Skip to Content

Found 340 Resources

How the "Sneeze Guard" Changed Buffet Tables Forever

Smithsonian Magazine

One of the first "sneeze guards" appeared in Johnny Garneau's American Style Smorgasbord in Monroeville 1958. (Courtesy of Barbara Garneau Kelley)

Next time you are at an all-you-can eat buffet, imagine the food displays without any covering: there are flies in the coleslaw, the man in front of you leans over the spread, breathing heavily. His nose scrunches up as though he might sneeze at any moment. You cringe, but it's too late. Mashed potatoes are off the menu tonight.

Johnny Garneau is the reason people like this man will never sneeze on your food today.

On March 10, 1959, the restaurateur and inventor filed his patent for the “Food Service Table” later known as the “sneeze guard,” meant to protect food on display from bacteria and other germs that may be spread by sneezing. These days, it’s required by law that retail, self-service food bars have one—nary a salad bar shall be left uncovered.

At the time of his invention, he owned and ran a chain of American Style Smorgasbord restaurants in Ohio and Pennsylvania—a set price, all-you-can-eat buffet model based off of the traditional Swedish "smorgasbord," a celebratory meal, buffet style, with a laid-out table of food. The first example of a smorgasbord in America appeared at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Garneau's "American Style Smorgasbord" restaurant was one of the first of many self-service restaurants that would pop up in the the United States in the '50s.

"Being the germaphobe that he was, he couldn't stand people going down the Smorgasbords smelling things and having their noses too close to the food," Barbara Kelley, one of five of Garneau's children says. "He said to his engineers, 'We have to devise something—I don't want these people sneezing on the food."

Johnny Garneau filed a patent for the "Covered Food Serving Table" also known as the "sneeze guard" in 1959. Image courtesy of Barbara Garneau Kelley.

When the patent was granted (for a term of 14 years), Garneau installed them in each of his restaurants. His daughter Barbara was born the year her father filed for the patent and remembers growing up in the spotless kitchens and dining rooms of her father's businesses.

"He had that typical entrepreneur mind—he was always thinking of the next great idea." Kelley says. These common things we use every day, somebody, somewhere had an idea and they had the guts to take it to fruition. My dad was one of them. There wasn't one thing he thought that he couldn't make or do."

A scan of the original patent filed in 1959. Image courtesy of Barbara Garneau Kelley.

At 15, Garneau got a taste for the restaurant business as a "soda jerk" when he began forming dreams of his first restaurant, "The Beanery," which opened 1949. The six-stool, 20-foot by 15-foot diner served American classics like the hot dog with curb service. By 1952, he opened his first American Style Smorgasbord restaurant.

Garneau standing in front of his first curb-service restaurant, The Beanery, in 1949. Image courtesy of Barbara Garneau Kelley.

When the smorgasbord style became less trendy, he turned each of his restaurants into steakhouses called the Golden Spike, the first of which opened in 1954. The railroad theme (there was a toy train set up at the bar that delivered your drink) came from Garneau's interest in Promontory Summit in Utah, the point that completed of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869. At the height of his business, he had six successful restaurants: four in Pittsburgh, one in Clarion, Pennsylvania, where Garneau raised his family, and one in South Florida. Garneau died in May of this year at his home in Florida at age 90.

A "sneeze guard" located at one of Johnny Garneau's Golden Spike locations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Image courtesy of Barbara Garneau Kelley.

Garneau's invention effectively changed the standard for food safety in self-service environments. Even though there isn't evidence of a direct causation between Garneau's patent and food-safety initiatives, as far back as the early '60s, the FDA regulated the presence of food shields. "The 1962 Model Food Service Sanitation Ordinance and 1976 Model Food Service Sanitation Ordinance also has very similar language," David Steigman a communications representative of the FDA stated in an email to Smithsonian.com. "Instead of 'salad bar food guards',  the term 'counter protective devices' and 'salad bar protective devices' were used in 1962 and 1976 respectively." The NSF's Food Service Equipment criteria for the design and construction for "counter guards" go as far back as 1965, and perhaps even earlier.

The most current law, the 2013 Food Code, under section 3-306.11 states that: "FOOD on display shall be protected from contamination by the use of PACKAGING; counter, service line, or salad bar FOOD guards; display cases; or other effective means."

A diagram for "Food Shields" from the National Sanitation Foundation. The basic statement of NSF regarding food shields: "A food shield shall provide a barrier between the mouth of the customer and unpackaged food to minimize the potential of contamination of the food by a customer."

All 50 states have adopted food codes patterned after one of the six versions of the FDA's model (1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2009, and as of last month 2013), which include requirements for protecting food on display that resemble Garneau's original design. Though each state's regulation remains in line with the FDA's guidelines, it is up to state, local and tribal agencies to regulate and inspect retail food establishments. The degree of coverage and specific dimensions of "food guards" vary. New Jersey for example follows the National Sanitation Foundation Internation (NSF International) Food Guard requirements which state that a sneeze guard must be positioned 14 inches above the food counter surface and must extend seven inches beyond the edge of the utensil on which food is placed.

According to Elizabeth Dougherty, director of inventor education at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, there are only about 100 patents filed in the area of food storage, safety and care—a small number when you consider that there are eight million U.S. patents total. After Garneau's patent in 1959, there have been some innovations in the field with minor changes in the original design.

"The late '50s does seem to be the era in time when the sneeze guards started to become an object for innovation and invention," Dougherty says. "Prior to this time, there are very few documented patents in this technology area."

The saying is that "necessity is the mother of invention." It took a Midwestern restauranteur to realize that without something to protect them, everyone's favorite buffet foods were defenseless from the attack of a 40 mph sneeze.

Architectural drawings and state secrets

National Museum of American History

If you frequent the object groups of the National Museum of American History online, you may have noticed a recent addition (group link at end of post). These objects look like a cross between doll-house furniture and some strange science experiment. To explain what these intriguing mathematical objects are would be too, well, mathematical. Let me tell you a story instead.

A piece of tan-colored paper folded in half. One half is lying flat and the other is open facing the camera, like an open mouth. There are geometric drawings on the paper with strings attached. The top says "Relief 19" with text below it in French.

A young French draftsman brooded over his drawings. He was working on something new, a new way of thinking about drawing. He had come to the notice of the French authorities a few years earlier for his masterful drawings of his hometown of Beaune, in the east of France. He was appointed a draftsman at the École Royale du Génie in 1765, at age 19. But young Gaspard Monge had already shown his talents, completing his college courses by age 17. The year after his appointment, he was asked to draw plans that would prevent attackers from seeing into or firing on fortifications, while at the same time allowing defenders to have clear visibility and avoiding dead zones, locations below the fortification walls shielded from defender's fire.

Constructing ever more elaborate fortifications was the arms race of most of the 20th century. By this time in European history, star forts were the pinnacle of fortification technology, and were seen across Europe and in the American colonies. First constructed in Italy in the 15th century, star forts only became obsolete in the 18th century with the advent of high-power artillery that could breach even thick masonry walls. Castillo de San Marco in St. Augustine, Florida, is a simple yet impressive example. The complex Bourtange fortification in Groningen in the Netherlands is a stunning piece of engineering. The sharp corners that look out as well as back at the fort allow defenders complete line-of-sight to their attackers. But how to draw the plans for these increasingly complex constructions, with their walls that nowhere meet at right angles, and their tunnels and corridors inside? That is what kept Monge at his desk late into the night.

Traditional building plans consisted of what are known as plan views. A drawing would be made of what the building was to look like from each side, the top, and the floor (or its footprint). For interior spaces, the same types of drawings were made. But this left engineers and builders with no clear idea of how walls should join or stairwells connect to different levels. In particular, the geometry of how various architectural elements came together was missing. This was the puzzle young Monge stewed over at age 20. Then he hit on it. If two views could somehow be produced on the same piece of paper, maybe the angles of intersection of walls and tunnels could be shown. Monge realized that by projecting the design element both vertically and horizontally, all the geometry could be captured. Gaspard Monge had created Descriptive Geometry. It was the first time the geometry of three-dimensional objects could be captured accurately—the computer-aided design of its day.

But before it was barely out of the box, Descriptive Geometry disappeared for several years, having been quickly classified as a state secret by the French government and only taught at the French military academies. But by 1799 it was no longer classified and the first text book on Descriptive Geometry was published, Monge's Géométrie descriptive: Leçons données aux écoles normales. Descriptive Geometry quickly became an important component of the training of engineers and military officers throughout the western world, being taught at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, since its founding in 1802 until the advent of computer-aided drawing systems in the mid-20th century. Monge's career soared. He became the director of France's premiere engineering school, the École Polytechnique, and accompanied Napoleon on his infamous expedition to Egypt.

After Monge, several other mathematicians took up the mantle, pushing Descriptive Geometry further and writing more text books. One such author was A. Jullien, an instructor at the Lycée Sainte-Barbe, who produced the text, Cours élémentaire de géométrie descriptive. Lacking a way to effectively allow his students to visualize how three-dimensional objects are rendered in Descriptive Geometry, Jullien constructed a set of 30 handheld models, called reliefs. These delicate objects, made of wire and paper, joined the collections of the National Museum of American History in 1986. They were to be used in the classroom, following the text, just as a modern electronic text has animations or interactive applications at key points. The third edition of Jullien's text appeared in 1881 and is available on Google Books. Readers are encouraged to access the text and the images of each relief found in the object group for these models.

A flat wood box that is open that contains all of the paper diagrams that are mentioned in other portions of the post. They are lined up in four rows.

These 30 models progress from simple, showing how to render a point or a straight line…

A piece of tan-colored paper folded in half. One half is lying flat and the other is open facing the camera, like an open mouth. There are geometric drawings on the paper with strings attached. The top says "Relief e" with text below it in French.

…to the complex, the construction of a slanted pyramid.

A piece of tan-colored paper folded in half. One half is lying flat and the other is open facing the camera, like an open mouth. There are geometric drawings on the paper with strings attached. The top says "Relief 30" with text below it in French.

By looking at the image above, you can almost see, or imagine, the pyramid, represented by the strings, being projected backward onto the vertical plane, as well as downward onto the horizontal plane. When that piece of papers is laid flat, the geometry of the object, shown by the additional lines and curves on the card, can be interpreted using traditional Euclidean methods.

To better allow you to see this, I have created my own version of relief 6, which shows the construction of a line parallel to a given line through a point. The given line is the red string on the right and the point through which the parallel is to be constructed is shown as the bend in the wire on the left at point (m, m'). The constructed parallel is the red string on the left.

A piece of tan-colored paper folded in half. One half is lying flat and the other is open facing the camera, like an open mouth. There are geometric drawings on the paper with strings attached. The top says "Relief e" with text below it in French.

In the image below, I have built my own version of relief 6 out of the (apropos) empty box my migraine medicine comes in.

A white cardboard box with one of the side cut away. There are geometric drawings in the inside of the box with string and small letters to label the angles.

Below is the paper the projections were drawn on laid flat, as it would appear in an architectural drawing or Descriptive Geometry textbook. In this form, the angles at which the lines meet the vertical and the horizontal planes can be seen, giving the designer or architect clear details of the geometry of the object being portrayed. The horizontal line at Q is the fold, and the strings would run from f' to e and d' to c.

A photopgraph of a white piece of paper that resembles the models seen throughout the rest of the post. There are lines drawn in pencil intersecting each other at various points with small letters next to angles.

In current mathematical, engineering, or design courses, three-dimensional objects are rendered using any one of several lightning-fast computer algebra or drawing systems such as MATLAB or Mathematica. But teachers have always sought ways to bring mathematical objects to life for their students. Wood, metal, and plaster models have been used in the classroom for centuries. The museum has approximately 30 mathematics-related object groups, several of which are of educational models for you to explore. But rarely are classroom models of such ingenuity and delicacy as the Jullien Models of Descriptive Geometry.

They are so beautifully made they reminded me of doll-house furniture the first time I saw them.

To learn more and explore the full set of Jullien models for Descriptive Geometry, visit our online object group.

Dr. Amy Shell-Gellasch, who volunteers at the museum, is an historian of mathematics and Associate Professor of Mathematics at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland.

Author(s): 
Dr. Amy Shell-Gellasch
Posted Date: 
Monday, October 24, 2016 - 08:00
OSayCanYouSee?d=qj6IDK7rITs OSayCanYouSee?d=7Q72WNTAKBA OSayCanYouSee?i=LeROK9NXKl4:J00wGEqzSh0:V_sGLiPBpWU OSayCanYouSee?i=LeROK9NXKl4:J00wGEqzSh0:gIN9vFwOqvQ OSayCanYouSee?d=yIl2AUoC8zA

Museum Visitors Can Play This Wall Art Like an Instrument

Smithsonian Magazine

With patient, deliberate movements, linn meyers spends hours transmuting her individually drawn lines into one of her pulsating drawings or installations. While she plans out expansive roadmaps for her pieces ahead of time, she also leaves herself open to the bumps that will inevitably come up during her process, letting these new movements guide her abstract explorations to new places.

As the name of meyers’ recent large-scale wall drawing, “Let’s Get Lost,” attests, the installation, which debuted this fall at Bowdoin College Museum of Art, is the very intentional embrace of following yet another unexpected fork in the road.

This time around, her distinctive lines don’t just respond to the architecture of the space, but were also tasked with something new: to establish the physical parameters that pull out the invisible sounds embedded in “Listening Glass.” A complementary installation that debuted in tandem with “Let’s Get Lost,” “Listening Glass” was created by Rebecca Bray, an artist and experience designer (whose past credits include chief of experience design at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History); Jimmy Bigbee Garver, a sound designer and composer; and Josh Knowles, an app developer, in partnership with meyers.

If those were a lot of words to digest, the result, a synesthesia-like participatory art experience, is—by design—easy to grasp. Essentially, “Listening Glass” lets you play “Let’s Get Lost” like an instrument. Visitors armed with cell phones download an application created by Knowles to uncover the audible music notes in meyers’ piece. By holding their phones up in the installation, the app can uncover sounds as they explore meyers’ large-scale drawing, which play in concert with sounds already thrumming from speakers set up in the gallery.

