Monday, February 28, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Double Entry Bookkeeping

The blog author contends that the greatest discovery outside the hard sciences in recorded history, other than due process and a free press, was the mathematical concept of double-entry bookkeeping. Double-entry bookkeeping is simple: when an economic transaction takes place, at least two entries are made – one to a book (or account) as a left-side entry and another to another book (or account) as a right-side entry. There are at least two different kinds of accounts – “real” accounts that always stay open (assets, liabilities and equity) as well as “nominal” accounts that are closed out periodically (such as sales and expenses, closed out annually to an annual profit which itself is closed out to the “real” equity accounts).
The previous paragraph represents an accomplishment of such profound genius that it dwarfs everything all the various social sciences, combined, have ever achieved.

Double entry bookkeeping allows the “knack” for making money to expand from those with an intuitive understanding of the capital process to all adults with a marketable, competent skill

Double entry bookkeeping makes the process of loaning to an enterprise an unbiased, fair-minded mathematical analysis instead of a transaction soaked in favoritism and nepotism

Double entry bookkeeping is a key element in the remote ownership of capital – stock holders can never have a comparable degree of confidence in any entity lacking the regular financial statements associated with double entry bookkeeping [the other key element in remote stock ownership being a free press able to criticize any entity so long as the statements that are published as factual]

Double entry bookkeeping revolutionizes and dramatically improves the tools and information available to management for making decisions

The “Renaissance” was essentially created by the distilling of due process into Magna Carta and English law, the discoveries and explorations of Portuguese and Spanish adventurers in the 15th century, and the written description of double-entry bookkeeping. These advances were revolutionary, though for biased philosophical reasons, the key contributions of Magna Carta and double entry bookkeeping have been falsely minimized.

        -- the blog author (himself a retired certified public accountant)
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Double-entry bookkeeping has been considered a fundamental innovation and a cornerstone of Capitalism by such thinkers as Werner Sombart and Max Weber, Sombart writing in "Medieval and Modern Commercial Enterprise" that:
"The very concept of capital is derived from this way of looking at things; one can say that capital, as a category, did not exist before double-entry bookkeeping. Capital can be defined as that amount of wealth which is used in making profits and which enters into the accounts."
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Luca Pacioli and double-entry bookkeeping

                               Pacioli portrait by Jacopo de' Barbari, 1495
Bartering was the dominant practice for traveling merchants during the Middle Ages. When medieval Europe moved to a monetary economy in the 13th century, sedentary merchants depended on bookkeeping to oversee multiple simultaneous transactions financed by bank loans. One important breakthrough took place around that time: the introduction of double-entry bookkeeping, which is defined as any bookkeeping system in which there was a debit and credit entry for each transaction, or for which the majority of transactions were intended to be of this form. The historical origin of the use of the words ‘debit’ and ‘credit’ in accounting goes back to the days of single-entry bookkeeping in which the chief objective was to keep track of amounts owed by customers (debtors) and amounts owed to creditors. ‘Debit,’ is Latin for ‘he owes’ and ‘credit’ Latin for ‘he trusts’.

The earliest extant evidence of full double-entry bookkeeping is the Farolfi ledger of 1299-1300. Giovanno Farolfi & Company were a firm of Florentine merchants whose head office was in Nimes who also acted as moneylenders to Archbishop of Arles, their most important customer. The oldest discovered record of a complete double-entry system is the Messari (Italian: Treasurer's) accounts of the city of Genoa in 1340. The Messari accounts contain debits and credits journalised in a bilateral form, and contains balances carried forward from the preceding year, and therefore enjoy general recognition as a double-entry system.

Luca Pacioli's "Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalità" (Italian: "Review of Arithmetic, Geometry, Ratio and Proportion") was first printed and published in Venice in 1494 [disputed Рsome say 1492]. It included a 27-page treatise on bookkeeping, "Particularis de Computis et Scripturis" (Italian: "Details of Calculation and Recording"). It was written primarily for, and sold mainly to, merchants who used the book as a reference text, as a source of pleasure from the mathematical puzzles it contained, and to aid the education of their sons. It represents the first known printed treatise on bookkeeping; and it is widely believed to be the forerunner of modern bookkeeping practice. In Summa Arithmetica, Pacioli introduced symbols for plus and minus for the first time in a printed book, symbols that became standard notation in Italian Renaissance mathematics. Summa Arithmetica was also the first known book printed in Italy to contain algebra.

