The History of the Pipe Organ

May 28, 2018

Organ Pipes

The earliest known use of the term, organon, was used by Plato and Aristotle in the 4th century BC to denote a tool or 'instrument' in a more general sense. In Plato's republic and in the works of later Greek writers, organon denotes any kind or all kinds of musical instruments. In the later periods of Latin, various terms gradually moved from the general sense used in Greek, to something more specific in which the context indicates there was some kind of a musical connection.

St. Augustine correctly explains the Vulgate Latin organum as derived from 'a Greek term': "Organum is a general name of all instruments of Musyk: and is nethelesse specially apropryte to the Instrument that is made of many pypes: and blowe with belowes."

The first pipe organs were conceived and built in Greece around 200 BC...

Captain James Cook - His Second Voyage

February 24, 2018

The Resolution

After completing his first voyage through the Pacific in July of 1771, Captain James Cook spent the next year enjoying time with his family while reviewing his charts. It was obvious that no one had yet explored the high latitudes of the South Pacific, that is, closer towards the south pole. It was possible that there was still a good bit to discover there. The theorists of Victorian England had predicted that a continent existed in the South Pacific, to balance the known land masses around the globe. Cook thought the prospect of finding such a continent was dim. The behavior he had observed on the previous voyage of wind patterns, storms, and of the sea, extended his knowledge into areas not yet physically discovered.

But there was still a good case for further exploration. James Cook suggested a voyage that would traverse the South Atlantic and South Indian Oceans, as well as the South Pacific in the high latitudes. At this time, no one knew if such a route was possible. It was Cook's job to find out...

The First Noël - A Christmas Revival

December 6, 2017

Angels Singing

The popular Christmas Carol, The First Noël, is believed to date from the 13th or 14th century, a time in which all medieval civilization in Europe was springing to life. The inspiration for the story of the song comes from dramatizations of favorite Bible stories for holidays, which were called the Miracle Plays, and were very popular during this time. It tells the story of the night that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, based on the Gospel accounts in Luke 2 and Matthew 2. Noël is the French word for Christmas and is from the Latin natalis, meaning "birthday." Most medieval poetry was written to be sung, so it is presumed that the words were written with an existing tune in mind. This makes the tune to the song even older, and is likely English or French.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the singing of Christmas carols was dying out in England. It is Davies Gilbert who is credited with initiating a revival of sorts. 'The First Nowell' was first published in Gilbert's Some Ancient Christmas Carols in 1823. He took it from a manuscript of Cornish carols made around 1817...

The Reformation - 500 Year Anniversary

October 1, 2017

Martin Luther

2017 being the 500th anniversary of the beginning of The Reformation, I thought it a good opportunity to briefly write about what is one of the most meaningful and revolutionary movements in all the history of Western Civilization.

In the 16th century, people's religious theology was their most prized possession. The Catholic Church in Rome would not recognise any king as legitimate unless papally confirmed, and granted itself the right to depose kings from their thrones at will. But there was a rising sense of nationalism in all of northern Europe that resented the authority the Pope claimed over all peoples.

The changes in European society starting around the year 1300 included a large range of learned trades, prosperous economies, and a rising spirit of nationalism...

Martin Luther's 95 Theses

October 1, 2017

The door at Castle Church where Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses.

When people brought indulgences to a local monk named Martin Luther asking for him to verify their efficacy, he refuses. The Catholic Church became aware of Luther's refusal and immediately denounced him, bringing him instant notoriety. Luther's response was to quickly compose a ninety-five theses titled: Disputatio pro Declaratione Virtutis Indulgentiarum (Disputation for Clarification of the Power of Indulgences).

Luther nails his theses to the front door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31st. The year was 1517 and the Reformation had begun. ..

Early Christian Architecture

May 29, 2017

A church in Pabuda, Syria.

By the end of the first century, it is evident that Christian places of worship had developed a somewhat standard form of architecture. Churches from the 1st through the 3rd centuries took classical Greek and Roman architecture in its most flourished form as its main influence. Classical architecture had at this time reached its height after developing for thousands of years.

The tendency to use Greek and Roman architectural styles was made without reference to their original symbolism. This allowed for a more complete freedom of architectural styles. There were, however, unique designs that were created specifically for churches. One of the few architectural developments made by early churches was the construction of a dome on top of a polygon...

The Love Story of Clara Schumann

May 6, 2017

Clara Schumann

Clara Wieck was born on September 13th, 1819, in Leipzig, Germany near the beginning of what is generally referred to as the Romantic Era in music. Her father, Friedrich Wieck, chose her name because it meant brilliant and bright. He fully expected her to be a brilliant musician, trained by him from birth. She grew up in a household where the sounds of music were heard constantly. Her father gave piano lessons to many students who came and went, and sold instruments at their shop in Leipzig.

