Tag Archives: science

The Kunstkamera, St. Petersburg, Russia

By Simon Werrett

Kunstkamera of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg
Kunstkamera of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg

In the first decades of the eighteenth century, to win a war with Sweden and present Russia as a modern European state, Tsar Peter the Great radically reformed the culture of Muscovite Russia. Besides introducing European dress (smock coats were in and beards were out) and European institutions (a government bureaucracy, a western-styled army and navy), Peter founded a new capital city, St. Petersburg, which was intended to be Russia’s “window on the west.” Peter also imported learned men from France, Switzerland and the Germanies to teach the Russians the new science. Completed in 1727, the Kunstkamera was built on Vasilevskii Island to the north of the city to house the Tsar’s new Imperial Academy of Sciences, which opened shortly after his death in 1725. Designed by Georg Johann Mattarnovy, the European building was baroque in style, and presented a radical contrast to the onion domes typical of Moscow and Russian tradition. The academicians housed inside were also intended to display Europeanness to the Muscovites. Early professors such as the French astronomer Joseph Delisle and Swiss mathematicians Daniel Bernoulli and Leonhard Euler made important contributions to a host of scientific, geographical and mathematical enterprises. But they also served local Russians as role models for appropriate behaviour in Peter’s new Russia. Russians should learn from the polite discourse which academicians were supposed to engage in during public meetings (in fact they argued a lot and had to be hidden from public view). After a precarious start, the Academy blossomed in the reign of Empress Catherine II and remained a profoundly influential center for Russian, and later Soviet science through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Today, the Kunstkamera, whose name is taken from the German Kunstkammer, or “cabinet of art” or curiosities, stands monumentally on the banks of the river Neva, and is home to an ethnographic and anthropological museum and an exhibition on the “first Russian scientist” Mikhail Vasil’evich Lomonosov. The bright blue and white painted façade is peeling and the building is time-worn, having seen numerous episodes of decline and restoration in its three-hundred year history. In its original form, the Kunstkamera was a remarkable scientific building, composed of extensive natural history collections housed in the west wing and a very fine library in the east. The central tower included an anatomy theatre, an elegant meeting room for the academicians, and Delisle’s multi-tiered astronomical observatory. Grand public dissections of elephants and other large fauna took place before fascinated audiences inside the anatomy theatre. The space of the anatomy theatre now houses various objects from Peter the Great’s peculiar collections, including teeth drawn by the Tsar himself and the famous monstrous births preserved and decorated by the Dutch anatomist Friedrich Ruysch. Originally intended to stand as momento mori and persuade superstitious Muscovites of the natural causes behind human deformities, the Ruysch exhibits now equally astonish and disconcert tourists and visitors who still come from far and wide to see them. The Kunstkamera is also home to some ageing but fascinating anthropological exhibits. Dummies dressed in ethnic costumes stand in the galleries above the anatomy theatre and look down on Peter’s monsters. Cabinets filled with costumes and utensils of nations from around the world populate a long series of dimly-lit halls. In a city focused on Europe these exhibits remind you of the incredible diversity of peoples and cultures which make up the Eurasian continent. Above the anatomy theatre, in the observatory, you can glimpse another world in one of Peter’s wonders, the Great Globe of Gottorp, a three-meter wide celestial globe, originally given to Peter as a present in 1717. It’s so big that Peter used to entertain diplomats and guests inside it, seating them on a circular bench around a table, as the heavens turned about their heads. Burnt in a fire and restored by the Soviets, the globe still impresses. Finally, in the heart of the Kunstkamera lies the Lomonosov museum, established in 1949 and dedicated to the first Russian to practice modern science, as professor of chemistry at the Academy of Sciences from 1745 until his death twenty years later. Lomonosov has long been eulogized for his great learning in Russia. Pushkin said “He founded our first university. To put it better, he was our first university.” The Soviets adored Lomonosov as the founder of science in Russia, without which scientific Marxism could not have flourished. The museum exhibits include a variety of instruments and artifacts from Lomonosov’s scientific career. The Kunstkamera, then, is a museum that literally encompasses the world. It’s a fascinating blend of old and new, of east and west, of opulence and decay. And it’s the perfect place to begin appreciating the diversity of roles that science has played in Russia’s remarkable history.

