Space and the commies (Survey 8: 1915-1925)


Charlestons and communists: science

Cecilia Payne at Harvard.

Cecilia Payne born on May 10, 1900 in England had an arduous path to becoming a prolific scientist in a male dominated field. In 1925, she became the first person to have a PhD in astronomy from Radcliffe College. Her thesis during her doctoral degree in astronomy called “Stellar Atmospheres, A Contribution to the Observational Study of High Temperature in the Reversing Layers of Stars” included calculations on chemical elements from stellar spectra. She used the ionization theory, developed by Indian physicist Meghnad Saha, to relate spectral classes of stars with their temperatures, meaning stars could be classified by their temperatures found. Meghnad Saha’s work from 1920 explained the thermal ionization of atoms by using an equilibrium equation that explained many properties of the stellar atmosphere which Payne had referred to in her thesis and studies. Through her studies, she supported the common belief that the Sun’s spectrum consisted of silicon, carbon, and common metals which was the same amount found on Earth. However, she discovered that helium and especially hydrogen were much more abundant, and that hydrogen was the most abundant element in the universe. Unlike Earth, hydrogen and helium are dominant elements of the sun and stars. However, since her thesis went against accepted wisdom of their time, astronomer Henry Norris Russell convinced her from including this discovery in her thesis but found out 4 years later that she was correct.

Physicist Doctor Meghnad Saha who developed the ionization theory
astronomer Henry Norris Russell who is often credited for the conclusions Payne reached in his publication

After her doctorate Payne studied stars to understand the structure of the Milky Way and produced a second book, “Stars of High Luminosity”, in 1930. This book consisted of over 3 million observations done by her and her assistants of variable stars. Payne-Gaposchkin, after marrying Sergei Gaposchkin, spent her whole career at Harvard. She worked without an official position and thus considered leaving due to the low recognition and in 1938 she was given “astronomer” as her title. In 1956, after Donald Menzel become the Director of the Harvard College Observatory in 1954, Payne-Gaposchkin became the first woman to become a professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard and later became the first woman to become department head at Harvard.

Harvard College Observatory








The giant pot of peacock feathers and ornate furniture (Survey 5: 1850-1895)


Painters and posters: culture

In North America, industrial America was the hub of cultures mixing together through immigration and assimilation of people looking for new economic opportunities to support themselves and their families. Immigration hugely consisted of Europeans from Germany, Ireland, Britain, Italy, Poland, and other Slavic-speaking countries.

Urban culture consisted of minstrel shows which consisted of dances, skits, and songs that were originally based on stereotypes and racism and were popular even among the immigrant population; they primarily mocked people of African descent and included people dressing up in black face. Vaudeville, originating from the Parisian boulevard theatre, was another form of entertainment that consisted of many acts such as burlesque-styled dances and comedy, juggling acts, and magic shows and were popular in beer halls. Varying from raucous to elaborate they later became more respectable and family oriented. World fairs were starting to be held in cities to showcase their cultural and technological achievements, an example being The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, known as the railroad center, in 1893 which undermined the Indigenous and celebrated Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World in 1492.

Shows consisted of about 10-12 acts including dancing, singing, juggling, magic shows, and comedy skits
A “Hurly Burly” extravaganza.











Advertisement of racist minstrel show with white actors and their black characters

Immigration not only brought new cultures, customs, and traditions, but also new tensions. Immigration was sometimes viewed as a problem by native-born Americans and the anti-immigrant attitude was stemmed from racist or ethno-centric attitudes. The Roman Catholic Church played a confusing role for Catholics by wanting to preserve the values of old country yet aiding in assimilation in America. For example, in North America bishops pushed for standardization by unifying the catechism, an introduction to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and control. Many native-born Americans however failed to notice that immigrants were assimilating and attempting to be a part of the broad ‘American culture’ and were an essential part of the working class.

Jewish market in the Upper East Side of New York, N.Y.

In order to combat this ‘threat’ of new cultures by immigration the upper class in society pushed for ‘high culture’ by combining art, classical literature, social sciences, and philosophical ideas and ideas of government based on western Europe. This was spread through museums, libraries, and universities. Opera, orchestral music, and theatre such as Shakespeare was moved from a casual vaudeville-setting into the stage where only the elite and educated could have the experience; opera houses, halls and nuseus alike were built and sustained by private patrons. This helped American cities transform into centres of high art and therefore become culturally distinct through the perceived threat of new immigrants.

The Metropolitan Opera House on Broadway in New York





Romance is in the air, along with pollution (Survey 4: 1750-1850)

Lecture summary.

