Thursday 31 December 2015

Men of Yore: Oliver Evans

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

Oliver Evans (source)

Oliver Evans,  (born Sept. 13, 1755, near Newport, Del. [U.S.]—died April 15, 1819, New York, N.Y.), American inventor who pioneered the high-pressure steam engine (U.S. patent, 1790) and created the first continuous production line (1784).

Evans was apprenticed to a wheelwright at the age of 16. Observing the trick of a blacksmith’s boy who used the propellant force of steam in a gun, he began to investigate ways to harness steam for propulsion. Before he could successfully pursue this line of research, however, he became involved with a number of other industrial problems. Carding, or combing, fibres to prepare them for spinning was a laborious process constituting a bottleneck in the newly mechanized production of textiles. To speed this operation Evans invented a machine that cut and mounted 1,000 wire teeth per minute on leather, the teeth serving as an improved carding device.

In 1784, at the age of 29, he attacked another major industrial production problem, the age-old process of grinding grain. Building a factory outside Philadelphia and adapting five machines, including conveyors, elevators, and weighing scales, he created a production line in which all movement throughout the mill was automatic. Labour was required only to set the mill in motion; power was supplied by waterwheels, and grain was fed in at one end, passed by a system of conveyors and chutes through the stages of milling and refining, and emerged at the other end as finished flour. The system, which reduced costs by 50 percent according to Evans’ calculations, much later was widely copied in American flour milling.

When Evans applied for patent protection, first to state governments (1787) and later to the new U.S. Patent Office (1790), he added a third invention, his high-pressure steam engine. He continued to work on this for the next several years, envisioning both a stationary engine for industrial purposes and an engine for land and water transport. In 1801 he built in Philadelphia a stationary engine that turned a rotary crusher to produce pulverized limestone for agricultural purposes. The engine that became associated with his name was an original adaptation of the existing steam engine; Evans placed both the cylinder and the crankshaft at the same end of the beam instead of at opposite ends, as had been done previously. This greatly reduced the weight of the beam. An ingenious linkage, which became world famous as the Evans straight-line linkage, made the new arrangement feasible. He saw at once the potential of such an engine for road transportation but was unable to persuade the authorities to permit its use on the Pennsylvania Turnpike—not unnaturally, since it might well have frightened the horses, which at that time provided the main form of transport. Within a few years he had engines doing several other kinds of work, including sowing grain, driving sawmills and boring machines, and powering a dredge to clear the Philadelphia water frontage. Completed by June 1805, his new type of steam-engine scow, called the Orukter Amphibolos, or Amphibious Digger, was 30 feet (9 m) long by 12 feet (3.7 m) wide. In its machinery it embodied the chain-of-buckets principle of his automatic flour mill. Equipped with wheels, it ran on land as well as on water, making it the first powered road vehicle to operate in the United States.

In 1806 Evans began to develop his noted Mars Iron Works, where, over the next 10 years, he made more than 100 steam engines that were used with screw presses for processing cotton, tobacco, and paper. The Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., bought one of Evans’ engines, and, when the War of 1812 broke out, Evans and a partner proposed to build a powerful steam warship with a large gun at the bow, thus anticipating John Ericsson’s Monitor of 50 years later; but the proposal was not accepted.

Evans’ last great work, completed in 1817, was a 24-horsepower high-pressure engine for a waterworks. He died shortly after a disastrous fire that destroyed his Mars Iron Works, including his valuable patterns and molds.

His Young Mill-Wright and Miller’s Guide, which he had written in 1792, continued to sell and had gone through 15 editions by 1860. In another work, The Abortion of the Young Steam Engineer’s Guide (1805), he forecast the need for government subsidization of technological advances. 
Vested interests in horses, as well as poor roads, steep gradients, inadequate springing, and an inadequate technology of materials, hindered the adoption of his ideas for steam engines on roads. Also, because later manufacturers were slow to make use of his innovative manufacturing techniques, Evans was long a somewhat neglected figure. More recently, however, in the allocation of priorities for the development of the high-pressure steam engine, the simultaneity of Evans’ work with that of the British genius Richard Trevithick has been established, and historians have accorded proper credit for his pioneering of the assembly line.


If ever there was a man who deserved the epitaph 'Jack of all trades' it was Oliver Evans.  He turned his hand to numerous fields in industry and managed to contribute to them all.  Whether it was milling flour, kneading bread, freezing water, excavating dirt, or self-propelled vehicles he was eager to turn his hand, and mind, to it and go at it.

