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Monday, 20 April 2015

The tale of Buckland's sturgeon

This is too funny not to share. Frank Buckland was a highly eccentric zoologist, and enjoyed it, I suspect.


Science in the 19th century was the play space of the gifted and curious amateur– and "curious" sometimes took on more than one meaning. 

Buckland is a prime example. The son of a clergyman, he was ordained as a priest, but became an academic and practical geologist, the first Reader in Geology at Oxford, where he presented a close argument for the way geology demonstrated Biblical truths in 1820.

Later, Buckland was swayed by Agassiz' theories on Ice Ages and modified his stance, but he remained opposed to the idea of evolution, up to his death in 1856. Buckland was memorable. among other things, for eating all sorts of animals: zebra, snake, earwig, puppy, sea slug and even a bluebottle, though he declared mole the most disgusting thing he had ever consumed.

He may or may not have eaten the dried heart of King Louis XIV (tradition says he did), but on his honeymoon, he identified some bones said to be those of St Rosalia as goat bones, and he investigated the alleged blood of a saint, which appeared fresh on a cathedral floor each morning. He lay on the floor, tasted it, and declared it to be bat urine (with which we assume he was familiar).

They don't make scientists like that any more, but if he were alive today, Buckland would surely be a leading television raconteur of science, with his own Youtube channel. Gilbert White would today be an environmental blogger, but White is another story for another day.


That's Buckland on the left. His words are below.



On Tuesday evening, at 5pm, Messrs Grove, of Bond Street, sent word that they had a very fine sturgeon on their slab. Of course, I went down at once to see it. The fish weighed, I was informed, 212 lbs [~95 kilograms]; it measured 9 feet in length [nearly three metres]. I was anxious to make a cast of this fine fellow, but I confess the size and weight rather frightened me; however, they offered me the fish for the night; he must be back in the shop the next morning by 10 am. Determined not to lose the chance, I called a cab, and we tried to get the sturgeon on the top of it, but he was "too much" for us, and we were obliged to give up all idea of this mode of conveyance of our huge friend from Bond Street to Albany Street.
Messrs. Grove then kindly sent him up in a cart, and we got him out of the cart easily enough on his arrival at my door, but it was with the greatest difficulty we hauled him up the doorsteps. We then thought of pitching him headlong over the railings into the area below, and thus getting him into the little front kitchen, which, though terribly small, I use as a casting-room; but his back was so slippery and his scales so sharp to the hands, that Master Sturgeon beat us again. However, I was determined to get him down into the kitchen somehow; so, tying a rope to his tail, I let him slide down the stone stairs by his own weight.
He started all right, but, "getting way" on him, I could hold the rope no more, and away he went sliding headlong down the stairs, like an avalanche from Mont Blanc. At the bottom of the stairs is the kitchen door; the sturgeon came against it "nose on" like an iron battering ram; he smashed the door open in a moment with his snout and slid right into the kitchen, gliding easily along the oil-cloth till at last he brought himself to an anchor under the kitchen table.
This sudden and unexpected appearance of the armour-clad sea-monster, bursting open the door—shut purposely to keep out the sight of "the master's horrid great fish "—instantly created a sensation scene, and great and dire was the commotion. The cook screamed, the housemaid nearly fainted; the cat jumped on the dresser, upsetting the best crockery; the little dog Danny, with tail between his legs, made a precipitate retreat under the copper and barked furiously; the monkeys went mad with fright, and screamed "Murder" in monkey language; the sedate parrot's nerves were terribly shaken, and it has never spoken a word since; and all this bother, because a poor harmless dead sturgeon burst open the kitchen door, and took up his position under the kitchen table.
—Bompas, George Cox, The Life of Frank Buckland, London: Smith Elder and Co., 1886, p. 200.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Authors and models

This is an essay that I resurrected from a defunct blog. It is about an organism with a very small brain — and a fruit-fly.

The news a few years back was briefly full of the man who said unwise things about an unnamed Thai royal and collected a savage gaol sentence for his efforts.

We were told repeatedly that this "author" only sold seven copies of his self-published book, his only production to date. To call such a person an "author" seems a bit of a stretch.

