Download Classic Japanese Wave and Ripple Designs: A Go-to Guide for Japanese Artists from 1903

Traditional Japanese art may please so many of us, even those of us with little interest in Japan itself, because of the way it inhabits the realm between representation and abstraction. But then, it doesn't just inhabit that realm: it has settled those borderlands, made them its own, for much longer than most cultures have been doing anything at all. The space between art, strictly defined, and what we now call design has also seen few achievements quite so impressive as those made in Japan, going all the way back to the rope markings on the clay vessels used by the islands' Jōmon people in the 11th century BC.

Those ancient rope-on-clay markings can easily look like predecessors of the "wave patterns" still seen in Japanese art and design today. Since time almost immemorial they have appeared on "swords (both blades and handles) and associated paraphernalia (known as 'sword furniture'), as well as lacquerware, Netsuke, religious objects, and a host of other items."

So says the Public Domain Review, which has featured a series of three books full of elegant wave and ripple designs originally published in 1903 and now available to download free at the Internet Archive (volume onevolume twovolume three).

Called Hamonshū, the books were produced by the artist Mori Yuzan, "about whom not a lot is known," adds the Public Domain review, "apart from that he hailed from Kyoto, worked in the Nihonga style" — or the "Japanese painting" style of Japanese painting, which emerged during the Meiji period, a time of rapid Westernization in Japan.

He "died in 1917. The works would have acted as a kind of go-to guide for Japanese craftsmen looking to adorn their wares with wave and ripple patterns." Though they do contain text, they require no knowledge of the Japanese language to appreciate the many illustrations they present.

Taken together, Mori's books offer a complete spectrum from traditional Japanese-style representation — especially of land, water, mountains, sky, and other natural elements — to a taste of the infinite variety of abstract patterns that result. Such imagery remains prevalent in Japan more than a century after the publication of Hamonshū, as any visitor to Japan today will see.

But now that the Internet Archive has made the books freely available online (volume onevolume twovolume three), they'll surely inspire work not just between representation and abstraction as well as between art and design, but between Japanese aesthetics and those of every other culture in the world as well.

via Public Domain Review

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

R. Crumb Illustrates Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea: Existentialism Meets Underground Comics

Sartre’s novel Nausea introduced his philosophical view as a form of illness to a WWII readership. “Nausea is existence revealing itself—and experience is not pleasant to see,” he wrote in his own summary of his first book, published in 1938. The novel’s dramatization of Historian Roquentin' s crisis presents a case of existential sickness as mostly involuntary.

Though published before his many Marxist books and essays, Nausea connects the malaise to a certain class experience. “I have no troubles,” thinks Roquentin in Robert Crumb’s short adaptation of the book above, “I have money like a capitalist, no boss, no wife, no children; I exist, that’s all…. And that trouble is so vague, so metaphysical that I am ashamed of it.” Nausea, in one sense, is bourgeoise alienation, while Roquentin’s conversation partner, the Self-Taught Man, confesses a naïve humanist idealism.

The characters alone, some critics suggest, imbue the book with a subtle parody. As he listens to the Self-Taught Man’s troubles and ruminates on his own, Crumb’s Roquentin grows more Sartre-like. Significantly, the Self-Taught Man takes on a Crumb-like demeanor and aspect. Their dialogue moves briskly, the scene resembling My Dinner with Andre with less banter and more neurosis. Sartre’s tone lends itself well to Crumb’s obsessive, tightly-composed panels.

Crumb’s literary interpretations have gravitated toward other anxious writers like Charles Bukowski and Franz Kafka, as well as the murder and incest of the book of Genesis. The underground comics legend is right at home with Sartrean dread and despair. Crumb became famous for Fritz the Cat, an animated film version of his raunchy hipster, what many called his grossly sexist and racist sex fantasies, and the drawing and slogan “Keep on Truckin’.” He was a figure of 60s and 70s counterculture, but that’s never where he belonged.

Crumb was a Sartrean protagonist , even when he “often portrayed himself in his work as naked... and priapic.” In an an interview with Crumb The Guardian describes him:

his words are depressive and lugubrious, and yet he appears mellow, laughing easily through his existential nausea. The most terrible stories amuse him as much as they pain him. He tells me how a best friend killed himself by swallowing four bottles of paper correction fluid, and he chortles. He talks of his own despair, and giggles. He admits that he could never have imagined a life quite so fulfilled—with Aline, and his beloved daughter Sophie, also a cartoonist, and success and money—and says he's still miserable as hell, and laughs.

