Paua mosaic moon pendant I made. Closest I could get to an eclipse image from my own photographs!
With the lunar eclipse coming up on January 31st I wanted to mention an astronomer, mathematician, and poet that I’d only recently heard of. Her name was Wang Zhenyi (1768-1797) and in her terribly brief 29 years she covered a lot of ground.
Wang Zhenyi was born in 18th century China to a family that valued education. Her grandfather had a library of some 70 books, and when her father failed his imperial exams he studied medicine on his own and recorded his research, making a living as a travelling pharmacist. Her father taught her about medicine, mathematics and geography, her grandmother taught her poetry, and her grandfather shared his library and his love of astronomy.
I’ve just not been able to write, but I’ve also been meaning to mention this pearl for ages, so I’ll use it to bid June adieu. (And in its current form, also to welcome in the month of rubies.)
In 2011 Christie’s auctioned off Elizabeth Taylor’s famous collection of jewelry. One piece was a natural saltwater pearl, diamond, ruby, and cultured pearl necklace designed by Cartier. So it belonged to a glamorous actress and is part of the story of a famous tempestuous romance. It’s an over the top gem encrusted necklace. Why care?
It’s as encrusted with history as it is with diamonds!
Janus or Juno?
January has a slightly contentious etymology. It’s traditionally said that it was named after the god Janus. Which would make sense, given that he’s the god of beginnings and endings.
But…there’s also evidence from farmer’s calendars that it might actually have been named after the goddess Juno, queen of the gods. (Others cite June as belonging to Juno…)
Early coin from the Republic featuring Janus.
Of course, history and language being what they are, it gets even muddier when you factor in that the early Roman calendar began with March. There’s no definite answer to when this changed-possibly because they had one regular and one ritual calendar.
Whether or not he could lay claim to the first month, the first day of each month was sacred to Janus. Continue reading
November 4th is sometimes considered the anniversary of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.
Howard Carter’s began what he expected to be his last funded season excavating in the Vally of the Kings November 1rst. He started off by having his workers clear out the area where Rameses VI’s workmen had built their huts.
November 4th they found the rock cut steps that would lead to Tutankhamun’s tomb. They cleared out and found the door by the end of the 5th, but wouldn’t actually enter until his patron joined them some weeks later.
You see the wonderful multicolor corn everywhere in New England this time of year. I always want to take pictures, between the contrast in textures and all the colors they contain.
I also normally think of the geneticist Barbra McClintock and her discovery of jumping genes, which I’ve mentioned before.
But I don’t actually pay much attention to the varieties of corn themselves.
To wrap up Earth Science Week it seemed appropriate to mention the pioneering geologist and professor, Florence Bascom.
When she got her doctorate in geology in 1893, Bascom was the first woman to obtain a doctorate from Johns Hopkins.
She was the second woman to have a PhD in geology in the United States. (The first was Mary Emilee Holmes, University of Michigan, 1888.*) She is also credited with being the first woman to be hired by the United States Geological Service, the first woman to present a scientific paper at the Geological Society of Washington, and the first female officer of the Geological Society of America.
Sir John’s Hatter
Today is Mad Hatter Day. (At least in the US. I guess it’d be June 10th in Europe.) Mad Hatter Day was inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.