I happen to be a member of the Australian Society of Authors, and my publishers release, on average, a couple of books a year, but I avoid the word "author" like the plague. I prefer to call myself a writer.

What is it that makes people want to seek grander descriptions? I am sure that the failed US vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, would have described herself as an authority when she was in reality just the mayor of a large piece of frozen real estate. Of course, if she and her ilk keep on denying that things are hotting up, Alaska may soon be a tropical paradise.

This thought occurred to me a while back when I saw a Youtube piece in which this inherently shoddy piece of mental floss attacked the funding of  "fruit-fly research in Paris France". She said that it "really did not make a whole lot of sense", characterising it as a complete waste of money. The reaction of fruit-fly researchers everywhere was to say that it's harsh to be called a waste of money by a waste of space.

You can see her for yourself at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCXqKEs68Xk, but there are quite a few versions out there on the Internet, because the glib stupidity of the throwaway line made the whole blogosphere quite incandescent. My choice just has the short version, 48 seconds of context plus the offending phrases.

Now we need to get one thing clear, here: the silly woman was actually attacking a particular project. It involves research into the control of the olive fruit-fly which is now a pest in California. It matters little where the research is done, the research has the potential to be immensely valuable in California, one of the States that she and her friend failed to carry.

Most of the blogs missed this distinction, and concentrated on the value of "fruit-fly research" per se. This is understandable, because to the lay reader, the efforts of researchers to study obscure organisms like the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster, the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the bacterium Escherichia coli, the white mouse, the white rat and a few other standard life forms makes little sense unless you understand that these are used as models. They are used because we understand them, because we know a lot about them, and because they have comparatively short life cycles.

We understand these organisms remarkably well, there is a giant literature on them, and these days, their entire genomes are known. Scientists can discover principles using these organisms as models, but it is remarkably easy to ridicule "fish that glow in the dark" or "the mouse with an ear growing on its back", especially if you ignore the true background. I think the bloggers ignored the true background to Palin's fatuous line, but it matters little, because I'm fairly sure she had no idea what it meant either.

Fruit-flies gave us the first evidence that mutations existed, the first clear proof that genes lay on the chromosomes, but even today, they give us evidence on the sorts of conditions that are caused by genes that go wrong. The humble fruit-fly is a source of wisdom, whether it is studied in Paris, France, or Paeis, Texas, or Buenos Aires, or Vladivostok or Wagga Wagga.

But Sarah Palin had no idea of that, in my opinion. I believe she just thought fruit-flies were irrelevant to humans, which is a reasonable point of view if you are a creationist, as she seems to be. Somebody else, some anonymous hack who wrote the lines for her autocue, was the author of her woes. She just delivered the lines.

Ah, that's it! I knew there was something bad about being called an author.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

The first Anzac Day


This is a selection from my Big New Project, otherwise called Many Voices. I am giving it away for free as a PDF file of selected contemporary accounts of key (or interesting) points in Australian history, and where possible, I have added conflicting and/or corroborating accounts, as well as links to the original sources. This set of pieces comes from the National Library's Trove collection, but many of the most instructive bits in Many Voices come from little-known books which are, as it happens, available on Google Books or Project Gutenberg. At the very end of the PDF, there is a detailed bibliography which includes links to online sources.

Here, then, is a small taster.

* * * * * * *

[The standard meaning of “Anzac Day”, 25th April or 25th April, 1915, took a while to emerge, as these selections reveal. The first “Anzac Day” also turned out to be rather less than a day of reverence, as well.]

The first mention of the phrase “Anzac Day”, news report, 1915

ANZAC DAY
The Executive Committee of the MONSTER PROCESSION, PAGEANT, and CARNIVAL to be held on WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 13, in aid of THE WOUNDED SOLDIERS' FUND, has decided that the day shall be known as ANZAC DAY. 

The Souvenir offered by the Committee to the person whose suggestion for a title was adopted has been awarded to Mr. Robert Wheeler, Prospect.

