Wednesday’s Book Review: “Pete Rose: An American Dilemma”

BN-BY523_bkrvro_DV_20140317150559Pete Rose: An American Dilemma. By Kostya Kennedy. New York: Sports Illustrated Books, 2014.

Pete Rose is an icon, despite all that has happened to him over the years. A player more dedicated than talented he still reigns as the best hitter there ever was. He is still the all time hits leader in MLB despite having been retired from the game for a quarter century. He was also a leader of men, providing the fiery energy needed for success on the Big Red Machine of the 1970s and the Phillies World Champion of 1980. At the same time he was a demon-haunted human being whose vices were just as overpowering as his virtues.

Kostya Kennedy tries to bring all of this into perspective in this new biography of one of baseball’s giants. We find out little new here, but it is well presented and convincingly argued. Yes, Rose had a lot of shady friends. Yes, he was an inveterate gambler, womanizer, and all around jerk. Yes, he was a driven, single-minded performer on the sports stage. Yes, he broke rules, laws, and other conventions of society. For his gambling Rose was banned from baseball for life in 1989.

He also has the all-time Major League record for career base hits (4,256), games played (3,562), and at-bats (14,053). He has three World Champion rings, 1975 and 1976 with the Cincinnati Reds and 1980 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1973, took three batting titles (1968, 1969, and 1973), and was a 17-time all star.

In every way imaginable, Pete Rose is one of the greatest players ever, emphasis on “ever,” in Major League Baseball. Yet he is not in the Hall of Fame and has been banned from the game for life. His experience is tragic, polarizing, and evergreen. The author expends considerable effort trying to come to grips with the question of whether or not Rose should be banned from baseball and prohibited from induction in the Hall of Fame. I admit that I’m all for his inclusion in Cooperstown. Someone got all of those hits and other accolades from baseball and its fans. That person belongs in the Hall. That person is Pete Rose. He might have been less than successful at life, but he certainly was successful at baseball. If we barred entry to the Hall for all of those who failed in life but were great players I would have to throw out a bunch of Cooperstown enshrinees starting with Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby and Babe Ruth. Kennedy pretty much shares those same sentiments.

Rose’s situation is amplified by the steroid era in which many, many players nearing their time for consideration for the Hall of Fame are not banned from the process despite suspicions of their culpability in PED use. We’ll see what happens. Would you support or oppose Pete Rose’s induction into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame?

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Remembering Fred Ordway (1927-2014)

ordway2I drink a toast today to a fine gentleman, a gentle man, Frederick I. Ordway III, who passed away last week at the age of 87. Many in the space community know and counted as a good friend Fred. He was a stalwart in the arena for more than sixty years. We will all miss him.

I first met Fred when I arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1990 to take over as the NASA Chief Historian. He was both inviting and helpful as I settled into my new position at NASA Headquarters after having spent several years as an historian with the U.S. Air Force. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about NASA history at the time; Fred helped with that. Fred was working at the Department of Energy at the time, and was truly helpful in bringing me up to speed on the history of the space agency. Fred also told me about his long and storied career with NASA, his work with Wernher von Braun at the Marshall Space Flight Center, and his role as the technical adviser to Stanley Kubrick for the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. His books are still the final words in several areas. His traveling exhibit, Blueprint for Space: From Science Fiction to Science Fact, and the book by the same title was a path-breaking contribution to knowledge.


Fred Ordway in tennis clothes at left with a NASA delegation that includes Deke Slayton and George Mueller, with Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick center.

There have been many tributes written to the memory of Fred in the last few days. I note that an outstanding one by Tom Crouch at the National Air and Space Museum is located here. Another, from the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, which gave Fred an award for lifetime achievement, is located here.

So here’s to Fred. We all loved your company, your enthusiasm, and your good spirit.

Fred and Elizabeth Nesbitt  speaking with visitors at the National Air and Space Museum.

Fred and Elizabeth Nesbitt speaking with visitors at the National Air and Space Museum.

