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Childress

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  1. Not only did the Nuremberg commission administer IQ tests to the prisoners but also Rorschach tests, ten in all. They were asked to elaborate on what they saw. Frank (senior nazi): Those are my darling bears. They’re holding a bottle. Beautiful prima ballerina dancing in white dresses with red light shining from below.Rudolf Hess (Deputy Führer): Two men talking about a crime. Blood is on their mind.Hermann Göring (Hitler’s #2): [laughs] Those are two dancing figures, very clear, shoulder her and face there, clapping hands. [cuts off the bottom part with hand] Top red is head and hat; the face is partially white.https://historyofyesterday.com/the-resu ... a5e442f37cOne of the psychologists that diagnosed Goering's Rorschach test remarked on his "emptiness of his being" and that when he reported the hat as red, it "indicates an emotional preoccupation with status." Quite a leap. It seems a better take on Goering's personality was offered in the 1970s by Joel Dimsdale (1), an American psychiatrist and Holocaust researcher: "[Goering] was a chameleon in terms of shaping his behavior based on audience. He could be warm and charming, or brutal," Were the tests worth it? The Rorschach assessments were never presented as evidence at Nuremberg. The tests of Nazi leaders were commingled with contemporary tests for mental patients and members of the clergy, and the experts could not distinguish the results for the Nazis from those of the clergy. Rorschach tests were en vogue at the time but are now little used, essentially a passing fad.1- Survivors, Victims, and Perpetrators: Essays on the Nazi Holocaust. 1980
  2. At Nuremberg, the International Military Tribunal was tasked to try the 24 most important players (1) in the 3rd Reich. As the weeks passed, the Tribunal sought convictions, but their members began to speculate on the prisoners' motivations. What drove them? Were the commandants of the death camps psychopaths or simply mentally ill? Or were they just ordinary men who made appalling decisions? Clearly, there was something fundamental that separated them from the rest of humanity.The defendants may have been morally twisted but it appears they were exceptionally intelligent.Hjalmar SchachtWith the aid of psychologists, the Tribunal submitted the prisoners to the Wechsler-Bellevue Intelligence Test, one of the premier IQ tests (2). A score above 128 was considered "superior", only 2% of the population scored in that range. The average score of the Germans was 128. The winner was Hjalmar Schacht at 141, Goering scored 138. The dummy on the list was Julius Streicher at 106, still above average according to the test.The psychologists gave the scores to the Nazis; they were delighted, it was a diversion from the constant boredom of solitary confinement. The men compared their results with their co-prisoners and argued good-naturedly over bragging rights. Franz von Papen (Score: 134) said that IQ testing was one of the most enjoyable moments of their captivity.Is there a lesson in there? One assumes that most great enterprises are- ipso facto- composed of smart and ambitious men (or women) in their higher echelons. But the cleavage between morality and intelligence was rarely so strikingly apparent as in the Nazi state.The list:http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/f ... dants.html(1) It turned out to be 22. Martin Bormann was tried in absentia and Robert Ley committed suicide within a week of the trial’s commencement.(2) The Nazis were very familiar with intelligence testing; the government authorized the murder of children with various mental deficiencies.
  3. Grant was 5'8, 2 inches above the average height of the time, and during the war, his weight was a svelte 130lbs. However, he was physically powerful; while working for his father-in-law in Galena neighbors were stunned to watch him toss 100lb burlap bags onto a wagon. Some other interesting factoids: *He was not especially studious at West Point and read a lot of novels available to him in the library. It was said of him that he never read a lesson over more than twice and did not actually "study" it. He excelled in mathematics. *In the heat of battle, when his staff officers were full of anxiety, Grant calmly smoked his cigar and never lost his composure. His nerves of steel were a wonder to all around him. He could write dispatches while shells burst around him and never flinch. *Grant was very thin during the war, weighing only one hundred and thirty-five pounds. He was a very sparse eater. He abhorred red meat of any kind, and the sight of blood made him ill. *He had a superstition of retracing his steps. *Grant did not believe in holding formal councils of war. He felt that they "divided a responsibility that would at times prevent a unity of action." He listened to the advice of his staff, and then, upon reflection, made the final decision himself. No one knew of his decision until it was put into effect. *Grant was tone deaf and could not recognize any of the light airs of the time; military music was especially annoying to him. *During his lifetime General Grant suffered intense migraine headaches which were sometimes reported as bouts of drunkenness. *Reticence has long been associated with Ulysses Grant. Although he was an avid listener, in the relaxed company of friends, he could actually be a raconteur. https://libguides.css.edu/usgrant/home/upclose Quote Share
  4. Grant joined the Sons of Temperance, a precursor of Alcoholic Anonymous.It seems that back then it was assumed that drunkenness was a male thing. Re: The Civil War. Can we agree that the Confederacy was doomed from the start and the only factors that kept it alive for four years were enthusiasm and (at first) superior commanders? And despite Lee's (or Jubal Early's) invasion of the North, interior lines.