“Let’s Get Lost” and “Listening Glass” (any Alice in Wonderland connotations were unintended) came out of an unplanned communication between the artists’ previous works. In May 2016, meyers unveiled her largest work to date, “Our View From Here,” an ambitious 400-foot-long drawing that snaked its way around the donut-shaped second floor hallway of Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture. While the piece was on view, Bray and Garver independently ideated “Framing Device,” an interactive audio work, which takes cues from an earlier sound and performative art collaboration by the artists called “Silosphere.” In “Silosphere,” participants placed their heads inside globe-like devices fitted with a screen and speakers, to create a contained experience with the only connection to the outside world coming from video feed piped in from an exterior video camera. Building on that in “Framing Device,” a piece that reframes the art gallery audio guide, participants were given masks and wireless headphones, which tuned into two different channel options—an (actor-portrayed) audio tour of the museum and an interior monologue of a self-conscious visitor—to prompt participants to re-see the landscape of an art gallery.

“It can feel quite limiting, the way that we are expected to—or we expect ourselves—to experience art in a typical institutional or curated setting,” says Bray. In their collaborations, she and Garver are interested in creating participatory art that “asks something of the viewer and invites [them] in, in a way that changes the relationship.”

“Framing Device” came together for “Sound Scene,” an annual festival in celebration of listening, which just so happened to be hosted by Hirshhorn for the first time in 2016, when “Our View From Here” was on display. Because of that, meyers’ work became part of “Framing Device”’s audio tour, something meyers herself was unaware of until she happened to come to the event and listen to the piece herself.

“She came up to us afterward and said, wow, this is so interesting. I’ve never really seen my own work in this way,” Bray recalls.

The artists started having coffee together to talk about the ideas they were exploring and how they might work together. meyers works without templates or tape to draw the thousands of flowing lines that come together to create her final pieces. Her unmistakable process compels you to look at the art and think about why it takes the shapes it does. But she was interested in how Bray and Garver might be able to make someone slow down and engage even more deeply with her lines. “Let’s Get Lost” and “Listening Glass” was what resulted from that challenge.

“What the project became was an evolution that paralleled our conversations,” meyers explains. In some of their earliest talks, the artists toyed with trying virtual reality and augmented reality, but they moved away from that idea out of concern that the technology might overwhelm the art. They wanted to create an interactive art experience where the technology was serving the art, not the other way around. They brought in Knowles, who Bray has known for many years in the interactive technology and art space, to help translate their working idea, intertwining meyers’ art with Garver’s sounds.

It wasn’t immediately apparent how to go about doing that. “Am I going to make music that sounds like your drawings or draw something that sounds like your music?” says Garver. “We both changed a lot.”

Each of the four of them had little overlap among their skillsets, which forced them to have to really be deliberate with each step of the ideation process. “Because each of our pieces of this thing were deeply connected with everyone else's pieces, there was not somebody going off into a room and doing their piece and presenting it back to everyone,” says Bray. Instead, they had to continuously talk through their different mediums and tease out the compromises and opportunities of each creative decision.

“It’s really hard stuff to talk about, and we had to almost come up with our own language, which was interesting in and of itself,” says meyers. What helped, she says, was that they all knew they were coming at the work with a shared set of values and a shared vision. At one point, Bray even wrote them down. The idea they were working toward, meyers says, was to “create a piece that engaged with the audience in a way that the audience would complete the work.”

There was a lot to negotiate: there was the architecture of the space, meyers’ art, Garver’s sounds (both made in phone, and sounds they decided they wanted continuously playing in room), the technology, how to bring it out through movement, and of course, the audience. “We made a bunch of documents, diagrams and spreadsheets to help each other understand,” Garver says.

The audience experience was what they circled back to the most in their conversations. One of the biggest negotiations in interactive art space, says Bray, is creating something that has few barriers of entry—“generous” is a term she uses a lot—but is also able to transform the way something is viewed.

“How do we bring people closer to the art? Not just physically, but to slow down and consider the lines themselves; the pieces of the art as well as the whole?” she says of the challenge they were facing.

They wanted to make the space a conversation between artist and viewer. In a retreat over the summer, meyers drew four preparatory drawings on the walls of Bray and Garver’s living room. They then invited people to play with the app and interact with the wall drawings.

That led to more tinkering. For instance, the software had problems distinguishing the fleshy color that meyers was using to fill her “shadows of a void” with the room’s wood floor and the window trim. To ensure the sound remained particular to the element it was being pointed at, meyers added a blue line to each quadrant so the device could better distinguish the art from the surroundings.

The sounds themselves, which can be brought about through movement and location, include a piano-like sound, a plucked sound, a voice and a bell. “They’re very kind of vanilla,” says Garver. “The beauty is the interesting thing that happens when people pick it up and use it.”

Garver continued to strip down the compositions with each iteration of the project. What he came to realize was that the more complex and composed the sound, the harder it was to understand whose actions were generating it. “I was just trying to facilitate the moving of the instrument and not make music. That was new for him. "I've never done anything like that before,” he says. “Even to this day,” he says, he wonders about the work, “Does this sound like these lines?”

The journey through the gallery can feel like swimming through ocean. “It’s kind of an overwhelming experience, because there’s a huge wash of lower pitched sounds that you’re in front of and all around, but as you move through the space you’re making small sounds,” says Garver. That’s how Bray and Garver’s 7-year-old son describes the immersive experience: “like a fish, floating through the waves.”

Knowles’ app, which is available for download on iTunes (and can be played outside the gallery, too), isn’t wedded to the sounds its currently programmed to play. The software can be adapted, and the artists have already spoken with Bowdoin about the possibility of having students compose new sounds for the installation and choreograph a performance in the gallery. The idea is that performers with phones strategically placed on their bodies could play a musical composition in the room with their movements.

When the installations first debuted in September, Bray watched as people used their phones not for texting, but rather as a wand guiding them through the story of the gallery. “We really saw people taking their time, and following a line or following the kind of curve that linn was drawing,” she says.

This isn’t meyers' first collaborative venture. “I love working on my own,” she says, in reference to her studio work. “I love the solitary activity of it, and I wouldn’t ever want to give this part up.” But throughout her career, she’s been drawn to building ideas with other artists. “It takes you into territory that’s less comfortable and less familiar,” she says. “You can do that on your own, but it’s harder.”

Her next collaborative venture is working with fellow Washington, D.C-based artists Tim Doud and Caitlin Teal Price to open an affordable studio space called STABLE. Slated to open in February of 2019, the 10,000 square feet of studio space located in the eastern edge of Eckington aims to better connect artists and foster a community among them in the district. The idea, says meyers, is to make D.C. “more friendly to artists and a place where artists want to stay.”

Fittingly, while “Listening Glass” can be played solo, there’s something richer that happens when those in the gallery come together to create compositions. If all the visitors at a given time make the same gesture at the same time with their phones, they can unlock a special sonic effect.

"Let's Get Lost" and "Listening Glass" are jointly on view at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art through September 29, 2019.

Ballon Aerostatique Voyageant

National Air and Space Museum
Ballon Aerostatique Voyageant...Schematic diagram of an "arrow" shaped balloon with sail. Diagram is lettered, with legend below.

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

There's No Snoozing in Class With This Chemistry App

Smithsonian Magazine

STEM education—that’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—receives a lot of attention for its importance, especially as jobs in STEM fields are ever more available and necessary. But Justin Weinberg, the creator of an interactive chemistry app called Chem101, says that even before starting a career in science or technology, students often find the basic lecture-hall and standardized-test teaching format for STEM subjects to be clunky and uninspiring.

While e-books have entered some classrooms, STEM instruction has remained unchanged for nearly as long as the subjects have been taught. With his interactive app, Weinberg, a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University, hopes to inspire a new kind of classroom engagement.

Chem101, his first subject-specific tool, allows students to interact with and respond to an instructor in real time, and receive automated feedback to use in later classroom discussions. Take a topic that vexes a lot of first-year chemistry students: Lewis structures. Lewis structures, also known as Lewis dot diagrams, are two-dimensional drawings that show how molecules in an element are connected, as well as the shape of the molecule. During a lecture, students can use 101 to practice drawing these structures, which educators can then view, review and correct if needed. After a pilot study last fall, the app is being used at several major U.S. universities with much favorable feedback.

Weinberg talked to Smithsonian.com about his vision for transforming STEM education from a passive to an interactive process.

Where did the idea for 101 originate? 

Many of the ideas and hypotheses in 101 are based from my own teaching experience. I’ve been teaching forms of STEM for nearly a decade as both a private tutor and a university teaching assistant at Carnegie Mellon, where I am currently a PhD candidate in chemical engineering. Needless to say, I’ve witnessed the struggles that so many students have when they take math and science courses in college.  

The real inspiration came from when I co-created a chemistry tutoring app called Chem Pro, which achieved over 500,000 downloads organically. The fact that so many students were seeking help outside of their courses made me realize that the way STEM courses are being taught is fundamentally broken. Over time, that realization has turned into 101’s mission, which is to transform the STEM lecture from a passive learning experience to an active learning experience.

Justin Weinberg, founder and CEO at 101 (101)

How did your experience as a STEM student and teacher influence the app build and design?

The biggest influence on Chem101’s design actually came from the existing products on the market, because they taught us what not to do. The truth is that online STEM interactives, such as modules for drawing chemical structures, are not new and have actually been around for roughly 20 years. However, these interactives are often so hard to navigate and frustrating to use for students that they only make it more difficult for them to understand STEM concepts. That’s why our number one goal is to make our interactives as easy to use as possible. Education technology should make it more likely for students to succeed, not make it more difficult.

Why start with chemistry?

Simply because it’s what our team knows best. Independent of our team, chemistry is a great starting point because it is notorious for causing student frustration and high failure and dropout rates in college courses.

What's the user experience for students and educators using 101?

In the middle of a lecture, a professor uses Chem101 to create an assignment with one or more built-in problems and then pushes it out over the network to all student devices.

Students are notified of the assignment via a push notification. They open the Chem101 app and respond to the problems by completing the activities, such as drawing chemical structures, on their devices. When students submit their answers, they receive personalized feedback if they make a mistake, with the option of retrying the problem.

The professor receives the results of each problem in real-time. Chem101 provides the professor with the number of students that completed the problem correctly as well as what the three most common mistakes are. The professor can then use these results to promote a class discussion about common misconceptions.

How are students and educators responding so far?

The response from both sides has been incredible. Last fall, we piloted Chem101 with 2,000 students across 8 colleges and universities, including Carnegie Mellon, Columbia University, and the University of Cincinnati. After the pilot, 40 percent of students said using Chem101 made them more interested in chemistry, and students who learned Lewis structures using Chem101 performed up to 200 percent better compared to those who used traditional learning tools.

Is the app free for students if purchased by the institution? What's the pricing like?

Professors can opt to have their students purchase a subscription to Chem101 as part of their course fees or pay for a site license to remove the student costs. Either way, Chem101 is currently $5 per student per course.

How did you select partner institutions for the pilot study and beyond?

It’s a mix of both. At first I did a lot of reaching out to find professors willing to try out a product that had never been tested before. While we still do a good amount of that, we now get professors approaching us because they’ve heard good things about the product.

Any plans to expand to other subjects or other grade and learning levels? 

We’ll be focused on chemistry for the near future but look forward to hitting other STEM subjects soon.

What's So Important About the Bottom of a Cargo Ship? A Smithsonian Dive Team Explains

Smithsonian Magazine

I am once again leaving my familiar world behind and descending into the abyss below. The first dive of an entirely new expedition is the most magical. I am a member of a scientific research dive team studying biological invasions in coastal marine ecosystems off the coast of Bermuda for the Smithsonian Marine Invasions Research Lab. As I sink beneath the belly of a massive cargo ship, I glide my hand down the side of the vessel. The painted metal feels like smooth skin, but it is covered in a thin layer of brown biofilm, microbial life that clings to painted surfaces and is generally found covering the bottom of ships. Larger organisms reside inside the recesses of the ship’s hull.  

Invasive species are fundamentally changing the structure and function of ecosystems around the world and impacting many dimensions of human society.  Our research is important because the unintentional transfer of organisms by ships is the leading cause of biological invasions to coastal marine systems in North America, and also globally. ‘Biofouling’ organisms “hitch a ride,” attaching themselves to the hull and underwater surfaces of ocean-going vessels. Some of these species are the root cause of severe ecological, economic and human-health effects. The species—including the microbial biofilms—are also a major nuisance to shippers because they slow down the ships and increase fuel costs.

As I descend from the water surface at the bow of the ship, a large grated hole opens up in front of me and reveals its enormous propellers.  I swim closer to the grate to get a better view inside the tunnel containing the bow thrusters. Before even entering the water, the dive team made sure to check with the ship’s captain and chief engineer that all moving parts—potential hazards, such as bow thrusters, propellers, rudders and stabilizers—are locked down and secured. Swimming up to a propeller twice your size is a wonderful moment, but only if you know it will not whisk you away or chop you into bits.  

Occasionally during the dive I hear and feel the vibration of the ship “breathing.” The sound comes from the water intake vents, known as “sea chests,” which feed the ship’s cooling system and must remain operational. We are careful to avoid these areas of the hull. Low visibility—dimmed by the density of the particulates suspended in the water column—adds to the mystery, but I can make out the vague shapes of the other divers, ecologist Ian Davidson and researchers Lina Ceballos and Kim Holzer.

Ian photographs areas of interest and Lina is collecting specimens. In my excitement, I take a moment to grab a quick selfie.

