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Archive for the ‘Humanities & Social Sciences’ Category

 Southworth & Hawes, Early Operation Using Ether for Anesthesia, late spring 1847. Image and original data provided by The J. Paul Getty Museum

Southworth & Hawes, Early Operation Using Ether for Anesthesia, late spring 1847. Image and original data provided by The J. Paul Getty Museum

In 1846, dentist William T. G. Morton assembled a group of doctors in the operating theater at Massachusetts General Hospital, a sky-lit dome located on the hospital’s top floor. As the doctors watched from the dome’s stadium seating, Morton waved a sponge soaked in a mysterious substance called Letheon inches from his patient’s face. The patient quickly lost consciousness and remained completely still as a surgeon removed a tumor from his neck. Upon waking, the patient declared to his astonished audience that he had felt no pain. This surgery marked the first time the effective and safe use of anesthesia was demonstrated publicly, ending centuries of agonizing pain during surgery. It would also quickly spiral into a dramatic controversy surrounding Letheon’s discovery.

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We are introducing a new resource featuring more than 75 images on the topic of biomimicry. Find it in the Artstor Digital Library’s Teaching Resources area: Teaching Resources > Case Studies > STEM to STEAM > Stem to Steam: The Anatomy of Design

 

Title: Flying Man, Model of Leonardo's Invention; Image ID: SCAL

After Leonardo da Vinci; original design: c. 1488; Museo nazionale della scienza e della tecnica “Leonardo da Vinci”. Image and original data provided by (c) 2006, SCALA, Florence/ART RESOURCE, N.Y.; artres.com; scalarchives.com

Throughout history we have looked to nature to define and devise systems of design. Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man embodies the dominance of the concept of anthropomorphic balance during the Renaissance. The perfect proportions of man are contained within the ideal geometric shapes of the square and the circle, as if the artist had given graphic proof to the metaphysical declaration of the Greek philosopher Protagoras: man is the measure of all things. Consider our units of measurement, such as the foot and the cubit (from the Latin for forearm) established by the ancients, the braccio (Italian for arm), the pouce (French for thumb, meaning inch), whereby mathematical ratios in architecture were based on the proportions of the human figure.

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Paleontology staff posing with Fossil Shark Jaws. Image and original data provided by Library, American Museum of Natural History, Anthropology Department, American Museum of Natural History

Paleontology staff posing with Fossil Shark Jaws. Image and original data provided by Library, American Museum of Natural History, Anthropology Department, American Museum of Natural History

These photographs of six members of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) Paleontology staff sitting inside the massive jaws of a Carcharocles megalodon are the stuff of nightmares—and, of course, just the thing for Shark Week.

Yet, as Brian Switek writes on ScienceBlogs, they’re the result of a miscalculation. “[T]he famous jaws were reconstructed by assuming that the teeth of the extinct shark would have had the same proportions to the jaw as in the living great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), yielding a maw that would have fit a shark 100 feet long or more.”

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SMK_talk

On May 5th, Merete Sanderhoff, curator and senior advisor at the National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst), presented “Sharing is Caring” (you can see her slides here) at the Artstor offices for a group of professionals in the arts and cultural heritage fields, as well as members of the American Friends of SMK. We took the opportunity to do a brief interview.

Artstor: The SMK is working towards releasing its digitized collections into the Public Domain. How does that fit in with the museum’s mission?

MS: The museum is a public institution, and we see ourselves not as the owners but as stewards of our collections. We believe these collections are for everyone, so making them freely available very naturally aligned with our mission.

It’s also a way to show the breadth and depth of our collection, instead of just the canon. The Rijksmuseum provided a great example: they have gone the farthest in making their public domain materials free and providing the tools to work with them, and today everything they have online is being seen and used. It’s the Long Tail in action—the more obscure works get much fewer views than the peak, but together the views of the lesser-known works add up to much more than for the canon.

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The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is pleased to collaborate with Artstor to make available approximately 1,000 images of works from the Foundation’s collections in its Digital Library. Spanning the breadth and depth of the collections, works from all aspects of the collections including paintings, drawings, maps, prints, textiles, ceramics, glass, metals, furniture, numismatics, and mechanical arts and arms will be shown, effective May 15, 2016.

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Sydney Parkinson, Family: Carcharhinidae Genus/Species: Prionace glauca, 1769

Sydney Parkinson, Family: Carcharhinidae Genus/Species: Prionace glauca, 1769. Image and original data provided by Natural History Museum, London.

On his famous three voyages to the South Seas, British explorer Captain James Cook charted the largely unexplored Pacific Ocean, achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and completed the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand. But Cook’s nautical feats are only part of the story; of equal importance are the contributions made by the artists who went along on his journeys, risking their lives–and sometimes losing them–to illustrate the animals and plants they encountered for science and posterity. Here are their stories.

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Johannes Moreelse, Democritus, the Laughing Philosopher, c. 163

Johannes Moreelse, Democritus, the Laughing Philosopher, c. 1630. Image and original data provided by the Mauritshuis, The Hague.

Democritus is primarily remembered for theorizing that all matter consists of particles called atoms, and this stunning quote: “Nothing exists except atoms and space, everything else is opinion.”

The Short History of the Atom wiki summarizes Democritus’ theory nicely:

  1. All matter consists of invisible particles called atoms.
  2. Atoms are indestructible.
  3. Atoms are solid but invisible.
  4. Atoms are homogenous.
  5. Atoms differ in size, shape, mass, position, and arrangement.

Prescient, yes, but it didn’t give much material for artists to work with. Luckily, Democritus was also known as “the laughing philosopher.” As classicist Mary Beard explains in Confronting the Classics, (more…)

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