Esteemed thinker: Dicaearchus of Messina

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The term “globalization” is tossed about with impunity giving the 21st century readers the feeling that we are living in the most influential of times. Yet, this superiority complex might have been fulfilled by the confusion of terms; Globalization vs. transfer of information. Despite what you may wish to think, globalization has been taking place centuries before we ever came around and reached a pinnacle that directly impacted our modern world. One must look back to what is considered a turning point of historical magnitude and influence, the age of Atlantic exploration.

In contrast, what we are presently encountering is a term I have coined as “Herculean speed” the enabling of immediate transfer of information. Rather, it is the gathering and delivery of data that has been expeditated… and not an expansion of globalization.

Let’s begin with 1492, a most infamous date most can relate with; there is historical agreement that this was a turning point in world history. The ascent of a wealthy, powerful, and imperial Europe led to the emergence of the first-ever completely global market, creating international rivals seeking to dominate. Europe found itself at the center of the global economic network and as a result commanding large empires. Ruthless, destructive, and exploitive; a reign of terror; it was globalization that impacted our today.

And so, while we may feel smug about our “speed’ let us be reminded that those who came before directed the Renaissance of globalization, while we just move it along. As the expression goes, “Slow and steady wins the race”. Perhaps we need to look back at that forgotten adage….

Today’s post brings you the esteemed thinker: Dicaearchus of Messina (b.@310 BC); a Greek Philosopher, geographer, and cartographer. He was a pupil of Aristotle spending most of his life in Sparta. His most remembered work in geography is Peridos ges (Tour of the Earth) and a history of Greek life, Bios Hellados.  His work, Circuit of the Earth, was a descriptive geography in which Dicaearchus said that the earth has the shape of a globe. Following his belief of earth’s sphericity led him to make maps as well as deliberate other phenomena such as the cause of ebb-and flood-tides and the source of the Nile River.

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Dicaearchus Map around 300 BC

Dicaearchus was the first to introduce reference lines in maps which later led to the origin of the geographical coordinates. He assumed the existence of a southern hemisphere, and made an estimate of the earth’s circumference, (the exaggerated measurement of 40,000 miles). His map remained for a long time the standard.

And so, we salute the great mind that came before, the great mind that serendipitously encouraged globalization.

Esteemed thinker: John James Abert

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We get used to things the way they are and when our usual gets shifted or changed our whole world seems to get out of sequence. Take for example driving; we are accustomed to the same route and without having to make a conscious effort we are able to get home without the aid of a map. However, if a tree on the very street you always travel was to suddenly be cut down, you would find that this once so familiar journey has been altered and might just question if indeed you are going the correct way.

Call it what you will: habit, comfort zone, routine… the same thing can happen if your desktop icons are suddenly misaligned. Like the road well-traveled, we are accustomed to finding specifics without much effort. But let the familiar computer screen suddenly go into its own snit…rearranging what we have taken the time to set up, like the driver whose road has lost its favorite landmark, we too are lost. John James Abert

Today’s blog brings you a more obscure but none-the-less esteemed thinker: John James Abert (b. 1788-1863) Abert was born in Shepherdstown, Virginia (now West Virginia). He graduated from West Point in 1811, but declined a commission. He enlisted in the D.C. Militia during the War of 1812, and rejoined the army as a topographical engineer with the rank of Major in October 1814.

In 1813, The Topographical Bureau was created as a branch of the U.S. Army Corps of and remained only a small, elite corps until John James Abert, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, became its head in 1829. The major mission of the Corps was to map out the West, an unexplored undocumented region and unlock its secrets. For 32 years under Abert’s leadership, the Corps of Topographical Engineers, which recruited the best soldier-scientists, or “Topogs,” Abert could find, made explorations that resulted in the comprehensive mapping of the American West.

James, who became a Colonel in command of the US topographical engineers in 1838, and one of the organizers of the National Institute of Science, which subsequently merged in the Smithsonian Institution.

I now bring to you a most fascinating letter written by Abert to the prominent naturalist James Audubon in 1847.  Take time to relish in the discovery of what today is indeed a rarity.

Dear Sir.

