Thursday, December 30, 2010

KODACHROME film...died in Parsons, Kansas

The Inventors Hall of Fame photos of Leopold Godowsky, Jr. (left), and Leopold Mannes, inventors of Kodachrome. Despite their success in photography, both Leopolds considered themselves musicians first and inventors second. Below, Kodachrome packaging and an unexposed roll from 1945. Because of the difficult processing, Kodak was the exclusive processor of Kodachrome for several decades, and each roll included processing via small cotton bags, which were mailed to the closest Kodak facility.

"For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas"


A. G. Sulzberger

December 29th, 2010

The New York Times

An unlikely pilgrimage is under way to Dwayne’s Photo, a small family business that has through luck and persistence become the last processor in the world of Kodachrome, the first successful color film and still the most beloved.

That celebrated 75-year run from mainstream to niche photography is scheduled to come to an end on Thursday when the last processing machine is shut down here to be sold for scrap.

In the last weeks, dozens of visitors and thousands of overnight packages have raced here, transforming this small prairie-bound city not far from the Oklahoma border for a brief time into a center of nostalgia for the days when photographs appeared not in the sterile frame of a computer screen or in a pack of flimsy prints from the local drugstore but in the warm glow of a projector pulling an image from a carousel of vivid slides.

In the span of minutes this week, two such visitors arrived. The first was a railroad worker who had driven from Arkansas to pick up 1,580 rolls of film that he had just paid $15,798 to develop. The second was an artist who had driven directly here after flying from London to Wichita, Kan., on her first trip to the United States to turn in three rolls of film and shoot five more before the processing deadline.

The artist, Aliceson Carter, 42, was incredulous as she watched the railroad worker, Jim DeNike, 53, loading a dozen boxes that contained nearly 50,000 slides into his old maroon Pontiac. He explained that every picture inside was of railroad trains and that he had borrowed money from his father’s retirement account to pay for developing them.

“That’s crazy to me,” Ms. Carter said. Then she snapped a picture of Mr. DeNike on one of her last rolls.

Demanding both to shoot and process, Kodachrome rewarded generations of skilled users with a richness of color and a unique treatment of light that many photographers described as incomparable even as they shifted to digital cameras. “Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day,” Paul Simon sang in his 1973 hit “Kodachrome,” which carried the plea “Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away.”

As news media around the world have heralded Thursday’s end of an era, rolls of the discontinued film that had been hoarded in freezers and tucked away in closets, sometimes for decades, have flooded Dwayne’s Photo, arriving from six continents.

“It’s more than a film, it’s a pop culture icon,” said Todd Gustavson, a curator from the George Eastman House, a photography museum in Rochester in the former residence of the Kodak founder. “If you were in the postwar baby boom, it was the color film, no doubt about it.”

Among the recent visitors was Steve McCurry, a photographer whose work has appeared for decades in National Geographic including his well-known cover portrait, shot in Kodachrome, of a Afghan girl that highlights what he describes as the “sublime quality” of the film. When Kodak stopped producing the film last year, the company gave him the last roll, which he hand-delivered to Parsons. “I wasn’t going to take any chances,” he explained.

At the peak, there were about 25 labs worldwide that processed Kodachrome, but the last Kodak-run facility in the United States closed several years ago, then the one in Japan and then the one in Switzerland. Since then, all that was left has been Dwayne’s Photo. Last year, Kodak stopped producing the chemicals needed to develop the film, providing the business with enough to continue processing through the end of 2010. And last week, right on schedule, the lab opened up the last canister of blue dye.

Kodak declined to comment for this article.

The status of lone survivor is a point of pride for Dwayne Steinle, who remembers being warned more than once by a Kodak representative after he opened the business more than a half-century ago that the area was too sparsely populated for the studio to succeed. It has survived in part because Mr. Steinle and his son Grant focused on lower-volume specialties — like black-and-white and print-to-print developing, and, in the early ’90s, the processing of Kodachrome.

Still, the toll of the widespread switch to digital photography has been painful for Dwayne’s, much as it has for Kodak. In the last decade, the number of employees has been cut to about 60 from 200 and digital sales now account for nearly half of revenue. Most of the staff and even the owners acknowledge that they primarily use digital cameras. “That’s what we see as the future of the business,” said Grant Steinle, who runs the business now.