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Smithsonian divers explore the hull of a massive cargo ship for biological invasions of organisms that "hitch a ride" on the hull of the vessel. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Biofilms are microorganisms that accumulate in layers on the ship's hull. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Ian Davidson. The clean circle on the ships hole designates where the researchers have collected samples of the biofilms. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Ian Davidson. Larger organisms reside inside the recesses of the ship’s hull. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. All moving parts and potential hazards—such as bow thrusters, propellers, rudders and stabilizers—are locked down and secured. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Visibility is so low that divers have to carefully steer clear of the ship's giant propeller. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. The water intake vents, known as “sea chests,” feed the ship’s cooling system and must remain operational. So we diagram those areas of the hull to avoid them. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Low visibility—dimmed by the density of the particulates suspended in the water column—adds to the mystery. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Ecologist Ian Davidson photographs areas of interest. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Researcher Lina Ceballos (left) is scraping samples and Kim Holzer collects them. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Samples are sealed in a plastic bag and dropped into a mesh bag clipped to the divers' gear. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Pencils seem to float away from the slates like they are on their own spacewalk. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Ian Davidson. Bubbles from the divers' breathing aparatus collect on the belly of the ship. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Using a funnel and a syringe, biofilms are collected. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Propeller is nearly twice the size of the divers. (original image)

Image by Photograph by Laurie Penland. Ian Davidson collecting specimens under the cargo ship. (original image)

Soon, I am catching the specimens Lina collects and sealing them in a plastic sample bag, and dropping them into the larger mesh bag I have clipped to my gear. I then record the location and sample bag number on a slate with a pencil, which are tethered to my body.  

Simple tasks. Except everything wants to float or sink away, nothing wants to stay where I put it, including myself. If I spend too much time looking for something clipped to me, or writing on the slate, I look up to find I have drifted away from my intended position. Our pencils and slates float away like they are on their own mini spacewalk. If we don’t make sure that our tools are clipped to us, they are gone. We lost a slate once filled with data—it’s still down there somewhere. Fortunately, we had a duplicate available, otherwise we would have completely wiped-out an entire day’s work.

For the day’s second dive, we descend at mid-ship to go entirely underneath the ship’s belly. With every exhale, the bubbles collect above our heads onto the ship’s hull and reflect back at us like mirrors of mercury. Ian is trying to take pictures; too many bubbles are getting in his way. I move further away so with each exhale, I’m not contributing to his bubble problems. As I look back, I see a solitary scientist who appears completely engrossed in his work.

The third and fourth dives of the day are at the stern. Fatigue is starting to creep in, as we descend down the huge rudder. Visibility is poor and I almost swim right into the ship’s giant propeller. We proceed with the same sampling process, which by now feels like a routine.

On our fourth dive, our task is to take high-resolution images in small sections to create one deep-zoom image of the entire rudder. This is the last dive of the day and the most tedious, but I shoot 312 photographs just to create one image. Throughout the effort, I am constantly trying to maintain position, working slowly from left to right, from bottom to top, up the rudder, picture by picture.  

After we return to the marine station by boat, we unload and wash down all the equipment, refill the boat with fuel, and haul our equipment back to the house to hang it out to dry. Next, we get to work. These vessel surveys are designed to evaluate the extent, composition and condition (live versus dead, reproductive condition, stuff like that) of the organisms.  

Lina, Kim and Ian labor late into the night processing the specimens, while I download and manage today’s images. We’ll repeat this tomorrow and every day while we are here, weather permitting. Field time is expensive and precious. Bad weather can take that time away quickly, so we work constantly while we can.

When I return from the field, I am often asked by my family and friends what I experienced. Rarely do I have time to do what a tourist might, so I tend to miss a lot. However, any postcard that I send from Bermuda is going to say this: Today, what I experienced underneath the belly of a ship, was amazingly beautiful.

Nier Mass Spectrograph

National Museum of American History
Background on Nier Mass Spectrograph; object id no. 1990.0446.01; catalog no. N-09567

This object consists of the following three components: ion source with oven and acceleration electrode; semicircular glass vacuum chamber; ion collector with two plates. The original device included an electromagnet, which is not part of this accession.

In 1939, as political tensions in Europe increased, American physicists learned of an astonishing discovery: the nucleus of the uranium atom can be split, causing the release of an immense amount of energy. Given the prospects of war, the discovery was just as worrying as it was intellectually exciting. Could the Germans use it to develop an atomic bomb?

The Americans realized that they had to determine whether a bomb was physically possible. Uranium consists mostly of the isotope U-238, with less than 1% of U-235. Theoreticians predicted that it was the nuclei of the rare U-235 isotope that undergo fission, the U-238 being inactive. To test this prediction, it was necessary to separate the two isotopes, but it would be difficult to do this since they are chemically identical.

Alfred Nier, a young physicist at the University of Minnesota, was one of the few people in the world with the expertise to carry out the separation. He used a physical technique that took advantage of the small difference in mass of the two isotopes. To separate and collect small quantities of them, he employed a mass spectrometer technique that he first developed starting in about 1937 for measurement of relative abundance of isotopes throughout the periodic table. (The basic principles of the mass spectrometer are described below.)

As a measure of the great importance of his work, in October 1939, Nier received a letter from eminent physicist Enrico Fermi, then at Columbia University, expressing great interest in whether, and how, the separation was progressing. Motivated by such urging, by late February 1940, Nier was able to produce two tiny samples of separated U-235 and U-238, which he provided to his collaborators at Columbia University, a team headed by John R. Dunning of Columbia. The Dunning team was using the cyclotron at the University in numerous studies to follow up on the news from Europe the year before on the fission of the uranium atom. In March 1940, with the samples provided by Nier, the team used neutrons produced by a proton beam from the cyclotron to show that it was the comparatively rare uranium-235 isotope that was the most readily fissile component, and not the abundant uranium-238.

The fission prediction was verified. The Nier-Dunning group remarked, "These experiments emphasize the importance of uranium isotope separation on a larger scale for the investigation of chain reaction possibilities in uranium" (reference: A.O. Nier et. al., Phys. Rev. 57, 546 (1940)). This proof that U-235 was the fissile uranium isotope opened the way to the intense U.S. efforts under the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb. (For details, see Nier’s reminiscences of mass spectrometry and The Manhattan Project at: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/ed066p385).

The Dunning cyclotron is also in the Modern Physics Collection (object id no. 1978.1074.01; catalog no. N-09130), and it will be presented on the SI collections website in 2015. (Search for “Dunning Cyclotron” at http://collections.si.edu/search/)

The Nier mass spectrometer used to collect samples of U-235 and U-238 (object id no. 1990.0446.01)

Nier designed an apparatus based on the principle of the mass spectrometer, an instrument that he had been using to measure isotopic abundance ratios throughout the entire periodic table. As in most mass spectrometers of the time, his apparatus produced positive ions by the controlled bombardment of a gas (UBr˅4, generated in a tiny oven) by an electron beam. The ions were drawn from the ionizing region and moved into an analyzer, which used an electromagnet for the separation of the various masses. Usually, the ion currents of the separated masses were measured by means of an electrometer tube amplifier, but in this case the ions simply accumulated on two small metal plates set at the appropriate positions. Nier’s mass spectrometer required that the ions move in a semicircular path in a uniform magnetic field. The mass analyzer tube was accordingly mounted between the poles of an electromagnet that weighed two tons, and required a 5 kW generator with a stabilized output voltage to power it. (The magnet and generator were not collected by the Smithsonian.) The ion source oven, 180-degree analyzer tube, and isotope collection plates are seen in the photos of the Nier apparatus (see accompanying media file images for this object).

Basic principles of the mass spectrometer

When a charged particle, such as an ion, moves in a plane perpendicular to a magnetic field, it follows a circular path. The radius of the particle’s path is proportional to the product of its mass and velocity, and is inversely proportional to the product of its electrical charge and the magnetic field strength. A mass spectrometer consists of three components: an ion source, a mass analyzer, and a detector. The ion source converts a portion of the sample into ions. There is a wide variety of ionization techniques, depending on the phase (solid, liquid, gas) of the sample and the efficiency of various ionization mechanisms for the unknown species. An extraction system removes ions from the sample and gives them a selected velocity. They then pass through the magnetic field (created by an electromagnet) of the mass analyzer. For a given magnetic field strength, the differences in mass-to-charge ratio of the ions result in corresponding differences in the curvature of their circular paths through the mass analyzer. This results in a spatial sorting of the ions exiting the analyzer. The detector records either the charge induced or the current produced when an ion passes by or hits a surface, thus providing data for calculating the abundance and mass of each isotope present in the sample. For a full description with a schematic diagram of a typical mass spectrometer, go to: http://www.chemguide.co.uk/analysis/masspec/howitworks.html

The Nier sector magnet mass spectrometer (not in Smithsonian Modern Physics Collection)

In 1940, during the time that Nier separated the uranium isotopes, he developed a mass spectrometer for routine isotope and gas analysis. An instrument was needed that did not use a 2-ton magnet, or required a 5 kW voltage-stabilized generator for providing the current in the magnet coils. Nier therefore developed the sector magnet spectrometer, in which a 60-degree sector magnet took the place of the much larger one needed to give a 180-degree deflection. The result was that a magnet weighing a few hundred pounds, and powered by several automobile storage batteries, took the place of the significantly larger and heavier magnet which required a multi-kW generator. Quoting Nier, “The analyzer makes use of the well-known theorem that if ions are sent into a homogeneous magnetic field between two V-shaped poles there is a focusing action, provided the source, apex of the V, and the collector lie along a straight line” (reference: A.O. Nier, Rev. Sci. Instr., 11, 212, (1940)). This design was to become the prototype for all subsequent magnetic deflection instruments, including hundreds used in the Manhattan Project.

Stunning, Surreal Concepts Cast a Spell on the Fairy Tales Architecture Competition

Smithsonian Magazine

For millennia, the fairy tale's unique ability to communicate important lessons through the telling of fantastical tales has held audiences in rapture. Now, the architectural community has turned to the tried-and-tested narrative form to provoke new innovations and interest in architecture through the Fairy Tales competition. 

Entering its fourth year, the competition was first imagined up in 2013 by architectural thought-leader Blank Space in partnership with the National Building Museum. By its very nature, the competition treats architects as worldbuilders. To participate, entrants must submit original artwork and complementary fiction that re-images the world we live. Themes range from the deeply personal to the largest societal and environmental issues of the day.

For this year's competition, a jury of more than 20 leading architects, designers and storytellers came together to decide on four winners, in addition to 10 honorable mentions. They announced the honorees at a live event at the National Building Museum hosted by NPR's Lauren Ober on Monday night. 

French architects Ariane Merle d’Aubigné and Jean Maleyrat weren't able to attend in person, but the duo won third place for their submission “Up Above." Their entry dreams up a way for refugees to escape the horrors of the world by taking to the skies. In their world, those looking to leave oppression and inequality behind can live in the clouds—specifically in shelters balanced on thin stilts high above city skylines.

Image by Ariane Merle d’Aubigné & Jean Maleyrat. (original image)

Image by Ariane Merle d’Aubigné & Jean Maleyrat. (original image)

Image by Ariane Merle d’Aubigné & Jean Maleyrat. (original image)

Image by Ariane Merle d’Aubigné & Jean Maleyrat. (original image)

Image by Ariane Merle d’Aubigné & Jean Maleyrat. (original image)

Chicago architect Terrence Hector earned second place for his world that granted architecture sentience by means of a slow-moving species of concrete and metal. Offering a new meaning to the notion of walking cities, Hector's entry, “City Walkers” or “The Possibility of a Forgotten Domestication and Biological Industry" pays tribute to the work of iconic director Hayao Miyazaki, especially Howl's Moving Castle (2004), as well as themes of anthropomorphizing buildings in architectural history.

Image by Terrence Hector. (original image)

Image by Terrence Hector. (original image)

Image by Terrence Hector. (original image)

Image by Terrence Hector. (original image)

Image by Terrence Hector. (original image)

The competition also awarded a special prize this year to architects Maria Syed and Adriana Davis. Their entry, “Playing House,"  explores how a split-personality can manifest literally through architecture, and it was the highest-scoring submission by members of the American Institute of Architecture Students. 

Image by Maria Syed and Adriana Davis. (original image)

Image by Maria Syed and Adriana Davis. (original image)

Image by Maria Syed and Adriana Davis. (original image)

Image by Maria Syed and Adriana Davis. (original image)

But the night went to Ukrainian architect Mykhailo "Misha" Ponomarenko who took first for his entry, "Last Day."  Ponomarenko's work playfully imagines what would happen if science fiction-like structures were inexplicably woven into ordinary landscapes. His out-of-this-world insertions into normal scenes aren't just stunning—they also offer commentary on how machines reshape their environments.

Smithsonian.com caught up with Ponomarenko to talk to him more about his work and how he sees fantasy informing today's architecture. 

Who are your biggest influences?

When I studied in school it was American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. I learned a lot from his works—I read all his books; I was really addicted. All his principles and ideas still apply today. I have a lot of feelings about him but not too many words.

But right now, I’m really influenced by the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, and also landscape in general. I was walking all day in Washington today looking at the landscapes. It’s so beautiful here, especially around the [National Museum of the American Indian]. The authentic marshes, and the rock work, and even the ducks in the lake in the pond—it looks so real in the middle of this metropolis. I was deeply impressed. That natural wildness so affects the landscape. It was inspiring.

Talk to me about Bjarke Ingels. What about his work makes an impression on you?

How he works with problems, and how he solves problems in architectural ways. His building is very pragmatic and very rational, and I’m also very rational and pragmatic, so this is why I love him a lot. I’m very interested to understand what he does. With each of his projects he creates a series of 3-D diagrams where he explains step-by-step how he came up with his shapes. After you see the diagrams, it feels like the building came naturally. It was meant to be here; it was part of the environment; it was a response to conditions of this environment and to the conditions of this place in general. And, it solves problems—not only for people going to use the building, but also people going to walk around it. His rationality is deeply inspiring.

Image by Mykhailo Ponomarenko. (original image)

Image by Mykhailo Ponomarenko. (original image)

Image by Mykhailo Ponomarenko. (original image)

Image by Mykhailo Ponomarenko. (original image)

Image by Mykhailo Ponomarenko. (original image)

It’s so interesting to move from ideas of pragmatism and rationality to talking about a fairy tale competition. When I think of fairy tales, I think of irrational concepts. Did you set out to apply pragmatism and rationality to "Last Day"?

I didn’t think too much about pragmatism. I was thinking about contrast between nature and manmade; rational and irrational; regular and irregular; horizontal and vertical. You take a real landscape and then you add something unreal. But not a big jump, just a dash of unreal. A little bit bizarre, a little bit strange, a little bit unreal. Then you put people in the forefront of your landscape who just live in this space.