A. W. STYLES, Chairman. T. B. MERRY, Secretary.
Anzac Day Committee.

The Advertiser (Adelaide), 28 August 1915, 2, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/5478963

The Anzac Day souvenir, news report, 1915

ANZAC DAY SOUVENIR.
The committee of Anzac Day intends to issue a souvenir programme, worthy of the occasion, and by advertisement invites the public to provide designs for a cover. The committee wishes to impress upon all those who decide to submit designs that, while the artistic side will receive be consideration, the suitability of the design for reproductions by letterpress printing will also carry weight. Printing houses are also invited to tender tor the production of the souvenir proramme, and can obtain particulars from Mr. W. C. Melbourne, at the Trades Hall. Mr. Alfred Cave, of No. 6 Austral Chambers, Currie street, has undertaken to canvass for advertisements for insertion in the souvenir programme; and the committee hopes, for a ready response from business houses, as all profit accruing from this source will be devoted to the Wounded Soldiers' Fund.
The Register (Adelaide), 1 September 1915, 11, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/59616676

Anzac Day tram collision plan, news report, 1915

The subcommittee appointed by the Anzac Day committee to arrange the programme of attractions to be presented at the Adelaide Oval on Anzac Day (Wednesday, October 13), are busily engaged securing novelties for that occasion. Yesterday the subcommittee waited upon Mr. W. G. T. Goodman (general manager and chief engineer of the Adelaide Tramways Trust), and discussed with him the possibility of having a sensational collision on the oval between two tramcars. Mr. Goodman met the committee's suggestion in a most friendly and generous spirit, and promised every assistance in his power. The idea is to lay sleepers and rails from end to end of the oval, to fit up two obsolete cars with motors, then start them from opposite ends of the oval, timed to meet at the centre in a thrilling crash. This idea has been carried out in America between locomotives, and has always attracted thousands of spectators. It would be practically impossible to work locomotive "smash" on the Adelaide Oval, but the subcommittee, with the assistance of Mr. Goodman, are quite sure that the tramcar collision will provide sufficient thrill for one day, besides being one of the greatest novelties ever seen in this city. A number of other new ideas are engaging the attention of the subcommittee, and in the course of a few days announcements will be made, which will show the public that the Anzac Day officials in tend to make this a date to be remembered.

Daily Herald (Adelaide), 4 September 1915, 4, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/105489278

Closing times for the Anzac Day holiday, news report, 1915

As the public holiday (Anzac Day) will be kept on Wednesday, 13th inst., the alterations in the closing times for shops will be slightly different from that which prevails when a public holiday falls on Monday. The Chief Inspector of Factories and Shops (Mr. J. Bannigan) has supplied the following explanation of the position for the guidance of shopkeepers and others in the metropolitan and all country districts under the provisions of the Early Closing Act: — The public holiday, to be kept on Wednesday next does, not affect the closing times for shops during this week, and   during nest week (the week in which the public holiday is to be kept) shop- keepers may either adhere to their regular closing times or adopt one of the following alternatives in lieu thereof, but these alternatives may only be applied to shops that are kept closed for the whole of the public holiday, and all assistants allowed off on that day. Nine o'clock on Tuesday, 12th, and 6 o'clock on all other evenings, including Saturday, 16th; or 9 o'clock on Friday, 15th, and 6 o'clock on all other evenings: or 9 o'clock on Saturday, 16th, and 6 o'clock on all other evenings. That is to say, a shop may only be kept open after 6 o'clock one of the three evenings named.

The Mail (Adelaide), 9 October 1915, 8, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/59394082

A mention of “Anzac Day” from outside South Australia, news report, 1915

Mr. James referred to the "Anzac Day" celebration which, was to be held in Adelaide in connection with the Eight Hours' Day celebrations there the proceeds from which were to be utilised to swell the South Australian Wounded Soldiers' Fund. He was convinced that it would be impossible to get the South Australians to favor the federalisation of their fund. It was, in his opinion, hopeless to try to do so. Nevertheless, it was a fact that many of the people locally had subscribed to the fund believing, that it was to be federally administered.