The passing of Kodachrome has been much noted, from the CBS News program ”Sunday Morning” to The Irish Times, but it is noteworthy in no small part for how long it survived. Created in 1935, Kodachrome was an instant hit as the first film to effectively render color.

Even when it stopped being the default film for chronicling everyday life — thanks in part to the move to prints from slides — it continued to be the film of choice for many hobbyists and medical professionals. Dr. Bharat Nathwani, 65, a Los Angeles pathologist, lamented that he still had 400 unused rolls. “I might hold it, God willing that Kodak sees its lack of wisdom.”

This week, the employees at Dwayne’s worked at a frenetic pace, keeping a processing machine that has typically operated just a few hours a day working around the clock (one of the many notes on the lab wall reads: “I took this to a drugstore and they didn’t even know what it was”).

“We really didn’t expect it to be this crazy,” said Lanie George, who manages the Kodachrome processing department.

One of the toughest decisions was how to deal with the dozens of requests from amateurs and professionals alike to provide the last roll to be processed.

In the end, it was determined that a roll belonging to Dwayne Steinle, the owner, would be last. It took three tries to find a camera that worked. And over the course of the week he fired off shots of his house, his family and downtown Parsons. The last frame is already planned for Thursday, a picture of all the employees standing in front of Dwayne’s wearing shirts with the epitaph: “The best slide and movie film in history is now officially retired. Kodachrome: 1935-2010.”


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Neanderthals cooked their vegetables

An interesting story. I often wondered how many lives were lost before ancient man realized which plants were poisonous, medicinal, and tasty and the same with hunting technology or even sex and communication.

"Neanderthals cooked and ate vegetables"


Pallab Ghosh

December 27th, 2010


Neanderthals cooked and ate plants and vegetables, a new study of Neanderthal remains reveals.

Researchers in the US have found grains of cooked plant material in their teeth.

The study is the first to confirm that the Neanderthal diet was not confined to meat and was more sophisticated than previously thought.

The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The popular image of Neanderthals as great meat eaters is one that has up until now been backed by some circumstantial evidence. Chemical analysis of their bones suggested they ate little or no vegetables.

This perceived reliance on meat had been put forward by some as one of the reasons these humans become extinct as large animals such as mammoths declined due to an Ice Age.

But a new analysis of Neanderthal remains from across the world has found direct evidence that contradicts the chemical studies. Researchers found fossilised grains of vegetable material in their teeth and some of it was cooked.

Although pollen grains have been found before on Neanderthal sites and some in hearths, it is only now there is clear evidence that plant food was actually eaten by these people.

"We have found pollen grains in Neanderthal sites before but you never know whether they were eating the plant or sleeping on them or what."

End Quote Professor Alison Brooks George Washington University

Professor Alison Brooks, from George Washington University, told BBC News: "We have found pollen grains in Neanderthal sites before but you never know whether they were eating the plant or sleeping on them or what.

"But here we have a case where a little bit of the plant is in the mouth so we know that the Neanderthals were consuming the food."

More like us

One question raised by the study is why the chemical studies on Neanderthal bones have been wide of the mark. According to Professor Brooks, the tests were measuring proteins levels, which the researchers assumed came from meat.

"We've tended to assume that if you have a very high value for protein in the diet that must come from meat. But... it's possible that some of the protein in their diet was coming from plants," she said.

This study is the latest to suggest that, far from being brutish savages, Neanderthals were more like us than we previously thought.

Snowflake aesthetic

These "...images from the Electron Microscopy Unit of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland."

"All Alike"


Adam Gopnik

January 3rd, 2011

The New Yorker

It’s been cold out. Really cold, not just normal New York, scarf-and-overcoat December cold but Canadian cold, Arctic cold—the kind of cold that insinuates its way through window frames, and whispers under doors, and chills even perpetually overheated New York apartments. The city may have missed the big snows that have been falling elsewhere in America, crushing the roof of the Metrodome and forcing the Giants into a game in Detroit, but, with the weather this cold, can the snow be too far off?

All this makes the people who cackle with derision at the notion of global warming cackle even more, and though we like to shake our heads at the folly of those who choose to ignore the inarguable proof that this year is one of the hottest years on record—still, at the bone, the human genome does seem to conspire against the truth. In this kind of cold, it is hard to imagine that we will ever be warm again, as though a little genetic amnesia trap had been designed by nature to make us work for the spring to come—to make us plant bulbs and wrap bushes with burlap and light Yule logs and sacrifice virgins, whatever it takes.