It shows us what man can achieve with his seemingly boundless natural enthusiasm and energy when he is given a free environment in which to express those energies.  Unconstrained by red-tape, bureaucracy, or mental stifling from the academic world men can make a better world than the one currently lived in.


Monday 21 December 2015

Men of Yore: Philipp Bozzini

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

Philipp Bozzini (image source)

Philipp Bozzini (May 25, 1773 – April 4, 1809) was born in Mainz, Germany. On June 12, 1797 he was awarded the degree of doctor of medicine. From 1804 onwards, Bozzini devoted himself virtually completely to develop his instrument, Lichtleiter or "Light Conductor", a primitive endoscope to allow for inspecting the ear, urethra, rectum, female bladder, cervix, mouth, nasal cavity, or wounds. Philipp Bozzini, using the modest means available at the beginning of the 19th century, was able to show to the medical profession the way to endoscopy. With his instrument and ideas, he was three quarters of a century ahead of the technical and scientific possibilities of his time. Historians agree that this instrument using artificial light and various mirrors and specula was the beginning of a large family of endoscopes.
Early Life
Philipp Bozzini was born on May 25, 1773 in Mainz, Germany. His father, Nicolaus Maria Bozzini de Bozza, came from a well-to-do Italian family that had to escape from Italy in approximately 1760 as the result of a duel. In Mainz, Nicolaus entered into business and married Anna Maria Florentin de Cravatte, from the city of Frankfurt.
Bozzini started his medical studies in Mainz, and approximately in 1794 went to Jena to complete them. On June 12, 1797 Bozzini was granted the title of doctor of medicine, which allowed him to establish in Mainz as physician. Soon afterwards, he traveled several times to France and the Netherlands in order to acquire professional experience.
Later Life
In 1798 he married Margarete Reck, and they had three children.[citation needed]
During the War of the Second Coalition against France, Bozzini served in the imperial army and was in charge of a 120-bed campaign hospital in Mainz. His extraordinary merits during this time were known by the Archduke Karl of Austria (1771–1847), who would protect in the future Bozzini’s invention. Bozzini thought that the instrument could be incorporated into Austrian military hospitals. This required a device to be sent to Wien, and also the performance of an expertise by health authorities. An investigating committee subjected the instrument to various tests, starting with examination in corpses of the bladder, rectum, vagina, and peritoneal cavity through small laparotomies. The committee proposed some changes intended to improve the performance of the light conductor. Once such changes were made, they were satisfied with the operation of the instrument in patients (only examinations of the peritoneal cavity were not approved), particularly also because the procedure was painless.
Due to intrigues in the upper governmental spheres, a second expertise was decided, this time at the Wien medical school, which performed it, and partly under the negative influence of the church, as the report turned out to be unfavorable for Bozzini and concluded that such an instrument should not be used.
The second coalition war ended with the 1801 Luneville peace treaty between Napoleon and Kaiser Franz, and the left bank of the Rhine river remained in the hands of the French. The new Mainz government granted young Bozzini authorization to practice his profession, but he refused to accept the French citizenship and therefore decided to establish himself at Frankfurt.
Activities in Frankfurt
Bozzini’s knowledge of mathematics, philosophy, and chemistry was outstanding. Aeronautic studies and drawings of a flying device were unfortunately lost. His exceptional talent as an artist and drawer is shown by his monograph about the “light conductor”, where a self-portrait and watercolor paintings about the instrument may be seen.
Like many idealist people, Bozzini had no experience in business matters, but devoted himself with enthusiasm to his scientific activities. From 1804 on, his dedication to the development of his instrument for endoscopy was virtually complete. To earn a living, Bozzini practiced obstetrics with extreme care. On May 30, 1808 he was granted the title of “Physicus extraordinarius” at the request of one of his patients, Karl Theodor von Dalberg, a personality of great influence in the region.
Bozzini was one of the four physicians of the city of Frankfurt who should also care for the surrounding peasant areas while being a “plague” physician.
The various tasks in Frankfurt were not only tedious for these physicians, but also dangerous. His predecessor in the position, Dr. Zeitmann, had died during one of the epidemic outbreaks of typhus in the region. Bozzini contracted the same disease around mid-March 1809, after successfully treating 42 patients with typhus. His friend and colleague Feyerlein subsequently reported the dedication with which he cared of his patients, disregarding the risk of contagion he had. On April 4, 1809, Bozzini died from that infection at 36 years of age.
He left his wife in a bad financial situation. She died six months later. Their three small children were given over to friends.
When the Frankfurt Cathedral was renovated after the war, in 1954, the gravestone to the memory of Bozzini was uncovered; the words dedicated to him by his friend Feyerlein may still be read in it:
“To the devote soul of Philipp Bozzini, doctor of medicine, who was the first to explore the inside of organs through his ingenious light projector. He was able to tenaciously fight fever in other people, with a great sense of duty, and succumbed on the night from the 4th to the 5th day of April 1809, in his 36th year of life. His faithful friend F.F."