Barrier Miner (Broken Hill), 13 October 1915, 3, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/45354035#pstart3241169

The first Anzac Day, news report, 1915

ANZAC DAY. ADELAIDE, Wednesday. This year the Eight-hours Day committee sacrificed the identity of its celebration by conducting a carnival in aid of the wounded Soldiers' Fund. The committee was enlarged to embrace all sections of the community, and the day was observed as Anzac Day. Many thousands of people witnessed the street procession.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 October 1915, 10, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/15619228

The King William Street riots, news report, 1915

SOLDIERS AND POLICE
ANOTHER SERIOUS RIOT.
DISGRACEFUL SCENES IN
THE CITY.
TWO ARRESTS MADE.

Anzac Day in Adelaide will live long in the memory of many people, not only on account of the big effort made to secure money for the Wounded Soldiers' Fund, but because of the serious riot that occurred in King William-street during the afternoon. As was the case when a similar disturbance was witnessed in Hindley-street a few weeks ago, the ringleaders were soldiers who, egged on by a disorderly mob, many of the members of which were women, gave the police no end of trouble, engaging in a combat that reflects the greatest discredit upon them as soldiers of the King. This was undoubtedly the most serious riot that has occurred in Adelaide since the war began, and in view of what the Military Commandant (Colonel Sandford) said after the previous fracas, it is probable that some drastic action will be taken to prevent a recurrence of the trouble. It would be a shocking state of affairs if men wearing the King's uniform were allowed to ride roughshod over the civil authorities, but the difficulty is how to deal with the matter, for it would be grossly unfair to penalise the whole of the men in camp because some of their number overstepped the bounds of prudence.

The Beginning of the Trouble.
The disturbance had quite a mild beginning. Shortly after 3.30 p.m. two soldiers, more or less under the influence of liquor, came to blows near the John Bull stables, in Currie-street. Constable Stephens appeared on the scene, and the men, followed by onlookers, retired to the stables, where they resumed hostilities. The constable went in to hunt them out, and he saw one of the combatants get knocked down.

On rising to his feet that man made an assault on a bystander, and it was then that the constable intervened. He ordered the men away, but one soldier refused to go, and he arrested him on a charge of drunkenness. The man did not resist arrest, and walked quietly along Currie-street, but near King William-street a number of other soldiers came to his assistance. He stopped, and refused to walk another inch, and the constable said, "Well, I'll have to carry you," and lifted him off the ground. Stephens had sent a lad to the other side of the street for Constable Keane, and upon his arrival an attempt was made to remove the soldier to a cab nearby.

There were three cabs on the stand, and tbe police carried him to the back of one, and were about to lift him in, when the driver of the vehicle whipped up his horses and left them standing there. They then endeavored to get the prisoner into another cab, but the man in charge served them the same trick as the other driver. Nothing daunted, they pushed their way through the crowd, which was now becoming very hostile, and reached a cab near the United Service Hotel.

The Crowd Interfere.
There were at this stage a couple of thousand people on the spot, and when it was seen that the soldier's mouth was bleeding they accused the police of having struck him with a baton. The vehicle was thickly surrounded by soldiers, who, encouraged by a bevy of women, tried to prevent the police from getting the man, who was wearing spurs and kicking out wildly, into the cab. They pushed and jostled the officers of the law, who also had to contend with interference from a number of civilians.

At last Constables Stephens, Simpson, and Keane succeeded in pulling the soldier into the vehicle. By this time Constables Hannon, Lillywhite, Griffin, Feudeloff, and Reilly gave assistance in keeping back the surging mob. They drew their batons, and one man declared that he received a blow on the face from one of them. Further trouble was experienced by the officers, for no sooner had they made their man secure in the cab than some bystanders tampered with the harness, the traces being pulled off and the reins being untied at the bridles.

Constable Griffin put the harness in order again, but now the driver of the cab shook his head, and would not move his horse off. This greatly pleased the disorderly mob, who cheered the driver. A member of the military police endeavored to render assistance, and it was generally believed when he got into the front of the cab that the arrested man would be taken away to camp. The crowd then allowed the vehicle to move off, and it was driven along King William-street and down Currie-street, and by a roundabout route to the City Watch-house, Constables Stephens and Simpson remaining in charge. At the police-station the prisoner gave the name of Dennis McCourt, and he will come before the Adelaide Police Court this morning.

