Thursday, January 27, 2022

field work

Every picture tells a story No. 22

Hedwig the milk maid worked on various farms until she got to the one owned by Hedwig Scholz and Paul Gellrich at Olbersdorf (Kreis Reichenbach, Silesia), and ended up marrying their son, Paul Gellrich junior. When her husband was drafted to serve in WW2, he insisted she and her baby move in with his parents (rather than with hers at Dörndorf). She did so quite reluctantly, as she didn't get on very well with her mother in law, who allegedly made everybody feel that it was her farm and everybody else was just tolerated by her good grace. As Hedwig Scholz died in 1945 and her son didn't come back from the war, there was nobody to defend her views, so I may be reporting a single-sided, biased view here.

The only information we have about her siblings comes from an inheritance fought over in court, which kind of fits with the reputation.

As the surviving relatives didn't like her much, there aren't many photos of her, but here she is (right) surveying her fields with an unidentified woman:

And another one which has suffered some sort of unintended darkening:

The name Scholz, by the way, which she shares with Germany's new chancellor Olaf Scholz, is the Silesian variant of the village mayor, elsewhere known as Schultheiß or Schul(t)z(e). Like Schulz and all other variations, it's far too common to be useful, but at least it points firmly to a Silesian origin.

This photo is also on flickr.

Every picture tells a story series so far:

  1. string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927
  2. greetings from Adamsweiler
  3. Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich
  4. quartet times three
  5. Neumühl 1923
  6. Tangermünde railway station 1889
  7. a singing lesson
  8. bei Wilhelm Geppert
  9. a bakery at Lorsch 1900
  10. Consumgeschäft von Julius Düsselmann
  11. Hanna and Ruth
  12. a young chemist
  13. school's out at Reichenstein, 1886
  14. a patchwork family in East Prussia
  15. the case of the missing grandmother
  16. checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
  17. finding Mimi
  18. five sisters, five decades
  19. happy at home
  20. gone milking
  21. steel workers
  22. field work

Alternatively, you can use this twitter thread as an illustrated table of contents.

In a somewhat roundabout way, this series relates to my research for the family history music memoir I have now completed in a first version.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Heisenberg's cubes

It was great fun and slightly scary to learn about uranium cubes left behind by Nazi Germany's research programme into nuclear fission. Some of these cubes are being investigated in US labs right now and are still yielding information about the events that happened more than 80 years ago.

I combined this with other developments happening in nuclear forensics for a feature that is out now in C & I:

Nuclear legacy

Chemistry & Industry Volume 86, Issue 1, January 2022, Pages 30-33 DOI:10.1002/cind.861_11.x

access via:

Wiley Online Library (paywalled)

SCI (members only)

This is one of the 664 uranium cubes from the failed nuclear reactor that German scientists tried to build in Haigerloch during World War II.

Credit: John T. Consoli/University of Maryland

In the same issue, on the very next page, you'll also find my review of the book Great adaptations, by Morgan Phillips.

Wiley Online Library (paywalled)

I'm also starting a twitter thread with this year's C&I features here.

Monday, January 24, 2022

a family tree of life

I enjoyed drawing my family tree when I was young, but have long since run out of space to fit in all my ancestors, so I was quite impressed to see people have found a solution to fitting 2 million species onto a family tree of "all" life. I'm having a bit of trouble with the claims that it is complete and covering all of life though, as the estimates I recall for species numbers of eukaryotes are on the order of 8 million, and for all cellular life there was a calculation predicting one trillion species. So, it's rather a family tree of every species that has a binomial name, but still quite impressive.

I took that as an excuse to discuss the cultural history of using trees for data visualisation as well. The resulting feature is out now:

A family tree of everything alive

Current Biology Volume 32, Issue 2, 24 January 2022, Pages R55-R58

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

Following the evolution of our ancestry from the last universal ancestor, one has to watch out for the places where we take a small side road, while the road ahead leads to a larger number of species. This is the case first for the split between deuterostomes and protostomes and then, shown here, when mammals part ways with the rest of four-legged animals. (Image provided by OneZoom.)

PS The PNAS special issue on the Earth BioGenome project, which aims to sequence the genomes of all named eukaryotes, so a very similar number of species (1.8 million) unfortunately arrived too late to be mentioned in this feature. I covered that project on its launch in 2018, and will do an update on it elsewhere.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

steel workers

Every picture tells a story No. 21

Ernst Leopold Kosmowsky from East Prussia (son of Auguste the missing granny, brother of Friedrich with the fiddle) moved to the rapidly growing industrial city of Hamborn in October 1922 to find work there. He worked in mining at first, but from August 1938 he was employed as a Brenner (burner?) at the steelcast factory Friedrich-Wilhelms-Hütte at nearby Mülheim.

The photo shows him (top row, marked with a cross) with his colleagues around 1941. It strikes me that he and some of the others are looking quite cheerful - suppose at that point being an essential worker in the steel industry was preferable to being cannon fodder at the front.

Ernst Leopold and Auguste from the East Prussian patchwork family moved to Hamborn in the same month and got married the following year, so we assume that this was a coordinated project, but we don't have any explicit information on that. Their shared migration background was wiped from the collective memory fairly swiftly.

