Saturday, April 30, 2022

15C Mythical Goddess Flora - Symbol of Spring

Detail of Flora from Primavera by Botticelli, c. 1482

Flora in Roman mythology, was goddess of spring-time & flowers, later identified with the Greek Chloris. Her festival at Rome, the Floralia, instituted 238 B.C. by order of the Sibylline books & at first held irregularly, became annual after 173. It lasted 6 days (April 28-May 3), the 1st day being the anniversary of the foundation of her temple. 

The Floralia was a public festival to honor the goodwill of the goddess Flora. Created in the 6th century BC by the Romans, it took place in spring  & lasted 6 days, & consisted of games & theatrical performances. Chariot races & circus games took place & everywhere were the symbols of Flora. It was traditional to have goats & hares scampering about the landscape where flowers of lupines, beans, & vetch were scattered about. The celebrating Romans held bouquets of flowers & wore wreaths of flowers around their necks or in their hair. In art Flora was represented as a beautiful maiden, bedecked with flowers. The term “flora” became used in botany collectively for the plant-growth of an area.

See Primary Sources:
Ovid, Fasti V. 193-212
Macrobius, Saturnalia I.10.11-14
Lactantius, Divinae institutions I.20.6-10
Tacitus, Annals, ii. 49
and
Ovid, Fasti, Book 4; T.P. Wiseman, The Myths of Rome (University of Exeter Press, 2004).
Robert Turcan, The Gods of Ancient Rome (Routledge, 2001; originally published in French 1998)
H.H. Scullard, Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic (Cornell University Press, 1981)
William Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic (London, 1908)

Earth's Creatures Stop to Smell the Flowers

 

Spring & Summer are the perfect time to celebrate the rebirth of Earth's Beauty & Bounty.  Flowers gave beauty & inspiration to mankind's basic struggle to live & to populate & to protect his home-base, The Earth.  Holding on to The Sweet Divine - The Lord God took man & put him in the Garden of Eden to work it & to keep it...Genesis 2:15.

The expression came into popular modern use in the 1960s & is a rephrasing of a sentiment found in an autobiography written by the golfer Walter Hagen: “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

Mythical Gardens - Adam & Eve in The Garden of Eden at Creation - Illuminated Manuscripts

 Adam and Eve in Paradise” Egerton Manuscript 912, f. 10, c. 1415.  British Library

In Western iconography the early Christian garden is usually defined by the Biblical story of Adam & Eve, the original lovers thrown out of paradise for tasting forbidden fruit, & cast into the wilderness to define their own lives & gardens. Before the Western printing press, illustrated manuscripts & early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during the periods the images were created. 

Gardens are often mentioned in the Bible. In the language of the Hebrews, every place where plants & trees were cultivated with greater care than in the open field, was called a garden. Fruit & shade trees, with aromatic shrubs, sometimes constituted the garden; though roses, lilies, & various gardens were used only for table vegetables, Genesis 2:8-10 15:1-21; 1 Kings 21:2; Ecclesiastes 2:5,6.

Genesis 2:8 “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed...And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."

Friday, April 29, 2022

Mythical Gardens - Adam & Eve in The Garden of Eden by Lucas Cranach (1472-1553) & His Workshop

Lucas Cranach (Northern Renaissance Painter, 1472-1553) and his workshop painting of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

Paradise Gardens usually depict the biblical Garden of Eden, often referred to as “paradise,” a word that evoked the notion of an untouched & primal landscape, or pleasurable space in a lush landscape of greenery. Cranach, who was a close friend of Martin Luther, worked at the court of Saxony. 

The artist's friend Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a German priest, theologian, author, & hymnwriter. A former Augustinian friar, he is best known among Christians as the seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation & as the namesake of Lutheranism

The artist, who was famous for his landscapes, representations of animals & nudes, found Adam & Eve a subject which was ideally suited to his gifts & to which the Lutherans did not object. He & his workshop treated it many times in paintings & prints.

In Western iconography the early Christian garden is usually defined by the Biblical story of Adam & Eve, the original lovers thrown out of paradise for tasting forbidden fruit, & cast into the wilderness to define their own lives & gardens. Before the Western printing press, illustrated manuscripts & early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during the periods the images were created. 

Gardens are often mentioned in the Bible. In the language of the Hebrews, every place where plants & trees were cultivated with greater care than in the open field, was called a garden. Fruit & shade trees, with aromatic shrubs, sometimes constituted the garden; though roses, lilies, & various gardens were used only for table vegetables, Genesis 2:8-10 15:1-21; 1 Kings 21:2; Ecclesiastes 2:5,6.

Genesis 2:8 “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed...And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."

Spring 2022 at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania


By the mid-1930s, Longwood had grown from the original 202 acres to 926 due to Pierre’s purchase of 25 contiguous properties over the years. In addition to horticulture, agriculture had always been important at Longwood, which started out, after all, as a farm.

Longwood’s agricultural & horticultural operations slowed considerably during World War II. Many employees served in the Armed Forces, & a 72-bed emergency hospital was set up in rooms above the Ballroom just in case the community needed it. Pierre du Pont was a “gentlemen farmer” who sought to create a self-sustaining model farm that used the latest techniques & methods. In reality, the farm was more an expansive, expensive hobby than a business, but it did produce food for the du Ponts & their employees.

As early as 1914 with the formation of Longwood, Inc., Pierre was thinking about the eventual fate of the property after his death. In 1944, Mrs. du Pont died, & Pierre initially retreated to his apartment in Wilmington during weekdays, visiting Longwood only on weekends. But he was more concerned than ever about Longwood's future, particularly since he had no children but considered the Gardens part of the du Pont family legacy.  

In 1913, the US government enacted personal income tax. In response, Pierre incorporated Longwood in 1914. He always tried to stay one step ahead of the IRS to keep his farm & gardens in the best possible tax situation, & in 1937 the Longwood Foundation was created to handle his charitable giving. Finally, in 1946, the government gave approval for the Foundation to operate Longwood Gardens as a public garden with tax-exempt status “for the sole use of the public for purposes of exhibition, instruction, education & enjoyment.”   See: Longwood Gardens History for more. 

“Beauty awakens the soul to act.” - Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Earth's Creatures Stop to Smell the Flowers

 

Spring & Summer are the perfect time to celebrate the rebirth of Earth's Beauty & Bounty.  Flowers gave beauty & inspiration to mankind's basic struggle to live & to populate & to protect his home-base, The Earth.  Holding on to The Sweet Divine - The Lord God took man & put him in the Garden of Eden to work it & to keep it...Genesis 2:15.

