Published: May 8th 2012May 8th 2012
After a night spent sharing a guest room bed with three cats and a dog (LOL) I made it onto my 07:35 flight from SFO bound for Atlanta, GA. One of the two books I brought with me, The Invention of Air
by Steven Johnson is a quick and easy read about Joseph Priestly, the ordained minister, scientist, and author who was a contemporary of Ben Franklin, known for his works in electricity, chemistry, and other fields. He's credited for THE account of Franklin's "kite experiment", the invention of soda water, and origination of Coulomb's Law, and much more that I will soon read about...
I enjoyed one passage for its particular contrast to my own travels across the country today, and on across the "pond" later tonight, which is offered to provide the context to the account of Priestley's crossing from England. He fled persecution by enemies of enlightenment that rivals Salman Rushdie's contemporary experience, according to the author (Maybe I should have mentioned his writings on faith and politics; two more fields for which Johnson paints J.P. as transformative.). Now, to that passage, an account of Gottlieb Mittelberg's mid-18th century Journey to Pennsylvania, "one of the most ghastly accounts" of sea crossings:
"But during the voyage there is on board these ships terrible misery, stench, fumes, horror, vomiting, many constipation, boils, scurvy, cancer, mouth-rot, and the like....Add to this want of provisions, hunber, thirst, frost, heat, dampness, anxiety, want, afflictions and lamentations, together with other trouble, as...the lice abound so frightfully, especially on sick people, that they can be scraped off the body...The water which is served out on the ships is often very black, thick and full of worms, so that one cannot drink it without loathing, even with the greatest thirst....Towards the end [of the Osgood's voyage] we were compelled to eat the ship's biscuit which had been spoiled long ago, though in a whole biscuit there was scarecely a piece the size of a dollar that had not been full of red worms and spider's nests."
And there I was turning down bags of complimentary peanuts and pretzels on my very comfortable, albeit a little bumpy, flight...!