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HoS Advent Calendar 2016

Admissions Documents for Patient #144

On June 1, 1824, Patient #144 was admitted to the Friends’ Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason. She was 53, married, and had been suffering for a number of years. Her admission documents—the physician’s certificate that guaranteed she was insane and her application for admission—survive along with thousands […]

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History

A Letter from James Ferguson

Buried in Haverford College’s Quaker and Special Collections is a substantial collection of autographed letters and other miscellany. Many letters were written by astronomers, mathematicians, naturalists, and others we might call (problematically or not) scientists.[1] Leafing through the collection recently, I came across this letter from James Ferguson on behalf of Lord Charles Cavendish. Writing […]

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History

Edmond Halley Complains about the Clouds

Sometime in late 1676 Edmund Halley left Oxford and set sail for St. Helena, an island in the south Pacific. There he hoped to accomplish two projects. First, he wanted to compile a catalog the stars in the southern sky, which would complement John Flamsteed’s catalog of norther stars. Second, Halley wanted to observe the […]

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History

Death in the Archive

A paradox lurks at the center of any archive. One the one hand, archives strive to keep the past alive, or at least on life support long enough for somebody to revive a sliver of that past, which sliver has lain comatose on a shelf locked away in a vault. Yet, on the other hand, […]

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History

The Astronomy Exam at Haverford College in 1859

In the late 1850s students at Haverford College had to pass exams in three departments: English, Classics, and Mathematics.[1] They demonstrated their mastery in these divisions through a grueling set of exams at the end of the senior year.[2] First they had to pass a battery of private exams that covered all the subjects and […]

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History

Samuel J. Gummere’s Lecture on Copernicus

In 1862 Samuel J. Gummere began lecturing on astronomy at Haverford College. At that time all sophomores and juniors heard lectures based on John Herschel’s Outlines of Astronomy; seniors heard lectures on “practical astronomy” based on Elias Loomis’s text (probably his Introduction to Practical Astronomy) and carried out observations in the college’s new observatory. Gummere’s […]

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History

Editions of Copernicus’s De revolutionibus

In 1953 Haverford College purchased a first edition of Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus for the Philips Collection. William Pyle Philips had left his collection of rare books to the library as well as an endowment to purchase additional books for the collection. Over the years, the library has added significant works to the Philips Collection. In […]

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Teaching

Explaining A Good Question

My experiment in teaching students to ask questions has run headlong into yet another hurdle. Previously I had been persuaded that the students would benefit from an example, so I brought in an old book and tried to show them how I would formulate some questions as I looked at and thought about the book. […]

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History

Ernst Haeckel’s Letter to E.D. Cope

E.D. Cope received letters from all sorts of people, including one from Charles Darwin’s son Francis, who sought copies of any letters Cope and Darwin might have exchanged. Another of Cope’s correspondents was the German biologist Ernst Haeckel. Haeckel is best known for his particular theory of evolution, which combined aspects of Darwinism with German […]

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History

E.D. Cope’s Residence in Philadelphia

Edward Drinker Cope, the petulant paleontologist and neo-Lamarckian who complained about livestock being driven past his house and thought he was “an ideal model of homo sapiens and scientist” (see the section on “Cope’s Corpse”) lived for a time in adjoining townhouses on the corner of Pine Street and 21st in Philadelphia. He used one […]