Punch,  58 (1870), 215.

A New History of Inventions  [1/3]



Essay, Drollery, Serial


Scientific Practitioners, Discovery, Astronomy, Instruments, Time, Measurement, Medical Treatment, Controversy, Religion, Progress

    A series of accounts of the invention and discovery of common domestic objects, including the dining-table, the reformed calendar, and the umbrella. Claims that the dining table was invented by Galileo Galilei. When 'Science was yet in its cradle, philosophy still in its perambulator' and before the age of 'egg-boilers', 'sewing-machines', and 'asparagus tongs', Galileo 'withdrew from the world about the time that Copernicus discovered Night Lights', to 'a humble cottage near Amsterdam'. There he contemplated 'the deep problem which had turned Kepler white, prematurely aged Tycho Brahe, and wrinkled, untimely, the capacious brow and benevolent form of our own Newton'. In his 'tapestried chamber', dressed in 'his Oriental dressing-gown and Eastern slippers', Galileo paced his apartment 'with eager, restless steps'. Early one morning after spending a night handling 'Plans, diagrams, calculations, sketches, models', he emerged into the 'unpeopled streets' with the cry of 'Ευρηκα! Ευρηκα! [Eureka! Eureka!]' and imparted to a cabinet-maker 'his immortal invention of the telescope—dining-table'. Proceeds to describe Pope Gregory XIII's 'Reformation of the Calendar' and his invention of 'Gregory's Powder'—a substance 'first compounded by his private physician in the Baths of Diogenes towards the close of the proceedings'. Also describes the controversy among antiquaries over the date when the umbrella was first introduced into 'this damp climate'. Notes that 'that great Batvian scholar' and fellow of the Royal Society, Wetstein, has challenged Waterland's notion that it was introduced during Oliver Cromwell's protectorate, insisting that the umbrella first appeared during the reign of King Charles II who 'set the fashion of using an umbrella, as a protection both against sun and rain'.

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