Tag Archives: science

William Fryer Harvey

Thanks to Kate, one of the volunteers in the archive, for researching and writing this post.

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William Fryer Harvey was at Bootham from 1898 to 1901. He was born in 1885 into a prosperous West Yorkshire Quaker family. His father and brothers were also at Bootham and his sister a pupil at The Mount. Having studied at Balliol College Oxford, William then took a degree in medicine at Leeds. He joined the Friends Ambulance unit in 1914 and served until 1916. In 1918 whilst serving in the Royal Navy as a surgeon-lieutenant, he was involved in a rescue from the boiler room on board ship. For his bravery he was awarded the Albert Medal for Lifesaving and the full citation can be read in Bootham magazine, Summer 1918. Sadly this incident damaged his lungs and he never again regained full health, dying at the early age of 57. Amongst his many achievements the one for which he was probably most well known during his lifetime was as the published author of  “supernatural tales”. One of the most famous was “The Beast with Five Fingers” and this was made into a film with Peter Lorre in 1946.

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The archives contain a number of items written by him during his years at school. The collection includes letters to parents and his brothers both from school and whilst on holiday and a beautifully bound exhibition piece entitled “A collection of leaves”. There is also a volume of natural history observations and a two-volume diary of 1899. The handwriting is easy to read and there a number of very good pencil sketches and coloured illustrations of leaves, flowers, plants and the various churches and houses he visited. Reading through these it is interesting to ponder what hints there are in the schoolboy writings for the direction his life took after leaving Bootham. Certainly there is mention of many medical issues – scarlet fever, measles, colds etc are mentioned and in one letter he relates how a fellow scholar “ fell down in a fit during science going black in the face”. Happily after medical assistance, the boy recovered quickly enough to be playing football later in the day! He exhorts one of his brothers, studying in France, not to “catch smallpox from books” there and when his sister is taken ill, he writes to his brother that “her mind has given way probably from her studious habits” and says they should take this as an example “not to overwork themselves for fear of a similar fate befalling us”. However it is obvious that he has not taken this to heart, as prolonged study would have been needed to gain his medical qualifications.

From reading of his later life, his love of church architecture and the natural sciences seem to have been lifelong interests and I hope he kept the enquiring mind, which is illustrated, in the following extracts from the diary, written when he would have been around 13 years old.

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 “June 26th. I performed the following experiment to show that flowers on respiring produce carbon di oxide; by respiring I mean the taking in of oxygen. I took a number of common garden flowers such as marigold, blue corncockle, rose and placed them in a flask, being kept in position by a plug of cotton wool. I placed the flask in an inverted retort stand and placed a cork in the neck of the flask through which a glass was put open at both ends; one end of glass tube dipped in mercury on the top of which floated a solution of potassium hydrate. This solution absorbed the carbon di oxide given out by the flowers and the mercury rose about half an inch and a half.

I took some petals of a red rose and boiled in water; after some minutes the petals completely lost their colour and the water was coloured green and still possessed to a slight degree the scent of the rose.

 July 1st – 6th. When removing the flask containing the flowers used in the experiment, a drop of acid happened to touch the blue flower of the corncockle and at once it turned a bright crimson red. I tried putting some more of the acid (sulphuric) on the flowers again and in each case obtained the same result. I then took some red GERANIUM and blue CRANESBILL and placed a few drops of ammonium hydrate on the red geranium and some dilute acid on the blue cranesbill. The colours of the flowers were reversed, the geranium becoming a bright blue though the change was not so quickly accomplished as in the case of the cranesbill.

It appears that certain flowers have the property of acting as an indicator of acids and bases in the same manner as litmus.

When the coloured petals were boiled in water until colourless, the water was slightly coloured blue and red.

On one drop of acid and ammonia being added to each, the colours changed and when acid and ammonia were added in the reverse order, the coloured water went back to its original colour.

The flower of a FUCHIA I examined had two sorts of petals; -the outer being red, the inner purple. But where the base of the inner purple petals touched the red ones, it was streaked with red. These purple and red petals acted in the way as those of the geranium and cranesbill. Perhaps the nearness and greater acidity of the red petals had something to do with the reddening of the base of the purple petals”

  petals of a red rose and boiled in water; after some minutes the petals completely lost their colour and the water was coloured green and still possessed to a slight degree the scent of the rose.

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Memories from the Archives – Part 5

In January I did a talk as part of the Thursday lunchtime recital room series. It was entitled ‘Memories from the Archives’ and I talked about a number of memories from Old Scholars. I’ll share the photographs and text from the talk in several parts on the blog. Read Part 1 herePart 2 herePart 3 here and Part 4 here.

