Local History and Genealogy

News, comments, resources, and more.

Albert Einstein: Word Gets Around

Back in October I wrote about Charles Fischer meeting Albert Einstein on a 1930 world cruise, and an item now in the library collection that appears to be written in Einstein’s own hand. The call went out to try to identify the writing and perhaps determine if indeed it was written by Einstein himself.

Not long after, we received a call from Belgium. Author Alain Findling is working on a book about Albert Einstein—not Einstein the physicist or Einstein the philosophical genius, but Einstein the musician. Fascinating! Music it seems played an important role in Einstein’s life, as evidenced in the brief video from the Institute of Physics at the end of this post. Mr. Findling was intrigued by the photo of Einstein and Fischer, and wanted to know more about the story behind it. We’ll certainly be curious to learn more about Mr. Findling’s research.

And just this week, we received a communication from Osik Moses, Assistant Editor for the Einstein Papers Project at The California Institute of Technology. The Einstein Papers Project, “one of the most ambitious publishing ventures ever undertaken in the documentation of the history of science,” plays a leading role in the effort to document, preserve, and publish the written work of Albert Einstein.

Ms. Moses forwarded the following explanation from her colleague, Dr. Jeroen van Dongen from the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands. Van Dongen explains, “The calculations refer to Einstein’s attempts to develop a unified field theory of gravitation and matter. First he defines the Einstein tensor (G), next he studies the Euler-Lagrange variations.” (Heavy stuff indeed for a vacation cruise.) Van Dongen then adds, “...in light of this explanation it is impossible that Einstein “collaborated” with Fischer. Maybe Fischer saw Einstein working on the unified theory and asked him for a page that Einstein was going to drop in the waste bin.” Again... fascinating!

So just as we might have surmised, the unidentified napkin appears to be a unique souvenir of world travel that Charlie Fischer brought home to Kalamazoo. A truly international effort now provides evidence to suggest that the writings are most likely the authentic scribblings of Albert Einstein. The world gets a little smaller every day.


Possible Einstein Writings

Railroads of Michigan: Small Pictures, Big Stories

On Monday evening, March 28, the Southwest Michigan Postcard Club will present the first in a two part series of programs at the Oshtemo Branch Library entitled “Railroads of Michigan: Small Pictures, Big Stories.”

Regional railroad history expert and author Mark Worrall will share rare and unusual photos of railroads from Michigan’s past and discuss the intriguing and sometimes unbelievable stories behind them. “From oat powered trains to air powered railroads; oil trains on the Annie to Hunter Specials roaring across the Upper Peninsula; Grand Rapids reefers to the Duluth South Shore & Atlantic’s spending binge in 1888.” Mark is a compelling presenter and his programs always receive enthusiastic reviews. Monday’s program begins at 6:30 pm.


“A Duluth South Shore & Atlantic crew looks on impatiently while the photographer records the Lake Gogebic station stop for Train No. 5 while a couple of fisherman proudly show off their catch.” ~Mark Worrall


Mark has coauthored books about Michigan’s railroad history, including Michigan Rail Disasters 1900-1940 with Benjamin Bernhart and Detroit, Toledo & Milwaukee Railroad with Charlie Conn. In 2009, Mark was a featured speaker at the Michigan Railroad History Conference.

Mark will present the second part of his program at the Oshtemo Branch Library on May 23rd.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to learn more about Michigan’s historic rail lines!


Railroads of Michigan: Small Pictures, Big Stories

An Ailment by Any Other Name….

Perhaps the last time you attended a sporting event or concert, you awoke the next day to find you had come down with Clergyman’s Throat (“An impairment of the voice due to excessive or improper use of the voice. Can also be caused by excessive use of tobacco or liquor.” p.29). Then again, there are those who suffer, during the long dry, winter months, from Furfur (Furfaire) (“Any scaling of the skin, such as dandruff” p.53). Or, maybe you were frustrated during your lunch break when trying to quickly place your order to find the individual behind the counter to be quite Starblind (“A condition in which an individual stares with eyes half closed, appears to be slow to understand, and blinks frequently” p.135). There is a wealth of obscure medical ailments and their cures held within this rather slight, economical (just 178 pages including reference citations) and yet fascinating and informative publication, A Medical Miscellany for Genealogists. Dr. Jerger has written, or perhaps it is better to say compiled, her book expressly for the use of understanding antiquated medical terms. It functions like a dictionary. It was created by one who was herself frustrated, despite more than thirty years of experience in the medical field, by inscrutable language when investigating her ancestor’s life histories and the ailments from which they suffered and perhaps succumbed to. Dr. Jerger has also supplemented this list with terms from Native American, European, Asian and African folk beliefs and healing traditions.

Whether your understanding is impeded by neglected medical nomenclature while in the midst of genealogy research, studying old medical records, while attempting to enjoy literature of the time or even if you just have an interest in obscure words and phrases, this book is an excellent resource for being specific to the medical field and terminology that has fallen out of favor, various pseudonyms for the same practice or perhaps practices or medicines that are no longer in use (“Inhalation of Gas- A form of pneumotherapy. Inhalations of carbonic acid and sulfurous acid were used to treat tuberculosis of the lungs, asthma and emphysema.” p. 71). From the completely unheard of (“Spruce Beer- A remedy made by boiling the tops of spruce boughs in beer. Used to treat scurvy in the 18th century.” P.134) to the familiar disguised in strange nomenclature (“Polish Disease- Also syphilis.” P.111, “Scourge of Nations- Also Cholera” p 125 or “St. Hubert’s Disease- Also Rabies” p.122) you can use this book as a research tool or as a source for a few moments interesting and educational diversion.


A Medical Miscellany for Genealogists