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Relics of Science History For Sale At Christie's 142

circletimessquare writes "Dennis Overbye at the New York Times has some ruminations on some of the historical totems of science going up for auction at Christie's next week. There is the 1543 copy of 'De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium' by Copernicus, which you can have for $900,000 to $1.2 million. If you have some cash left over, maybe you can pick up an original work by Galileo, Darwin, Descartes, Newton, Freud, Kepler, Tycho Brahe, or Malthus. And then there is the 1878 copy of the world's first phone book: 'a shock of recognition — that people were already talking on the phone a year before Einstein was born. In fact, just two years later Einstein's father went into the nascent business himself. Einstein grew up among the rudiments of phones and other electrical devices like magnets and coils, from which he drew part of the inspiration for relativity. It would not be until 1897, after people had already made fortunes exploiting electricity, that the English scientist J. J. Thomson discovered what it actually was ...'"
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Relics of Science History For Sale At Christie's

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  • Science: Relics of Science History For Sale At Christie's

    ... There is the 1543 copy of 'De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium' by Copernicus, which you can have for $900,000 to $1.2 million. If you have some cash left over, maybe you can pick up an original work by Galileo, Darwin, Descartes, Newton, Freud, Kepler, Tycho Brahe, or Malthus.
    Objection. Sigmund Freud may have been a psychologist but he was a far cry from a scientist. Tell me where he applied the scientific process in his work. Show me the universal laws he established.

    In a lot of respects, the man was nothing more than a cokehead [] with a penchant for strange sexually oriented neurosis [].

    He may have had a degree as a physician but I don't recall anything scientific about his work or any contributions to our understanding of the relationship between our psyche and flesh.
  • Ugh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jor-Al ( 1298017 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:34PM (#23730019)
    Am I the only one who finds it somewhat disgusting that rather then going into a museum these things are being sold to some private collector who will keep it locked up from the rest of the world?
  • Re:Ugh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:39PM (#23730111)
    Next time you go to a museum, look at the little plaques under the items. You know... The ones that say "On loan from the collection of..." A museum frequently does not have enough cash to buy everything it shows.
  • Re:Ugh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by InvisblePinkUnicorn ( 1126837 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:40PM (#23730151)
    "private collector who will keep it locked up from the rest of the world?"

    Private collectors regularly donate or lease their collections to museums for display. And what's to stop a private collector from making their own exhibit to show for a fee? If you would like to help support a museum, feel free to donate, but don't tell everyone that they must give up a portion of their income to support your own cause.
  • Re:phones (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @01:57PM (#23730513) Journal
    I don't suppose there's any chance you could scan and post that somewhere, could you? Because that is cool.
  • by damienl451 ( 841528 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:02PM (#23730637)
    From a purely utilitarian standpoint, all these books can be burned. There are many copies (which are known to be genuine) and, besides the cool-factor of owning a piece of history, these books are rather useless. The text they contain, which is available elsewhere, may be valuable in that it preservers ideas that impacted the world tremendously, but that's about it.

    Why exactly would we want to fund (read 'have to pay taxes for') a "Library of humanity". How many people are interested in traveling hundreds of miles to see an old book whose contents they cannot even understand?

  • freudian psychology is of course bulls***, exactly as you say

    it's like other pseudoscientific, yet highly influential lines of thought that have been thoroughly debunked like lamarckism [], phlogiston [], phrenology [], etc.

    however, in the historical context, these topics are vitally important. modern psychology resembles freudian psychology like a modern ICBM resembles fireworks

    however, if it weren't for fireworks, you can be sure everything that came after would have never happened

    like alchemy: these guys were trying to make gold from lead. i think its kind of funny and ironic that centuries later, after refinements to chemistry, physics, etc., as a joke, some guys with some extra time at a heavy ion collider, did exactly that, convert lead into gold, as an afterthought. but they thereby reaffirmed the original goal of alchemists centuries before: []

    so my bet is that centuries from now, deep in the cognitive research and brain engineering advances still centuries from us, someone will come across a rather nifty bit of freudian psychology as a major truth about how our brains work. and it will be funny, and everyone will have a bit of a laugh about it

    so don't belittle where you came from son. your great grandchildren will certainly laugh at your petty pursuits, but their pursuits are built on your shoulders. show some respect to freud and his silliness, it trailblazed
  • Re:Ugh... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Jor-Al ( 1298017 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:11PM (#23730857)

    Based on what?

    Almost every museum exhibit I've seen says that it was donated or leased from a private collector.
    And this translates into every private collector doing such a similar thing, how?

    Are you citing some statistics, or just making stuff up?
    I'm doing exactly what you are doing. That is unless you are going to claim that you have some statistic that says that the vast majority of private collectors have their items all on loan to some museum.

    You opposed private ownership, so you must be for public ownership, no?
    Sorry, but no. I said they should be in a museum rather than locked up in someone's private collection where it will most likely be unavailable for others to see. Last time I checked, there was nothing about an item being kept in a museum that implied public ownership of said item. The rest of your rant is going to be ignored because it all stems from your fault assumptions of what you thought i was saying.
  • Re:Ugh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maxume ( 22995 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:21PM (#23731067)
    Do your donations match your indignation?
  • Re:Ugh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thermian ( 1267986 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:28PM (#23731221)
    if you check your history you will find that almost all major museum collections are the result of the work of private collectors.

    Take Tutankhamun. That entire excavation was the result of a private collectors interest in the subject.

    In the past they were frequently donated, such as on the death of the (typically extremely rich) owner, but nowadays many collections are worth serious money, so that's not an option that most would consider.

    My local museum has a set of 15th century Apprentice Indentures and land deeds that I donated to them 25 years ago. Had I realised what they were worth I'd have made it a loan. Semi permanently perhaps, but I shouldn't really have handed over what turned out to be many thousands of pounds worth of documentation.

    I don't feel too bad though, after all, they are particularly lovely documents, I doubt I could feel comfortable with them being anywhere but in a museum.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:22PM (#23732701)
    penny-arcade, and it's retarded little brother, xkcd, are to comics as blogs are to journalism.
  • by hkmarks ( 1080097 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:29PM (#23734667)
    I said "explain correctly." Freud did provide explanations. They were hypothetical. He didn't test them all. Others did, and disproved them, or found better explanations for them. He was only doing part of the scientific process himself, but he was still taking part in it.

    For an example, from Wikipedia:
    "Freud originally posited childhood sexual abuse as a general explanation for the origin of neuroses, but he abandoned this so-called "seduction theory" as insufficiently explanatory, noting that he had found many cases in which apparent memories of childhood sexual abuse were based more on imagination than on real events."

    Observation made, explanation given, explanation tested, explanation disproved. All by Freud himself.

    If a scientist said "I have observed X about light, therefore I propose that light is composed of particles," whether they are being scientific does not depend if they are right or not.

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak