First Walk Through

I have had my first crude trawl through the bones of a story. I like to try and convert that into something I understand. What does it sound like?

First read through of a script, never pleasant, but you begin to see an inflection pattern, where you over hit, where you stumble and the parts that look like that with practice may help alter the inflection and produce something you can work with.

So I have done no more than chew through a limited amount of data and can see how I fill in the blank spaces and join the dots.

I can see what I would like to say and can identify some of the blank spaces where I am seriously working on the hoof, grabbing at what ever is immediately to hand as a way in.

Now I have to deal with detail and see if closer acquaintance with more evidence and detail alters my sense of the material and the way I chose to inflect it.

A trick I like to use is to think about something else. In this case demons and 19’th century spiritualism.

I way I can retrospectively spot where I have been thinking while writing notes, is when I can identify the odd sentence and paragraph (somewhat rare) that is more free of the clunky errors that dyslexia brings writing at speed.  The points where I am attempting to translate and think with words and sound an indicator that I am thinking about something.

That generally means dealing with uncertainty or multiple possibility for inflection. I learned to do detailed reading when I was in my 20’s learning and memorizing scripts, here the parts that are of value are the parts that are most variable, where inflection can be altered to deal with the situation in front of you. Its those spaces you learn to value.

I suspect the identification and value system is something I take with me. The points where my writing is at its most fluid the moments where uncertainty and alternative lurks.



after dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden, & drank thea under the shade of some appletrees, only he, & myself. amidst other discourse, he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. “why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground,” thought he to him self: occasion’d by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a comtemplative mood: “why should it not go sideways, or upwards? but constantly to the earths centre? assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. there must be a drawing power in matter. & the sum of the drawing power in the matter of the earth must be in the earths center, not in any side of the earth. therefore dos this apple fall perpendicularly, or toward the center. if matter thus draws matter; it must be in proportion of its quantity. therefore the apple draws the earth, as well as the earth draws the apple.”


William Stukley, Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton


Isaac Newton told the story of the apple retrospectively and later in life. Some historians of science dislike its, retelling as it places emphasis on science as an individual processes whereas science history places emphasis on science as a collective processes, Newton’s theories were not developed in isolation but built collectively in relation to the work of other mathematicians.

One thesis places the story as a retrospective attempt to claim the theory for himself.

Speculation aside two points can be made, its retrospective and Newton frames the initial steps as a creative processes.

If I strip the modern retrospective narrative form the experiment on the goldfish described in the last post, the basic creative idea seems to have involved empathy for the subject.

I would like to try in the future to see if I can build a historical sense of the way apple would inflect for an audience of the period.

At the outset I think that historians of mathematics discomfort in regard to the way that the story does not reflect the actual nature of the scientific processes, may be because Newton’s description is reflecting another aspect of science, it’s creative pre-science stage.

Newton constructed a highly successful narrative description that allows an audience to empathize with the subject.  Newton may well have been attempting to use the story as a foundation legend for his own reputation. But if so, he does that by demonstrating something. An understanding of the creative processes. Its on this act that his claim rests.

So Long And Thanks For The Fish

Conclusion (as above so below)

While the development of Genius remains to be determined, the deployment of Newton as a detector of science myth clearly has a history that extents beyond recent arguments on the mythical nature of genius.

“many assert that fishes have not that part called the meatus auditorius, and are quite deaf. Others are quite of a contrary opinion. However by the first proposition of the second book of Newton’s Principai, it is  proved that water is a non-conductor of sound…….. Naturalists observe a world of wisdom and design in the structure of fishes, and their conformation to the element they reside in.”

A Newton provides authority to an argument.

Training fish to respond to a bell when feeding has been an old staple of behaviourism and forms part of the history of its study of memory.

Here some mythical debunking related to goldfish. The belief that goldfish have a memory span of less than three seconds is questioned by a 15 year old who believes  that it is a form of myth intended to make gold fish owners feel less shame about keeping goldfish in small tanks.

Belief here presented as the motivational pull and reward behind the experiment. If we can no longer describe this impulse to scientific experiment in the thought of a 15 year old as a science prodigy or genius at work, it would seem safe to make the claim that he is a debunker of myth.