  5. I saw Lieut. Grant. He has altered very much: he is a short thick man with a beard reaching halfway down his waist and I fear he drinks too much but don't you say a word on that subject. -John Lowe, Grant's West Point classmate during the Mexico campaign. The genetic component of alcoholism these days is now considered settled science. Ulysses S. Grant's father was a teetotaler but his grandfather, Noah, was not. His drinking caused him to squander a comfortable estate and leave the youngest children to be adopted by neighbors. Grant's son was arrested by George Custer for chronic drunkenness during the Black Hills expedition in 1874. It was during Grant's outstanding service in the Mexican War, a conflict punctuated by many long periods of inactivity and boredom, that Grant realized that he might have "a problem". After his marriage to Julia, in 1848, he was assigned as an officer at a post near Ontario. At that cold and isolated outpost he resorted to booze, but always self-aware he decided to quit altogether in 1851. He wrote Julia: "I have become convinced that there is no safety from ruin by liquor except by abstaining from it altogether." Grant joined the Sons of Temperance, a precursor of Alcoholic Anonymous. It didn't last; his next military assignment to the Pacific Coast would break his solemn vow. His roommate: "I would hear him once or twice, sometimes more, open the door quietly and walk softly over the floor, so as not to disturb him; then I would hear the clink of the glass and a gurgle." Grant was forced to resign. After his separation from the army, Grant returned to Missouri with Julia and their four children; they led a hardscrabble life. He sold firewood door-to-door and he was often compelled to borrow money from her slave-owning father, a humiliation, and he began again to resort to the bottle. But Grant's father came to his rescue; he proposed that he join his brothers' leather shop in Illinois. There he was able to pay off his debts to Julia's father and during that time it appears he was sober. Nevertheless, Grant felt unfulfilled and following Fort Sumter, he jumped at the chance to become a colonel in the 21st Illinois Volunteers. The rest is history. Many historians assert that Grant’s penchant for binge drinking was kept in check by his teetotaler adjutant, Colonel John Rawlins, but rumors that he was intoxicated during and after battles swirled around him for most of the war. These rumors may be exaggerated, however, Grant did suffer occasional relapses although he would go cold turkey during very long periods. But a reporter from the Herald Tribune was stunned to find the General in a state of intoxication during the bloody battle of Shiloh in 1862. Also, there's strong evidence that during the siege of Vicksburg- a tedious, long drawn out affair- he occasionally fell off the wagon. (1) Grant was never a mean or obnoxious drunk but, in the words of the historian, Ron Chernow, liquor reduced him to a “babbling, childlike state", something that unnerved his lieutenants during his rare lapses while prosecuting the war. They also observed that after one glass of liquor, Grant's speech would become slurred and two or three would make him stupid. Their strong reservations about the General reached the unperturbed Lincoln who remarked “Tell them you’re going to find out what brand he drinks, and then send a case to all your other generals." (2) SUMMARY The preponderance of evidence tells us that Grant was an alcoholic, albeit a functioning one. In the 19th century, most people drank far more than today; Americans over the age of 15 consumed on average seven gallons of alcohol — generally whiskey or hard cider — each year. (3) However, at headquarters, officers were expected to hold their liquor. Grant couldn't and he knew it, when the craving came upon him he would imbibe alone, Today we understand that alcoholism is a disease. One of the most frustrating factors in dealing with alcoholism is it is almost always accompanied by a phenomenon known as denial—a refusal to admit the truth or reality of the condition. Grant was an exception to that rule, he was fully aware of his devil within thus his successful career may be attributed to pure will. 1- But Grant had a critical asset, his wife, Julia, who with his oldest son were often present at headquarters. With her, he stayed sober. 2- Another version: “for if it made fighting generals like Grant, I should like to get some of it for distribution.” 3- (lost link)
  6. Last month, February 6, was the birthday of Eva Braun; it passed unnoticed. The Braun family might have celebrated but their members are extinct; Eva's father died in 1964 and the final member, Gretl, died in 1987. She had named her daughter Eva, in honor of her sister, who was born on the very day of the Nazi capitulation. That Eva committed suicide in 1975 after her boyfriend was killed in a car accident. The star-crossed family leaves one with a sense of futility, all that drama and turbulence gone like a brief summer breeze.Eva Braun was born in 1912 into a lower-middle-class Bavarian family and she was educated in Catholic schools. Her grades were mediocre but she excelled in sports; swimming and skiing. In 1929 she was employed as a saleswoman and model in the shop of Heinrich Hoffman, Hitler’s photographer, and in this way met the rising politician. Eva was not initially impressed, she confided to a sister calling him "a gentleman of a certain age [Hitler was 23 years older] with a funny mustache and carrying a big felt hat.” But Hitler, a constant visitor to the shop, was persistent, showering her effusive compliments. She surrendered. After the controversial death of Geli Raubal, Hitler’s niece, Eva became his mistress, living in his Munich flat and trying acting despite the fierce opposition of her father. In 1936, Hitler decided to move her to the Berghof on the Obersalzberg, concerned about her stability; the year before, suspecting female rivals, she had made a second suicide attempt. There she remained until the Bunker and Götterdämmerung.Goodness is as banal as evil and may exist in the most unlikely people: even Hitler's mistress.-Angela LambertAt the Berghof Eva acted as a hostess; she was gracious with the constant guests and kind to the help. Although an ardent proponent of German victory, she never joined the Nazi party and no one heard her utter an anti-Semitic word. (1) She shared with Hitler a love of dogs. Eva was a prolific photographer; her folksy home movies at the Berghof have left us rich historical documents. But, the frivolity... Eva spent most of her time exercising, brooding, reading cheap novelettes, watching romantic films, or concerning herself with her own appearance, particularly her weight. She was addicted to fashion and changed her clothes several times a day. Needy, she obsessed over Hitler's attentions or lack thereof; Dr Morell claimed that she asked her to give Hitler drugs to boost his sexual appetite. In her diary, Eva boasted "I am the mistress of the greatest man in Germany and in the world." However, she resented that they rarely appeared in public together and that few Germans even knew of her existence. According to Albert Speer's memoirs, Eva approached Hitler in "high indignation"; Hitler quietly instructed Speer, who was armaments minister at the time, to allow limited availability of women's cosmetics and luxuries rather than instituting an outright ban, Speer later said, "Eva Braun will prove a great disappointment to historians."Eva had her other moments of defiance. She was the only person who would dare to declare, “I’m going to bed!” during one of Hitler’s endless nighttime monologues. And she made it clear that she was repelled by his vegetarian diet. "I can't eat that stuff". Was Eva a victim of Hitler's manipulative, Svengali-like wiles? It seems she was carefully selected and groomed by him as a symbol of unthreatening and devoted (and blond) German womanhood. The extent of their sexual life is veiled in mystery. There is no doubt that she would have had led an entirely different, and probably happier, life if the meeting in the photography shop had never happened.As the Reich began to crumble in late 1944, she invited her cousin Gertraud Weisker to visit her at the Berghof. Decades later, Weisker recalled that although women in the Third Reich were expected not to wear make-up, drink, or smoke, Braun did all of these things. "She was the unhappiest woman I have ever met," Eva Braun's diary:https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/eva-braun-s-diary1- There is some controversy over Braun's awareness of the Holocaust
  7. You're right, not at all. I've posted, from time to time, several essays on the General Discussion forum (there's another?) without kickback; the goal is simply diversion, this is a well educated group here whose nicks are familiar- I'm an owner of CM1. These essays are derived on various history-themed sites where I post. Continue or not?
  8. I wrote my law dissertation on this case! What a coincidence! During the research, I seem to recall that the sailors did- briefly- consider drawing lots. Of course, there we no proof that they did. All in all, it's a fascinating case. When the time came to draw straws it was evident that young Richard Parker was close to death. The hard choice was made to kill Parker to eat his flesh. Rescued a few days later, the men did not hide the fact that they had eaten their comrade, thinking they were within the custom. When they reached England, however, they were tried for murder. By not drawing straws they had violated the law.- Ocean Navigator The Mignonette puzzle: The English sailors' ordeal lasted from July 5 to July 29, that's not an enormous slice of time. One reads of similar events that lasted over months. They were able to capture and consume a sea turtle, a rather large reptile; they feasted on it for a week. Of course, the absence of water was a critical factor but they did drink the turtle's blood. The name Richard Parker has occurred twice in literature. First in an 1838 tale of Edgar Allan Poe that, creepily, prefigured the fate of the Mignonette. Similar to the fate of Mignonette, his sailors consumed the rationed remains of a turtle and drew lots to be the sacrificial victim- Parker lost. At the time Poe was in desperate financial straits and the response to his- hastily written- novel was, for the most part, ill-received. Critics noted nautical inaccuracies but later some credited the novel as an inspiration for Moby Dick.In a deliberate twist by author Yann Martel, the hero and a Bengal tiger are set adrift in a lifeboat in his best-selling book The Life of Pi. Martel named the tiger Richard Parker after the unfortunate cabin boy. Martel's 2012 tale resulted in eleven Academy Awards.
