AE Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2014 Issue

Science, Medicine & Natural History from Peter Harrington


Science, Medicine & Natural History.

Peter Harrington has issued a catalogue of Science, Medicine & Natural History. It covers centuries of discovery – from the 17th century all the way to the close of the 20th. Some theories may be a bit dated, though this is all serious work, building blocks if not final answers. The more recent theories are still our best attempts to understand a world so complex and boundless it exceeds even our imagination. Here are a few of the over 200 important books and pamphlets being offered.


We will start with a look at the earliest days of human history – quite literally: The South African Fossil Ape-Men The Australopithecinae. This work by Robert Broom (who has inscribed this first edition, first impression) and G. Schepers was published on January 31, 1946. Broom had moved to South Africa in 1934 where he began examining the pre-human fossil record with paleontologist Raymond Dart. Broom's research led him to conclude that Dart was correct in his chicken-and-egg, which-came-first theory – walking upright, or larger brains. Did walking upright make greater intelligence a major evolutionary advantage, or did greater intelligence make the ability to walk upright of critical importance? Broom concluded that man first learned how to walk upright, and after that, intelligence was an advantage in using those freed upper limbs. Item 17. Priced at £300 (British pounds or about $495 in U.S. dollars).


There is a small world out there that humans had missed until Robert Hooke came along with his microscope. Hooke developed a powerful microscope in the 17th century, which he then turned on various ordinary things for a closer look. What he found was amazing, and he began illustrating what he saw. His illustrations and text were published in 1665 in the book Micrographia: or some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies made by Magnifying Glasses. He provided a close-up look at things like nettles, a louse, and his extraordinary (and frightening) look at a flea blown up to the size of a rodent or greater. Lions and tigers may pick off a few of us, but it is the tiniest of creatures, bacteria and viruses, that get us most often. Item 122. £65,000 (US $107,170).


Hooke could not have imagined in 1665 just how small things can get. Not even bacteria could look at this stuff with a naked nucleus. Item 192 is Atomic Projectiles and Collisions with Light Atoms, by Ernest Rutherford, published in 1919. This is the uncommon offprint of Rutherford's pioneering work splitting the atom. While it was known that radioactive elements disintegrate to other forms, this was the first case of human intervention causing an atom to break into smaller parts. Rutherford used alpha particles to bombard an otherwise stable nitrogen atom. £6,750 (US $11,130).

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