Myth seems to be occupying a similar space in description as genius once did.What has altered is the measure, a movement from positive to negative. Science here is defining itself in relation to what does not want to be (unkind to goldfish).

Destruction of genius see’s something phoenix like emerging and the identification of what science is forms in its ashes. It appears to be something close to a form of love.

Rory Stokes, a student at the Australian Science and Mathematics School in Adelaide, placed a beacon in a fish tank at feeding time each day and measuring the time it took for fish to swim to it to obtain food.

The time taken reduced dramatically over a three week period, from a minute to a few seconds, after which Rory removed the beacon.

Six days later, he put it back in the water and, despite not seeing it for almost a week, the fish swam to it in 4.4 seconds, showing they had remembered the association between food and the beacon for at least six days.

“We are told that a goldfish has a memory span of less than three seconds… I wanted to challenge this theory as I believe it is a myth intended to make us feel less guilty about keeping fish in small tanks,” Rory said.


Best’s Art of Angling

The Telegraph ‘ fishes memory last for months say scientists, 7/1/09

Leaving The Water

I am going to cast fishiness aside for the moment. I can speculate it may give me an insight into underlying folk models that may have a relationship with genius.

I can also use it to evaluate the strengths and weakness of a historical argument. That the alteration in these beliefs is related to changes in the processes of production.

Fishiness  is presented as altering as fishing becomes an industry. The Skipper increasingly becomes associated with the concept. Industrial scale and alteration in social hierarchy is the explanatory vehicle used to understand how a sense of Icelandic fishiness alters through time.

Does the model work can it be applied also to genius?

Empirical Me

The increasing interest displayed in the art and craft of fishing as an individual activity also provides a vehicle for examining how fishiness becomes related to the sense that an empirical self can be experienced in every-day situations.

If I can find examples where it occurs as a flash of insight in ‘special moments’ then great genius may also have a lesser genius associated with ponds and rivers.

Can I find anything in the modern landscape that may help me come to an understanding of a medieval sense of genius and its relationship with demons?

I suspect if I look at the development of the term and its association with poetry and allegory I am on certain ground and will be able to trace a clear historical trajectory.

Going to start instead on utterly uncertain ground with the ‘fathers’ of psychology.

Not sure if I will get anything directly relevant but I may learn how to shape the questions I ask of medieval material a little better.

Prefer to start in ignorance of how contemporary historians see the development of modern genius. Any error or subjects I may be missing I can pick up down the road.

Easy (Pull Out You’re Heart To Make The Being Alone)

“begotten after a certain manner with man”

The God under whose protection each man lives when he is born is called genius.

This Latin definition is one of the most repeated in the twelfth century in relation to genius.

Its in this area, the relationship with fate and skill that genius seems somewhat fishy.

It’s tempting to speculate that Genius may not be a complete Latin borrowing, but may have attached and become entwined with existing concepts already live in the population relating to craft activities and chance.

Its meeting once more a part of where it came from as it moves from classical text into medieval culture.

Its not a movement into an empty cultural space.

Day Two Bias

I am developing the distinct idea that the problems I have with reading  History of Science seems to conform to a pattern I am familiar with in a different context related to Nationalism and history.

Exceptionalism. I get the feeling as I read that I have been here before, its a common issue in aspects of history I have more familiarity with.


Apple Tree (Confirmed By Actual Experience)


Day two of reading. I find myself in 1787. The art of fishing has been rationalized. Fishiness glows with the enlightened concept of perfectibility. It is a subject transformed.

Fishing now has an identified ‘father’ or begetting spirit. Fishiness a direct means of experiencing and evaluating natural philosophy through the contemplation of natural objects. It even manages to introduce Isaac Newton’s Principia, into it’s first paragraph.


Thomas Best, A Concise Treatise on the Art of Angling. Confirmed by actual Experience; Interspersed with several new and recent discoveries forming a complete museum for the lovers of that pleasing and rational recreation; To which are added prognostics of the weather independent of the barometer and a new chapter containing rules, how best to form a competent judgement of the changes that take place, in that useful instrument.

Ninth Edition