He is a little Roquentin, a little bit Sartre, a little bit Self-Taught man, applying to his reading of literature and philosophy an LSD-assisted, sex-positive, and unavoidably controversial and depressive sensibility. See the full Crumb-illustrated Nausea here.

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Underground Cartoonist Robert Crumb Creates an Illustrated Introduction to Franz Kafka’s Life and Work

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Paul McCartney Breaks Down His Most Famous Songs and Answers Most-Asked Fan Questions in Two New Videos

Paul McCartney has played it safe for decades, relying on the brilliance of his songwriting and musicianship, which no one ever doubts and so he never has to prove. His songs usually fall into a formula familiar from Beatles’ days: “silly love songs,” writes Stephen Earlewine at Pitchfork, “mini-suites… polite political protests, and old-fashioned rockers.” But while the Beatles had each other, the experiments of George Martin, LSD, transcendental meditation, and a moment of perfect cultural kismet to twist and warp their music into all sorts of weird shapes, McCartney’s solo releases tend to stick to his established strengths, sometimes to the detriment of what can happen when he moves out of his comfort zone to get deeper and more vulnerable.

Yet as nearly every critic has so far noted of his newest album, Egypt Station—which he heavily promoted, for example, with an appearance on Carpool Karaoke and a “secret” show at Grand Central Station—McCartney lets listeners in on some surprising confessional darkness. The Nick Drake-like lyrics of opener “I Don’t Know” show him earnestly confronting aging, mortality, and depression, without any of the usual sunniness or comedic turns of phrase: “I got crows at my window/Dogs at my door/I don’t think I can take anymore.” The candid admission, Erlewine writes, “would be startling in any context, but what stings most is the tacit acknowledgment that 76-year-old McCartney realizes he’s nearing the end of his long, winding road.”

In interviews, like his latest with Rolling Stone, however, McCartney sounds as upbeat as ever. He describes sitting in Apple meetings after the breakup of the Beatles as “like seeing the death of your favorite pet,” but he also enthuses about his patched-up relationship with Yoko (“Now it’s like we’re mates”), love for his band—who have now been playing together longer than both the Beatles and Wings—and his pride in his musical legacy (“It’s a damn good job I did”). He sounds just as pleased to be onstage in his mid-70s as he was in his 20s—the genuine love of performing and engaging with fans hasn’t dulled one bit with age, just as his ability to write and sell hit records remains solid.

As for his time-tested formula, Erlewine comments, it only “makes the moments where Paul attempts something slightly new seem all the more apparent.” One new thing he’s gamely tried in recent years is making online videos for fans. A few years back, he dropped a few lessons showing how to play the bass and guitar parts on “Ever Present Past” from 2007’s Memory Almost Full. This year, McCartney’s fan service includes the two videos here. First at the top, he spends almost a half an hour discussing the best-known songs in his 60-year-career for GQ: “I Lost My Little Girl,” “Yesterday,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “And I Love Her,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “A Day in the Life,” “Hey Jude,” “Helter Skelter,” “Blackbird,” “Let It Be,” “Hi Hi Hi,” “Here Today,” “Jet,” and Egypt Station’s “I Don’t Know.”

Above, McCartney accept’s Wired’s “autocomplete challenge,” answering the internet’s most searched questions about himself, such as “Why is Paul McCartney’s nickname ‘Macca’?” and “Why did Paul McCartney write ‘Let it Be’?” (Answers: “Cause I’m from Liverpool, and they abbreviate everything in Liverpool” and he was “a bit stressed out”—and a little high—and his mother came to him in a dream with the advice: “just let it be.”) Is there always more learn about Paul McCartney? Yes, apparently there is. But even when he repeats himself, he’s still great fun to watch.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

This Man Flew to Japan to Sing ABBA’s “Mamma Mia” in a Big Cold River

Austin Weber traveled to Kyoto and sang ABBA's "Mamma Mia" in a big cold river. What made the resulting video so strangely compelling? Maybe, as one YouTube commenter noted, it's that the "video has about 100 pixels but every one is used to their full potential." Or maybe, as another YouTuber said, "it’s the synthy ABBA, the goofy zooms and editing, or the bittersweet premise combined with the song." Or maybe it's that the video simply "brings us back to the mid 2000's," when our YouTube culture all got started. It's hard to know. But maybe we shouldn't overthink it and just enjoy.