In the cold, thoughts turn to snowflakes, heralds of winter. For the past three decades, at this time of year, a twinkling snowflake has been hoisted above the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Fifty-seventh Street. It’s a giant, galumphing thing, which makes the crossroads of the world resemble the main intersection of a Manitoba town. Closer to the office, the local hearth, Starbucks on Forty-second and Sixth, even has a sign that reads, “Friends are like snowflakes: beautiful and different.” This thought seems so comforting, so improving and plural-minded, that one begins to wonder whether it is truly so. Are snowflakes really different—or, rather, how different are they, really?

A quick trip to the New York Public Library and a few request slips (and, let it be said, a little Googling) later, one arrives at the compelling figure of Wilson (Snowflake) Bentley, the great snowflake-ologist, hero of the best movie Frank Capra never made. Bentley was a Vermont semi-recluse who had a lovely and inexplicable devotion to snow. In 1885, at the age of nineteen, he photographed his first snowflake, against a background made as dark as black velvet by long hours spent scraping the emulsion surrounding the snowflake images from the glass-plate negatives. His motives, more than scientific, seem artistic, like those of James Audubon, with his birds, or of Joseph Cornell, with his boxes. On the one hand, there was an urge to document a hidden universe of form and feeling; on the other, a fixation on a small and exquisite world that seemed blissfully different from the workaday one in which Bentley, in Vermont, like Cornell, in Queens, found himself. (Both men were loners, perhaps not coincidentally, who cared for an ailing relative: Cornell for his brother, and Bentley for his mom.) Bentley, over his lifetime, took portraits of five thousand three hundred and eighty-one snow crystals (to give them their proper scientific name; flakes are crystals clumped together) and inserted into the world’s imagination the image of the stellar flower as the typical, “iconic” snowflake, along with the idea of a snowflake’s quiddity, its uniqueness. It is to Bentley that we owe the Fifth Avenue-style snowflake and all those others falling in our minds.

It turns out, however (a few more slips, a bit more Googling), that Bentley censored as much as he unveiled. Most snow crystals—as he knew, and kept quiet about—are nothing like our stellar flower: they’re irregular, bluntly geometric. They are as plain and as misshapen as, well, people. The Fifth Avenue snowflakes are the rare ones, long and lovely, the movie stars and supermodels, the Alessandra Ambrosios of snow crystals. The discarded snowflakes look more like Serras and Duchamps; they’re as asymmetrical as Adolph Gottliebs, and as jagged as Clyfford Stills.

But are they all, as Starbucks insists, at least different? Another flurry of catalogue searching reveals a more cheering, if complex, truth. In 1988, a cloud scientist named Nancy Knight (at the National Center for Atmospheric Research—let’s not defund it) took a plane up into the clouds over Wisconsin and found two simple but identical snow crystals, hexagonal prisms, each as like the other as one twin to another, as Cole Sprouse is like Dylan Sprouse. Snowflakes, it seems, are not only alike; they usually start out more or less the same.

Yet if this notion threatens to be depressing—with the suggestion that only the happy eye of nineteenth-century optimism saw special individuality here—one last burst of searching and learning puts a brighter seasonal spin on things. “As a snowflake falls, it tumbles through many different environments,” an Australian science writer named Karl Kruszelnicki explains. “So the snowflake that you see on the ground is deeply affected by the different temperatures, humidities, velocities, turbulences, etc, that it has experienced on the way.” Snowflakes start off all alike; their different shapes are owed to their different lives.

In a way, the passage out from Snowflake Bentley to the new snowflake stories is typical of the way our vision of nature has changed over the past century: Bentley, like Audubon, believed in the one fixed image; we believe in truths revealed over time—not what animals or snowflakes are, but how they have altered to become what they are. The sign in Starbucks should read, “Friends are like snowflakes: more different and more beautiful each time you cross their paths in our common descent.” For the final truth about snowflakes is that they become more individual as they fall—that, buffeted by wind and time, they are translated, as if by magic, into ever more strange and complex patterns, until, at last, like us, they touch earth. Then, like us, they melt.