The expression came into popular modern use in the 1960s & is a rephrasing of a sentiment found in an autobiography written by the golfer Walter Hagen: “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

17C Spring Allegory with Flowers & a Garden by Wenceslaus Hollar 1607-1677

1641 Wenceslaus Hollar (Czech, 1607-1677) Spring

Wenceslaus Hollar was born in 1607, the son of an upper middle-class civic official. Very little is known about his early life, but he evidently learned the rudiments of his craft by age eighteen, left his native Prague at age twenty, and likely studied in Frankfurt under Matthaus Merian. His first book of etchings was published in 1635, in Cologne when Hollar was twenty-eight. The following year he came to the attention of the renowned art collector the Earl of Arundel who was making an official visit to the continent, and Hollar subsequently became a part of his household, settling in England early in 1637. He remained in England during the beginning of the English Civil War period, but left London for Antwerp in 1642, where he continued to work on a variety of projects. In 1652 he returned to England, working on a number of large projects for the publisher John Ogilby and for the antiquary Sir William Dugdale. Hollar was in London during the Great Fire of 1666, and remains most famous for his scenes of the city before and after the fire. He was one of the most skilled etchers of his or any other time, which is all the more remarkable given that he was almost blind in one eye. Hollar died in London on 25 March 1677. By his life's end, he had produced some 2700 separate etchings.

Mythical Gardens - God Creating Eve - Illuminated Manuscripts

God Creating Eve. Saint Beatus of Liébana, Spain  (c. 730 - c. 800) New York Public Library 

In Western iconography the early Christian garden is usually defined by the Biblical story of Adam & Eve, the original lovers thrown out of paradise for tasting forbidden fruit, & cast into the wilderness to define their own lives & gardens. Before the Western printing press, illustrated manuscripts & early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during the periods the images were created. 

Gardens are often mentioned in the Bible. In the language of the Hebrews, every place where plants & trees were cultivated with greater care than in the open field, was called a garden. Fruit & shade trees, with aromatic shrubs, sometimes constituted the garden; though roses, lilies, & various gardens were used only for table vegetables, Genesis 2:8-10 15:1-21; 1 Kings 21:2; Ecclesiastes 2:5,6.

Genesis 2:8 “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed...And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

17C Time to Stop & Smell the Flowers

1638 L'Odorat by Abraham Bosse (French, c 1602-04–1676)

Spring & Summer are the perfect time to celebrate the rebirth of Earth's Beauty & Bounty.  Flowers gave beauty & inspiration to mankind's basic struggle to live & to populate & to protect his home-base, The Earth.  Holding on to The Sweet Divine - The Lord God took man & put him in the Garden of Eden to work it & to keep it...Genesis 2:15.

The expression came into popular modern use in the 1960s & is a rephrasing of a sentiment found in an autobiography written by the golfer Walter Hagen: “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

Spring 2022 at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania


Pierre du Pont’s love for fountains stretched back to when he was mesmerized at the age of six by the huge display of water pumps at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. With his indoor Conservatory now a reality, Pierre turned his full attention outdoors, where Longwood’s hydraulic splendors were already underway. Never mind that the property didn't have an abundant water supply; with electricity, anything was possible.

From 1925 to 1927, Pierre constructed  a Water Garden in a low-lying, marshy site northeast of Longwood’s Large Lake. The inspiration was the Villa Gamberaia, near Florence, Italy. The original did not have many fountains, but Longwood’s version had 600 jets in nine separate displays that shot from six blue-tiled pools & 12 pedestal basins.

At the same time, Pierre installed a 40-foot tall jet fountain at the end of the central allée in Peirce’s Park. It is said that Mrs. du Pont could turn the fountain on for her house guests with a switch. Pierre next decided to enlarge the Open Air Theatre & replace the old waterworks with 750 illuminated jets that continue to elicit thrills today.

Pierre’s hydraulic masterpiece was the Main Fountain Garden in front of the Conservatory: 10,000 gallons a minute shot as high as 130 feet & illuminated in every imaginable color. Its complex engineering didn't faze him. "The fountains themselves are of simple design...," he noted. "It is the landscape effect that adds to the total bill."

The completion of the fountains in the mid-1930s marked an end to major construction during Pierre’s lifetime, although he did build a 30-by-36-foot oval analemmatic sundial in what is now the Topiary Garden in the late 1930s.

In 1929-30, Pierre  constructed Longwood’s 61-foot-tall stone Chimes Tower based on a similar structure he had seen in France. In 1956, the original chimes were replaced with a 32-note electronic carillon. In 2000, a new 62-bell carillon was crafted in The Netherlands.

The Longwood Steinway Grand Piano was purchased by Pierre du Pont from Steinway & Sons in 1923. Du Pont was an amateur pianist & had a great love of music & all the performing arts. He wanted the world‘s most finely crafted instrument that he, his family, friends, & visiting artists could use to play music of the highest quality sound.

Located in the Ballroom, Pierre S. du Pont constructed the largest residence organ in the world—Longwood's 10,010 pipe Aeolian organ, in 1930. These resident instruments remain cornerstones of Longwood's performing arts programming, which presents world-class artists in unparalleled settings.

“Beauty awakens the soul to act.” - Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

Mythical Gardens - Adam & Eve in The Garden of Eden at Creation - Illuminated Manuscripts

The Garden of Eden, Paradise Garden, The Temptation of Adam and Eve (detail) in Concerning the Fates of Illustrious Men and Women, about 1415, Boucicaut Master. J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 63, fol. 3  Adam & Eve are surely not alone as they are tempted & expelled in this enclosed garden hortus conclusus.

In Western iconography the early Christian garden is usually defined by the Biblical story of Adam & Eve, the original lovers thrown out of paradise for tasting forbidden fruit, & cast into the wilderness to define their own lives & gardens. Before the Western printing press, illustrated manuscripts & early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during the periods the images were created. 

Gardens are often mentioned in the Bible. In the language of the Hebrews, every place where plants & trees were cultivated with greater care than in the open field, was called a garden. Fruit & shade trees, with aromatic shrubs, sometimes constituted the garden; though roses, lilies, & various gardens were used only for table vegetables, Genesis 2:8-10 15:1-21; 1 Kings 21:2; Ecclesiastes 2:5,6.

Genesis 2:8 “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed...And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Earth's Creatures Stop to Smell the Flowers


Spring & Summer are the perfect time to celebrate the rebirth of Earth's Beauty & Bounty.  Flowers gave beauty & inspiration to mankind's basic struggle to live & to populate & to protect his home-base, The Earth.  Holding on to The Sweet Divine - The Lord God took man & put him in the Garden of Eden to work it & to keep it...Genesis 2:15.

The expression came into popular modern use in the 1960s & is a rephrasing of a sentiment found in an autobiography written by the golfer Walter Hagen: “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

17C Personification of Spring with a Garden! by Wenceslaus Hollar (Czech artist, 1607-1677)

Personification of Spring by Wenceslaus Hollar (Czech artist, 1607-1677)  Spring with a view of a 17C walled garden with people, beds, & two gates!

