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Relics of Science History For Sale At Christie's

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the shroud-of-einstein-doesn't-have-the-same-ring dept.

Books 142

circletimessquare writes "Dennis Overbye at the New York Times has some ruminations on some of the historical totems of science going up for auction at Christie's next week. There is the 1543 copy of 'De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium' by Copernicus, which you can have for $900,000 to $1.2 million. If you have some cash left over, maybe you can pick up an original work by Galileo, Darwin, Descartes, Newton, Freud, Kepler, Tycho Brahe, or Malthus. And then there is the 1878 copy of the world's first phone book: 'a shock of recognition — that people were already talking on the phone a year before Einstein was born. In fact, just two years later Einstein's father went into the nascent business himself. Einstein grew up among the rudiments of phones and other electrical devices like magnets and coils, from which he drew part of the inspiration for relativity. It would not be until 1897, after people had already made fortunes exploiting electricity, that the English scientist J. J. Thomson discovered what it actually was ...'"

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If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe! (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#23729993)

Science: Relics of Science History For Sale At Christie's

... There is the 1543 copy of 'De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium' by Copernicus, which you can have for $900,000 to $1.2 million. If you have some cash left over, maybe you can pick up an original work by Galileo, Darwin, Descartes, Newton, Freud, Kepler, Tycho Brahe, or Malthus.
Objection. Sigmund Freud may have been a psychologist but he was a far cry from a scientist. Tell me where he applied the scientific process in his work. Show me the universal laws he established.

In a lot of respects, the man was nothing more than a cokehead [wikipedia.org] with a penchant for strange sexually oriented neurosis [wikipedia.org] .

He may have had a degree as a physician but I don't recall anything scientific about his work or any contributions to our understanding of the relationship between our psyche and flesh.

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (3, Interesting)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730135)

At least in the modern usage, a "psychologist" doesn't have a degree in medicine at all. a "psychiatrist" does.

Other than that, I agree, Freud should not be on a list of scientists.

Then again, Tycho Brahe took Copernicus' heliocentric model and tried to revert us back to a geocentric model to appease the church, so I don't think he deserves the title either.

Give Brahe more credit. (5, Informative)

Jabbrwokk (1015725) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730347)

Tycho Brahe [wikipedia.org] was a cornerstone for the development of modern astronomy:

He is credited with the most accurate astronomical observations of his time, and the data was used by his assistant Kepler to derive the laws of planetary motion. No one before Tycho had attempted to make so many redundant observations, and the mathematical tools to take advantage of them had not yet been developed. He did what others before him were unable or unwilling to do -- to catalogue the planets and stars with enough accuracy so as to determine whether the Ptolemaic or Copernican system was more valid in describing the heavens.
He meets the criteria of a scientist perfectly, regardless of his motivations. Plus, the dude lost his nose in a duel and wore a copper or gold one the rest of his life. How cool is that.

Re:Give Brahe more credit. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23730773)

help!i have virii on my lunix boxen!

Re:Give Brahe more credit. (5, Funny)

doyoulikeworms (1094003) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730881)

Nopper nose? Nat's not as nool nas yu nink.

Re:Give Brahe more credit. (2, Funny)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730969)

Don't forget he lived on an Island, which also housed his lab. Heck, if he turns out also to have had a white fluffy cat......

Re:Give Brahe more credit. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23731129)

Tycho Brahe was also a member of the Priori de Scion which helped keep the documents from the Knights Templar from the hands of the Church, preventing their destruction.

Re:Give Brahe more credit. (1, Offtopic)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731841)

Tycho Brahe was also a member of the Priori de Scion which helped keep the documents from the Knights Templar from the hands of the Church, preventing their destruction.
lol That is all. Just lol.

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (4, Informative)

jwkfs (1260442) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730357)

Then again, Tycho Brahe took Copernicus' heliocentric model and tried to revert us back to a geocentric model to appease the church, so I don't think he deserves the title either.
Brahe may not have contributed much himself, but his work was extremely important. He recorded in detail the appearance and position of the planets and stars over a large period of time, which later scientists -- such as Kepler -- used his data to determine and test important concepts. Like Kepler's laws.

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (-1, Offtopic)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730685)

Brahe may not have contributed much himself, but his work was extremely important.
I agree. I'm particularly fond of Fruit Fucker Prime [penny-arcade.com]

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23732701)

penny-arcade, and it's retarded little brother, xkcd, are to comics as blogs are to journalism.

Value of accurate data (3, Informative)

Crispy Critters (226798) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731055)

Carefully collected data has a value that outlasts all but the most fundamental and far-reaching theory. Conceptual frameworks can evolve and adapt, but they remain anchored by observations.

This is not obvious because of the way science history is taught. We learn about the geniuses and a few of the classic blunders. We don't spend much time on the work that was merely not great. Consider the development of quantum mechanics and atomic structure. There were accurate atomic spectra, correct mathematical descriptions of the line spacing, and innumerable incorrect theories about the mechanism before there was a correct description. The spectral observations eventually led to a usable theory, even though they may have been used on the way to support ideas that turned out to be bunk.