Imagine what would have happened to science fiction, looking inwards instead of outwards.  Imagine a zillion and one Raquel Welsh 'Fantastic Voyage' clones clogging up your television schedule like a bad case of cholesterol.  Imagine what Star Trek would have been like.  Imagine what it's intro ditty would have sounded like!
"Inner-space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Endoscope. Its 5-generation mission: to explore strange new holes, to seek out new veins and new bodily-sphincters, to boldly probe where no man has probed before."
# Ooooh 'ooooh' [off note!] ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh #
Jokes aside, Bozzini's creation of endoscopy (he basically conceived the idea of humane endoscopes) has opened up a whole new world which allows doctors, surgeons and the like to peer inside of human bodies without having to open us up like the proverbial can of beans.

No more having some gallumping pompous surgeon stick his right arm up your freshly opened perineum [winces] desperately trying to find your kidney stones.  Should said surgeon actually find the stones you would be mightily happy, although if he didn't you wouldn't be best pleased.  This are some of the un-pleasantnesses that we've been spared thanks to efforts of humane men, like Bozzini.

Humane is a good doctor, surgeon, nurse, and all of the others.  Pompous, self-importance (common amongst Victorian era surgeons who viewed themselves as a cut above, like a priestly caste) doesn't befit a man who feels for those whom he treats.  Pare, Bazzini, Socrates and all the others are men who empathised with their patients.  These are the types of doctors and surgeons we need more of in the world: men who cared for those they treated, rather than the sociopaths that studies have proven we presently have.

When we finally get those doctors, surgeons and more, our children, their children, and their children will benefit.  That's the kind of future that we want, one populated with compassionate men like Bozzini.


Saturday 5 December 2015

Men of Yore: Arthur Hill Hassall

This is another in a series of posts about men from history who have either achieved great things in one form or another by pushing boundaries: either in themselves or in society or science or exploration of some form. Boundary pushing and growth is what men do, it's their nature: to grow and push outwards. We, as men, are the frontiers men, the first to discover/uncover new territory, in a metaphysical sense (i.e. including both material and the immaterial) that is later colonised and 'civilised' by the rest of humanity. 

Arthur Hill Hassall

Hassall, Arthur Hill (1817–1894), physician and microscopist, was born at Teddington, Middlesex, on 13 December 1817, the son of Thomas Hassall (1771–1844), surgeon, and Ann Sherrock (1778×80–1817). After attending school at Richmond, Surrey, he was apprenticed in 1834 to his uncle Sir James Murray, who had a fashionable Dublin medical practice. In 1839 he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, in London, and in 1841 he was awarded the diploma of the Society of Apothecaries. Hassall's apprenticeship had included walking the wards of Jervis Street Hospital in Dublin, and the Mercers' Hospital. He had also taken the midwifery diploma in 1837 from Trinity College, Dublin, studied the nearby seashore and the coasts, and won a prize in botany. He presented his Catalogue of Irish Zoophytes to the Dublin Natural History Society on 6 November 1840. Hassall went on in 1848 to graduate MB from University College, London; in 1851 he proceeded MD and became a member of the Royal College of Physicians.

His return to Richmond, near the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, enabled Hassall to study structural and physiological botany at Kew. Between 1840 and 1845 he published several articles and books on botanical topics, mostly on freshwater algae, though many of the papers suggested a rather haughty concern with claims to priority. His History of the British Freshwater Algae (1845) became something of a controversial classic in the field; most of his research for this work came from the region of Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, and the specimens he left are now largely in the possession of the Natural History Museum, London. Hassall's studies on fungal rot of fruits and potatoes by experimental inoculation of sound tissues were highly apposite given the subsequent potato famine in Ireland. On 26 May 1846 Hassall married Fanny Augusta, daughter of Alexander Du Corron.