Although Luca Pacioli did not invent double-entry bookkeeping,his 27-page treatise on bookkeeping contained the first known published work on that topic, and is said to have laid the foundation for double-entry bookkeeping as it is practiced today. Even though Pacioli's treatise exhibits almost no originality, it is generally considered as an important work, mainly because of its wide circulation, it was written in vernacular Italian language, and it was a printed book.

According to Pacioli, accounting is an ad hoc ordering system devised by the merchant. Its regular use provides the merchant with continued information about his business, and allows him to evaluate how things are going and to act accordingly. Pacioli recommends the Venetian method of double-entry bookkeeping above all others. Three major books of account are at the direct basis of this system: the memoriale (Italian: memorandum), the giornale (journal), and the quaderno (ledger). The ledger is considered as the central one and is accompanied by an alphabetical index.

Pacioli's treatise gave instructions in how to record barter transactions and transactions in a variety of currencies – both being far more commonplace than they are today. It also enabled merchants to audit their own books and to ensure that the entries in the accounting records made by their bookkeepers complied with the method he described. Without such a system, all merchants who did not maintain their own records were at greater risk of theft by their employees and agents: it is not by accident that the first and last items described in his treatise concern maintenance of an accurate inventory.

The nature of double-entry can be grasped by recognizing that this system of bookkeeping did not simply record the things merchants traded so that they could keep track of assets or calculate profits and losses; instead as a system of writing, double-entry produced effects that exceeded transcription and calculation. One of its social effects was to proclaim the honesty of merchants as a group; one of its epistemological effects was to make its formal precision based on a rue bound system of arithmetic seem to guarantee the accuracy of the details it recorded. Even though the information recorded in the books of account was not necessarily accurate, the combination of the double entry system's precision and the normalizing effect that precision tended to create the impression that books of account were not only precise, but accurate as well. Instead of gaining prestige from numbers, double entry bookkeeping helped confer cultural authority on numbers.

Double entry accounting means that money is never lost or gained. It is always transferred from one place to another. This is done by recording transactions. Each transaction requires the use of at least two accounts.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Carmen Cavallaro

Carmen Cavallaro

‘Crazy Rhythm’

liner notes

With a technique that married glittering, seamless high-speed arpeggios with a disarming saccharine lyricism, Carmen Cavallaro’s ‘Poet of the Piano’ definition was apposite. A forerunner of the classical-pop ‘cross-over’ that reached its high tide with Liberace, Cavallaro began his musical career as a local solo attraction at plush nightclub venues and on radio. Later, darling of the ivories, Carmen reached a global audience through recordings, film and TV appearances. Our CD selection traverses Cavallaro’s many styles and moods – a reminder (if one were required) of the range that the giant Cavallaro could muster: the entire easy-listening piano gamut, from ‘cocktail’ to jazz, with many a sparkling byroad between. Born in New York on May 6, 1913, to Sicilian immigrants Paul and Mary Cavallaro, at three years old, pianist and composer and conductor-to-be Carmen was already displaying his precocious talent at the keyboard of a toy piano. After formal classical piano training (at 16 he led the orchestra at his high school) he gained early experience as a serious recitalist, but by the 1930s, being already attuned to jazz and syncopated piano forms generally classified as ‘light music’, he had gravitated towards a professionally easier option: the swinging society bands of the Saturday club circuit. In 1933 he joined the ‘sweet’ bank of Al Kavelin (born New York City, 1903-d.1982) in an ensemble installed at the New York Central Park Casino in replacement to that of Eddy Duchin (1910-1951). Engaged initially for eight weeks, Cavallaro was soon Kavelin’s star attraction, with a fan following ensuing from the band’s regular broadcasts. Leaving Kavelin’s ranks in 1937, Cavallaro next played a series of short but prominent stints with a succession of other bands, notably Meyer Davis, Abe Lyman, Enriq Madriguera and Rudy Vallee.