Further Reading

Oleg Neverov, ‘‘His Majesty’s Cabinet’ and Peter I’s Kuntskammer.’ in The Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe. eds. Oliver Impey and Arthur MacGregor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985): 54-61.

Robert Collis, ‪The Petrine Instauration: Religion, Esotericism and Science at the Court of Peter the Great, 1689-1725 (Leiden: Brill, 2011).


Address: 3, University Embankment (Universitetskaia naberezhnaia 3), Vasilevskii Island, 199034 Saint Petersburg, Russia

Website: http://www.kunstkamera.ru/en/

Medical Museion, Copenhagen

By Daniel Noesgaard

Medical Museion

Formerly known as the Medical History Museum, Medical Museion combines academic research and teaching with public outreach through our exhibitions, collections and social web media interaction.

In ancient greek Museion (Μουσειον) is a temple in which the muses who precided over arts and science, inspired perfomers and practioners of music, litterature, philosophy. The name Museion was chosen to illustrate how we are more than just a medical history museum. We are more than a university research department. We are both!

Genomic Enlightenment - an installation at Medical Museion

The exhibitions are currently available to visitors through guided tours only. Opening hours are Wednesday through Friday and Sunday from 1pm to 5pm. Guided tours start at 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30pm and last for approximately one and a half hour.

For more details, visit the Medical Museion website.

Science Museum, London

By Alison Boyle

King George V leaving the Science Museum, London, 1928.
King George V leaving the Science Museum, London, 1928, by Science Museum London. Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license.

The Science Museum holds the national collections in science, technology, industry and medicine. The huge size and range of the collections is best illustrated by the Museum’s flagship Making the Modern World gallery on the ground floor, where Stephenson’s Rocket locomotive, Crick and Watson’s DNA model and the Apollo 10 command module (on loan from the Smithsonian) are amongst the parade of ‘icons’ in the central aisle. For a more rewarding gallery visit, veer off the beaten track and browse the hundreds of objects in the gallery’s side aisles, which cover historical series and technology in everyday life.

Most visitors to the Museum, unsure where to start in such a large building, tend to congregate on the ground floor. It’s easy to spend an entire visit here, taking in the Energy Hall’s steam engines and James Watt’s workshop, and the Exploring Space gallery, featuring Britain’s Black Arrow launcher and a sample of moon rock. But there is much more to be found on the quieter upper floors. Amongst the hundreds of timepieces in Measuring Time (first floor) are fragments of a Byzantine sundial-calendar – the second-oldest surviving gearing known after the Antikythera Mechanism – and the Wells Cathedral Clock, still running after more than 600 years. On the second floor, History of Computing boasts part of Charles Babbage’s brain alongside the Museum’s reconstruction of his Difference Engine No. 2. On the third floor, highlights of the Flight gallery include Amy Johnson’s Jason 1 Gypsy Moth and Alcock and Brown’s Vickers Vimy, while Science in the 18th Century showcases King George III’s magnificent collection of scientific instruments and demonstration apparatus, next door to today’s scientific demonstrations in the ever-popular Launchpad. The fourth and fifth floors are dedicated to the Wellcome Museum of the History of Medicine and contain thousands of objects. (Note: the Wellcome Collection now has its own premises on Euston Road, but the collection remains in the care of the Science Museum by long-standing loan. It is so large and varied that there are more than enough objects to display at both venues).

Wellcome Wing, Science Museum, London, 2006
Wellcome Wing, Science Museum, London, 2006, by Science Museum. Image licensed via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 license.

It has often been said that the Science Museum serves a second function, as a museum of museology. Display styles span a range of museological trends, from the 1950s dioramas in the Agriculture gallery (first floor) via the 1980s tableaux of Glimpses of Medical History (fourth floor), to the recently-updated exhibitions on contemporary science in the Wellcome Wing, featuring extensive new media interpretation of genetics, climate change and the latest science news. The Museum is embarking on a new masterplan to redevelop the whole South Kensington site, so catch the older galleries while you still can. While the masterplan is being developed, permanent displays of the physical sciences are rather sparse, with those collections largely moved to storage. They can be viewed by appointment.

As with most large national museums, fewer than 10% of the Museum’s collections are on display at any given time, and the reserve collections are displayed in turn via a series of special exhibitions. As of 2012 these include exhibitions on Alan Turing (entrance hall mezzanine), alchemy (second floor), and astronomy (first floor). A series of interventions throughout the Museum re-examines the displays through the lens of climate change, and a regular programme of contemporary art exhibitions and events provide alternative takes on the themes explored by the main collections.

