Aristotle

Aristotle,

Father of Science (384-322).

Most of us have at some time or other, read about the great scientists who made civilization what it is now. Some familiar names may be Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Mendel and others down to Einstein. But there is one name that should stand out in the history of Science and it is that of Aristotle, the pioneer among scientist.

It is said that Socrates gave philosophy to humankind and Aristotlegave it science. Aristotle founded several branches of science. So he is rightly called the ‘Father of Science’. He founded the studies of Logic, Physics, Biology, Psychology, Aesthetics, Ethics, Politics and Metaphysics, and laid the foundation of Library Science by writing a treatise on the classification of books. These are in addition to his studies on Astronomy and Philosophy.

Aristotle was born in 384 B.C. at Stagira, a city in the kingdom of Macedonia, Greece, nearly twenty-two centuries ago. He was a pupil of Plato, and Plato was a pupil of the great Socrates. Aristotle himself had a very famous pupil-Alexander the great. Besides Aristotle father was friend and physician of Amyntas, king of Macedonia and grandfather of Alexander.

There are two narratives about the younger days of Aristotle. One, that he was reckless youth spending all his money, and then joining the army to avoid starvation. Finally the story says he returned to his home town and practiced medicine till the age of thirty.

The second narrative says that he went to Athens at the age of eighteen to join Plato’s school which was called the ‘Academy’. It also hints that his life was somewhat riotous. His studies and findings suggest that he spent a long time under Plato’s tutelage. So the story that he joined the Academy at eighteen must be nearer to the truth than the other one.

Plato recognized the greatness of his pupil and he once spoke of him as ‘Intelligence Personified’. But they didn’t really get along well with each other: two geniuses seldom do!

He married when he was forty, the sister of one of his students. A year after his marriage, Philip, the king of Macedonia, invited him to undertake the education of his son, Alexander. Philip was the most powerful ruler of his time, and it shows how highly Aristotle was regarded as a scholar.

When Aristotle met Alexander, the latter was a wild boy of thirteen. The prince’s favorite hobby was taming horses which were as wild as himself. Bucephalus, the horse on which Alexander rode forth to conquer the world, was tamed by him and it got very attached to him in the end.

Alexander’s father, king Philip, was conquering countries around Macedonia. He wanted to unify Greece and so conquered Athens, the most important city in the state of Greece. It is said Alexander lamented that his father wouldn’t leave him any countries to conquer.

To what extent could Aristotle mould Alexander’s character? Alexander loved and cherished his teacher as if he were his own father. However, despite his best efforts, Aristotle was unable to turn his royal pupil into a scholar. It is said that Alexander had better success with Bucephalus than Aristotle had with Alexander! But his close association with a great teacher like Aristotle must have influenced Alexander. He derived a passion for order to an order-less world that he went about conquering it.

Anyway, the period of tutelage wasn’t long. Philip was killed by an assassin, and Alexander ascended the throne. Soon after, he went riding around the world on a conquering spree.

After a short period of travel, Aristotle returned to Athens in the year 334 B.C. and after two or three years, established his famous school, the Lyceum. The Lyceum was not mere copy of Plato’s Academy was devoted to Mathematics and Philosophy, whereas Aristotle himself had studied; the Academy Aristotle’s Lyceum favored biology and other natural sciences.

The help and assistance this school received from Alexander was great indeed. Alexander gave Aristotle the sum of 800 talents, a huge amount, for equipment and research. Besides, he instructed all the hunters, gamekeepers, gardeners and fishermen in his empire to furnish Aristotle with all zoological and botanical specimens and material that he might require. It is reported that at one time Aristotle had a thousand men from Alexander’s vast empire at his disposal for collecting specimens of fauna and flora (animals and plants) of every land. At his suggestion, Alexander even sent a costly expedition to explore the sources of the Nile and discover the causes of its occasional floods. Alexander’s assistance to Aristotle is the first instance in the world history of large scale financing of science by the government. And it is doubtful whether any other state has ever supported scientific research on such a lavish scale.