  9. A minor mystery remains with the three English sailors. Why not lie? Why not simply tell the authorities that they tossed the dead Parker over the starboard side intact and uneaten? With endless time on their hands, they could easily concoct a convincing scenario; there was, of course, no evidence. The men would clasp hands and make a solemn oath never to reveal to the truth. Would it work? Probably, but some inhibiting factors: 1- The sailors never expected prosecution having trusted- wrongly- in the 'custom of the sea'. 2- The strict, Victorian morality of the era 3- Their evident religious faith.
  10. The three English sailors were not alone in resorting to cannibalism by necessity. The Donner Party indulged as well.As their supplies dwindled, the Donner emigrants stranded at Truckee Lake resorted to eating increasingly grotesque meals. They slaughtered their pack animals, cooked their dogs, gnawed on leftover bones and even boiled the animal hide roofs of their cabins into a foul paste. Several people died from malnutrition, but the rest managed to subsist on morsels of boiled leather and tree bark until rescue parties arrived in February and March 1847. Not all of the settlers were strong enough to escape, however, and those left behind were forced to cannibalize the frozen corpses of their comrades while waiting for further help. All told, roughly half of the Donner Party’s survivors eventually resorted to eating human flesh.-History.comAnd more recently, in 1972, the plane crash of the Uruguayan rugby team. A survivor: '‘I will never forget that first incision’. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news ... gbooktalk/However, in both cases, they reserved their victims for the already dead unlike the crew of the Mignonette.
  11. In 1844, an Australian lawyer hired four Englishmen to sail his aging yacht, the Mignonette, back to his home in Sydney. That contract would inadvertently secure the fates of four men: Thomas Dudley, Edwin Stephens, Edmund Brooks, and Richard Parker. Dudley was the captain and an experienced seaman. Parker, the cabin boy, was an orphan of seventeen.The four sailed the yacht around the Cape of Good Hope without a hitch until, following a night storm, a rogue wave compromised the upper deck (the lee bulwark). Dudley instantly realized the 52-foot cruiser was doomed. Frantic, he and his crew were able to grab a few navigational instruments along with two tins of turnips, but no freshwater. They lowered the rickety lifeboat and escaped. Within five minutes the Mignonette disappeared under the waves. It was July 5.They were 700 miles away from the nearest land (Saint Helena). On the first night, the crew had to fight off a shark using the oars. The days passed and Dudley carefully allotted the turnips among the men, realizing water would pose a problem. Meanwhile, they grew increasingly feeble. But they caught a piece of luck; Brooks was able to drag a sea turtle onto the lifeboat and the crew feasted on the reptile for several days, drinking its blood and consuming the bones. But by July 17 starvation returned, the turnips were long gone. Thirst was becoming acute; they were unable to catch rainwater and the men resorted to drinking their own urine. Their gaze began to linger on the semi-comatose (1) form of Parker, the cabin boy.Dudley reluctantly proposed making Parker their sacrificial lamb; he pointed out that both he and Stephens had wives and families, while the Parker boy was an orphan with no connections. His idea caused bitter controversy among the men but by July 21, starved and dehydrated, they gave in. After saying a prayer, Dudley cut open Parker's jugular vein; as with the sea turtle, they sucked his blood and devoured his flesh. Eight days later the crew hailed a passing ship and were rescued.THE TRIALI can assure you I shall never forget the sight of my two unfortunate companions over that ghastly meal. We all was like mad wolfs who should get the most, and for men—fathers of children—to commit such a deed, we could not have our right reason.-Thomas DudleySir William HarcourtIn Victorian England, their legal case became a cause célèbre. On arrival in Falmouth, the crew made their dispositions, believing the events were protected by the venerable custom of the sea'; a rare proceeding in which men draw lots to decide who gets sacrificed for food so that his mates might survive. (2) It was not to be; the magistrates refused to dismiss the charges and the formidable prosecutor, Sir William Harcourt, took the case. However, public opinion- a relatively new phenomenon- was turning against the courts believing the charges were excessive, if not inhumane; the survivors’ tale had elicited the people's sympathy. The trial was re-adjourned.But Harcourt was revolted by the public's sentiment and became even more intent on a conviction. Ultimately, the two principals, Dudley and Stephens, were convicted of murder, though they were not the first seamen to resort to cannibalism. Eventually, all three defendants would be jailed for six months, given the era, a slap on the wrist.1-Possibly induced by drinking seawater2-However, that proceeding was contingent on the victim's death. Before the deed, Parker was still technically alive, as the honest seamen admitted. Hence, the murder charge.THE TWILIGHT ZONE?An extremely strange coincidence, the tale of Richard Parker has a literary connection. Years before The Mignonette ever set sail, Edgar Allan Poe wrote an 1838 short-story where a character, by the name of Richard Parker, is eaten by fellow stranded sailors after hunger sets in.