In 1939, Cavallaro formed his own group, which opened in New York at Ben Marden’s Riviera. Initially a five-piece, and later augmented to eight or nine ad hoc, the group had 14 members by 1944, when he disbanded it. In 1940, Cavallaro played a six-month sojourn at the Statler Hotel (St. Louis) then, after appearing at the New York Strand Theatre embarked on a trans-America n tour, which included, in September 1941, Washington’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel, from which the Cavallaro orchestra were network broadcast via NBC Radio (for NBC, Cavallaro would later be star-player and host of his own Schaeffer Parade). By the late 1940s he had become something of a pop piano institution in the USA, his fame consolidated by appearances at such prestigious venues as the Waldorf-Astoria (New York), Palmer House (Chicago), the Mark Hopkins Hotel (San Francisco) and the Coconut Grove (Los Angeles) and by his ongoing series of recordings for Decca, beginning with the 10 sides he made in 1939. This comprised a selection of standards revivified in Carmen’s own arrangements and included Cocktails for Two (this last revived in the soundtracks of Woody Allen’s Celebrity (W. Allen/Magnolia; 1998) and Small Time Crooks (Sweetland/Dreamworks SKG: 2000) and The Very Through of You. First released as a 5-record (78) set generically titled Dancing In The Dark, such was the original album’s success that it was re-recorded, in 1946. By 1944 Cavallaro had moved to Hollywood where he opened with an augmented orchestra, at the Palladium. Contracted first by Warner Brothers, he appeared in a number of films, usually in a nightclub situations, playing himself at the keyboard and/or conducting. Memorable amongst these were Hollywood Canteen (a star-studded 1944 account of screen big names doing their bit for the war-effort, and in which Carmen aired his rumba hit ‘Enlloro’ – ‘Voodoo Moon.’), Diamond Horseshoe (aka Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe – T C Fox; starring Betty Grable and Dick Haymes), Out Of This World (a 1945 Eddie Brachen-Veronica Lake ‘laugh-a-minute lowdown’ on the crooning business, for Paramount, with Crosby over-dubbing the crooning and Hollywood Victory Caravan (a documentary produced by Paramount for the US Treasury Department, starring Humphrey Bogart and Robert Benchley, and featuring, among others, Crosby & Hope, Betty Hutton and Alan Ladd). In 1946 he played his orchestra-leading self, in The Time, the Place And The Girl (a 1946 nightclub musical, starring Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson). Cavallaro’s record hits, which at this time were comparatively few in number, were topped by the million-selling Chopin’s Polonaise in A flat, Op.53 – 1842). By far his biggest hit single (US No.3, June 1945) this continuation of the Chopin craze sparked off by classical pianist Jose Iturbi (in the 1944 Columbia biopic of Chopin, A Song To Remember) enjoyed British sales alone in excess of 300K. In 1945 Cavallaro also backed Bing Crosby on piano in the "Ol’ Groaner”s 12th Gold Disk (‘I Can’t Begin To Tell You’, US No. 1 hit recording of the song featured by Bing in the film The Dolly Sisters). During that year, under the baton of Victor Young, he played in an all-Gershwin concert at the Hollywood Bowl and made the first of several radio appearances, notably on Kraft Music Hall, AFRS Magic Carpet and Fitch Bandwagon. Meanwhile, Cavallaro's recording career continued to flourish, as soloist with his orchestra (his exclusive US radio network rights to ‘Warsaw Concerto’, by British composer Richard Addinsell, contributed to that work’s million-selling status in the USA), and with popular stars of the day, notably Bing, Harry James and Bob Eberly, whose collaborations included Full Moon And Empty Arms (another classical borrowing, this time from the second Rachmaninov piano concerto). Sponsored by the Schaeffer pen company, he presented his own NBC-networked Schaeffer Parade, a moveable feast aired from locations on the Cavallaro Orchestra’s touring itinerary, which for two years topped American radio polls. Between 1949 and 1951 Cavallaro appeared in three editions of the Ed Sullivan Show and made appearances in other pioneering TV variety-chat shows, including Toast of The Town (three editions, 1949-51), Songs For Sale, Four Star Revue (1952) and The Steve Allen Show (1956). As a recording artist, in September 1949 Cavallaro scraped into the US Top 30 with ‘There’s Yes, Yes, Yes In Your Eyes’ (No. 29, in September) and the following year made the Top 10 with ‘Music! Music! Music!” (a cover he shared with Bob Lido & the Cavaliers). In 1952 he made another contemporary chart entry – with his American cover of Eric Spear’s British hit theme, ‘Meet Mister Callaghan’ (US No.28, September, 1952). Although his albums and singles of the late 1940s had all been good sellers, by the early 1950s the general downturn of big band, and his upstaging in popularity first by bebop then by rock-n-roll, prompted Cavallaro to take stock. Changing the direction of his career, he gradually dispenses with large-scale orchestras in favour of small rhythm backing groups. His best albums of the period, featuring his own alternately dazzling and intimately lyrical arrangements of standards old and new, include Night and Day, All The Things You Are, The Music of Richard Rodgers, Music At Midnight (1955 – Tracks 9-12) and Poetry In Ivory *(1956 – 18-20). In 1956 he was chosen by Columbia to record the soundtrack for The Eddy Duchin Story, which starred Tyrone Power and Kim Novak. In this ‘predictable, glossy,, sentimental’ Technicolor, Cinemascope, thrice Oscar-nominated biopic of pianist-bandleader and premature leukaemia victim Duchin (portrayed by Power), Cavallaro appeared as himself only in Manhattan ( – Track 13). He also ghosted the piano-playing scenes. Cavallaro made his first public crossover to jazz piano at an engagement at The Embers, a famed jazz haunt of New York’s East 54th Street. The album, subsequently recorded with his colleagues at that gig, Messrs. Norton, O’Neill and McArdle (selections: Tracks 21-23) graphed yet another glowing page in the catalogue of Cavallaro’s prowess at the keyboard. Audibly evidence that he might have held his own with the best, yet such is the nonchalance of his delivery that he might well be asking us to take his facility in an unaccustomed genre that impressed Duke Ellington! After much florid and impeccable convolution and some dizzy smashing of thirds, a tongue-in-cheek footnote reference to Ravel’s ‘Bolero’, in Crazy Rhythm (Track 23), reminds us that the classical and cocktail virtuoso is only on a ‘busman’s holiday’ to jazzland. Throughout the 1960s and beyond, Cavallaro continued with his time-honoured, pop piano classical style, constantly adapting it to a more modern repertoire. In 1962 he visited Japan, and such was the reception for his highly individual arrangements of Japanese folk-tunes, that for the next 25 years he would return annually to his oriental niche. In 1963 he scored another minor hit (US Top 60) with his cover of the million-selling ‘Sukiyaki’, recorded the previous year by Japanese crooner Kyu Sakamoto. During the 1970s he played as a promoter on various LP programmes for Yamaha pianos and in his final years Cavallaro became noted for his well-attended appearances at Ciro’s, in West Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard and elsewhere. He continued to play publicly until 1986, when he shared the honours with Helen O’Connell, in a concert that marked the 60th anniversary of the Palace Theatre, in Columbus, Ohio. Carmen Cavallaro died in Columbus, on October 12, 1989.

