Two new exhibits on Space are now open

Kerr rocketThe Carl Albert Center of the University of Oklahoma has launched a new exhibition, “Rockets’ Red Glare: Robert Kerr and the Space.”

View the exhibit both online and in person at Monnett Hall on the north oval of the OU campus. A website, Oklahoma and the Space Race, also displays a collection of Kerr’s Space and Aeronautics Memorabilia along with speeches and other archival material. Special thanks to Nathan Gerth and the archives staff for their creation of this exhibit, and to Mike Crespin and Cindy Rosenthal for including the Carl Albert Center in the Galileo’s World initiative.

The Carl Albert exhibit is a perfect complement to the Oklahomans and Space exhibit curated by Bill Moore, now open at the National Weather Center. Aviators, astronauts, scientists and engineers from Oklahoma have participated in aerospace activities throughout the history of the state. This special exhibit explores how the pioneering spirit that brought space scientists to Oklahoma also inspired them to explore the new frontier of space. It is based on the book by Bill Moore, Oklahomans and Space (Oklahoma Historical Society, 2011).


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Galileo’s World opens at Sam Noble

Galileo’s World is upon us… The first Galileo’s World exhibit opened Saturday, August 1st, at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History!

The joint-exhibit, Through the Eyes of the Lynx: Galileo, Natural History and the Americas, will run Aug. 1 – Jan. 18, 2016.

This exhibit explores the question: “How did the natural knowledge of Native Americans shape European science in the age of Galileo?”


The focal point of this exhibit is the natural history of Mexico by Francisco Hernandez, published by Galileo and his colleagues in the Academy of the Lynx. Through this work, Native American knowledge of plants and animals became part of mainstream European biology. Galileo’s world extended far beyond Italy to include the western hemisphere. Natural history became transformed into a global endeavor.

Check out “FRANCISCO HERNANDEZ: THE COOLEST EXPLORER YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF”, a report of this exhibit by Cara Giaimo on the Atlas Obscura news site (a “definitive guide to the world’s wondrous and curious places”).




The king of Spain commissioned a physician, Francisco Hernandez, to compile Native American plant and animal knowledge. Beginning in 1571, Hernandez worked closely with Aztec artists and physicians in central Mexico. This work resulted in a massive, multi-volume set of notes, with painted illustrations, describing thousands of animals and plants unknown to most of the world.

An Italian nobleman, Federigo Cesi, founded the Academy of the Lynx (Accademia dei Lincei), one of the earliest scientific societies. Publishing a definitive edition of the manuscript of Hernandez comprised the central, albeit elusive, goal of Cesi and the Academy of the Lynx. Galileo joined the ranks of the Lynx in 1611, bringing wide-ranging expertise in mathematics, engineering, literature, art and medicine. Soon he became their star member. Other members included some of the leading naturalists of the day. They worked together to publish a monumental natural history of the Americas based upon the manuscript Hernandez prepared for the king of Spain. The landmark project, finally accomplished in 1651, more than 70 years after Hernandez’ sojourn in central Mexico, symbolizes the transformation of natural history into a global endeavor.

In antiquity, the lynx was renowned for possessing sharp eyesight at night. Cesi believed that the eyes of the Academy of the Lynx would peer more deeply into the secrets of nature than ever before. Because of their work to publish Hernandez’ natural history of Mexico, the keen eyes of the Academy of the Lynx stretched the boundaries of European thought in the life sciences just as with Galileo’s discoveries in the physical sciences.

What you will see

The Lynx edition of Hernandez is on display in this exhibit, alongside specimens from the Sam Noble Museum and the Robert Bebb Herbarium of the OU Department of Biology.

Three Galileo first editions: The first edition of Galileo’s masterwork in physics, the Discourse on Two New Sciences (1636), finds its place in the exhibit because of its critique of giant tales, which provided a scientific constraint for assessing reports of strange creatures. This prized Galileo first edition is included alongside a little-known work of literary criticism by Galileo, Considerations on Tasso (first published in 1793). A third Galileo first edition is a pamphlet of letters to Cesi about the Academy of the Lynx.

Other original books include the first published edition of Aristotle’s biological works (1476); the natural histories of Aldrovandi and Topsell; early hand-colored printed herbals of Fuchs and Gerard, and other works in natural history by members of the Academy of the Lynx.