  12. In the early 20th century German science was in full ebullition, notably in physics. The most famous among the gifted was, of course, Albert Einstein but other men were also collecting Nobels, notably among them Max Planck and Werner Heisenberg. These two altered our conception of the physical world and both would be inextricably tied to the 3rd Reich- with different outcomes.MAX PLANCK (1858-1947)In 1900, Planck shook the scientific world with his bold hypothesis that radiant energy (i.e., light waves) is not emitted in a continuous flow, but rather consists of small chunks, which he called quanta. At first most physicists regarded the hypothesis as a convenient mathematical fiction, but it turned out that Planck’s concept could be applied to various phenomena. Later both Einstein and Niels Bohr used it, the first to explain the photoelectric effect and the second was used in the theory of atomic structure. Planck had discovered quantum mechanics and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1913.Planck never again reached such ethereal heights. Nevertheless, he continued to contribute at a high level to various branches of optics, thermodynamics, and other fields. He presided over several scientific societies and in his later years, devoted more and more of his writings to philosophical, aesthetic, and religious questions. Among younger scientists Planck exerted a moral force; his fairness, integrity, and wisdom were beyond question. Planck was already over 80 when WW2 broke out in 1939 and five years later his Berlin home was destroyed by Allied bombers. He was never a Nazi supporter- just the opposite- nor was his youngest son, Erwin, who became implicated in the 20 July Plot on Hitler’s life. He was arrested and his father sent Hitler a (recently discovered) anguished letter:My Führer!I am most deeply shaken by the message that my son Erwin has been sentenced to death by the People’s Court.The acknowledgment for my achievements in service of our fatherland, which you, my Führer, have expressed towards me in repeated and most honoring way, makes me confident that you will lend your ear to an imploring 87-year old.As the gratitude of the German people for my life’s work, which has become an everlasting intellectual wealth of Germany, I am pleading for my son’s life.Max PlanckBut the Reich Chancellery remained silent and in January 1945 Erwin’s death sentence was carried out by the Gestapo. It appears he was hanged ‘cattle-style’, a slow-motion torture, the victim raised off blocks by piano wire tightened around the neck. The merciless act destroyed Planck’s will to live; he died in 1947 at age 89. A fellow physicist commented that his end came to him ‘as a redemption’.WERNER HEISENBERG (1901-1976)An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject, and how to avoid them.-HeisenbergWerner Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1933 for his role in the further refinements of quantum mechanics, the fundamental branch of physics that Planck pioneered. Heisenberg conceived the ‘uncertainty principle’ that ensures that the future behavior of that system can never be completely predicted. This was a profound change; Einstein would never accept it saying ‘God does not play dice with the universe’. However, most modern scientists have felt it necessary to adapt; practical applications such as microscopes, lasers, and transistors followed. More sinister, given Heisenberg’s later career, it also had applications in nuclear physics and atomic energy.In his early years, Heisenberg was something of an idealist, joining the youth group similar to the Boy Scouts called the Pathfinders. ‘I never thought that I could interest myself in politics,’ he wrote to a Pathfinder friend in 1923, ‘because it seemed to me to be a pure money business.’The same year that Heisenberg was awarded a Nobel Prize also saw the rise to power of the Nazi party. The result was that many academics and professors, deemed unreliable by ‘race’ or political concerns, were expelled from their positions. However, many German scientists, including Heisenberg, resolved to work within the system trusting that ‘Aryan physics’ would be a transitory phenomenon. And Heisenberg was a patriot; prior to the war, he declined generous offers from several American universities.The most lasting controversy that swirls around Heisenberg was the German nuclear program, such as it was. The outbreak of war in 1939, he was drafted into Germany's secret effort to perfect an atomic bomb and Heisenberg soon became the scientific head. He worked hard on the atomic project with a relatively small team but was pessimistic from the start. Heisenberg told Nazi officials it would take wartime Germany too long to learn how to make the needed quantities of the key bomb material, uranium 235 (he was wrong on that, German stocks were sufficient). He added, that US had devoted ten thousand times more resources to the project than Germany. In the final days of the war, an Allied counterintelligence unit discovered the last intact nuclear facility in Haigerloch, Germany. The prize: a nuclear laboratory complete with a test reactor and Heisenberg's office with his copious notes. American agents dredged ****-stained documents from a watertight drum the German scientists had sunk in a cesspool; these made clear that the Germans were far from developing a workable bomb. Did the noble Heisenberg stall the operation deliberately, a gift to humanity? Not so fast. Following the war, ten German nuclear scientists were interned at Farms Hill in England, Heisenberg prominent among them. Their conversations were bugged:Diebner: I wonder whether there are microphones installed here?Heisenberg: Microphones installed? (laughing) Oh no, they're not as cute as all that. They know the real Gestapo methods; they're a bit old fashioned in that respect. The scientists were stunned that the Americans had successfully detonated an atomic bomb at Hiroshima. Some of the scientists indicated that they were glad that they had not been able to build a nuclear bomb for Adolf Hitler, while others more sympathetic to the Nazi party were dismayed at having failed. The tapes revealed that Heisenberg was clearly dismayed by the failure of the operation.Heisenberg’s later life was busy and rewarding, welcomed on the lecture circuit in both Germany and Britain. He took a principled stand against the Federal Republic’s arming itself with nukes. He died in 1975, leaving his eight children. (Planck had six)
  13. In the early 20th century German science was in full ebullition, notably in physics. The most famous among the gifted was, of course, Albert Einstein but other men were also collecting Nobels, notably among them Max Planck and Werner Heisenberg. These two altered our conception of the physical world and both would be inextricably tied to the 3rd Reich- with different outcomes.MAX PLANCK (1858-1947)In 1900, Planck shook the scientific world with his bold hypothesis that radiant energy (i.e., light waves) is not emitted in a continuous flow, but rather consists of small chunks, which he called quanta. At first most physicists regarded the hypothesis as a convenient mathematical fiction, but it turned out that Planck’s concept could be applied to various phenomena. Later both Einstein and Niels Bohr used it, the first to explain the photoelectric effect and the second was used in the theory of atomic structure. Planck had discovered quantum mechanics and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1913.Planck never again reached such ethereal heights. Nevertheless, he continued to contribute at a high level to various branches of optics, thermodynamics, and other fields. He presided over several scientific societies and in his later years, devoted more and more of his writings to philosophical, aesthetic, and religious questions. Among younger scientists Planck exerted a moral force; his fairness, integrity, and wisdom were beyond question. Planck was already over 80 when WW2 broke out in 1939 and five years later his Berlin home was destroyed by Allied bombers. He was never a Nazi supporter- just the opposite- nor was his youngest son, Erwin, who became implicated in the 20 July Plot on Hitler’s life. He was arrested and his father sent Hitler a (recently discovered) anguished letter:My Führer!I am most deeply shaken by the message that my son Erwin has been sentenced to death by the People’s Court.The acknowledgment for my achievements in service of our fatherland, which you, my Führer, have expressed towards me in repeated and most honoring way, makes me confident that you will lend your ear to an imploring 87-year old.As the gratitude of the German people for my life’s work, which has become an everlasting intellectual wealth of Germany, I am pleading for my son’s life.Max PlanckBut the Reich Chancellery remained silent and in January 1945 Erwin’s death sentence was carried out by the Gestapo. It appears he was hanged ‘cattle-style’, a slow-motion torture, the victim raised off blocks by piano wire tightened around the neck. The merciless act destroyed Planck’s will to live; he died in 1947 at age 89. A fellow physicist commented that his end came to him ‘as a redemption’.WERNER HEISENBERG (1901-1976)An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject, and how to avoid them.