Wenceslaus Hollar was born in 1607, the son of an upper middle-class civic official. He left his native Prague at age 20, and likely studied in Frankfurt under Matthaus Merian. His 1st book of etchings was published in 1635, in Cologne, when Hollar was 28. The following year he came to the attention of the art collector the Earl of Arundel who was making an official visit to the continent, & Hollar subsequently became a part of his household, settling in England early in 1637. He remained in England during the beginning of the English Civil War period; but left London for Antwerp in 1642, where he continued to work on a variety of projects. In 1652, he returned to England, working on a number of large projects for the publisher John Ogilby & Sir William Dugdale. Hollar was in London during the Great Fire of 1666, & remains famous for his scenes of the city before & after the fire. He a skilled etcher, which is remarkable given that he was almost blind in one eye. Hollar died in London on 25 March 1677. By his life's end, he had produced nearly 3000 separate etchings.

USE Mythical Gardens - Adam & Eve in The Garden of Eden - Illuminated Manuscripts

 Adam and Eve in The Garden pf Edem Eating the Forbidden Fruit (detail), by Willem Vrelant, early 1460s

In Western iconography the early Christian garden is usually defined by the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, the original lovers thrown out of paradise for tasting forbidden fruit, and cast into the wilderness to define their own lives & gardens. Before the Western printing press, illustrated manuscripts and early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during the periods the images were created. Gardens are often mentioned in the Bible. In the language of the Hebrews, every place where plants & trees were cultivated with greater care than in the open field, was called a garden. Fruit & shade trees, with aromatic shrubs, sometimes constituted the garden; though roses, lilies, & various gardens were used only for table vegetables, Genesis 2:8-10 15:1-21; 1 Kings 21:2; Ecclesiastes 2:5,6.
Genesis 2:8 “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed...And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."

See:
Creation of Adam

Michaelangelo. Creation of Adam. Fresco. Vatican, Sistine Chapel. Pietrangeli et al. The Sistine Chapel. New York: Harmony Books, 1986. P. 139

Creation of Adam. Sculpture,13th century. Chartres, North Porch. Kraus, The Living Theatre of Medieval Art, pl. 30

Boucicaut Master and Workshop. God gives Adam a soul. 15th C. Illumination. Paris, Bibl. Nat., fr. 9141, f. 29v. Meiss, Millard. French Painting in the Time of Jean de Berry: The Boucicaut Master. London: Phaidon, 1968. Pl. 448

Creation of Eve

The Creation of Eve. Biblium Pauperum, 14th Century. Lee, Laurence. Stained Glass. London: Artists House, 1982. P. 26.

The Creation of Eve. Early 13th C. Illumination. Psalter of Saint Louis and Blanche of Castille. Paris, Bibliotheque de l'Arsenal, MS 1186, f. 10. P. D'Ancona & E. Aeschlimann. The Art of Illumination. London: Phaidon, 1969. plate 73

Michaelangelo. The Creation of Eve.Vatican, Sistine Chapel. Pietrangeli et al. The Sistine Chapel. New York: Harmony Books, 1986. Pp. 144 45.

Creation of Adam and Eve. Mid 14th C. Illumination. Holkham Bilble Picture Book. London, British Library, MS Add. 47682, f. 3. P. D'Acona & E. Aeschlimann. The Art of Illumination. London: Phaidon, 1969. Plate 90.

God presents Eve to Adam. 15th C. Illumination. Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, ms. 251, f. 16. Meiss, Millard. French Painting in the Time of Jean de Berry: The Boucicaut Master. London: Phaidon, 1968. Pl. 457

Adam and Eve.15th C. Illumination.Paris, Bibl. de l'Arsenal, ms. 5193, f. 8v. Meiss, Millard. French Painting in the Time of Jean de Berry: The Boucicaut Master. London: Phaidon, 1968. Pl. 381

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. ca 1460. Illumination,17 1/8 x 12 in. Les sept ages du monde. Department of Manuscripts, Royal Library of Belgium, MS 9047, f. 1v,L.M.J. DeLaisse. Medieval Miniatures. London: Thames and Hudson, 1965. Plate 35.

Jean Colombe. Adam and Eve.1480-85. Illumination. Hours of Anne of France. New York, Morgan Library. Gill, D. M.Illuminated Manuscripts. New York: Brockhampton Press and Barnes and Noble, 1996. p. 47

The Fall

The Creation and Fall. The Bedford Book of Hours, ca. 1423. The British Library. Postcard, museum shop.

Masolino. The Fall of Man. Florence, Brancacci Chapel.Casazza, Ornella. Masaccio. Florence: Scala, 1990. pl. 40

Michaelangelo: The Fall of Man. Rome, Vatican, Sistine Chapel. Pietrangeli et al. The Sistine Chapel. New York: Harmony Books, 1986. Pp. 146-47

John Thornton of Coventry. The Fall of Man. Stained glass. York Minster, Great East Window. Lee, Laurence. Stained Glass. London: Artists House, 1982. p. 87

The Fall of Man. Norwich Cathedral, wood carving (ceiling boss). Card, cathedral shop.

The Fall of Man. Illumination, late 13th century. British Library, Hebrew MS. Add. 11638, f. 520v. Postcard, museum shop.

The Limbourg Brothers. The Fall. Chantilly, Muse Cond. Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.Cazelles. Illuminations of Heaven and Earth. New York: Abrams. p. 70-71

Guilio Clovio. The Fall of Man Illumination, The Hours of Cardinal Alesssandro Farnese, 1546. New York, The Morgan Library, MS 69, f. 28. Harthan, John. The Book of Hours. New York: Park Lane, 1977. p. 163

The Expulsion from the Garden

Masaccio. The Expulsion. Florence: Brancacci Chapel. Casazza, Ornella. Masaccio. Florence: Scala, 1990. Pl. 21.

God creates Adam and Eve, the Fall and Expulsion. 834 843, Tours. Illumination. Moutier-Grandval Bible. London, British Library, MS Addit. 10546, f. 5v. Beckwith, John. Early Medieval Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1964. Pl. 46.

Boucicaut Workshop. Adam and Eve, Eve addressed by angel as she spins, Adam delving. Early 15th C, before 1413. Illumination. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, fr. 3810, f. 157v. Millard Miess. French Painting in the Time of Jean de Berry: The Boucicault Master. London: Phaidon, 1968. Plate 94.

Adam Delving. Late 12th C. Stained glass. Canterbury Cathedral, west window, nave. Keates, Jonathan. Canterbury Cathedral. London: Scala/Philip Wilson, 1980. p. 60

Monday, April 25, 2022

Spring 2022 at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania


Ten years after purchasing Longwood, Pierre du Pont was just getting warmed up. By 1916 he was contemplating grand indoor facilities “designed to exploit the sentiments & ideas associated with plants & flowers in a large way.”

The result was the stunning Conservatory, a perpetual Eden that opened in 1921. The latest technology was used to heat, water, & power the complex, but the systems were hidden in tunnels so as not to detract from the grandeur of the glass-covered peristyle & surrounding rooms.