People do not like those who invade their country and rule over them. The Athenians despised the Macedonians who had invaded their country and now ruled them. Aristotle was a Macedonian and hence he was not liked by the Athenians despite his learning. Athens had long been the centre of culture, and therefore the people regarded the Macedonians as barbarians. Also, Aristotle supported Alexander openly which did not help his standing with his Athenians.

This situation made both Aristotle and his school in Athens insecure. He had to work in a hostile environment, though under royal patronage. It could not have not been a quiet pursuit after knowledge, and finally, Aristotle came to a tragic end in Athens.

The Athenians, hungering for liberty, focused on Aristotle. Their anger reached its zenith when Alexander had a statue of Aristotle put up in the heart of Athens. This made Athens boil with hostility. Here we meet with fighter in Aristotle. With the city in turmoil, he went calmly about his great work, encircled by enemies in every side.

When suddenly, Alexander died, Athens went wild with joy and the Macedonians were driven out in no time. Athenian independence was declared.

 Aristotle was convicted of impiety. He was himself fated to be tried by juries and crowds hostile to him and wisely left the city. There was no cowardice in this as Athens always gave an accused person the option of leaving the city

He went to the city of Chalcis and there, fell ill and died. It is said that his death wasn’t due to natural causes, but that, lonely and disappointed, he committed suicide by drinking poison.

Thus ended the life of the founder of organised science and one of the greatest philosophers of all time.

 

Claude Bernard

Claude Bernard,

The Experiment Method in Medicine.

         Claude Bernard was a scientist who introduced the experimental method into the sciences of physiology and medicine. In doing so, he helped in making these studies exact sciences like physics or chemistry.

        He was born on July 12, 1813, at St. Julien, a village in the Rhone Valley of France. The family were vine growers for generations.

        He was educated at church schools till he turned eighteen when his parents could no longer afford his education. But he had to be trained for a profession and the parents placed him with a pharmacist as an apprentice. The pharmacist’s shop was in a small town near the city of Lyons. In those days the small-town pharmacist had the aura of a doctor, so his shop served as clinic as well. Claude’s parents might have hoped that the training would be a foothold to his becoming a physician.

      But Claude didn’t learn much about medicines there. His duties included sweeping the shop and pavements, rinsing and washing bottles and running errands. He was also sometimes allowed to prepare pills and powders, the pharmacists watching to make sure that nothing was wasted.

     The apprentice boys were not allowed much free time, but perhaps as an exception, Claude was permitted to go to Lyons one night in a month. As an errand boy, he regularly visited a veterinary school nearby, to deliver drugs for sick animals. This institution was the first of its kind in Europe, and the work of the doctors there impressed young Claude.

      Lyons had fashionable shops, cafés, neat avenues, sidewalks and paths where people could stroll. But for Claude, most attractive of all, were two theaters. One theater showed musical comedies and the other, the romantic dramas of the period. Spending his free night in a theater became a habit with Claude. He was so taken up with dramas that he wrote and staged a play himself.

      The play was a success and this encouraged him to write more plays. The pharmacist noticed this and wrote to his father requesting him to take Claude back as the boy had lost interest in pharmacy. Claude himself wrote home that he was unable to make up his mind which career to choose. At nineteen, he was back home.

     Claude spent nearly two years at home in St. Julien and set out for Paris in November 1834 seeking prospects as a dramatist. A kind lady had provided him with a letter of introduction to the librarian of Louis Phillipe, the king of France. He had also with him a certificate of good character from his old pharmacist, and a historical drama script which he had written during the months spent at home.

        Arriving in Paris, Claude met the royal librarian, who sent him to M. Saint-Marc Girardine,  Professor of French poetry at the famous Sorbonne University. The professor read his drama, but his verdict was that Bernard lacked the temperature of a dramatist. The professor was a kind man. In order to soften the blow he talked at length with Bernard and found out that he had been training to be pharmacist. He advised him to take up the medical profession as it would help him to make a living and thereby enable him to devote his free time to writing dramas or whatever interested him. Bernard took the advice and joined the medical school.