They interact with this space and they act absolutely normally, like this is the way it’s supposed to be. And it’s like: “Wow, this looks interesting.” You’re seeing something absolutely unreal and impractical, but everyone acts as though it’s normal. The contrast between nature and manmade is the most interesting and beautiful part of our existence.

Working with these ideas, how did you come up with the specific story you wanted to tell for this competition?

I generally am inspired by landscape paintings. Also, the Swedish artist Simon Stalenhag, he has the same idea. I copied this idea from him. He painted real landscapes, suburban landscapes, villages, then he puts something really weird there— some robot or dinosaur, strange structure or machines and people play around it. It looks very utopian or dystopian. It also feels very nostalgic. Every time I look at his paintings it feels like I’ve seen it before. Maybe because of my Soviet past.

I was born in the Soviet Union when it was still a union. Then it broke up like it is, but we still have Soviet heritage. So you can see similar culture or places and it’s something similar. It awoke some weird feelings, like melancholic and nostalgic. I really like these feelings and I thought, wow, I want to do something similar but keep it not as negative. Some of his paintings look a little bit negative, like a rusty structure falling apart. I wanted to do something positive—why should it all be negative when I could do something more optimistic? I also wanted to work with landscape and to interact with landscape. It’s like you see this landscape and you have this feeling inside to share, it’s like a burst of energy and I was like wow, I want to do something with this, and so I just start to sketch. There was something in there that was really unpractical and unpragmatical.

By doing this kind of intervention you can find some interesting ideas which could be implemented in the real world. Something really interesting could show up [in the shapes you create] and allow you to see the space from a different perspective and give you more thoughts and feelings about this landscape.

What fairy tales would you say inspired you growing up?

I’ve always been deeply inspired by science fiction. I love Star Wars. I grew up with Star Wars. It was my favorite series. When I was a teenager I was reading a lot of science fiction books about planets and about the universe, all this stuff. This is deeply inspiring, and I really want to work on other ideas that tie together real landscape and science fiction and science and architecture and see what pulls together.

What do you want readers to take away from your work?

I want to evoke some feelings about our planet, and about landscapes and about our influence on these landscapes. What we can do with them, and what we actually are doing. I believe we can do way better than what we are doing now.

Anything else you’d like to add?

People: you need to recycle garbage, and make our planet cleaner, and read more science fiction.

Sneaky 1960s rabies prevention inventions

National Museum of American History

Antibodies are always looking out for us, and this week we're taking a closer look at them. Antibody-based tests, vaccines, and drugs have dramatically influenced American history, culture, and quality of life. Smallpox, polio, and syphilis, once constant threats, are now distant memories for many, and recent antibody-based therapies continue to further the human battle against disease. Read our Antibodies Week posts on pregnancy testsan-tee-bodies t-shirts, plague, and healthy hogs

Anyone who endured a terrifying childhood screening of Old Yeller can testify that the ghastly symptoms of rabies, as well as its transmission via the bite of an infected animal, make rabies a particularly feared and fabled disease. Vaccines have ensured that the symptoms of many infectious diseases are unfamiliar to Americans—we might have heard about the symptoms, but we can't really picture what it would be like to suffer them. That is not the case for rabies.

Illustrated poster with red and black text: "The fox can transmit rabies." Illustrated image of a red/orange fox with bared teeth on a fallen log. Trees and leaves.
 
Rabies is a viral disease that infects the nervous system. It is transmitted through saliva, as well as brain and nervous system tissue. At first, an infected victim might experience malaise, and a slight tingling at the site of the bite wound. But soon, the virus infects the brain, eventually causing hallucinations, severe agitation, strange or violent behavior, and hydrophobia—the fear of and inability to drink water—coupled with extreme thirst. The manifestation of these later symptoms indicates that it is probably too late to begin successful treatment, and the victim will almost surely die. Rabies is a horrific disease for any animal to suffer.
 
Rectangular cardboard box labeled "Rabies Vaccine (Duck Embryo)" in a printed label. It is half open. Inside, vials with liquid are visible.

Happily, we now have very effective vaccines that prevent rabies in humans and other animals. Even if you are bitten by a non-vaccinated, rabid animal, quick administration of antibody-based therapies can now save your life. There is no reason that anyone, canine or human, has to die from rabies. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every year more than 50,000 people worldwide die from rabies. Why?

Human vaccination and post-bite treatment for rabies is expensive and complex. The best strategy for rabies prevention is to vaccinate the wild and pet animal populations that transmit rabies. But how do we vaccinate wild animals?

One possibility is that we don't vaccinate them . . . we let them vaccinate themselves.

In the United States, wild animal populations, such as foxes, bats, and raccoons, are the most common carriers of the rabies virus. During the 1960s, investigators at the CDC attempted to develop a device that would allow these animals to "self-vaccinate." The scientists modified earlier devices—which had been used by trappers and ranchers—so that they would vaccinate, rather than kill, the coyotes or raccoons that happened upon them.

One of these early devices that the CDC sought to tweak was the questionably named "Humane Coyote Getter." The Getter had originally been patented in 1934 as a commercial device "for killing fur-bearing animals." It was a spring-loaded tube gun weaponized with a live shell of poisonous cyanide. Trappers set the device by partially burying it, then covering with bait—a piece of scented wool. When a coyote bit at the wool, the device shot a stream of cyanide into the coyote's mouth. It was a cruel device.

Ad in black and green for Humane Coyote Getter. Image of coyote sniffing product. Image of product, a spike-looking thing with wings.

Diagram in black and white showing spike-like mechanism.

CDC researchers sought to refashion the "Getter" into a truly humane device: they rigged it with shells of an oral rabies vaccine, rather than cyanide. Unfortunately, testing showed that the altered device sometimes wounded the animal's mouth. Further, the oral vaccine failed to create an acceptable level of immunity to rabies. Thus, both the vaccine and the device were deemed failures.

Photo: Metal device with small hook.

Illustration showing how a Vac-Trap works. Green grass, syringe, arm, and trigger pan shown.

Another device tested by the CDC was the Vac-Trap. This trap was inspired by a common device used by trappers: an animal would spring the trap by stepping on a metal pressure plate, triggering the device to close on the leg of the animal. The researchers modified this design so that when an animal stepped on the trigger plate a syringe full of vaccine swung around and jabbed the animal's body. Vaccinated, the animal continued on its merry way.

Device

Both the Humane Coyote Getter and the Vac-Trap illustrate that the struggle against rabies has been twofold: first, to devise safe and effective vaccines and therapies; second, to develop effective methods to deliver those vaccines to vulnerable populations, whether human or animal.

More recently, attempts to stop the spread of rabies have focused on a different kind of hacked self-vaccination device: food laden with a recombinant virus. Scientists have modified the world's oldest vaccine—the vaccinia virus vaccine, used to eradicate smallpox—in order to create new rabies vaccines. These genetically engineered recombinant vaccines are created by inserting a harmless gene from the rabies virus into the vaccinia virus. The vaccinia acts as the delivery device, while the rabies gene triggers the production of antibodies.

Tubular container with small sticks inside of it.

When put into food, animals eat the new vaccine, orally vaccinating themselves. The method has been used successfully in some wild animal populations, and scientists hope to apply it in areas with abundant populations of non-vaccinated stray dogs, as those animals are a main cause of human rabies infection. Perhaps, with a bit of clever hacking, the same vaccine that eradicated smallpox will now help to eradicate rabies.

Rachel Anderson is a research and project assistant in the Division of Medicine and Science.

Explore the Antibody Initiative website to see the museum's rich collections, which span the entire history of antibody-based therapies and diagnostics. 

The Antibody Initiative was made possible through the generous support of Genentech.

 

Posted Date: 
Thursday, October 19, 2017 - 07:00
OSayCanYouSee?d=qj6IDK7rITs OSayCanYouSee?d=7Q72WNTAKBA OSayCanYouSee?i=GxdV7KXwPZk:rKlnFK6McR0:V_sGLiPBpWU OSayCanYouSee?i=GxdV7KXwPZk:rKlnFK6McR0:gIN9vFwOqvQ OSayCanYouSee?d=yIl2AUoC8zA

Let Us Now Praise the Invention of the Microscope

Smithsonian Magazine

Brad Amos has spent most of his life thinking about and looking into tiny worlds. Now 71 years old, he works as a visiting professor at University of Strathclyde in Scotland where he leads a team of researchers designing an extremely large new microscope lens—about the length and width of a human arm. Named one of Physics World’s Top Ten Breakthroughs of 2016, the so-called Mesolens is so powerful that it can image entire tumors or mouse embryos in one field of view while simultaneously imaging the insides of cells.

“It has the large coverage of a photographic camera lens and the fine resolution of the microscope objective, so it has the advantages of the two approaches,” says Amos. “The images are extremely useful.”

Today, microscopists like Amos are working around the world to innovate new technologies with widespread applications in medicine and human health. But these cutting-edge advancements all trace back to the very first microscopes built in the 16th and 17th centuries. While cutting-edge for the time, they wouldn’t impress you much; that weren’t much stronger than a handheld magnifying glass.

Amos has been obsessed with even these simplest of microscopes ever since he got one for a birthday as a kid. His intrigue in microscopic worlds became insatiable as he explored anything he could find, from the force within tiny, popping bubbles to the way pieces of copper molded under the poke of a needle. “It’s like play dough, it can be very soft,” Amos says of copper. He describes his awe at the phenomena he discovered under the scope that he couldn’t see with his bare eyes: “You are studying a world which doesn’t even obey the same rules of perception.”

This type of curiosity in the going-ons of tiny worlds propelled microscopy from its inception. A Dutch father-son team named Hans and Zacharias Janssen invented the first so-called compound microscope in the late 16th century when they discovered that, if they put a lens at the top and bottom of a tube and looked through it, objects on the other end became magnified.  The device laid critical groundwork for future breakthroughs, but only magnified by between 3x and 9x.

The quality of the image was mediocre at best, says Steven Ruzin, a microscopist and curator of the Golub Microscope Collection at the University of California at Berkeley. “I have imaged through them and they are really quite awful,” says Ruzin. “The hand lenses were much better.”

Although they provided magnification, these first compound microscopes couldn’t increase resolution, so magnified images appeared blurry and obscured. As a result, no significant scientific breakthroughs came from them for about 100 years, says Ruzin.

But by the late 1600s, improvements to the lenses increased the quality of the image and the magnifying power to up to 270x, paving the way for major discoveries. In 1667, English natural scientist Robert Hooke famously published his book Micrographia with intricate drawings of hundreds of specimens he observed, including distinct sections within the branch of a herbaceous plant. He called the sections cells because they reminded him of cells in a monastery—and thus became the father of cellular biology.

Drawings from Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, where he draw the first plant cell ever discovered in this pine branch. (Robert Hooke, Micrographia / Wikimedia Commons)

In 1676, Dutch cloth merchant-turned-scientist Antony van Leeuwenhoek further improved the microscope with the intent of looking at the cloth that he sold, but inadvertently made the groundbreaking discovery that bacteria exist. His accidental finding opened up the field of microbiology and the basis of modern medicine; nearly 200 years later, French scientist Louis Pasteur would determine that bacteria were the cause behind many illnesses (before that, many scientists believed in the miasma theory that rotten air and bad odors made us sick).

“It was huge,” says Kevin Eliceiri, a microscopist at the University of Wisconsin Madison, of the initial discovery of bacteria. “There was a lot of confusion about what made you sick. The idea that there are bacteria and things in the water was one of the greatest discoveries ever.”

The next year, in 1677, Leeuwenhoek made another hallmark discovery when he identified human sperm for the first time. A medical student had brought him the ejaculate of a gonorrhea patient to study under his microscope. Leeuwenhoek obliged, discovered tiny tailed animals, and went on to find the same wriggling “animalcules” in his own semen sample. He published these groundbreaking findings but, as was the case for bacteria, 200 years passed before scientists understood the true significance of the discovery.

By the late 1800s, a German scientist named Walther Flemming discovered cell division which, decades later, helped clarify how cancer grows—a finding that would have been impossible without microscopes.

“If you want to be able to target part of cell membrane or a tumor, you have to watch it,” says Eliceiri.

While the original microscopes that Hooke and Leeuwenhoek used may have had their limitations, their basic structure of two lenses connected by a tubes remained relevant for centuries, says Eliceiri. In the past 15 years, advancements in imaging have moved into new realms. In 2014, a team of German and American researchers won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for a method called super-resolution fluorescence microscopy, so powerful we can now track single proteins as they develop within cells. This evolving method, made possible through an innovative technique that makes genes glow or “fluoresce”, has potential applications in combatting diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

An Italian microscope made of ivory in the mid-1600s, part of the Golub Collection at UC Berkeley. (Golub Collection at UC Berkeley. )

Ruzin heads the Biological Imaging Facility at the University of California at Berkeley, where researchers use the technology to explore everything from microstructures within the Giardia parasite and arrangements of proteins within bacteria. To help bring modern microscopy research into context, he makes a point of sharing some of the oldest items from the Golub Collection—one of the largest publicly displayed collections in the world, containing 164 antique microscopes dating back to the 17th century—with his undergraduate students. He even lets them handle some of the oldest in the collection, including an Italian one made of ivory around 1660.

“I say ‘don’t focus it because it will break,’ but I let students look through it, and it kinds of brings it home,” says Ruzin.

Still, despite the power of super-resolution microscopy, it does pose new challenges. For example, any time a specimen moves under high resolution, the image blurs, says Ruzin. “If a cell vibrates just by thermal motion, bouncing around by water molecules hitting it because they are warm, this will kill super resolution because it takes time,” says Ruzin. (For this reason, researchers don’t generally use super-resolution microscopy to study live samples.)

But technology like Amos’ Mesolens—with a much lower magnification of just 4x but a much wider field of view capable of capturing up to 5 mm, or about the width of a pinky fingernail—can image live specimen. This means they can watch a mouse embryo develop in real time, following genes associated with vascular disease in newborns as they become incorporated in the embryo. Prior to this, scientists would use X-rays to study vascular disease in embryos, but wouldn’t get detail down to the cellular level as they do with the Mesolens, Amos says.