As humanists emerged into society,  the Age of Enlightenment began and romance began to blossom. Many new inventions, most importantly the steam engine which was improved by James Watt in 1769, made life easier and enabled more time for people to have time and money to read. As the number of literate people increased, printing technology had to keep up with their demands. Lithography, or planographic printing, was invented in 1796 by Alois Senefelder which used stone printing and small incisions. Using wax pencil to illustrate on the stone, acid was used to dissolve everything around and create an image and text, most popular being maps. To keep up with demand and avoid expensive ways of printing “jobbing printers” were invented; this resulted in misused   and overused typefaces resulting in disorganized posters. Typefaces such as fat-face, slab-serif, and sans-serif were jumbled together in an attempt to capture their audience. In our discussion it was mentioned how although the tools for making posters were available, it didn’t mean they were used correctly, similar to how even though photoshop is available today not everyone knows how to use it to it’s potential.



Steam and the speed of light: fashion

Fashion was making its breakthrough around the world. From France to Japan to India, globalization and trade spread trends and goods to opposite ends of the world. The Muslim dynasty in India brought in Mughal influence which consisted of intricate patterns and extravagant jewelry that beautifully complimented their interest in poetry and art.

Luxurious fabrics were primarily made of muslin, silk, velvet, and brocade. Muslin, named after the city Mosul in Iraq, was a versatile cotton fabric that ranged from sheer to coarse; it was eventually imported into Europe from Bengal in the 17th century. Ab-e-rawan, daft hawa, and shabnam were common types of muslin poetically named after “running water”, “woven air”, and “evening dew” respectively due to their delicate nature. Elaborate patterns consisted of dots, checks, waves, and intricate embroidery done in silver and gold thread. The fabrics were dyed bright using long lasting natural dyes such as carmine, which is derived from the scale insect called cochineal.

Woman adorned in jewelry, wearing fine muslin from Bengali region in 18th century, painted by Francesco Renaldi.


Gold-threaded floral pattern on silk.

Jewelry was an integral part of lifestyle among men and women, and even horses, and showcased their rank in society. Women would own varying pieces that would adorn themselves from head to toe such as 2-inch armlets that were worn above the elbows, bracelets or strings of pearls, rings, and anklets. Ornaments in the shape of suns, stars, flowers, and moons were worn in the middle of the forehead as well as nose ornaments.

The ghararais a traditional outfit originating from the north of India during the era of the Nawabs who were originally from Iran and ruled from the 18th to 19th centuries. The outfit, usually made from silk brocade, consists of a tunic reaching the mid-thigh, called a kurti, a veil, called a dupatta, and loose pants that are pleated at the knee to make the pants flare out. At the knee, there are intricate patterns embroidered in fine gold or silver thread called zari.

Silk brocade.


Traditional Gharara outfit worn by woman in Lucknow, India.


Gharara outfit worn by woman during her wedding. “Zari”, or elaborate embroidery in gold or silver thread along the knee, is shown.



Columbus is coming (Survey 3: 1450-1750 CE)

Lecture summary.

The 1500’s to 1700’s revolutionized the world by boosting exploration and unearthing scientific discoveries that would change the world forever. In 1514, for example, Nicolaus Copernicus boldly claimed that the sun and not the earth was the centre of our solar system. He published his heliocentric theory, the theory that the centre of the solar system is the sun,  called, “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium” or “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres” in 1543. Unfortunately, this astronomy book was banned in 1616 by the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation of the Index  due to it questioning the teachings of Christianity where earth is the centre of the universe; on the other hand, the publication of this book is awarded to mark the beginning of the scientific revolution. It’s very interesting seeing how divided people such as scientists and the church were in regards to the answers of our universe. While both claimed that they were correct, scientists such as Galileo Galilei who is regarded as the “father of observational astronomy” and discovered that Jupiter has four moons, known as the Galilean moons, and Hans Lippershey, who invented the telescope in 1608, dauntingly testified against some teachings of the Vatican.



Block books and Baroque: geo-political

World exploration was on the rise in Europe and with new discoveries came globalization and colonization. The Indigenous of Canada and the Americas were greatly affected by the Europeans and their quest to take resources for their home land. Before colonization, it was common practice for Indigenous peoples to enslave captured people in war. War captives were killed, enslaved or adopted ritually into their kin; males were usually enslaved or exorcised by means of torture whereas females were usually enslaved. Formally adopting war captives was a means of replacing those lost in battles and keeping integrating new kin. The mindset of many Indigenous was usually kin versus outsiders or other clans. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy (Iroquois), for example, consisted of sixty percent war captives that were integrated into their lineage in the 1660s. However, as the age of exploration dawned during the 1400s and the 1500s, Indigenous were captured, killed, and torn apart from their culture and families.