Further information

Peter J.T. Morris (ed.), Science for the Nation: Perspectives on the History of the Science Museum, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Main museum website: www.sciencemuseum.org.uk

Making the Modern World: www.makingthemodernworld.org.uk

Wellcome medical collections: www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife.aspx

Online collections database (the whole Science Museum Group): http://collectionsonline.nmsi.ac.uk

Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

By Deanna Day

Eastern State Penitentiary, 1829-1971

After the last prisoners left Eastern State Penitentiary in 1971, the cats moved in. In the early years after its closure the complex was used as storage by the city of Philadelphia, but as the prison walls cracked and crumbled around them, eventually the stray cats became its primary residents.

Eastern State Penitentiary Main Entrance
Eastern State Penitentiary. Photo by Sebastian Weigand and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

Yet when it opened almost a century and a half earlier in 1829, Eastern State was billed as one of the largest and most expensive buildings of its time. Built at the top of a hill overlooking Philadelphia, the penitentiary was designed to look from the outside like a European castle. The turreted watch towers and arrow slits, however, were just for show — the original towers were never tall enough for a man to stand in, and the arrow slits don’t extend all of the way through the walls. The immediate work of the penitentiary was performed by its more modern technologies.

The State Penitentiary for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Lithograph by P.S: Duval and Co., 1855
The State Penitentiary for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Lithograph by P.S: Duval and Co., 1855. Photo by Mike Graham and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Eastern State was designed by John Haviland (the architect of a number of Pennsylvania civic institutions, asylums, hospitals, and jails) as a radial “hub-and-spoke,” with cell blocks fanning out from a central point. In theory, this design allowed a single person standing at the central point to see any activity occurring on the blocks. Each cell was planned to house only one inmate — this was the basis of the famous “Pennsylvania System” of solitary confinement, designed for Eastern State by prison activists and reformers. These reformers believed that the hours spent alone in their cells would provide inmates with the opportunity for contemplation and penance, and the isolation and surveillance provided by the building’s architecture would structurally enforce this penance.

Cells at the penitentiary were themselves technologically advanced for the time; tour guides love telling shocked visitors that penitents had access to a centralized heating system and indoor plumbing before those luxuries were available at the White House. But even these technologies, which today we view merely as modern conveniences, were seen by reformers as part of the technology of control and reform. Having private toilets and sinks in each cell enabled a more total solitary confinement, eliminating reasons for prisoners to leave them. What prison designers didn’t count on, however, was the way that the users of these technologies would alter their meaning — quite quickly, prisoners realized that they could use the pipes in their cells to communicate with each other, tapping out messages that would echo through the walls.

Reopening Eastern State as a Historic Site

By the late twentieth century, Eastern State’s outer walls had become enclosed on all sides by Philadelphia’s expanding population, and many of its internal structures were collapsing. At the time the prison closed, the Pennsylvania System had long been abandoned; in the twentieth century the prison population expanded too rapidly for prisoners to continue occupying solitary cells, and even earlier additional cell blocks were constructed that destroyed the radial surveillance plan. What remained at the end of its life as a prison was a more complicated — and more crowded — complex than originally intended.

Eastern State languished for decades as plans for its future use occasionally cropped up and then disappeared. It was saved from demolition by its designation as a National Historic Landmark (as well as the massive cost of tearing down those iconic stone walls), and eventually a task force proposed a plan to preserve and reopen Eastern State as a historic site. Rather than take on the enormous project of restoring Eastern State to some chosen point in its history, organizers decided on a more dynamic version of historic preservation and public education: a model of “preserved ruin.”

Preserving the site as a ruin serves both practical and pedagogical functions. Not only did it save the impossible expense of a complete renovation, but it has allowed visitors to imagine its history at multiple chronological points. Tour guides and signs describe century-spanning events: walking visitors through the first prisoner admittance in 1829; describing its international reputation and status as a nineteenth-century tourist attraction; recounting Al Capone’s sensational tenure as an inmate between 1929 and 1930; and pointing out locations used in movie shoots in the 1990s. Furthermore, it recognizes the power of the ruin itself to tell its historical narrative. As the Historic Structures Report describes,

The building complex remains supremely expressive, focusing attention on its central meanings dramatically, and as inescapably as it once confined its residents…it demonstrates the power of architecture as a socially ordering mechanism as almost no other building can; rarely is the public so aware of the penal policies that have been devised on its behalf…one vividly encounters issues specific to its past: the role of philanthropic action; the sequence of accommodations to other tides in Pennsylvania’s penal history, the evidence of emerging advances in building systems over time…insights into Philadelphia’s urban growth and diversification, into the changing state of medical knowledge, theories of social dysfunction, the treatment of minorities, and ultimately into human nature as exemplified in these populations under control and stress.