Join the conversation on Twitter



Co-curators: James Burnes, Carolyn Scearce, Jackson Pope, Tom Luczycki, Katrina Menard, Melissa Rickman, Kerry Magruder.

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Communities of collaboration

Our thanks to Rob Reynolds and the NextThought team for their series on “The Power of Connections.” Here’s an excerpt from an interview on open access and “collaborative communities.” For more, see Rob’s Power of Connections blog.

[vimeo 133998967 w=500 h=281]

Kerry Magruder and Rob Reynolds – Open Access from NextThought on Vimeo.

Kerry Magruder and Rob Reynolds discuss open access to learning materials

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Announcing the Galileo’s World exhibition

Gw logoThe Galileo’s World exhibition brings worlds together, connecting the world of Galileo with the world of OU during the University’s 125th anniversary.

Beginning in August, 2015, the Galileo’s World exhibition will offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view a complete set of first editions of Galileo’s printed works. Four of the OU copies contain Galileo’s own handwriting. They will be joined by 300 matchless rare books and manuscripts and finely-crafted replicas of historical instruments, some provided by the Museo Galileo in Florence.

Consider these three stories of how Galileo’s World will bring worlds together:

Johann Schreck was a friend of Galileo’s who assisted him during his telescopic observations. A few years later, Schreck went to China, where he wrote a work on engineering in Chinese. The OU copy incorporates Japanese revisions as well. OU students will discover much more to this story in the gallery on Galileo and China, where they will connect Galileo’s world with Chinese and Asian aspects of University life today.

Hernandez 2
Just as Galileo’s World brings together the worlds of OU and east Asia, so with the Americas. In the most important early natural history of America to be printed in Europe, Francesco Hernandez reported the plant and medical knowledge of the Aztecs of central Mexico. This work was regarded with such interest that Galileo and his colleagues in the Academy of the Lynx worked to finally publish it in 1651. Every OU student in a STEM field today will appreciate discovering that European progress in the life sciences, as far back as the scientific revolution, directly depended upon the natural knowledge of Native Americans.
Hernandez c

Just as Galileo’s World brings together the worlds of Asia and the Americas, so it reaches through time to the Middle Ages and includes the Middle East. Selenographia, a massive book by Johann Hevelius, the leading telescopic observer of the mid-17th century, was the first comprehensive lunar atlas, published less than 40 years after Galileo’s telescopic discoveries.

On the frontispiece, Hevelius celebrates science as the heritage of many cultures. Here, in one of the most impressive works of the scientific revolution, Hevelius portrays Galileo in Middle Eastern dress as a tribute to the tradition of medieval Islamic optics.
Hevelius d

These three brief stories show how Galileo’s World brings together worlds as far removed as Asia, America and the Middle East.

Galileo’s World is an “exhibition without walls.” Beginning with Bizzell Memorial Library at the heart of the Norman campus, galleries in each major library, including the Bird Library and the Schusterman Library, will bring together the Norman, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa campuses.

Joint-exhibitions at the National Weather Center, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History will engage visitors to these renowned museums and research centers.

Thanks to financial assistance provided by the OU Athletic Department, the University has acquired for the Galileo’s World exhibition an original Galileo-related manuscript by Oratio Grassi (1623), a beautiful work relating Renaissance art to Galileo and the telescope (Lorenzo Sirigatti, 1596), and the dialogue on ancient and modern music written by Galileo’s father, Vincenzo Galilei (1581). Coach Galileo will offer advice to the Sooners in a gallery located in Headington Hall, where athletes will strike the poses of the muscle men of Vesalius (1543) instead of only the Heisman trophy.

Vesalius muscle man

Galileo’s World will connect every academic program of the University, sustaining a multidisciplinary conversation that brings our worlds together across time and space. A portion of Tuscany was transplanted to the windswept plains of Oklahoma, and now the story of Galileo has become part of every student’s and researcher’s experience at OU. The interconnectedness of science and culture which characterized Galileo’s world, and which connects Galileo’s world to our own day, remains the common heritage of humanity which we explore across the University and beyond Oklahoma to the world.

See and or contact for more information.

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OU Lynx

Announcing a new collaboration for exhibit-based learning between the History of Science Collections and K12 educators: The OU Academy of the Lynx.

Lincei-TransparentCheck out the blog, follow oulynx tweets, join the Galileo-L listserv, and explore the OU Lynx Educator Workspace.