-HeisenbergWerner Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1933 for his role in the further refinements of quantum mechanics, the fundamental branch of physics that Planck pioneered. Heisenberg conceived the ‘uncertainty principle’ that ensures that the future behavior of that system can never be completely predicted. This was a profound change; Einstein would never accept it saying ‘God does not play dice with the universe’. However, most modern scientists have felt it necessary to adapt; practical applications such as microscopes, lasers, and transistors followed. More sinister, given Heisenberg’s later career, it also had applications in nuclear physics and atomic energy.In his early years, Heisenberg was something of an idealist, joining the youth group similar to the Boy Scouts called the Pathfinders. ‘I never thought that I could interest myself in politics,’ he wrote to a Pathfinder friend in 1923, ‘because it seemed to me to be a pure money business.’The same year that Heisenberg was awarded a Nobel Prize also saw the rise to power of the Nazi party. The result was that many academics and professors, deemed unreliable by ‘race’ or political concerns, were expelled from their positions. However, many German scientists, including Heisenberg, resolved to work within the system trusting that ‘Aryan physics’ would be a transitory phenomenon. And Heisenberg was a patriot; prior to the war, he declined generous offers from several American universities.The most lasting controversy that swirls around Heisenberg was the German nuclear program, such as it was. The outbreak of war in 1939, he was drafted into Germany's secret effort to perfect an atomic bomb and Heisenberg soon became the scientific head. He worked hard on the atomic project with a relatively small team but was pessimistic from the start. Heisenberg told Nazi officials it would take wartime Germany too long to learn how to make the needed quantities of the key bomb material, uranium 235 (he was wrong on that, German stocks were sufficient). He added, that US had devoted ten thousand times more resources to the project than Germany. In the final days of the war, an Allied counterintelligence unit discovered the last intact nuclear facility in Haigerloch, Germany. The prize: a nuclear laboratory complete with a test reactor and Heisenberg's office with his copious notes. American agents dredged ****-stained documents from a watertight drum the German scientists had sunk in a cesspool; these made clear that the Germans were far from developing a workable bomb. Did the noble Heisenberg stall the operation deliberately, a gift to humanity? Not so fast. Following the war, ten German nuclear scientists were interned at Farms Hill in England, Heisenberg prominent among them. Their conversations were bugged:Diebner: I wonder whether there are microphones installed here?Heisenberg: Microphones installed? (laughing) Oh no, they're not as cute as all that. They know the real Gestapo methods; they're a bit old fashioned in that respect. The scientists were stunned that the Americans had successfully detonated an atomic bomb at Hiroshima. Some of the scientists indicated that they were glad that they had not been able to build a nuclear bomb for Adolf Hitler, while others more sympathetic to the Nazi party were dismayed at having failed. The tapes revealed that Heisenberg was clearly dismayed by the failure of the operation.Heisenberg’s later life was busy and rewarding, welcomed on the lecture circuit in both Germany and Britain. He took a principled stand against the Federal Republic’s arming itself with nukes. He died in 1975, leaving his eight children. (Planck had six)
  14. ...he was going to lose anyway.Yes. With a quarter-million Germans and Russians- and more to follow- closing in the writing was on the wall. In retrospect, Napoleon's (arguable) near-miss at Waterloo was the very best outcome for his legend. He can bid adieu to his weeping grognards while French historians sharpen their pens concocting their 'might-have-been' scenarios. If only....
  15. Napoleon fought more than 70 battles, winning all but only seven, mostly at the end.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_ ... ular%20War.First-hand descriptions of Napoleon by his contemporaries:https://www.napoleon-series.org/researc ... ption.htmlAn excerpt:He dictated while walking to and fro in his cabinet. When he grew angry he would use violent imprecations, which were suppressed in writing and which had, at least, the advantage of giving the writer time to catch up with him. He never repeated anything that he had once said, even if it had not been heard; and this was very hard on the poor secretary, for Bonaparte remembered accurately what he had said and detected every omission. . . . He always derived amusement from causing anyone uneasiness and distress. His great general principle, which he applied to everything, both great and small, was that there could be no zeal where there was no disquietude. . . .
  16. Question: Who is being discussed? Napoleon or Hitler? Excellent point, Erwin. The coincidences are eerie, even including the prodigious powers of memory they shared.
  17. A man does not have himself killed for a few halfpence a day or for a petty distinction. You must speak to the soul in order to electrify the man.- NapoleonEven after 200 years we still feel the reverberations of Napoleon’s personality. We identify with the Corsican; many of us glory in his triumphs and regret his downfall- it's personal. He left a lasting imprint upon his contemporaries who speak of his iron will, power of concentration, and near inhuman work ethic not to mention a charismatic charm that we still fell today. Napoleon’s soldiers adored him; at times it seemed they- both Frenchmen and foreigners- were eager to die for him. His powers of recall were legendary:…when on campaign in 1805 one of his subordinates could not locate his division, while his aids searched through maps and papers, the Emperor informed the officer of his unit's present location, where he would be for the next three nights, the status and resume of the units strength as well as the subordinates military record. This out of an army with seven corps, a total of 200,000 men, with all the units on the move.