A snowflake--something special

Nonphysics of snowflakes

Snow Flake

I am a simple person who understands nature
and I am told that "snow flakes" are unique.
I met a "snow flake" who is indeed unique.
A phantom in the heat of a body warm
or a March sunbeam newly born.
Catch this "snow flake" and treasure long
for doubt and confusion will make it gone.
I met a "snow flake" not long ago in physics
no wait that was philosophy, I lie.
A fine blend of beauty and brilliance
that no one could resist
and I was there to assist.
I love my little "snow flake" as I cannot say
for the ears of many I must hold at bay.
I must reserve my love for her secret and
tell no one no way.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Vocabulary list--#3




Lack of grammatical sequence or coherence, especially in a sentence.




1. Old-womanish, like a crone, feeble from age or feeble-minded: the feminine counterpart of senile, which originally referred only to old men.
2. Fearful and overly cautious.




Otherness; specifically: The quality or state of being radically alien to the conscious self or a particular cultural orientation.




The writing of alternate lines in opposite directions (as from left to right and from right to left).




Of winter.




To laugh loudly or immoderately.




Misty, dim, dark.




1. A selection of passages used to help learn a language
2. A volume of selected passages or stories of an author.




A disparate if not disheveled collection of things, a confused mass of dissimilar objects.




1. Sharing the same tent.
2. Living together with someone or sharing a companionship or, as a noun, a member of such a companionship.




1. Lying down, crouching, reclining.
2. Heraldry. (Of an animal) represented as lying on its stomach with its hind legs and forelegs pointed forward.




1. Marked by intemperance especially in eating or drinking.
2. Sick from excessive indulgence in liquor.




1. Of or pertaining to the common people, popular.
2. Of or pertaining to the ordinary, everyday, current form of a language, vernacular.
3. Of, pertaining to, or noting the simplified form of hieratic writing used in ancient Egypt between 700 b.c. and a.d. 500.




A transition area between two adjacent ecological communities.




A literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art.




1. That is known only by a small, exclusive group of insiders or "in" people.
2. Confined to a clique or small closed group of people.




To chew (food) slowly and thoroughly.




1. Sullenly unsociable or shy.
2. Fierce.




1 Australian & New Zealand: To search for gold or gemstones typically by picking over abandoned workings.
2 Chiefly Australian & New Zealand; a: To search about; RUMMAGE and b: To search for by or as if by rummaging; ferret out.




1. Rope-like or having a cord, rope, or cable.
2. Operated on or by a cable.
3. Related to a funiculus: the umbilical cord (also called afunis in medicine), the spinal cord, or any bundle of nerve fibers.




1. Serving to indicate or point out; stimulating interest as a means of furthering investigation.
2. Encouraging a person to learn, discover, understand, or solve problems on his or her own, as by experimenting, evaluating possible answers or solutions, or by trial and error.
3. Of, pertaining to, or based on experimentation, evaluation, or trial-and-error methods.
4. Denoting a rule of thumb for solving a problem without the exhaustive application of an algorithm.




1. A private form of speech invented by one child or by children who are in close contact, as twins.
2. A pathological condition in which a person's speech is so severely distorted that it is unintelligible.




1. An idealized concept of a loved one, formed in childhood and retained unaltered in adult life.
2. Entomology, an adult insect.




1. The earliest stages or first traces of anything.
2. Extant copies of books produced in the earliest stages (before 1501) of printing from movable type.




1. Incapable of being expressed in words; unspeakable; unutterable; indescribable.
2. Not to be uttered; taboo.




1. A restless tossing of the body.
2. Boasting; bragging.




1. Lacking nutritive value.
2. Devoid of significance or interest; dull.
3. Juvenile, puerile.




Conspicuous; easily seen or recognized.




To complain habitually.




Using or involving the use of a minimum of words, oncise to the point of seeming rude or mysterious.




Avoiding light.




1. Savage; ravenous; predatory.
2. Pertaining to or resembling the wolf.




A confection believed to contain an antidote to every poison.




To silently move the lips in simulation of audible speech.




Resembling nacre (mother-of-pearl); lustrous; pearly.




1. A drug or drink, or the plant yielding it, mentioned by ancient writers as having the power to bring forgetfulness of sorrow or trouble.
2. Anything inducing a pleasurable sensation of forgetfulness, especially of sorrow or trouble.




1. Supernatural, mysterious.
2. Filled with a sense of the presence of divinity, holy.
3. Appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic sense, spiritual.




1. The contemplation of the navel as part of meditation.
2. Self-absorption, egocentrism.
3. Inertia, lack of activity or motivation.