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Announcing My New Study: “Historical Analogs for the Stimulation of Space Commerce”

historical-analogs-sideI have just published as a part of the NASA History Series Historical Analogs for the Stimulation of Space Commerce.  The write-up for it reads: “With the rise of a range of private-sector entrepreneurial firms interested in pursuing space commerce, the process whereby their efforts might be incubated, fostered, and expanded comes to the fore as an important public policy concern in a way never before present in the Space Age. In the United States we are witnessing the convergence of several powerful economic forces, including the need to restore American capability to reach low-Earth orbit (LEO) for the servicing of the International Space Station (ISS) and the rise of a hospitality/tourism/entertainment industry interested in space. Through these case studies, we explore how to apply more effectively already-tested models of government support for commercial activities, as well as the interactions of both the public and private spheres in a new opportunity zone in space. In each case, a summation yields a range of key points.”

The study is available on-line for download at the NASA Site. Enjoy. I hope you find it useful.

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Wednesday’s Book Review: “The Black Seminoles”

The-Black-Seminoles-9780813014517The Black Seminoles: History of a Freedom-Seeking People. By Kenneth W. Porter. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996.

I greatly enjoyed this history of the Native Americans of Florida and their intermarriage with escaped slaves in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Kenneth W. Porter, a professor of history at the University of Oregon, was writing this manuscript when he died in 1981. He had been working on it since the 1930s, so this is a work that has enjoyed a very long gestation period. Revised and brought to book state by Alcione M. Amos and Thomas P. Sentrer, it now represents the state of the art about what is known about this subject.

This study ranges broadly; it relates the escapes of African slaves in the American Southeast into the swamps of Florida where they found refuge among the native tribes of the region. Intermarrying with the various Florida tribes they created an amalgam of African and Native American cultures. That does not mean that they rejected slavery; both the Creeks and the Seminoles both took slaves, as did many other Native American tribes. They never did, however, develop the large-scale agriculture that drove the plantation lifestyle of the antebellum South.

If there is a center to this book it revolves around the life of John Horse, a mixed blood Seminole whose father was a tribesman but whose mother was an escaped slave. Born around 1812, his early memories involved the horrors of war with the United States when Andrew Jackson commanded troops against the Creek Nation under the leadership of Red Stick. He led Seminole forces during the Second Seminole War; he fought at Okeechobee and was probably at Dade’s Massacre as well as other battles. John Horse understood that the American army had two objectives—making him fight all the harder—(1) forcing the Native population to move West of the Mississippi into what was called Indian Territory, and (2) reenslaving African Americans living among the tribes.

John Horse eventually surrendered on the promise that he and other Black Seminoles would be allowed to relocate to the West. When pressure from Floridians forced army commanders to rescind that agreement, Horse and others took action to free some 700 fellow Seminoles. John Horse continued to fight the U.S. until 1837 when he was sent to Indian Territory by the U.S. Army. He had a postwar career with the Army as a scout, but in the 1850s he led a group of Seminoles to Mexico to escape the Americans. After slavery ended, in the 1870s Horse and most of his fellow Seminoles returned to Texas and some, including Horse, served once again as an Army scout. It is a fascinating story well worth reading.

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The Esoteric Mormon Doctrine of Baptism for the Dead

Many have all wondered about it in Washington, D.C., at one time or another while driving around the Beltway and see the Mormon Temple rising before us like the Emerald City out of Oz. What do the Mormons do in there? They are willing to talk publicly, although they give few details, about only two rituals (although there are other rituals also performed there) that they practice there. The first is eternal marriage, not just “till death do you part” but for “time and all eternity.” I’m not sure what you think of that idea, but based on my past experience remaining with a wife for eternity sounds more like hell than almost anything else I can think of. The second temple ritual they talk about is baptism for the dead. That is what I want to discuss here.

Historic rendering of Nauvoo Temple from the 1840s. This was the earliest temple in which Mormon practiced baptism for the dead.

Historic rendering of Nauvoo Temple from the 1840s. This was the earliest temple in which Mormons practiced baptism for the dead.

This is an esoteric idea, to say the least. The concept of baptism for the dead arose during the Nauvoo period of the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1840s in response to several developments in the life of Joseph Smith Jr. and the movement he founded. Predicated on the double assumption that God loves all people and grants each an opportunity for salvation, and that salvation cannot be granted without baptism, the doctrine provided for the baptism of dead people by proxy. Those who had died without accepting the gospel would be taught after death, and others could be baptized on Earth in their stead.