         He worked as a part-time teacher in a girls’ school to support himself and pay his fees at the medical school. His mother helped him as best as she could; baskets of fruits and provision used to be sent to him from his home in the village. This saved him from the bitter poverty endured by many of his fellow students.

           The first two years he did his pre-clinical studies at the end of which ‘externship’ started. Externship which covered two years was spent between the dissection room and hospitals.

           It was during this time that he met Francois Magendie, the great scientist who established physiology as an experimental science in France. This meeting changed the direction of his life.

         Prof. Magendie had already made important discoveries on the spinal of lectures at the college of France. It was a long series of lectures which started in December 1838 and ended in June 1839. The lectures interested Bernard greatly and he left that his skill in dissection would be very valuable in experimental physiology.

          Bernard completed his externship and commenced the internship in December 1839. In the second year of internship he came under Prof. Magendie. The scientist noticed that skill with which the young intern under him prepared anatomical specimens. “You are a better man than i am,” he remarked publicly.

            Claude Bernard took his medical degree when he was twenty-nine. In the summer of the following year he married Marie Francoise Martin, daughter of a Paris physician.

              Soon after, he started his research on the pancreas and its secretion. His findings were published in his Memoir of the Pancreas in 1856. His research was about the role of pancreatic secretion in the digestion of fats, starches and proteins. He corroborated the work of Valentin, another scientist, that pancreatic secretion is the fluid most active in turning starch into sugar.

                His work on the pancreas was immediately recognized in Paris. It brought him a prize from the Academy of Sciences. He had already been elected to the Philomathic Society of which most of the distinguished scientists of Paris were members. He was also among the Younger scientist who founded the Society of Biology in 1848. The Legion of Honour, France’s recognition of merit was awarded to him in 1849.

             In those days, Lavoisier’s theory that an animal body by itself cannot process nutrients like starch and sugar was accepted as true by scientist it meant that one’s diet held as true was that the presence of sugar in the blood was found only in diabetes patients and not in a normal healthy body.

             Bernard disproved both these theories. He found from experiments that the body can process starch and sugar and the presence of sugar was normal in the blood of a healthy body.

               His research led him to the conclusion that the most likely source of sugar in the blood would be one of the glandular organs of the abdomen. From further experiments he showed the liver as the source or storage point of sugar in the organism.

             In 1854, he was elected to the Academy of Sciences. The same year he was appointed to the newly created Chair of General Physiology at the Sorbonne University.

              Prof. Magendie died on October 7, 1855, and as the professor himself had desired, Claude Bernard succeeded him to the Chair of Medicine.

                He had already presented his papers on the liver and the pancreas. He now wanted to work in carbon monoxide and other toxic substances. He showed that carbon replaces the oxygen of the blood and makes the normal exchange between blood and tissues impossible. The result in asphyxiation (blocking of breath) causing death.

                  In 1857, Bernard succeeded in isolating glycogen from the liver tissues and preparing it in pure form. His career reached its apex when the presented his book, introduction of the Study of Experimental Medicine, along with 7 volumes of his lectures to the Academy of Sciences on August 21, 1865.

              But all was not well with Bernard’s family life. Madame Bernard was not an intellectual who shared her husband’s zeal for science and research. To her he seemed to be living in a separate world of his own. It was a world she couldn’t share with him and she felt that she was deprived of life. On his part also, probably there was neither time nor inclination, to share her world of Parisian social life. Gradually she developed a feeling of hostility towards her husbands. This hostility took the form of attacking him for cruelty to animals-she meant the experiments he conducted on animals. At times the reproaches developed into a warfare. Finally, they began to live apart and a decree of separation was granted to them in April 1870.

                 Claude Bernard passed away in February 1878, He was given a state funeral by the Government of France in recognition of his contributions to science.

Thomas Alva Edison

Thomas Alva Edison,
The Man who Immortalized Music.

