Emily Dickinson’s Herbarium: A Beautiful Digital Edition of the Poet’s Pressed Plants & Flowers Is Now Online

So many writ­ers have been gar­den­ers and have writ­ten about gar­dens that it might be eas­i­er to make a list of those who didn’t. But even in this crowd­ed com­pa­ny, Emi­ly Dick­in­son stands out. She not only attend­ed the frag­ile beau­ty of flow­ers with an artist’s eye—before she’d writ­ten any of her famous verse—but she did so with the keen eye of a botanist, a field of work then open to any­one with the leisure, curios­i­ty, and cre­ativ­i­ty to under­take it.

“In an era when the sci­en­tif­ic estab­lish­ment barred and bolt­ed its gates to women,” Brain Pick­ings’ Maria Popo­va writes, “botany allowed Vic­to­ri­an women to enter sci­ence through the per­mis­si­ble back­door of art.”

In Dickinson’s case, this involved the press­ing of plants and flow­ers in an herbar­i­um, pre­serv­ing their beau­ty, and in some mea­sure, their col­or for over 150 years. The Har­vard Gazette describes this very frag­ile book, made avail­able in 2006 in a full-col­or dig­i­tal fac­sim­i­le on the Har­vard Library site:

Assem­bled in a pat­terned green album bought from the Spring­field sta­tion­er G. & C. Mer­ri­am, the herbar­i­um con­tains 424 spec­i­mens arranged on 66 leaves and del­i­cate­ly attached with small strips of paper. The spec­i­mens are either native plants, plants nat­u­ral­ized to West­ern Mass­a­chu­setts, where Dick­in­son lived, or house­plants. Every page is accom­pa­nied by a tran­scrip­tion of Dickinson’s neat hand­writ­ten labels, which iden­ti­fies each plant by its sci­en­tif­ic name.

The book is thought to have been fin­ished by the time she was 14 years old. Long part of Harvard’s Houghton Library col­lec­tion, it has also long been treat­ed as too frag­ile for any­one to view. The only access has come in the form of grainy, black and white pho­tographs. For the past few years, how­ev­er, schol­ars and lovers of Dickinson’s work have been able to see the herbar­i­um in these stun­ning repro­duc­tions.

The pages are so for­mal­ly com­posed they look like paint­ings from a dis­tance. Though most­ly unknown as a poet in her life, Dick­in­son was local­ly renowned in Amherst as a gar­den­er and “expert plant iden­ti­fi­er,” notes Sara C. Ditsworth. The herbar­i­um may or may not offer a win­dow of insight into Dickinson’s lit­er­ary mind. Houghton Library cura­tor Leslie A. Mor­ris, who wrote the for­ward to the fac­sim­i­le edi­tion, seems skep­ti­cal. “I think that you could read a lot into the herbar­i­um if you want­ed to,” she says, “but you have no way of know­ing.”

And yet we do. It may be impos­si­ble to sep­a­rate Dick­in­son the gar­den­er and botanist from Dick­in­son the poet and writer. As Ditsworth points out, “accord­ing to Judith Farr, author of The Gar­dens of Emi­ly Dick­in­son, one-third of Dickinson’s poems and half of her let­ters men­tion flow­ers. She refers to plants almost 600 times,” includ­ing 350 ref­er­ences to flow­ers. Both her herbar­i­um and her poet­ry can be sit­u­at­ed with­in the 19th cen­tu­ry “lan­guage of flow­ers,” a sen­ti­men­tal genre that Dick­in­son made her own, with her ellip­ti­cal entwin­ing of pas­sion and secre­cy.