Baptism for the dead was an extremely attractive concept for many Latter Day Saints, because it allowed for the salvation of all and signified the justice and mercy of God. It answered the fundamental question of what would happen to those who did not embrace the gospel as the early Mormons understood it, particularly ancestors who were already dead. This concern was registered by members of the Smith family for the soul of Alvin Smith, the oldest son who had died suddenly in 1823 without baptism into any Christian denomination.

The years of controversy and turmoil that had roiled the Mormon church from its origins in 1830, as well as the concomitant psychological problems that had arisen by the time of the church’s settlement in Nauvoo in 1839, also served to make the issue attractive to the church membership. The concern of the Saints for understanding the nature of the hereafter, particularly as revealed in obscure passages of scripture, also prompted its ready acceptance. As historian Richard P. Howard has observed:

All these developments‑the Smith family’s grief over Alvin, the intense persecution of the Saints, the speculative theological propensities of church leadership‑produced a milieu in which baptism for the dead came into focus as a means of sealing the deceased ancestors and relatives of the living Saints into the promises of the Mormon kingdom (celestial glory).

Joseph Smith Jr. apparently first considered the propriety of baptism for the dead after reading the only biblical reference to it: “Else what shall they do, which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” (I Corinthians 15:29). His consideration led to the full-fledged development of the idea.

Joseph Smith Jr.

Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-1844), founder of the Mormon church.

He made the first public disclosure of the doctrine of baptism for the dead on August 15, 1840, in Nauvoo at the funeral sermon for Seymour Brunson. An eyewitness, Simon Baker, reminisced about the occasion, commenting that Joseph Smith Jr. told the congregation that although baptism was necessary for salvation “that people could now act for their friends who had departed this life, and that the plan of salvation was calculated to save all who were willing to obey the requirements of the law of God.” At the October 1840 conference Smith instructed his followers in Nauvoo to practice baptism for the dead, for a time in the nearby Mississippi River but more appropriately in a temple projected for the city.

After these actions the Nauvoo Mormons began enthusiastically to incorporate the doctrine into their belief system. The practice, thereafter, was formalized in the church by means of a revelation dated January 19, 1841. This edict, written by Smith as a statement of God’s will, was included in the 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, along with two 1842 letters on the same subject. The practice, with this undisputed revelatory instruction, was codified as a temple ritual within the Mormon religion and recognized as such by those in Nauvoo. There can be no doubt about the important place Smith and the early church members assigned it in church theology.

After the death of Joseph Smith in 1844 the Mormon church fragmented and the group under the leadership of Brigham Young embraced the practice and ensconced it into its temple ceremonies to the present. Hence the temple on the Washington, D.C., beltway and at other places around the world. Other groups practiced versions of it as well, and one, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints under the leadership of Smith’s son, Joseph Smith III, never adopted it as a formal ritual but also never rejected it.

Joseph Smith III

Joseph Smith III (1832-1914), leader of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

This position has not been officially changed to the present. But the institution’s official position tells less than half the story, for there was a torturous path woven by the movement during the past one-hundred+ years as it sought to deal with the legacy of baptism for the dead. Moving from a general acceptance of baptism for the dead‑a position which recognized it as a permissive rite, but a legitimate one, to be executed at the specific redirection of God‑the Reorganization (renamed the Community of Christ in 2000) began to move further away from the doctrine as time progressed.

This was a gradual and subtle drift that was not apparent to those in the midst of it. The shift has continued to the present, and now I suspect that while there is still some modest support for the doctrine, the overwhelming majority of the membership of the Community of Christ no longer accepts, even theoretically, baptism for the dead. The evolutionary process toward rejection of baptism for the dead has now been pretty much completed. The church’s leadership has continually suggested that baptisms for the dead could be carried out only by divine direction in a temple built explicitly for the purpose, the doctrine was shunted into a nether land between belief and practice. To ignore, as historian Alma R. Blair one appropriately remarked, was ultimately to reject.

Posted in Community of Christ, History, Mormonism, Personal, Religion, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stunning Performance: Something Fun for a Friday

If you have not seen this performance of “Glitter in the Air” by P!nk at the Grammys in 2010 you are in for a treat. It is really memorable.

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Wednesday’s Book Review: “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap”

matt-taibbiThe Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. By Matt Taibbi. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2014.