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Umberto Eco Explains Why We Make Lists

Creative Commons image by Rob Bogaerts, via the National Archives in Holland

We hate lists, which have told us what to do since at least the days Leonardo da Vinci, and which now, as "listicles," constitute one of the lowest strata of internet content. But we also love lists: a great many of us click on those listicles, after all, and one might argue that the list, as a form, represents the beginning of written texts. "The list is the origin of culture," said Umberto Eco in a 2009 Der Spiegel interview about the exhibition on the history of the list he curated at the Louvre. "It's part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order  — not always, but often."

How, as mere human beings, do we impose order when we gaze up into infinity, down into the abyss — pick your metaphor of the sublimely, incomprehensibly vast? We do it, Eco thought, "through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries." The breadth as well as depth of the knowledge he accumulated throughout his 84 years — which itself could seem sublimely and incomprehensibly vast, as anyone who has read one of his list-filled novels knows — placed him well to explain the origins, functions, and importance of the list. In the Spiegel interview he names Don Giovanni's 2,063 lovers, the contents of Leopold Bloom's drawers, and the many ships and generals specified in the Iliad as just a few of the classic lists and enumerations of Western culture.

Eco's research into and/or obsession with lists produced not just the exhibition at the Louvre but also a book, The Infinity of Lists: An Illustrated Essay. Did it also lead him to any other answers about why, whether in the Middle Ages with its "very clear image of the universe," the Renaissance and Baroque eras with their "worldview based on astronomy," the "postmodern age" in which we live today, or any other time, "the list has prevailed over and over again?" Ultimately, we make lists whenever we experience a "deficiency of language," such as when lovers describe one another ("Your eyes are so beautiful, and so is your mouth, and your collarbone") or when we remember the "very discouraging, humiliating limit" of death. Making lists of things that seem infinite is "a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don't want to die."

Having died in 2016 himself, Eco left behind an immense personal library (his walkthrough of which we've previously featured here on Open Culture). "It might actually be 50,000 books," he said to the Spiegel interviewer, but he refused to put them on a list and find out for sure: "When my secretary wanted to catalogue them, I asked her not to. My interests change constantly, and so does my library." If he were to try to list his interests, he would have had to keep scrapping the list and drawing up a new one; more than providing abundant material for his writing, this constant and lifelong circulation of fascinations (he mentioned first loving Chopin at 16, and again in his seventies) confirmed his engagement with the infinite world around him: "If you interact with things in your life, everything is constantly changing. And if nothing changes, you're an idiot."

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Umberto Eco Dies at 84; Leaves Behind Advice to Aspiring Writers

Leonardo Da Vinci’s To Do List (Circa 1490)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

A Massive, Knitted Tapestry of the Galaxy: Software Engineer Hacks a Knitting Machine & Creates a Star Map Featuring 88 Constellations

The next time some non-crafty type disparages your hobby as a frumpy pursuit, show them software engineer Sarah Spencer’s “Stargazing.”

The 9’x 15’ knitted tapestry is an accurate equatorial star map featuring all 88 constellations as viewed by the naked eye, including the Milky Way and the Southern Cross, the best known star group in Spencer’s native Australia.

The project ate up 33 pounds of Australian wool in three shades, including the same ultramarine blue sported by a number of accomplished Australian women whose portraits are on display as part of the 2018 Archibald Prize.

While “Stargazing" is machine knit, its creation took longer than most hand-knitted projects.

What started as a lark, hacking and programming a 40-year-old, secondhand Empisal knitting machine, grew into something much larger when Spencer developed a computer algorithm that allowed one tri-colored knit stitch per pixel.

Years later, she was ready to start knitting her star map, a reflection of her interest in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“Stargazing" is actually comprised of seven panels, each the result of dusk-to-dawn labor on the part of the hacked machine. Stitching them together required many more human hours.

