The World's Fair is recreated in all it's glory! Skulls in the Stars is currently hosting the thirteenth installment of the History of Science Blog Carnival. There are some amazing pieces in this edition so head on over right now and check them out. GG was also kind enough to include my post The Grassroots of Scientific Revolution.
Some of the most interesting pieces I read in this edition include:
Brian at Laelaps discusses the controversy of the cuttlefish:
Meyranx and Laurencet's paper played right into Geoffroy's hands. Even though they had not intended on refuting Cuvier, the naturalists proposed that mollusks shared an underlying body plan with vertebrates; mollusks were just twisted so that their "neck" was attached near their "buttocks." Thus mollusks were built upon the same anatomical groundplan as vertebrates, just slightly contorted.
Skulls in the Stars looks at Lord Rayleigh vs. the Aether!:
By the late 1800s, however, more and more research cast doubt on the very existence of the aether, notably the Michelson-Morley experiment (to be discussed below). In response, theoreticians produced more and more "patches" to the aether theory, until at last Einstein published his special theory of relativity, which eliminated the need for an aether and in fact suggested that the idea of an aether was incompatible with the experimental evidence.
Bora at A Blog Around the Clock looks at circadian rhythms throughout history, with special attention to Darwin's contributions:
Nobody seems to have noticed any biological rhythmicities throughout the Middle Ages. The lone exception was Albertus Magnus who wrote about the sleep movements of plants in the thirteenth century (Bennet 1974).
The first recorded experiment, which is often referred to as the birth of the discipline, was conducted in 1729. by Jean Jacques d'Ortous de Mairan (De Mairan 1729). He shut a heliotrope plant in the basement away from any external light. He noticed that even without the clues from the outside world, the plant opened its leaves by day and closed them again during the night.
The Renaissance Mathematicus has a great overview of Galileo's contributions to astronomy in The Starry Messenger:
The Sidereus Nuncius contains three major new discoveries made by Galileo with his telescopes, the fact that the moon was physically like the earth, that lighted patches in the night sky such as the Milky Way resolved into stars when viewed with the telescope and the real sensation that Jupiter had four moons of its own.
Through accurate drawings of the moons surface as seen through his telescope and convincing argumentation Galileo was able to demonstrate that the moon's surface was three dimensional with mountains and valleys just like the earth. It is interesting in this context that it appears to be his formal training as an artist that enabled Galileo to reach this conclusion.