I have appreciated the reporting of Matt Taibbi since he published “The Great Derangement” in 2009. His very human reaction to the nonsense we all see around us is refreshing. His ability to give voice to the frustrations of the common man and woman is just as exemplary here as in the past. He really sees a power and economic elite run amok and no systemic method for curtailing their excesses.

The various swindles, deceptions, and outright crimes are breathtaking in their breadth and their depth. I can only say when someone robs me I want them to use a gun. Not the case at present. We have a system that is intimidating the masses, placing more people in jail than ever in history, and failing to share in the wealth of all or labor and our other resources.

“The Divide” is focused on trying to explain how the power elites have gotten way with all they have done. The Department of Justice has allowed white collar crime to go unchecked, yet has aggressively stalked those on the lower end of the political/economic/social/racial divide. He juxtaposes this with the “other” justice system the opposite end of the wealth spectrum is subject to. Those with money are hard to imprison, even though they may deserve it, elsewhere we are stopping, frisking, and incarcerating more and more of the less wealthy.

Matt Taibbi, as is the case with most journalists, is at his best when he focuses on the individual story, the singular person, or the specific incident. To his credit, however, he is a keen analyst who also does well at illuminating the larger picture. He has investigated deeply for this book, and it shows. It is a lengthy and weighty tome, but a powerful, evocative, and significant study.

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The Legacy of William F. Durand

William F. Durand

William F. Durand

William F. Durand (1859-1958) was of the leading lights in American aeronautics in the first half of the twentieth century. He was also one of several individuals who made the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) a reality, an historical investigation that I have been working on for the one-hundredth anniversary of the agency in 2015.

Durand had been an internationally known teacher and researcher in aeronautical propulsion for decades before the birth of the NACA. He made enormous contributions to the development of flight, fired the enthusiasm of the first generation of aeronautical engineers involved in aviation research, and virtually created the aeronautical engineering program at Stanford University. His career spanned more than five decades of aircraft research and development, where his efforts helped to establish the principles of propulsion used on aircraft reciprocating engines and later on jet aircraft.

Durand was born on March 5, 1859, in Bethany, Connecticut, the son of William L. and Ruth Coe Durand, local business people. Educated in the public schools, Durand was a good student and entered the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1876, long before aviation became a technological possibility. He did well at Annapolis, and upon graduation in 1880 he entered the Naval engineering corps and worked on the problems of marine engineering. Successful as a Navy engineering, the service sent him to work on a Ph.D. in the field, and he graduated from Lafayette College in 1888. In the midst of this effort, in 1887 Durand resigned his commission and accepted an academic post at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Michigan as a professor of mechanical engineering. He remained there until 1891 when he moved to Cornell University to teach marine engineering.

In 1904 Durand moved to Leland Stanford Jr. University on the West Coast, ostensibly to teach mechanical engineering but he soon became involved in the new technology of airplanes and began studying the problems of flight. During the next several years Durand created an aeronautical engineering curriculum at Stanford that became one of the best in the nation. By 1915 both Durand personally and his department at Stanford collectively had been recognized as leaders in solving the problems of flight.

When the United States created the NACA in 1915 “to supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight, with a view to their practical solution” Durand was appointed a member of the committee in 1915 and served until 1933. He served a second term between 1941 and 1945. Durand also chaired the committee in 1917-1918.

Over the years most of the research conducted under NACA auspices was done in its own facilities, but until the first was constructed in 1918 the committee let contracts to educational institutions. Durand’s research team at Stanford led all other contractors with its NACA experimentation with propellers. This would have been considered a conflict-of-interest at a different time, but in the midst of World War I and the lax regulatory environment of the era no one questioned it. This and other contracts paid off, the NACA’s research on aircraft engines was the first major success of the organization and helped develop the Liberty Engine, the major contribution the U.S. made to aeronautics in World War I.

The members of the Main Committee of NACA which met in Washington, D.C. on April 18, 1929. Shown from left to right: John F. Victory, Secretary; Dr. William F.Durand; Dr. Orville Wright; Dr. George K. Burgess; Brig. Gen. William E. Gillmore; Maj. Gen. James E. Fechet; Dr. Joesph S. Ames, Chairman; Rear Adm. David W. Taylor, USN (Ret.), Vice Chairman; Capt. Emory S. Land; Rear Adm. William A. Moffet; Dr. Samual W. Stratton; Dr George W. Lewis, Director of Aeronautical Research; Dr. Charles F. Marvin. Dr. Charles G. Abbot was absent.