--Peter Dempsey (2009), writing the liner notes (emphasis added) to a CD, Crazy Rhythm, featuring remastered Cavallaro hits
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Below is the Blog Author’s review of Cavallaro’s “Crazy Rhythm” CD as posted to
5 Stars:
By Edward H. Binns on May 20, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a meticulously remastered CD of much of Cavallaro's best work. It contains four types of Cavallaro music - pop versions of classics, cocktail piano numbers, small group jazz work from the "Carmen Cavallaro at the Embers" album, and examples of Cavallaro with a full band.

Full Moon and Empty Arms was Cavallaro's pop adaptation of a Rachmaninoff theme. Polonaise was a pop version of a Chopin composition which made Cavallaro a star.

Most of the "Crazy Rhythm" album consists of cocktail piano pieces that are sentimental, intimate and technically flawless.

Cavallaro transitioned to jazz combo work in 1957 with an appearance at The Embers in New York. This was made into an album from which three songs appear on "Crazy Rhythm": The Lady Is a Tramp, Don't Get Around Much Anymore, and Crazy Rhythm. "At the Embers" is available as a CD, but these three songs have been remastered in a superior manner on the "Crazy Rhythm" CD.

Cavallaro's work with a full sized band is represented by several songs: Dizzy Fingers, On the Sunny Side of the Street, Brazil, Autumn in New York and Carioca. Not only is Cavallaro's touch and timing outstanding, he transitions to and from the other instruments with an astonishing, flawless, lightning-fast technique. Carioca, recorded in 1946, received radio air time for more than 20 years. The meticulous remastering for this CD shows why Cavallaro's interpretation was so masterful and enduring.

Cavallaro has been compared to his society band predecessor Eddy Duchin and to his successor Liberace. Though they often played the same songs, even at the same hotel ballrooms, Cavallaro raised himself to a higher level through his musicianship and technical skill. He went beyond flashy playing to an obsession with perfection which he was able to demonstrate reliably to his audiences. He was the pianist under the baton of Victor Young at a Hollywood Bowl all-Gershwin recital in 1945. Cavallaro played Franz Liszt music for a Hollywood movie soundtrack, something unimaginable for the talents of Duchin or Liberace. In the pop genre, Cavallaro particularly excelled in Richard Rodgers tunes, Cole Porter standards, Italian songs and Latin compositions.

Liner notes on Cavallaro's background are included with "Crazy Rhythm" and are the best comprehensive biography of his career that I have read anywhere.

His technical mastery was well captured on his "Cavallaro Plays his Showstoppers" album, which has not been remastered to a CD*. In a final counting, Cavallaro may deserve to be grouped with other classically trained New York piano giants like Oscar Levant and Peter Nero. The "Crazy Rhythm" CD is a great sample of his style. Buy it if you have children -!-- because it can train their young ears to what a Steinway ought to sound like.

