published Physiologia nova experimentalis, whose engraved frontispiece we see above (first image)…

John Lloyd Stephens

November 28, 2017

John Lloyd Stephens, an American explorer and railway builder, was born Nov. 28, 1805. In 1839, Stephens went to Central America with artist and architect Frederick Catherwood to investigate rumors of ancient ruins. They went first to Copán, then to Palenque and three dozen more sites. They found ruins in abundance. Catherwood recorded the glyphs and carvings as accurately as if he had a camera…

Erwin Christman

November 27, 2017

Erwin S. Christman, a paleo-artist and sculptor, died Nov. 27, 1921, at the young age of 36. Christman was one of the finest dinosaur artists who ever lived, although his reputation is greatly overshadowed by that of his contemporary, Charles Knight…

Richard Bowdler Sharpe

November 22, 2017

Richard Bowdler Sharpe, an English ornithologist, was born Nov. 22, 1847. Sharpe was a prominent ornithologist in his own right, publishing Monograph of the Kingfishers from 1868 to 1871, and Monograph of the Paradiseidae, or Birds of Paradise in 1891 and 1898, neither of which we have in our collections…

Gaston Tissandier

November 21, 2017

Gaston Tissandier, a French balloonist, was born Nov. 21, 1843. Tissandier made a number of high-altitude balloon ascents, beginning in 1868, and he often took along his brother Albert, a talented artist. Consequently,Tissandier’s books (and he wrote quite a few) tend to have lively and accurate images, which is rare in this genre, as most balloon illustrations were made well after the fact, by artists who were often not even present…