The members of the Main Committee of NACA which met in Washington, D.C. on April 18, 1929. Shown from left to right: John F. Victory, Secretary; Dr. William F.Durand; Dr. Orville Wright; Dr. George K. Burgess; Brig. Gen. William E. Gillmore; Maj. Gen. James E. Fechet; Dr. Joesph S. Ames, Chairman; Rear Adm. David W. Taylor, USN (Ret.), Vice Chairman; Capt. Emory S. Land; Rear Adm. William A. Moffet; Dr. Samual W. Stratton; Dr. George W. Lewis, Director of Aeronautical Research; Dr. Charles F. Marvin. Dr. Charles G. Abbot was absent.

On September 12, 1925, President Calvin Coolidge appointed a board headed by Dwight W. Coolidge, a New York Banker, to study the use of aircraft in national defense. Among the members was William Durand, who lent considerable experience and expertise in aeronautics to its deliberations. The board held hearings and found that there was little agreement about how many usable aircraft the Army Air Service had, and while it rejected the most strident claims of air power its report of November 30, 1925, recommended appointing two additional airmen as brigadier generals, one to head procurement and the other to command the flying schools.

The board also recommended increased appropriations for the training of airmen and the development of modern airplanes. Finally, the board recommended changing the name of the Army Air Service to Air Corps. In response Congress passed the Air Corps Bill of 1926 to formalize many of these recommendations. This action set the stage for the creation of the modern military air arm that emerged in World War II.

William F. Durand during World War II.

William F. Durand during World War II.

In addition to serving on the Morrow Board, Durand participated in numerous other technical committees and advisory boards employed by a wide range of government entities. For instance, in 1929 he was a member of the advisory board of engineers for the Boulder Dam project, an enormously significant effort that brought much greater supplies of water and electricity to the American southwest. He was also a member of the National Research Council 1915-1945, and chair of the Navy Department’s Special Committee on Airship Design and Construction in 1935.

Perhaps no technological innovation has been more significant for the development of aviation of all types than the turbojet engine. A relatively simple engine in its principals, the jet required a unique combination of metallurgical capability, cooling and velocity control, and an unconventional understanding of Newton’s third law of motion. Unfortunately, no U.S. researchers had solved the jet propulsion problem and the nation was left far behind in jet development by Great Britain and Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. It had to make a crash effort in the 1940s, in some cases literally, and get help from the British, to catch up with developments elsewhere.

Because of this situation, which Hap Arnold, chief of staff of the Army Air Forces, early in 1941 asked the NACA to mobilize to work on the development of jet propulsion. One of the most important propulsion experts in the U.S. was Durand and in March 1941 the NACA created a special committee under his leadership to study jet propulsion in 1941. This group specifically omitted aircraft reciprocating industry representatives because they were economically wedded to the propeller. It did include representatives from firms involved in turbine development: Allis Chalmers, Westinghouse, and General Electric.

Under Durand’s direction this special committee met seven times in five months and made several recommendations. The most significant of these was that the military award study contracts on jet propulsion to three firms with promising ideas on the subject. The firms were Allis Chalmers, Westinghouse, and General Electric. Once again, the question of conflict-of-interest has to be raised, but Durand’s committee was never intended to be democratic. Perhaps any criticism could be blunted with the statement that the U.S. effort was involved in a crash effort to catch up with European developments in aeronautics in the desperate early days of the second world war. In actuality, Durand’s efforts were important for the development of the jet engine and its application to military aircraft near the end of World War II.

Durand had been recognized as a leading authority in aeronautics from the 1910s, but in the postwar era he was especially revered as the sage of the discipline. He received all manner of awards from government, industry, and foundations for his contributions to the development of aviation in America. He died at age 99 on August 9, 1958, just as the space age was dawning.