Other recommended albums: "Carmen Cavallaro at the Embers" as well as "Carmen Cavallaro Stairway to the Stars" (a Jasmine two CD set).
*The above review was written in 2010.  As of 2014, “Cavallaro Plays his Showstoppers” still is not available as a CD, but MP3 files for each song (and for the entire album) can be downloaded at  Incidentally, the CD soundtrack for the movie “Hollywood Canteen” includes in full Cavallaro’s live-on-film performance of “Voodoo Moon” with his band.  This may be the definitive performance of the Afro-Cuban style and is also available at YouTube.
Finally, here is one more review of “Crazy Rhythm”:
By Bill Laursen on April 9, 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Listening to Cavallaro is always astounding. His virtuosity truly makes him a master pianist. It's unbelievable that his ten fingers can produce sounds that make one think that more than one piano was used to make them.
I think this guy is brilliant and without peer. .

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Dr. Jonas Salk

Jonas E. Salk (October 28, 1914 – June 23, 1995) was an American medical researcher and virologist, best known for his discovery and development of the first safe and effective polio vaccine. He was born in New York City to parents of Ashkenazi Jewish Russian immigrant families. Although they themselves did not have much formal education, they were determined to see their children succeed. While attending New York University School of Medicine, he stood out from his peers not just because of his academic prowess, but because he chose to do medical research instead of becoming a physician.

Until 1955, when the Salk vaccine was introduced, polio was considered the most frightening public health problem of the post-war United States. Annual epidemics were increasingly devastating. The 1952 epidemic was the worst outbreak in the nation's history. Of nearly 58,000 cases reported that year, 3,145 people died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis, with most of the victims children. The "public reaction was to a plague", said historian William O'Neill. "Citizens of urban areas were to be terrified every summer when this frightful visitor returned." According to a 2009 PBS documentary, "Apart from the atomic bomb, America's greatest fear was polio." As a result, scientists were in a frantic race to find a way to prevent or cure the disease. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the world's most recognized victim of the disease and founded the organization that would fund the development of a vaccine.

In 1947, Salk accepted an appointment to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In 1948, he undertook a project funded by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to to determine the number of different types of polio virus. Salk saw an opportunity to extend this project towards developing a vaccine against polio, and, together with the skilled research team he assembled, devoted himself to this work for the next seven years. The field trial set up to test the Salk vaccine was, according to O'Neill, "the most elaborate program of its kind in history, involving 20,000 physicians and public health officers, 64,000 school personnel, and 220,000 volunteers." Over 1,800,000 school children took part in the trial. When news of the vaccine's success was made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was hailed as a "miracle worker", and the day "almost became a national holiday." His sole focus had been to develop a safe and effective vaccine as rapidly as possible, with no interest in personal profit. When he was asked in a televised interview who owned the patent to the vaccine, Salk replied: "There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?"

In 1960, he founded the Salk Institute for Biological Stuies in La Jolla, California, which is today a center for medical and scientific research. He continued to conduct research and publish books, including Man Unfolding (1972), The Survival of the Wisest (1973), World Population and Human Values: A New Reality (1981), and Anatomy of Reality: Merging of Intuition and Reason (1983). Dr. Salk's last years were spent searching for a vaccine against HIV.

Early life

Jonas Salk was born in New York City on October 28, 1914. His parents, Daniel and Dora Salk, were from Russian-Jewish immigrant families, and did not receive extensive formal education. According to historian David Oshinsky, Salk grew up in the "Jewish immigrant culture" of New York. He had two younger brothers, Herman and Lee. The family moved from East Harlem to the Bronx, with some time spent in Queens.


High school

When he was 13, Salk entered Townsend Harris High School, a public school for intellectually gifted students. Named after the founder of City College of New York (CCNY), it was, wrote Oshinsky, "a launching pad for the talented sons of immigrant parents who lacked the money—and pedigree—to attend a top private school." In high school "he was known as a perfectionist...who read everything he could lay his hands on", according to one of his fellow students. Students had to cram a four-year curriculum into just three. As a result, most dropped out or flunked out, despite the school's motto "study, study, study." Of the students who graduated, however, most would have the grades to enroll in CCNY, noted for being a highly competitive college.


Salk enrolled in City College of New York from which he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1934. Oshinsky writes that "for working-class immigrant families, City College represented the apex of public higher education. Getting in was tough but tuition was free. Competition was intense, but the rules were fairly applied. No one got an advantage based on an accident of birth."

