Notebooks – WIF Historical Scribbling

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Not This Kind!!!

10 Historically

Important Notebooks

You’ll find them in almost every shop and of varying shapes and sizes, but, at times, the humble notebook has actually played an important part in history. From influencing philosophical thought to illuminating the theory behind The Origin of Species, these examples will show you how important a little copy for keeping records in can be. Some revealed hidden truths about their writers posthumously, while some just helped the writer organize their mind, but all have been important in human history.

10. Beethoven’s

‘conversation notebooks’

beethoven-notebooks

Beethoven is notorious for always having carried around a notebook (as well as being an acclaimed composer, obviously). In fact, paintings of him usually had him holding one of his notebooks.

They were just published in full by Walter Nohl of Munich, after being the most prized possession of the Berlin State Library’s Music Department.  He used them to compose music, of course, but also to write down quotations of significance to him – things like ‘Tis said, that art is long, and life but fleeting:—Nay; life is long, and brief the span of art; If e’re her breath vouchsafes with gods a meeting, A moment’s favor ’tis of which we’ve had a part.’ He called his notebooks ‘conversation notebooks’. As he was entirely deaf for the last 12 years of his life, Beethoven handed these to his conversation partners whenever he wished to talk. He usually replied orally.

Topics included in his notebooks were worries about indigestion and his eye trouble, food, writing paper and the search for a good apartment – something many of us have experienced!

9. Hemingway’s notebooks

hemingway-notebooks

Hemingway is so famous for his love of notebooks that Moleskine boasts about being ‘the heir and successor to the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway’. Hemingway himself said ‘I belong to this notebook and this pencil.’ He was seldom seen without a notebook. He often wrote in little black notebooks, the predecessors to Moleskines, in Parisian cafés. He was a passionate devotee to a pencil and pocket notebook.

In fact, he brought them almost everywhere, not just to cafés – on trains and to bullfights, for example, for note-taking. He also used them to jot down expensesand even to record his wife’s menstrual cycles.

He has been described by Slate as being ‘what we would now call a neurotic’, and keeping records in notebooks helped him organize his thoughts.

8. The Fairchild notebooks

fairchild-notebooks

The Fairchild patent notebooks were crucial to our computerised world today. Their contents revolutionized the science and manufacture of microelectronics and launched the incredible growth of Silicon Valley. Ideas including modern semiconductor manufacture, integrated circuits, the technology that lets us power portable digital devices (like the phone or tablet you might be holding right now) and semiconductor memory all came from these notebooks. The engineering notebooks were kept by prominent people like Gordon Moore and Bob Noyce (founders of Intel), Jean Hoerni, Julius Blank, Eugene Kleiner, Victor Grinich, Jay Last, and Sheldon Roberts.

Incidentally, the notebooks also paved the way for Moore’s Law, the so-far-accurate idea that computer processing power would double roughly every two years.

A conservation project was started for them at the Computer History Museumtwo years ago when Texas Instruments donated the notebooks to the museum. Kathleen Orlenko assessed over 1,000 of the notebooks, dating from 1957 through the 70s.

7. Thomas Edison’s notebooks

edison-notebooks

Thomas Edison amassed approximately five million pages of writing in his sixty-year career as an inventor. He used notebooks to organize notes on his inventions and innovations. A note at the end of his pocket notebook for October 1870 says ‘all new inventions I will here after keep a full record’. These notebooks were used by him and his colleagues. The Thomas Edison National Historical Park has more than 3,000 of these notebooks, each with around 280 pages. It’s believed that his prolific writing and experimenting may have stretched up to 3,500 notebooks. He received the most US patents ever awarded to one person (1,093).

These included the light bulb, alkaline battery, phonograph and motion picture camera. Keeping notebooks was a life-long habit of his that helped him structure his ideas from conception to execution – tremendously important for our world today. He used them for everything, from brainstorming to recording results, and they helped him pursue his goal of making one minor invention every 10 days and one major one every six months.

Not only did they help him in his incredible productivity, the notebooks are also a highly valuable tool for modern-day historians trying to get an insight into his mind.

6. Heidegger’s black notebooks

heidegger-notebooks

German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s black notebooks sparked controversy when they were published in March 2014. He was widely viewed as a seminal thinker in the Continental tradition (a branch of philosophy that includes existentialism, German idealism, psychoanalytic theory and French feminism and the rejection of science as the ultimate method of understanding phenomena, among others). He became professor of philosophy at Freiburg. He was the most important Continental philosopher of the 20th century. His book Being and Time is a seminal work in the Continental tradition and he is widely considered the father of modern atheistic existentialism. He also made adifference outside philosophy, in areas as varied as architecture and theology.