“It’s almost unheard of for anyone to design a new objective lens for light microscopy and we have done this to try to accommodate the new types of specimens that biologists want to study,” says Amos’ colleague Gail McConnell at University of Strathclyde Glasgow, explaining that scientists are interested in studying intact organisms but don’t want to compromise the amount of detail they can see.

So far, the data storage industry has expressed interest in using the Mesolens to study semiconductor materials, and members of the oil industry have been interested in using it to image materials from prospective drilling sites. The lens design picks up light particularly well, allowing researchers to watch intricate details unfold such as cells in a metastasizing tumor migrating outward. But the true potential of these new techniques remains to be seen.

“If you develop an objective different than anything that has been made for the past 100 years, it opens up all kinds of unknown possibilities,” says Amos. “We are just beginning to get at what those possibilities are.” 

Editor's Note, March 31, 2017: This post has been edited to reflect that Leeuwenhoek did not improve the compound microscope and that Ruzin's collection dates back to the 17th century.

Image by Wikimedia Commons. Steven Ruzin at UC Berkeley says Hooke's Micrographia, published in 1665, is comparable to the Gutenberg Bible of biologists, containing the first-ever detailed drawings of microscope specimen ranging from pollen grains to cloth. Fewer than 1,000 copies remain, but the images continue to inspire microscopists today. (original image)

Image by Wikimedia Commons. The moon described in Micrographia (original image)

Image by Wikimedia Commons. Suber cells and mimosa leaves (original image)

Image by Wikimedia Commons. Schem. XXXV - Of a Louse. Diagram of a louse (original image)

Image by Wikimedia Commons. Schem. XXIX - "The great Belly'ed Gnat or female Gnat". An illustration of a Gnat thought to have been drawn by Sir Christopher Wren. (original image)

Image by Wikimedia Commons. Schem. XXIV - Of the Structure and motion of the Wings of Flies. An illustration of a Blue Fly thought to have been drawn by Sir Christopher Wren. (original image)

Image by Wikimedia Commons. The microscope of Robert Hooke, sketch from his original publication (original image)

Image by Wikimedia Commons. The famous flea described in the book Micrographia (original image)

Image by Wikimedia Commons. Some crystal described in Micrographia (original image)

Image by Wikimedia Commons. The cork described in Micrographia by Robert Hooke (original image)

Recovered Ruby Slippers visit museum for examination by conservators, curators . . . and FBI agents

National Museum of American History

Dawn Wallace and Richard Barden stood in the museum's objects conservation lab over two shoes. Red. Sequin-covered. Small heels. Petite in size. 

Wallace, an objects conservator, had recently spent more than 200 hours examining the museum's long-cherished pair of Ruby Slippers, worn by Judy Garland while filming the iconic 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. Barden, our chief conservator, had spent decades with the museum's collections, including the sparkling shoes that will be returning to view in a new showcase display opening October 19, 2018. 

Those shoes, now fully conserved thanks to the support of 6,000 Kickstarter backers who funded their preservation, were safely stored elsewhere in the museum. The shoes that sat before Wallace and Barden had been delivered by FBI agents for examination, and could be the key to a 13-year-old mystery. 

"Wow, I think these are the real thing," Wallace thought. 

On a white background, two red shoes covered in red sequins. Each has a bow with beads. They aren't new, soles separate form body of shoe. They shine. Kitten heels.The Ruby Slippers in the museum's collection, shown here, are one of a few pairs made for the movie. Our pair was likely worn in dance sequences. Felt on the bottom of the shoes may have muffled the sound of dancing on the Yellow Brick Road. This photo was taken after the completion of the conservation treatment.

An unexpected examination

At the FBI's request, Wallace and Barden were looking for signs that the recovered pair might be the one that went missing in 2005 while on loan to the Judy Garland Museum in Minnesota. Was this pair a masterful replica, or would evidence suggest that these shoes were worn by Garland as she worked on the film? 

Two red shoes, kitten heels, covered in red sequins. In the center, a single red sequin. And an FBI badge.The recovered pair, along with an FBI badge. The single sequin shown here was found at the crime scene at the Judy Garland Museum, from which a pair of Ruby Slippers went missing in 2005. 

Wallace and her colleagues would spend nearly two days poring over every detail to assist the FBI in learning as much as possible about the glistening red shoes the agents had brought to the museum. 

National Museum of American History staff do not authenticate objects, but often share knowledge when asked—and, of course, relish "the opportunity to learn more about objects that are so important to American history," as Entertainment Curator Ryan Lintelman put it. Wallace and Barden were eager to use their expertise to determine if the recovered pair's materials, construction, and condition were consistent with the museum's pair.

A woman wearing a green shirt looks at a sequin-covered red shoe, using a stick-like instrument to examine in. Beside her, a microscope.Objects Conservator Dawn Wallace examines the recovered pair of Ruby Slippers. Chief Conservator Richard Barden and Curator Ryan Lintelman also spent hours looking at the shoes in detail. 

Wallace checked every inch of the shoes. Her hours with our Ruby Slippers made her uniquely qualified to spot any minute clues the shoes may offer. The conservation work was a "sequin by sequin sequence," she likes to joke. During that process, she cleaned each sequin, realigning many to expose the silver side with more reflectance and stabilizing the shoes so that they can be on display for years to come. 

Investigating the materials and their condition, Wallace noticed many consistencies with the museum's pair. But it was a clear glass bead on the bow of the left shoe that, for her, confirmed her initial reaction.   

A clear glass clue

Wallace had also spotted clear glass beads painted red while peering through a microscope during conservation work on the museum's pair. Analysis and interviews with Hollywood costumers indicated that the painted-bead replacements were likely repairs made on-set during filming. 

Photo of a red fabric bow covered in beads with dark metal brackets. Three circles indicate where clear beads were painted red instead of using red beads.Circles indicate the location of clear glass beads painted red on the museum's right shoe. Close up photo of bow of Ruby Slippers. Red fabric, yellow thread visible. Two beads are painted red. The others are red glass.This close-up image of the bow on the museum's right shoe shows two clear beads with red paint beside two red glass beads, evidence of an on-set repair. In bottom right is information about the microscope used to capture this image. 

"To me, the glass bead painted red was a eureka moment," Wallace said. "That's a piece of information that hasn't been published anywhere and, as far as I know, isn't widely known. It's a unique element of these shoes, and spotting that bead was a defining moment." 

Extremely close-up image of the bow part of the Ruby Slippers. You can see beads held in place by metal brackets.A clear glass bead is discovered on the bow of the left shoe of the recovered pair. It has flecks of red paint on it.

In addition to examining the shoes, Wallace worked with scientists from the Smithsonian Institution's Museum Conservation Institute (MCI) to analyze their materials using a non-destructive process. They could then compare results between the two pairs. Analysis revealed, for example, that the sequins combine layers of different materials, including cellulose nitrate and a silver backing designed to reflect light and create a sparkle. (Modern sequins have aluminum instead of silver.) 

Close up image of a sequin (extremely close) shows red covering, silver shiny stuff, and gelatin layer. Scratched and worn. Like chipped nail polish.This is a close-up image of a sequin that came off the museum's pair of Ruby Slippers many years ago and has been saved for study. The red coating has flaked, showing the silver reflective layer and gelatin core. This combination of materials presents a preservation challenge as each material may react to light, temperature, and humidity differently—issues museum staff had to navigate while designing a sophisticated display case that would preserve the shoes in just the right environment when they return to display in October 2018.Graphic diagram showing layers of sequins: red cellulose nitrate on top, then silver, then gelatin, then red cellulose nitrate. Like a donut with horizontal slices.Sequins aren't so simple. This diagram shows the different layers present in each sequin of the Ruby Slippers. 

For Barden, the "aha!" moment came while examining the level of deterioration of the recovered pair's sequins. The physical and light damage is consistent with the museum's pair. To replicate this type of aging, one would have to have specialized knowledge. 

"Because of our conservation work on the Ruby Slippers, we created basically a library of information about the shoes," Wallace said. "And we were able to apply that to the pair the FBI brought here and gain more information." The MCI scientists, with Wallace and Barden, plan to publish about the project in the journal Heritage Science this fall and present their findings at conferences to help other museum professionals care for objects like these.

A second solve

The clear glass beads, painted red, offered another surprising insight that, unexpectedly, linked the museum's pair to the recovered pair. The museum's pair is not identical. The heel caps, bows, width, and overall shape do not match; the shoes were brought together from two separate sets. But in examining the recovered shoes, conservators found the left to the museum's right and the right to the museum's left. When temporarily reunited, the four shoes created two matching pairs.

Two red shoes covered in sequins. Each has a bow. Subtle differences between the two.Subtle differences are visible between the two shoes in the museum's pair of Ruby Slippers. The heel caps, for example, aren't identical. Two red shoes covered in sequins with bows. Inside each shoe, you can see the hell. They have different details in the heel. One is a tear. The other is an hour glass shape.The inner heel grips differ dramatically in shape between the two shoes in the museum's collection. The bows are also slightly different.  

It's possible the mix-up happened during preparation for the 1970 auction of items in MGM's costume closets. That's when the museum's pair was purchased—parting ways from other pairs produced for the film—and donated to the museum anonymously in 1979. Both our pair and the recovered pair have felt on the bottom for dance sequences. The Ruby Slippers used in close-ups would have been felt-free.

Two pairs of red shoes covered in red sequins.The recovered pair on the left, the museum's pair on the right. Both are mismatched sets that were briefly reunited during examination by museum experts. Four red shoes covered in sequins. Lines indicate that the left and right shoes go together! These were mismatched years ago.How do the shoes make matching pairs? The recovered left shoe goes with our right shoe and vice versa. 

A pair of shoes, a national treasure

"It was a great experience to see the recovered pair of shoes, for us at the museum," Lintelman said. "The Ruby Slippers have this unique resonance with the public—people watched this movie as kids or over the holidays. . . . It's a shared experience, an adventure story, a fairy tale."

We were honored to be able to share our knowledge, play a role in the recovery of lost history, and continue learning about The Wizard of Oz history. We look forward to our pair of Ruby Slippers returning to display on October 19, 2018.
 

In this video from the FBI, Lintelman and Wallace talk about why the Ruby Slippers are such a powerful symbol and how happy they were to help share their knowledge of the iconic shoes.

 
Erin Blasco manages the museum's blog and social media. She was thrilled to find out that the museum's Keep Them Ruby project had resulted in research that was of service to an FBI investigation and would like to thank the Kickstarter backers for being part of this incredible journey.

Don't miss stories like this one. Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Anyone with information regarding this issue is encouraged to contact the FBI.

Posted Date: 
Tuesday, September 4, 2018 - 14:00
OSayCanYouSee?d=qj6IDK7rITs OSayCanYouSee?d=7Q72WNTAKBA OSayCanYouSee?i=fe74pDTTFWM:GG_1Tm_QgF4:V_sGLiPBpWU OSayCanYouSee?i=fe74pDTTFWM:GG_1Tm_QgF4:gIN9vFwOqvQ OSayCanYouSee?d=yIl2AUoC8zA

Aerostation

National Air and Space Museum
Colored print on paper depicting four balloons- one in each corner around a round diagram of an aerial view of the city of Chester. Lower left balloon has blue, green, yellow vertical stripes and is attached to a barrel with three men. Upper left balloon has red and gold roccoco designs on balloon. Gondola has red fabric swag and two men, one of whom flies a flag with three fleur de lis. Upper right corner, has yellow balloon with brown gondola with contraption with blue wings. Lower right corner has blue balloon with red horizontal stripes and yellow crest with lion and unicorn. A man flying in gondola waves a flag.

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

Aerostation

National Air and Space Museum
Colored engraving on paper depicting four balloons- one in each corner around a round diagram of an aerial view of the city of Chester. Lower left balloon has blue, green, yellow vertical stripes and is attached to a barrel with three men. Upper left balloon has red and gold roccoco designs on balloon. Gondola has red fabric swag and two men, one of whom flies a flag with three fleur de lis. Upper right corner, has yellow balloon with brown gondola with contraption with blue wings. Lower right corner has blue balloon with red horizontal stripes and yellow crest with lion and unicorn. A man flying in gondola waves a flag.

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

The World Has Millions of Colors. Why Do We Only Name a Few?

Smithsonian Magazine

People with standard vision can see millions of distinct colors. But human language categorizes these into a small set of words. In an industrialized culture, most people get by with 11 color words: black, white, red, green, yellow, blue, brown, orange, pink, purple and gray. That’s what we have in American English.

Maybe if you’re an artist or an interior designer, you know specific meanings for as many as 50 or 100 different words for colors – like turquoise, amber, indigo or taupe. But this is still a tiny fraction of the colors that we can distinguish.

Interestingly, the ways that languages categorize color vary widely. Nonindustrialized cultures typically have far fewer words for colors than industrialized cultures. So while English has 11 words that everyone knows, the Papua-New Guinean language Berinmo has only five, and the Bolivian Amazonian language Tsimane’ has only three words that everyone knows, corresponding to black, white and red.

The goal of our project was to understand why cultures vary so much in their color word usage.

**********

The most widely accepted explanation for the differences goes back to two linguists, Brent Berlin and Paul Kay. In their early work in the 1960s, they gathered color-naming data from 20 languages. They observed some commonalities among sets of color terms across languages: If a language had only two terms, they were always black and white; if there was a third, it was red; the fourth and fifth were always green and yellow (in either order); the sixth was blue; the seventh was brown; and so on.

Based on this order, Berlin and Kay argued that certain colors were more salient. They suggested that cultures start by naming the most salient colors, bringing in new terms one at a time, in order. So black and white are the most salient, then red, and so on.

While this approach seemed promising, there are several problems with this innate vision-based theory.

Berlin, Kay and their colleagues went on to gather a much larger data set, from 110 nonindustrialized languages. Their original generalization isn’t as clear in this larger data set: there are many exceptions, which Kay and his colleagues have tried to explain in a more complicated vision-based theory.