Re:Value of accurate data (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23731913)

We learn about the geniuses and a few of the classic blunders

Never get involved with a land war in Asia?

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23732379)

I think you're just upset because you had a dream about fucking your mother. Which is odd because I had a dream about fucking your mother and I quite enjoyed it. Ah well, c'est la vie...

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (5, Funny)

multi-flavor-geek (586005) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730419)

Hey now, cocaine has given us lots of great things... Lindsey Lohan, Stephen King, Robert Loius Stevenson. Do you really think that Jules Verne would have made it around the world in 80 days with out a little bump now and then? Come now people, don't knock Freud because of his cocaine habits, knock him because he made you remember that weird night when you were four when you walked in on your parents.

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (4, Funny)

gnick (1211984) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731179)

Hey now, cocaine has given us lots of great things... Lindsey Lohan...
I'm going to have to stop you right there. I won't go so far as to start bashing cocaine, but please don't include Lindsey Lohan in your list of "great things"!

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731901)

Lindsey is fucking awesome. Without her stupidity being broadcast nightly how would the mundanely stupid have anyone to point at and be better than?

freud is historically important (3, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730671)

freudian psychology is of course bulls***, exactly as you say

it's like other pseudoscientific, yet highly influential lines of thought that have been thoroughly debunked like lamarckism [wikipedia.org] , phlogiston [wikipedia.org] , phrenology [wikipedia.org] , etc.

however, in the historical context, these topics are vitally important. modern psychology resembles freudian psychology like a modern ICBM resembles fireworks

however, if it weren't for fireworks, you can be sure everything that came after would have never happened

like alchemy: these guys were trying to make gold from lead. i think its kind of funny and ironic that centuries later, after refinements to chemistry, physics, etc., as a joke, some guys with some extra time at a heavy ion collider, did exactly that, convert lead into gold, as an afterthought. but they thereby reaffirmed the original goal of alchemists centuries before: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particle_physics#History [wikipedia.org]

so my bet is that centuries from now, deep in the cognitive research and brain engineering advances still centuries from us, someone will come across a rather nifty bit of freudian psychology as a major truth about how our brains work. and it will be funny, and everyone will have a bit of a laugh about it

so don't belittle where you came from son. your great grandchildren will certainly laugh at your petty pursuits, but their pursuits are built on your shoulders. show some respect to freud and his silliness, it trailblazed

Re:freud is historically important (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731077)

In my opinion the only thing that can be learned from Freud is how to get a degree is a very sober subject and still attract loads of chicks.

My main problem with his work is that he took the results from rich, bored, sexually repressed wives and used it to generalise answers for the wider population.

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730869)

I did aa psychology module in the first year of my degree, and they said that Freuds work was pretty much disproved. Certainly that it wasn't applied by any decent psychologists.

As for trick cyclists, well I wouldn't know.

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23730917)

He was the firs to discover the precise locaion of eels genitalia.

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (4, Informative)

hkmarks (1080097) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731423)

Freud was more of a theorist than an empiricist. He formulated hypotheses based on observations and case studies. Others tested his theories, and found many of them wrong or a little off. But not all of them: the idea of an unconscious mind (which is vital to current psychological theory), and of stress causing physical symptoms, are basically sound. Of course he didn't understand exactly why -- psychology was still in its infancy.

Psychology generally doesn't work in terms of "universal laws" - it's the science of individual differences. Some discovery might be true in 30% of the population, have some bearing on about 40%, and be completely wrong for the other 30%. That doesn't mean it isn't true in 30%.

Some people like the smell of tar and some hate it. There cannot be a universal law that says "tar smells bad." And just because an observation can't be explained correctly with the current state of knowledge doesn't mean it isn't science.

I don't really like Freud either, and I think he was mostly a bad philosopher, but to say he didn't contribute anything to the modern understanding of the mind is just wrong.

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 6 years ago | (#23733527)

Some people like the smell of tar and some hate it. There cannot be a universal law that says "tar smells bad."


Very true.

And just because an observation can't be explained correctly with the current state of knowledge doesn't mean it isn't science.


Bzzzt! I'm sorry, that answer is incorrect. Vanna, tell him about his wonderful consolation prizes. The inability to provide an explanation is *exactly* what makes it not science. When you can formulate practical theories as to why some people like the smell of tar and some don't, and test those theories, then you have science. Not before.