(1)In his early years, Napoleon was an innovator; his tactical maneuvering was dazzling. These innovations were refined and reached their height during the battles of Ulm, Austerlitz, and Jena in the period of 1805-1806. In contrast to his opponents, he benefited from an excellent officer class based on talent rather than social position.The army corps system, with its flexibility and limitless variation, gave Napoleon an early advantage over his opponents. His motto: speed and more speed. His indirect approach, La maneuver sur les derrieres, descended at the critical moment to decide the battle. He used it- among other grand tactical maneuvers- dozens of times with great success. One hitch: as the years passed his enemies successfully copied these tactics.Given Napoleon’s domination in the period up to (arguably) 1806 why do we see an erosion in his powers leading to his final downfall in 1815, nine years later? Some historians attribute the decline to several factors: the increased efficiency of his opponents; the decreasing quality of his own troops; and the limitations of his subordinates. Or simply hubris on the part of the Emperor. Certainly, after Jena there were still many victories for Napoleon to win, but it was after this period that his judgment gradually declines. In the field of grand strategy, he became prone to make incredibly gross blunders. The most egregious of them, the campaigns in Spain and Russia, sealed his fate.THE SPANISH ULCERFrom the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step. – NapoleonAfter 1806 the armies of France and her enemies grew to gargantuan proportions along with the causality lists; at the battle of Eylau in1807, a draw, Napoleon suffered 25,000 killed and wounded. Following the French victory at Friedland, Napoleon turned his eyes to Spain. He resolved to seize Portugal which had been defying the blockade against Britain under his Continental System. Spain was in the way.The Second of May 1808, by Goya. A Spanish guerilla faces a firing squad.Napoleon arrived in 1808. After achieving an initial victory and replacing the King he left the affairs of Spain to his Marshals never to return. But he came to envision the acquisition of the country via royal puppets ultimately choosing his brother. Used to imposing his will, he assumed the Spanish would acquiesce in all of this but the conservative, Catholic population rose in bloody revolt.A new kind of war began for us, a war of constant ambush, murder and extermination. No more battles like Eylau and Friedland, but a daily struggle against invisible enemies, thousands of them: hidden in the wilderness, in the bottom of gorges, guerrillas ready to fight in every corner of every building, with neither truce, nor rest; and always the fear of betrayal day and night, at any point, at any bend of a trail, even while we were in bed. -Colonel Joseph MarnierWhile the French were victorious in battle (when not facing the Duke), they were eventually defeated as their communications and supplies were severely tested; their units were frequently isolated, harassed, or overwhelmed by partisans fighting an intense, no-quarter-given guerrilla war of raids, ambushes, and atrocities. Meanwhile, the British under Wellington in Lisbon first resisted the French invasion of Portugal then swept them out of Spain arriving in Southern France in 1814.Spain was to cost Napoleon an annual commitment of 300,000 men per year fighting in the peninsula and after five years of warfare, they suffered 260,000 casualties. The order of battle was deceptive; all but an estimated 70,000 of the soldiers were, at any one time, tied down chasing the guerillas.From 1808-1814, the Emperor would face two fronts. The debacle in Russia may not have been caused directly by events in Spain but the German campaign of 1813 certainly was; 200,000 French troops remained tied down in the Peninsula. They were sorely missed. Napoleon, thin in cavalry, resorted to recruiting youths and dregs of society while Wellington's Spanish successes served to hearten the Prussian-Russian alliance that was wavering after setbacks at Lutzen and Bautzen.MOTHER RUSSIAI have come once and for all to finish off these barbarians of the North. The sword is now drawn. They must be pushed back into their ice, so that for the next 25 years they no longer come to busy themselves with the affairs of civilized Europe.–NapoleonCharles XII tried it, Napoleon tried it, Hitler tried it. It never seems to work out invading Russia.- David A. Bell, Princeton UniversityAlexander IThe Russian Czar, Alexander I, was growing impatient with Napoleon’s Continental System designed to kneecap Britain through embargoes. The policy was causing a disastrous drop in trade followed by a collapse in the Ruble so he ceased complying in 1810. He then imposed a heavy tax on French luxury products and, making it personal, rebuffed Napoleon’s proposal to marry one of his sisters. Furious, the Emperor resolved to force the Czar to the negotiating table and bend him to his will. This never materialized. The official Casus Belli, the enforcement of the Continental System, was virtually the same as Portugal in 1806.The decision of the 1812 invasion of Russia had been Napoleon’s alone and had been taken against warnings to the contrary. Despite amassing over 600,000 soldiers Napoleon expected a limited war, essentially a punitive action. The Russians perceived it as a struggle to the death. This is the moment when hack modern psychoanalysts declare his megalomania.The war started badly: while reconnoitering the frontier on horseback in front of thousands of his men Napoleon’s mount reared, throwing the Emperor to the ground. He quickly got back on the saddle but the event was not forgotten by the superstitious troops; the ill omen spread through the ranks.After a brief battle near the border, the Russians began a long retreat employing using a scorched earth policy that denied sustenance to the French. A second indecisive battle at Smolensk left thousands of French dead. The summer heat became oppressive and Grande Armee soldiers were coming down with insect-borne diseases including typhus and dysentery. Hunger and desertion began to haunt Napoleon's troops.Finally, the Russians offered battle at Borodino 75 miles from Moscow, a set-piece slugfest causing 70,000 casualties but the French owned the field at the end. Napoleon’s usual decisiveness and tactical finesse were absent- but he was suffering from piles. On September 19 the French entered the ancient capital, only to see it to become engulfed in flames.Napoleon waited in vain for the expected surrender terms from the Czar. If he wished to decapitate the Russian Empire he made the wrong choice of city. Moscow was the largest and the more accessible but Alexander, his court, and the Imperial bureaucracy resided in St Petersburg, a city built on islands whose approach was guarded by dense forests. Secure, the Czar felt no need to come to terms.Napoleon led his army out of Moscow on October 10, realizing that it could not survive the winter. The well-known privations and horrors (including cannibalism) suffered by the Grande Armee in retreat will not be brought up here. Britannica estimates that of the 612,000 combatants who entered Russia only 112,000 crossed back over the Niemen River. The catastrophic loss of men, not to mention 200,000 horses, would hobble the French in the decisive- and enormous- battles of 1813.SUMMARYThe ill-conceived campaigns in Spain and Russia were not the only determinate factors that caused Napoleon to end up in his little kingdom on the island of Elba. From a strictly military point of view, yes they were, but from a Grand Strategy point of view, his greatest- and most determined enemy was Great Britain with her bottomless finances, her economic and industrial contributions, and her selective military interventions. He would defeat one enemy or alliance only to see another rise up supported by England. After the Battle of the Nile, her naval assets restricted, for the most part, Napoleon to the continent.Napoleon’s career presents a paradox; as a tactical commander in the field he was unsurpassed, in the arena of grand strategy he could be erratic and impulsive; his gambling sense failed him. It seems Napoleon was at his best leading small to medium-sized armies, not the increasingly enormous and ungainly numbers he led after 1806, most notably the German campaign in 1813. His wizardry reappeared in the 1814 campaign in France leading modest-sized forces. During the later part of the Empire, he faced more proficient enemy commanders some of whom had learned their trade from him. Nevertheless, Napoleon deserves, IMHO, his traditional reputation as one of history's great military commanders. (1) https://www.napoleon-series.org/researc ... enius.html