James Edmund Clark lr

James Edmund Clark (1850-1944; Bootham 1862-67; Master at Bootham 1869-72 and 1875-97)

James Edmund Clark was at Bootham in the 1860s and returned as a Science Master. According to Natural History at Bootham – the Early Years, he was the first graduate to be appointed to the staff and the first person to be appointed specifically to teach science at the school. In an article for ‘Bootham’ magazine in 1903, he talks about the language used, the classroom arrangements, town leave, columns and top-hats.

“Quaker-boys ways were plainer then. ‘Thee’ and ‘thou’ was the universal language, and, except John Ford, masters had to be satisfied with their Christian names. It was ‘Silvanus’ and ‘Alfred’ and ‘Theodore’ and even ‘Fielden’. Well do I remember the light which dawned upon certain untutored minds, when it was suggested that, at public places, like the baths, ‘Thomas please’ would sound politer with the surname sandwiched in.”

Talking about the schoolroom, “One row of desks was under the playground windows, from the ‘altar’ to Silvanus Thompson’s desk. The central desks were in pairs of four or five each, back to back. On the other side was Mr Fryer’s desk, Silvanus Thompson’s serviceable ‘shop’, contained in the drawers of a table, while the junior master’s desk stood under the central window. Near him dwelt his little flock, their lessons frequently going on here with another class at either end. Their only retreat was the ‘junior class-room’ next to the old ‘senior’, and this was not always habitable. For it served, also, as natural history room, without possessing all the conveniences of the latter for the bestowal of refuse matter. The only receptacle, indeed, for such articles was an ominous looking black-ware vessel in the darkest corner, which only too fitly merited its suggestive title of ‘stink-pot’. Moved by that strange but apparently resistless attraction for doing the thing which should not be done, some small boy almost invariably ventured to give it a stir.”

Moving on to town-leave, he says “How altered is ‘town leave’ now! Six keys, later eight, used to hang up inside the library, and twice a day that number of boys might go out. ‘Mrs Gray’s, please’. ‘Thou mayst; not more that twopence’ was the usual formula. Little hope for a juvenile to be one of the six or eight, the eldest coming first.”

James also remembers columns (including the first half a dozen words on the list), and remembers that “My unluckiest day … was the equivalent of fifteen columns. Two of these were for whistling in the passage; three for leaping the railings of the boys’ gardens; ten for aspiring to the Observatory roof.” This would have been the old observatory, rather than the current one in the science block.

He also remembers that “The Half of my arrival witnessed also that of the first top-hat known in Bootham School. As the wearer measured 6 feet 2 inches in his stockings the effect was that of a city set on a hill. The infection caught on, until, before I left, half the school were victims of the unfortunate fashion.”

 

Centenary of Physics Opening

The physics laboratory at Bootham is 100 years old this week, if you go by the official opening date. It was opened on 27th January 1914 by Professor Silvanus Thompson, a well-known physicist who went to Bootham between 1858 and 1867, and was science master between 1870 and 1875 – look for the blue plaque on Bootham. According to the account in ‘Bootham’ magazine (Vol VI, March 1914), when the building was declared open, it was “received with loud and prolonged cheering by the pupils.”

Physics opening 1Physics opening 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silvanus Thompson went on to make a speech on ‘The Place of Science Teaching in Schools’ which was reported in ‘Bootham’. With all the debate about curriculums now, it’s interesting to see a perspective on what should be taught, and why, from a hundred years ago.

Here are some of his points about what should be included in the curriculum:

  • “Chemistry, because a little knowledge of it would save them from many absurdities of thought.
  • An intelligent understanding of the principles on which machinery was constructed and on which it operated. He had no doubt that a considerable percentage of the boys in Bootham School would in the future, as they had done in the past, enter into industrial life where machinery was used.
  • A fair grounding in physics, which dealt in detail with the properties of matter. There was a vast difference between the lives of the people in the age before steam engines and steam boats were introduced.
  • Astronomy…would give them a sense of the proportion of things.
  • Geology was a thing they might study with great advantage, without going outside their own country.
  • A study of human physiology might not solve the problems of life, but it was useful so far as the great laws of health were concerned.
  • By a careful study of the sciences they got training in measurement and accuracy which could not be got in any other way.
  • Classification and verification were necessary in everything, and science would teach them that.
  • As well as science, they should learn history – he did not mean the learning of dates, and the accounts of battles of great generals and admirals. There had been too much of the beating of the big drum in the past. What he meant by history was a true account of the progress of the human race.
  • In addition they could not separate history from economics, for economics was the experience of the past classification.
  • It was also necessary to learn geography.
  • Mathematics must not be overlooked.
  • With regard to languages, they should above all learn some language which was not too closely akin to their own, and he believed educationally the best language to learn would be Greek.
  • In conclusion, the speaker said they should in addition to all those things he had enumerated cultivate their hobbies, for they were well worth cultivating.”