The first two spec­i­mens in Dickinson’s herbar­i­um are the jas­mine and the priv­et: “You have jas­mine for poet­ry and pas­sion” in the lan­guage of flow­ers, Mor­ris points out, “and priv­et,” a hedge plant, “for pri­va­cy.” There is no need to see this arrange­ment as a pre­dic­tion of the future from the teenage botanist Dick­in­son. Did she plan from ado­les­cence to become a recluse poet in lat­er life? Per­haps not. But we can cer­tain­ly “read into” the lan­guage of her herbar­i­um some of the same great themes that recur over and over in her work, car­ried across by images of plants and flow­ers. See Dickinson’s com­plete herbar­i­um at Har­vard Library’s dig­i­tal col­lec­tions here, or pur­chase a (very expen­sive) fac­sim­i­le edi­tion of the book here.

Note: Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2019.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Sur­pris­ing Map of Plants: A New Ani­ma­tion Shows How All the Dif­fer­ent Plants Relate to Each Oth­er

His­toric Man­u­script Filled with Beau­ti­ful Illus­tra­tions of Cuban Flow­ers & Plants Is Now Online (1826)

How Emi­ly Dick­in­son Writes A Poem: A Short Video Intro­duc­tion

The Sec­ond Known Pho­to of Emi­ly Dick­in­son Emerges

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

Aldous Huxley, Dying of Cancer, Left This World Tripping on LSD (1963)

Aldous Hux­ley put him­self for­ev­er on the intel­lec­tu­al map when he wrote the dystopi­an sci-fi nov­el Brave New World in 1931. (Lis­ten to Hux­ley nar­rat­ing a dra­ma­tized ver­sion here.) The British-born writer was liv­ing in Italy at the time, a con­ti­nen­tal intel­lec­tu­al par excel­lence.

Then, six years lat­er, Hux­ley turned all of this upside down. He head­ed West, to Hol­ly­wood, the newest of the New World, where he took a stab at writ­ing screen­plays (with not much luck) and start­ed exper­i­ment­ing with mys­ti­cism and psy­che­delics — first mesca­line in 1953, then LSD in 1955. This put Hux­ley at the fore­front of the coun­ter­cul­ture’s exper­i­men­ta­tion with psy­che­del­ic drugs, some­thing he doc­u­ment­ed in his 1954 book, The Doors of Per­cep­tion.

Hux­ley’s exper­i­men­ta­tion con­tin­ued until his death in Novem­ber 1963. When can­cer brought him to his deathbed, he asked his wife to inject him with “LSD, 100 µg, intra­mus­cu­lar.” He died trip­ping lat­er that day, just hours after Kennedy’s assas­si­na­tion. Three years lat­er, LSD was offi­cial­ly banned in Cal­i­for­nia.

By way of foot­note, it’s worth men­tion­ing that the Amer­i­can med­ical estab­lish­ment is now giv­ing hal­lu­cino­gens a sec­ond look, con­duct­ing con­trolled stud­ies of how psilo­cy­bin and oth­er psy­che­delics can help treat patients deal­ing with can­cer, obses­sive-com­pul­sive dis­or­der, post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der, drug/alcohol addic­tion and end-of-life anx­i­ety.

For a look at the his­to­ry of LSD, we rec­om­mend the 2002 film Hofmann’s Potion by Cana­di­an film­mak­er Con­nie Lit­tle­field. You can watch it here.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ken Kesey’s First LSD Trip Ani­mat­ed

Hear Aldous Hux­ley Nar­rate His Dystopi­an Mas­ter­piece, Brave New World

Every­thing You Want­ed to Ask About Psy­che­delics: A Johns Hop­kins Psy­che­delics Researcher Answers 24 Ques­tions in 2 Hours

Aldous Hux­ley Pre­dicts in 1950 What the World Will Look Like in the Year 2000

The Life & Work of Richard Feynman Explored in a Three-Part Freakonomics Radio Miniseries

Here at Open Cul­ture, Richard Feyn­man is nev­er far from our minds. Though he dis­tin­guished him­self with his work on the devel­op­ment of the atom­ic bomb and his Nobel Prize-win­ning research on quan­tum elec­tro­dy­nam­ics, you need no spe­cial inter­est in either World War II or the­o­ret­i­cal physics to look to him as an intel­lec­tu­al mod­el. In the years after his death in 1988, his leg­end grew as not just a sci­en­tif­ic mind but even more so as a ver­i­ta­ble per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of curios­i­ty, sur­round­ed by sto­ries (delib­er­ate­ly cul­ti­vat­ed by him in his life­time) of safe-crack­ing, bon­go-play­ing, and nude mod­el-draw­ing, to the point that Feyn­man the man became some­what hard to dis­cern.

