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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 Overall post 5149 The New York City harbor looks pretty rough in this picture, tall whitecaps with surprising little reflected in what should be pretty choppy water, meaning that light should be reflecting everywhere, a difficult... Continue reading
Posted Apr 8, 2022 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post This does for a moment look like a piece of Found Scientific Art--and I guess it is--reminding me of a multiply-layered steely jaw of some creature, which you can see if you look hard... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2022 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Amedee Couder wrote L'Architecture et l'industrie comme moyen de perfection sociale, a fine work that was published in Paris (by Brockhaus et Avenarius) in 1842.1 The work presents Couder's rather stroing visionary plans for a perfect... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2022 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post I happened upon these lovely technical drawings --in plan and cross section--of the newly-patented Holophane Globe. The inventors and coiners of the Holophane were French scientist Andre Bondel and the Turkish Spiridion Psaroudak who... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2022 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books The pamphlet Plight of Ukrainian DPs : a few typical letters of many being received daily from Europe describing the tragic plight of Ukrainian displaced persons whom the Soviets would forcibly repatriate and doom to enslavement,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2022 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Old Post 1470 expanded and updated. Eleven years ago on this blog (May 2011) I wrote about the fantastical idea of Dr. T. Kennard Thomson for expanding NYC land and wharf area by reclaiming parts of... Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2022 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Overall Post 5148 This is a photograph of the surrender of the German high seas fleet at the Firth of Forth (Scotland), 21 November 1918. The image was undoubtedly made from an airship, and centers on... Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Overall Post 5147 This news photo service image--stamped "Hearst-Pathe News Agency" on the back--is from the winter of 1917/1918 and shows a patriotic snow parade somewhere in the United States. The snow looks prodigious, judging from... Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5146 So, the Dearborn Independent was owned and published by Ford beginning in 1920 and rose to a circulation of 900,000 issues a day, the second-leading circulation in the country. It was... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Overall Post 5145 John Nystrom's “A New System of Arithmetic and Metrology, called the Tonal System”1 (1863) is a very early entry in the history of the application of the hexadecimal system. Nystrom's plan included converting... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5144 Q: "What kinds of programs will there be on television? A: "All kinds" ("The commercials will be unlike radio.") I was initially attracted to this oversized pamphlet for its A-Bomb cover--using... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Overall Post 5143 This is a short note on an interesting series of reports in the venerable journal Nature (1911) regarding the status of women in the sciences. These are three short articles (about 1750 words... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Overall Post 5142 Earlier today I catalogued a small tri-folding World War I-related leaflet printed in 1936 and emblazoned Krieg!!! The cover is striking, partly because in addition to the graphics it also shows something being... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Overall Post 5141 Here's a short notice on an unusual perspective in the combined categories of cutaway diagrams and looking-straight-down: the (almost)-looking-straight-down bird's-eye cutaway view! I rarely see these two categories combined...and as a matter of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Overall Post 5140 This short announcement1--a carbon copy of a press release from the US Army Forces Western Pacific, Public Relations Office--while only reaching 150 words or so, establishes a very compelling and passionate statement on... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Overall Post 5139 Elmer James Rollings' The Silent Horror (1939) is a two-fisted introduction and appraisal of narcotics published in Wichita, Kansas by the Defender Press, 1939. (It also seems that this pamphlet is pretty rare--there... Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Overall Post 5318 The sheets presented here1 are very early photographs of the original war diaries of Captain Walter Schwieger, the captain of the German submarine SM U-20 who sank the RMS Lusitania in 1915. The... Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post Overall Post 5137 This is a pretty unassuming pamphlet, judging from outward appearances (see below)1. It is an advertising promotional published in 1924 for Armstrong Cork Company of Lancaster (PA) pushing their extensive selection... Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Overall Post 5136 "La Victoire"1 is a moving address from the archbishop of Reims, Louis-Augustin Marmottin, celebrating the end of the war, and was printed in June 1945. The monsignor in particular notes the sacrifices and... Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Overall Post 5135 (Updating and revising an earlier post from 2011) There appeared in the wonderful pages of Nature (for 24 January 1878) a short but interesting technical communication from the probably/improbably-named Wordsworth Donisthorpe (1847-1914): "Talking... Continue reading
Posted Aug 21, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books Overall Post 5134 There's a bookcase in the house that has a top shelf for small books, most of which I haven't written about, though there is a clutch of them that have gotten some exposure... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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JF Ptak Science Books (Expanding an earlier post #2499 from July 2015) In the not-modest stream of thin paperback nuclear holocaust survival literature in the 1950's and 1960's appears this effort: LIVE, Three Plans for Survival in a Nuclear Attack.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2021 at JF Ptak Science Books
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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