One of the more “action-packed” Scientific American editions is dated June 26, 1909. On the cover is a comparison of the “Zeppelin II” with the battleship “Louisiana” and a photo of the Metropolitan Tower in New York City. Today it is a little slow at the gallery, so I took some time to read the contents.
In this edition, there was a correction to a previous statement:
“We recently made the statement that there was no spectroscopic evidence of water vapor on Mars. We are informed by the secretary of Lowell Observatory that not only has the presence of water vapor in the atmospher of Mars been spectroscopically detected by Mr. Slipher at Flagstaff, but that it has been photographed and the amount of water measured by Prof. Very.”
How about signaling to Mars? There are many suggestions, including a “black cloth laid in a pattern on a wide plain.” What is remarkable about correspondence with Scientific American is the presumption that there are indeed sentient beings on the planet. For example, if there were a pattern of black cloth on a plain, one writer explains that it would not be possible: “Hence a Martian will look at the dark side of the earth, and only see its blackness.” Also, I didn’t know that a heliotrope could be “used to transmit signals or messages” anywhere, much less to Mars. John Ford dismisses the possibility: “Now, if you project a signal in a straight line from the observatory at Washington to an observatory in a great city on Mars (!), using the point where you see mars as the point of direction, where would your signal or message be when it has traveled a distance from the earth to Mars?” Indeed it is “a well-known fact that the stars are not where we see them.”
Heliotrope is also a color and the name of a flower. And what does Scientific American have to say about colors? Well, Louis Prang, who came to be known as the father of the American Christmas card, who died while on his way to the Seattle Exposition, devoted more than forty years to the creation of standard colors.
The first time that people in the vicinity of New York City witnessed “real flights by an aeroplane” was scheduled for June 26. There was an exhibition sponsored by the Aeronautic Society at Morris Park where there would be a baloon race and a flight by the society’s dirigible. Two bi-planes (one of which was flown by Glenn H. Curtiss for the Scientific American trophy) and a monoplane were exhibited.
The Wright Brothers also made this edition. Dayton, Ohio held a celebration, including a parade, honoring the development of transporation in America. The Wright Brothers were awarded medals by Congress and the city of Dayton.
In the Wright Brother’s article, there were sentiments that in some respects, reflected my thoughts about innovation when so many are discouraged about funding shortfalls. Scientific American paraphrased Wilbur Wright’s speech in this way: “Although inventors sometimes complain of lack of sympathy and encouragement, he and his brother had not found it so, for at the very beginning of their experiments they had received offers of financial assistance from people who had nothing to gain. In his opinion, if worthy inventors did not get assistance it was because their needs were not known and not because of indifference.”
Here is a transcription of the speech:
“It is sometimes said that inventors receive little encouragement in the early stages of their work.We have very little complaint to offer on this score. During our first trials we received offers of help from all quarters. Just because we didn’t find it necessary to accept the proffers of help is no reason why it did not show that the world is full of sympathy and willing to come forth to encourage whatever is right and useful. Even today if $1,000,000 could secure another Tennyson or Shakespeare, the money would be forthcoming. The trouble is not due to the heart of the world, but rather to the machinery, which it is necessary to first put in operation.”
All was not sweetness and light, however. The above mentioned Curtiss and the Wright Brothers were involved in a protracted lawsuit where the Wright Brothers claimed that Curtiss had infringed on their patents US821393 US1075533. The dispute wasn’t settled until 1914, when the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found in the Wrights’ favor.
Original Victorian-era Scientific American magazines, including this edition, may be purchased at Steam at Harper’s Ferry.