In the view of Freako­nom­ics Radio host Stephen Dub­n­er, Feyn­man’s pub­lic pro­file has late­ly fall­en into an unfor­tu­nate desue­tude. It seems that peo­ple just don’t talk about him the way they used to, hard though that is to imag­ine for any of us who grew up read­ing col­lec­tions of anec­dotes like Sure­ly You’re Jok­ing, Mr. Feyn­man!.

Oper­at­ing on the sup­po­si­tion that we could all use more Feyn­man in our lives, Freako­nom­ics Radio has, over the past month, put out a three-part series cov­er­ing his life and work, from his recruit­ment to the Man­hat­tan Project and lat­er pub­lic analy­sis of the Chal­lenger dis­as­ter to his years teach­ing at Cal­tech to his late-in-life exper­i­men­ta­tion with psy­che­del­ic sub­stances (fur­ther explored in a fourth, bonus episode).

“The Curi­ous, Bril­liant, Van­ish­ing Mr. Feyn­man” (also avail­able on Apple and Spo­ti­fy) includes a vari­ety of inter­views with its sub­jec­t’s friends, rel­a­tives, col­lab­o­ra­tors, and suc­ces­sors. All speak high­ly of him, though some com­pli­cate the leg­end by look­ing at the down­sides of his idio­syn­crat­ic atti­tudes toward both sci­ence and the social world: his insis­tence on under­stand­ing every­thing by fig­ur­ing it out him­self from scratch may have led to him mak­ing few­er dis­cov­er­ies than he would have, had he made more use of the research of oth­ers, and his enthu­si­asm for wom­ankind, shall we say, man­i­fest­ed in ways that would prob­a­bly gen­er­ate calls for “can­cel­la­tion” today. But just as Feyn­man eschewed the label of “genius,” he nev­er claimed to be a per­fect human being. And besides, it isn’t his social incli­na­tions or even his bon­go skills we should admire, but his ded­i­ca­tion to defeat­ing “lousy ideas” — which, as he no doubt expect­ed, have only pro­lif­er­at­ed since he left us.

Relat­ed con­tent:

What Made Richard Feyn­man One of the Most Admired Edu­ca­tors in the World

The Feyn­man Lec­tures on Physics, The Most Pop­u­lar Physics Book Ever Writ­ten, Is Now Com­plete­ly Online

How Richard Feynman’s Dia­grams Rev­o­lu­tion­ized Physics

Watch a New Ani­ma­tion of Richard Feynman’s Ode to the Won­der of Life, with Music by Yo-Yo Ma

The “Feyn­man Tech­nique” for Study­ing Effec­tive­ly: An Ani­mat­ed Primer

“The Char­ac­ter of Phys­i­cal Law”: Richard Feynman’s Leg­endary Course Pre­sent­ed at Cor­nell, 1964

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.

Explore the Surface of Mars in Spectacular 4K Resolution


Could you use a men­tal escape? Maybe a trip to Mars will do the trick. Above, you can find high def­i­n­i­tion footage cap­tured by NASA’s three Mars rovers–Spirit, Oppor­tu­ni­ty and Curios­i­ty. The footage (also con­tributed by JPL-Cal­techMSSSCor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty and ASU) was stitched togeth­er by Elder­Fox Doc­u­men­taries, cre­at­ing what they call the most life­like expe­ri­ence of being on Mars. Adding more con­text, Elder Fox notes:

The footage, cap­tured direct­ly by NASA’s Mars rovers — Spir­it, Oppor­tu­ni­ty, Curios­i­ty, and Per­se­ver­ance — unveils the red plan­et’s intri­cate details. These rovers, act­ing as robot­ic geol­o­gists, have tra­versed var­ied ter­rains, from ancient lake beds to tow­er­ing moun­tains, uncov­er­ing Mars’ com­plex geo­log­i­cal his­to­ry.