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (5, Informative)

Lapsarian (1073104) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731543)

First of all, Freud was a superb neurologist before he moved into the area of psychology. Second, you may disagree with his basic ideas, be believe me, it is basically impossible to have a discussion about Freud, about the mind, about even the validity of his ideas without using terms he invented. Giving us a solid linguistic foundation for being able to debate the validity of these ideas is a superb step towards true scientific understanding. Pre-Socratic philosophers believed that the all matter was composed of small particles of earth (and, later, fire). This is clearly nonsense, and not at all 'scientific', but without it, we would not have an idea to work against in order to move towards ideas of atomism and the makeup of matter. This is absolutely a contribution to science and the basis of scientific progress. Last: try reading Freud sometime instead of the terrible wikipedia pages on him, you will find a very modest writer who continually prefaced his essays with assertions that he was only beginning a study of the mind, one that he hoped would keep a close link to neuroscience, and the he was more than prepared to have all of his ideas overturned once more was discovered of the mysteries of the brain. He was wrong, no doubt, but so were many great scientists that paved the way for our current understanding of scientific 'truth'. thanks.

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23733473)

What's annoying about Freud is that he doesn't get credit for the things that he got right: those passed into common usage. The things he got wrong are held against him as if he were still trying to treat hysteria by fumigation of the vagina, or psychosomatic paralysis by horrific treatments. Compare the Freudian "talking cure" with the "treatments" of the clinically insane that were current when he began developing psycho-analysis.

What are some of those things that Freud got right? The Unconcious, or the discovery that oftentimes people mean something other than what they appear to be saying. You can criticize him for a clumsy ontology, BUT his thinking about how the mind works did evolve over the years. It's not exactly correct to speak of "the Freudian conception of mind or of the Unconcious". He developed and discarded more than a couple of models.

The talking cure? It sure beats the hell out of cold water treatments, deprivations of food and sleep, and god only knows what "cures" some of the Victorians came up with. The talking cure is taken today as self-evident. But it wasn't always that way.

If we judge Freudian psycho-analysis by current expectations, experiences, and understandings of how the brain projects and makes personality manifest, then yeah, sure he was the worst kind of charlatan. How else, then, could millions of otherwise intelligent people have been so very easily hoodwinked?

However, it should also be kept in mind that is a horribly mean-spirited way of treating any thinker. If nothing else, this shows an appalling lack of imagination and capacity for understanding other human beings. "He does not talk like us, therefore he must be wrong,horribly wrong on all points, in general and in particular."

The value of Freud lies in the simple fact that oftentimes his errors are not so very simple That is assuming, the effort is made to grasp what he wrote, and not simply rely on what "everyone knows to be true" about Freud and psycho-analysis.

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (1)

RockoTDF (1042780) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731611)

Freud was a neurologist, not a psychologist. What he did was called psychoanalysis, which believe it or not today is mostly practiced by psychiatrists (with MDs) and NOT psychologists (with PhDs or PsyDs). As a psychology major it drives me nuts that Freud is associated with psych, because psych is a science* (counseling is more of an art though, which is why psych never gets the respect it deserves) and his legacy of bullshit holds back the stature of modern research in behavioral and cognitive sciences.

*If you say psych is a social science, you are utterly wrong, as most of psych never deals with group action, and much of biology would have to be dumped in the "social science" category under most definitions of social science.

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23732539)

If I help you remove that cock you have in your ass; will you go away?

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23733421)

Many of freuds ideas have been shown to have merit. Other ideas have proved entirely baseless.

You might not agree with his ideas, but he'll be remembered long after you're dead - and I think you're just jealous!

Re:If Freud Was a Scientist, Fire Up My Crack Pipe (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23733987)

Do you think any of these scientific relics were made by BLACKS?

Obviously not.

THIRD WORLD PEOPLE = THIRD WORLD COUNTRY.

America is going to be a third world shithole within 50 years, thanks to our unelected Jewish 'masters'.

They are, after all, "God's chosen people". (According to them.)

Ugh... (3, Insightful)

Jor-Al (1298017) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730019)

Am I the only one who finds it somewhat disgusting that rather then going into a museum these things are being sold to some private collector who will keep it locked up from the rest of the world?

Re:Ugh... (4, Insightful)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730111)

Next time you go to a museum, look at the little plaques under the items. You know... The ones that say "On loan from the collection of..." A museum frequently does not have enough cash to buy everything it shows.

Re:Ugh... (1)

djl4570 (801529) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730113)

Collectors with deep pockets often loan such items to museums or display them in their own museum.

Re:Ugh... (1)

Jor-Al (1298017) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730165)

Sure, a fraction of their collections, but the vast majority of such stuff stays locked up from the rest of the world.

As we are discussing scientific matters. (1)

sidragon.net (1238654) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730693)

Would you care to provide facts or figures supporting your claim?

Re:As we are discussing scientific matters. (4, Funny)

EricTheMad (603880) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731019)

Would you care to provide facts or figures supporting your claim?
Facts and figures will only get in the way of a good argument.

Re:Ugh... (4, Informative)

Strider- (39683) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730975)

Typically only a small fraction of a Museum's collection is ever put on display, or even ever looked at. There are a lot of researchers who spend their entire careers doing field work in the basements of museums, rather than getting dirty out in the jungles or deserts.

With objects such as these, despite how rare they are, the knowledge contained within them is already well known. There are very few things that I don't think should be privately owned... The Rosetta Stone comes to mind, as would unpublished works of any of these great minds.

Re:Ugh... (2, Insightful)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730151)

"private collector who will keep it locked up from the rest of the world?"

Private collectors regularly donate or lease their collections to museums for display. And what's to stop a private collector from making their own exhibit to show for a fee? If you would like to help support a museum, feel free to donate, but don't tell everyone that they must give up a portion of their income to support your own cause.

Re:Ugh... (0)

Jor-Al (1298017) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730293)

Private collectors regularly donate or lease their collections to museums for display.
Sure some do, but the vast majority don't.

And what's to stop a private collector from making their own exhibit to show for a fee?
How often does this actually happen in the real world?

If you would like to help support a museum, feel free to donate, but don't tell everyone that they must give up a portion of their income to support your own cause.
Who exactly are you attacking with this statement? It can't be me since I never made such a statement so I'm rather baffled why you made it in response to my post. *shrug*

Re:Ugh... (1)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730483)

"Sure some do, but the vast majority don't."

Based on what? Almost every museum exhibit I've seen says that it was donated or leased from a private collector. Are you citing some statistics, or just making stuff up?

"Who exactly are you attacking with this statement?"

You opposed private ownership, so you must be for public ownership, no? How is this public ownership (and maintenance) achieved without public funding? You may not have realized it but you were implying increasing everyone's taxes when you opposed private ownership. If that is not what you intended to imply, please clarify. If you're for private museum ownership, that museum still needs to get the money to either buy and/or maintain the exhibit. If that money is not privately acquired it must be public money.

Re:Ugh... (1, Insightful)

Jor-Al (1298017) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730857)

Based on what?
Reality.

Almost every museum exhibit I've seen says that it was donated or leased from a private collector.
And this translates into every private collector doing such a similar thing, how?

Are you citing some statistics, or just making stuff up?
I'm doing exactly what you are doing. That is unless you are going to claim that you have some statistic that says that the vast majority of private collectors have their items all on loan to some museum.

You opposed private ownership, so you must be for public ownership, no?
Sorry, but no. I said they should be in a museum rather than locked up in someone's private collection where it will most likely be unavailable for others to see. Last time I checked, there was nothing about an item being kept in a museum that implied public ownership of said item. The rest of your rant is going to be ignored because it all stems from your fault assumptions of what you thought i was saying.

Re:Ugh... (1)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731031)

You made the assertion that the "vast majority don't" donate/lease their items to museums. You need to back that up with some source. Saying "reality" is not the same as providing a source. Other replies to your original statement have made the same observation.

"I said they should be in a museum rather than locked up in someone's private collection where it will most likely be unavailable for others to see."

Alright. I agree with that too. So your option then (that does not violate anyone's rights) is to donate and persuade others to donate.

Re:Ugh... (1)

Jor-Al (1298017) | more than 6 years ago | (#23732335)

You made the assertion that the "vast majority don't" donate/lease their items to museums. You need to back that up with some source. Saying "reality" is not the same as providing a source. Other replies to your original statement have made the same observation.
So if the vast majority do, where's your evidence? Saying that you see a lot of donated items in a museum doesn't translate into the saying that the vast majority of private collectors do the same. In the end you are trying to hold me to a standard of evidence that you don't follow yourself.

Alright. I agree with that too. So your option then (that does not violate anyone's rights) is to donate and persuade others to donate.
Yes. I don't feel that people should be hoarding cultural artifacts from the world. I couldn't give a shit less if it's privately or publicly owned though.

Re:Ugh... (1)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#23732965)

"So if the vast majority do, where's your evidence?"

I'm not making that assertion. I only said that all the exhibits I've seen were donated/leased by private collectors. You then said that the vast majority of artifacts were not. You need to back that up with some evidence.

"Saying that you see a lot of donated items in a museum doesn't translate into the saying that the vast majority of private collectors do the same."

Of course it doesn't. And that also explains why I never made that assertion.

I have backed up my one claim with my own anecdotal evidence, which you can accept or reject, but you have not backed up your claim ("vast majority...") with any evidence.

"I couldn't give a shit less if it's privately or publicly owned though."

So you want a situation to occur (artifacts to be in museums), but don't care where the funding comes from. In other words, if a bill was proposed to expand museum public funding through increased taxation, you would be all for it. That is where my original complaint comes into play. You would be supporting a bill that forces people to give up a part of their productivity to fund a cause you support. This violates their rights as human beings. See my original reply.

Re:Ugh... (1)

Jor-Al (1298017) | more than 6 years ago | (#23733461)

So you want a situation to occur (artifacts to be in museums), but don't care where the funding comes from.
Nope. I just don't want cultural artifacts to be hidden from the world. The rest of your statements are you attempting to put words in my mouth.

In other words, if a bill was proposed to expand museum public funding through increased taxation, you would be all for it.
Where did I say anything of the sort? Pulling stuff out of thin air again, I see.

That is where my original complaint comes into play. You would be supporting a bill that forces people to give up a part of their productivity to fund a cause you support. This violates their rights as human beings. See my original reply.
Sorry, but I wouldn't. So again, you're still bashing on a strawman.

Re:Ugh... (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731993)

Almost every museum exhibit I've seen says that it was donated or leased from a private collector.
And this translates into every private collector doing such a similar thing, how?
It doesn't. But, if you accept the premise that most museum exhibits are on loan from private collections, it does imply that museums would be much less impressively populated if it was not for support from private collections. I only see a few realistic options:

1) Let wealthy people buy these relics and show them to me at their discretion.
Part of the current model. Sad if things get buried or hidden away, but it's what we've got.

2) Allow museums to buy artifacts when possible using their funding acquired through entrance fees, donations, and public support (taxes, bond measures, ear-marks, etc.)
Also part of the current model. As long as we don't go overboard with entrance fees and taxes, I don't mind funding some select purchases for display. But not everything that comes up for auction. If the collectors want it worse than the museum wants to display it, let 'em have it. (Please don't infer support for ear-marks, but it seemed wrong not to include them as a source of museum funding.)

3) Jack up taxes to compete at auction and buy all of these things for public display.
Some of these things are impossibly cool, but most are not remotely necessary to the public good. In fact, I suspect that many wouldn't be on display even if a museum had them. So, I'll voluntarily pay $$ to support a museum that shows them off, but I don't want my tax dollars to buy them all just to make sure that a private collector doesn't horde them away. Just my opinion.

4) Seize historic objects for display and compensate the owners some set amount that we, the public, determine rather than allowing them to submit their property to auction.
No.

5) Force private collectors to make their collections available for display.
You can have my beer bottle collection when you pry it from my cold dead hands.

Personally, I vote that we stick with #1 for most cases. Go with #2 when possible without hurting attendance through excessive entrance fees. And avoid #4 & #5 at all costs. What model are you hoping to see if you object so strongly to #1?

Re:Ugh... (1)

Jor-Al (1298017) | more than 6 years ago | (#23732563)

What model are you hoping to see if you object so strongly to #1?
I don't object to those who are willing to allow the public to see their own cultural artifacts. I have a big problem with people hoarding such things away from the public. I can get called any sorts of names and get modded as a troll, but my view on the subject isn't going to change.

Re:Ugh... (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 6 years ago | (#23733787)

I don't object to those who are willing to allow the public to see their own cultural artifacts. I have a big problem with people hoarding such things away from the public.
We'd all like for private collectors to share the things we'd like to see. But you've still yet to suggest any reasonable method for encouraging this. Do we force people to display their privately owned artifacts? Do we use taxes to buy everything that may be historic regardless of the price? Do we seize private property because we've decided it's museum-worthy?

I can get called any sorts of names and get modded as a troll, but my view on the subject isn't going to change.
I don't see anyone calling you names but, if you're going to object to something, offer an alternative. If private collectors shouldn't be able to buy and horde these things, what should be done?

If all that you have to say is "Wouldn't it be nice if everyone shared?", then I agree. It's nice when people share. But I was hoping for something more interesting.

Re:Ugh... (2, Interesting)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730645)

Why? Assuming that the texts of these works are available who cares what happens to the originals or early editions? It's almost like owning a mother master of Dark Side of the Moon... is it neat and historical? Absolutly, but I can still get out my CD and listen to it all the same. Nothing of value is lost.

Re:Ugh... (1)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730801)

You answered you own post: is it neat and historical? Absolutly

That in it self is enough to care

Re:Ugh... (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#23732155)

I'd care enough to see that they don't completely disappear but to think that they shouldn't find their way into a collectors hands? Not really. The information outweighs the media or the historical value of the media. If these same works were somehow destroyed in a fire or flood I wouldn't morn their passing.

Re:Ugh... (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 6 years ago | (#23732583)

Nothing of value is lost.
--
Dedicated Cthulhu Cultist since 4523 BC.
Oh yeah? You try to call up Yog-Sothoth using only the Latin or Greek so-called translations *cough* of the Necronomicon sometime.

Re:Ugh... (5, Funny)

Spudtrooper (1073512) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730675)

That cross belongs in a museum! </Indy>

Re:Ugh... (1)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730847)

"That cross belongs in a museum!"

So do you!

Re:Ugh... (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731067)

Do your donations match your indignation?

