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John F. Ptak
From 1985-2003 I operated a bricks-and-mortar bookstore dedicated to the history of science. The stores were located primarily in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., with a short excursion to Old Town Alexandria, Va., and a warehouse in Silver Spring Maryland. The store's website has been in operation in one form or another since 1998, and it is now the principle venue for business. The blog associated with the online store is pretty mature at this point, with about 1.5 million words and thousands of posts, for good or ill.
Interests: art, math, history of science and technology; connections between/among physics, literature; the found-surreal; outsider art and logic; discrete ephemera.
Recent Activity
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 2529 J.G. Heck wrote and compiled a fascinating and complex work entitled The Iconographic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature and Art, which was published in the U.S. for the first time in 1851... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2528--expanded De Bow's Review in 1867--in the dire straights of the antebellum South, in the doom and despair of the just-finished war--lashed out like a wicked Alex Jones conspiratorial wingnut against the Northern states and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 2, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Expansion of an earlier post from 2011 I found this object in my paper-calculators box (moveable disk calculators made of paper, two going back to Fr. A. Kircher in the 1680’s)—I’m not sure why it was... Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5135 There are some sub-categories on this 2-million (!?) word blog presented in the vernacular of FOUND items, like FOUND Poetry, or FOUND Science Art, or FOUND Outsider art, or TechnoNaive, and... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post # 5134 Paging through some of the first half dozen or so volumes of the iconic Physical Review, I bumped into a paper1 by Caroline Willard Baldwin ("A Photographic Study of Arc... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5133 This is an arresting and somewhat intimidating (1913) image1--a gigantic Borg-like cube of all of the Earth's coal. It was made to show the vastness of the U.S. coal reserves, and... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5132 There's a certain beauty to be found in odd places in books and paintings. This is not just looking at the reverse of a title page--this is about finding a little... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5131 What a fantastic drawing! I don't mean to diminish this invention at all, though I must say that I was attracted to the article for the very 1950's comic book naive... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Overall Post 5130 There are many hopeful headings that appear in the fantastically-readable journal Nature (especially in the 19th century), and this one--"The Last Attack on Darwinism"--is certainly one of them. It was written for the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5129 Well, no, this is not really a "daily" dose of dirigibles, though it is a nice display of the airships. This double-page display is found in the Illustrated London News from... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5128 This is a substantial indictment and attack on the loose laws (where they actually existed) regarding child labor in the United States, specifically regarding kids working in the fields. If you... Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5127 Over on my blog I've made a number of posts on "Found Poetry"--phrases and constructions of interesting structural images that when removed from a narrative form and subjected to a different... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5126 (Gerald Mercator, 1596) This is a short, dismissive, stabbing review of a book by a theological and long-established scholar and administrator, William F. Warren (1833-1929). I remember his name from his... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5125 Over on my blog I've made a number of posts on "Found Poetry"--phrases and constructions of interesting structural images that when removed from a narrative form and subjected to a different... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5124 This is a fine and understanding obituary of Charles Babbage--it appeared in Nature on 9 November 1871, just two weeks after the death of the Great Man on 20 October, and... Continue reading
Posted May 4, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post (Overall Post 5123) Science heavyweight and Nature editor and founder J. Norman Lockyer wrote in 18971 a three-page summary of the recent experimental work of aviation pioneer Percy Pilcher. Mr. Pilcher (1866-1899) was rather... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post --Overall Post 5122 (Part of the History of Lines series) John McKendrick had a long scientific career, with a lot of very widely-spaced interests on which he wrote well and often. What caught my... Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5121 Here's probably an obscure bit on the coming of a very large change in journalism and the dispersion of information: a short announcement of the use of the electric telegraph in... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5120 I found a short article on human flight ("Flying Machines") in the fourth volume of Scientific American (1848). It is an interesting and occasionally predictive piece that saw a bit into... Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post (reprint series) Overall Post #5119 Youth of Czechoslovakia1 was a Czech-in-exile response to the situation in the country as it stood in 1943. The situation of course was critical, and the compiler of the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post (Overall post 5119) I thought it would be interesting to share this engraving of a portable electric light apparatus. This does come very early in the modern (post 1850) sense of "electric light", but,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post (Overall Post 5118) "The water of those wellis sprynge vp with grete bobles."--W. Caxton tr. Myrrour of Worlde ii. xxi. sig. h4 OED Rummaging again through the eminently-rummagable early years of Nature1 I found... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post (Overall Post 5117) I found an interesting article in Nature1 just now, a piece by Carl Runge on 19th century heavier-than-air human flight by the remarkable Otto Lilienthal. Lilienthal was an international authority on... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Post 2907 (Overall Post 5116) Years ago I wrote short post here on the influence of eyesight and modern art, something along the lines of Impressionism owing itself to artists with poor/uncorrected vision. It was along... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post (Overall Post 5115) I found an interesting article by Francis Galton in an 1884 issue of Nature magazine, the polymath addressing a device called "the Identiscope", which sounds a bit like Victorian facial recognition.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2020 at JF Ptak Science Books