This photo is also on flickr.

Every picture tells a story series so far:

  1. string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927
  2. greetings from Adamsweiler
  3. Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich
  4. quartet times three
  5. Neumühl 1923
  6. Tangermünde railway station 1889
  7. a singing lesson
  8. bei Wilhelm Geppert
  9. a bakery at Lorsch 1900
  10. Consumgeschäft von Julius Düsselmann
  11. Hanna and Ruth
  12. a young chemist
  13. school's out at Reichenstein, 1886
  14. a patchwork family in East Prussia
  15. the case of the missing grandmother
  16. checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
  17. finding Mimi
  18. five sisters, five decades
  19. happy at home
  20. gone milking
  21. steel workers

Alternatively, you can use this twitter thread as an illustrated table of contents.

In a somewhat roundabout way, this series relates to my research for the family history music memoir I have now completed in a first version.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

saxophone playlist

As I mentioned in my year review, my Plague Year Bach Project has been paused by a shoulder injury, so instead of the daily cello practice I'm spending more time with my tenor saxophone, which happens to be compatible with the injury, due to its rather brilliantly ergonomic design.

So what can I play on that? I went through our collection of flute music and also raided a few charity shops for saxophone books - there must be an amazing number of people who try and give up the saxophone, judging by the amount of discarded sheet music I found everywhere! Then I had a look at youtube and found a few players whose choices I liked, so now I almost have something I could call a repertoire, including covers of pop, rock, chanson, latin, some jazz-y things, as well as the odd classical piece.

Rather than sorting by genres, however, I will list pieces under the reason why I picked them (and the reasons obviously evolve over time, so they start with because it's easy and end with because it's hard). In brackets I give the key signature and first note (as I finger it, so it will sound a tone lower, and the same fingering on an alto will sound a fifth lower). Oh, and I'm also throwing in links to relevant videos in my YouTube playlist.

fun and easy tunes

The bare necessities (#, D)

Mamma mia (b, D)

Rasputin (-, A) - inspired by the string duo adaptation of the Ayoub sisters

tunes with interesting chromatic passages

When I’m sixty-four (#, E)

Les copains d’abord (#, G) - Yo Jazz Band (I discovered this version long after I learned to play it myself, so my version is more shaped by Brassens himself and by the brilliant recent cover from Pomplamoose).

How high the moon (#, D) - backing track (a tone up compared to my version, so ###. Hang on, probably my ancient sheet music is for C instruments, so I probably should use the ### version!)

Take five (b, A) - again playing from a flute score here, so should take it up a tone.

emotional tunes / power ballads

Yesterday - Alexandra Ilieva

La vie en rose - Alexandra Ilieva

Killing me softly - Alexandra Ilieva and Graziatto

Everything I do (bb, D)

tunes jumping around with big intervals

Dragostea din tei - Daniele Vitale

Bad romance - Alexandra Ilieva

Champs Élysées (Waterloo Road) - (#, D)

lively latin tunes eg bossa nova

Girl from Ipanema (bb; C) - backing track; 30 mins video explaining how weird and wonderful this tune is

Blame it on the bossa nova (##, A)

Señorita - Alexandra Ilieva and Nick Kaiafas

Sway (quien sera) - backing track to play along with

something challenging

The swan (included in Saxophone solos, vol 1, Chester Music, Ed. Paul Harvey) At first I thought it was a crazy idea to adapt this for the sax, but then I realised it's an interesting challenge to produce the smooth sound required for the piece - you don't want to sound like a demented duck!

Thursday, January 13, 2022

gone milking

Every picture tells a story No. 20

Hedwig, the little girl with the Pippi Longstocking vibe outside Wilhelm Geppert's bakery, grew up and started working on farms, milking cows, killing and plucking geese, that sort of thing. She started working as a nanny aged 14, then from age 15 worked as a farm helper in places like Zadel and Hedwigswalde, with just one short stint as a domestic servant in between.

Here she is apparently on her way to do some milking:

except that the photo appears to be part of a series (watch out for the sieve leaning against the wall to correlate the images), which at one point was invaded by a horse:

This photo is also on flickr.

Every picture tells a story series so far:

  1. string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927
  2. greetings from Adamsweiler
  3. Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich
  4. quartet times three
  5. Neumühl 1923
  6. Tangermünde railway station 1889
  7. a singing lesson
  8. bei Wilhelm Geppert
  9. a bakery at Lorsch 1900
  10. Consumgeschäft von Julius Düsselmann
  11. Hanna and Ruth
  12. a young chemist
  13. school's out at Reichenstein, 1886
  14. a patchwork family in East Prussia
  15. the case of the missing grandmother
  16. checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
  17. finding Mimi
  18. five sisters, five decades
  19. happy at home
  20. gone milking

Alternatively, you can use this twitter thread as an illustrated table of contents.

In a somewhat roundabout way, this series relates to my research for the family history music memoir I'm writing.