He was involved in Nazism, but it was thought that this was a personal matter, not one that had leaked into his philosophical thinking – until, that is, the publication of his Black Notebooks. Heidegger wrote a kind of philosophical diary in little black-covered notebooks over forty years. They show that he actually incorporate anti-Semitic ideas into his philosophy, like when he wrote ‘the Jews, with their marked gift for calculating, live, already for the longest time, according to the principle of race, which is why they are resisting its consistent application with utmost violence.’

This has led to people wondering whether all of his highly influential ideas were contaminated by Nazism. As his writings inspired some of the most important thinkers of the modern era, these notebooks cast their reliability into doubt.

5. Sartre’s notebooks

Sartre-notebooks

Works published during philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s life showed that he agreed with Hegel that humans struggle against one another to win recognition but rejected some other aspects of Hegel’s philosophy. However, notebooks published after his death, titled Notebooks for an Ethics, displayed a dramatic about-turn in his thinking on the matter. The notebooks said that he now agreed with Hegel that the master/slave dynamic can be transcended through relations of mutual recognition – basically, the notebooks revealed a very different philosophy.

His work Existentialism is a Humanism presented arguments similar to Kant’s, which led to many scholars saying Sartre’s ideas came from Kant. However, in his notebooks he dismisses this idea and rejects Kantian ethics as a form of ‘slave morality’ and an ‘ethics of demands’. Ouch!

Sartre’s original ideas on freedom were widely criticized, and in the notebooks he too became critical of his early view. Thus, the notebooks are a veryimportant tool for understanding the philosophy of a key figure in the study of existentialism.

4. Charles Darwin’s notebooks

darwin-notebooks

Darwin kept diaries in notebooks throughout the Beagle voyage that would lead him to think of the theory of evolution. He took fourteen of them on his trips to the shore. During the voyage he kept field notes on his observations. As the voyage drew to a close, he also used one (his Red notebook) for theoretical speculations on subjects like geology and the formation of coral reefs. After the voyage he started a new series of notebooks for his thoughts on transmutation (evolution) and metaphysical enquiries.

The notebooks give a detailed account of his research, speculation and gradual understanding of where species come from. In his Notebook on Transmutation of Species (1837) he drew the first tree of descent with modification, or natural selection – more commonly known as an evolutionary tree.  This sketch has become famous. The notebooks were mostly completed by the 1840s. These notebooks were essential to the development to the widely accepted and hugely important theory of natural selection, and the precursor to The Origin of Species.

3. Albert Einstein’s notebooks

Einsteins-notebook

Like Thomas Edison and many other eminent scientists and inventors, Einsteinkept a notebook to record his calculations and ideas. In March 2012, 80,000 documents written by or addressed to Einstein were published online by Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Einstein Papers Project (EPP) at Caltech. This collection includes Einstein’s notebooks, which show the thought process of a revolutionary genius.

One of these is the Zurich notebook, written in the winter of 1912/13. This notebook shows how Einstein came by his theory of relativity, complete with notes and calculations. Other notebooks show lecture notes. The notebooks and letter show that he didn’t work alone, but actually exchanged ideas with many other scientists.

The Zurich notebook shows light-hearted sketches by Einstein, include mathematical puzzles of the day – so even he liked to have fun. The rest of the notebook has serious physics, including electrodynamics in four dimensions, the line element of general relativity, motion in curved surfaces, gravitation, invariants and the Riemann Tensor.

The notebooks give a valuable insight into the day-to-day workings of a brilliant mind.

2. The Prison Notebooks

Prison-Notebooks

The Prison notebooks are a series of notebooks written by Italian MarxistAntonio Gramsci while he was imprisoned in 1926 by the Fascist regime for being the founder and leader of the Communist party. Gramsci was a philosopher, politician and political theorist.  He wrote more than 30 notebooks with 3000 pages of history and analysis while he was imprisoned. The Prison Notebooks are thought of as a highly important and original contribution to 20th century political theory.

Gramsci’s writings pre-prison had been more specifically political, but The Prison Notebooks are relatively theoretical. Topics covered included education, intellectuals, fascism, hegemony and Marxism. He wrote these under the surveillance of a Fascist jailer, so he had to be careful about what he wrote. Because of this, his writings are disorganized and at times ambiguous. He was isolated from the events occurring outside prison, especially Stalinism and the victory of German fascism.