 I have sent you a copy of my son’s first expedition to the Rocky Mountains. The report of his second, from which he has just returned is, of course, not yet made out. I shall talk to him about the subjects of your letter. It was after an examination of your small edition of the birds of America that I considered the Quail a new one. There is certainly nothing like it in that work, unless it be out of place in the book and in that way has escaped my examination. A person of some knowledge in these matters, who has seen the skins, calls it a new bird, but there is no one of sufficient authority to depend upon.

 Yours truly,

J.J. Abert

 

 

Esteemed thinker: Matthew A. Henson

penguin They say that white is a color without hues; a pigment that ignores any gradual progression of tints or tones by which allowing us to proclaim that white is perhaps the purist of all the colors. Yet there is a paradox to our declaration; for if this wily pigment lacks the natural property attached to what we know as an essential facet of “color”… the saturation and mixture of pigments together … (a very elementary skill we all learned when we were just finger painting; red and yellow make orange, yellow and blue make green, and so forth)…we must ask ourselves… what then is “white”?

Can we say that white is indeed a color or is it the anti-color, the spoiler of the color wheel, the rainbow, and the kaleidoscope? We know it is present in a prism but it never really reveals itself…rather it magically performs as an invisible light that we need but don’t see. Much like infinity; which brings the mind reeling with the concept that a number line can go on infinitely; the same notion that accosts one’s thoughts that space has no end… so does the brain have to come to terms that white is not a color as we know it, but actually a perceived lack there-of; a notion that introduces a most unsettling prospect.

Yet, it is possible that this ‘unsettling’ feeling corresponds with the vast and sheer emptiness one experiences when confronted with a world that is singularly devoid of color…when everything is pure white…when you lose your sense of location for there is not a single landmark to set perspective… the land of ice and snow.And we must wonder if this sensation happens to a polar bear or a penguin…creatures that spend their lives in and out of the icy waters and then on the frozen land that is unforgiving…a most uninhabitable part of earth for many, yet although it does not seem to unfurl the welcome mat, for even the plants that we are accustomed to made a decision eons ago not to adapt, there are some brave souls who find such exotic places adventurous, exciting, even though they are vacant of all accommodations… Even though night chooses not to fall upon its frigid days…and it is always the color of the albatross…the color of pearls… the color of truth….the color…or shall we say the purist of colors… white.

Matthew_Henson_1910 Today’s blog was inspired by the esteemed thinker: Matthew A. Henson (1866-1955). Born in Baltimore, Maryland, he was the son of two freeborn black sharecroppers. Though both his parents died when he was very young, at the age of 12 he left home and became a cabin boy. Under the tutelage of Captain Childs he learned to read maps and books, the operation of ships, and navigational skills; by twenty- one he was an expert seaman. He later met the Admiral Robert Edwin Peary and was hired as his valet. Yet as time went on he proved himself to be an invaluable asset. Becoming one of the world’s greatest explorers, he accompanied Peary on numerous Arctic expeditions. Though it took years to receive his just place in history, he is best remembered today as having discovered the North Pole with Peary in 1909.

I now give you a parcel of thoughts from our great American explorer and hero, Mr. Henson. From his remarkable auto-biography, A Negro Explorer at the North Pole (1912), take a moment… for his words will surely last you a life-time….

“… Naturally there were frequent storms and intense cold, and in regard to the storms of the Arctic regions of North Greenland and Grant Land, the only word I can use to describe them is “terrible,” in the fullest meaning it conveys. The effect of such storms of wind and snow, or rain, is abject physical terror, due to the realization of perfect helplessness. I have seen rocks a hundred and a hundred and fifty pounds in weight picked up by the storm and blown for distances of ninety or a hundred feet to the edge of a precipice, and there of their own momentum go hurtling through space to fall in crashing fragments at the base. Imagine the effect of such a rainfall of death-dealing bowlders on the feelings of a little group of three or four, who have sought the base of the cliff for shelter. I have been there and I have seen one of my Esquimo companions felled by a blow from a rock eighty-four pounds in weight, which struck him fairly between the shoulder-blades, literally knocking the life out of him. I have been there, and believe me, I have been afraid. A hundred-pound box of supplies, taking an aërial joy ride, during the progress of a storm down at Anniversary Lodge in 1894, struck Commander Peary a glancing blow which put him out of commission for over a week. These mighty winds make it possible for the herbivorous animals of this region to exist. They sweep the snow from vast stretches of land, exposing the hay and dried dwarf-willows, that the hare, musk-oxen, and reindeer feed on…”