Our aim with the Lynx is to foster collaboration between OU and educators — including K12 teachers, amateur astronomers, docents, and museum professionals — in the development and implementation of the Galileo’s World exhibition, set to open in August 2015. Start here!

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“From the Vault” video resources


A series of “From the vault” videos is now available on OU’s Janux platform and at the Janux site on YouTube. These short videos, filmed on location by NextThought in the OU History of Science Collections, show rare treasures for a given topic along with a concisely-worded comment or story. Think of them as behind-the-scenes moments in a tour of the rare book vaults. Most are only 5-10 minutes long. They are not recorded lectures; rather than offering comprehensive information about a subject, they are designed to appeal to the imagination, to awaken interest in the history of science by conveying something of the physical presence of the rare books themselves. For this reason, they may be useful as auxiliary instructional resources for other courses across the various natural sciences including physics, astronomy, medicine, biology, geology, meteorology, chemistry, mathematics and engineering, as well as in humanities disciplines such as history, art, literature and the history of science.

To find the videos on YouTube, go to the Janux section (where videos from many courses are posted) and find the History of Science Online playlist.

Camille Flammarion, L'Atmosphere: Météorologie Populaire (Paris, 1888), p. 163.  Colorized by Susanna J. Magruder. Courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.To access the videos on the Janux platform, go to, and look in the Archive section for the History of Science to the Age of Newton course (HSCI 3013). As noted here previously, the course was offered in the 2014 spring semester, but the videos are still accessible to anyone by registering for the free version of the course. (The course icon, “Boldly go…,” may help you spot it quickly.) Within the course in the Janux platform, click the Lessons tab to view course content arranged week by week. The outline below will help you quickly find the videos of interest to you.

Have an iPad? A Janux app makes accessing the videos a breeze.

The numbers in the outline below are discontinuous; only the “From the Vault” videos (FTV) for each weekly unit are included. Not listed below (but equally accessible) are companion videos, filmed in a studio setting, which for each week’s topic invite students to consider what they know of the cultural context (“Starting Assumptions”) and to engage thought-provoking points of view (“Interpretations”).

  1. Week 1, Exploring the Past
  2. Week 2, Origins of Ancient Astronomy
  3. Week 3, Science in Ancient Egypt and the Aegean
  4. Week 4, Ancient Greek science
  5. Week 5, Hellenistic science
  6. Week 6, Roman science
  7. Week 7, Islamic and Early Medieval science
  8. Week 8, 14th-century science
  9. Week 9, 15th-century science
  10. Week 10, 16th-century Life sciences
  11. Week 11, 16th-century Astronomy
    • 11.2 Astronomy before Copernicus (see Dive Deeper instructions)
    • 11.2 Astronomy after Copernicus (see Dive Deeper instructions)
  12. Week 12, Science in Asia
  13. Week 13, Galileo
  14. Week 14, 17th-century science
    • 14.2 Competing paradigms (FTV not yet available)
    • 14.3 The Meaning of science (FTV not yet available)
  15. Week 15, Newton
    • 15.2 Newton’s works (FTV not yet available)
    • 15.3 Janus faces (FTV not yet available)

In addition to the above “From the Vault” videos for each week, there are also videos for “Starting Assumptions” and “Interpretations.” Watch these on Janux at YouTube or on the Janux platform.

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Happy birthday, Mac!

Today is the 30th anniversary of the unveiling of Macintosh, the first computer to be marketed to a wide public with a mouse and windows-based user interface. All of our computers today are its heirs.

1984 Mac
To celebrate, stop by the History of Science Collections and view an early, low-serial number 1984 Macintosh, donated by Tim Long, on display in the Roller Reading Room. The Collections also holds a late-1984 Macintosh donated by Kennard and Kay Bork; these are part of a computer collection consisting of approximately 40 working computers from the 1970’s through the 1990’s.

Steve Jobs, Rosetta Stone
One of my favorite portraits of Steve Jobs, taken by Tom Zimberoff, hangs above an easy chair in the Researcher Lounge of the History of Science Collections. Jobs saw that the Mac would do for computers what alphabetic writing did for ancient civilization. The Rosetta Stone displays the same text in three bands of writing, beginning with Egyptian hieroglyphics and the more-easily read demotic script. Both hieroglyphics and demotic, like Mesopotamian cuneiform languages, were written in syllabaries comprised of several hundred characters. Syllabaries were the scripts of highly trained scribes, mastered only through a long period of preparation. As a result, scribes were an elite culture, and their work was subject to the control of large, highly-organized states in Egypt and Mesopotamia. In contrast, the lowest band is Greek, an alphabetic script. With only a couple dozen characters, Greek could be mastered with determination by anyone. The resulting impact of Greek culture upon the world, made possible by literacy, signified to Jobs what the Mac and the 20th-century Information Revolution were all about.