“Prisons make awkward landmarks”

Cabinet from "Specimens" Exhibition
Cabinet from “Specimens” Exhibition, which highlights and expands upon the amateur entomology collection of an inmate. Photo by Deanna Day.

As Herbert Muschamp observed, “prisons make awkward landmarks.” While other historic Philadelphia sites have more obvious narratives that they embody (such as freedom and self-governance at Independence Hall) Eastern State finds itself contending with far more troubling questions about the ways society deals with transgressors, how we engineer technologies to act on our bodies, and how we enable — and resist — certain kinds of expertise and power.

One of the ways that Eastern State tackles these questions is with a continuous series of art installations. By inviting contemporary artists to comment on what they find evocative about the prison, Eastern State encourages historical, political, and personal engagement from artists and visitors alike. Julie Courtney and Todd Gilens co-curated the exhibition “Prison Sentences: The Prison as Site/The Prison as Subject,” asking, “How are objects, places, and stories imbued with history? What is the relationship between imagination, human experience, and the objective world… Our working hypothesis for this project is that artworks make connections that are both objectively valid and emotionally resonant.”

Ghost Cat
Ghost Cat. Photo by Flickr user e_monk and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

One of Eastern State’s longest-running installations is a tribute to those emotionally resonant creatures who colonized Eastern State in the absence of other inhabitants. Amid the wild growth that took over the site, a colony of feral cats made Eastern State their home between 1971 and 1991. They were looked after by Philadelphia city caretaker Dan McCloud, who visited and fed the animals three times a week for nearly thirty years. McCloud and his cats were memorialized by Linda Brenner’s “Ghost Cats” exhibition, for which she placed 39 sculptures throughout the cell blocks and grounds. Designed to crumble away over time, as buildings and memories do, the ghost cats were a reminder of the necessity of intervention; neither cat colonies nor castles survive without someone’s choice to maintain or remember them.

Brenner described her exhibition as “a testimony to survival.” The last ghost cat faded away in 2011.

Location: 2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA
Website: easternstate.org
Don’t Miss: “The Voices of Eastern State” audio tour narrated by actor Steve Buscemi; Al Capone’s jail cell; a series of History Exhibits and Artist Installations
Events: Bastille Day; The Searchlight Series; “Terror Behind the Walls”
Further Reading:
Eastern State Penitentiary Learning Resources
Julie Courtney and Todd Gilens (ed.), Prison sentences: the prison as site, the prison as subject, Philadelphia: Moore College of Art and Design, 1995.
Charles Dickens, American Notes, New York: The Modern Library, 1996.

Norman Johnston (ed.), Eastern State Penitentiary: Crucible of Good Intentions, Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1994
Marianna Thomas (ed.), “Eastern State Penitentiary: Historic Structures Report,” Philadelphia: Philadelphia Historical Commission, 2 vol., 1994.

Frombork, Poland

By Charles Tanford & Jacqueline Reynolds


Frombork (the former Frauenburg, east of Gdansk) was home base for Copernicus. It is the city in which he held the position of Canon of the Cathedral. The old, fortified cathedral still stands on a hilltop, surrounded by stone walls from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and it has a remembrance tablet (from 1735) to the famous astronomer in the nave. The tower in the northwest part of the courtyard, built in the late fourteenth century, is named for Copernicus, and the sixteenth-century Bishop’s Palace in the south-west corner contains the Copernicus Museum. Here one finds old copies of De Revolutionibus and other memorabilia of both the man and the times.