Family council being held regarding important matters.


The Spanish, most knowingly Christopher Columbus, captured and shipped the Indigenous of present-day South and Central America to Spain to gain political clout in 1493. This helped fuel the slave trade by the Spanish in which their settlement in the New World was fueled by the forced labour of many Native Caribbean people during Columbus’ four voyages and caused the spread of disease and death among many of the Indigenous.

The four voyages of Christopher Columbus.
A depiction of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Bahamian Islands, not in Asia as he initially intended.


Jacques Cartier, a navigator from France also called the “founder of Canada”, led three expeditions to the Canadian maritime and into Québec while accurately mapping the interior of the St. Lawrence River. His first voyage consisted of reaching the provinces that’re known now as Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. He also encountered Iroquois-speaking Indigenous in today’s Québec, the Haudenosaunee, in which they had contact and negotiated resulting in two of the chief Donnacona’s sons being brought to France as well as abducting several Indigenous in 1534. The second voyage, from 1535 to 1536, consisted of more men and ships and with the guidance of Donnacona’s sons they travelled the “Canada River”, later named the St. Lawrence River, to what is now Québec City. Although relationships were weak between the Indigenous and French, they survived the scurvy during the winter by the help of the Indigenous and their use of evergreen trees. Come spring, Cartier abducted Chief Donnacona himself, his two sons and sever other Haudenosaunee people and brought them to France in 1536, where they all died. Among the Indigenous, war broke out between the Haudenosaunee and the allies of the French; Iroquois clan leaders captured enemies to be adopted into their clan as replacement for those lost in battles. By the 1660s, about sixty percent of the Haudenosaunee consisted of adopted war captives.

A romanticized portrayal of Indigenous and French contact.



Early History

“Fighting for Justice on the Coast”,  John Price, University of Victoria

Make room for paper-oh wait you don’t have to (Survey 2: 0-1450 CE)

Lecure summary.

In our lecture today, we discussed how ideas travelled from China, Europe, the Middle East and the rest of the world. It’s amazing how kingdoms were connected and how ideas came to develop especially when the Silk Road was prevalent. For example, paper didn’t make much of a breakthrough until around 105 CE in China, but before that the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and many more relied on Egypt’s exported papyrus. Parchment made its appearance around Egypt and spread to the Middle East by the Silk Trade route in the sixth century and was used in Europe from the 6th century throughout the fourteenth century. Printing also originated in China and soon made its way to India where they excelled in fabric printing from the medieval age onwards. Parchment was further evolved in China when Cai Lun kickstarted the paper-making industry. From there, paper was improved in Europe by using water mills to make pulp for papermaking.  Illuminated manuscripts were also making their way around the world. In the east, the Quran was decorated with gold leafing making the pages look illuminated along with intricate designs which would border the holy text. This enamoured and inspired those in the west where they also integrated gold leafing into their text. The Celtic Psalter contains Arabic-styled script which most likely came to be during the Christian crusade. It’s very interesting to see how ideas evolve as they’re adopted by other cultures and kingdoms; from paper-making to printing, globalization spread ideas far and wide and provided solutions and new technology.



From God to Gutenberg: science and tools

Papyrus was used in Europe until around the 7th to 8th century when it was replaced by something more efficient and foldable: parchment. Papyrus (fig. 1), made by pressing the papyrus plant found in swamps and the valley of the Nile, was replaced by parchment for its practicality and quality; it was foldable, making it possible to efficiently store and find information in a compact way in the form of a bound book called a codex and was thicker and more durable.

Fig. 1: A receipt for a donkey on papyrus.

Some early examples of parchment books are the Magna Carta and the Doomesday Book. The Romans and Greeks relied on Egypt’s papyrus until Ptolemy Epiphanes, the king of Egypt, banned exports of papyrus in fear of Egypt’s library rivalling with Alexandria’s. Parchment is stretched and dried animal skin such as calfskin, also called vellum, goatskin, or sheepskin and became common in the middle east by the 6th century and commonly used in Europe from the 6th to 14th century. Animal skin was skinned of hair and fat from the inside then soaked in water with a chalk, or flour, and salt mixture, giving a smooth writing surface. Then the skin was soaked in tannin (gallic acid) made of oak-gall in order to preserve it. Since parchment was hard to glue and roll into a scroll, unlike papyrus, books came to be around 50 CE as a solution!

