The History of American Newspapers Has Been Digitized: Explore 114 Years of Editor & Publisher, “the Bible of the Newspaper Industry”

If you look into the history of the American newspaper, you can’t get too deep before your inevitable encounter with Editor & Publisher. Branded as “the bible of the newspaper industry,” the trade magazine has for 120 years covered its subject from every possible angle. Though newspapers had already been published in the United States for nearly 200 years before the magazine’s founding, its run has been coeval with an especially fascinating, even dramatic period in their history. It was in the 20th century that American newspapers consolidated into the pillars of what looked, for a time, like a mighty “fourth estate”; in this century, they’ve plunged into what Editor & Publisher‘s owner Mike Blinder terms “such a crisis.”

Still, since purchasing the magazine last year, writes Internet Archive Collections Manager Marina Lewis, “Blinder and his wife, Robin, have been able to turn the operation around, doubling its revenues and tripling its audience.” He also gave the Internet Archive permission to upload and make available 114 years of Editor & Publisher issues online for free.

“Going beyond the Internet Archive’s traditional lending system ensures it can be indexed by search engines and made maximally useful to readers and researchers,” writes Lewis. “The ability to research these archived issues has been truly exciting, especially for those looking up historical documents, many with a personal or family connection.”

As the Nieman Journalism Lab’s Joshua Bendon remembers itEditor & Publisher was once “the best (and often only) place to find out about job openings at newspapers.”  With more than a century of its back issues freely available at the Internet Archive, “if you’re at all interested in the 20th-century history of the American newspaper business, you now have access to a robust new resource.” In the archive he finds documentation of “some of the century’s most interesting moments,” at least as far as that business is concerned: The New Yorker‘s 1946 publication of John Hersey’s “Hiroshima,” which it subsequently offered to conventional newspapers (“The piece runs about 30,000 words and no cutting or condensing is to be permitted”); the 1965 hiring of Ben Bradlee by The Washington Post; the 1971 debut of Doonesbury in national newspapers.

Not all of these reflect well on the U.S. newspaper industry. Benton highlights the 1981 exposure of “Jimmy’s World,” a Pulitzer-winning Post story about an eight-year-old heroin addict, as a fabrication — or a piece of “fake news,” as we might say today. That article also quotes a Boston Globe editor as saying “the public faith in the press is minimal at the moment,” a sentiment not unheard these 40 years later. The magazine was also quick to observe the emergence of other forms of media (such as a 1925 test of French inventor Édouard Belin’s experimental “television”) that would later force change upon the newspaper industry’s very nature. And if the current crisis is, as some argue, not destroying the fourth estate but returning it to its roots, there could be few better paths back to an understanding of those roots than through the Editor & Publisher archive.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Bauhaus Chess Set Where the Form of the Pieces Artfully Show Their Function (1922)

Learning to play chess first necessitates learning how each piece moves. This is hardly the labor of Hercules, to be sure, though it does come down to pure memorization, unaided by any verbal or visual cues. Does the name “pawn,” after all, sound particularly like something that can only step forward? And what about the shape of the knight suggests the shape of the knight’s move? The form of a chess piece, in other words, doesn’t follow its function — and under certain sets of aesthetic principles, there could be few greater crimes. Leave it to a member of the Bauhaus, the art school and movement that aimed to unify not just form and function but art, craft, and design — to bring them all into line.

Brought into the Bauhaus in 1921 by its founder Walter Gropius, the sculptor Josef Hartwig began work on his redesigned chess set the following year. In all its iterations, the pieces takes on forms made of simple shapes: “The sphere, double cube, and three sizes of block, singly or combined, yield pieces that, despite their highly geometric stylization, are strongly suggestive of their rank or power,” says the Metropolitan Museum of Art, owner of one of one of Hartwig’s original sets.

“The bishops are clearly implied by the cross outline, and the rooks by the simple stability of a cube. Most ingenious of all are the knights, formed of three double cubes joined in such a fashion that each face of the resulting form shows two cubes one above the other and a third on the side, an embodiment of the knight’s move.”