As view­ers enjoy these images, they will notice infor­mal place names assigned by NASA’s team, pro­vid­ing con­text to the Mar­t­ian fea­tures observed. Each rover’s unique jour­ney is high­light­ed, show­cas­ing their con­tri­bu­tions to Mar­t­ian explo­ration.

Safe trav­els.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Behold Col­or­ful Geo­log­ic Maps of Mars Released by The Unit­ed States Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey

Carl Sagan Presents Six Lec­tures on Earth, Mars & Our Solar Sys­tem … For Kids (1977)

NASA Releas­es a Mas­sive Online Archive: 140,000 Pho­tos, Videos & Audio Files Free to Search and Down­load

Hear the Very First Sounds Ever Record­ed on Mars, Cour­tesy of NASA

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Pangea to the Present to the Future: Watch Animations Showing 500 Million Years of Continental Drift

Things change…

Espe­cial­ly when you’re track­ing the con­ti­nen­tal move­ment from Pangea to the present day in 5 mil­lion years incre­ments at the rate of 2.5 mil­lion years per sec­ond.

Wher­ev­er you are, 350 mil­lion years ago, your address would’ve been locat­ed on the mega-con­ti­nent of Pangea.

Here’s a map of what things looked like back then.

Those who’ve grown a bit fuzzy on their geog­ra­phy may require some indi­ca­tions of where future land­mass­es formed when Pangea broke apart. Your map apps can’t help you here.

The first split occurred in the mid­dle of the Juras­sic peri­od, result­ing in two hemi­spheres, Laura­sia to the north and Gond­wana.

As the project’s sto­ry map notes, 175 mil­lion years ago Africa and South Amer­i­ca already bore a resem­blance to their mod­ern day con­fig­u­ra­tions.

North Amer­i­ca, Asia, and Europe need­ed to stay in the oven a bit longer, their famil­iar shapes begin­ning to emerge between 150 and 120 mil­lion years ago.

India peeled off from its “moth­er” con­ti­nent of Gond­wana some 100 mil­lion years ago.

Its tec­ton­ic plate col­lid­ed with the Eurasian Plate, giv­ing rise to the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau, by which point, dinosaurs had been extinct for about 15 mil­lion years…)

Geog­ra­phy nerds may chafe at the seem­ing­ly inac­cu­rate sizes of Green­land, Antarc­ti­ca and Aus­tralia. Rest assured that the map­mak­ers are aware, chalk­ing it to the “dis­tor­tion of the car­to­graph­ic pro­jec­tion that exag­ger­ates areas close to the Poles.”

Just for fun, let’s run it back­wards!

But enough of the past. What of the future?

Those who real­ly want to know could jump ahead to the end of the sto­ry map to see PALEOMAP Project founder Christo­pher Scotese’s spec­u­la­tive con­fig­u­ra­tion of earth 250 mil­lion years hence, should cur­rent tec­ton­ic plate motion trends con­tin­ue.

Behold his vision of mega-con­ti­nent, Pangea Prox­i­ma, a land­mass “formed from all cur­rent con­ti­nents, with an appar­ent excep­tion of New Zealand, which remains a bit on the side:”

On the oppo­site side of the world, North Amer­i­ca is try­ing to fit to Africa, but it seems like it does not have the right shape. It will prob­a­bly need more time…

Not to bum you out, but a more recent study paints a grim­mer pic­ture of a com­ing super­con­ti­nent, Pangea Ulti­ma, when extreme tem­per­a­tures have ren­dered just 8 per­cent of Earth’s sur­face hos­pitable to mam­mals, should they sur­vive at all.