A miscellaneous collection (as of things or persons).




1. The study of correct pronunciation.
2. The study of the relationship between the pronunciation of words and their orthography.




1. A magic potion for any purpose.
2. A potion, charm, or drug supposed to cause the person taking it to fall in love, usually with some specific person.




1. A trusted military leader (as for a medieval prince).
2. A leading champion of a cause.




1. Rebirth, regeneration.
2. In biology, embryonic development that reproduces the ancestral features of the species.
3. Baptism in the Christian faith.
4. The doctrine of transmigration of souls.




Having multiple skills, able and willing to carry out a variety of tasks requiring different sets of skills.




1. To bet in a parlay.
2. To exploit successfully, to increase or otherwise transform into something of much greater value.




1. Having a loud reverberating sound.
2. Having an expressive and especially plaintive quality.




1. The essence or real nature of a thing, that which makes a thing what it is.
2. Something trivial, unimportant, a quibble.




A person who excels in telling anecdotes.




1. A description of a person's appearance, career, personality, etc.
2. A study of a collection of persons or characters, esp. their appearances, careers, personalities, etc., within a historical, literary, or social context.




1. A: Capable of laughing; b: Disposed to laugh.
2. Arousing or provoking laughter, especially laughable.
3. Associated with, relating to, or used in laughter.




1. The movement of the eye when it makes a sudden change, as in reading.
2. The act of checking a horse quickly with a single strong pull of the reins.




In Zen Buddhism, the state of sudden indescribable intuitive enlightenment.




Of, relating to, or suggestive of the labors of Sisyphus; specifically, requiring continual and often ineffective effort.




Full of whispering sounds.

tu quoque



A retort charging an adversary with being or doing what he or she criticizes in others.




Howl, wail.




An erratic, unpredictable, or extravagant manifestation, action, or notion.




1. Truthful, veracious.
2. Not illusory, genuine.




1. Of, relating to, or resembling a fox.
2. Foxy, crafty.




Proceeding by inquiry, investigating.

Special thanks to POSP stringer Tim Ray for the compilation.

Vocabulary list--#1

Vocabulary list--#2

Sunday, December 26, 2010


All good things must come to an end. Eastman will dump Kodachrome film as it has done many other products like the fantastic Blue Toner [contained uranium nitrate that could actually make red prints], fabulous black and white printing papers [Extalure, Portraitlure], 8mm, super 8mm, and 16mm movie film, and quality B&W still films [Panatomic X, Royal Pan]. The standard, classic photography industry will eventually die. And the winner is "digital".

"Kodachrome: The Legendary Film's Last Days"

The World's First Consumer Color Film was Used in 100s of Iconic Shots; After Dec. 30, It Won't Be Sold or Processed Anywhere


Jim Axelrod

December 26th, 2010

CBS Sunday Morning

Professional photographer Kent Miller is up before sunrise making sure everything's perfect for his photo shoot. He wants to capture a triathlete named Carlos Lema at the foot of the George Washington Bridge just across the river from Manhattan in just the right light at dawn.

His film of choice, as it has been for millions of others, is Kodachrome.

"Kodachrome is probably the first professional film I ever really shot," Miller said.

A professional photographer for more than 20 years, Miller shoots mostly digital now. But this is a job for film, and not just any film - Kodachrome.

"It just reproduces colors in a way that most other films never did, and it lasts forever," Miller said. "It's something that is difficult to do with just shooting digital until you bring it in to Photoshop and resaturate and do all your work in there. But just straight out the camera it doesn't have that density and dynamic ranges as the Kodachrome does just naturally."

Satisfied as he is with the pictures he's taken this morning, it's a poignant day for Kent Miller because these rolls of Kodachrome are the last rolls of Kodachrome he will ever shoot.

"I have just been saving it for a special time and this is a special time," he said.

For 75 years, Kodachrome has given millions of us those "nice bright colors" referred to in Paul Simon's 1973 hit.

The first mass-marketed color film, it was popular enough not just to inspire its own song, but to have a state park in Utah - Kodachrome Basin - named after it as well.

It was the film of choice for professionals documenting history as well as generations of amateurs preserving their summer vacations and holiday memories on Kodachrome slides.

Todd Gustavson is the curator of technology at the Eastman House - Kodak's museum in Rochester, N.Y.

