Thursday, February 12, 2009
If at first, no wait, I mean 412th.
How many times would you attempt something to make sure it was perfect, as perfect as you really wanted it to be? Three times, perhaps four? I wouldn't try anything more than twice before giving up and either throwing it down the sink/ drain/in the bin/ out the window.Yet Josiah Wedgwood had 411 attempts, yes, it's so many I'm going to say it twice, 411 attempts at doing a glaze to produce his first batch of cream earthenware. It was on the 412th go he was able to record 'A good white glaze at last'. He was very scientific in his approach, itemising every single attempt into a notebook, outlining how many parts lead to flint to calcined copper to manganese.
The man was a trail-blazer, a pioneer in the art of ceramics and a particular hero of mine. I spent yesterday finding out quite a bit about him and the other members of the Lunar Society (so-called because they met on the Monday when the moon would be at its fullest). Belonging to this club were some really interesting people.
This OU science module is quite a mix of things really. In between the interesting bits about Wedgewood and his contemporaries, I've viewed (on an OU cd-rom) various chemistry experiments that took place during the Enlightenment-Romantic transition. I watched how a pneumatic trough worked; I followed a recreation of Lavoisier's oxygen experiment; I found out about the Voltaic pile and battery with its frictional electricity; I studied the synthesis of water according to Davy (yes, the lad of the lamp); then I went on to the principle of electrolysis developed by Anthony Carlisle in 1800; followed that with learning about the isolation of new elements and to top it all off, found out how Davy's afore-mentioned safety lamp actually worked.
Can I remember any of this today - don't be silly.