Pierre chose to fill his new garden not with the usual jungle of exotic tropical foliage as was then the fashion but rather with fruits & flowers used in a decorative, horticultural way. One observer termed his greenhouses “floral sun parlors.”

A staff of eight gardeners oversaw this perpetual indoor flower show, aided by three boiler operators. Outdoors there were 11 gardeners & groundskeepers, & the entire Horticultural Department of 29 was headed by old-school English gardener William Mulliss.

It would be hard to imagine a more theatrical setting for the display of plants, unless it would be to the music of a massive, 3,650-pipe Aeolian. In 1923, an elegant Music Room with walnut paneling, damask-covered walls, teak floors, & a molded plaster ceiling was built opening onto the central axis of the main greenhouse.

The public came in droves to see these wonders under glass, fulfilling Pierre’s childhood dream of building a greenhouse open to the public. The du Ponts also had the perfect place for grand entertainment hosting innumerable civic & educational groups as well as family & friends. The guests’ reactions were always the same: a place beyond compare.    See: Longwood Gardens History for more. 

“Beauty awakens the soul to act.” - Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

Mythical Gardens - The Garden of Eden at Creation - Illuminated Manuscripts

God Creating the Birds and Animals in the Garden of Eden   Vatican Library Collection

In Western iconography the early Christian garden is usually defined by the Biblical story of Adam & Eve, the original lovers thrown out of paradise for tasting forbidden fruit, & cast into the wilderness to define their own lives & gardens. Before the Western printing press, illustrated manuscripts & early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during the periods the images were created. 

Gardens are often mentioned in the Bible. In the language of the Hebrews, every place where plants & trees were cultivated with greater care than in the open field, was called a garden. Fruit & shade trees, with aromatic shrubs, sometimes constituted the garden; though roses, lilies, & various gardens were used only for table vegetables, Genesis 2:8-10 15:1-21; 1 Kings 21:2; Ecclesiastes 2:5,6.

Genesis 2:8 “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed...And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Earth's Creatures Stop to Smell the Flowers


Spring & Summer are the perfect time to celebrate the rebirth of Earth's Beauty & Bounty.  Flowers gave beauty & inspiration to mankind's basic struggle to live & to populate & to protect his home-base, The Earth.  Holding on to The Sweet Divine - The Lord God took man & put him in the Garden of Eden to work it & to keep it...Genesis 2:15.

The expression came into popular modern use in the 1960s & is a rephrasing of a sentiment found in an autobiography written by the golfer Walter Hagen: “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

17C Woman with a Basket of Flowers by William Marshall (1617-1649)

William Marshall (British printmaker, 1617-1649) Woman with a Flower Basket

Mythical Gardens - Adam & Eve in The Garden of Eden at Creation - Illuminated Manuscripts

Adam and Eve, temptation and fal  Royal Library, El Escorial, Spain - Ms & II. 5 fol-18ll 

In Western iconography the early Christian garden is usually defined by the Biblical story of Adam & Eve, the original lovers thrown out of paradise for tasting forbidden fruit, & cast into the wilderness to define their own lives & gardens. Before the Western printing press, illustrated manuscripts & early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during the periods the images were created. 

Gardens are often mentioned in the Bible. In the language of the Hebrews, every place where plants & trees were cultivated with greater care than in the open field, was called a garden. Fruit & shade trees, with aromatic shrubs, sometimes constituted the garden; though roses, lilies, & various gardens were used only for table vegetables, Genesis 2:8-10 15:1-21; 1 Kings 21:2; Ecclesiastes 2:5,6.

Genesis 2:8 “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed...And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Spring 2022 at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania


"I have recently experienced what I would formerly have diagnosed as an attack of insanity; that is, I have purchased a small farm,” Pierre du Pont wrote to a friend soon after purchasing the Peirce farm in 1906. However, he added, “I expect to have a good deal of enjoyment in restoring its former condition & making it a place where I can entertain my friends.”

It didn’t take Pierre long before he started making his mark on what he called Longwood. The name came from the nearby Longwood Meeting House, which in turn was named for a neighboring Longwood Farm. “Longwood” probably derives from a nearby stretch of forest known locally as The Long Woods.

In 1907, Pierre laid out his first garden—the 600-foot-long Flower Garden Walk, which is today one of Longwood’s most popular gardens. Longwood’s first fountain—a simple pool with a single jet of water—was constructed in the center of the walk.

The springtime effect of the Flower Garden Walk was so successful that in 1909 Pierre began hosting June garden parties that quickly became highlights of the summer social season. Their success encouraged him to look for ever more wonderful ways to delight his guests.

The Open Air Theatre debuted five years later. His inspiration was an outdoor theatre near Siena, Italy. Within a year, he equipped it with “secret” fountains that shot out of the stage floor to drench visiting nieces & nephews.

To combat dreary winters, Pierre built an extension onto the original Peirce house & connected the new & old wings with a conservatory – Longwood’s first “winter garden.” Its courtyard was planted with exotic foliage & graced with a small marble fountain, a wedding gift to mark Pierre’s marriage in 1915 to Alice Belin.    See: Longwood Gardens History for more. 

“Beauty awakens the soul to act.” - Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

Mythical Gardens - The Garden of Eden at Creation - Illuminated Manuscripts

Diebold Lauber, Vol 1 Old Testament  St Gallen, Canton Library, Vadianische collection, Vad Slg Ms. 343c  Creation Mid 15C

In Western iconography the early Christian garden is usually defined by the Biblical story of Adam & Eve, the original lovers thrown out of paradise for tasting forbidden fruit, & cast into the wilderness to define their own lives & gardens. Before the Western printing press, illustrated manuscripts & early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during the periods the images were created. 

Gardens are often mentioned in the Bible. In the language of the Hebrews, every place where plants & trees were cultivated with greater care than in the open field, was called a garden. Fruit & shade trees, with aromatic shrubs, sometimes constituted the garden; though roses, lilies, & various gardens were used only for table vegetables, Genesis 2:8-10 15:1-21; 1 Kings 21:2; Ecclesiastes 2:5,6.

Genesis 2:8 “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed...And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."

Friday, April 22, 2022

Earth's Creatures Stop to Smell the Flowers


Spring & Summer are the perfect time to celebrate the rebirth of Earth's Beauty & Bounty.  Flowers gave beauty & inspiration to mankind's basic struggle to live & to populate & to protect his home-base, The Earth.  Holding on to The Sweet Divine - The Lord God took man & put him in the Garden of Eden to work it & to keep it...Genesis 2:15.

The expression came into popular modern use in the 1960s & is a rephrasing of a sentiment found in an autobiography written by the golfer Walter Hagen: “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

17C Woman Holding A Fan by Abraham Bosse (French, c 1602-04–1676)

Woman Holding A Fan by Abraham Bosse (French, c 1602/1604–1676)  Bosse was a French illustrator, mainly as a printmaker in etching. He was born to Huguenot (Calvinist) parents in Tours, France, where his father had moved from Germany. His father was a tailor, & Bosse's work always depicted clothes in loving detail. Roughly 1600 etchings are attributed to him, with subjects including: daily life, religion, literature, fashion, technology, & science. Most of his output was illustrations for books, but many were also sold separately. His style grows from Dutch & Flemish art, but is given a strongly French flavor. Many of his images give informative detail about middle & upper-class daily life in the period, although they must be treated with care as historical evidence. 