What’s more, this nativist theory doesn’t address why industrialization, which introduced reliable, stable and standardized colors on a large scale, causes more color words to be introduced. The visual systems of people across cultures are the same: in this model, industrialization should make no difference on color categorization, which was clearly not the case.

**********

Our research groups therefore explored a completely different idea: Perhaps color words are developed for efficient communication. Consider the task of simply naming a color chip from some set of colors. In our study, we used 80 color chips, selected from Munsell colors to be evenly spaced across the color grid. Each pair of neighboring colors is the same distance apart in terms of how different they appear. The speaker’s task is to simply label the color with a word (“red,” “blue” and so on).

Participants had to communicate one of the 80 color chip choices from across the color grid. (Richard Futrell and Edward Gibson, CC BY)

To evaluate the communication-based idea, we need to think of color-naming in simple communication terms, which can be formalized by information theory. Suppose the color I select at random is N4. I choose a word to label the color that I picked. Maybe the word I choose is “blue.” If I had picked A3, I would have never said “blue.” And if I had picked M3, maybe I would have said “blue,” maybe “green” or something else.

Now in this thought experiment, you as a listener are trying to guess which physical color I meant. You can choose a whole set of color chips that you think corresponds to my color “blue.” Maybe you pick a set of 12 color chips corresponding to all those in columns M, N and O. I say yes, because my chip is in fact one of those. Then you split your set in half and guess again.

The number of guesses it takes the ideal listener to zero in on my color chip based on the color word I used is a simple score for the chip. We can calculate this score – the number of guesses or “bits” – using some simple math from the way in which many people label the colors in a simple color-labeling task. Using these scores, we can now rank the colors across the grid, in any language.

In English, it turns out that people can convey the warm colors – reds, oranges and yellows – more efficiently (with fewer guesses) than the cool colors – blues and greens. You can see this in the color grid: There are fewer competitors for what might be labeled “red,” “orange” or “yellow” than there are colors that would be labeled “blue” or “green.” This is true in spite of the fact that the grid itself is perceptually more or less uniform: The colors were selected to completely cover the most saturated colors of the Munsell color space, and each pair of neighboring colors looks equally close, no matter where they are on the grid.

We found that this generalization is true in every language in the entire World Color Survey (110 languages) and in three more that we did detailed experiments on: English, Spanish and Tsimane’.

Each row orders the color chips for one language: Colors farther left are easier to communicate, those farther to the right are harder to communicate. (Richard Futrell, CC BY)

It’s clear in a visual representation, where each row is an ordering of the color chips for a particular language. The left-to-right ordering is from easiest to communicate (fewest guesses needed to get the right color) to hardest to communicate.

The diagram shows that all languages have roughly the same order, with the warm colors on the left (easy to communicate) and the cool ones on the right (harder to communicate). This generalization occurs in spite of the fact that languages near the bottom of the figure have few terms that people use consistently, while languages near the top (like English and Spanish) have many terms that most people use consistently.

**********

In addition to discovering this remarkable universal across languages, we also wanted to find out what causes it. Recall that our idea is that maybe we introduce words into a language when there is something that we want to talk about. So perhaps this effect arises because objects – the things we want to talk about – tend to be warm-colored.

We evaluated this hypothesis in a database of 20,000 photographs of objects that people at Microsoft had decided contained objects, as distinct from backgrounds. (This data set is available to train and test computer vision systems that are trying to learn to identify objects.) Our colleagues then determined the specific boundaries of the object in each image and where the background was.

We mapped the colors in the images onto our set of 80 colors across the color space. It turned out that indeed objects are more likely to be warm-colored, while backgrounds are cool-colored. If an image’s pixel fell within an object, it was more likely to correspond to a color that was easier to communicate. Objects’ colors tended to fall further to the left on our ranked ordering of communicative efficiency.

When you think about it, this doesn’t seem so surprising after all. Backgrounds are sky, water, grass, trees: all cool-colored. The objects that we want to talk about are warm-colored: people, animals, berries, fruits and so on.

Our hypothesis also easily explains why more color terms come into a language with industrialization. With increases in technology come improved ways of purifying pigments and making new ones, as well as new color displays. So we can make objects that differ based only on color – for instance, the new iPhone comes in “rose gold” and “gold” – which makes color-naming even more useful.

So contrary to the earlier nativist visual salience hypothesis, the communication hypothesis helped identify a true cross-linguistic universal – warm colors are easier to communicate than cool ones – and it easily explains the cross-cultural differences in color terms. It also explains why color words often come into a language not as color words but as object or substance labels. For instance, “orange” comes from the fruit; “red” comes from Sanskrit for blood. In short, we label things that we want to talk about.

Set of Charts, Evans' Arithmetical Study

National Museum of American History
Around 1900 many American educators advocated the use of objects in teaching mathematics and the sciences. R. O. Evans Company of Chicago published this set of twenty chromolithographed charts. They were designed to apply the object method “to the entire subject of practical arithmetic.” The title chart shows a man in classical garb holding a diagram of the Pythagorean theorem and a pair of dividers, expounding to a child. Other instruments displayed include a pencil, a drawing pen, a magnetic compass, several geometric models, a globe, a telescope, two set squares, an hourglass, and one of Evans’s charts. Charts include extensive commentary for teachers. There are sheets entitled Counting and Writing Numbers, Reviews and Colors, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division,. Other charts discuss Fractions, Weights and Measures, the Metric System, and Mensuration (one chart considers the measurement of flat surfaces, another one 3-dimensional solids). There also are charts on Business Methods (3 charts), Lumber and Timber Measure,Surveying, Percentage, Commercial and Legal Forms, and Book Keeping. A variety of objects are shown. The paper, cloth-backed charts are held together at the top by a piece of fabric that is tacked to a wooden backing. This backing slides into an oak case decorated with machine-made molding and panels. This particular example of Evans’ Arithmetical Study was used at a school in New Hampshire.

Aeronautics. Mr Sadler's Car

National Air and Space Museum
Engraving depicting a diagramatic illustration of balloon inflation methods, with a balloonist in his gondola waving flags, top center. Gondola banner reads "Erin Go Brah" Diagram is both numbered and lettered without a legend.

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

Aërostat de 120 pieds de long compris la queue

National Air and Space Museum
Engraving on paper depicting a diagram of a French dirigible balloon. Includes insets numbered figures 3, 4, and 5 illustrating the rotation of "oars" used to power the airship. Also see A19680108000.

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

Zambeccari Balloon

National Air and Space Museum
Count Zambeccari's balloon. Diagram of balloon with lettered components. No legend.

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

A Representation of M: Blanchard's Balloon, & Apparatus

National Air and Space Museum
A Representation of M: Blanchard's Balloon, & Apparatus, September 14. Very large globe-shaped balloon equipped with parachute and occupied by two aeronauts. The balloon has large scallop-edged wings. This print is a depiction of one of Blanchard's unsuccessful steerable balloons. A lettered diagram with legend beneath corresponds with the letters shown on the image.

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

Coupe oblique de l'Aërostat sur les dimentions de la Fig.e 1.re. dans laqelle toutes les manœuvres interieures sont aperçues.

National Air and Space Museum
Engraved print on paper. Sectional diagram showing the inner workings of a French dirigible balloon. Inset figures 6, 7 and 8 show the balloon in attitudes of flight. This unpowered "dirigible", though impractical, was the first to suggest the use if expanding air bags or ballonets inside the gas bag to compensate for the expansion and contraction of the gas with changes in altitude. Also see A19680107000.

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

Facilis Ascensus

National Air and Space Museum
Diagram of a balloon with large gondola. Nine men on board. Letters refer to legend beneath

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

How a Couple of Guys Built the Most Ambitious Alien Outreach Project Ever

Smithsonian Magazine

On May 24, 1999, a large radio transmitter in the city of Evpatoria in Ukraine turned its dish to the star 16 Cygni, 70 light-years away, and emitted a four-hour blast of radio waves. It was the beginning of the Cosmic Call, one of the most ambitious efforts ever made at sending a message to alien civilizations. It wasn’t a project run by NASA or some major government. It was a crowdsourced effort, put together by an unlikely team of Texan businessmen, Canadian astrophysicists, Russian scientists, and Eastern European radio engineers.

It was the brainchild of Charlie Chafer, the CEO of a Texan company named Team Encounter. Team Encounter hoped to launch a prototype solar sail, that is, a spacecraft driven by the pressure of sunlight. Its trajectory would take it out of the solar system altogether. It wouldn’t be fast, taking 100,000 years just to go as far as the nearest star. Chafer wanted it to carry a three-kilogram payload with messages, photographs, and DNA samples to show any alien finders what life on Earth is, or was, like.

But 100,000 years is a long time to wait. So Chafer also decided to send a radio message to various nearby stars with drawings, texts, and songs, many of them from ordinary people. “A sort of ‘we're coming’ announcement,” Chafer says. This became the Cosmic Call. (As it happens, the solar sail never flew, but the Cosmic Call project went forward.)

The Cosmic Call caught the attention of a Canadian astrophysicist named Yvan Dutil. He knew that a radio message would be incomprehensible to extraterrestrials without a preface explaining our number system, the makeup of our planet, the physical shapes and sizes of human bodies, and so on. In short, the message needed a primer. He contacted Chafer. “I said, Guys, I'm an astrophysicist,” Dutil recalls. “I would be pleased to help you to check your messages.”

But Chafer’s team had no idea how to write a primer. Dutil recalls, “They said, Why not write the message yourself?” So Dutil did. He enlisted his friend Stéphane Dumas, also a physicist. Together Dutil and Dumas read Hans Freudenthal's 1960 book Lincos: Design of a Language for Cosmic Intercourse, Part I. They were the only people ever to have checked it out of the local university's library. They soon saw why: “It's the most boring book in the world,” Dutil says. Freudenthal never made it to Part II.

Freudenthal had aimed to create a purely symbolic medium of communication that any species with a basic grasp of logic could understand. The book’s no page-turner. But Dutil and Dumas persevered, and spent six months writing a primer. Then they needed to find a radio transmitter powerful enough to send it. First they asked NASA, which politely turned them down. Dutil got on the Web and started searching for other radio transmitters. “On this webpage was a list of all the radar astronomy experiments done before, and one of those was from Evpatoria in Ukraine,” Dutil says. “I had never heard about that radio telescope. I sent a short email to the guy and said Hey! Do you think your radar would be available for SETI transmission?”

Chafer remembers it differently, with one of his employees hearing about the dish and handling the contract negotiations. (Possibly they both inquired.) Dutil recalls that the ex-Soviets were receptive to the idea: “I guess they were quite happy to get some money to operate these things, because in 1999 Russia had not recovered yet from the post-Soviet Union crash and in those times any money was good, so it was rather easy. Russia was open for business for anything.”

And Alexander Zaitsev, a prominent astronomer at the Russian Academy of Science, was glad to be involved. Zaitsev had used the Evpatoria transmitter for years to study Venus, Mars, Mercury, and several asteroids. But he also had a deep interest in SETI. He agreed to oversee the sending of the Cosmic Call from Ukraine. And with that, a DIY alien outreach project was born.

Zaitsev had to exercise some diplomatic delicacy. In 1999 memories of the Cold War were still fresh, and there were tensions over how the Americans were intervening against the Serbs during the war in the former Yugoslavia. “[Evpatoria] is the middle of nowhere,” Chafer says. “It's a base that was used to track Russian satellites that were used in submarine communications out of Sevastopol. It was a very highly sensitive military base.”

So it was politically awkward for the Cosmic Call team visiting Evpatoria to be led by Americans. But one of Team Encounter’s employees was Romanian, and one of its guests was Danish. So Zaitsev decided that the Cosmic Call team was a Romanian and Danish delegation with two American observers. Chafer recalls, “[Zaitsev] gets the gold star for making it happen. I mean, literally everybody he was dealing with had a uniform on, and here comes this Danish Romanian delegation with two American visitors.”

And that’s how the Cosmic Call team got to use what was, in 1999, one of the few radio transmitters in the world powerful enough to send a message to a star dozens of light-years away. The message was sent to four stars, and then in 2003 it was sent to five more. The Evpatoria transmitter’s 150,000-watt output was powerful enough, SETI experts agree, to be detectable at distances of 50 to 70 light-years. The message is now on its way. If anyone is there and listening, they will get it.

It was not the first attempt to send messages to extraterrestrial civilizations. In 1974 the astronomer Frank Drake devised a short message that was sent from the Arecibo radiotelescope to a globular cluster 25,000 light-years away. In 1977 Carl Sagan and his coworkers encoded images, music, and sounds onto phonograph records and attached them to the spaceprobes Voyagers 1 and 2. It’s hard to characterize these as serious attempts, though. We would have to wait 50,000 years for a reply to the Arecibo message. And the Voyager probes, which are tiny little chunks of metal drifting in space, are highly unlikely ever to be found. The Cosmic Call, though, was aimed directly at nearby stars.

And Dutil and Dumas set up a symbolic system in which information could be discussed. They wanted to be able to ask questions and provide a symbology that would let aliens answer them. This called for a new kind of message. Douglas Vakoch, a social scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California and the editor of the 2011 book Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence, says their primer had “a complexity and depth that’s unparalleled in interstellar messages.”

It was transmitted in digital format, consisting of 370,967 bits. (A “bit” is a 1 or a 0.) The first 128 bits are ones. Then there’s a long bunch of zeroes. After that it becomes more complicated.

111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111110000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000011000100010001000100010001000100010001000100010001000000000000000000000000000010100100010001000100010001001010101010100100101001100101010…

What's an alien to do with a string of numbers like that? (If you feel like decoding the primer yourself, click here. If you want to see the entire primer explained, click here. An insightful discussion of the primer is here.) Dumas and Dutil hoped the recipients would realize that the bits can be arranged in a series of pages 127 pixels on a side. The recurring long strings of 1’s ought to be a clue. Anyway, arranging the first 16,129 bits into a square 127 bits on a side yields this pattern.

That’s a message. And if the aliens divide 370,967 by 16,129, they will get the number 23. That will tell them, Dumas and Dutil hoped, that the message has 23 pages.