The notebooks were smuggled out of prison in the 1930s and published twenty years later.

1. Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks

davinci-notebooks

Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks are famous for having been written in mirror script, from right to left. Some say this was to make them harder to decipher, but it may just have been because da Vinci was left-handed and wanted to avoid smudging the paper. He wrote in his notebooks daily, finishing with about13,000 pages of work.

The notebooks record the many interests and endeavors of this all-round Renaissance man, from maths to art to flying machines and diving suits. He wasn’t picky about what he put in his notebook, which is lucky, as it has given historians a precious resource. Leonardo made an inventory of his clothes in a notebook now held in Madrid, while in others he adds little memos to himself and shopping lists – all alongside complex mechanical notes and studies of human anatomy.

11. Gwen’s WIF notebook

Notebook

This is a daily recording of what I post on WRITING IS FUN-DAMENTAL. I use this as a tangible resource to keep track of what I publish each day. Oh sure I could do a spreadsheet, but like all geniuses (ha, ha), handwritten notes are handy to have. Someday my children will wonder what to do with these.

Notebooks

– WIF Historical Scribbling

Smart and Horrible, an Odd Combination

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Top Tenz

Top Tenz

 10 Geniuses Who Were Shockingly

Horrible People

When someone is remembered as a genius, little else about them as a person is made public. Why would we care that Einstein cheated on his wife like, all the time? The guy invented gravity, he was awesome!

In a similar vein, there are other geniuses from a variety of respective fields that are, or were, straight-up awful people, despite how little attention people pay to that fact. People like …

10. Bobby Fischer

bobby-fischer

The name Bobby Fischer is synonymous with genius, mainly because he kicked so much ass at chess he it back into the mainstream. People who’d never played a game in their life were enthralled by this chess wizard as he stomped all over Russian grandmasters like they were cockroaches made of eggshells.

His influence on the world of chess was so great, that his match with Russian master, Boris Spassky was front page news. Following his victory, the entire US was taken in by what is now colloquially referred to as the “Fischer Boom,” which saw chess receive unprecedented amounts of media attention.

Field Of Awfulness: Anti-America, Anti-Semitism

Despite the fact that Fischer quickly became a media darling following his victory in 1972, and many thousands of Americans cheered his name, Fischer’s stance on America was anything but kind. Claiming that he hated the country he once called home, Fischer was quoted as saying about 9/11,I applaud the act” and within the same breath, “F**k the US I want to see the US wiped out.

He was also a raging anti-Semite, to the point even his most die-hard supporters found him repugnant. But boy, was that a good chess game, eh guys?

9. Virginia Woolf

virginia-woolf

Virginia Woolf is a name that will likely always be remembered. One, because it’s awesome. Two, because she made some of the greatest contributions to the literary arts in recent history. Basically, if you haven’t read one of her books, chances are you’ve at least heard of one of them, making her more famous than 99% of writers ever.

Field Of Awfulness: Intellectual Superiority, Elitism

Today, her books are studied and read by millions of children. But unless those kids have a trust fund, Woolf would have hated the thought of them reading her work. You see, Woolf was a staunch supporter of the leisure class (In other words, people with enough money to not work) and was quoted as saying that reading and learning should be exclusive to them. Yes, Woolf felt that learning and reading was a special gift that belonged to rich people.

She took class snobbishness a step further in her own home. When her diaries were made public, people combing through them noticed a rather unsettling trend. Woolf loved talking smack about her servants. In her private diaries, she expressed everything from disgust to pity at the people literally cleaning up after her mess. She felt they deserved more, but also felt that they’d never be able to enjoy life on as deep a level as she did.

Woolf eventually took to giving all her servants orders via notes she’d leave around the house and, when her orders weren’t followed, she’d note in her diary that this only proved the “inherent stupidity” of the working class. You know, instead of saying something to their faces, like an actual human being would.

8. Richard Dawkins

Richard-Dawkins

Dawkins is the guy who came up with the theory of social memes in his book, The Selfish Gene way back in 1976.  The book was an instant classic and is still considered by many as required reading for anyone interested in evolutionary biology or social theory.

However, despite this, Dawkins is mostly known today as the author of The God Delusion, which is a shame. Instead of being known as the guy who developed a massively important theory which helps explain cultural evolution and why we as humans act the way we do, he’s known as the guy who wrote the book on being a turd online.