Mythical Gardens - The Garden of Eden at Creation - Illuminated Manuscripts

Genesis, The Creation of the Animals.  Oxford MS. Douce 135 fol-017v Here the garden is filled with trees & birds.

In Western iconography the early Christian garden is usually defined by the Biblical story of Adam & Eve, the original lovers thrown out of paradise for tasting forbidden fruit, & cast into the wilderness to define their own lives & gardens. Before the Western printing press, illustrated manuscripts & early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during the periods the images were created. 

Gardens are often mentioned in the Bible. In the language of the Hebrews, every place where plants & trees were cultivated with greater care than in the open field, was called a garden. Fruit & shade trees, with aromatic shrubs, sometimes constituted the garden; though roses, lilies, & various gardens were used only for table vegetables, Genesis 2:8-10 15:1-21; 1 Kings 21:2; Ecclesiastes 2:5,6.

Genesis 2:8 “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed...And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Spring 2022 at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania


Pierre S. du Pont was born in 1870 in a DuPont Company house overlooking the Brandywine Creek just north of Wilmington, Delaware. His early years were influenced by the area’s natural beauty & by the du Pont family’s long tradition of gardening. But not even Pierre himself could have predicted that he would someday become one of the country’s most influential gardeners.

While he always preferred to live amid the quiet, familiar beauty of the Brandywine Valley, Pierre was greatly influenced by his frequent travels around the globe. He attended several world’s fairs & expositions, where he was astounded by grand architecture & the latest technology, including the huge display of water pumps at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia & illuminated fountains at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

While traveling, he was also exposed to a wide variety of garden settings, including Horticultural Hall at the 1876 Centennial, England's Sydenham Crystal Palace, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew & the flora of South America, the Caribbean, Florida, California & Hawaii. Visits to Italian villas & French châteaux focused on the architectural qualities & water effects of those gardens.

In addition to his travels, Pierre also built an impressive record of success in corporate America. This success brought great wealth & he felt great responsibility to use it wisely. Pierre & his wife Alice gave generously to public schools, universities, & hospitals. But gardening remained his lifelong passion.

At the age of 36, Pierre bought the Peirce farm & soon began creating what would become Longwood Gardens. He followed no grand plan; rather, he built the gardens piecemeal, beginning with the “old-fashioned” Flower Garden Walk. His later gardens would draw heavily on Italian & French forms.

Many generations helped create Longwood Gardens, but Pierre du Pont – industrialist, conservationist, farmer, designer, impresario, & philanthropist – was to make the most enduring contribution.

When du Pont died in 1954, he left most of his estate to the Longwood Foundation to preserve & maintain & improve the gardens. Today, nearly 70 years after du Pont’s death, his gardens continue to delight & inspire visitors from around the world.   See: Longwood Gardens History for more. 

“Beauty awakens the soul to act.” - Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) 

Mythical Gardens - The Garden of Eden at Creation - Illuminated Manuscripts

French illuminated manuscript, Image du Monde, attributed to Gautier de Metz, portraying God creating animals and birds; Harley 344, folio 1. British Library

In Western iconography the early Christian garden is usually defined by the Biblical story of Adam & Eve, the original lovers thrown out of paradise for tasting forbidden fruit, & cast into the wilderness to define their own lives & gardens. Before the Western printing press, illustrated manuscripts & early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during the periods the images were created. 

Gardens are often mentioned in the Bible. In the language of the Hebrews, every place where plants & trees were cultivated with greater care than in the open field, was called a garden. Fruit & shade trees, with aromatic shrubs, sometimes constituted the garden; though roses, lilies, & various gardens were used only for table vegetables, Genesis 2:8-10 15:1-21; 1 Kings 21:2; Ecclesiastes 2:5,6.

Genesis 2:8 “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed...And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Earth's Creatures Stop to Smell the Flowers


Spring & Summer are the perfect time to celebrate the rebirth of Earth's Beauty & Bounty.  Flowers gave beauty & inspiration to mankind's basic struggle to live & to populate & to protect his home-base, The Earth.  Holding on to The Sweet Divine - The Lord God took man & put him in the Garden of Eden to work it & to keep it...Genesis 2:15.

The expression came into popular modern use in the 1960s & is a rephrasing of a sentiment found in an autobiography written by the golfer Walter Hagen: “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

17C Spring by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677)

Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Duchess of Lennox as Spring. Spring refers to the ecological, environmental season, and also to ideas of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection & regrowth.

Spring is the perfect time to celebrate Earth's Beauty & Bounty.  Flowers gave beauty & inspiration to mankind's basic struggle to live & to populate & to protect his home-base, The Earth.  Holding on to The Sweet Divine - The Lord God took man & put him in the Garden of Eden to work it & to keep it...Genesis 2:15.

Mythical Gardens - The Garden of Eden at Creation - Illuminated Manuscripts

Secrets d'histoire naturelle Centre-ouest de la France, vers 1480-1485  Bibliothèque nationale de France, Manuscrits, Français 22971 fol. 15v Here the Garden of Eden seems to sit on a navacble 

In Western iconography the early Christian garden is usually defined by the Biblical story of Adam & Eve, the original lovers thrown out of paradise for tasting forbidden fruit, & cast into the wilderness to define their own lives & gardens. Before the Western printing press, illustrated manuscripts & early depictions of landscapes in portrayals of Biblical gardens give us a glimpse of gardens familiar & imagined during the periods the images were created. 

Gardens are often mentioned in the Bible. In the language of the Hebrews, every place where plants & trees were cultivated with greater care than in the open field, was called a garden. Fruit & shade trees, with aromatic shrubs, sometimes constituted the garden; though roses, lilies, & various gardens were used only for table vegetables, Genesis 2:8-10 15:1-21; 1 Kings 21:2; Ecclesiastes 2:5,6.

Genesis 2:8 “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed...And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Plants & Incense already traveled The Silk Road as China officially began trade with the West in 130 B.C.

