SciArt Magazine - All Issues - Page 17

was a freelance science journalist in New York City. One day, while going over in my mind what I could write about next, I realized that Haverford, Pennsylvania was only a few hours’ drive away from Manhattan. I quickly made a phone call and talked with Diana Peterson, Haverford's Manuscripts Librarian and College Archivist. Could I drive down and talk with her, and possibly flip through the lab notebook for myself? Yes, I could. If you haven’t been to Haverford, you owe it to yourself to go. Founded in 1833 as the Haverford School by Quakers from New York and Philadelphia, the college is one of the earliest institutions founded by the Religious Society of Friends in the United States. It is nonsectarian now, but Quaker elements still infuse its ethos, an example of which is its honor code, one of the oldest in the nation. Also, the tree-lined drive up to the main campus is particularly spectacular. Parrish himself was a Philadelphia Quaker, and enrolled at Haverford in 1888. He stayed for only three years, though, at which point he left to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His course of study included English, history, analytical geometry, and German, but unfortunately, studying art was not considered respectable. According to Parrish, art was “looked upon with suspicion, as maybe related distantly to graven images and the like.” “Everybody wants to see this,” said Diana Peterson as she lead me to a special viewing room in the college’s library and placed a plain conservator’s box on a round table. She opened the box and pulled out the Parrish notebook. It was surprisingly small, with a dark brown cover that looked old. I opened the book and almost immediately saw Parrish’s hand-written signature. On the inside cover, Parrish had written a note explaining his decision to donate the notebook to the college, presenting it to Professor Lyman Beecher Hall in 1910. (Hall had taught chemistry when Parrish was a student.) The handwriting was beautiful, a fluid, rounded hand with calligraphic flourishes. It was clearly the writing of a person who could imagine including more in his lab book than data, someone who could view the lab book as more than just a dry repository of numbers. SciArt in America December 2013 I flipped through the pages one by one, taking photos as I went. One page catalogued what happened during “Experiment 12,” when Parrish treated copper with dilute nitric acid. In his elegant handwriting, Parrish describes the steps of the experiment, but the eye is drawn to a watercolor drawing of an oversized test tube. Blue gunk has settled to the bottom, and from the top issues a sepia-toned vapor that wafts over the text. On the page for Experiment 37 Parrish notes a procedure in which he places some wood pieces in a “perfectly dry testtube” and heats them. But the page’s highlight is the heading, made up of swooping letters and numbers, with the 3 and 7 merged into a stylized design that looks like Tolkien’s elvish script. The page for Experiment 78 features a plump beaker labeled “Nitric Acid and Tin,” spewing red watercolor smoke, while a da