  18. Note: consider this essay as a diversion from the coronavirus. Some of our most notorious dictators have had, in addition to the usual depredations, a hobby in common: an infatuation with cinema. The mise en scene appears common to all; the leader invites his minions to see a movie, these, typically a dozen or two, are seated in his personal screening room. They watch a film (woe to the guest who nods off) and at the end- or during- the leader delivers pronouncements on its director and actors; he’s rarely contradicted. Frequently the attendees are forced to sit through multiple, and often exhausting, offerings and some of the leader’s favorite films are shown ad nauseum. HITLERAfter dinner Hitler would invite Nazi big shots to his private screening room at the Berghof; the prints were provided by Joseph Goebbels’ international contacts. His voracious appetite for film exhausted his entourage who were unused to binge-watching. Albert Speer appreciated how much the pictures lightened the Fuhrer’s mood, but dreaded having to endure the nightly marathon; often one flic after another. Some of the foreign films were subtitled, others not. His adjutants with some foreign language skills would try to translate on the fly with mixed results; Hitler didn’t seem to care.We know Hitler’s favorites. Along with Gone with the Wind, he enjoyed Laurel &Hardy, Snow White, King Kong, and many American westerns. For his birthday in 1937, Goebbels gave him 12 Mickey Mouse reels. Hitler was fond of every film directed by Fritz Lang, a Jew. His private projection room included him and others banned by his regime. Charlie Chaplin’s spoof The Great Dictator was released in 1939 but we don’t how it was received by Hitler, if even he saw it.According to his pilot, Hans Baur, Hitler would avert his eyes at the sight of animals being hunted but not when men were brutalized. And he was a bit of a prude; the 1938 film ‘Capriccio’ included a brothel scene. Hitler’s reaction: ’this is a piece of ****!’. His judgments were not open to appeal; the film was immediately removed from the theaters. During the screenings his adjutants scrutinized his reactions; if favorable they would alert Goebbels for another viewing.Once the war began, Hitler’s viewing decreased, but he did watch 1939's Gone with the Wind multiple times at the insistence of Eva Braun; she couldn’t get enough of it. He told Goebbels, 'Now that, that is something our own people should also be able to do.' They never did.STALINRe-creation of Stalin’s movie roomAlthough Stalin owned lavish cinema setups in every one of his many homes but the pièce de résistance was held in the Great Kremlin Palace. It seated 20 leather armchairs and the peripherals were top-notch: high-tech lighting and sound were serviced by a crew of experienced technicians. Scattered tables offered hors d'oeuvres, wine, and -an essential- Vodka; as a tactic, Stalin encouraged inebriation among his guests- typically Politburo ministers and assorted apparatchiks- on the theory that drunks tell no lies.Stalin, nursing a glass of mineral water and Vodka, sat in the middle of the front row. Invariably he would announce ‘What will Comrade Bolshakov (above) show us today?’ Ivan Bolshakov was the Soviet minister of film and it was up to him to select the evening’s film(s), a hazardous job if it failed to please the Vozhd. On occasion Stalin would announce jokingly, ‘If this is no good, we’ll sign his death sentence!’ The ensuing laughter was mandatory.Stalin and other members of his inner circle were watching a movie that Bolshakov had brought. Suddenly, without saying a word, Stalin stood up and left the room. There was big confusion and comrades, who had always aligned with their leader’s opinion, began blaming Bolshakov. “What utter crap have you brought us here, Comrade Bolshakov!” shouted Molotov. And continued: “The movie must be banned and all of those responsible, must be punished!” All others agreed. Suddenly the door opened and Stalin entered with his coat on as if nothing had happened. “Why did you stop the movie? Great film! Let’s continue!” Everyone was pale. “The film strip broke off”, mumbled Molotov and the cinema show continued.- Simon Sebag Montefiore, Stalin; the Court of the Red StarAnother arduous duty of Bolshakov was translating the various foreign films often with comic results. The dialogue was often utterly incomprehensible to anyone in the audience but Stalin, like Hitler, remained absorbed nevertheless. But give Bolshakov his due, he remained in his job for fifteen years; the previous head of Soviet cinema had been lined up against a wall and shot- for reasons unclear.Stalin considered himself an expert movie critic. He would heavily intrude into the production process ‘suggesting’ improvements or revisions with dialogue, plot and suitable actors. Many of the industry players were justifiably terrified but Stalin would feign humility: ‘You don’t have to listen to me. This is just a suggestion from an ordinary viewer. Take it or leave it.’ Yet even the great director, Sergei Eisenstein (above), prudently allowed Stalin to lecture him on every aspect of his trade. Similar again to Hitler, Stalin was prudish in his tastes. In the film, Volga Volga, he ordered a long scene depicting a French kiss be cut out. He adored Spencer Tracy and he allegedly watched Boys Town 25 times. During a fight scene, Stalin would excitedly grab the viewer next to him saying ‘look at that! Look at that!’ But his all-time favorite was the 1934 Chapayev, depicting the life of the Russian Civil War commander, Vasily Chapayev. It’s said he saw it 39 times. SUMMATION Why are dictators drawn to film? It appears there are no exceptions. The propaganda aspect cannot be denied but aside documentaries like those of Leni Riefenstahl, essentially advertisements for Nazi Germany despite the indisputable artistry. The films cited here were designed for entertainment. Of course, there’s the prestige factor, nations wish to impress their rivals with their cultural achievements; for many years the US film industry rose to the status of near hegemony. Or is there an additional element? The screenings- the trappings- favored by Hitler and Stalin suggest something more calculated. The modalities were almost precisely identical; the private screening room, an audience of party members usually around 20, the primacy of the leader who cannot be contradicted and chooses the film, often multiple films. The small audience fosters an agreeable sense of ‘eliteness’ among party members at the same time they're remain mostly silent; the leader does most of the talking and he has strong opinions. The guests are reduced to passivity; the leader’s authority is reinforced. But this is pure speculation. A POTPOURRI OF DICTATORS Some dictators were not content with merely screening movies; they aspired to be screenwriters and directors in their own right. Benito Mussolini approached Columbia Pictures with a million dollars to make a biopic about his life, even offering to write the script himself. Columbia mercifully refused.Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein plunged $30 million into the production of an epic war movie starring British actor Oliver Reed. Witnesses confirm that his role was ‘hands-on’. Entitled ‘Clash of Loyalties’ and produced in 1983, it quickly sank beneath the endless sands of the desert.We’re told the Korean despot, Kim Il-Jong, was never tempted to aspire behind the camera but is nevertheless an indefatigable movie-lover. His favorites were the James Bond films, Friday the 13th films, and anything with Elizabeth Taylor. It’s rumored that he owns the largest private collection of films in the world. In 1978, when Kim Jong-Il was just the dictator-in-waiting of North Korea, he reportedly ordered the kidnapping of the most famous film director in South Korea. Shin Sang Ok was imprisoned for years in Pyongyang and forced to make movies under Kim's supervision.
  19. California, where I live, and New York have applied the most stringent rules vi-a-vis the virus. Simply walking on the sidewalk here in LA- without serious purpose- risks a ticket. One notices that there are two opposing sides: those that wish to clamp down on nearly all economic activity in the interest of 'health' and those fearing a recession or worse, don't. Saving humanity or, borrowing from Tacitus, a case of leaving a desert and calling it peace. Maybe a compromise?