The piece was unveiled at the UK’s tech-and-arts festival, Electromagnetic Field, on August 31. Spencer had calibrated the placement of the tapestry’s planets to correspond with their celestial counterparts’ locations that night.

For now, the tapestry is one-of-a-kind, but given its industrial origins, it’s not hard to foresee a future in which couples can cuddle under astronomically correct afghans, while gazing up at the stars.

via Atlas Obscura

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 24 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How the Grateful Dead’s “Wall of Sound”–a Monster, 600-Speaker Sound System–Changed Rock Concerts & Live Music Forever

There is a scene in Return of the Jedi when Luke Skywalker defeats the monstrous, man-eating Rancor, crushing its skull with a portullis, and we see the beast’s keeper, a portly shirtless gentleman in leather breeches and headgear, weeping over the loss of his beloved friend. I think of this scene when I read about a night in 1974 at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom when Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart walked on the stage and found the band’s sound engineer Stan “Bear” Owsley standing in front of “a solid wall of over 600 speakers.”

As Enmore Audio tells it:

Tears streamed down his face and he whispered to the mass of wood, metal, and wiring, with the tenderness of any parent witnessing their child’s first recital, “I love you and you love me—how could you fail me?”

The story sums up Owsley’s total dedication to what became known as “The Wall of Sound,” a feat of technical engineering that “changed the way technicians thought about live engineering.” The "three-story behemoth... was free of all distortion... served as its own monitoring system and solved many, if not all of the technical problems that sound engineers faced at that time.” But, while it had required much trial and error and many refinements, it did not fail, as you’ll learn in the Polyphonic video above.

Live sound problems not only bedeviled engineers but bands and audiences as well. Throughout the sixties, rock concerts grew in size and scope, audiences grew larger and louder, yet amplification did not. Low-wattage guitar amps could hardly be heard over the sound of screaming fans. Without monitoring systems, bands could barely hear themselves play. This “noise crisis,” writes Motherboard, “confronted musicians who went electric at the height of the war in Vietnam," but it has been “routinely snuffed from the annals of modern music.”

In dramatic recreations of the period, drums and guitars boom and wail over the noise of stadium and festival crowds. For ears accustomed to the power of modern sound systems, the actual experience, by contrast, would have been underwhelming. Most Beatles fans know the band quit touring in 1966 because they couldn’t hear themselves over the audience. Things improved somewhat, but the Dead, “obsessed with their sound to compulsive degrees,” could not abide the noisy, feedback-laden, underpowered situation. Still, they weren’t about to give up playing live, and certainly not with Owsley on board.

"A Kentucky-born craftsman and former ballet dancer"—and a manufacturer and distributer of “mass quantities of high-grade LSD," whose profits financed the Dead for a time—Owsley applied his obsession with “sound as both a concept and a physical thing." To solve the noise crisis for the Dead, he first built an innovative sound system in 1973 (after serving a couple stints in prison for selling acid). The following year, he suggested putting the PA system behind the band, “a crazy idea at the time.”

His experiments in ‘74 evolved to include line arrays—“columns of speakers… designed to control the dispersion of sound across the frequency range”—noise-canceling microphones to clear up muddy vocals, six separate sound systems that could isolate eleven channels, and a quadraphonic encoder for the bass, “which took a signal,” Enmore notes, “from each string and projected it through its own set of speakers.” The massive Wall of Sound could not last long. It had to be streamlined into a far more manageable and cost-effective touring rig. All the same, Owsley and the band’s willingness take ideas and execution to extreme lengths changed live sound forever for the better.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” Played by 28 Trombone Players

28 trombone players got together and played Queen's beloved 1975 hit, "Bohemian Rhapsody." They call it, "Bonehemian Rhapsody." Enjoy.

