Days of Yore: Scouting patent for a semaphore dummy

April 8, 2020

Some recent discussion about the least-earned Scout merit badge in history. In its three years of existence (and odd afterlife), only ten Boy Scouts earned the badge. It was discontinued in 1915.

One reason? A requirement for the badge was to file for and get a patent from the U.S. Patent Office. Much easier to do in 1911-1914 than today, but still a hurdle probably too high to require from Scouts.

Ten Scouts did it, though — one of the patents was displayed in the blog for Scouting Magazine. So I searched patents to see if I could find some of the other ten.

Not yet. But I did find this patent for a dandy semaphore signaling device (back in the day, Scouts had to learn either semaphore or Morse code). On October 29, 1929, H. C. Meyer got a patent on a device that looks like a Boy Scout with two semaphore flags — with mechanisms to position the flags for semaphore signaling.

Why a dummy instead of a Scout? Not sure. All I found was the drawing. No hint on whether the device was ever built.

U.S. Patent 1,729,890, to H. C. Meyer, for a “Boy Scout Signalling Device” using semaphores. Granted October 1, 1929.

Do you know semaphore? Morse code?

See the drawing and the entire description of the patent at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. Four pages.


If we’re sheltered from the virus, is April still National Poetry Month?

March 31, 2020

Yes.

National poetry Month may be even more important when we’re avoiding other social interactions, poetry being a very intimate interaction that spans distances and time.

Plans for National Poetry Month 2020 were made months ago; the only difference will be cancellations of actual physical gatherings.

But, literature and history teachers, is there a topic better adapted for virtual learning than poetry?

Poster of National Poetry Month 2020, from the Academy of American Poets. It was designed by “tenth grader Samantha Aikman from Mount Mansfield Union High School in Richmond, Vermont, winner of the 2020 National Poetry Month Poster Contest for Students. Aikman’s artwork was selected by former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and award-winning cartoonist Alison Bechdel from among ten outstanding finalists and 180 student submissions.”

The Academy of American Poets described it:

National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.

Join the celebration this April by listing your virtual readings and events, signing up for and displaying the official National Poetry Month poster, participating in Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 30, 2020 recommending the Dear Poet project to a young person, signing up to read a Poem-a-Day, and checking out 30 more ways to celebrate.

We hope National Poetry Month’s events and activities will inspire you to keep celebrating poetry all year long!

April’s a good month for poetry. I like using Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” on April 18th or 19th in 10th and 11th grade history classes — sadly, most Texas students appear unfamiliar with the poem, which can help them on several key questions on the state test. It can be followed up with Emerson’s “Concord Hymn,” which contains a phrase they are required to know — but again, in a poem they are not taught otherwise.

And there are, or would be in a normal year, pending ceremonies of various types that demand poetry. Graduations, farewells, awards ceremonies, and more that cry out for just a few verses of poetry to put frosting on the cake, or gravy on the potatoes depending on which metaphor floats your particular watercraft.

Happy to see so much material out there for National Poetry Month. Where will you start?


Freud's friend Einstein, by Schmutzer

March 19, 2020

Einstein in 1921, by Ferdinand Schmutzer
Albert Einstein in 1921, by Ferdinand Schmutzer; original in the Freud Museum; image here public domain from Wikipedia.

Science historian Paul Halpern Tweeted this photo recently, saying:

Albert Einstein and psychologist Sigmund Freud greatly admired each other. Here is a portrait of Einstein, painted by Ferdinand Schmutzer, that was part of Freud’s personal collection. It is now housed in the Freud Museum, Vienna.

https://twitter.com/phalpern/status/1240371613150973954

It’s an image of Einstein I don’t recall seeing before. Einstein was not camera shy, but there are only a handful of photos of him that make the rounds regularly. I like to find other images that are less well-known, and which may offer some graphic insight into neglected facets of the man.

I did not realize that Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein regarded each other as friends, so. An interesting commentary on the times they lived and worked, I suppose. How much of each other’s work did they study, or understand?

Ferdinand Schmutzer was an Austrian professor (where?), photographer and painter, who published this picture of Einstein in 1921, the year Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the photoelectric effect. Perhaps ironically, Einstein did not win for his work on relativity, or other work more famous that photoelectric effect.

Einstein didn’t sit for this picture. Schmutzer worked from a photograph he took, or perhaps a series of photos. One photo negative was discovered in Austria in 2001. It provides an interesting comparison to the finished portrait.

Albert Einstein during a 1921 lecture in Vienna, photographed by Ferdinand Schmutzer; photo discovered in 2001. Public domain.

In his younger days, far from being a disheveled-appearing, perhaps-absent-minded professor, Einstein cut a handsome figure. Educators may note with some jealousy he had good skills on the chalkboard, too.

It looks like Sch

Einstein’s birthday was March 14. That’s Pi Day (3.14), if you’re looking for coincidences that strike a humor chord among scientists and science aficionados.


Bankruptcy of Boy Scouts of America, letter from the National Council

February 18, 2020

Letter from the Boy Scouts of America late on February 17, 2020, regarding bankruptcy filing by the National Council. This letter is directed chiefly at registered Scout leaders.

Boy Scouts of America

Dear Scouting Family,

Today, the national organization of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to achieve two key objectives: equitably compensate victims who were harmed during their time in Scouting and continue to carry out Scouting’s mission for years to come.

While the word “bankruptcy” can be intimidating, it is important to know that Scouting programs will continue. Your regular unit meetings and activities, district and council events, other Scouting adventures and countless service projects will take place as usual.

We took this action today amid increasing financial pressure on the BSA from litigation involving past abuse in Scouting. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting. We believe victims, we support them, we provide counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward. Our plan is to use this Chapter 11 process to create a Trust that would provide equitable compensation to these individuals.

As we go through this process, we want to make certain that all Scouting parents and volunteers know the following:

  • Scouting is safer now than ever before. Approximately 90% of the pending and asserted claims against the BSA relate to abuse that occurred more than 30 years ago. As someone close to Scouting, you know the safety of children in our programs is the BSA’s absolute top priority and that one instance of abuse is one too many. That’s precisely why over many years we’ve developed some of the strongest expert-informed youth protection policies found in any youth-serving organization.From mandatory youth protection training and background checks for all volunteers and staff, to policies that prohibit one-on-one interaction between youth and adults and require that any suspected abuse is reported to law enforcement, our volunteers and employees take youth protection extremely seriously and do their part to help keep kids safe. You can read more about the BSA’s multi-layered safeguards and our efforts to be part of the broader solution to child abuse at www.scouting.org/youth-safety. In fact, this is a resource that you can share with friends and family who are interested in understanding what the BSA is doing to keep kids safe.
  • Scouting continues. Scouting programs will continue to serve youth, families and local communities throughout this process and for many years to come. Just last year, communities across the country benefited from more than 13 million Scouting service hours, and young men and women earned more than 1.7 million merit badges that represent skills that will help them succeed throughout their lives. Studies prove and parents agree that Scouting helps young people become more kind, helpful and prepared for life, and as long as those values remain important to our society, Scouting will continue to be invaluable to our nation’s youth.
  • Local councils have not filed for bankruptcy. Local councils – which provide programming, financial, facility and administrative support to Scouting units in their communities – are legally separate, distinct and financially independent from the national organization.

We know you will likely have questions about these issues and things you will see in the news. We have posted information about our restructuring on a dedicated website, www.BSArestructuring.org.

This site includes a helpful Resources page, where you will find a short video explaining what Chapter 11 means for Scouting, as well as a FAQ and a reference document that will help you discuss this announcement with youth in our programs. The site also includes a Milestones page, which will be your best source for the latest updates throughout this process.

If these resources don’t answer your questions, please feel free to reach out to us through Member Care at 972-580-2489 or MyScouting@Scouting.org. We will do everything we can to provide helpful, transparent responses and ensure your Scouting experience continues to be a great one.

Yours in Scouting,

Jim Turley
National Chair

Ellie Morrison
National Commissioner

Roger Mosby
President & CEO

 


February 15 is Shoulders of Giants Day (‘Beware the Ides of February?’)

February 14, 2020

February 15th is Shoulders of Giants Day (unless you’re still on the Julian calendar).

Or should be. 

Famous quotations often get cited to the wrong famous person. ‘Somebody said something about standing on the shoulders of giants — who was it? Edison? Lincoln? Einstein? Jefferson?’  It may be possible someday to use Google or a similar service to track down the misquotes.

The inspiration, perhaps

Robert Burton, author of "Anatomy of Melancholy"

Robert Burton, melancholy scholar at Oxford

A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than a giant himself.

Robert Burton (February 8, 1577-January 25, 1640), vicar of Oxford University, who wrote The Anatomy of Melancholy to ward off his own depressions

The famous quote

Sir Isaac Newton, by Sir Godfrey Keller, 1689

Sir Isaac Newton, by Sir Godfrey Keller, 1689

If I have seen further (than you and Descartes) it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.

Sir Isaac Newton, letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675, Julian/February 15, 1676, Gregorian

Newton consciously paid tribute to others who had plowed his science fields before, even if he came up with different crops, er, answers. All science is based on something that comes before it, and in the modern world science advances, oddly, by trying to disprove what scientists thought happened before.

But the sentiment applies equally well in business, in politics, in raising children. We are products of what we learn, and what we learn is a result of culture, which is a result of history. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.

It’s our job to try to see farther, and not just look down, at how far up we are.

Someone will ask (since we so often discuss it), ‘can we fly our flags today?’

Of course you may fly your U.S. flag today. It’s not a day designated by law, but you may fly it in honor of Sir Isaac Newton’s letter if you wish. The U.S. flag code suggests times Americans may fly their flags, but does not require it, nor does law forbid flying the flag for other occasions, or just for every day.

Maybe better, climb to the top of the flag pole. What can you see, aided by a giant’s height?

Other references:

Inscription on the edge of Britain's 2-pound coin; in this photo, four coins are used, to show the entire inscription. Flickriver image

Inscription on the edge of Britain’s 2-pound coin; in this photo, four coins are used, to show the entire inscription. Flickriver image, 1875Brian

 

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This is an encore post.
Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

Happy birthday Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln!

February 12, 2020

Is it an unprecedented coincidence?  211 years ago today, just minutes (probably hours) apart according to unconfirmed accounts, Abraham Lincoln was born in a rude log cabin on Nolin Creek, in Kentucky, and Charles Darwin was born into a wealthy family at his family’s home  in Shrewsbury, England.

Gutzon Borglum’s 1908 bust of Abraham Lincoln in the Crypt of the U.S. Capitol – Architect of the Capitol photo

Lincoln would become one of our most endeared presidents, though endearment would come after his assassination.  Lincoln’s bust rides the crest of Mt. Rushmore (next to two slaveholders), with George Washington, the Father of His Country, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and Theodore Roosevelt, the man who made the modern presidency, and the only man ever to have won both a Congressional Medal of Honor and a Nobel Prize, the only president to have won the Medal of Honor. 

Charles Darwin statue, Natural History Museum, London – NHM photo

In his effort to keep the Union together, Lincoln freed the slaves of the states in rebellion during the civil war, becoming an icon to freedom and human rights for all history.  Upon his death the entire nation mourned; his funeral procession from Washington, D.C., to his tomb in Springfield, Illinois, stopped twelve times along the way for full funeral services.  Lying in state in the Illinois House of Representatives, beneath a two-times lifesize portrait of George Washington, a banner proclaimed, “Washington the Father, Lincoln the Savior.”

Darwin would become one of the greatest scientists of all time.  He would be credited with discovering the theory of evolution by natural and sexual selection.  His meticulous footnoting and careful observations formed the data for ground-breaking papers in geology (the creation of coral atolls), zoology (barnacles, and the expression of emotions in animals and man), botany (climbing vines and insectivorous plants), ecology (worms and leaf mould), and travel (the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle).  At his death he was honored with a state funeral, attended by the great scientists and statesmen of London in his day.  Hymns were specially written for the occasion.  Darwin is interred in Westminster Abbey near Sir Isaac Newton, England’s other great scientist, who knocked God out of the heavens.

Lincoln would be known as the man who saved the Union of the United States and set the standard for civil and human rights, vindicating the religious beliefs of many and challenging the beliefs of many more.  Darwin’s theory would become one of the greatest ideas of western civilization, changing forever all the sciences, and especially agriculture, animal husbandry, and the rest of biology, while also provoking crises in religious sects.

Lincoln, the politician known for freeing the slaves, also was the first U.S. president to formally consult with scientists, calling on the National Science Foundation (whose creation he oversaw) to advise his administration.  Darwin, the scientist, advocated that his family put the weight of its fortune behind the effort to abolish slavery in the British Empire.  Each held an interest in the other’s disciplines.

Both men were catapulted to fame in 1858. Lincoln’s notoriety came from a series of debates on the nation’s dealing with slavery, in his losing campaign against Stephen A. Douglas to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate.  On the fame of that campaign, he won the nomination to the presidency of the fledgling Republican Party in 1860.  Darwin was spurred to publicly reveal his ideas about the power of natural and sexual selection as the force behind evolution, in a paper co-authored by Alfred Russel Wallace, presented to the Linnean Society in London on July 1, 1858.   On the strength of that paper, barely noticed at the time, Darwin published his most famous work, On the Origin of Species, in November 1859.

Darwin and Lincoln might have got along well, but they never met.

What unusual coincidences.

Go celebrate human rights, good science, and the stories about these men.

A school kid could do much worse than to study the history of these two great men.  We study them far too little, it seems to me.

Resources:

Charles Darwin:

Abraham Lincoln:

More:

Anybody know what hour of the day either of these men was born?

Yes, you may fly your flag today for Lincoln’s birthday, according to the Flag Code; the official holiday, Washington’s Birthday, is next Monday, February 15th — and yes, it’s usually called “Presidents Day” by merchants and calendar makers. You want to fly your flag for Charles Darwin? Darwin never set foot in North America, remained a loyal subject of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, to the end of his days. But go ahead. Who would know?

This is an encore post.
Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

Why kids sign up to be Scouts: “New Scout on the Old Trail”

January 31, 2020

It’s something I’ve seen in a thousand kids. Why do they sign up to be Scouts?

Girl or boy, it’s the adventure they sign up for. Parents like the idea of a kid learning how to be a good citizen, but the kids like the adventure.

It’s an old story, it turns out. Browsing images at the Library of Congress, I came across this one.

"A New Scout on the Old Trail," "Put her there, Pard! You do us proud." Image by Crawford Will, June 5, 1912; published by Keppler & Shwarzmann
“A New Scout on the Old Trail,” “Put her there, Pard! You do us proud.” Image by Crawford Will, June 5, 1912; published by Keppler & Shwarzmann

It’s a color print drawn by Crawford Will (1869-1944), for Keppler and Schwarzmann, a print company in the old Puck Building. Published on June 5, 1912, two years after Scouting got going in the U.S.

According to the description from the Library of Congress, the image shows a young Boy Scout coming out of his tent and meeting “Davy Crockett, Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack [Omohundro], Kit Carson, California Joe, [and] Dan’l Boone.” Better, that group of frontiersmen welcome the new Scout as one of them.

Know what? With just a bit of luck, that’s what a Scout gets: A lifetime of adventure. Scouting, I went all over Utah, and got to the wilds of New Mexico at Philmont National Scout Ranch. Scouting got me a job chasing air pollution in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, got me a job tramping New York and canoeing the Adirondacks. As a Scout leader in four different councils I’ve camped long term in Colorado and Tennessee, Texas (a lot!). Scouting opened doors for me all over Washington, D.C., and gave me a boost on jobs in policy and journalism. Scouting delivered good adventures to our sons and my wife who joined one son on an 86-mile trek at Philmont.

I’ve been to those places haunted by Davy Crockett, Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack, Kit Carson, California Joe and Daniel Boone, and I’ve learned what they did wrong as well as what they did right.

More than once we’ve arrived at a camp at dusk or later, pitched tents, gone to sleep — then awakened in the morning to see young Scouts coming out of the tent and realizing they are on a big mountain, next to a grand lake, deep in a forest, in redrock country — somewhere adventures happen every day.

Like that young Scout in the picture.

Its the same for the girls in Scouting, too.


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