"It's a baby boom product," he said. "After World War II - availability of new automobiles, national parks were open - and people were able to have some time to travel and of course now there is a this new color film which you could use to document your family vacations and then of course come back and show your friends and neighbors your slides on your carousel or Kodak slide projector."

But eventually technology caught up to Kodachrome. In a digital world, there was not enough demand for Kodak to keep making the film. And even if you have a roll or two squirreled away in your fridge, after this coming Friday - December 30 -you, or Kent Miller or anyone else - won't be able to get it developed.

Because on December 30th, Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, Kan. will stop processing Kodachrome. "So what," you say? You'll just send yours somewhere else? No you won't.

Maybe the best person to explain is Dwayne Steinle himself, who started the business 56 years ago.

"There is not going to be any place to process it?"

"No place left in the world to process it; we are the very last in the world in the entire planet," Steinle says.

And Kodachrome isn't a do-it-yourself kind of film. Those long-lasting brilliant colors are the result of a unique developing process involving special chemicals only Kodak makes - or made to be more precise.

It isn't something you can develop in your basement darkroom.

"The real difference between Kodachrome and all the other color films is that the dyes that make up the image you see in the film, in Kodachrome, don't get incorporated into the film until it is actually developed," explained Grant Steinle, who now runs the business his father started .

They're sad at Dwayne's, but not at all surprised. They've been watching their Kodachrome business shrink, even as other labs stopped processing Kodachrome and Dwayne's became the only place people from around the world could send their film to be developed.

They're still doing 700 rolls a day, but that's not nearly enough demand to convince Kodak to make more chemicals. They've got just enough for another week.

"It's going to be really sad day, it was an important part of our business and Kodachrome was an important part of the history of all of photography," Grant Steinle said. "To know it was the first consumer color film that was available. Lots of really iconic images of the 20th century were captured on Kodachrome."

Steve McCurry captured one - the 12-year Afghan girl on the cover of National Geographic in 1984. Actually, he captured two, when he returned to Afghanistan and found her 17 years later.

"Kodachrome was my mainstay film, this was the main film I used for 30 year," McCurry said. "I have about 800,000 Kodachrome transparencies in my archive, maybe more, and this was probably the greatest film ever made."

When Kodak announced it was discontinuing Kodachrome last year, he had an idea.

"I called my contacts, my friends at Kodak and said you know I'd really like to get the last roll and do a project with it to kind of honor this passing of this iconic film," he said.

He picked a region in India where he'd come across the perfect subjects.

"I decided to pick a community which was disappearing," he said. "It was a nomadic community which I spent a week with and traveled with them and photographed their way of live because again, like Kodachrome their way of life is vanishing."

He used most of the last roll of Kodachrome ever made, but saved just a couple of frames, which he shot in parsons just before dropping the film off at Dwayne's.

The very last image ever made with Kodachrome is a civil war cemetery in Parsons, Kan.

"I was going to the lab in the next 15 or 20 minutes and I drove past the cemetery and I thought this would be a sort of perfect ending to the roll of Kodachrome - a cemetery," McCurry said. "It's a passing of an era."

"Progress" is defined as an advancement or improvement, but in some ways it's hard to see how a world without Kodachrome qualifies as either.

But that's the world Steve McCurry will soon live in, whatever hope his wishful thinking allows him to preserve. He says he still has a few rolls in his fridge.

"Just open the fridge and there's the film and I'll know its safe and sound," he says. "If they ever bring it back I'm ready to roll."

Bubble lights on the tree

I guess they are gone now.

The bubbling light was created in 1935 by Carl Otis, and his later patents improved the design over the years. The lights worked by heating a vial of low-boiling liquid (lightweight oil, in early versions) with a hidden incandescent bulb. Modern lights use dichloromethane as the fluid, but the design remains essentially unchanged. NOMA bought Otis’ designs but wasn’t able to market the whimsical lights until after World War II, first seeing sales success in 1947. To ensure the safety of lights, NOMA developed and marketed tiny fuses in 1951 that could be easily replaced. The small, vial-like devices are common to almost all decorative lights today.

Who is she?

Virginia O'Hanlon

One day late but still an interesting story.

[Click to enlarge]

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus [Wikipedia]

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Karl Richard Lepsius...German Egyptologist

Karl Richard Lepsius
December 23rd, 1810 to July 10th, 1884

I dedicate this to my London colleague [an Egyptologist] who has been stalled for hours with her retired Oxford don father at Heathrow Airport do to bad weather. They are on their way to Luxor for a few weeks.