Another Riot.
Shortly after the cab had disappeared from sight another riotous scene occurred near the United Service Hotel. A young, strongly-built man, who appeared to be suffering from the effects of alcohol, was holding forth to those nearby upon the police force generally, making abusive remarks regarding the men in blue. Constable Feudeloff ordered the man to move on or he would arrest him for drunkenness.

On receiving a refusal the constable took hold of him, and then began one of the hottest struggles in which a policeman has ever taken part. Fists were flying in all directions, but the constable clung to his man and tried to get him under control. The pair fought across the footpath to the main entrance to the United Service Hotel, where on account of interference from soldiers and others the constable drew his baton. In a twinkling a man whipped up from inside the hotel, snatched the baton from his hand, and darted through the premises to a back lane.

Feudeloff let go his prisoner and raced off after the man who had stolen his baton, but before he had gone far along the passage way a stout woman got in front of him and endeavored to bar his way. Quickly ducking under her arm he continued the chase, and overtook his quarry near Waymouth-street. He walked him without molestation into King William-street, where a cab was requisitioned, and at the police-station this man gave his name as Allen Dalziell. He will also come before the court this morning.

Police in a Tight Corner.
When Constable Feudeloff ran through the hotel Constable Simmons, who was in plain clothes, chased the man who had been released, and soon recaptured him. Several uniformed police look charge of him, and he was taken to a cab near the Bank of Adelaide. He resisted violently all the way, and fought and jumped about when the cab was reached. There the soldiers in the crowd took his part, because they considered he had helped them when the first man was being arrested.

They pushed the police this way and that, but the officers hung tenaciously to the prisoner and got him into the vehicle with great difficulty. The man in charge of the cab stated that he could not drive the horses, as the driver had gone away for a while. Constable Wells, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, thereupon jumped into the driver's seat, but he failed to get the animals away, as somebody had cut the traces. That left the police powerless to move, and while Constables Crowley and Keane were holding the prisoner down the crowd attempted to push the vehicle over on its side. Twice they lifted the right side wheels some distance off the ground, and on one occasion it appeared as if the cab would capsize.

The prisoner kept calling out for the crowd to help, and he made a strenuous effort to get out of the side of the cab. Then a man appeared near him with a coil of rope, and Senior-Constable Reilly promptly grabbed him by the throat and pushed him out of harm's way. The police were in a quandary what to do for some time, for they could not allow their quarry to go, and they could not move from the position they were in.

A woman, who said the captive was her son, then stepped to the back of the cab, and she saved the situation by giving the name of her boy, which she said was Davoren. Senior-Constable Reilly there upon decided to allow the fellow to go, and the crowd soon rushed him off to the United Service Hotel, hooting the police on the way. An elderly man stood up in the cab and appealed for money to enable the driver to get his traces mended, and the required sum was forthcoming.

No Mounted Constables About.
During the disturbance there was not a mounted constable in sight, and it was not till long afterwards that three troopers put in an appearance. Had they come earlier no doubt the foot constables would not have experienced great difficulty in removing the three men to the watch-house.
The Advertiser (Adelaide), 14 October 1915, 9, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/5483759

The Anzac Day riots, news report, 1915

LAW COURTS. THE STREET RIOT.
Incidents connected with the riot in King William-street on Anzac Day were again related in the Adelaide Police Court on Tuesday, when Allen Dalziell was charged with having hindered Constable Feudeloff in the execution of his duty, namely, while he was arresting John Davoren on a charge of drunkenness. On the bench were Messrs. T. W. Fleming, S.M., J. C. Jurs, H. Wells, and I. Isaacs. The defendant pleaded not guilty, and was defended by Mr. R. G. Nesbit. Sub-Inspector Edwards prosecuted. 

Constable Feudeloff said that at about 4.15 p.m. on Anzac Day he was near the United Service Hotel in King William-street. There was a crowd of people on the road and in the centre was a man named John Davoren, who was drunk. The witness ordered him to move on, and he staggered away three or four yards, and stopped. He was singing out m a loud tone, and the crowd were in a very excited condition. He arrested Davoren, who struggled and threw himself on the ground. The witness got him on to his feet again, when a number of soldiers and civilians charged the witness, who was kicked and jostled and knocked about.