  20. Not all of Kepler’s siblings rushed to her side like he did — a sister pleaded hardship, a brother withdrew his support when he began to feel threatened, and another brother joined the prosecution. I’d like to meet that guy. Part 1: The Ancient Background: Burning at the stake- and its variations- is one of those most fearful modes of execution; the practice goes back to ancient Babylonia. It’s also mentioned in the book of Genesis, usually reserved for sexual crimes but that Hebraic custom eventually died out. Diodorus Siculus, a 1st century Greek historian, mentions the so-called Brazen Bull a torture and execution device that was used centuries before: The bull was said to be made entirely out of bronze, hollow, with a door in one side.. According to legends the Brazen Bull was designed in the form and size of an actual bull and had an acoustic apparatus that converted screams into the sound of a bull. The condemned were locked inside the device, and a fire was set under it, heating the metal until the person inside was roasted to death. -Ancient World Review Lovely. Julius Caesar reported that the ancient Celts practiced the burning alive of humans, that being prescribed by Druidic law. The Romans, horrified, stamped out the tradition throughout the empire and there are few reports until the reign of Nero who blamed the famous Fire of Rome in 64AD on the tiny sect of Christians residing in the Rome. He had the victims wrapped in the ‘tunica molesta’ a garment doused in pitch that was lit and raised on poles to illuminate the City streets at night. There was a lull until the 3rd century when we read that Roman jurisprudence declared that army deserters and arsonists were liable to death by fire. The state reacted similarly to the burgeoning number of Christian converts- without enduring success- and the members of the new faith would grow to command the heights of the government. But the Christians eventually devolved into battling sects, destabilizing the state. Beginning with Constantine the Great in the 4th century the Christians deemed heretics were, in a reversal of fate, now vulnerable to burning and the practice continued into the Byzantine Empire. But compared with late Medieval Europe, the era of Kepler, these auto-da-fés were likely on a small scale.
  21. An interesting map of Vienna just prior to WW1. A single section of Vienna played host to Adolf Hitler, Leon Trotsky, Joseph Tito, Sigmund Freud and Joseph Stalin. The two revolutionaries, Stalin and Trotsky, were on the run while Sigmund Freud was already well established. Hitler was hawking his paintings and postcards. All men, for better or worse, would shape the 20th century. Although Karl Marx never lived in Vienna that city honored him with the Karl-Marx-Hof , the longest single residential building in the world. It was built between 1927 and 1930.
  22. THE ASTRONOMER Johannes Kepler, the discoverer of the laws of planetary motion, was born 1571 in the town of Weil der Stadt, Germany; he received a master’s degree from the University of Tubingen in 1588. The great Polish astronomer Copernicus had, in 1533, proposed that the planets revolved in predictable cycles around the sun rather than the earth. For many Christian prelates of the day, this amounted to heresy; after all, the Old Testament tells us that Joshua defeated the Amorites by God’s intervention, halting the sun in its path and extending the daylight. As a student, Kepler became convinced of Copernicus’ heliocentric theory but he remained a steadfast Lutheran to the end. Leaving Tubingen, Kepler became for several years a professor at the Academy of Graz where he wrote his first book on astronomy. Although his theories turned out to be completely incorrect he attracted the attention of Tycho Brahe, the greatest astronomer of the day, who recruited him as his assistant at his observatory in Prague. Upon Tycho’s death in 1600 Kepler was appointed Imperial Mathematician by the Holy Roman Emperor. He held the position for the rest of his life. Tycho, a careful and accurate observer, was the last significant astronomer before the invention of the telescope. Relying on his records, Kepler believed that he would determine which theory of planetary motion was correct: the heliocentric theory of Copernicus, the ancient geocentric theory of Ptolemy, or a third advanced by Tycho. However after years of calculations he found, to his dismay, that his mentor’s observations were inconsistent with any of these theories. Tycho and all the classical astronomers assumed that planetary orbits consisted of circles, or combinations of circles. Kepler discovered- and would prove- that planetary orbits were not circular but elliptical; it was a huge scientific breakthrough. He exulted: I give myself up to divine ecstasy… My book is written. It will be read either by my contemporaries or by posterity- I care not which. It may well a hundred years for a reader, as God waited 6,000 for someone to understand his work. Kepler went on to provide a complete and correct description of the motions of the planets around the sun, solving many of the basic problems of astronomy that had baffled Copernicus and Galileo. Though unable to prove it- lacking future methods- he was the first to suggest that planetary motions were controlled by forces emanating from the sun. The challenges were immense; mathematical techniques of his day were primitive and calculators had yet to be invented. Kepler did all the laborious computations by hand. In his great book, Astronomia Nova published in 1609, he formally presented the laws of planetary motion. Gutenberg’s printing press had resulted in an enormous rise in literacy and the book (written in Latin) would go on to garner a wide audience, Kepler becoming famous throughout Europe. However, the most difficult challenge awaited him; in 1620, his mother was arrested for witchcraft. THE DEVOTED SON Witchcraft trials were not uncommon throughout the Middle-Ages but the phenomenon became a craze around the time Luther nailed his 95 theses to the cathedral door in 1517. Anonymous accusations flew; the air breathed paranoia. Persecutions continued through and after the Reformation; both Protestants and Catholics staged trials with varying numbers of executions. Around 50,000 Europeans are estimated to have perished in witchcraft trials between 1500 and 1700 and the most common mode of execution was being burned at the stake, a singularly horrific way to die. Several historians estimate that 75% of the victims were females. In 1615 Kepler’s 68-year-old mother, Kathalina was accused of witchcraft by neighbors in her home town of Leonberg; they had always considered her 'eccentric'. Her crimes were various; a glazier accused her of poisoning his wife and a 12-year-old girl testified that Kathalina had rendered her finger useless by touching her while the two passed on the street. She was also accused of killing local animals and turning herself into a cat. Kathalina was arrested and her incarceration would last for six years; the final 14 months saw her attached to an iron chain on the floor of her cell. She would have been shown the instruments of torture – they would screw thumbs with heavy irons, and sometimes the thumb would come completely off, causing excruciating pain. They would pull people up on a rack into the air. And she would be talked to in very threatening terms, all the time with a clear agenda to get her to confess. -Ulinka Rublack, a professor of early modern history at Cambridge Kepler dropped everything and moved his family from Linz to Leonberg to take up his mother’s defense. His intervention carried the risk of sharing his mother’s fate if one of the zealous prosecutors judged him complicit. At the trial, Kepler displayed a scientist’s logic, a lawyer’s legerdemain, and consummate courage. Rublack describes his defense as a ’rhetorical masterpiece’: He was very good at spotting inconsistencies, and at dissecting in a very scientific way the accusations. So he mounted a very pioneering defence. The statue of Kathalina in Eltigegn A broken Kathalina was released in the autumn of 1621 and she died six months later, her four children surviving her. She was 74. Not all of Kepler’s siblings rushed to her side like he did — a sister pleaded hardship, a brother withdrew his support when he began to feel threatened, and another brother joined the prosecution. Kepler died in 1630 in Regensburg, Bavaria. During the turmoil of the Thirty Year’s War, his grave was destroyed; the location of his final resting place remains unknown.
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