Contributors in the video above include:

Jiggs Whigham - Glenn Miller, Stan Kenton

Denson Paul Pollard - Met Opera / Jacobs School of Music

Jennifer Wharton - Leader Bonegasm - https://jenniferwharton.com/

Thomas Hultén - Houston Grand Opera/Houston Ballet

Josiah Williams - Blast: The Music of Disney

Joseph L. Jefferson - Southeast Missouri State University - http://www.josephljefferson.com/

Gerry Pagano - Symphony - http://gerrypagano.org/

Javier Stuppard - Fresh2Def Horns/ Rath Artist

Peter Moore - London Symphony Orchestra

Marshall Gilkes - New Album! https://www.marshallgilkes.com/

Martin McCain - Texas State University - https://www.martinmccain.com/

Zsolt Szabo - Western Carolina University

Jeremy Wilson - Vanderbilt University - https://jeremywilsonmusic.com/

Isabelle Lavoie - Thunder Bay Symphony

Amanda Stewart - St. Louis Symphony - http://amandatrombone.com/

Dr. Natalie Mannix - UNT - http://www.nataliemannix.com/

Zoltan Kiss - Mnzoil Brass - http://www.zoltankiss.com/

Matyas Veer - Essener Philharmoniker Saatsoper Stuttgart - http://www.matyasveer.com/

Paul The Trombonist - The Internet - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ6e...

Karen Marston - Mt San Antonio College/Omni Brass

Javier Nero - Jazz Soloist / Composer - https://www.javiernero.com/

Dr. Deb Scott - Stephen F. Austin State University - https://sfatrombones.wordpress.com/

Tolga Akman - Lätzsch Performing Artist

Domenico Catalano - SlideSticks Trio/Basel Symphony/Haag Artist

José Milton Vieira - Orchestra Brazil

György Gyivicsan - Szeged Trombone Ensemble - http://szegedtrombones.com/en

Brian Hecht - Atlanta Symphony - http://www.brianhecht.com/

Tom Waits Releases a Timely Cover of the Italian Anti-Fascist Anthem “Bella Ciao,” His First New Song in Two Years

La Complaine du Partisan,” a song about the French Resistance written in 1943 by Emmanuel d’Astier de la Vigerie with music by Anna Marly, was adapted into English as “The Partisan” by Hy Zaret, author of the Righteous Brother’s “Unchained Melody.” Covered by artists like Joan Baez and, most famously, Leonard Cohen, the song’s folk melody and melancholy lyricism have become so closely associated with Cohen that it has often been credited to him. Even Cohen himself remarked “I kind of re-introduced ["The Partisan"] into the world of popular music. I feel I wrote it, but I actually didn’t.”

Now another artist of Cohen’s stature, Tom Waits, may do the same for those who have never heard the World War II Italian anti-fascist song, “Bella Ciao,” which has been covered for decades in many languages and now appears as the first release on guitarist and composer Marc Ribot’s Songs of Resistance: 1942-2018, an album of protest music that comes out today and features guest vocals by Waits, Steve Earle, Meshell Ndegeocello, Justin Vivian Bond, and more. You can stream and buy the album here at Ribot’s Bandcamp page. Waits’ track is the first song he has released in two years, and it’s a helluva return.

The song comes from an old Italian folk ballad that was “revised and re-written during World War II for the Italian anti-fascist resistance fighters,” notes Sam Barsanti at The Onion’s A.V. Club. It has "since become an anthem of sorts for anyone looking to stick it to fascists.” Ribot and his collaborators fit the description. Waits' “Bella Ciao” was released with a video, directed by Jem Cohen, “that makes its parallels with modern life very explicit,” Barsanti writes, “pairing Waits’ vocals with footage of police and soldiers guarding barricades at anti-Trump protests. It may sound heavy-handed, but fuck it, nobody said fighting fascists had to be subtle.”

Subtle it isn’t, but neither is the banning of Muslim refugees, the kidnapping and detention in camps of hundreds of migrant children, the transfer of $169 million dollars from other programs—including FEMA and the Coast Guard during yet another fatal hurricane season—for even more camps and ICE raids, the lying denial that thousands were left to die in Puerto Rico last year, and so on and so on.

Other songs on the album draw from the U.S. civil rights movement and Mexican protest ballads. At his site, Ribot acknowledges the perennial problem of the protest song. “There’s a lot of contradiction in doing any kind of political music, how to act against something without becoming it, without resembling what you detest… I imagine we’ll make mistakes,” he avows, but says the stakes are too high not to speak out. “From the moment Donald Trump was elected,” he decided “I’m not going to play downtown scene Furtwangler to any orange-comb-over dictator wannabe.” (The reference is to Wilhelm Furtwängler, leading classical conductor in Germany under the Nazi regime.)

