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History

Strawbridge Observatory

The current Strawbridge Observatory was built in the early 1850s, replacing the original, wood-frame observatory that had been constructed for John Gummere in the 1830s (records seem to indicate different dates for this original building). A pedestal capped by a now broken sundial marks the location of Gummere’s observatory (see this post for more on […]

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History

Why Andrew White wrote the History of the Warfare of Science with Theology

Perhaps I may be allowed to repeat here that my purpose in preparing this book was to strengthen not only science but religion. I have never had any tendency to scoffing, nor have I liked scoffers. Many of my closest associations and dearest friendships have been, and still are, with clergymen. Clergymen are generally, in […]

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History

What can Witchcraft Confessions Teach Us?

A recent article at the BBC asks, “Why do Innocent People Confess?” For historians of witchcraft this article—the basic question, the reason prosecutors prefer confessions, and the reasons innocent people confess—will look remarkably familiar. Every time I teach my course on witchcraft students ask why anybody would confess to witchcraft. Motivated by a belief that […]

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History

A Phrenological Evaluation of Andrew White

Prompted by Dr. Crabtree’s recent efforts to revive head size as a meaningful indicator of intelligence, I offer the following phrenological evaluation of Andrew White straight from the pages of The Phrenological Journal and Life Illustrated. White is best known today for his polemical The Warfare of Science and Religion, which regrettably continues to structure […]

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History

More Velikovsky Paraphernalia

Digging through another box of books from a retired academic I came across more Velikovsky material (adding to my copy of Worlds in Collision I received from him). I am now convinced this particular academic—trained as a physicist but employed in a history department teaching the relationship between science and religion—endorsed Velikovsky’s theory. This latest […]

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History

Hurricanes Were and Remain Political

Various efforts to interpret Hurricane Sandy and to consider its political significance prompted me to look back at some early accounts of hurricanes. By the early 17th century reports of terrifying storms in the New World that lasted days and devastated large areas started appearing in the Europe. Frequently, these accounts were short, dramatic pamphlets […]

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History

Velikovsky’s Worlds in Collision

Having just read Michael Gordin’s piece on Velikovsky, I was more than a little surprised when I received in the mail today a copy of Immanuel Velikovsky’s Worlds in Collision. For various and sundry reasons, I am one of the “very few people under 50” who not only has heard of Velikovsky but also has […]

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History

Astrology and Morbus Gallicus

An early woodcut of a man suffering from the scabies—or morbus gallicus or, as we like to call it today, syphilis—is attributed to Albrecht Dürer. This woodcut illustrated a poem by the Nürnberg city physician Theodericus Ulsenius, his Vaticinium in epidemicam scabiem. Like most physicians, Ulsenius explained how the disease had been caused by a […]