Journey of the Magi by Hieronymus Bosch 1500-1510

The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes connecting China & the Far East with the Middle East & Europe. Established when the Han Dynasty in China officially opened trade with the West in 130 B.C., the Silk Road routes remained in use until 1453 A.D., when the Ottoman Empire boycotted trade with China & closed them.
Stefano Di Giovanni Sassetta (Italian artist, 1394-1450) Journey of the Magi along The Silk Road 1435

The Middle Ages refers to the period of European history from the fall of the Roman Empire in the West (5C) to the fall of Constantinople (1453).  In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages (or medieval period) lasted from the 5C to the 15C.  The Middle Ages is the middle period of the 3 traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, & the modern period.
The Meeting of the Magi on The Silk Road by Maestro de Saint Bartholomew 1480

The medieval period is subdivided into the Early, High, & Late Middle Ages. During the High Middle Ages, which began after 1000, the population of Europe increased greatly as technological & agricultural innovations allowed trade to flourish.  The Crusades, first preached in 1095, were military attempts by Western European Christians to regain control of the Holy Land from Muslims. For Europe as a whole, 1500 is often considered to be the end of the Middle Ages, but there is no firmly agreed upon end date. Events such as the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, Christopher Columbus's first voyage to the Americas in 1492, or the Protestant Reformation in 1517 are sometimes used.

Ancient Societies also Stopped to Smell the Flowers


The spectrum of smells in ancient societies, & their possible cultural meanings, are being explored by scientists who study odor molecules, old documents & other archaeological finds. Here, a carved relief of an ancient Egyptian queen smelling a lotus flower represents the fragrant world that pharaohs & their families inhabited.

Ancient "Smellscapes" are wafting out of Artifacts & Old Texts

Science News. By Bruce Bower. May 4, 2022   

Ramses VI faced a smelly challenge when he became Egypt’s king in 1145 B.C. The new pharaoh’s first job was to rid the land of the stench of fish & birds, denizens of the Nile Delta’s fetid swamps.

That, at any rate, was the instruction in a hymn written to Ramses VI upon his ascension to the throne. Some smells, it seems, were considered far worse than others in the land of the pharaohs.

Surviving written accounts indicate that, perhaps unsurprisingly, residents of ancient Egyptian cities encountered a wide array of nice & nasty odors. Depending on the neighborhood, citizens inhaled smells of sweat, disease, cooking meat, incense, trees & flowers. Egypt’s hot weather heightened demand for perfumed oils & ointments that cloaked bodies in pleasant smells.

“The written sources demonstrate that ancient Egyptians lived in a rich olfactory world,” says Egyptologist Dora Goldsmith of Freie Universität Berlin...

Archaeologists have traditionally studied visible objects. Investigations have reconstructed what ...buildings looked like based on excavated remains & determined how people lived by analyzing their tools, personal ornaments & other tangible finds.

Rare projects have re-created what people may have heard thousands of years ago at sites such as Stonehenge (SN: 8/31/20). Piecing together, much less re-creating, the olfactory landscapes, or smellscapes, of long-ago places has attracted even less scholarly curiosity. Ancient cities in Egypt & elsewhere have been presented as “colorful & monumental, but odorless & sterile,” Goldsmith says.

Changes are in the air, though. Some archaeologists are sniffing out odor molecules from artifacts found at dig sites & held in museums. Others are poring over ancient texts for references to perfume recipes, & have even cooked up a scent much like one presumably favored by Cleopatra. In studying & reviving scents of the past, these researchers aim to understand how ancient people experienced, & interpreted, their worlds through smell...

Researchers generally assume that Tayma in what’s now Saudi Arabia .was a pit stop on an ancient network of trade routes, known as the Incense Route, that carried frankincense & myrrh from southern Arabia to Mediterranean destinations around 2,300 to 1,900 years ago. Frankincense & myrrh are both spicy-smelling resins extracted from shrubs & trees that grow on the Arabian Peninsula & in northeastern Africa & India. But Tayma was more than just a refueling oasis for trade caravans.

The desert outpost’s residents purchased aromatic plants for their own uses during much of the settlement’s history, a team led by Huber found. Chemical & molecular analyses of charred resins identified frankincense in cube-shaped incense burners previously unearthed in Tayma’s residential quarter, myrrh in cone-shaped incense burners that had been placed in graves outside the town wall, & an aromatic substance from Mediterranean mastic trees in small goblets used as incense burners in a large public building...

Other researchers have gone searching for molecular scent clues in previously excavated pottery. Analytical chemist Jacopo La Nasa of the University of Pisa in Italy & his colleagues used a portable version of a mass spectrometer to study 46 vessels, jars, cups & lumps of organic material.

These artifacts were found more than a century ago in the underground tomb of Kha & his wife Merit, prominent nonroyals who lived during Egypt’s 18th dynasty from about 1450 B.C. to 1400 B.C. The spectrometer can detect the signature chemical makeup of invisible gases emitted during the decay of different fragrant plants & other substances that had been placed inside vessels...

Re-creating Cleopatra’s perfume

A tradition of fragrant remedies & perfumes began as the first Egyptian royal dynasties assumed power around 5,100 years ago, Goldsmith’s research suggests. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic & cursive documents describe recipes for several perfumes. But precise ingredients & preparation methods remain unknown...

That didn’t stop Goldsmith & historian of Greco-Roman philosophy & science Sean Coughlin of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague from trying to re-create a celebrated Egyptian fragrance known as the Mendesian perfume. Cleopatra, a perfume devotee during her reign as queen from 51 B.C. to 30 B.C., may have doused herself with this scented potion. The perfume took its name from the city where it was made, Mendes.

Excavations conducted since 2009 at Thmouis, a city founded as an extension of Mendes, have uncovered the roughly 2,300-year-old remains of what was probably a fragrance factory, including kilns & clay perfume containers. Archaeologist Robert Littman of the University of Hawaii at Manoa & anthropological archaeologist Jay Silverstein of the University of Tyumen in Russia, who direct the Thmouis dig, asked Goldsmith & Coughlin to try to crack the Mendesian perfume code by consulting ancient writings.

After experimenting with ingredients that included desert date oil, myrrh, cinnamon & pine resin, Goldsmith & Coughlin produced a scent that they suspect approximates what Cleopatra probably wore. It’s a strong but pleasant, long-lasting blend of spiciness & sweetness, they say.

Ingredients of a re-creation of an ancient fragrance called the Mendesian perfume consist of pine resin, cinnamon cassia, true cinnamon, myrrh & moringa oil. Cleopatra herself may have worn the ancient scent. A description of the Thmouis discoveries & efforts to revive the Mendesian scent — dubbed Eau de Cleopatra by the researchers — appeared in the Sept. 2021 Near Eastern Archaeology.

Goldsmith has re-created several more ancient Egyptian perfumes from written recipes for fragrances that were used in everyday life, for temple rituals & in the mummification process...

In the royal palace, for instance, the perfumed smell of rulers & their family members would have overpowered that of court officials & servants. That would perhaps have denoted special ties to the gods among those in charge, Goldsmith wrote in a chapter of The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East, published in September of 2021.

In temples, priests anointed images of gods with what was called the 10 sacred oils. Though their ingredients are mostly unknown, each substance apparently had its own pleasing scent & ritual function...

Scent is a powerful part of the human experience. Today, scientists know that smells, which humans might discriminate surprisingly well, can instantly trigger memories of past experiences... 