Copernicus travelled extensively in the execution of his canonical duties, and the Polish Tourist Office publishes a map and guide to the region around Frombork listing nearly every village and town that Copernicus ever had occasion to visit. Making a circuit of 125 miles (200 km), we are directed to Braniewo (once Braunsberg and an important city of the Order of Teutonic Knights), then to Pieniezno, the village that used to be the seat of the religious Chapter of the See of Warmia-Copernicus lived here for two years. We then proceed to Orneta, where Copernicus was sent to receive oaths of loyalty (and taxes!) from the local serfs and from there to Lidzbark Warminski, where his uncle, the Bishop, had his home-Copernicus, among his other activities, served as the Bishop’s secretary and medical advisor. Lidzbark Warminski has a fine medieval Gothic castle, well-preserved and now housing a museum. Finally we are led to Olsztyn, a city with a popular folk museum, where Copernicus is said to have been put in charge of the defences against one of the invaders of the early sixteenth century. Our “monk” emerges as versatile man!

The Mendelianum, Brno

By Charles Tanford & Jacqueline Reynolds

Ancient Brno's monastery

Brno, the capital of Moravia, is a commercial city, containing the Augustinian monastery where Gregor Mendel discovered the laws of inheritance named after him. Part of the monastery is now a museum in his memory, called the Mendelianum. A patch of garden in front of the entrance is said to be Mendel’s actual experimental plot, where he did the thousands of hybridization experiments that were the basis for his results.

The number “2” is the magic number here. The statistics of Mendel’s results are the same as the statistics of tossing two coins simultaneously, and it made good sense to Mendel, for there are two sexes, allowing each metaphorical coin to be derived from one parent. It makes sense in modern terms, too, for chromosomes (not yet discovered in Mendel’s day) are generally paired. These basic principles emerge clearly from a visit to the museum, presented by means of detailed posters. Flowers planted in Mendel’s garden patch are also intended to help, but they are merely floral representations of numbers (three red and one white in the second generation, for example), unrelated to anything to do with hybridization. They may even cause confusion by obscuring the statistical nature of actual hybridization experiments.

The former refectory of the monastery now contains a sequence of showcases and posters to display the facts of Mendel’s life, education, and work, and they go on from there to a few highlights of modem genetics, such as the discovery of chromosomes and the role of DNA. Another room (a former chapter hall) is now a conference room, with contemporary furniture and a fine portrait of monk Gregor. There is also a good photograph of Mendel with some of his monastic colleagues, which shows them as anything but unworldly monks-it’s more like the annual group picture of a present-day departmental faculty.

Website: http://www.mendelianum.cz [in Czech]

Institut Curie, Paris

By Charles Tanford & Jacqueline Reynolds

Chapel of Our Lady of Lebanon with Institut Curie on the left

The Institut Curie, 11 Rue Pierre et Marie Curie, just a few hundred meters south of the Pantheon, was initially created explicitly for Marie Curie, with the name of “Institut du Radium.” It is today a modem research facility, but Marie’s former laboratory and office have been preserved as a kind of museum, which is open to the public by advance appointment. It contains some of Mane’s notebooks, instruments, laboratory coats, and a replica of Pierre Curie’s device for quantitative measurement of ionizing radiation-the essential tool for the discovery and purification of radium and other radioactive elements, because of the miniscule amounts contained in the native ores. Needless to say, the actual technical artifacts from the Curie period were highly contaminated and had to be subsequently destroyed. Scientific equipment on show in the museum dates from a later period, when Marie’s daughter Irene and her husband Frederic Joliot held sway in the laboratory. There are sculptures of Marie and Pierre in the Institute’s courtyard, done by a Polish artist for the celebration of the centenary of Mane’s birth in 1967.

It is important to appreciate that the fine institute we see here came to Marie Curie only late in life, at the end of World War I. As anyone even slightly aware of the Curie legend knows, Marie and Pierre’s discovery and purification of radium were done in the most wretched, cold laboratory imaginable, in the basement of the Ecole superieure de Physique et de Chimie. The site on the Rue Vauquelin, about 500 yards (500 meters) south of the present Institute, is marked by a commemorative plaque. There is another plaque at 24 Rue de la Glaciere (on the other side of the Seine, close to the observatory), to mark the apartment where Marie and Pierre were living at the time and where their daughter Irene was born in 1897. It was not until 1905 that reasonable laboratory space was provided for the Curies in the Sorbonne and Pierre himself never had the chance to use it, for he was run down and killed in 1906 by a horse-drawn carriage in the Rue Dauphine. (Mane’s health had begun to decline from the effects of radiation even before the Institut du Radium was opened. For the last 20 years of her life she lived close to her laboratory, at 36 quai de Berthune on the He St. Louis-another plaque indicates the place.)