Can you imagine a world without electricity?
One where music could not be recorded and kept, to listen to whenever one desire?
A world where there are no motion pictures? It was into such a that Thomas Alva Edison was born on 11 February, 1847. He, through his inventions, gave us a new world of music, light and motion pictures.

Edison was one of the greatest inventors of all time. He has to his credit more than a thousand inventions. At the tender age of four he began his experiments.

One day his mother was all dressed Nd ready to go to church. She wanted to take her little son along with her, but he was nowhere to be seen. “Al, are you ready for church? Al, where are you?” She called out as she went about searching for him. She searched every room in the house, and went out into the yard looking for him. Then she went in to the farm buildings.
She found the little four-year old boy in the barn, sitting cautiously on a layer of eggs.
“What are you doing, Al,” asked the astonished mother, “sitting there in those eggs?”
“I am trying to hatch them, Mum,” said little Al seriously.
“Oh, Al! You are a delight!” Said the amused mother, laughing.

His mother, Nancy Edison, loved him dearly. Three of her children had died, and her little Al was frail, too. So she took good care of him. She gave him good food and kept him healthy. She also loved to teach him and made learning fun for him.
When he was seven, the family moved to Port Huron in the state of Michigan. The town was surrounded by forests and woods. So his father, Samuel Edison started a timber business.

He was sent to a school in Fort Huron. In this school everything was taught by rote. Pupils were not allowed to ask questions. Al wanted to really understand his lessons, and he couldn’t memorize them mechanically. The poor boy was caned mercilessly for this. His mother was furious. She took Al out of the school and decided to teach him herself at home.

She was a good teacher. Moreover, she believed that her son would learn well and would grow up in to a fine, intelligent, capable person. Much later, when he grew up, he said, “Mother was always kind and sympathetic and never seemed to misjudged me. If it had not been for her faith in me, very likely, I would never have been an inventor.”

Soon, Al developed a love for reading which was encouraged by his parents. One of his happy memories is the day he turned nine. He remembers how he woke up to the ‘Happy Birthday’ song, sung by his parents, brothers and sisters standing by his beside. His mother held out a packet to him–his birthday present. When opened the packet he was delighted to find  a science book called Parker’s Natural and Experimental Philosophy.

What he likes best as gifts were books, though he never accepted everything said in a book. This was specially true of science books and whenever possible, he tested with experiments what the book stated. He had a mind which always enquired and questioned.

The family was in financial difficulty. His father could never make much money. Al’s father always wanted to do great things for his family but did not have sufficient income. Al loved him for his dreams regarding the family and vowed that one day he would help him realize those dreams. A time did come when he became very rich through his many inventions.

Al started working at the age of twelve. In those days, to be working at such a young age was not at all unusual in America. But the amount of work he did everyday was certainly unusual for a boy of twelve. He sold newspapers, fruit and candy to train passengers. It was tiresome work, walking up and down through the entire lengthy of  the train for three hours, calling out, “Newspaper, candy…. paper, candy”, continuously. He gave all his earnings to his parents, who were deeply touched. They increased his pocket money so that he could buy the chemicals he wanted to conduct experiments.

Young Edison converted the baggage compartment of his train in to a laboratory and carried out his experiments while at work. Half this compartment had been partitioned to make a smoking room. But people did not use it because it had no windows, Al found it always empty. So he converted it into his laboratory and spent his time there, experimenting with chemicals. One day, while he was doing experiments, a piece of phosphorus caught fire and smoke came drifting out of the baggage compartment. The train was halted at a station. People panicked when they saw the smoke. It was a struggle to put out the fire. The angry conductor threw out the boy and his equipment. He was hit on his ear.

An accident at about this time started his deafness which Edison has for the rest of the life. One day, while Edison was trying to climb into a freight car, both arms full of newspapers, the conductor took him by his ears to lift him into the car. Edison felt something snap on his head, and that was the beginning of his deafness. He always said he did not mind being deaf. It kept him from being bothered by outside noises and he could concentrate fully in his work.