Like many Bauhaus works, Hartwig’s chess set found a dual existence as both a piece of art and a consumer good. The artist himself also “made a poster to talk about his product” and “a box to package it,” says cuator Anne Monier in the video above, “so we really are in a total creation around a game of chess.” In addition to making the game’s movements easier to learn, it also constitutes a visual demonstration of what it means for form to follow function. The idea, says Monier, is “to spread the ideas of the Bauhaus in people’s everyday life, to be able in fact to change the living environment, to take part in creating a new society.” The video comes from Bauhaus Movement, an online shop where you can invite the spread into your home by ordering a replica Hartwig chess set. It’ll set you back €495, but ideals, now as in the heyday of the Bauhaus, don’t come cheap.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Internet Archive Now Digitizing 1,000,000+ Objects from a Massive Cinema History Library

Major motion pictures need the work of writers, directors, actors, cinematographers, and a slew of other professionals besides. That group also includes researchers, whose role has until recently gone practically uncelebrated outside the industry. In 2015, filmmaker Daniel Raim brought the work of the film researcher to light with Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story, about production designer Harold Michelson and his researcher wife Lillian. “In Raim’s documentary, she talks about working on Fiddler on the Roof and the filmmakers needed to know what a Jewish woman’s undergarments looked like in the 1890s,” writes The Hollywood Reporter‘s Emily Hilton. How could she find such obscure information?

“Michelson sat on a bench at Fairfax and Beverly near a Jewish deli and spoke to women who were about the right age to have been alive in that era.” One of these women “ran home and grabbed a sewing pattern for her to reference. This research inspired the outfits that Τevye’s daughters wear in the number: knee length bloomers with scalloped edges.”

As yet, this pattern hasn’t appeared in the Michelson Cinema Research Library, now hosted online at the Internet Archive. But it may yet, as the project of digitization and uploading has hardly begun: it was just last year that the nonagenarian Lillian Michelson donated to the Archive her formidable collection of research materials, amassed over her long career.

“After nearly six decades serving filmmakers first at Samuel Goldwyn, then the American Film Institute, Zoetrope Studio, Paramount and DreamWorks,” writes the Los Angeles Times‘ Mary McNamara, “the library filled 1,594 boxes: tens of thousands of books, photographs, magazines and a panoply of other visual resources. All of this had been sitting for five years in a storage facility, paid for by friends who could not bear to see it all destroyed.” Now that the digital archival process is underway, you can browse the first 1,300 or so entries at the Internet Archive, which allows users to virtually check out the Michelson Cinema Research Library’s books on subjects ranging from theatrical costumes and vintage cinema lobby cards to places like Japan and Paris to less expected topics like the Amazing Kreskin and the externals of the Catholic Church.

But then, a Hollywood researcher must be prepared to learn about anything, and by all accounts Lillian Michelson was perhaps the greatest of them all. In addition to its comprehensiveness, her library became a hangout of choice for a variety of studio professionals and celebrities including Tom Waits. (“I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how he found some time to unwind,” says Raim, “just drinking tea there.”) The Internet Archive describes her collection as consisting of “5,000 books, 30,000 photographs, and more than 1,000,000 clippings, scrapbooks and ephemera,” more of which will come online as time goes by. Eventually the site will contain all the materials from which Michelson drew vital knowledge for filmmakers like Roman Polanski, Alfred Hitchcock, and Stanley Kubrick. And if her research materials satisfied those three, they’re more than good enough for us.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The First American Cookbook: Sample Recipes from American Cookery (1796)

Image via Wikimedia Commons

On the off chance Lin-Manuel Miranda is casting around for source material for his next American history-based blockbuster musical, may we suggest American Cookery by “poor solitary orphan” Amelia Simmons?

First published in 1796, at 47 pages (nearly three of them are dedicated to dressing a turtle), it’s a far quicker read than the fateful Ron Chernow Hamilton biography Miranda impulsively selected for a vacation beach read.

Slender as it is, there’s no shortage of meaty material:

Calves Head dressed Turtle Fashion

Soup of Lamb’s Head and Pluck

Fowl Smothered in Oysters

Tongue Pie

Foot Pie

Modern chefs may find some of the first American cookbook’s methods and measurements take some getting used to.

We like to cook, but we’re not sure we possess the wherewithal to tackle a Crookneck or Winter Squash Pudding.

We’ve never been called upon to “perfume” our “whipt cream” with “musk or amber gum tied in a rag.”

And we wouldn’t know a whortleberry if it bit us in the whitpot.

The book’s full title is an indication of its mysterious author’s ambitions for the new country’s culinary future:

American Cookery, or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life.

As Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald write in an essay for What It Means to Be an American, a “national conversation hosted by the Smithsonian and Arizona State University,” American Cookery managed to straddle the refined tastes of Federalist elites and the Jeffersonians who believed “rustic simplicity would inoculate their fledgling country against the corrupting influence of the luxury to which Britain had succumbed”:

The recipe for “Queen’s Cake” was pure social aspiration, in the British mode, with its butter whipped to a cream, pound of sugar, pound and a quarter of flour, 10 eggs, glass of wine, half-teacup of delicate-flavored rosewater, and spices. And “Plumb Cake” offered the striving housewife a huge 21-egg showstopper, full of expensive dried and candied fruit, nuts, spices, wine, and cream.

Then—mere pages away—sat johnnycake, federal pan cake, buckwheat cake, and Indian slapjack, made of familiar ingredients like cornmeal, flour, milk, water, and a bit of fat, and prepared “before the fire” or on a hot griddle. They symbolized the plain, but well-run and bountiful, American home. A dialogue on how to balance the sumptuous with the simple in American life had begun.

(Hamilton fans will please note that the cake for the 1780 Schuyler-Hamilton wedding leaned more toward the former than anything in the johnnycake / slapjack vein…)

American Cookery is one of nine 18th-century titles to make the Library of Congress’ list of 100 Books That Shaped America:

This cornerstone in American cookery is the first cookbook of American authorship to be printed in the United States. Numerous recipes adapting traditional dishes by substituting native American ingredients, such as corn, squash and pumpkin, are printed here for the first time. Simmons’ “Pompkin Pudding,” baked in a crust, is the basis for the classic American pumpkin pie. Recipes for cake-like gingerbread are the first known to recommend the use of pearl ash, the forerunner of baking powder.

Students of Women’s History will find much to chew on in the second edition of American Cookery as well, though they may find a few spoonfuls of pearl ash dissolved in water necessary to settle upset stomachs after reading Simmons’ introduction.

Stavely and Fitzgerald observe how “she thanks the fashionable ladies,” or “respectable characters,” as she calls them, who have patronized her work, before returning to her main theme: the “egregious blunders” of the first edition, “which were occasioned either by the ignorance, or evil intention of the transcriber for the press.”

Ultimately, all of her problems stem from her unfortunate condition; she is without “an education sufficient to prepare the work for the press.” In an attempt to sidestep any criticism that the second edition might come in for, she writes: “remember, that it is the performance of, and effected under all those disadvantages, which usually attend, an Orphan.”

Read the second edition of American Cookery here. (If the archaic font troubles your eyes, a plainer version is here.) A facsimile edition of American Cookery can be purchased online.

Listen to a LibriVox audio recording of American Cookery here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She most recently appeared as a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

PBS American Masters Archive Releases 1,000+ Hours of Uncut, Never-Before-Seen Interviews: Patti Smith, David Bowie, Neil Young & More

When we think of American masters, we don’t think of David Bowie, who despite being a master was also the most English rock star ever to live. But an interview with Bowie, never before seen in full, nonetheless appears in the newly opened American Masters archive, having been shot for the long-running PBS series’ 1997 documentary on Lou Reed — if not the most American rock star ever to live, then surely the most New York one. “For me, New York was always James Dean walking out in the middle of the road, and it was always the Fugs, the Village Fugs. It was the Beats and it was SoHo. It was that kind of bohemian intellectual extravagance that made it so vibrant for someone like me, growing up in quite a gray, suburban, tenement-filled South London environment.”

As with any society or culture, it takes an outsider to see things most clearly, or at any rate most vividly. But then, certain American-born Americans also have pretty vivid impressions of their own. No less a New York icon than Patti Smith, for instance, also sat for an interview about Lou Reed — as well as Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, the Chelsea Hotel, poetry, labels, improvisation, John Coltrane, Jackson Pollock, CBGB, and much else besides.

Smith’s full interview runs 44 minutes, much longer than the brief clip above, but even it constitutes just a small fraction of the over 1,000 hours of similarly uncut interview footage now made available, complete with searchable transcripts, in the American Masters archive.