Website: http://www.curie.fr/en

Paris Observatory, France

By Charles Tanford & Jacqueline Reynolds

Paris Observatory

The Paris observatory dates back to the ambitious days of Louis XIV and his chief minister Colbert. It was completed in 1672; its four walls are oriented precisely to the four points of the compass; the southern wall defines the nominal latitude of the city and a perpendicular line through the center of the building defines the “Paris meridian.” The actual numerical coordinates, relative to other places on earth, were established with the aid of the Danish astronomer Ole Remer, brought here by Colbert because he had inherited the mantle of Danish expertise that had been established a century earlier by Tycho Brahe. Remer remained in Paris for several years and it was here that he accomplished his main scientific achievement, the measurement of the speed of propagation of light, in 1676~ The event is marked by one of the official city plaques placed on the observatory wall. Christiaan Huygens from the Netherlands was here for several years in the same period and was the first to see the rings about the planet Saturn.

In front of the observatory entrance is a statue of the French astronomer LeVerrier, effectively the discoverer of Neptune, the eighth planet of the solar system. The seventh planet, Uranus, had first been sighted by William Herschel in England in 1781, but irregularities in its orbital motion suggested the existence of a more distant planet beyond. LeVerrier in 1846 predicted its orbit on the basis of mathematical calculations and the prediction, of course, included its “present” location. A German observer O. C. Galle) found it where predicted on the very next day-the instruments at the Paris observatory lacked the requisite precision. (This was probably the first discovery of an object in sky on the basis of calculation, which has now become commonplace.)

Niels Bohr Institute, Denmark

By Charles Tanford & Jacqueline Reynolds

Niels Bohr Institute

The Niels Bohr Institute, founded in 1920 explicitly for Niels Bohr, is at Blegdamsvej 15-19, adjacent to the National Hospital. Today it is a thriving institution with ongoing work in many branches of theoretical physics, but it also permits itself the luxury of a Niels Bohr Archives. A small historical room is preserved, containing Bohr’s desk and chair and a few other items; the Institute’s auditorium is still much as it was in Bohr’s later years and contains a few historical pictures.

The Stadt Friedhof, Gottingen

By Charles Tanford & Jacqueline Reynolds

Otto Hahn's gravemarker, Stadt Friedhof

The most conspicuous memorial site in Gottingen is a cemetery, the Stadt Friedhof, located on the road to Kassel. There is a scientists’ corner here, where many famous scientists who worked or studied in Gottingen are buried close together. They include Max Planck, the original discoverer of the need for energy quantization; Otto Hahn, one of the authors of the famous paper on the splitting of the atom; Walther Nernst and his entire family: and several more. Hahn’s tombstone bears an enigmatic, perhaps ominous inscription:

92U + on


The top line is standard chemical language for the reaction of an atom of uranium (isotope of mass 92) with a neutron. But how are we to interpret the down-pointing arrow? The end of the world or maybe descent into hell?

Max Born is buried with his wife in a totally different part of the cemetery, the family plot of his wife and her forebears. His epitaph, too, is in the form of an equation, a mathematical formula in this case: pq – qp = hI27ri, and what will strike the layman about it is the fact that pq – qp is not zero, as he would expect. It turns out that p and q stand respectively for the momentum and the position of a particle in space and the significance of the inequality of their forward and reverse products is the underlying basis for Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. This may be Born’s claim to posterity for at least an equal share of the credit.

There is an amusing anecdote about the interment of Walther Nernst, a none too popular physical chemist (but sufficiently proficient to have won a Nobel Prize in 1920). He died in 1945 on his estate in East Prussia and was buried there, with two colleagues, Karl Bonhoeffer and Max Bodenstein, serving as pallbearers. When the Russians annexed East Prussia, the remains were removed to German soil (to Berlin) and there WaS another ceremony with Bonhoeffer and Bodenstein again in attendance. Some years later the family thought he should really lie in Gottingen, where he had been professor for most of his career, and so the body was moved once more, still with the same honorary escort. “I’m getting tired of this,” Bodenstein is reported to have remarked to his partner, who, however, responded more cheerfully: “You can’t bury Nernst too often” was his reported reply.