At his mother's urging, he put aside aspirations of becoming a lawyer, and instead concentrated on classes necessary for admission to medical school. However, according to Oshinsky, the facilities at City College were "barely second rate." There were no research laboratories. The library was inadequate. The faculty contained few noted scholars. "What made the place special", he writes, "was the student body that had fought so hard to get there . . . driven by their parents. . . From these ranks, of the 1930s and 1940s, emerged a wealth of intellectual talent, including more Nobel Prize winners - eight - and PhD recipients than any other public college except the University of California at Berkeley." Salk entered City College at the age of 15, a "common age for a freshman who had skipped multiple grades along the way."
As a child, Salk did not show any interest in medicine or science in general. He says in an interview with the Academy of Achievement, "As a child I was not interested in science. I was merely interested in things human, the human side of nature, if you like, and I continue to be interested in that.

Medical school

According to Oshinsky, NYU based its modest reputation on famous alumni, such as Walter Reed, who helped conquer yellow fever. Tuition was "comparatively low, better still, it did not discriminate against Jews, ... while most of the surrounding medical schools – Cornell, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale - had rigid quotas in place." Yale, for example, accepted 76 applicants, in 1935, out of a pool of 501. Although 200 of the applicants were Jewish, only five got in.

During his years at the New York University School of Medicine he stood out from his peers, according to Bookchin, "not just because of his continued academic prowess—he was Alpha Omega Alpha, the Phi Beta Kappa Society of medical education—but because he had decided he did not want to practice medicine." Instead, he became absorbed in research, even taking a year off to study biochemistry. He later focused more of his studies on bacteriology which had replaced medicine as his primary interest. He said his desire was to help humankind in general rather than single patients. And as Oshinsky writes, "it was the laboratory work, in particular, that gave new direction to his life.”

Post-graduate research

During his senior year in medical school he chose a two-month elective to work in the laboratory of Dr. Thomas Francis. Francis had recently joined the faculty of the medical school after working for the Rockefeller Foundation, where he had discovered the Type B influenza virus. According to Bookchin, "the two month stint in Francis's lab was Salk's first introduction to the world of virology - and he was hooked."

After graduating from medical school he began his residency at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, where he again worked in Francis's laboratory. Few hospitals in Manhattan had the status of Mount Sinai, particularly among the city's Jews. Oshinsky interviewed a friend of Salk's, who said, "to intern there was like playing ball for the New York Yankees ... only the top men from the nation's medical schools dared apply. Out of 250 who sought the opportunity, only a dozen were chosen."

According to Oshinsky, "Salk quickly made his mark." Although focused mainly on research, "he showed tremendous skills as a clinician and a surgeon." But it was "his leadership as president of the house staff of interns and residents at Mount Sinai that best defined him to his peers." The key issue for many of them in 1939, for example, was not the fate of the hospital, but rather the future of Europe after Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland. In one instance, "several interns responded by wearing badges to signify support for the Allies”, but the hospital's director told them to remove them lest they upset some of the patients.

The interns then took the matter to Salk, where he said that "everyone should wear the badge as an act of solidarity." One intern recalled, "Jonas was a very staunch guy. He never took a backward step on that issue or any other issue of principle between us and the hospital." The hospital administrators backed off and there was no further interference from the director.

Research career

At the end of his residency, Salk began applying for permanent research positions. But he discovered that many of the jobs he desired were closed to him due to Jewish quotas, which, according to Bookchin, "prevailed in so much of the medical research establishment." Nor could he apply at Mount Sinai as their policy prevented hiring their own interns. As a last resort, he contacted Dr. Francis for help. But Francis had left NYU a year earlier after accepting an offer to direct the University of Michigan's School of Public Health.

However, "Francis did not let him down", writes Bookchin. "He secured extra grant money and offered Salk a job" working on an army-commissioned project in Michigan to develop an influenza vaccine. He and Francis eventually perfected a vaccine that was soon widely used at army bases, where "Salk had been responsible for discovering and isolating one of the flu strains that was included in the final vaccine.

By 1947, Salk decided to find an institution where he could direct his own laboratory. After three institutions turned him down, he received an offer from William McEllroy, the dean of the Univeristy of Pittsburgh Shool of Medicine, which included a promise that he would run his own lab. He accepted, and in the fall of that year left Michigan and relocated to Pennsylvania. But the promise was not quite what he expected. After Salk arrived at Pittsburgh, "he discovered that he had been relegated to cramped, unequipped quarters in the basement of the old Municipal Hospital”, writes Bookchin. As time went on, however, he began securing grants from the Mellon family and was able to build a working virology laboratory, where he continued his research on flu vaccines.