Or maybe not. What if they try to interpret the bits as a kind of speech or music, never realizing that they code for pictures? What if they don’t have vision and have never imagined two-dimensional forms of representation? Or think in polar coordinates instead of Cartesian ones, so it never occurs to them to arrange the bits into squares? Or having done that, what if they can’t figure out its convention of reading left to right, top to bottom? It might drive them crazy. “It’s perfectly conceivable that aliens and humans will represent that same key scientific concepts in such radically different ways that we’ll never understand each other,” Vakoch says.

But any effort to talk to aliens is going to run this risk. Dutil and Dumas essentially threw up their hands and said, “We have to make some assumptions.”

Humans might be rather confused by the first page too. It looks cryptic and eldritch, with all those strange glyphs. 

In fact, the first page is extremely simple. Dutil and Dumas took their cue from Freudenthal, who had argued that elementary math is the subject most likely to be mutually intelligible to sapient minds on different planets. “Mathematics is the most abstract subject we know,” Freudenthal had written, “and at the same time a subject that may be supposed to be universally known to humanlike intelligent beings.” 

So the first page simply establishes our number system. Its upper half lists the numbers 1 to 20 in three forms: as a group of dots, as binary code, and as a base-10 numeral. The symbol s_with_2_horizontal_lines.png means “equals.” So the line 8_symbols.png means 2 = 2 = 2. The lower half of the page lists the prime numbers 2 through 89, and the largest known prime as of 1999, which was 23,021,377-1.

The glyphs look strange because Dutil and Dumas designed them to be resistant to signal degradation. There is plenty of radio noise in space. A single flipped bit could make an 8 into a 0, or a 1 into a 7. But the glyphs are hard to confuse with each other even if corrupted by noise. As further insurance, the primer was sent three times to each target star so that each copy could be cross-checked against the others. Furthermore, none of the glyphs is a rotated or mirrored image of any other, so the message will still be intact if the recipients construct it upside down or in mirror-reverse. “Part of the genius of the Cosmic Call messages is that they are redundant,” says Vakoch.

Page 2 introduces the basic operators: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Then it dips into fractions and negative numbers. 

Page 4 introduces the concept of the variable, using a new character, flower_symbol.png .

The first line, translated, goes like this:

flower_symbol.png X X+2=3  X=1

This can be read as, “What is X? X + 2 = 3.  X=1.” flower_symbol.png is a variable, then, an inquiry. This is one of the most important aspects of the message, since with this symbol it can begin enabling discussions about abstract quantities. At the lower right-hand of the page is a graph with the labels for the X and Y axes.

Page 5 introduces diagrams explaining pi and the Pythagorean theorem. Not that they need explaining, because any species that can build a radio receiver will know them, but they can serve as a basis for further communication.

On page 11 the message shows the planets of the Solar system, with Earth identified with a particular glyph, cobra.png. This is also used on several other pages in the hope of making it clear by using it in multiple contexts.

Page 14 specifies the molecular makeup of Earth’s soil, water, and air, using glyphs for atoms defined on page 6 (identifying them by the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus). It has schematic drawings of mountains and water, labeled with the main components of Earth’s land, sea, and air, including nitrogen headdress_symbol.png headdress_symbol.png (NN), oxygen head_symbol.png head_symbol.png (OO), argon sunken_square_symbol.png (Ar), and carbon dioxide lamp_and_heads_symbol.png (COO).

On page 15 the primer helpfully provides a picture of a human male and female.

The figures are accompanied by glyphs noting their mass and size, with their orientation in gravity shown by the trajectory of a falling object in the lower left corner. Dutil and Dumas cribbed this drawing from plaques placed on the Pioneer 10 and 11 probes launched in 1972 and 1973.

Aliens might find this page one of the more mysterious ones in the primer. Perspective diagrams are so familiar to humans that we tend to forget they are based on social conventions for representing three-dimensional figures in two dimensions. Color and shading are ignored, for example. It is an open question whether aliens would understand them. One also rather doubts that aliens would understand the lines that signify man’s six-pack and the woman’s hair. They might think that humans have heads topped with chitin, or always wear helmets.

Page 17 shows the nucleotides of earthly DNA.

And finally, on the last page, it asks for a reply.

There is a large flower_symbol.png glyph at the center – the same “variable” glyph introduced on Page 4. The first two lines on the upper left mean, “What is your mass? What is your size?” (The term for mass was defined on pages 6 and 7 by referencing Avogadro’s number and the mass ratio of the proton and electron.) Here the flower_symbol.png glyph is being used to ask questions. It is a touching final page, saying What about you? It is an invitation to a conversation – and it offers a ready-made language in which a reply can be sent.

But the Dutil-Dumas primer was just the beginning of the message. It was followed by a medley of other materials—written messages, drawings, and photos from people around the world, many of whom had contributed small amounts of money to support the project. There was also a video by the ABC broadcaster Hugh Downs, pictures of country flags, a message from Sally Ride, David Bowie’s song “Starman,” and quite a bit more. What extraterrestrials would make of all this is hard to say.

The primer was sent at a very slow 100 bits per second to maximize its chances of clear transmission. (A high-end WiFi router can send about two billion bits per second.) The rest was sent at 2,000 bits per second to save time and money. Because of its slow speed, the primer is the part of the message most likely to remain readable after traveling for 50 to 70 years in a medium saturated with interstellar radio noise. It may also be the most likely to be understandable by nonhuman intelligences. It may be, in other words, that the primer effectively is the message.

In 1999 no one knew if any nearby stars had potentially habitable planets where a civilization could be living. So the Cosmic Call team did some guessing. Their target list consisted of nine stars that were, among other things, (a) similar to the Sun, (b) visible from Evpatoria, and (c) in the galactic plane. After all, if a target star is uninhabited, perhaps the next star after it will have someone at home. (Zaitsev gives the target list here.)

Today, three of those stars are known to have planets. Hip 43587, also known as 55 Cancri, is 41 light-years away and has five planets. One of them is in the habitable zone, that is, at the right distance from its star for water to remain liquid. However, it’s a Neptune-sized gas giant that couldn’t support life as we know it. But if it has moons, one of them might be habitable. If a moon is large enough, it can have an atmosphere just like a planet. So it’s just conceivable that someone there will get the message in 2044.

16 Cygni is a triple-star system, and one of its stars, 16 Cygni B, has a gas giant that was discovered in 1996 by ground-based telescopes. It, too, might have moons. It spends part of its orbit in the habitable zone, but only part; in the rest of its orbit water would either freeze or boil. It might be that on average the temperature on a moon would stay in the liquid range, making it habitable -- but that’s a long shot. The message will arrive there in 2069.

HD 190360, fifty-two light-years away, has two planets, but neither are in the habitable zone. The message will probably race past them in 2051 unobserved.

The other six stars haven’t been scrutinized for planets yet. The closest star in the target list, Hip 4872, is 33 light-years away, so the signal will reach it in 2036. If anyone there is paying attention, and replies right away, we will get that reply in 2069. 

But any realistic person will have to concede that it’s not likely. Time and space are not on humanity’s side. On Earth, uncountable millions of species have gone extinct in the planet’s four-billion year history of life, obliterated by the brutal contingencies of competition, catastrophe, and climate change. Are technological species like us exempt from that rule? No one knows. But we could easily miss neighbors simply because they came and went a million years ago.

Or because they will not emerge until a million years from now. To a planet, a million years is nothing. Proportionally speaking, if Earth was a senior citizen, a million years would be less than a week of its life. Missing a next-door civilization by a million years is like never meeting the love of your life because she moved to your city a week after you left.

And even if someone is home, and has the equipment to listen, they will have to be listening during the four-hour period in which the message sweeps past them. What if their antennas dedicated to SETI are pointing somewhere else that day? Clearly, any truly serious effort at interstellar communication will have to run continuously, and on both ends.

We can but hope.

...

The odds of getting a reply to the Cosmic Call seem remote. But should we be shouting into the cosmos in the first place? Could it bring aliens to our doorstep who want “to serve man” as dinner?

In fact, the National Space Agency of Ukraine, as it was called at the time, was alarmed enough to stop the transmission in 1999 after the message had been sent to the first star on the target list. According to Zaitsev, the agency was rattled by the attention the message was getting from the press. “Such energetic reaction of Western mass media also was an alarming news for Kiev's officers,” he says. In addition, they had been told that the transmissions were “very dangerous for terrestrials and that USA's deep space stations refused to make Cosmic Call transmission.” They pulled the plug. Zaitsev rushed to Kiev to reassure the brass, and the transmissions resumed on June 30, 1999.

The science fiction writer David Brin has expressed strong objections to projects like Cosmic Call. It’s not the act of messaging in itself that Brin objects to. He thinks the risks are probably small and agrees that the benefits of a reply could be immense. But the risk is not zero, he points out. Even friendly contact between cultures on Earth has led to the destabilization of the less-developed one. So consultation and mutual agreement are needed, rather than independent efforts. Brin writes, “But when that risk is also imposed upon our children – all of humanity and our planet – is it too much to ask that we discuss it first?

The problem with having such a discussion, Brin admits, is that fear might prevail. Given the impossibility of refuting the alarmists, humanity might choose never to send a message again. If every species in the cosmos goes by the same logic, then obviously no conversation will ever get started. But a discussion would also examine the benefits, Brin thinks, and aim for a compromise approach. It would be of profound interest, he says: “Televised worldwide, it could enthrall millions and deal with every topic from physics and biology to history and anthropology -- a win-win that would doubtless benefit SETI as well.”

Richard Braastad, now a writer living in Houston, was the Cosmic Call’s coordinator, responsible for assembling the message and preparing it for transmission. He downplays the risks, pointing out that on Earth developed countries often help people in less-developed ones via efforts like the Peace Corps. “Our motivations as a species are more complex than the simplistic either-or choice between absolute evil and absolute benevolence that seems to dominate debates about the possible moral nature of ETIs,” he says.

One might think sending messages to other stars would be a massive, expensive job. No. It isn’t. The Cosmic Call was essentially a crowdfunded hobby project. Chafer estimates that it cost about $50,000 in direct costs, plus another $50,000 in indirect costs such as staff time. Much of the money came from small donations triggered by media coverage. Chafer thinks it took fewer than 20 people, all told, to create the message and send it.

But the drawback of freelance projects like Cosmic Call is that there’s no institution to preserve a memory of them. The message hasn’t been particularly well-archived. (Sadly, Stéphane Dumas died unexpectedly in August 2016.) It would be embarrassing if we got a reply in 2069 and no one could remember what we had sent. All of the websites that had archived it have disappeared, except for an incomplete remnant preserved here by an Internet archive. The only documents that show the primers are PDFs buried on obscure websites. The 1999 primer is here, and both the 1999 and 2003 primers are explained here

So one of humanity’s most intellectually ambitious interstellar messages, and so far the one most likely to get where it’s going, was written by two people, Dutil and Dumas. There’s a lesson there. If we ever receive a message from another civilization, it may not be from a committee of its august wise heads (or whatever they have instead of heads.) It may not be from their equivalent of the United Nations or United Federation of Planets. A civilization modestly more developed than ours could be using Evpatoria-class transmitters for the local equivalent of high-school science projects. In other words, Earth’s long-awaited first message from aliens, if it ever comes, could basically be from a couple of guys

Top Ten Myths About the Brain

Smithsonian Magazine

1. We use only 10 percent of our brains.
This one sounds so compelling—a precise number, repeated in pop culture for a century, implying that we have huge reserves of untapped mental powers. But the supposedly unused 90 percent of the brain is not some vestigial appendix. Brains are expensive—it takes a lot of energy to build brains during fetal and childhood development and maintain them in adults. Evolutionarily, it would make no sense to carry around surplus brain tissue. Experiments using PET or fMRI scans show that much of the brain is engaged even during simple tasks, and injury to even a small bit of brain can have profound consequences for language, sensory perception, movement or emotion.

True, we have some brain reserves. Autopsy studies show that many people have physical signs of Alzheimer’s disease (such as amyloid plaques among neurons) in their brains even though they were not impaired. Apparently we can lose some brain tissue and still function pretty well. And people score higher on IQ tests if they’re highly motivated, suggesting that we don’t always exercise our minds at 100 percent capacity.

2. “Flashbulb memories” are precise, detailed and persistent.
We all have memories that feel as vivid and accurate as a snapshot, usually of some shocking, dramatic event—the assassination of President Kennedy, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the attacks of September 11, 2001. People remember exactly where they were, what they were doing, who they were with, what they saw or heard. But several clever experiments have tested people’s memory immediately after a tragedy and again several months or years later. The test subjects tend to be confident that their memories are accurate and say the flashbulb memories are more vivid than other memories. Vivid they may be, but the memories decay over time just as other memories do. People forget important details and add incorrect ones, with no awareness that they’re recreating a muddled scene in their minds rather than calling up a perfect, photographic reproduction.

3. It’s all downhill after 40 (or 50 or 60 or 70).
It’s true, some cognitive skills do decline as you get older. Children are better at learning new languages than adults—and never play a game of concentration against a 10-year-old unless you’re prepared to be humiliated. Young adults are faster than older adults to judge whether two objects are the same or different; they can more easily memorize a list of random words, and they are faster to count backward by sevens.

But plenty of mental skills improve with age. Vocabulary, for instance—older people know more words and understand subtle linguistic distinctions. Given a biographical sketch of a stranger, they’re better judges of character. They score higher on tests of social wisdom, such as how to settle a conflict. And people get better and better over time at regulating their own emotions and finding meaning in their lives.

4. We have five senses.
Sure, sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch are the big ones. But we have many other ways of sensing the world and our place in it. Proprioception is a sense of how our bodies are positioned. Nociception is a sense of pain. We also have a sense of balance—the inner ear is to this sense as the eye is to vision—as well as a sense of body temperature, acceleration and the passage of time.

Compared with other species, though, humans are missing out. Bats and dolphins use sonar to find prey; some birds and insects see ultraviolet light; snakes detect the heat of warmblooded prey; rats, cats, seals and other whiskered creatures use their “vibrissae” to judge spatial relations or detect movements; sharks sense electrical fields in the water; birds, turtles and even bacteria orient to the earth’s magnetic field lines.