Since its debut in 1986 American Masters has profiled cultural figures from Maya Angelou to Aretha Franklin, Ernest Hemingway to Edgar Allan Poe, Mae West to Marilyn Monroe, Carol Burnett to Mel Brooks. Those last episodes include interviews with the late Carl Reiner, a towering American comedian in his own right. In addition to Reiner’s half-hour on Burnett and hour on Brooks, you’ll also find in the archive four different interviews of Brooks himself, as well as a solid three and a half hours with Burnett herself. Neil Young on David GeffenWilliam F. Buckley on Walter Cronkite, Cybill Shepherd on Jeff Bridges, and Quincy Jones on Sidney Poitier — as well as, in two interviews totaling nearly four hours, on Quincy Jones. Like all the best American lives, his contains many more stories than one can tell at a sitting. Enter the the American Masters archive here.

via Kottke

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Algerian Cave Paintings Suggest Humans Did Magic Mushrooms 9,000 Years Ago

We moderns might wonder what ancient peoples did when not hunting, gathering, and reproducing. The answer is that they did mushrooms, at least according to one interpretation of cave paintings at Tassili n’Ajjer in Algeria, some of which go back 9,000 years. “Here are the earliest known depictions of shamans with large numbers of grazing cattle,” writes ethnobotanist/mystic Terence McKenna in his book Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge. “The shamans are dancing with fists full of mushrooms and also have mushrooms sprouting out of their bodies. In one instance they are shown running joyfully, surrounded by the geometric structures of their hallucinations. The pictorial evidence seems incontrovertible.”

McKenna wasn’t the only scholar of the psychedelic experience to take an interest in Tassili. Giorgio Samorini had written about its ancient paintings a few years before, focusing on one that depicts “a series of masked figures in line and hieratically dressed or dressed as dancers surrounded by long and lively festoons of geometrical designs of different kinds.” Each dancer “holds a mushroom-like object in the right hand,” but the key visual element is the parallel lines that “come out of this object to reach the central part of the head of the dancer.” These “could signify an indirect association or non-material fluid passing from the object held in the right hand and the mind,” an interpretation in line with the idea of “the universal mental value induced by hallucinogenic mushrooms and vegetals, which is often of a mystical and spiritual nature.”

The U.S. Forest Service acknowledges Tassili as “the oldest known petroglyph depicting the use of psychoactive mushrooms,” adding the postulate that “the mushrooms depicted on the ‘mushroom shaman’ are Psilocybe mushrooms.” That name will sound familiar to 21st-century consciousness-alteration enthusiasts, some of whom advocate for the use of psilocybin, the psychedelic compound that occurs in such mushrooms, as not just a recreational drug but a treatment for conditions like depression. Cave art like Tassili’s suggests that such instrumental uses of hallucinogenic plants — as vital parts of rituals, for example — may stretch all the way back to the Neolithic era, when last the Sahara desert was a relatively verdant savanna rather than the vast expanse of sand we know today.

A sense of continuity with the practices of these long-ago predecessors — ancient Egyptians to the ancient Egyptians, as one Redditor frames it — must enrich mushroom use for many psychonauts today. And indeed, the “bee-headed shaman” and his compatriots have had a robust cultural afterlife: “A popularly published drawing based on one of the Tassili figures has become an icon of post-1990’s psychedelia,” says Brian Akers of Mushroom: The Journal of Wild Mushrooming. The “abstract-bizarre” style of its images have also put it “among the sites favored by ancient ET theorizing.” However rich the visions experienced by the cave-painters who once lived there, surely none could have been as mind-blowing as the idea that their work would still fire up imaginations nine millennia later.

via Reddit

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

A 400-Year-Old Ring that Unfolds to Track the Movements of the Heavens

Rings with discreet dual purpose have been in use since before the common era, when Hannibal, facing extradition, allegedly ingested the poison he kept secreted behind a gemstone on his finger. (More recently, poison rings gave rise to a popular Game of Thrones fan theory…)

Victorians prevented their most closely kept secrets—illicit love letters, perhaps? Last wills and testaments?—from falling into the wrong hands by wearing the keys to the boxes containing these items concealed in signet rings and other statement-type pieces.

A tiny concealed blade could be lethal on the finger of a skilled (and no doubt, beautiful) assassin. These days, they might be used to collect a bit of one’s attacker’s DNA.

Enter the fictional world of James Bond, and you’ll find a number of handy dandy spy rings including one that doubles as a camera, and another capable of shattering bulletproof glass with a single twist.

Armillary sphere rings like the ones in the British Museum’s collection and the Swedish Historical Museum (top) serve a more benign purpose. Folded together, the two-part outer hoop and three interior hoops give the illusion of a simple gold band. Slipped off the wearer’s finger, they can fan out into a physical model of celestial longitude and latitude.

