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50, 100 & 150 Years Ago: American Passivity, Wright Brothers' Report and Coal Tar Dye

Articles from past issues of Scientific American

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JUNE 1958
BOVINE RESOURCES— “Cattle stand first among the animals serving man. They are outnumbered, it is true, by sheep, and they are outranked in man’s esteem by the horse and the dog, but no other domestic animal renders such a variety of important services to human well-being. To the American or European consumer cattle represent beef, veal, milk, butter, cheese and leather; they yield in addition hormones and vitamin extracts, bone meal for feed and fertilizer, and high-protein concentrates for livestock feeding. However, more than a third of the world’s 800 million cattle are engaged primarily in the generation of brute energy for the tasks of plowing, hauling and milling.”

PASSIVE NATION— “Poll after poll among our youngsters has given statistical confirmation of the phenomenon of American life which David Riesman, in his book The Lonely Crowd, named ‘other-direction’—extreme sensitivity to the opinions of others, with a concomitant conformity. As a nation we seem to have a syndrome characterized by atrophy of the will, hyper trophy of the ego and dystrophy of the intellectual musculature. This rather unpleasant por-trait is an inescapable conclu-sion from the mass of data on the attitudes of the younger generation. More than half believe that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the local police should be allowed to use wiretapping at will, that the police should be permitted to use the ‘third degree,’ that people who refuse to testify against themselves should be forced to do so.”

JUNE 1908
CARE OF LEPERS— “For the past several hundred years the care of lepers has received considerable attention in the Philippine Islands. If the segregation of lepers would stamp out the disease, this would be a good investment. But in the Philippines, medical evidence is by no means conclusive regarding the efficacy of segregation. A colony has, however, been opened on the little island of Culion, and a large number of lepers collected in it. It is contemplated that only such persons shall be declared lepers as by microscopical examination are found to have leprosy bacilli in their tissues. One noteworthy fact was observed while the lepers were being collected, that only about one-half of those who were previously reported as lepers were, on careful examination, found to be so.”

THE WRIGHT BROTHERS WRITE— “The spring of 1908 found us with [government] contracts on hand, the conditions of which required performance not entirely met by our flights in 1905. The best flight of that year, on October 5, covered a distance of a little over 24 miles, at a speed of 38 miles an hour, with only one person on board. The contracts call for a machine with a speed of 40 miles an hour, and ca-pable of carrying two men and fuel sup-plies sufficient for a flight of 125 miles. Our recent exper-iments were undertaken with a view of testing our flyer in these particulars, and to en-able us to become familiar with the use of the control-ling levers as arranged in our latest machines. —Orville and Wilbur Wright”

The entire article from 1908 is available here.

Read more about how Scientific American helped get the "aeroplane" off the ground.


JUNE 1858
ANILINE DYES— “F. Grace Calvert, an eminent English chem ist, four years ago said ‘ere long, some valuable dye-ing substance would be pre-pared from coal.’ A few weeks ago he stood before the Society of Arts in London and showed them a beautiful purpleish blue color rivaling that of orchil [a vegetable dye], and having the great advantage of not being destroyed by light. These colors, for there are many of them, have been prepared from the alkalies of coal tar by Messrs. William Henry Perkin and Arthur H. Church, two rising discoverers, and have been called by them nitroso-phenyline and nitroso-naph-thyline. The colors have been tried on silk, and found perfectly fast.”

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