Field Of Awfulness: Being A Turd Online

Dawkins has a reputation for being a very active and avid user of the Internet. However, rather than use his many years of scientific experience, and his deep knowledge of human and evolutionary biology, to educate people, he’s taken to basically becoming a comment troll.

For example, when Rebecca Watson, the founder of the mega-popular Skepchick blog, attended a conference on skepticism, a random guy cornered her in an elevator and asked her if she’d like to come to his room. At 4 in the morning, meaning he likely did not have movies and board games in mind. Watson firmly told the guy to do one, and wrote about the experience online. In a nutshell, she said that what that guy did was creepy as all hell. Which to be fair, it totally was.

Dawkins, for some unknown reason, then appeared in the comment section of her site and made a wildly sexist and demeaning comment addressing a fictional Muslim woman called “Muslima.” Essentially, he said that Watson’s experience was trivial in comparison to other things that are happening in the world, so she had no right to complain about something that made her feel massively uncomfortable. Yep, according to Dawkins, you have no right to complain about stuff that’s important or personally affects you, unless you are literally the single most oppressed person on the planet.

Unless, of course, you’re Dawkins, and you want to act super butthurt about people calling you out on proposing a sliding scale for sexual assault. Then you can complain all you want, because that’s way more important than raising awareness about sexism.

7. Aristotle

Aristotle

Aristotle is one of those names that is just dripping with good vibes. As one of the ancients world’s most famous philosophers, Aristotle’s life and work are still studied today, thousands of years after he kicked the bucket. Aristotle is credited with being the mind behind someone of our most enduring philosophical concepts, including basic freaking ethics. Though Socrates beat him to the punch, Aristotle expanded upon the concept, and encouraged people to be good to one another.

Field Of Awfulness: Sexism

Unless that person was a woman. Aristotle’s views on the fairer sex are so expansive that they get their own Wikipedia page. He basically asserted that women should be subservient to men, to the point where they shouldn’t even be allowed to eat as much food. He also claimed that women were basically incomplete men, and thus, inferior.

But so what, right? This was 2000 years ago; surely everyone was like this back then. Except they weren’t. For example, Spartan women from the same time period were treated with a relative amount of respect. Queen Gorgo of Sparta famously responded to one person asking why Spartan women could rule men with the frankly badass line “because only Spartan women produce men.” Yes, she actually said that. It wasn’t just put into the film 300 for effect. Spartan women were that awesome, and Aristotle was that pig-headed.

6. Isaac Newton

isaac-newton

Isaac Newton has made a bigger impact on science and physics than just abut anybody, and will go down in history as the guy who pretty much came up with the theory of gravity.

Field Of Awfulness: Endless Feuding And Grudge-Bearing

Throughout most of his adult life, Isaac Newton had an ongoing feud with one Robert Hooke. Some of you may recognize that name, but the majority of you won’t, and that has a lot to do with Newton.

Hooke theorized the existence of gravity before Newton did. The only problem was he wasn’t smart enough to calculate the exact math behind it. When Newton published Principa, in which he shared his famous gravitational law, Hooke felt that he should have gotten some of the credit. Newton disagreed, since although Hooke had formulated and hypothesized gravity’s existence, he sucked eggs at the mathing part, and therefore wasn’t allowed in Newton’s book.

Because Newton was more famous than Hooke, he supposedly used his influence to suppress Hooke’s work until after his death. Newton even took to outright slandering Hooke, calling him an idiot in open letters. In fact, Newton’s famous “standing on the shoulders of giants” quote was a direct insult to Hooke, in reference to the fact Hooke was simply observing something much greater than himself.

It’s even suggested that Newton destroyed the only known portrait of Hooke after his death, because that is how you make a statement. Today, Newton lives on as one of the most famous minds in scientific history, whereas Hooke is just a footnote in a scientific textbook.

5. Thomas Edison

thomas-edison

Though Thomas Edison’s reputation has suffered a slight knock in recent years, due to the fact that Tesla has become the patron saint of the Internet, he’s still regarded as one of the foremost inventors in history.

Field Of Awfulness: Killing Animals

During the so called “War Of Currents,” Thomas Edison had an ongoing feud with the aforementioned Tesla, over which form of electricity was superior: Edison’s DC current, or Tesla’s AC. The obvious answer was AC current, based on Tesla’s designs, because it was invented by the much more handsome scientist. Also it was, like, wicked efficient or something.

