austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Send me a kiss by wire

[ Sorry to be late, but the hotel Internet was suffering from a problem where it's down. It went down about 8 am, but as I had to leave then I figured it would be repaired by the time I got back. By 11:30 pm their Toll-Free Help Desk was going to call me back in about ten or fifteen minutes; I thought it not unduly rushing of me to call them again at 12:15 asking what's wrong with the Internet. And again at 12:30; at that time, they said they were working with the front desk on the problem, which was, that the Internet was down. ] [ And it wasn't fixed by morning, either! ]

No time right now for a full review of the whole interview situation and all the little odd things which turned up along the way. I don't think it matters, though, as I've decided to chuck all my previous plans for life and give myself over entirely to haunting the Smithsonian, serving as a volunteer, unpaid, not particularly wanted docent for all the many people who have no idea what it is they're looking at.

I got off to a good start outside the Castle, by the statue of Joseph Henry, where I overheard one of the uncounted millions of people admitting they have no idea who Henry was. My know-it-all nature overcame my chronically shy nature and I explained he was the first head of the Smithsonian, and an inventor of the electromagnet, which they found to be neat in about the correct amount.

I did not point out the engraving of the horseshoe electromagnet (possibly ``Big Ben'', his impressive 1833 model, although I can't tell his various electromagnets apart at a glance) on the side of the statue, or point out his work in making the telegraph practical and the inevitable squabble he got into with Samuel Morse over that, nor of how his long service as science advisor for the Federal Government made him America's Great Scientist of the era, or of how the unveiling of the statue was pretty near a national holiday; if I remember right, its debut was presided over by the Chief Justice of the United States.

One must admit that it is possible Henry's reputation in his time was puffed up by a nation really eager to proclaim somebody the equal of the great scientists of Europe, and, of course, the naming of the 'henry' as unit for electromagnetic induction at the Columbian Exposition of 1893 was not the most logically rigorous thing one might --- I could go on like this for days unless someone brings tranquilizer darts. The poor people I informed are lucky they got away just knowing the head-of-the-Smithsonian and invented-the-electromagnet things. If they'd shown more interest than ``huh'' they'd know Joseph Henry inside and out by now.

Clearly, I need to spend more of my time telling people what they're wandering around.

Trivia: Joseph Henry's salary as secretary of the Smithsonian began at $3500. Source: Joseph Henry, Albert E Moyer.

Currently Reading: Stealing God's Thunder: Benjamin Franklin's Lightning Rod and the Invention of America, Philip Dray.


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