People in modern settings probably perceive the same smells as nice or nasty as folks in ancient Egypt or other past societies did, says psychologist Asifa Majid of the University of Oxford. In line with that possibility, members of nine non-Western cultures, including hunter-gatherers in Thailand & farming villagers in highland Ecuador, closely agreed with Western city dwellers when ranking the pleasantness of 10 odors, Majid & her colleagues report April 4 in Current Biology.

Smells of vanilla, citrus & floral sweetness — dispensed by pen-sized devices — got high marks... 

So, even if the ancients tagged the same odors as pleasurable or offensive as people do today, culture & context probably profoundly shaped responses to those smells.

Working-class Romans living in Pompeii around 2,000 years ago — before Mount Vesuvius’ catastrophic eruption in A.D. 79 — provide one example. Archaeological evidence & written sources indicate that patrons of small taverns throughout the city were bombarded with strong smells, says archaeologist Erica Rowan of Royal Holloway, University of London. Diners standing or sitting in small rooms & at outdoor counters whiffed smoky, greasy food being cooked, body odors of other customers who had been toiling all day & pungent aromas wafting out of nearby latrines.

The smells & noises that filled Pompeii’s taverns provided a familiar & comforting experience for everyday Romans, who made these establishments successful, Rowan suspects. Excavations have uncovered 158 of these informal eating & drinking spots throughout Pompeii.

Roman cities generally smelled of human waste, decaying animal carcasses, garbage, smoke, incense, cooked meat & boiled cabbage, Classical historian Neville Morley of the University of Exeter in England wrote in 2014 in a chapter of Smell & the Ancient Senses. That potent mix “must have been the smell of home to its inhabitants & perhaps even the smell of civilization,” he concluded.

Ramses VI undoubtedly regarded the perfumed world of his palace as the epitome of civilized life. But at the end of a long day, Egyptian sandal-makers & smiths, like Pompeii’s working stiffs, may well have smelled home as the air of city streets filled their nostrils.

See:

A. Arshamian et al. The perception of odor pleasantness is shared across cultures. Current Biology. Published April 4, 2022. 

D. Goldsmith. Smellscapes in ancient Egypt. In K. Neumann & A. Thomason, eds., The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East. New York, September 2021.

D. Goldsmith. Fish, fowl & stench in ancient Egypt. In A. Schellenberg & T. Krüger, eds., Sounding Sensory Profiles in the Ancient Near East. SBL Press, 2019.

B. Huber et al. How to use modern science to reconstruct ancient scents. Nature Human Behavior. Published March 28, 2022. 

B. Huber et al. An archaeology of odors: Chemical evidence of ancient aromatics at the oasis of Tayma, NW Arabia. 11th International Conference on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. Munich, April 3–7, 2018.

R.J. Littman et al. Eau de Cleopatra: Mendesian perfume & Tell Timai. Near Eastern Archaeology. Vol. 84, September 2021.

N. Morley. Urban smells & Roman noses. In M. Bradley, ed., Smell & the Ancient Senses. New York, December 2014.

J. La Nasa et al. Archaeology of the invisible: The scent of Kha & Merit. Journal of Archaeological Science. Vol. 141, May 2022. 

E. Rowan. The sensory experiences of food consumption. In R. Skeates & J. Day, eds., The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology. New York, November 2019.

The Woman who Figured Out what Mankind is Made of after Thousands of Years Passed

The answer to this fundamental question of astrophysics was discovered in 1925 by Cecilia Payne (1900-1979) & explained in her Ph.D. thesis. Payne showed how to decode the complicated spectra of starlight in order to learn the relative amounts of the chemical elements in the stars. In 1960 the distinguished astronomer Otto Struve referred to this work as “the most brilliant Ph.D. thesis ever written in astronomy.”

Cecilia Payne was born in Wendover, England. After entering Cambridge University she soon knew she wanted to study a science but was not sure which one. She then chanced to hear the astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944) give a public lecture on his recent expedition to observe the 1919 solar eclipse, an observation that proved Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. 

She later recalled her exhilaration: “The result was a complete transformation of my world picture. When I returned to my room I found that I could write down the lecture word for word.” She realized that physics was for her.

Later, at Cambridge Observatory Cecilia told Professor Eddington, that she wanted to be an astronomer. He suggested a number of books for her to read, but she had already read them. Eddington then invited her to use the Observatory’s library, with access to all the latest astronomical journals. 

"There is no joy more intense than that of coming upon a fact that cannot be understood in terms of currently accepted ideas." declared Cecilia Payne

Payne realized early during her Cambridge years, that a woman had little chance of advancing beyond a teaching role, & no chance at all of getting an advanced degree in England. 

Women in the USA had only won the right to vote in national elections in 1920, just 3 years before Payne left England in 1923 for the United States. Here she met Professor Harlow Shapley (1885-1952), the new director of the Harvard College Observatory, who offered her a graduate fellowship. 

Cecilia Payne became the 1st person to earn a PhD in astronomy from Harvard University. Her 1925 graduate thesis proposed that the Sun & other stars were made predominantly of hydrogen, & described as "the most brilliant PhD thesis ever written in astronomy." (Payne received the 1st Ph.D. in astronomy from Radcliffe College for her thesis, since Harvard did not grant doctoral degrees to women.)

But Harvard did have the world’s largest archive of stellar spectra on photographic plates. Astronomers obtain such spectra by attaching a spectroscope to a telescope. This instrument spreads starlight out into its “rainbow” of colors, spanning all the wavelengths of visible light. The wavelength increases from the violet to the red end of the spectrum, as the energy of the light decreases. A typical stellar spectrum has many narrow dark gaps where the light at particular wavelengths (or energies) is missing. These gaps are called absorption “lines,” & are due to various chemical elements in the star’s atmosphere that absorb the light coming from hotter regions below.

The study of spectra had led to the science of astrophysics. In 1859, Gustav Kirchoff & Robert Bunsen in Germany heated various chemical elements & observed the spectra of the light given off by the incandescent gas. They found that each element has its own characteristic set of spectral lines—its uniquely identifying “fingerprint.” In 1863, William Huggins in England observed many of these same lines in the spectra of the stars. The visible universe, it turned out, is made of the same chemical elements as those found on Earth.

Beginning in the 1880s, astronomers at Harvard College such as Edward Pickering, Annie Jump Cannon, Williamina Fleming, & Antonia Maury had succeeded in classifying stars according to their spectra into seven types: O, B, A, F, G, K, & M. It was believed that this sequence corresponded to the surface temperature of the stars, with O being the hottest & M the coolest. In her Ph.D. thesis (published as Stellar Atmospheres [1925]), Payne used the spectral lines of many different elements & the work of Indian astrophysicist Meghnad Saha, who had discovered an equation relating the ionization states of an element in a star to the temperature to definitively establish that the spectral sequence did correspond to quantifiable stellar temperatures. Payne also determined that stars are composed mostly of hydrogen & helium. However, she was dissuaded from this conclusion by Princeton astronomer Henry Norris Russell (1877-1957), who thought that stars surely would have the same composition as Earth. (Russell conceded in 1929 that Payne was correct.) 