Paper, believed to have originated from China in the 2nd to 3rd century BCE, was exclusive to China until it spread to the Islamic world in the 8th century and Europe around the 11th century. Cai Lun, the first in the paper-making industry, came up with a recipe in 105 CE inspired from tree bark. He combined chopped mulberry bark, hemp rags, water, fish nets and hammered it flat then pressed out water to leave out to dry in the sun.

Fig 2: The Diamond Sutra of 868, the world’s earliest complete and dated, printed book.

The advantage of paper was very apparent; it wasn’t erasable since it absorbed ink, making forgery difficult, which was beneficial to banks, businesses, and traders of the Silk Road. In the 11th to 14th centuries Europe used automated pulping by using water mills to hammer and break down materials into pulp for paper-making. In Mexico, the Aztecs used agave plant fibres to make paper and long folded codices in the 1400’s (fig. 3).

Fig 3: From the Codex Xolotl, Huitzilopochtli, the deity of war, sun, and human sacrifice, is depicted on paper.







Judy’s lecture + notes

When a hand has struck a chord (Survey 1: 35,000 to 0 CE)

Lecture summary.

When a hand has struck a chord.

In our lecture we began with rock art as a key artistic influence which has been found to go far back as 4000 CE. The two types of rock art are petroglyphs and pictographs, found in Africa, Australia, and the Americas. Petroglyphs, or rock carvings, also found locally around Vancouver Island, as we discussed, is a great example showcasing a glimpse of the lives of these inhabitants. Rock art of fish and other water creatures perhaps showcased their diet or pinpointed areas of fishing or migration. Pictographs, or paintings created by scratching off a pigment powder, located in caves, are the second type of rock art. I found examples of pictographs to be especially intriguing when I saw a painting of a hand which really gave a sense of mystery. I couldn’t help asking myself who this person was and what they were thinking; “Was this done by a child? Was she simply playing around like when I was four and drew pictures with markers on my walls?”, “What was his or her motive?”, “Was their purpose similar to a time capsule like I did in elementary school where we would see how we’ve grown over the years?”, “Was this person afraid of disappearing off the face of the planet and so they made their lasting mark or was this person embracing their customs and performing a ritual to enter the afterlife?”. I’ve had so many questions because these pictographs were so human, so similar to me, and I felt as if they were trying to speak to me from the past.



Handprints and handwriting: Object pattern and design

My research of pattern and design has taken me across the world. In Asia, in the Tarim Basin located in China, is the Sampul Tapestry. It depicts a possible Greek soldier holding a spear with a centaur above him. The depiction of Greek mythology and the blue-eyed soldier shows that Greek influence after Alexander the Great’s death, referred to Hellenistic Art, reached even the far northwest corner region of Xinjiang in China. Hellenistic art is an example of the influence of the kingdoms in Central Asia and northwest China coming into contact.

Along the Yellow and Yangtze River valleys are Neolithic ceramics dated from 6000 to 1000 CE. These are thin, painted ceramics with intricate shapes used as ritual vessels, jar for ashes, or storage before Bronze Age. These were hand built, showcasing craftsmanship, and were grey, black, or red in colour. The Yangshao culture, emerged in the central plain of the Yellow River Basin, would stack moulds of clay into desired shapes and smooth it with paddles or scrapers. Ceramics used for funeral rituals were usually red and black unlike those used for typical use. Early uses of lines which suggested movement made the fundamentals of art in Chinese history. Along the Yangzi River in the south, the Hemudu, Dawenkou, Longshan, and the Liangzhu cultures, primarily used gray and black on their pottery, probably from influence from central China. The distinct shapes were different than linear compositions of the central regions. Some pottery was painted, while others were mostly burnished and incised. Jade carvings were a unique part of China’s culture which was exclusive to eastern China.

The Mesopotamian cylinder seals, invented around 3500 CE, were hollow in the inside and strung on fiber or leather as a necklace or bracelet and worn by merchants, soldiers, scribes, servants, and many others including slaves and kings. They were carved out of limestone, marble, quartz, bronze, copper and even gold or silver. These were used as signatures by rolling them on soft clay since they each had unique designs. Rank and even the name of the owner could be read by looking at the character, gesture, and other elements. The importance of cylinder seals is they were the first example of early branding, tagging, and advertisements. They also showcased which trends were popular according to the time period they were made. Found around Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, these stones reveal a glimpse of the owner and the life of a Mesopotamian.



A common two-handled jar from the Majiayao culture (3300–2050 B.C.), located in upper Yellow River region


the Sampul Tapestry


A Mesopotamian cylinder seal and it’s depicted elements on clay





Mesopotamian Cylinder Seals