Bricks and Rocket Stoves Made From Clay, Dung and Straw

Education, People
[caption id="attachment_24263" align="alignright" width="480"] This is a six-brick "rocket" stove before being plastered with clay. Image USAID[/caption] In relatively prosperous lands, buildings are constructed of such materials as concrete, steel, and wood. In many lands, however, such materials are out of reach. Less expensive materials must be used, especially for housing. Brick masonry is a logical choice. In the arts, dung may be added to clay without the straw in the manufacture of pottery. What’s the chemical background of this technique? Bricks: Early Origins Baked bricks were used even in early Bible accounts. Genesis 11:3 quotes individuals crossing the valley plain of Shinar: “And they began to say, each one to the other: “Come on! Let us make bricks and bake them with a burning process.” So brick served as…
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Double Tragedy for the Japanese-American Iba Family of California

History, People
I am a chemist. So why do I write about the tragedy befalling a family? It stems from an article I wrote entitled The Tragic Case of the Los Angeles Wannabe Chemist. In that article, I describe a chemical explosion in 1947 that killed 17 and injured more than 150 persons. Alice was not simply killed. Her body was blown to bits. She was assisting the Ohio-born wannabe chemist, Robert M. Magee. Magee not only lied about his higher education credentials, he hadn't even finished high school, according to his mother. Introducing the Iba Family Alice had been hired just one month-and-a-half before the incident, and was given a change of assignment to work alongside Magee. Her education appears to have been limited to high school. How old was she?…
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What Is Asparagusic Acid? Its Metabolites? A Funny Story

Chemistry, People
Many enjoy hot asparagus, whether as a cream soup, or a simple steamed, sautéed, or even raw vegetable. Since I am a chemist, I find it of interest from that perspective as well. Yes, I realize the reader almost certainly has already deduced asparagusic acid is named for this grass-related vegetable. Background But let me give a little background before I get into asparagus and asparagusic acid, and why I write concerning them. When I was the age for it, I attended Drexel Institute of Technology¹ in Philadelphia, PA. Drexel offered the benefit of a cooperative work assignment each year to provide job-related experience plus a small income to help cover the cost of college. My first assignment provided an additional perquisite: a government car for transportation to Trenton, NJ.…
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Some Prospered from the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression

History, People
[caption id="attachment_19683" align="alignright" width="440"] Soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone.[/caption] The Great Depression is the term applied to a serious and long-lasting financial depression that began in the United States in 1929 and lasted through approximately 1941. Naturally, it affected the world in general. Curiously, but when you think about it, not too surprisingly, not all U.S. citizens suffered from the Great Depression. In fact, some even prospered as a result of it. Who? How? The Masses Probably contrary to what you might suppose, life expectancy actually rose. It's natural to think suicide would have lowered life expectancy; yet suicide represents only a tiny fraction of total deaths. Even though suicides increased, longevity improved. The CNN reference offers some suggestions why. Individual Success Charles Darrow: Some prospered not…
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The Deadly Morning Sickness Medication Thalidomide – Still In Use Today?

Medicine, People
Available to the general public in 1957, thalidomide¹ was initially prescribed as a sedative or hypnotic medication. A sedative, we know, is intended to "calm the nerves". What is an hypnotic? A number of online definitions suggest an hypnotic is a drug, likened to hypnotism, tending to produce sleep. A little later, it was given to fight nausea, and was prescribed to expectant mothers who experienced morning sickness. Who knew the morning sickness medication thalidomide would cause devastation to the babies? Search the web by entering the word thalidomide, and choosing the category images, and you will see quite a few photos of former "thalidomiders". A full-term pregnancy lasts nine months. While expectant mothers may have been calmed and their nausea lessened, it didn't take long for thalidomide to produce…
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Edward Villeroy Stockham: Lost in the Masquerade

