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old school books found in attic reveal shocking modern science

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by mr_paul_mchugh, Mar 19, 2011.

  1. My friend lives in an old farm house. Yesterday he showed me some school exercise books he found in a chest whilst cleaning the attic. Enquiries reveal Emily Carter of Betley (Staffordshire), aged 13, had written them in 1903/04 whilst attending Crewe Secondary Day School. The handwriting is impeccable copper-plate in blue-black ink, teacher’s comments appear in green pencil. The work is dated weekly, usually graded out of 20, and seems to have been set & marked each week.
    They look just like school books issued today, but instead of staples the pages are held by knotted string, and the books have impressive stiff card covers (navy blue) with school-name embossed in silver. The girl’s name & subject only appears on the top & bottom, on the edges of the page.
    What shocked me, is that one book is Chemistry, and Emily describes her experiments. It seems she was learning about oxygen.

    What struck me, is that the pupils in 1903 were measuring in grams (not ounces) and could weigh to an accuracy of one milligram. Many schools today would struggle to permit students to access such sensitive equipment.
    <font size="3">NOTE: Mercury oxide is a toxic substance which can be absorbed into the body by inhalation of its fumes, through the skin, and by ingestion. In 1774 Joseph Priestley (who discovered oxygen) had observed it was released by heating mercury oxide. In 1758 Priestley had moved to Nantwich, Cheshire (next to Crewe) where he successfully established a school, and wrote his best-selling book The Rudiments of English Grammar (1761).</font> <font face="Calibri">4th October 1903, she mixes some chemicals in a long glass tube. The tube is inverted, and the corked end dipped into a bowl of water, and then uncorked (beautifully illustrated). She watches as the liquid level rises, and records the height of the water column as 6.7 cm, or 12% of the tube length. This work only gets 11/20 as (according to the teacher) the percentage of oxygen in the air should be higher (20%).</font><font size="3">What struck me again, is the use of cm instead of inches. Clearly metric units have been around for a lot longer than many of us realised.</font>

  2. Henriettawasp

    Henriettawasp New commenter

    Which makes her exercise book as you have described it all the more poignant. Exactly what was this education preparing her for, I wonder?
  3. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    Up until quite recently scientists were making very precise measurments without the benefit of electronics. Good old chemical balances with the chain could weight to 3 decimal places.
  4. Science (especially Chemistry) is all measured in standard units, including grams and cm (or dm usually) this is to enable conversions and formula to be calculated easily. If they had measured in inches or pounds they would have had to convert them into standard units anyway to enable calcuations to be carried out.

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