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Call for Papers: The NACA Centenary: A Symposium on 100 Years of Aerospace Research and Development

Call for Papers

The NACA Centenary: A Symposium on 100 Years of

Aerospace Research and Development


The Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum and the History Office of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) invite proposals for papers to a special symposium commemorating a century of aerospace research and development. On March 3, 1915, the U.S. Congress established the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) “to separate the real from the imagined and make known the overlooked and unexpected” in the quest for flight. In honor of that centennial, NASA and NASM will team to present a symposium on the history of the NACA. This historical symposium will be held in Washington, D.C., on March 3-4, 2015.

All are invited to submit proposals. Major themes to be addressed in the symposium include:

  • The NACA organizational and institutional structure and evolution.
  • The NACA model of public/private partnerships in aerospace research.
  • The NACA’s contributions to aerospace theory, ground research, and flight operations.
  • Individual NACA projects.
  • Broad themes in the history of the agency.
  • Research projects versus other NACA structural attributes.
  • The social, economic, and/or political history of the NACA.
  • The NACA culture and its evolution.
  • The relationship of the NACA to other entities, both private and public.
  • Innovation in aerospace research.
  • Models of partnership.

Possible topics are not restricted to these major themes. All papers are envisioned as scholarly contributions exploring broad thematic issues and questions.

Contributions from international scholars and graduate students with an interest in this history are welcome.

Some travel support scholarships may be available for international scholars and graduate students. Please indicate your interest in a need statement included with your paper proposal.

We intend that a subset of the papers will merit publication.

Proposals for papers should include a title and abstract, as well as the author’s curriculum vita, and travel support need statement (as appropriate). Please send all proposals, in the form of a 300 word abstract and a brief vita electronically to Dr. William P. Barry, NASA Chief Historian, at, and Dr. Roger D. Launius, Associate Director for Collections and Curatorial Affairs at the National Air and Space Museum, The deadline for abstract submissions is September 15, 2014.

Decisions about acceptance and support will be made by November 1, 2014.

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Wednesday’s Book Review: “Rhumb Lines and Map Wars: A Social History of the Mercator Projection”

Rhumb Lines and Map Wars: A Social History of the Mercator Projection. By Mark Monmonier. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

bookcover_rhumb_linesMark Monmonier has nearly cornered the market for popular discussion of cartographical issues. A distinguished professor at Syracuse University, Monmonier takes on here the fascinating history of the Mercator projection of the globe. This is the standard classroom world map that we have all seen on schools everywhere. It was created by Flemish cartographer Gerard Mercator in 1569, a map that successfully took a three-dimensional Earth and presented it on a two-dimensional chart. The real success of this map was that it was useful for navigation. By following the longitude and latitude on the map one may sail to virtually any spot on the globe accessible by water.

This very practical use of the map for ocean-going navigation led it to become the standard for maps, certainly in Europe but also elsewhere, by the eighteenth century. It also has a fundamental flaw, and this is what Monmonier is most interested in. The higher and lower latitudes are stretched to ensure that the projection may be used effectively for navigation and thereby create false impressions of the land masses in those regions. For example, it appears on a Mercator projection that Greenland is as large as Africa. It also privileges Europe in terms of size. Generations of students have been misled by this image of the globe. More importantly, it might be that part of this was intentional. It served a political purpose by underscoring the size of importance of such regions as Europe and North America in relation to other part of the world such as Africa and Asia. It subtly supported colonialism and European civilization as the world leaders.

In 1974 Arno Peters, a German historian, created a different projection that correctly depicted the size of countries. The down side of this projection, however, it was not useful for navigation. It also set off the so-called “map wars” that currently rage over the various projections of the globe. Monmonier detailed these debates and their state as of 2004. The map war is far from over.

This is an interesting, informative, and enjoyable book. Monmonier is not a great writer, however, even as he seeks to reach a broad audience. Check out this run-on sentence as an example: “Perhaps the earliest use of an oblique Mercator projection, or indeed any oblique cylindrical projection, was for maps of Central America and Southeast Asia in a world atlas published by the innovative German mapmaker Ernst Debes (1840-1923) in 1895, a year after American polymath Charles Sanders Pierce (1839-1914) quietly, and apparently independently, sought a patent for his ‘Skew Mercator’ projection” (p. 112).

One final point, I know this is a popular account but I would have appreciated a work with much more rigorous scholarly apparatus. There is a listing of sources by page at the end of the book but these are a little difficult to follow. I prefer the tried and true system of referencing that I was taught in college.

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