Edison and Graham Bell were two scientists who were deeply interested in sound. Of them, Edison succeeded in recording sound, and Graham Bell in transmitting it across vast distances. Deafness was a cause of sorrow in the lives of both these great men. While Edison himself was nearly deaf, the two persons whom Graham Bell loved most — his mother and wife were both deaf.

Though he had become deaf, Edison did not lose heart. He became interested in telegraphy and a stationmaster, James Mackenzie, taught him its technology. Edison studied every book he was able to get on the subject.

As a result, he got a job a Telegraphist. It was his first job. Edison was only sixteen at the time. The job was with the Grand Trunk Railroad; his duty was to keep the night staff awake by sending telegraph signal every hour. It meant staying awake the whole night and Edison, who wanted to sleep, decided to something about it. He connected the telegraph machine to the clock and the device gave the signal every hour automatically. Thus, Edison could sleep freely! This was his first invention.

Now, his mind was fully occupied with ideas. When ideas take shape they become inventions, and Edison won his first patent in 1868. A patent makes you the rightful owner of your invention. The invention that got him his first patent was a ‘Voting Recorder’ by which votes could be easily counted.

A year later he was asked to invent a new Telegraphic machine which would enable stockbrokers know the latest gold price, speedily. When he presented the machine, he was paid a cheque of 40,000 dollars! This was first of the large sums he was to receive for his inventions. He used part of this money to set up a large laboratory in Menlo park, New Jersey. Here he spent the next few years trying to improve the telegraph.

At about this time Mary Stillwell
Joined the Edison laboratories as a capable and valuable assistant. Edison proposed marriage to her in quite a novel fashion.

One day, in the midst of a new experiment, he stopped and looked at her, “Mary….,” he called.
“Well, what is it, Al?” Asked Mary.
Edison took out a coin from his pocket and tapped out a message in a telegraphic code on the edge of his desk:
HAVE BEEN THINKING MUCH ABOUT YOU LATELY STOP WILL YOU MARRY ME QUERY.
Mary blushed. Then she tapped out the answer:
THAT WOULD MAKE ME VERY HAPPY.

Edison married Mary Stillwell in 1871 at the age of twenty four. At this time he was working on the telegraph and so, nicknamed his two children Dot and Dash, signs which form the telegraphic code. But he was so fully given to his researches that he had no time for his family.

Edison accidentally came upon the idea of his most famous invention, that of recording sound. It came like a flash of lightening while was working at a telegraphic machine. When he made a sound, the needle used in the machine pricked his finger. Edison was excited. This opened a whole new line of thought: perhaps sound could be recorded as drawings and these drawings could be used to reproduce the sound! This idea was revealed in the invention of the phonograph which made him world famous. Louis Pasteur invited Edison to his institute; Alexander Eiffel invited him for lunch at the top of his tower, the famous ‘Eiffel Tower’, in Paris.

Success did not stop his work. He worked night and day, ignoring Mary’s protests. Sometimes he slept on his work-table in the laboratory. He wanted to convert electricity in to light finally after a stretch of continuous experiments turning nights into days he invented the electric bulb.

On September 4, 1882 thousands of people gathered in a dark night, in New York to watch the new marvel. At a signal a switch was pull, and lo! Thousands of lamps in hundreds of homes, burst in to brilliance. That night, humankind entered in the world of light.

Edison mind was still not a rest. He was never-ending search. He wanted to invent a machine that would record a movement just as the photograph recorded sound. He invented Kinetograph which could take forty-six photographs of a moving object continuously, in one second. Before this, a camera could be used to take only a single photograph. The Kinetograph was the first step towards the movie camera.

Edison wanted to help young scientists to do research. So he built a huge, well equipped laboratory; he employed young scientists in the lab, where they could do research freely. This was the forerunner of the modern research department of universities.

Edison passed away on        October 18, 1931, after a life full of achievements and honours. He was a living example of what he once said: “The man who doesn’t make up his mind to cultivate the habit of thinking, missed one of the greatest pleasures in life.”