Art historian Jessica Stewart writes that in the 17th century, rings such as the above specimen were “used by astronomers to study and make calculations. These pieces of jewelry were considered tokens of knowledge. Inscriptions or zodiac symbols were often used as decorative elements on the bands.”

The armillary sphere rings in the British Museum’s collection are made of a soft high alloy gold.

Jewelry-loving modern astronomers seeking an old school finger-based calculation tool that really works can order armillary sphere rings from Brooklyn-based designer Black Adept.

via My Modern Met

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She most recently appeared as a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

“The Most Intelligent Photo Ever Taken”: The 1927 Solvay Council Conference, Featuring Einstein, Bohr, Curie, Heisenberg, Schrödinger & More

A curious thing happened at the end of the 19th century and the dawning of the 20th. As European and American industries became increasingly confident in their methods of invention and production, scientists made discovery after discovery that shook their understanding of the physical world to the core. “Researchers in the 19th century had thought they would soon describe all known physical processes using the equations of Isaac Newton and James Clerk Maxwell,” Adam Mann writes at Wired. But “the new and unexpected observations were destroying this rosy outlook.”

These observations included X-rays, the photoelectric effect, nuclear radiation and electrons; “leading physicists, such as Max Planck and Walter Nernst believed circumstances were dire enough to warrant an international symposium that could attempt to resolve the situation.” Those scientists could not have known that over a century later, we would still be staring at what physicist Dominic Walliman calls the “Chasm of Ignorance” at the edge of quantum theory. But they did initiate “the quantum revolution” in the first Solvay Council, in Brussels, named for wealthy chemist and organizer Ernest Solvay.

“Reverberations from this meeting are still felt to this day… though physics may still sometimes seem to be in crisis” writes Mann (in a 2011 article just months before the discovery of the Higgs boson). The inaugural meeting kicked off a series of conferences on physics and chemistry that have continued into the 21st century. Included in the proceedings were Planck, “often called the father of quantum mechanics,” Ernest Rutherford, who discovered the proton, and Heike Kamerlingh-Onnes, who discovered superconductivity.

Also present were mathematician Henri Poincaré, chemist Marie Curie, and a 32-year-old Albert Einstein, the second youngest member of the group. Einstein described the first Solvay conference (1911) in a letter to a friend as “the lamentations on the ruins of Jerusalem. Nothing positive came out of it.” The ruined “temple,” in this case, were the theories of classical physics, “which had dominated scientific thinking in the previous century.” Einstein understood the dismay, but found his colleagues to be irrationally stubborn and conservative.

Nonetheless, he wrote, the scientists gathered at the Solvay Council “probably all agree that the so-called quantum theory is, indeed, a helpful tool but that it is not a theory in the usual sense of the word, at any rate not a theory that could be developed in a coherent form at the present time.” During the Fifth Solvay Council, in 1927, Einstein tried to prove that the “Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (and hence quantum mechanics itself) was just plain wrong,” writes Jonathan Dowling, co-director of the Horace Hearne Institute for Theoretical Physics.

Physicist Niels Bohr responded vigorously. “This debate went on for days,” Dowling writes, “and continued on 3 years later at the next conference.” At one point, Einstein uttered his famous quote, “God does not play dice,” in a “room full of the world’s most notable scientific minds,” Amanda Macias writes at Business Insider. Bohr responded, “stop telling God what to do.” That room full of luminaries also sat for a portrait, as they had during the first Solvay Council meeting. See the assembled group at the top and further up in a colorized version in what may be, as one Redditor calls it, “the most intelligent picture ever taken.”

The full list of participants is below:

Front row: Irving Langmuir, Max Planck, Marie Curie, Hendrik Lorentz, Albert Einstein, Paul Langevin, Charles-Eugène Guye, C.T.R Wilson, Owen Richardson.

Middle row: Peter Debye, Martin Knudsen, William Lawrence Bragg, Hendrik Anthony Kramers, Paul Dirac, Arthur Compton, Louis de Broglie, Max Born, Niels Bohr.

Back row: Auguste Piccard, Émile Henriot, Paul Ehrenfest, Édouard Herzen, Théophile de Donder, Erwin Schrödinger, JE Verschaffelt, Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg, Ralph Fowler, Léon Brillouin.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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