In principle, it seemed that one might obtain the composition of the stars by comparing their spectral lines to those of known chemical elements observed in laboratory spectra. Astronomers had identified elements like calcium & iron as responsible for some of the most prominent lines, so they naturally assumed that such heavy elements were among the major constituents of the stars. In fact, Princeton's Henry Norris Russell at Princeton had concluded that if the Earth’s crust were heated to the temperature of the Sun, its spectrum would look nearly the same.


When Cecilia Payne arrived at Harvard, a comprehensive study of stellar spectra had long been underway. Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941) whose cataloging work was instrumental in the development of contemporary stellar classification.  Annie was nearly deaf throughout her career. She was a suffragist & a member of the National Women's Party.

Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941)

Annie had sorted the spectra of several hundred thousand stars into seven distinct classes. She had devised & ordered the classification scheme, based on differences in the spectral features. Astronomers assumed that the spectral classes represented a sequence of decreasing surface temperatures of the stars, but no one was able to demonstrate this quantitatively.

Cecilia Payne, who studied the new science of quantum physics, knew that the pattern of features in the spectrum of any atom was determined by the configuration of its electrons. She also knew that at high temperatures, one or more electrons are stripped from the atoms, which are then called ions. The Indian physicist M. N. Saha had recently shown how the temperature & pressure in the atmosphere of a star determine the extent to which various atoms are ionized.

Payne began a long project to measure the absorption lines in stellar spectra, & within two years produced a thesis for her doctoral degree, the first awarded for work at Harvard College Observatory. In it, she showed that the wide variation in stellar spectra is due mainly to the different ionization states of the atoms & hence different surface temperatures of the stars, not to different amounts of the elements. She calculated the relative amounts of eighteen elements & showed that the compositions were nearly the same among the different kinds of stars. She discovered, surprisingly, that the Sun & the other stars are composed almost entirely of hydrogen & helium, the two lightest elements. All the heavier elements, like those making up the bulk of the Earth, account for less than two percent of the mass of the stars.

Most of the mass of the visible universe is hydrogen, the lightest element, & not the heavier elements that are more prominent in the spectra of the stars! This was indeed a revolutionary discovery. Harlow Shapley sent Payne’s thesis to Professor Russell at Princeton, who informed her that the result was “clearly impossible.” To protect her career, Payne inserted a statement in her thesis that the calculated abundances of hydrogen & helium were “almost certainly not real.”

She then converted her thesis into the book Stellar Atmospheres, which was well-received by astronomers. Within a few years it was clear to everyone that her results were both fundamental & correct. Cecilia Payne had showed for the first time how to “read” the surface temperature of any star from its spectrum. She showed that Cannon’s ordering of the stellar spectral classes was indeed a sequence of decreasing temperatures & she was able to calculate the temperatures. The so-called Princeton Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, a plot of luminosity versus spectral class of the stars, could now be properly interpreted, & it became by far the most powerful analytical tool in stellar astrophysics.

From the time she finished her Ph.D. through the 1930s, Payne advised students, conducted research, & lectured—all the usual duties of a professor. Yet, because she was a woman, her only title at Harvard was “technical assistant” to Professor Harlow Shapley. 

In 1933, Payne traveled to Europe to meet Russian astronomer Boris Gerasimovich, who had previously worked at the Harvard College Observatory & with whom she planned to write a book about variable stars. In Göttingen, Ger., she met Sergey Gaposchkin, a Russian astronomer who could not return to the Soviet Union because of his politics. Payne was able to find a position at Harvard for him. They married in 1934 & often collaborated on studies of variable stars. She was named a lecturer in astronomy in 1938, but even though she taught courses, they were not listed in the Harvard catalog until after World War II.

In collaboration with colleague John Whitman, she rendered this early X-ray image of the supernova remnant Cassopeia-A in 1976 using yarn & needlepoint. 

Despite being indisputably one of the most brilliant & creative astronomers of the 20C, Cecilia Payne was never elected to the elite National Academy of Sciences. But times were beginning to change. In 1956, she was finally made a full professor (the 1st woman so recognized at Harvard) & chair of the Astronomy Department.

Her fellow astronomers certainly came to appreciate her genius. In 1976, the American Astronomical Society awarded her the prestigious Henry Norris Russell Prize. In her acceptance lecture, she said, “The reward of the young scientist is the emotional thrill of being the 1st person in the history of the world to see something or to understand something.” 

See:

American Museum of Natural History: Cecilia Payne & the Composition of the Stars

Encyclopedia Britannica: Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin 

Archival Collections:

Collections of Cecilia Payne- & Sergei Gaposchkin. Wolbach Library, Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass.

Papers of Harlow Shapley, 1906-1966; HUG 4773.10 Box 89. Harvard University Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Papers of Cecilia Helena Payne-Gaposchkin, 1924, circa 1950s-1990s, 2000; HUGB P182.5, P182.50. Harvard University Archives, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Link.

Project PHaEDRA. Wolbach Library, Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass. Link.

Radcliffe College Alumnae Association Records, ca.1894-2004; RG IX, Series 2, box 241. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Wilbur Kitchener Jordan Records of the President of Radcliffe College, 1943-1960; RG II, Series 3, boxes 27, 60. Radcliffe College Archives, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Bibliography: 

Bartusiak, Marcia. 1993. “The Stuff of Stars.” The Sciences, no. September/October: 34–39.

Boyd, Sylvia. 2014. Portrait of a Binary : The Lives of Cecilia Payne & Sergei Gaposchkin. Penobscot Press.

DeVorkin, David. 2010. “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence: C.H. Payne, H.N. Russell & Standards of Evidence in Early Quantitative Stellar Spectroscopy.” Journal Of Astronomical History & Heritage 13 (2): 139–44.

Gaposchkin, Cecilia Helena Payne. 1984. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin: An Autobiography (“The Dyer’s Hand”) & Other Recollections. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Gaposchkin, Sergei. 1970. The Divine Scramble. Self-Published.

Gingerich, Owen, Katherine Haramundanis, & Dorrit Hoffleit. 2001. The Starry Universe: The Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin Centenary. L. Davis Press.

Popova, Maria. 2017. “Stitching a Supernova: A Needlepoint Celebration of Science by Pioneering Astronomer Cecilia Payne.” Brain Pickings (blog). May 10, 2017. 

Russell, Henry Norris. 1929. “On the Composition of the Sun’s Atmosphere.” The Astrophysical Journal 70 (July): 11.

Spiller, James. 2015. Frontiers for the American Century: Outer Space, Antarctica, & Cold War Nationalism. First edition. Palgrave Studies in the History of Science & Technology. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Woodman, Jennifer. 2016. “Stellar Works: Searching for the Lives of Women in Science.” Dissertations & Theses, June.