Like so many folk songs, “Bella Ciao” has a complex and murky history: the original version, a peasant work song, may have a Yiddish origin, or in any case—explains the blog Poemas del rio wang—emerged from a region “where Jews, Romanians, Rusyns, Gypsies, Ukranians, Hungarians, Italians, Russians, Slovakians, Polish, Czech, Armenians, [and] Taters lived together” and where “melodies did not remain the exclusive property of only one ethnic group.” This submerged background gives the re-written “Bella Ciao” an even deeper resonance with the anti-fascism of the 1940s and that of today.

See the video and hear Waits and Ribot’s haggard yet determined “Bella Ciao (Goodbye Beautiful)” at the top; hear Italian singer Giovanna Daffini’s recording above (hear her version of the original folk song here); read more about the song’s long history here; and read Waits’ lyrics, slightly revised from earlier versions to be even more explicitly anti-fascist, below. All proceeds from Ribot’s album will be donated to the Indivisible Project.

One fine morning
I woke up early
o bella ciao, bella ciao
bella ciao, ciao, ciao
One fine morning
I woke up early
to find the fascists at my door

Oh partigiano
take me with you
bella ciao, bella ciao
goodbye, beautiful
oh partigiano
please take me with you
I’m not afraid anymore

And if I die
a partigiano
bella ciao, bella ciao
goodbye, beautiful
Bury me
up on that mountain
beneath the shadow of the flower

So all the people
the people passing
bella ciao, bella ciao
goodbye, beautiful
So all the people
the people passing
will say: “What a beautiful flower”

This is the flower
of the partisan
bella ciao, bella ciao
bella ciao
this is the flower
of the partisan
who died for freedom

this is the flower
of the partisan
who died for freedom

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovered Radio Pulsars in 1974, But the Credit Went to Her Advisor; In 2018, She Gets Her Due, Winning a $3 Million Physics Prize

Say you made a Nobel-worthy scientific discovery and the prize went to your thesis supervisor instead. How would you take it? Probably not as well as Jocelyn Bell Burnell, discoverer of the first radio pulsars, to whom that very thing happened in 1974. "Demarcation disputes between supervisor and student are always difficult, probably impossible to resolve," she said a few years later. "It is the supervisor who has the final responsibility for the success or failure of the project. We hear of cases where a supervisor blames his student for a failure, but we know that it is largely the fault of the supervisor. It seems only fair to me that he should benefit from the successes, too."

But now, 44 years later, Bell Burnell's achievement has brought a different prize her way: the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, to be precise, and the $3 million that comes with it, all of which she will donate "to fund women, under-represented ethnic minority and refugee students to become physics researchers." "Like the stars of Hidden Figures and DNA researcher Rosalind Franklin, Bell Burnell’s personal story embodies the challenges faced by women in scientific fields," write the Washington Post's Sarah Kaplan and Antonia Noori Farzan. "Bell Burnell, who was born in Northern Ireland in 1943, had to fight to take science classes after age 12."

Rejecting an expected life of cookery and needlework, Bell Burnell "read her father's astronomy books cover to cover, teaching herself the jargon and grappling with complex concepts until she felt she could comprehend the universe. She complained to her parents, who complained to the school, which ultimately allowed her to attend lab along with two other girls. At the end of the semester, Bell Burnell ranked first in the class." Still, by the time she arrived at Cambridge University for graduate school, she "was certain someone had made a mistake admitting her." Her subsequent work there on one of "the most important astronomical finds of the 20th century," which you can see her talk about in the clip above, should have dispelled that notion.

But as Josh Jones wrote here on Open Culture last month, Bell Burnell was a victim of the "Matilda effect," named for suffragist and abolitionist Matilda Joslyn Gage, which identifies the "denial of recognition to women scientists" seen throughout the history of science. The new generation of prizes like the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, founded in 2012 by physicist-entrepreneur Yuri Milner, have the potential to counteract the Matilda effect, but many other Matildas have yet to be recognized. "I am not myself upset about it," as Bell Burnell put it in 1977 when asked about her non-reception of the Nobel. "After all, I am in good company, am I not!"

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.





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