Re:Ugh... (5, Informative)

kbob88 (951258) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731175)

So I called my sister who works in museum curation and asked her about this. Here's her take on this:
  • Multiple copies of most books like this exist, so even after putting some in private hands, museums still have quite a few copies (usually).
  • Books going back as far as 1600 are usually really not that rare. They're rare enough to command $$ from collectors, but not so rare that museums and universities don't already have lots of copies.
  • The text itself is well known, and available in many other forms, that are easier to use than a 500 year old book.
  • Museums don't buy much stuff on the open market (although some). They are given stuff on loan (which is usually forever), or given it outright. Some well-funded museums do have large acquisition budgets.
  • Many museums actually sell a lot of stuff like this that they have been given, or when they want to refocus their collection. Usually they have to use the proceeds to acquire new items.
  • Most people don't really want to see rare, important books, plus they're hard to display effectively. There are exceptions (Book of Kells in Dublin). And science history is tough -- science museums do well with kids, and history museums do OK, but science history is a tough draw. Low attendance.
  • She wanted to know how much the parent poster has contributed to his local museums recently. A bit of 'money where your mouth is.'

Her take in general: no big deal, happens all the time. They'd rather spend their precious acquisition money on extremely rare stuff of significant interest to the public or to scholars.

Re:Ugh... (3, Insightful)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731221)

if you check your history you will find that almost all major museum collections are the result of the work of private collectors.

Take Tutankhamun. That entire excavation was the result of a private collectors interest in the subject.

In the past they were frequently donated, such as on the death of the (typically extremely rich) owner, but nowadays many collections are worth serious money, so that's not an option that most would consider.

My local museum has a set of 15th century Apprentice Indentures and land deeds that I donated to them 25 years ago. Had I realised what they were worth I'd have made it a loan. Semi permanently perhaps, but I shouldn't really have handed over what turned out to be many thousands of pounds worth of documentation.

I don't feel too bad though, after all, they are particularly lovely documents, I doubt I could feel comfortable with them being anywhere but in a museum.

Let's all hope and pray . . . (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23730083)

. . . that some rich, right wing nutjob doesn't buy the collective works of Darwin and have a bonfire at his church.

Why Not? (2, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730157)

Let's all hope and pray . . . that some rich, right wing nutjob doesn't buy the collective works of Darwin and have a bonfire at his church.

Why not? Seemed to work out alright for The Beatles.

Re:Let's all hope and pray . . . (1)

db32 (862117) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730691)

The saddest part of this is the pathetic claims of Darwin renouncing his theory on his death bed crap. The end of his book on the subject of evolution concludes that all of what he wrote shows the incredible power and diversity of God's creation.

I can see it now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23730147)

Church inquistors rolling in their graves!

as soon as i hit submit (4, Informative)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730303)

i knew i should have included a link to christie's site for the auction:

http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/searchresults.aspx?intSaleID=21644#intSaleID=21644 [christies.com]

some of this stuff is (relatively) cheap, if you stray away from the really big names. i'm talking names like angstrom, fahrenheit, ampere, babbage, von neumann, can be had for a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand bucks

some of you may wonder what the fuss is all about, but to me, this stuff is awesome. its the fruits of the enlightment, the intellectual explosion of mankind, solid proof of the greatness of mankind, that you can buy and hold in your hands

a lot of us here work in computer science. well, for $2500 you can own the first edition book of something that pretty much started the entire computer field, boolean logic:

BOOLE, George (1815-1864). An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, on Which are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities. London: Macmillan and Co., 1854.

http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=5084071 [christies.com]

well, maybe not $2500 after i just hyped the dang thing

christie's should be paying me a dang commission!

Re:as soon as i hit submit (2, Funny)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730669)

If that is still too high, I have 2 DEC RA50 disk packs I can sell you. Talk about scientific history!

keep 'em! (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730745)

money in the bank appreciating value better than a CD... if not recording as much data as the other kind of CD ;-)

Re:as soon as i hit submit (1)

TimeZone (658837) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731451)

Damn you, that was the one that stood out to me too, as being really cool and within budgetary reach.
TZ

Re:as soon as i hit submit (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#23732069)

Then you're really going to hate me now: you can buy your very own ENIGMA machine for $20K!!!

I won't link to the listing so as to damper the hype :-)

Re:as soon as i hit submit (1)

TimeZone (658837) | more than 6 years ago | (#23732811)

I saw that one too. Very cool, but $20k falls outside of the "budgetary reach" thing for me, so no matter if you link it or not.
TZ

Re:as soon as i hit submit (1)

Ramss Morales (13327) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731915)

Its amazing how some "useless" things can create such an urge to spend all your money to get them.

Re:as soon as i hit submit (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 6 years ago | (#23732081)

Christie's are being naive, disingenuous or coy - they should know that those books, papers and documents will sell for about 10 times the quoted amounts. Take this scientific paper ("Waves and Motion.") by De Broglie [christies.com] Do you really think it will go for "$1,000 - $1,500"?

If you (and by "you" I don't mean the OP speficically, but anyone) think so, I own a huge copper-plated statue in New York I am willing to sell you for cheap.

Seriously though, I guess these ridiculously low "estimates" serve only one purpose: to create the buzz.

phones (4, Interesting)

syrinx (106469) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730353)

Recently found an old newspaper ad, circa mid-1890s, for my great-grandfather's grocery store. Despite living in semi-rural Indiana, they apparently had one of the newfangled phones, as the ad listed their phone number. It was "12".