The family would go on walks together daily. It was a habit that Clara loved and would later attribute to her health and longevity. An entry into her childhood diary, which her father started for her, reveals that she did not speak until the age of four. Even after she began to speak, her parents assumed that she was hard of hearing because she was so self absorbed and appeared unconcerned with what was happening around her. The myth that she was 'slow' arose because of this.

The Ever Increasing Size of the Known Universe

February 21, 2017

Andromeda Galaxy

The distance to heavenly bodies as well as the total size of the Universe has been commonly underestimated throughout the entire history of astronomy. From the time of the ancient Greeks and even in recent years, new discoveries have forced us to think bigger about just how vast and distant the Universe is. Currently we have no evidence to prove that the Universe is not infinite in size.

In his time, Aristotle lays down principles of the Universe that would go unchanged for 2000 years. He used philosophy and logic as the basis for his teachings of the natural world instead of experimentation. As such he believed that the Universe was finite, and bounded by a sphere containing the fixed stars.

Outside of the sphere there was nothing. Between this sphere and the moon's orbit was an intermediate region which contained the Sun and all of the planets. The Earth was stationary and at the center of the Universe. Within the Earth-Moon region existed everything that changed. This included thunderstorms, rainbows, comets, etc. Everything beyond the Moon remained the same forever...

The Disappearance of the Great Nomads of Central Asia

January 2, 2017

Mongol horsemen hunting

The term 'barbarian' has usually been used by civilized people to refer to any neighboring peoples who might not be as civilized as themselves. Throughout history, the 'barbarians' who posed a real threat to civilization belonged almost entirely to one extraordinary group of men: the nomads from the steppes and deserts in the very center of the Old World. These nomadic tribes consistently plundered a wide range of advanced cultures from China, the Middle East, India, and all the way to Europe. And it was only the Old World that experienced attacks from this extraordinary breed of humanity.

It took only a slight disturbance to set these nomadic horsemen into action and away from their arid pastures. A dispute could break out between tribes, or a drought or population increase would drive them outward in any direction. This usually ended in them invading their neighbor's lands. Their neighbors, in turn, were then set into motion, invading their neighbor's lands as well. As years went by, the effects of these movements extended over thousands of miles across the vast expanse of Asia and Europe...

The Eclipse of 1919 - Putting Relativity to the Test

August 19, 2016

Eddington and Einstein

Einstein first formulated the Theory of Relativity and presented it along with his field equations in Berlin to the Prussian Academy of Sciences on November 25, 1915. They state a radical new view of gravity in which gravitationally large objects curve space and time. After years of work, Einstein had finally arrived at a truly general theory of relativity. He described his new equations as "the most valuable discovery of my life."

In England, Sir Arthur Eddington had been receiving whisperings of the new equations from his friends in the field of astronomy and was quite excited about them. He wanted to prove the Theory of Relativity somehow. The task would be reasonably done since Einstein had clear predictions that could be used to test his theory.

One prediction from the new theory was that light would bend as it passed by a large source of gravity, such as the sun. But the sun's intense rays made observing stars extremely inaccurate while they were so close. Luckily a solar eclipse was predicted to occur on May 9th of 1919...

James Cook - His First Voyage

June 14, 2016

James Cook

James Cook was a skilled English explorer credited with charting the coasts of New Zealand and Australia, and discovering Hawaii, among other achievements. Cook was employed continuously in the British Navy and his pay was enough to set up a modest home for his wife and children in the Mile End Road in London. He was a full time surveyor and cartographer. His charts were regularly available from publishers in London.

Cook was born in Yorkshire, England in a town along the east coast. He is a quiet and capable man who has the ability to rise up to problems and somehow come away from them with much more than is expected. But acknowledgment and promotion come slowly to those who are quiet and capable. And so it took James Cook until the age of 40 to be promoted to lieutenant by the Royal Society for yet another ship to be sent to the Pacific...

A History of Personal Wealth

March 20, 2016

The Growth of Personal Wealth

Much attention is paid these days to the economic growth of our modern economies and the resulting growth of individual wealth. There is no shortage of theories as to what causes this growth or what hinders it. But the track record of this growth of personal wealth is far less debatable.

Scottish economist Angus Maddison was one of the first to notice a startling discontinuity in economic growth around 1820. Among his findings were a doubling of average life span, a near quadrupling of education levels, and the rapid disappearance of illiteracy, all in the four decades before World War I. His most notable finding was that before 1820 economic growth was essentially nonexistent, and after, explosive and sustained.

To start off lets take a look at per capita GDP in America adjusted for inflation. This is the amount of wealth available to each and every individual in terms of 1998 US dollars. You can see how closely growth matches the 2% per year average...

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H. G. Wells Portrate

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The Discovery of the Future