Karl Richard Lepsius was a "German Egyptologist, a founding father of scientific methods in archaeology whose plans, maps and drawings of tomb and temple walls are of high accuracy and reliability. In 1842, he headed a team of carefully chosen specialists on a four year expedition to the Nile Valley sponsored by King Fredrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia. Lepsius explored Khartoum and Sennar, during which he collected 15,000 artifacts and dispatched for display in Berlin. In winter 1844-45, Lepsius travelled throughout the Valley of the Kings, recording numerous scenes and inscriptions. He returned in 1866 and found the Canopus decree at Tanis. Being written in two languages, it was a valuable cross-reference for the prior interpretation of the Rosetta stone by Champollion."

Tour Egypt...

"Karl (Carl) Richard Lepsius: A Founder of Modern Egyptology"


Jimmy Dunn

Karl (Carl) Richard Lepsius (1810-1884) must be considered one of the founding fathers of Egyptology and a giant among the earliest archaeologists. He was born in Naumburg-am-Saale. During the days before formal Egyptology graduate programs, he spent years studying Champollion's Grammar in order to learn hieroglyphs, and then spent another four years visiting all of the major European collections of Egyptian antiquities in England, Holland and Italy in order to self educate himself in his chosen discipline. This is not to say that Lepsius was not formally educated. He studied Greek and Roman archaeology at the universities of Leipzig (1829-1830), Gottingen (1830-1832) and Berlin (1832-1833), where he completed his doctorate. His interest in Egyptology seems to have been inspired by lectures on the history of Egypt by Jean Letronne, a French classicist and archaeologist who had taken an early interest in the work of Champollion.

Though attracted to the study of Egyptology, Lepsius actually resisted concentrating on the Egyptian language until the appearance of Champollion's Grammar, when it became possible for him to undertake a systematized approach to its study. He made a comparison of the various systems of translation then in use, in an attempt to find to his satisfaction the one that was most likely to be correct. Then, in 1836, he visited Ippolito Rosellini in Italy, who had led the Tuscan contingent attached to Champollion's expedition to Egypt. This resulted in his publication, prior to even his first visit to Egypt, of Lettre a M. le Professeur Rosellini sur l'aphbet hieroglyphique in 1837. This work expanded on Champollion's explanation of the use of alphabetical signs in hieroglyphic writing.

This culminated, in 1842, with a commission by Fredrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, proposed by Johann Eichhorn who was then Prussia's minister of instruction and endorsed by scientists Alexander von Humboldt and Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, for Lepsius to lead an expedition to Egypt and Nubia. As with earlier expeditions, he was tasked with recording monuments and bringing back to Germany many of the treasures he might discover. Included in his team were an artist named Joseph Bonomi and an English architect named James Wild, together with surveyors, other artists, draftsmen and a plaster molder. In fact, his was the best equipped and qualified of any scholarly group to follow the French Egyptologists in the entourage of Napoleon's military campaign in Egypt forty years earlier.

In those days, before modern aviation, Alexander was usually the entry point for visitors to Egypt, rather than today's Cairo. The expedition gathered there in September of 1842, and in early November, arrived in Cairo. There, they spent six months exploring Giza, Abusir, Saqqara and Dahshur. Lepsius later explained the importance of this work by noting that, with the exception of the pyramid studies of Richard H. Vyse and John S. Perring, and the minor visits to the area by the French-Tuscan expeditions, his expedition was the first to study and record what was essentially material from the Old Kingdom. Today, it is impossible to study the pyramids of Egypt without finding many references to Lepsius, because they discovered the remains of some 67 pyramids and more than 130 tombs of the nobles.

In May of 1843, the expedition settled in the Fayoum near the remains of the Labyrinth (the Pyramid of Amenemhat III). They remained there for several months, carrying out excavations and in the process, making the first detailed plans of that monument. From there, they traveled through Middle Egypt with stops at a number of sites such as Beni Hasan and Bersheh, as they made their way up the Nile River. Not surprisingly, they only briefly visited Thebes (modern Luxor), because at that time, the custom of explorers was to move swiftly up the Nile and then examine in more detail the monuments on the return journey downriver.

Soon he entered what was then called Ethiopia, actually Upper (southern) Nubia, and his work there was the earliest thorough investigation and modern record of that area. He took a small contingent of his expedition from the main party at Khartoum and ascended the Blue Nile past Sennar, not only to explore but also to make a study of regional languages.