Re:phones (4, Insightful)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730513)

I don't suppose there's any chance you could scan and post that somewhere, could you? Because that is cool.

Re:phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23731893)

yes, please do post a scan if you can, I'd LOVE to see that.

Re:phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23731155)

Puts the whole "My slashdot userid is lower than yours" in perspective doesn't it.

Re:phones (1)

ikkonoishi (674762) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731287)

Sounds like a local switchboard number. Likely it wouldn't work for anywhere farther than a few miles away. Its like someone omitting the area code when they give out a number in a local ad.

Re:phones (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#23732621)

Sounds like a local switchboard number. Likely it wouldn't work for anywhere farther than a few miles away.

The rural telephone in 1890 doesn't have long distance service.

It doesn't have a dial.

Every connection is made manually by an operator or - much later - through a chain of operators.

Re:phones (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731315)

It was "12".

Almost as cool as /. UID 12.
I think that belongs to Tycho Brahe... første indlæg!

Re:phones (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23732017)

Recently found an old newspaper ad, circa mid-1890s, for my great-grandfather's grocery store. Despite living in semi-rural Indiana, they apparently had one of the newfangled phones, as the ad listed their phone number. It was "12".

Ahh yes, those were the days of POTSv2, before we had POTSv7 for local calls and POTSv10 for long-distance. You should have heard the arguments against something more than POTSv2... the idea of every person having his own POTS "address" was odd back then.

Re:phones (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 6 years ago | (#23732725)

I think the idea was that NAT would block telemarketers. It worked, too. Sure, you couldn't receive any calls at all, but Bell didn't let people run their own servers anyway.

Re:phones (1)

Yewbert (708667) | more than 6 years ago | (#23732197)

I'm from semi-rural Indiana, and would love to see a scan of this, as well.

Re:phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23734141)

Congrats - I'd thought this was one thread where we weren't going to have /.ers posting about even older kit they have or remember.

Re:phones (1)

dhj (110274) | more than 6 years ago | (#23734251)

That is cool. I, like several other posters, would love to see that too. However, please do NOT scan it using a flatbed scanner or anything like that. The head and intense light of a scanner would not be good for such an old clipping. It would take a decent camera and tripod to get a flashless photo of the clipping. If you have those things on hand it would be awesome to see.

Not that I'm against it (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730383)

I certainly don't mind the story and I don't wink at the significance of the items but...

Science history just seems a bit overbearing to me. Not that I don't agree that we need to know our past to understand our future or any of the other little axioms about history.

I think it extends from a funk that I felt about matter in my college years. I had an astronomy class that I really was hoping was going to be a bit better than what I expected from an intro course. There is such a ton of knowledge to cover without bothering with the history of astronomy but still we had to go over Brahe and Copernicus and so on. It was a major downer especially since the professor was a professional astronomer with some great insights into modern astronomy that you just don't pick up on the likes of The Science Channel. Unfortunately there wasn't anything beyond the intro to astronomy course offered either.

Re:Not that I'm against it (1)

choas (102419) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730747)

I would think of it like this:

The tomb of Tutankhamun was very impressive...

The piramid around it, though made out of plain rock/stone/whatever (IANAA) is BLOODY impressive as well and teaches us much about the construction and the time of the tomb itself.

It's like a biologist that buys his wife a pearl without knowing what an oyster is...

Sorry, hard to explain...

Re:Not that I'm against it (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730895)

Really? So you know the history of all the technology and science that you use? Not to say I'm completely ignorant as I've been around the track a few times at this point but when it comes down to it there is no difference in my life as far as how the stuff works when it comes down it's history. For example, it means much much less to me to know who invented USB as to know how USB works. The same with astronomy, it's much more useful for me to know what exists compared to who discovered it.

It's great to know that it was Einstein who floated the idea of relativity but if you don't understand the concept how much can it really mean outside of a trivia game?

Re:Not that I'm against it (1)

choas (102419) | more than 6 years ago | (#23731191)

No, I do not understand the history of all technology and everything I use.

But knowing the history sometimes helps me identify/deduce(?) the funcion of certain thing and allows me to fix and improve certain things.

Times are almost gone that I could improve my C code because we knew assembler, compilers are getting to smart for me, yet still, I can imagine some historical stuff propagating and still staying true to its core.

Maybe I mistook your post, and you were pointing more at the persons in history themselves the knowledge of which seems less usefull than their ideas itself.

Re:Not that I'm against it (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#23732271)

Even their ideas to some degree can afford to be dismissed at this point. Knowing that people once thought that the Earth was the center of things really isn't all too important aside from the fact that it was disproved mathematically and the methods to disprove it. Ultimately even knowing that information would play little part in the understanding of astronomy for someone who is working in the field today since we've progressed well beyond the misunderstanding.