Hassall came to public attention with his book A microscopical examination of the water supplied to the inhabitants of London and the suburban districts (1850), in which he reported on the state of the water supplied by each of the London water companies. Containing colour illustrations of the organisms found, this work helped to convince people of the revolting nature of having living organisms in their water and drew their attention to the ‘carcasses of dead animals, rotting, festering, swarming with flies and maggots’ on the banks of the Thames (Hamlin, 115). According to Christopher Hamlin, the book was ‘one of the most effective appeals to sensibility in the history of public health’, and that one of the most important things it did ‘was to make microscopic life a new category of impurity’ (ibid., 104). There was, however, a great deal of debate about what the presence of such organisms in the water signified. Hassall found that all waters contained microscopic life but ‘was not able to recognise a distinct flora and fauna for each company as he had hoped to’ (ibid., 111). He testified before the Board of Health in March or April of 1850 and in parliament Sir Benjamin Hall used Hassall's drawings to attack opponents of water reform. Organisms came to be seen as proof of impurity.

Over this same period, and despite ill health, Hassall began to study food adulteration. This brought him to the attention of Thomas Wakley, who between 1851 and 1854 published in The Lancet reports by Hassall concerning the virtually universal practice of adulteration. The Lancet reports led in 1855 to a parliamentary select committee (with Hassall as chief scientific witness) and later to the first general preventative (and other) Adulteration Acts (1860), as well as to the presentation on 4 May 1856 from both houses of parliament to Hassall, for public services, of an elegant silver statuette of Angel Ithuriel. Hassall established a reputation as Britain's leading food analyst and was employed as an analytical microscopist by the General Board of Health.

Hassall also became a physician at the Royal Free Hospital, London, which later named a ward after him. By 1866 he was suffering from severe lung problems. His recovery involved long periods confined to bed at his brother's house in Richmond, at Hastings, and at St Leonards, before he transferred to Ventnor, Isle of Wight, as winter approached. Hassall made his home there until at least mid-1877, though he was still able to undertake professional duties in London at least twice a week. During 1866 he was allotted a civil-list pension of £100 per year for public service. While at Ventnor, Hassall and his assistants continued to investigate food adulteration, using the laboratory he had built there.

Hassall decided that Ventnor would be an ideal place to establish a hospital for treating lung disease. The first block was completed in 1868 and the Ventnor Hospital inspired moves to establish similar institutions in Vienna and elsewhere. Hassall's concept was so successful that, by 1908, 23,000 or more patients had been treated there. This hospital finally closed on 15 April 1964, the remaining patients being transferred to the Hassall ward in St Mary's Hospital, Newport, Isle of Wight.

Hassall left Ventnor in 1877 and was presented with a silver service and 300 guineas. Aiming to rest in warmer climes, he spent over a year in Germany and one winter season in Cannes. Italy's ready acceptance of foreign medical qualifications led Hassall finally to settle in San Remo, with occasional stays in London over the summer. Hassall acquired permission to practise in Switzerland and thereafter worked in Lucerne in summer and San Remo in winter; at San Remo he attended Edward Lear. Hassall's time on the continent enabled him to establish a role in pioneering climatic cures for consumption. His San Remo and the Western Riviera Climatically and Medically Considered (1879) was a classic of its kind. Hassall died at his home, Casa Bosso, San Remo, on 9 April 1894 and was buried at All Saints' Church, San Remo. He was survived by his second wife, Alice Margaret, whom he had married some time between 1858 and 1866.

James H. Price


We live in cities; we are dependent upon the provision of food from others; we are dependent upon others to ensure that food is what it claims to be and is un-adulterated.  It's no good going down to your local bakery to buy a loaf of bread, then coming back home and discovering to your dismay that the loaf is a menagerie of flour, sawdust, bone-meal, ash, and other odds 'n' sods.  You want that loaf of bread from that bakery to be a loaf of bread, and not a something else.  And better still you want all loaves of bread in all bakeries to be loaves of bread and not something else.

If we lived in a perfect world then food manufacturers would not adulterate their product with non-foodstuffs because they would be honest and decent, but alas we don't live in a perfect world, so we need Food Safety laws to ensure that scoundrels don't ruin everyone's day by selling adulterated or dodgy food.  And like everything else in the modern world it requires someone, usually a man, to create those laws ex nihlo.  In the case of food safety laws that man was Arthur Hill Hassall.

Arthur Hill Hassall is the reason that you can tuck into your mince pies, slurp some mulled wine, and feast on your Christmas dinner without worrying if it's going to give you and your family the squits tomorrow morning.