He held on to the prisoner with his left hand, and drew his baton with the other hand to protect himself. The defendant Dalziell came up and caught hold of his right arm and pulled him away from Davoren. He then snatched his staff and ran away. The witness caught him and got his staff, and Dalziell struck him with his fists, again pulled the baton away, and ran through the passage of the hotel. The witness went, through the passageway and saw defendant being held by J. C. Gittings. As soon as he saw the witness following the defendant ran into Waymouth-place, where he was captured. Dalziell was taken to the watch-house, where he said, "I'll admit I took the constable's baton, but I did it so that he would not hit me."

Mr. Nesbit—The moment you arrested Davoren did you become very unpopular with the crowd?—I did.

There was a lot of jeering and hooting? —Yes.

In fact, the thing degenerated into a riot directed against, you?—Yes.

J. C. Gittings, a stereotyper, said the crowd did not give the constable a fair deal, and they incited Davoren to resist. Near the hotel entrance he saw the constable holding Davoren, and the defendant came up and snatched the baton from his hand. The witness took hold of Dalziell, to whom the witness appealed to return the baton. Dalziell immediately gave up possession of it.

Constable Canavan also gave evidence.

Mr. Nesbit said the defendant was recently employed as chief inspector of the Motorbus Company, and left to go into camp If there was any interference on his part it was quite unintentional. Mr. Neshitt considered it was a case of mistaken identity.

The defendant said he was an assistant quartermaster in the Expeditionary Force, and was in the non-commissioned officers' school. He went to the United Service Hotel with a friend. He denied that he struggled with the constable, or took his baton away.

Sub-Inspector Edwards-Do you mean to say that you never had possession of the baton ?—Yes.
John James Stapleton, conductor in the employ of the Tramways Trust, Roland G. Jenkins, barman at the United Service Hotel, and Private Brown gave corroborative evidence

The S.M. said that the evidence was very strongly contradictory. The bench had come to the conclusion that the defendant was there and had hindered the police, but they felt that they wanted to give him credit for his previous good record. The police had to be protected. They had a very arduous duty to perform, especially on a day like Anzac Day, and the help they might have expected was not rendered. Two witnesses for the prosecution had sworn to having heard the defendant say in the City Watch-house that he had had the baton. Probably Dalziell had allowed his feelings to run away with him. The bench were not going to impose any thing like the maximum penalty, but the defendant would have to pay £2, with £1 costs, or go to gaol for seven days.

The Advertiser (Adelaide), 20 October 1915, 14, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/5484345#pstart973611

An Anzac Day in Gippsland, news report, 1915

ANOTHER "BUTTON DAY." The various tents which administer so much to the comfort and care of our soldiers, whether in camp in the States, in Egypt or at Gallipoli, being in need of assistance, the Lord Mayor's Central "Button" Committee has fixed to-morrow as "Anzac" day, and have issued at special "remembrance" button to be sold throughout the Commonwealth at the usual price of 1/, the proceeds to be divided between all the tents working for the welfare of those under arms either at home or the front, viz., Y.M.C.A., Churches of England, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Salvation Army. On receipt of a request to assist the work locally, the Mayor (Cr. Lyon) convened a meeting of those ladies who had made "Allies"' day such a success, to arrange if thought fit for a Sale effort in aid of the good cause. The gathering was held in the Mayor's room, and was fully representative. The Mayor was authorised to order 1000 "Anzac" buttons, which has been done.

Gippsland Times (Victoria), 16 December 1915, 3, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/62380709#pstart6055224

The first April 25 Anzac Day, news report, 1916

ANZAC DAY. Proposed Celebration in Brisbane.
A public meeting will be held in the Exhibition Hall this evening to discuss the steps to be taken for the celebration of Anzac Day on April 25. The Mayor of Brisbane (Alderman Down) will occupy the chair, and the speakers will include his Excellency the Governor (Sir H. J. Goold-Adams), Major-General McCay (Inspector-General of the Australian Imperial Forces), the Premier (Hon. T. J. Ryan), and Chaplain Lieutenant-Colonel Garland. It is hoped there will be a large attendance of the general public and also of returned soldiers.