Re:Not that I'm against it (1)

Ben Newman (53813) | more than 6 years ago | (#23732927)

I think the real difference here is an evolutionary vs revolutionary principle. The USP port was just an evolutionary step in the development of computer peripherals, and didn't have much of an impact beyond your computer. Kepler did some great astronomy, but he also helped usher in an intellectual movement that turned away from the superstitious, mystical mindset that predated him and into a more rational, materialistic view of the world that impacted society, government, art, technology and almost everything else. You'd be hard pressed to draw a connection between the creation of USB and the Iraq war, but there is certainly a case to be made that Kepler's work laid the intellectual groundwork that led to the American revolution.

No, I'm not wearing anything Alumini?um (3, Interesting)

choas (102419) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730399)

Just a weird thought, what's to stop a kook from buying this, burning it and to call any pictures/copies a fake ?

scratch that, even if he/she doesn't call it a fake but just burns it out of spite, can anybody keep this from happening ?

Isn't there a 'Library of humanity' (sponsored by us all) to which pieces like this should go ?

Re:No, I'm not wearing anything Alumini?um (2, Insightful)

damienl451 (841528) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730637)

From a purely utilitarian standpoint, all these books can be burned. There are many copies (which are known to be genuine) and, besides the cool-factor of owning a piece of history, these books are rather useless. The text they contain, which is available elsewhere, may be valuable in that it preservers ideas that impacted the world tremendously, but that's about it.

Why exactly would we want to fund (read 'have to pay taxes for') a "Library of humanity". How many people are interested in traveling hundreds of miles to see an old book whose contents they cannot even understand?

Re:No, I'm not wearing anything Alumini?um (1)

choas (102419) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730933)

Yes, no, maybe

I am usually inclined to a classical point of view as opposed to the romantic one (ZATAOMM ofcourse), yet still I think science is our greatest history, and a million copies (free) do not resemble the original (minor cost) in this case, for me.

I have about 6 copies of 1984 but the facsimile is the most dear to me... weird.

Re:No, I'm not wearing anything Alumini?um (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23733747)

You should read Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge. 8^)

Re:No, I'm not wearing anything Alumini?um (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 6 years ago | (#23734183)

There are many copies
their is no way to tell what information is still stored only in the original, that could be lost. Sure the pure science can't be lost, but to be able to verify timelines, genetic lines for example may be (who handled it and when). Who would have imagined 100 years ago what DNA could do, so many stories that could be told in so much more depth were lost to us. Who knows what future science could still learn, about the times when these were published, if they are properly stored. perhaps they will find a tag that explains the inspiration was environment...
However in this case, I agree, nothing will be lost to the current generation by never seeing the original articles. And heck the publicity of these items selling for big bucks may make them desirable to a museum increasing viewer ship. But I don't agree burning the originals would be upsetting, and something would be lost.

It was Ben Franklin! (4, Funny)

scipiodog (1265802) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730425)

It would not be until 1897, after people had already made fortunes exploiting electricity, that the English scientist J. J. Thomson discovered what it actually was ...'"

No way! Everyone knows Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity flying his kite, with a key attached...

Re:It was Ben Franklin! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23733615)

I don't know why Benjamin Franklin is ever mentioned as a scientist. He doesn't actually seem to have done anything great.

Perhaps it's just because he was an American. In fact, if you discount all the scientists who did do great things and then were 'bought up' by the US (such as Einstein), we seem to have discovered hardly any fundamental new science.

We're damn good at making money out of it, though...

TOTEMS of Science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23730633)

C'mon now.

Surely you mean tomes?

Re:TOTEMS of Science? (1)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 6 years ago | (#23730915)

I believe definition #2 will clear up your confusion:

totem (t'tm) pronunciation
n.

1.
a. An animal, plant, or natural object serving among certain tribal or traditional peoples as the emblem of a clan or family and sometimes revered as its founder, ancestor, or guardian.
b. A representation of such an object.
c. A social group having a common affiliation to such an object.
2. A venerated emblem or symbol: "grew up with the totems and taboos typical of an Irish Catholic kid in Boston" (Connie Paige).

Missing.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23731133)

What... nothing from Milo Rambaldi?

You FAIL it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23731867)

fro$st pist (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23732357)

are aLmost [goat.cx]

ma8e (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23732639)

reciprocating 3ad the project rapid, in a head spinning the longest or percent of the *BSD one common goal - Unpleasant faster, cheaper,

Shocking. (1)

cream wobbly (1102689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23733323)

'It would not be until 1897, after people had already made fortunes exploiting electricity, that the English scientist J. J. Thomson discovered what it actually was ...'
A shocking story. People making money off some natural phenomenon or other before others have had a fair crack at discovering it! The same thing happened to Newton. How would they feel, I wonder, if his his forebears had discovered gravity, and Newton had been bringing down fruit from trees for millennia already? Or if the Australian aborigines had been the ones discovering their land, and Cap'n Cook had been the one living there!

We should put an end to these self-appointed "scientists".
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