As the study’s co-author, cli­ma­tol­o­gist Alexan­der Farnsworth, told Nature News, humans might do well to get “off this plan­et and find some­where more hab­it­able.”

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Map Show­ing Where Today’s Coun­tries Would Be Locat­ed on Pangea

Find the Address of Your Home on Pan­gaea: Open Source Project Lets You Explore the Ancient Land Mass­es of Our Plan­et

Paper Ani­ma­tion Tells Curi­ous Sto­ry of How a Mete­o­rol­o­gist The­o­rized Pan­gaea & Con­ti­nen­tal Drift (1910)

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The Cool Science of Snowflakes in 4 Minutes, with Brian Cox


From the Roy­al Soci­ety comes a short primer on snowflakes. Nar­rat­ed by physi­cist Bri­an Cox, the video explains how they form, and why no two snowflakes have the exact same dimen­sions. It also recounts how Johannes Kepler devel­oped a ground­break­ing the­o­ry about the hexag­o­nal shape of snowflakes in 1611–one proved right 400 years lat­er. And then comes the kick­er: snowflakes aren’t actu­al­ly white; they’re clear.

Along the way, Cox ref­er­ences the first pho­tographs of snowflakes. You can find our post on those 1885 pho­tographs here.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

via Aeon

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The First Pho­tographs of Snowflakes: Dis­cov­er the Ground­break­ing Micropho­tog­ra­phy of Wil­son “Snowflake” Bent­ley (1885)

Johannes Kepler The­o­rized That Each Plan­et Sings a Song, Each in a Dif­fer­ent Voice: Mars is a Tenor; Mer­cury, a Sopra­no; and Earth, an Alto

Prof. Bri­an Cox Has a Mad­den­ing Con­ver­sa­tion with a Cli­mate Sci­ence-Deny­ing Politi­cian

The Incubator Babies of Coney Island: How an Early 1900s Boardwalk Attraction Saved Thousands of Premature Babies Lives

Step right up, folks!

Shoot the Chutes!

Thrill to the Fire and Flames show!

Ride an ele­phant!

See the Beard­ed Lady!

Ear­ly in the 20th cen­tu­ry, crowds flocked to New York City’s Coney Island, where won­ders await­ed at every turn.

In 1902, the Brook­lyn Dai­ly Eagle pub­lished a few of the high­lights in store for vis­i­tors at Coney Island’s soon-to-open “elec­tric Eden,” Luna Park:

…the most impor­tant will be an illus­tra­tion of Jules Verne’s ‘Twen­ty Thou­sand Leagues Under the Sea’, which will cov­er 55,000 square feet of ground, and a naval spec­ta­to­ri­um, which will have a water area of 60,000 square feet. Beside these we will have many nov­el­ties, includ­ing the Riv­er Styx, the Whirl of the Town, Shoot­ing the White Horse Rapids, the Grand Canyon, the ’49 Min­ing Camp, Drag­on Rouge, over­land and incline rail­ways, Japan­ese, Philip­pine, Irish, Eski­mo and Ger­man vil­lages, the infant incu­ba­tor, water show and car­ni­val, cir­cus and hip­po­drome, Yel­low­stone Park, zoo­log­i­cal gar­dens, per­form­ing wild beasts, sea lions and seals, caves of Capri, the Flori­da Ever­glades and Mont Pelee, an elec­tric rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the vol­canic destruc­tion of St. Pierre.

Hold up a sec…what’s this about an infant incu­ba­tor? What kind of name is that for a roller coast­er!?

As it turns out, amid all the exot­i­ca and bedaz­zle­ments, a build­ing fur­nished with steel and glass cribs, heat­ed from below by tem­per­a­ture-con­trolled hot water pipes, was one of the boardwalk’s lead­ing attrac­tions.

