Not until July 16 did Edison feel that he had a device worth patenting. The application he signed that day specified multiple timpani that “reproduced” vocal inflections and a sibilant-sensitive diaphragm. But a laboratory visitor (spying for Bell) found the instrument more powerful than clear, with the word schism sounding more like kim.
“We have had terrible hard work on the Speaking telegraph,” Batchelor complained to his fellow inventor Ezra Gilliland. For the past five to six weeks, he added, Edison’s team had been “frequently working 2 nights together until we all had to knock off from want of sleep.”
Thomas Alva Edison’s self-proclaimed greatest invention, the phonograph, won him overnight fame. Journalists would marvel that such an acoustic revolution, adding a whole new dimension to human memory, could have been accomplished by a man half deaf in one ear and wholly deaf in the other.
In February 1877, the same month that saw Edison turn 30 and show his first streaks of silver hair, he and his fellow inventor Charles Batchelor began a new series of experiments on what they called, variously, the “telephonic telegraph,” the “speaking telegraph” and the “talking telephone.”
The single most astounding thing I found was that if you took all your DNA and formed it into a single fine strand, it would stretch to Pluto. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a fact that blew me away more than that — that there’s enough of me or you or anyone else to stretch to Pluto. There’s 10 billion miles of DNA inside you. That just seems unbelievable. The surprise is not that there’s so much to understand about the body but that we understand as much as we do.
Our bodies are the best technology we’ve ever taken for granted, according to Bill Bryson’s 20th book, “The Body: A Guide for Occupants” ($30, Doubleday), which will be released Oct. 15. Having already covered topics such as nature, homes and linguistics, Bryson takes on life, death and everything in between. He spoke with contributor Stephanie Kanowitz about his reasons for writing the book and what he learned. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Working solely with an 1898 Agfa field camera, Thomas Joshua Cooper has established himself as one of the foremost photographers of our time. His magnificent black-and-white seascapes explore specific points on the globe–often at the most remote areas, where sea and land meet. Fans of Cooper’s Atlas project, in which he has charted the Atlantic Basin, will be thrilled to find a generous selection of those images here–abstractions ranging from pitch black to clear white, and subtle gradations in between. Exquisitely reproduced, these photographs reveal the coastlines of the five continents that encircle the Atlantic Ocean. This volume also features images that deal with themes such as the earth’s changing environment, historical narratives, and North America’s great rivers and their sources. Enhancing this book are an essay by Michael Govan; biographies of the artist by Rebecca Morse and Anne Lyden, International Photography Curator at the National Galleries of Scotland; and a chronicle of the Atlas project by Christie Davis of the Lannan Foundation. Poems by Robinson Jeffers and Theodore Roethke round out this retrospective book of one of the most celebrated and distinctive photographers working today.
America’s most storied urban underdog, Brooklyn has become an internationally recognized brand in recent decades—celebrated and scorned as one of the hippest destinations in the world. In Brooklyn: The Once and Future City, Thomas J. Campanella unearths long-lost threads of the urban past, telling the rich history of the rise, fall, and reinvention of one of the world’s most resurgent cities.
Spanning centuries and neighborhoods, Brooklyn-born Campanella recounts the creation of places familiar and long forgotten, both built and never realized, bringing to life the individuals whose dreams, visions, rackets, and schemes forged the city we know today. He takes us through Brooklyn’s history as homeland of the Leni Lenape and its transformation by Dutch colonists into a dense slaveholding region. We learn about English émigré Deborah Moody, whose town of Gravesend was the first founded by a woman in America. We see how wanderlusting Yale dropout Frederick Law Olmsted used Prospect Park to anchor an open space system that was to reach back to Manhattan. And we witness Brooklyn’s emergence as a playland of racetracks and amusement parks celebrated around the world.
Noted Harvard-trained geriatrician Louise Aronson uses stories from her quarter century of caring for patients and draws from history, science, literature, popular culture, and her own life to weave a vision of old age that’s neither nightmare nor utopian fantasy—a vision full of joy, wonder, frustration, outrage, and hope about aging, medicine, and life itself.
For more than 5,000 years, “old” has been defined as beginning between the ages of 60 and 70. Now that humans are living longer than ever before, many people alive today will be elders for 30 years or more. Yet at the very moment that most of us will spend more years in elderhood than in childhood, we’ve made old age into a disease, a condition to be dreaded, disparaged, neglected, and denied.
Lifespan, by geneticist David Sinclair and journalist Matthew LaPlante, provides a vision of a not-too-distant future in which living beyond 120 will be commonplace. For Sinclair and LaPlante, the answer lies in understanding and leveraging why we age…
Lifespan is entertaining and fast-paced — a whirlwind tour of the recent past and a near future that will see 90 become the new 70. In a succession of colourfully titled chapters (‘The demented pianist’, ‘A better pill to swallow’), Sinclair and LaPlante weave a masterful narrative of how we arrived at this crucial inflection point. Among the historical figures evoked are a sixteenth-century Venetian proponent of caloric restriction, Luigi Cornaro, and the twentieth-century ‘father of information theory’, Claude Shannon.
At first glance, Stephen Wilkes’ photographs look like a single moment in time. It is only upon closer inspection that viewers discover that each of his works is actually the result of shooting thousands of photographs from a stationary position over the course of a day and stitching them together digitally to create one cohesive panorama. The painstaking task of editing all of this information and whittling it down into one image can take months to complete, but the results capture a sense of place that can’t be expressed by a single frame alone.
Wilkes expands on this concept in his new book, Day to Night, which features panoramas of iconic places like New York’s Coney Island, Moscow’s Red Square and Arizona’s Grand Canyon seen over the course of a day. Time-lapse photos these are not, as Wilkes carefully selects the exact frames he’ll compile into the final image. (The book release coincides with “A Witness to Change,” a photographic exhibition to be held at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery in New York City beginning September 12.)