Research Lounge

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On Monday morning Janux, OU’s new digital course platform, launches with the following courses, all of which offer free public enrollment:

  • Native Peoples of Oklahoma
  • Practical Importance of Human Evolution
  • Chemistry of Beer
  • Understanding and Detecting Deception
  • Power and Elegance of Computational Thinking
  • Introduction to Computer Programming
  • Administration of Adult and Higher Education
  • Introduction to Water
  • Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources
  • Physical Geology for Science and Engineering Majors
  • History of Science to the Age of Newton
  • Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
  • Introduction to Sociology

Go on over to the site and take a look. Sign up for any that interest you. On Monday morning, join thousands of other people around the world who will interact together as they explore these courses.

The Janux platform offers numerous features tailored to promote engaging learning opportunities, including text annotations, student interaction through forum discussions, and high-impact videos including interviews and on-location documentaries. Courses range the gamut across the sciences and humanities, offering anyone around the world access, without charge, to the intellectual resources of the University of Oklahoma.

One reason posting to this blog has lagged in recent months is because the Janux platform will include my own course, History of Science to the Age of Newton. But the truth is that this course no longer seems really my own: It began with the interested support of Dean Rick Luce and my colleagues in the Department of the History of Science, who encouraged me to engage the platform even during a time when we have other significant, large-scale digital initiatives afoot. It has been produced by a team of remarkable people with whom I have been privileged to work, whose skill and graciousness have inspired me. My debts to them are inestimable: Angie Calton, course design assistant; Grey Allman and the programming team, who have slaved away many late nights to implement new platform features to support high-quality online pedagogy; and Chris Kalinsky and the rest of the videography team (Meleah, Pat, Matt, Darren, & Jaynan), who are artists of light and shadow and have invested extended hours in filming the books – those treasures from the vault – on location in the History of Science Collections. Without their insight, initiative, skill, dogged labors, teamwork, collegiality and perseverance, my course would not be included in that list.

The launch of Janux is an exciting time for OU and for all of those involved. My hat is off to everyone who made it possible, and now the countdown to Monday morning begins…


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Boldly explore

Camille Flammarion, L'Atmosphere: Météorologie Populaire (Paris, 1888), p. 163.  Colorized by Susanna J. Magruder. Courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.
Camille Flammarion, L’Atmosphere: Météorologie Populaire (Paris, 1888), p. 163. Colorized by Susanna J. Magruder. Courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries. Download: jpg | tiff
Creative Commons License

More than a decade ago, in 1996, I prepared a small website telling the story of the above woodcut and tracing its first appearance to Camille Flammarion in 1888. That old website remains available, largely unchanged: “This is not a medieval woodcut.” It explores the image as visual rhetoric, concluding that its enduring appeal lies not so much in the flat Earth myth but as an icon of our common quest of discovery and exploration, the challenge of “boldly going where no one has gone before.”

Many colorized versions of the woodcut appear on that site in low resolution, with permission and according to fair use. However, wouldn’t it be great if there were a colorized version available in higher resolution which educators and anyone could freely use? This is why my daughter, Susanna J. Magruder, created the colorized version of Flammarion’s woodcut shown above, which she is distributing with a CC-by license. Enjoy! You can put it on your website, a t-shirt, a coffee mug, or print out a copy on quality paper for your wall.

I’ve already taken advantage of Susanna’s work by using her version as the icon for my spring 2014 course, “History of Science from Antiquity to the Age of Newton,” which will be available on OU’s Janux digital course platform. It’s already announced there, so take a look (and watch the course overview video, if you’re curious). To me, this woodcut is the ideal icon for the course, and I used it before for the same purpose.

If you’re interested in the longer story of the shape of the Earth, here is a 45-minute video I made some years ago that features the woodcut.

The original black and white illustration by Flammarion is available from our Online Galleries.

Thanks, Susanna!

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The secret of books


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