The Brisbane Courier, 10 January 1916, 8, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/20056569

The name Anzac Day is fixed, news report, 1916

I met Mr. W. Copley, ex-M.P., and Minister of the Crown, in the street on Thursday, and I could not help congratulating him on his remarkably hale and hearty appearance (writes 'Rufus,' in Saturday's Journal). "Well, I was 70 years old last birthday," remarked the gentleman from Blackrock, "and I am not likely to forget it, because it was April 25, Anzac Day."

The Register (Adelaide), 10 January 1916, 4, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/59807896#pstart4546868

What Anzac Means, Pearce, 1916

[By April 25, 1916, the modern sense of "Anzac Day" was cl;early understood.  Senator Pearce was Minister for Defence, but released this article as the Acting Prime Minister, on Anzac Day, 1916. It appeared in just six Australian newspapers in that week.]

In an army a knowledge of its past achievements is a mighty factor in its future success. Before this war Australia had practically no army traditions, and it is to the meaning of the Gallipoli campaign in this connection that I would direct attention to-day, twelve months after the historic landing.

To the peoples of Europe the thought of war was ever present in the popular mind; but to the Australian, born and bred in an atmosphere untainted by war, living amid peaceful surroundings and desirous of remaining on terms of friendship with the rest of mankind the word itself has a jarring sound. Yet the German challenge to the Mother Country finds 233,720 of her Australian sons who have voluntarily wrenched themselves from their parents, wives, and friends, and from comfortable and cheerful homes, to answer the call of their country to fight the Empire's battles on distant shores.

Nor has the thunder of the cannon been necessary to inspire Australians with a conception of their duty; and the explanation of it all is that we have inherited to the full that spirit of our forebears which enabled them, not so long ago, to tear themselves from homeland firesides to shape careers in this great island continent, and to overcome with indomitable pluck the awful hardships of a pioneering life.

For generations to come the story of the entry of the Australian troops to the European battlefield will ring in the ears of English-speaking nations. The chronicler of the future will provide many thrilling pages of history, magnificent material for the moulding of the youthful Australian character.

A distinguished military officer told us before the war that Australians would require to be in the majority of two to one in meeting a foreign foe on our own shores; but the furious onslaught that accompanied the landing at Gallipoli, the bitter fighting and terrible trials of the occupation, and the wonderful skill that made possible the bloodless evacuation have shown us that the Australians carried out a feat of arms not excelled by the most highly-trained regulars of any nation of the world. The following messages are eloquent in their tribute to Australian bravery:
 “I heartily congratulate you upon the splendid conduct and bravery displayed by the Australian troops in the operations at the Dardanelles, who have indeed proved themselves worthy sons of the Empire.” — His Majesty the King, April 1915.
 “The capture of the positions we hold will go down to history as a magnificent feat of the Australians and New Zealanders.” — General Sir William Birdwood, November 1915.

“Happen what may, the Australians who have fought at Gallipoli will bequeath a heritage of honour to their children's children.” — General Sir Ian Hamilton, November 1915.

 These are examples of the praise which that feat of arms has won, and such is the standing of military bearing which the improvised army of Australian citizens has set up for the citizen army of Australia — a standard which, we may rest assured, has not failed to impress our enemies in computing the military value of our forces.

Every unit of the citizen army will now have its tradition. Every soldier of the Australian army will have that inspiring example of the Anzac heroes to live up to in his military work, and we can regard the future with a calm confidence in the military prowess of our soldiers.

The Australasian, 29 April 1916, 43, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/142991438

Other war history
I don't really like writing military history, even though I once won an award for doing so. It's too sad, and involves too many stupid people making stupid decisions, but I'm not going to discuss Blamey today, or MacArthur, to name my two top favourite idiots.

Let me share with you a message of hope that came out of a visit to Gallipoli in 2002, and the sad story, and a sad story of patriotism gone mad in a time of distress.


Friday, 27 March 2015

The making of predictions

As part of my work on my Big New Project, alias Many Voices, I am looking into the early take-up of telephones in Australia, and I have been surprised to see that there were telephones before the telephone: you will need to wait for the next release of Many Voices for that, but as I now have more words than Marcel Proust got into his paean to madeleines, the new version will be out before March 31.