Monday, January 10, 2022

here be dragons

I like to start the new year with a feature on the theme of "fantastic species and where to find them". This year's instalment is on dragons - various reptile species that look like mythical beasts and/or are named after them. (Not including leafy sea dragons though, as I covered them in the original fantastic species feature.) Essentially, although (European) myths and legends tell us dragons need to be slayed (Chinese dragons are getting a bit more respect), the message here is that some of them may need saving:

Dragons in danger

Current Biology Volume 32, Issue 1, 10 January 2022, Pages R1-R3

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

The Komodo dragon (V. komodoensis) has had its Red List status upgraded recently, as climate change is bound to shrink its surviving populations. (Photo: David Clode/Unsplash.)

PS As I write this, fossil dragons are in the news, too. Maybe keep those for the next dragon feature.

service announcement: a new twitter thread to connect this year's CB features starts here.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

happy at home

Every picture tells a story, No. 19

This photo of Karl Düsselmann (1841-1927) and his wife Elisabeth Imig (1851-1924) strikes me as unusual as it appears to have been taken informally at their home, almost as a snapshot, without the slightest worry about the cluttered background. Did they perhaps know an early amateur photographer?

(this version now improved with a little magic from a helpful twitter friend
compare and contrast versions in my tweet and the replies to it)

Funnily enough, we still have a couple of frames looking a lot like those two on either side of the clock. At the time of Karl's death, his peripatetic son Julius happened to be geographically close, so he may well have inherited those and passed them down to us. It's a shame we can't see who or what's in those frames and the images below, with better quality, this might have been a chance to glimpse at earlier generations of whom we have no photos at all.

Karl Düsselmann (sometimes also appearing as Carl and/or Düselmann) came from the Krefeld clan, which had prospered in the textile industry of that town. He was one of the 13 children that were divided into teams by confession: all six boys grew up protestants (like their dad) and all seven girls became catholics (like their mum). This confessional split even applied to Karl and his twin sister, Maria (1841-1932). Maria married a Heinrich Wilhelm Schürenberg and had five children - about whom we know nothing because they were on the other side of the divide.

After his military service (likely to have been 1861-64, followed by three years as a reservist) and likely involvement in several wars (see below), Karl was a Werkmeister (foreman).

Elisabeth came from the Imig clan in Simmern. Several of her brothers had moved to the lower Rhine area (earlier generations of Imigs had been involved in a failed attempt to emigrate to the New World which ended up in a new settlement on the lower Rhine, not sure if these two moves have a causal connection). Some of the brothers were quite successful there, so I am guessing Elisabeth may have used them to move to the area and find herself a husband there.

Their descendants are listed here. Briefly, Karl had one son (also called Karl) from an earlier marriage, who emigrated to the US in 1892 and had two sons there who were both born in New York. Karl and Elisabeth then had six children, but we have no photos of them with any of their children. Five of them got married and we do have photos of each one with their spouse. The oldest daughter married a Dutchman and ended up in the Netherlands, and one of the sons emigrated to the US with his family in 1924. Overall, our happy couple had 15 grandchildren.

Here's a later (and clearer) portrait of the couple:

It looks like Karl got some military medals to show off. As he was born in 1841, he could have been involved in Prussia's short wars against Denmark (1864) and Austria (1866), which both fell into his three year period as a reservist, and possibly also in the one against France in 1870/71. Don't have the resolution to get any more info from the medals, they appear to be 5 of them, from left to right: big round, small round, cross, big round, flat/wavy.

Thinking of those 5 medals and forgotten military exploits in the wider context of the Krefeld clan, I'm getting the impression that the Düsselmann Y chromosome appears to be linked to a taste for risk taking (slightly surprising in a town and family thriving on spinning and weaving), see also: Julius's rollercoaster of a career; Karl's brother August was the founding director of the Krefeld fire brigade on it becoming a professional force in 1890; August's son Walter smuggled arms for Ireland's Easter Uprising, survived the sinking of the Volturno and disappeared during WW2; and August's son Wilhelm was also a seafarer and died in a road accident. Might explain that, inspite of numerous male offspring over several generations, there aren't all that many carriers of the name around today. Then again, who knows what descendents in the US have done to the name to make it pronouncable in American English.

This photo is also on flickr.

Every picture tells a story series so far:

  1. string quartet Wuppertal Elberfeld 1927
  2. greetings from Adamsweiler
  3. Gastwirthschaft Ferd. Weirich
  4. quartet times three
  5. Neumühl 1923
  6. Tangermünde railway station 1889
  7. a singing lesson
  8. bei Wilhelm Geppert
  9. a bakery at Lorsch 1900
  10. Consumgeschäft von Julius Düsselmann
  11. Hanna and Ruth
  12. a young chemist
  13. school's out at Reichenstein, 1886
  14. a patchwork family in East Prussia
  15. the case of the missing grandmother
  16. checkpoint Glaner Brücke 1929(ish)
  17. finding Mimi
  18. five sisters, five decades
  19. happy at home

Alternatively, you can use this twitter thread as an illustrated table of contents.

In a somewhat roundabout way, this series relates to my research for the family history music memoir I've now completed..

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