Anti­sep­tic-soaked wool act­ed as a rudi­men­ta­ry air fil­ter, while an exhaust fan kept things prop­er­ly ven­ti­lat­ed.

The real draw were the pre­ma­ture babies who inhab­it­ed these cribs every sum­mer, tend­ed to round the clock by a capa­ble staff of white clad nurs­es, wet nurs­es and Dr. Mar­tin Couney, the man who had the ideas to put these tiny new­borns on display…and in so doing, saved thou­sands of lives.

Couney, a breast feed­ing advo­cate who once appren­ticed under the founder of mod­ern peri­na­tal med­i­cine, obste­tri­cian Pierre-Con­stant Budin, had no license to prac­tice.

Nor did he have an md.

Ini­tial­ly paint­ed as a child-exploit­ing char­la­tan by many in the med­ical com­mu­ni­ty, he was as vague about his back­ground as he was pas­sion­ate about his advo­ca­cy for pre­emies whose sur­vival depend­ed on robust inter­ven­tion.

Hav­ing pre­sent­ed Bud­in’s Kinder­bru­tanstalt — child hatch­ery —  to spec­ta­tors at 1896’s Great Indus­tri­al Expo­si­tion of Berlin, and anoth­er infant incu­ba­tor show as part of Queen Vic­to­ria Dia­mond Jubilee Cel­e­bra­tion, he knew first­hand the pub­lic’s capac­i­ty to become invest­ed in the pre­emies’ wel­fare, despite a gen­er­al lack of inter­est on the part of the Amer­i­can med­ical estab­lish­ment.

Thus­ly was the idea for the board­walk Infan­to­ri­ums hatched.

Claire Pren­tice, author of Mir­a­cle at Coney Island: How a Sideshow Doc­tor Saved Thou­sands of Babies and Trans­formed Amer­i­can Med­i­cine, writes that “many doc­tors at the time held the view that pre­ma­ture babies were genet­i­cal­ly infe­ri­or ‘weak­lings’ whose fate was a mat­ter for God.”

As word of Couney’s Infan­to­ri­um spread, par­ents brought their pre­ma­ture new­borns to Coney Island, know­ing that their chances of find­ing a life­sav­ing incu­ba­tor there was far greater than it would be in the hos­pi­tal. And the care there would be both high­ly skilled and free, under­writ­ten by pay­ing spec­ta­tors who observed the oper­a­tion through a glass win­dow. Pren­tice notes that “Couney took in babies from all back­grounds, regard­less of race or social class:”

… a remark­ably pro­gres­sive pol­i­cy, espe­cial­ly when he start­ed out. He did not take a pen­ny from the par­ents of the babies. In 1903 it cost around $15 (equiv­a­lent to around $405 today) a day to care for each baby; Couney cov­ered all the costs through the entrance fees.

The New York­er’s A. J. Liebling observed Couney at the 1939 World’s Fair in Flush­ing, Queens, where he had set up in a pink-and-blue build­ing that beck­oned vis­i­tors with a sign declar­ing “All the World Loves a Baby:”

The back­bone of Dr. Couney’s busi­ness is sup­plied by the repeaters. A repeater becomes inter­est­ed in one baby and returns at inter­vals of a week or less to note its growth. Repeaters attend more assid­u­ous­ly than most of the patients’ par­ents, even though the par­ents get in on pass­es. After a pre­emie grad­u­ates, a chron­ic repeater picks out anoth­er one and starts watch­ing it. Dr. Couney’s prize repeater, a Coney Island woman named Cas­satt, vis­it­ed his exhib­it there once a week for thir­ty-six sea­sons. Repeaters, as one might expect, are often child­less mar­ried peo­ple, but just as often they are inter­est­ed in babies because they have so many chil­dren of their own. “It works both ways,” says Dr. Couney, with qui­et plea­sure.