For now, I am hunting something else, and it harks back to something Niels Bohr is supposed to have said: Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.

He didn't say it, though he may have quoted it, but every time something new is invented, people try to say how it will be used, and they always get it wrong. In point of fact, as I have said before, it takes us around 50 years to come to grips with a new invention and stabilise how we use it.

Just read this 1877 report, and see how they see telephones (and mechanical calculators) being used!




The American Centennial Exhibition has afforded the opportunity to bring into public view many inventions and improvements which otherwise would only have been known to the smaller circles that may find them of service. 

There is, for instance, an ingenious device for communicating directly to a central office by telegraph the changes in the weather, which are shown by recording instruments at different stations. It promises to dispense more or less with the work of the weather observer at each station, and to substitute the automatic work of machinery. This is a foreign exhibit As shown, it is perhaps better adapted for its present use in one of the smaller European States than in this country. But if modified by Yankee ingenuity so that a separate telegraphic circuit would not be required for each station, it might prove of service here. The telephone is a now instrument of electrical science more likely than some of the rest to find immediate use.

It operates by transmitting the current through a tuning fork. The fork will only vibrate a given number of times in a second. A message can be sent through it by the usual Morse code, there being no apparent interference between the tuning-fork vibrations and the message. But at the other end of the line the message can only be taken off through a tuning-fork in unison with the first. Consequently, if a tuning-fork of different pitch is interposed at each of several stations served by one wire, and the messages are sent through forks of corresponding pitch from the head office, the message to one station will not be repeated at the others during transmission.

Sir William Thomson, at the Glasgow mooting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science gave foreign notoriety to another of the Centennial exhibits that has attracted great attention from the judges of the group to which it belongs. It is a curious device that might fairly find place in the magic of Arabian tales.

A membrane is stretched over the end of a short speaking-trumpet. The membrane carries a small piece of metal which is, so to speak, the armature of a magnet. The magnet forms part of a telegraph circuit, through which a current is passing. To send a message it is only needful to talk loudly into the trumpet. The message is received by a similar trumpet with membrane and armature at the other end of the line; and that trumpet being placed to the ear, repeats the sound like an echo. Dom Pedro was with the scientific people who tested this instrument on one occasion.

So accurately did it reproduce sounds that each member of the party was in turn recognised by peculiarities in voice or accent. The final test was the reading of a paragraph from the news columns of The Tribune. Of what use is such an invention? Well, there may be occasions of State when it is necessary for officials who are far apart to talk with each other without the interference of an operator. Or some lover may wish to pop the question directly into the ear of a lady and hear for himself her reply, though miles far away, it is not for us to guess how courtships will be carried on in the twentieth century. It is said that the human voice has been conveyed by this contrivance over a circuit of sixty miles. Music can be readily transmitted. Think of serenading by telegraph! 

The calculating machine at the Fair is another of the new and strange inventions. Primarily it is an "adder." But it adds differences in groups and under all sorts of circumstances. Arrange it in one way and it will turn out cube numbers for you as fast as you can turn a crank. In another arrangement it will turn out logarithms as readily. Put on steam power and it will do the work that it is set to, without further attention. It furnishes its results stamped in a matrix ready for the stereotyper; no proof reading is required.

To the non-mathematical visitor its performances are utter mystery. Yet few machines are simpler. Take cubes, for instance, 1, 8, 27, 64, &c. ; subtract them from each other and the result is 7, 19, 37, 61, &c.; subtract these from each other, and the result is, a set of numbers that only differ from each other by 6. All that the machine does is to add these differences, beginning with those of 6 each. Yet in the endeavour to make, a machine that would actually do this work, many distinguished mathematicians have failed—among them the illustrious Englishman, Babbage.

His machine is now lying idle and useless at the Kensington Museum. The American "difference engine" is pronounced by our experts perfectly successful. But what is to be the effect on our posterity of inventions like this? Already a modified contrivance of the sort makes short work of the multiplication table. Our grandchildren—nay, our children —will be turning a crank, or twisting a screw, instead of working out the four rules with slate and pencil. Of the three R's, that which was the most essentially intellectual threatens to become the most mechanical.— New York Tribune.