He was later approached by the director of research at the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis and asked if he would like to participate on the foundation's polio project, which had earlier been established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the time thought to be a victim of polio himself. He quickly accepted the offer saying he "would be happy to work on this important project."

In 1956, Wisdom magazine ran a cover story about Salk, summarizing some of the reasoning behind his desire to do research:

There are two types of medical specialists. There are those who fight disease day and night, who assist mankind in times of despair and agony and who preside over the awesome events of life and death. Others work in the quiet detachment of the laboratory; their names are often unknown to the general public, but their research may have momentous consequences.
The Worst Disease of the Postwar Era

Polio was a medical oddity that baffled researchers for years. It was first recorded in 1835 and grew steadily more prevalent. It took a long time to learn that the virus was transmitted by fecal matter and secretions of the nose and throat. It entered the victim orally, established itself in the intestines, and then traveled to the brain or spinal cord.

At the start of the 20th century, during the 1914 and 1919 polio epidemics in the U.S., physicians and nurses made house-to-house searches to identify all infected persons. Children suspected of being infected were taken to hospitals and the child's family was quarantined until they were no longer potentially infectious, even if it meant they could not go to their child's funeral if the child died in the hospital.

There are many famous polio victims, most of whom were able to overcome their disabilities, while others were less fortunate: Itzhak Perlman, one of the world's finest violinists, was permanently disabled at age four, and still plays sitting down; actor Donald Sutherland; writer Arthur C. Clarke; writer Robert Anton Wilson; actress Mia Farrow; singer-musician Neil Young; Olympic dessage rider Lis Hartel; actor Alan Alda; musician David Sanborn; singer Dinah Shore; singer Joni Mitchell; former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas; director Francis Ford Coppola; nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer; actor Lionel Barrymore; and Congressman James H. Scheuer.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Edwin Land

Edwin Herbert Land (May 7, 1909 – March 1, 1991) was an American scientist and inventor, best known as the co-founder of the Polaroid Corporation. Among other things, he invented inexpensve filters for polarizing light, a practical system of in-camera instant photography, and his retinex theory of color vision. His Polaroid instant camera, which went on sale in late 1948, made it possible for a picture to be taken and developed in 60 seconds or less.

Early years

Edwin was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Harry and Helen Land. His father owned a scrap metal yard. He attended the Norwich Free Academy at Norwich,m Connecticut, a semi-private high school, and graduated in the class of 1927. The library there was posthumously named for him, having been funded by grants from his family. He studied chemistry at Harvard. After his freshman year, he left Harvard for New York City.

In New York City, he invented the first inexpensive filters capable of polarizing light, Polaroid film. Because he was not associated with an educational institution, he lacked the tools of a proper laboratory, making this a difficult endeavor. Instead, he would sneak into a laboratory at Columbia University late at night to use their equipment. He also availed himself of the New York City public library to scour the scientific literature for prior work on polarizing substances. His breakthrough came when he realized that instead of attempting to grow a large single crystal of a polarizing substance, he could manufacture a film with millions of micrometer-sized polarizing crystals that were coaxed into perfect alignment with each other.

After developing a polarizing film, Edwin Land returned to Harvard. However, he still did not finish his studies or receive a degree. Once Land could see the solution to a problem in his head, he lost all motivation to write it down or prove his vision to others. Often his wife, at the prodding of his instructor, would extract from him the answers to homework problems. She would then write up the homework and hand it in so he could receive credit and not fail the course.

Land's company

In 1932 he established the Land-Wheelwright Laboratories together with his Harvard physics instructor to commercialize his polarizing technology. Wheelwright, his instructor, came from a family of financial means and agreed to fund the company. After a few early successes developing polarizing filters for sunglasses and photographic filters, Land obtained funding from a series of Wall Street investors for further expansion. The company was renamed the Polaroid Corporation in 1937. Land further developed and produced the sheet polarizers under the Polaroid trademark. Although the initial major application was for sunglasses and scientific work, it quickly found many additional applications: for color animation in the Wurlitzer 850 Peacock jukebox of 1942, for glasses in full-color stereoscopic (3-D) movies, to control brightness of light through a window, a necessary component of all LCDs and many more. During World War II, he worked on military tasks, which included developing dark-adaption goggles, target finders, the first passively guided smart bombs, and a special stereoscopic viewing system called the Vectograph, which revealed camouflaged enemy positions in aerial photography.