It’s esti­mat­ed that Couney’s incu­ba­tors spared the lives of more than 6,500 pre­ma­ture babies in the Unit­ed States, Lon­don, Paris, Mex­i­co and Brazil.

Despite his lack of bonafides, a num­ber of pedi­a­tri­cians who toured Couney’s infan­to­ri­ums were impressed by what they saw, and began refer­ring patients whose fam­i­lies could not afford to pay for med­ical care. Many, as Liebling report­ed in 1939, wished his board­walk attrac­tion could stay open year round, “for the ben­e­fit of win­ter pre­emies:”

In the ear­ly years of the cen­tu­ry no Amer­i­can hos­pi­tal had good facil­i­ties for han­dling pre­ma­tures, and there is no doubt that every win­ter many babies whom Dr. Couney could have saved died. Even today it is dif­fi­cult to get ade­quate care for pre­ma­ture infants in a clin­ic. Few New York hos­pi­tals have set up spe­cial depart­ments for their ben­e­fit, because they do not get enough pre­ma­ture babies to war­rant it; there are not enough doc­tors and nurs­es expe­ri­enced in this field to go around. Care of pre­ma­tures as pri­vate patients is hideous­ly expen­sive. One item it involves is six dol­lars a day for moth­er’s milk, and oth­ers are rental of an incu­ba­tor and hos­pi­tal room, oxy­gen, sev­er­al vis­its a day by a physi­cian, and fif­teen dol­lars a day for three shifts of nurs­es. The New York hos­pi­tals are mak­ing plans now to cen­tral­ize their work with pre­ma­tures at Cor­nell Med­ical Cen­ter, and prob­a­bly will have things orga­nized with­in a year. When they do, Dr. Couney says, he will retire. He will feel he has “made enough pro­pa­gan­da for pre­emies.”


Lis­ten to a Sto­ryCorps inter­view with Lucille Horn, a 1920 grad­u­ate of Couney’s Coney Island incu­ba­tors below.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Lit­tle Albert Exper­i­ment: The Per­verse 1920 Study That Made a Baby Afraid of San­ta Claus & Bun­nies

Why Babies in Medieval Paint­ings Look Like Mid­dle-Aged Men: An Inves­tiga­tive Video

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. She greet­ed 2024 with thou­sands of oth­er New York­ers, tak­ing a polar bear plunge at Coney Island. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The History of the Earth (All 4.5 Billion Years) in 1 Hour: A Million Years Covered Every Second

From Kurzge­sagt comes the his­to­ry of our plan­et in one hour. They write: “Earth is 4.5 bil­lion years old — which is approx­i­mate­ly the same amount of time it took us to cre­ate this video. We’ve scaled the com­plete time­line of our Earth’s life into our first ani­mat­ed movie! Every sec­ond shows about a mil­lion years of the planet’s evo­lu­tion. Hop on a musi­cal train ride and expe­ri­ence how long a bil­lion years real­ly is.” Below, you can find the time­stamps for the geo­log­ic peri­ods cov­ered in the video.

0:00 Intro
0:51 Hadean
8:04 Eoarchean
13:20 Pale­oarchean
18:35 Mesoarchean
23:51 Neoarchean
27:47 Sider­ian
30:24 Rhy­a­cian
33:42 Orosiri­an
36:58 Stather­ian
39:38 Calym­mi­an
42:15 Ectasian
44:52 Sten­ian
47:30 Ton­ian
51:12 Cryo­gen­ian
52:18 Edi­acaran
53:35 Cam­bri­an
54:17 Ordovi­cian
54:49 Sil­uri­an
55:08 Devon­ian
55:55 Car­bonif­er­ous
56:43 Per­mi­an
57:21 Tri­as­sic
58:02 Juras­sic
58:46 Cre­ta­ceous
59:48 Pale­o­gene
1:00:21 Neo­gene
1:00:38 Qua­ter­nary
1:00:45 End­ing

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