History, People
[caption id="attachment_19594" align="alignright" width="480"] Edward purchased Seneca Cannery c. 1900.[/caption] It's almost certain you've never heard of him. Edward Villeroy Stockham was given what most would call a good upbringing. He was to interact with Society in some very interesting ways, eventually marrying into a most historic family. Edward was to become a leading citizen, then get "lost in the masquerade", as the popular lyricist and singer Leon Russell croons. Auspicious Beginnings Edward V. Stockham was born 17 Oct 1863 in Camden, New Jersey to Charles Edward and Mary Humes Tomb Stockham. Charles was eminently successful in the lumber business. Edward had an auspicious beginning. After all, an English surname, Stockham means "at the tree stocks". During his earliest working years, Edward Stockham was closely associated with his father's lumber…
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The Tragedy in Minnehaha Finney’s Life

History, People
[caption id="attachment_19572" align="alignright" width="440"] Sleep in Peace, Minnie[/caption] Many of us are not fond of our own name, though others may think it is grand. But somehow I think there are very few who would desire a name such as Minnehaha Finney. On the other hand, the name catches the eye, it is decidedly different! The very name itself makes us want to learn about the woman. And, we want to know what she looked like. A Little Background Here is an excerpted history of the life of Minnehaha Olive Finney, including a terrible tragedy that involved her family when she was yet a child, as told by a relative: Minnehaha was born at Pittsburg, Carroll County, Indiana, January 24, 1867. She graduated in the High School at Beloit, Kansas,…
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David Weatherly: Railroad Executive, Silversmith, Clock and Watch Maker

History, People
[caption id="attachment_19539" align="alignright" width="440"] Grandfather clock face[/caption] It's funny how specialized Society has become. Perhaps it is just as funny how diverse the skills of persons in the past could be. A prime example was an emigrant to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – David Weatherly, Sr. Who Was David Weatherly? Born 14 Jun 1779 at Berwick upon Tweed, County Northumberland, England, David married "Molly" Lawson, daughter of grocer Joseph Lawson on 9 Feb 1806. The couple would eventually have some nine children, the youngest being Ellen Weatherly, born in 1826. David would die 05 Feb 1851 in Philadelphia. His most famous child would have been David Weatherly, Jr., the "Philadelphia Lawyer". The Couple in Philadelphia These last decade of the 1790s and for perhaps a handful of years thereafter, Philadelphia was devastated…
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Catharine Jekyll Hicks Ceronio Servel Browne Buried in West Bengal, India

History, People
[caption id="attachment_19507" align="alignright" width="480"] South Park Street Cemetery - Image Giridhar Appaji Nag Y.[/caption] Born into a family connected with the Revolutionary War, Catharine Jekyll Hicks married men of great historical interest. Eventually, she wound up in Calcutta, West Bengal, India. How did this come about? She married three times, the first of which was to Stephen Ceronio. Stephen Ceronio was directed in his Revolutionary War secret agent activity by Robert Morris and Benjamin Franklin. Stephen Ceronio and Robert Morris were well acquainted. Notice their proximity in the Philadelphia City Directories: 1785: Willing, Morris, and Swanwick 11 Penn St. Merchants 1791: Ceronio, Stephen Merchant 1 Penn St. The Marriage and Demise of Stephen Ceronio The wedding of Stephen and Catharine is listed in records as, Marriage: 12 May 1784 in…
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Civil War Reenactment – Is It Curious They Have Such Appeal?

History, People
Reenactment. Perhaps the most significant war in any nation is an internal war, a civil war. This is doubtless because a civil war threatens the very existence of a nation. Since technology within a nation is likely accessible to both sides, it might be expected there would be heavy damage, including considerable mortality, inflicted on both sides. Motivation for the Civil War The United States engaged in civil war during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, from April 1861 until the Spring of 1865. There are any number of opinions as to what motivated the North to take a stand against the South. One person will say it was because of slavery. Maybe this was the primary motive, but others think it was not. Perhaps it was a bit more like…
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