On the return journey downriver, they indeed made a prolonged visit to Thebes. They camped for four months at Qurna, on the West Bank, to investigate the tombs and temples and then spent another three months on the eastern bank at the temples of Karnak. During this visit, Lepsius himself made a side trip to the Sinai by way of the Coptos road.

After leaving Thebes, the group made lengthy stops at the principal antiquity sites on their way back northward. Even in the Nile Delta, they explored as far east as Tanis. Leaving Egypt they returned to Europe along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean by way of Beirut, Damascus, Baalbek and Constantinople (Istanbul), arriving at Trieste in January 1846.

It is important to note that Lepsius' first expedition did not only contribute to our knowledge of Egyptian monuments, the Egyptian language and mythology, but to the geography of this region. With a carefully chosen team of specialists, Lepsius was able to take more time and care in investigation and recording than anyone had before him. The expedition was instrumental in adding depth and detail to any further understanding of Egyptian antiquities.

Upon his return to Prussia, his findings were published in a monumental work called Denkmaler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien (1849-58), a twelve volume series of books, with five volumes of text and nearly nine hundred plates, that was comparable in scale to the very formidable work of Napoleon's Description de l'Egypte. Actually, the text did not appear until after Lepsius' death, when Edouard Naville and others compiled his notes. Today, it remains a fundamental resource for Egyptologists on both monuments in Egypt and Nubia. The plans, maps and drawings of tomb and temple walls are of a high degree of accuracy and reliability, and are often the only record of monuments that have since been destroyed or later reburied.

His work was sweeping, and particularly important because it described many sites that have deteriorated today. It is important for modern enthusiasts of Egyptian antiquities to understand just how important work by such men are even in our modern era. Many inscriptions, tombs scenes and other material that would otherwise be lost to us today were, at the hands of this gifted Egyptologist, recorded for prosperity. Time and again, modern scholars must refer back to such work for there investigations, and in fact, some of the most important finds in more recent times came about because of his work. Hence, Professor Geoffrey Martin's rediscovery of the tombs of Maya, Tutankhamun's treasurer, and the king's general, Horemheb (prior to becoming Pharaoh himself), were made possible by surveys and descriptions made by Lepsius of the New Kingdom tombs at Saqqara.

This is not to say that Lepsius, along with other early Egyptologists, were not to blame for some amount of needless destruction. Champollion, Ippolito Rosellini and Lepsius, all scholars, were responsible for disfiguring many monuments of Egypt by the brutal removal of entire sections of decorations. Certainly Lepsius was not the worst, but he contributed to this destruction. The artifacts that he returned with after his first expedition included a dynamited column from the ill-fated tomb of Seti I, and sections of tiled wall from Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara. Both were presents from Muahmmad Ali in thanks for a dinner service presented to the Egyptian king by the Prussian king. While one might argue that this material might have otherwise been lost, even at that time there were less intrusive methods of recording such decorations.

For his work, Lepsius was rewarded in 1846 with a professorship at the Berlin University, and in 1865 with the post of Keeper of the Egyptian Antiquities Department in the Berlin Museum. Some months later he led another expedition to Egypt. This time, he explored the Delta, which was and continues to be under-investigated and the Suez region. At Tanis, he discovered the Canopus Degree, a document written in Greek and Demotic which proved most useful to scholars because it could be compared with the Rosetta Stone.

In 1869, he visited Egypt for the last time in order to witness the inauguration of the Suez Canal.

Lepsius died in 1884 in Berlin, but he published many more works during his later years, and was even the editor of the leading German Egyptology journal, the Zeitschrift fur agyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde. For many years, this was considered to be the most important early periodical journal on Egyptian antiquities. He is also credited, for example, with providing the modern title, "The Book of the Dead", to the famous book of spells and he published one of the earliest studies of the Cubit rods.

Lepsius' work did more to put Germany, and particularly the Berlin Museum, on the map in the field of Egyptology. The antiquities and 15,000 casts that Lepsius brought home from Egypt formed the nucleus of the Berlin Museum's Egyptian collection. Probably more importantly, he has been called the father of modern Archaeology, and is at least considered the founder of the "German school" of methodical research on language, antiquities and archaeology of ancient Egypt.

Karl Richard Lepsius [Wikipedia]