Not wanting to be proven wrong, and determined to keep America shackled by stupidly inferior DC system, Edison tried to prove to America that AC current was dangerous, by murdering puppies with it. Yes, when faced with the fact that someone had invented a much, much better system for providing electricity than his own, Edison committed puppycide as a retort. When proving that you’re smarter involves animal murder, you’re not an inventor; you’re a serial killer in training.

4. Nikola Tesla

nikola-tesla

Nikola Tesla is hugely famous online, and within pop culture. Though in his lifetime his contributions to science and technology were largely overlooked, today he’s widely regarded as one of the best minds science has ever known.

Field Of Awfulness: Eugenics

Eugenics, for those of you too lazy to open up a new tab on Wikipedia, is the art of selective breeding on a mass scale. It’s the act of actively denying people with undesirable traits (such as infirmity or stupidity) the right to reproduce, which supposedly betters the human race. You’ll notice that this is a terrible, horrible idea, if only because if it happened, we never would’ve gotten reality TV.

And Tesla loved that idea. In his writings, Tesla extended the notion that “The year 2100 will see eugenics universally established,” referring to it as important for “weeding out undesirable strains.” Of course, none of this alters that fact that he was a fantastically gifted mind, but it’s more than a little disconcerting to realize that this guy fully supported the thought of certain people getting denied the chance to mate. Especially once you realize he never took a wife or had a kid. This is one of the smartest people to have ever lived, and even he didn’t think he was good enough to have a baby; how high were this guy’s standards?

3. John Lennon

john-lennon

Peace, love, and goodwill to all men: that’s what John Lennon was all about. Well, that and taking enough drugs to cause sniffer dogs to go into early retirement. Lennon is effectively the face of the 60′s and, by extension, the hippie movement. And those guys were all about peace, so what could Lennon possibly have done wrong?

Field Of Awfulness: Hitting Women

Lennon was the Chris Brown of his day. That’s not us making a cheap joke; that’s a direct comparison that has been made about him. Lennon openly admitted that he used to beat the living crap out of women, in an interview with Playboy Magazine, a magazine literally dedicated to appreciating the awesomeness of womanind, albeit the naked variety. Woman beater or not, you have to admire his sense of irony.

The kicker of this is that very few people know this about Lennon. Whereas Chris Brown has become a walking joke, and has his domestic violence charges listed very clearly on his Wikipedia page, not a single mention is made of John Lennon’s similar abuse, despite him being massively more famous and influential than Chris Brown will ever be. And when it is mentioned, his fans are so quick to defend his actions that they almost break through time and land on the receiving end of one of his punches personally.

2. James Cameron

james-cameron

If you’re about to complain that we’re putting James Cameron on the same list as Isaac Newton, just remember that this guy won 11 Oscars for a film everyone already knew the ending to, and convinced people to pay $15 to see Dances With Blue Aliens. If that’s not genius, we don’t know what is.

Field Of Awfulness: Ego

Cameron’s ego is legendary in the film industry, but the guy made Titanic, so surely he deserves to be a little proud of himself, right? Sure he does; we’d never begrudge him for being proud of his work. We will, however, begrudge him for yelling at actresses until they cry, and nailing people’s phones to a wall. Which are all things he has done in the past.

But to truly see how much of a douche Cameron is, you only have to read this quote he once said to Linda Hamilton, his wife at the time: “Anybody can be a father or a husband. There are only five people in the world who can do what I do, and I’m going for that.” Come on, Cameron. Yes, Titanic was good, but it wasn’t good enough to get away with saying that to your wife. It’s not like you wrote Star Wars.

1. Henry Ford

Henry-Ford

Yeah, this guy made cars and revolutionized how they were manufactured. And yeah, you’ve probably that he was a raging anti-Semite. However, the extent he went to express this notion will likely surprise you.

Field Of Awfulness: Inspiring Hitler

Yes, that Hitler. Though Ford’s anti-Semitic views are well known, few realize just how far they went. Hitler was quoted as saying he was directly inspired by Ford, even hanging a portrait of Ford in his office. Just re-read that last sentence again. One of the most evil, reviled men in history hung a picture of Henry Ford on his wall. He was also the only American Hitler referred to by name in Mein Kampf. Talk about an honor.

We could go on, but honestly, how the hell could we top inspiring Hitler? We don’t even think Satan has the files in his office to classify something that awful.

Smart and Horrible, an Odd Combination