By the way, have you seen the taste map of the tongue, the diagram showing that different regions are sensitive to salty, sweet, sour or bitter flavors? Also a myth.

5. Brains are like computers.
We speak of the brain’s processing speed, its storage capacity, its parallel circuits, inputs and outputs. The metaphor fails at pretty much every level: the brain doesn’t have a set memory capacity that is waiting to be filled up; it doesn’t perform computations in the way a computer does; and even basic visual perception isn’t a passive receiving of inputs because we actively interpret, anticipate and pay attention to different elements of the visual world.

There’s a long history of likening the brain to whatever technology is the most advanced, impressive and vaguely mysterious. Descartes compared the brain to a hydraulic machine. Freud likened emotions to pressure building up in a steam engine. The brain later resembled a telephone switchboard and then an electrical circuit before evolving into a computer; lately it’s turning into a Web browser or the Internet. These metaphors linger in clichés: emotions put the brain “under pressure” and some behaviors are thought to be “hard-wired.” Speaking of which...

6. The brain is hard-wired. 
This is one of the most enduring legacies of the old “brains are electrical circuits” metaphor. There’s some truth to it, as with many metaphors: the brain is organized in a standard way, with certain bits specialized to take on certain tasks, and those bits are connected along predictable neural pathways (sort of like wires) and communicate in part by releasing ions (pulses of electricity).

But one of the biggest discoveries in neuroscience in the past few decades is that the brain is remarkably plastic. In blind people, parts of the brain that normally process sight are instead devoted to hearing. Someone practicing a new skill, like learning to play the violin, “rewires” parts of the brain that are responsible for fine motor control. People with brain injuries can recruit other parts of the brain to compensate for the lost tissue.

7. A conk on the head can cause amnesia. 
Next to babies switched at birth, this is a favorite trope of soap operas: Someone is in a tragic accident and wakes up in the hospital unable to recognize loved ones or remember his or her own name or history. (The only cure for this form of amnesia, of course, is another conk on the head.)

In the real world, there are two main forms of amnesia: anterograde (the inability to form new memories) and retrograde (the inability to recall past events). Science’s most famous amnesia patient, H.M., was unable to remember anything that happened after a 1953 surgery that removed most of his hippocampus. He remembered earlier events, however, and was able to learn new skills and vocabulary, showing that encoding “episodic” memories of new experiences relies on different brain regions than other types of learning and memory do. Retrograde amnesia can be caused by Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury (ask an NFL player), thiamine deficiency or other insults. But a brain injury doesn’t selectively impair autobiographical memory—much less bring it back.

8. We know what will make us happy. 
In some cases we haven’t a clue. We routinely overestimate how happy something will make us, whether it’s a birthday, free pizza, a new car, a victory for our favorite sports team or political candidate, winning the lottery or raising children. Money does make people happier, but only to a point—poor people are less happy than the middle class, but the middle class are just as happy as the rich. We overestimate the pleasures of solitude and leisure and underestimate how much happiness we get from social relationships.

On the flip side, the things we dread don’t make us as unhappy as expected. Monday mornings aren’t as unpleasant as people predict. Seemingly unendurable tragedies—paralysis, the death of a loved one—cause grief and despair, but the unhappiness doesn’t last as long as people think it will. People are remarkably resilient.

9. We see the world as it is. 
We are not passive recipients of external information that enters our brain through our sensory organs. Instead, we actively search for patterns (like a Dalmatian dog that suddenly appears in a field of black and white dots), turn ambiguous scenes into ones that fit our expectations (it’s a vase; it’s a face) and completely miss details we aren’t expecting. In one famous psychology experiment, about half of all viewers told to count the number of times a group of people pass a basketball do not notice that a guy in a gorilla suit is hulking around among the ball-throwers.

We have a limited ability to pay attention (which is why talking on a cellphone while driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving), and plenty of biases about what we expect or want to see. Our perception of the world isn’t just “bottom-up”—built of objective observations layered together in a logical way. It’s “top-down,” driven by expectations and interpretations.

10. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. 
Some of the sloppiest, shoddiest, most biased, least reproducible, worst designed and most overinterpreted research in the history of science purports to provide biological explanations for differences between men and women. Eminent neuroscientists once claimed that head size, spinal ganglia or brain stem structures were responsible for women’s inability to think creatively, vote logically or practice medicine. Today the theories are a bit more sophisticated: men supposedly have more specialized brain hemispheres, women more elaborate emotion circuits. Though there are some differences (minor and uncorrelated with any particular ability) between male and female brains, the main problem with looking for correlations with behavior is that sex differences in cognition are massively exaggerated.

Women are thought to outperform men on tests of empathy. They do—unless test subjects are told that men are particularly good at the test, in which case men perform as well as or better than women. The same pattern holds in reverse for tests of spatial reasoning. Whenever stereotypes are brought to mind, even by something as simple as asking test subjects to check a box next to their gender, sex differences are exaggerated. Women college students told that a test is something women usually do poorly on, do poorly. Women college students told that a test is something college students usually do well on, do well. Across countries—and across time—the more prevalent the belief is that men are better than women in math, the greater the difference in girls’ and boys’ math scores. And that’s not because girls in Iceland have more specialized brain hemispheres than do girls in Italy.

Certain sex differences are enormously important to us when we’re looking for a mate, but when it comes to most of what our brains do most of the time—perceive the world, direct attention, learn new skills, encode memories, communicate (no, women don’t speak more than men do), judge other people’s emotions (no, men aren’t inept at this)—men and women have almost entirely overlapping and fully Earth-bound abilities.

This is What Happens When You Ask Scientists to Explain Their PhDs in Dance

Smithsonian Magazine

To the lay person, just the titles of doctoral dissertations are downright unwieldy.  For example: "Biophysical characterization of transmembrane peptides using fluorescence." Or how about this one? "Understanding the role of MYCN in neuroblastoma using a systems biology approach." Now, for a real doozie: "Multi-axial fatigue for predicting life of mechanical components."

Luckily, Science magazine and the American Association for the Advancement of Science are the glad hosts of a "Dance Your Ph.D" contest. The competition, now in its sixth consecutive year, invites scientists to describe their research not in an academic paper, lecture or diagram, but through interpretive dance. Entrants, who must have a PhD or be currently obtaining one, submit videos of their choreographed performances. (Contest rules state that while a scientist can recruit other dancers, he or she must be an active participant!)

John Bohannon, a biologist and contributing correspondent to Science, founded the contest in 2007. In its first year, "Dance Your Ph.D" took the form of a live event. Graduate students, postdocs and professors entertained an audience of 100 or 200 at the headquarters of both the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology and the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna, Austria. Two astrophysicists dressed as galaxies and performed a tango, to show how a large galaxy captures a smaller one. An archaeology student in a sparkly loin cloth demonstrated how hunter-gatherers at a Stone Age campsite in South Africa would have shared and cooked their food. "I expected that only molecular biologists would take part," wrote Bohannon in a recap of the event, published in Science in 2008. "What surprised me about the Ph.D dance contest was its diversity."

The project has since morphed into a video contest—and Bohannon, in that time, has become an outspoken proponent for using dance to communicate scientific ideas. At TEDxBrussels in November 2011, in fact, Bohannon--who Science calls the "Gonzo Scientist"--entreated scientists to take up dancing instead of Powerpoint. He stressed the power of doing so by having the Minneapolis-based dance company Black Label Movement animate his talk (watch it here!). With "Dance Your Ph.D," he said more recently, "The goal is to do away with jargon—indeed, to do away with spoken words altogether—and use human bodies to convey the essence of scientific research."

This fall, Science received 31 submissions to the 2013 contest. A panel of judges, some artists and some scientists, organized the entries into four categories: biology, chemistry, physics and social sciences. Then, with previous contest winners, they voted first on 12 finalists, based on the videos' creativity and scientific and artistic merit. From there, they recently named six winners—one in each category, a grand prize winner and a reader favorite, decided through a public poll. Each winner walks away with $500—the grand prize winner, an additional $500—and "immortal geek fame on the Internet," according to the contest's website.

And now, without further ado, the 2013 winners...enjoy!

Grand Prize and Biology Winner

Thesis: "Sperm competition between brothers and female choice"

Scientist: Cedric Tan, biologist at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Explanation: "Females of the red jungle fowl (forest chicken) mate with multiple males, which can create competition between sperm of different males in order to fertilize the egg. In my PhD thesis, I explored the effect of brotherhood on sperm competition and female choice. Interestingly, the brother of the first male that the female has mated with invests more sperm in the female than the non-brother of the first male mate. However, the female ejects a higher proportion of sperm from the brother of the first mate and favors the sperm of the non-brother, facilitating a higher fertility by the non-brother’s sperm.

In addition to the main story, we showcase some of the interesting biology of sperm. First, sperm quality differs and while some move faster and are more forward-moving, others move in circles. Second, sperm of multiple males can interact with one another, sometimes even antagonistically.

Inspired by various sports, the dance movements in this video reflect the competitive nature in the sperm world. The two original music pieces in this video are (1) ‘Animal Love’, which is about the variety of sexual behavior in different species and (2) ‘Scenester’, a piece telling the story about a girl who keeps changing her ways and males trying to keep up with her."    - Cedric Tan

Chemistry Winner

Thesis: "Biophysical characterization of transmembrane peptides using fluorescence"

Scientist: Ambalika Khadria, biochemistry PhD student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

Explanation: "Understanding bacterial growth (cell division) is important to be able to synthesize stronger antibiotics that stop the growth. When a bacterial cell divides, it pinches off at the central region leading to two new cells. This process is carried out by a concerted effort by various proteins that assemble in the cell membrane. We know that these proteins interact with each other, but aren't sure how exactly they interact and carry out division."    - Ambalika Khadria

Physics Winner

Thesis: "Multi-axial fatigue for predicting life of mechanical components"

Scientist: Timothy Hunter, Wolf Star Technologies in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Explanation: "Understanding the fatigue of metals is critical in designing safe, reliable structures. Metal fatigue was first discovered in the 1850s when railroad axles would break for unknown reasons. This was the first time in human history that a mass produced item (train axles) underwent repetitive loading (carrying coal). The first attempt to understand this phenomena used constant amplitude loading to develop the Stress-Life curve. Later, in the 1950s and 1960s, in order to develop lightweight structures for aerospace and NASA moon missions, the concept of constant strain testing was developed to create the more advanced Strain-Life curves for materials.

As part of my research, the Smith-Topper-Watson method for fatigue was studied. This approach combines concepts from the Stress-Life and Strain-Life models. My dissertation recognizes that energy is needed to move grains along grain boundaries, break bonds and open cracks in material. Energy is defined as force times displacement. Strain Energy is defined as stress (force intensity) times strain (displacement intensity or stretch). The Hunter Energy Life Model creates a relationship between strain energy and material life to fully capture the mechanism of failure of materials."   - Timothy Hunter

Social Science Winner

Thesis: "Sleep loss in a social world"

Scientist: Tina Sundelin, PhD student at Stockholm University, Sweden

Explanation: "The thesis is (will be!) called "Sleep loss in a social world" and contains several studies on how others perceive and react to someone who is sleep deprived, compared to when that same person has slept. First of all, when sleep deprived, subjects are perceived as more tired and less attractive. They also look sadder. Furthermore, other people are less willing to spend time with someone who hasn’t slept, possibly due to them being less attractive. Pretty much everyone gets upset if they feel others are excluding them, but according to another study in the thesis, a sleep-deprived person reacts even more strongly to social exclusion than their well-rested peers do. In short, sleep loss affects several social factors that might influence your daily interactions negatively.

The dance thus shows one day, as it would play out if the PhD student we’re watching had slept and if she hadn’t – looking more tired, feeling more upset when excluded from a meeting, having others less willing to spend time with her at lunch, and finally being less attractive when on a date, adding further insult to injury."   - Tina Sundelin

Reader Favorite

Thesis: "Understanding the role of MYCN in neuroblastoma using a systems biology approach"

Scientist: Andres Florez, PhD student at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany

Explanation: "This story is about the good guys (the super-heroes) and the bad guys (the cancer genes) and we will see how the super-heroes will save the day (and hopefully cure cancer).

Cancer appears when the cells in our body stop caring about the other cells and worry only about themselves, growing and consuming all the resources. Neuroblastoma is a cancer in children with interesting features. It’s the cancer with the highest number of patients getting cured spontaneously without any treatment and scientists still do not fully understand how. Therefore investigating this cancer might help us to find better treatments not only for Neuroblastoma, but also for other cancer types.

The story develops at 2 levels: the level of the patient (kid) and what happens at the molecular level (molecule dance). At the kid level the cells in his body are dividing normally going through all cell cycle phases (circle dance) namely; nutrient collection, duplication of genetic material and actual division. When cell cycle goes crazy, then cancer appears, meaning cells going faster trough cell cycle and never stopping division.

Now we jump to the molecular level. When there is no cancer, the 2 important molecules Rb and E2F1 are together and cells do not divide. if Growth Factor is present, Rb is inactivated giving freedom to E2F1 to start cell division. When growth factor disappears, Rb recovers and goes back together with E2F1 stopping cell division. We can think of the Rb as a brake that stops cell division, whenever the brake is released cells divide. When cancer appears things start to go crazy. MYCN is an important molecule that promotes Neuroblastoma and there are usually lots of MYCN molecules in the Neuroblastoma cells (Amplification). We know that MYCN keeps Rb and E2F1 always apart promoting division without stopping, just grow, grow and grow… The question is now, how to best fight MYCN?

To answer this question I’m using a Systems Biology approach to figure out in detail MYCN's actions. Systems biology is the combination of mathematical modeling, computer simulations and experimental data to understand complex problems in biology. Here, the Robot helps to process the complex information of MYCN actions and generates strategies of how to fight MYCNs. These strategies are “transferred” to the “treatment,” the SuperHero! (No worries, it’s not Ben Affleck). The treatment with the help of the Robot exterminates MYCN, saving the kid and making him happy again."   - Andres Florez

313-336 of 340 Resources