A little more than three years later, on February 21, 1947, Edwin Land demonstrated an instant camera and associated film. Called the Land Camera, it was in commercial sale less than two years later. Polaroid originally manufactured sixty units of this first camera. Fifty-seven were put up for sale at Boston's Jordan Marsh department store before the 1948 Christmas holiday. Polaroid marketers incorrectly guessed that the camera and film would remain in stock long enough to manufacture a second run based on customer demand. All fifty-seven cameras and all of the film were sold on the first day of demonstrations.

During his time at Polaroid, Land was notorious for his marathon research sessions. When Land conceived of an idea, he would experiment and brainstorm until the problem was solved with no breaks of any kind. He needed to have food brought to him and to be reminded to eat. He once wore the same clothes for eighteen days straight while solving problems with the commercial production of polarizing film. As the Polaroid company grew, Land had teams of assistants working in shifts at his side. As one team wore out, the next team was brought in to continue the work.

Later years

In the 1950s, Edwin Land and his team helped design the optics of the revolutionary Lockheed U-2 spy plane. Also in this decade, Land first discovered a two-color system for projecting the entire spectrum of hues with only two colors of projecting light (he later found more specifically that one could achieve the same effect using very narrow bands of 500 nm and 557 nm light). Some of this work was later incorporated in his Retinex theory of color vision. In 1957, Harvard University awarded him an honorary doctorate, and Edwin H. Land Blvd., a street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was later named in his memory. The street forms the beginning of Memorial Drive, where the Polaroid company building was located.

In the early 1970s, Land attempted to explain the previously known phenomenon of color constancy with his Retinex theory. His popular demonstrations of color constancy raised much interest in the concept. He considered his leadership towards the development of integral instant color photography – the SX-70 film and camera — to be his crowning achievement.

Although he led the Polaroid Corporation as a chief executive, Land was a scientist first and foremost, and as such made sure that he performed "an experiment each day". Despite the fact that he held no formal degree, employees, friends, and the press respected his scientific accomplishments by calling him Dr. Land. The only exception was the Wall Street Journal, which refused to use that honorific title throughout his lifetime.

Land often made technical and management decisions based on what he felt was right as both a scientist and a humanist, much to the chagrin of Wall Street and his investors. From the beginning of his professional career, he hired women and trained them to be research scientists. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, he led Polaroid to the forefront of the affirmative action movement.

Land had an artistic vision. In his laboratory he built giant studio cameras the size of bedroom closets that produced large format (20 x 24 inch) prints. He gave photographers free access to these cameras in return for some of the prints they produced. This practice was continued by the company; the result was the Polaroid Collection. Compiled since the seventies, the collection grew to between 16,000 and 24,000 photos shot by some of the world's greatest artists and photographers, including Ansel Adams, Chuck Close, Robert Frank and Andy Warhol. The collection, an asset of the Polaroid Corporation, remained intact till 2010 when in controversial circumstances was broken up and put up for sale in lots.

Despite the tremendous success of his instant cameras, Land's unsuccessful Polavision instant movie system was a financial disaster, and he resigned as Chairman of Polaroid on March 6, 1980. In his retirement years, he founded the Rowland Institute for Science.


Land died on March 1, 1991 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the age of 81. Upon his death, his personal assistant shredded his personal papers and notes.

Public service

Land was:
  • A member of the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) 1957–59 and a Consultant-at-Large of PSAC from 1960–1973.
  • A member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) 1961–77.
  • A member of the National Commission on Technology, Automation and Economic Progress 1964–66.
  • A member of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television 1966–67.
  • A Trustee of the Ford Foundation 1967–1975.


Although Land never received a formal degree, he received honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Carnegie Institute of Technology, Williams College, Tufts College, Washington University, Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, University of Massachusetts, Bradeis University and many others. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award given to a U.S. citizen, in 1963 for his work in optics. He held 535 patents, compared with Thomas Edison's 1,097 American patents.  In 1967 he was awarded the Frederic Ives Medal by thre OSA.

In 1938 he was awarded the Elliott Cresson Medal, the Howard N. Potts Medal in 1956, and the Vermilye Medal in 1974, all three from The Franklin Institute.

In 1977 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In 1988 Land was awarded the National Medal of Technology for "the invention, development and marketing of instant photography". 

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There is a wondrous biography of Edwin Land: Insisting on the Impossible: The Life of Edwin Land by Victor K. McElheny. Land's notes were destroyed upon his death. Yet, we can get an idea of what kind of mind he had from meditating on these actual quotes of his:

If you're a research scientist what you want is not retirement but another 500 years.

A premature attempt to explain something that thrills you will destroy your perceptivity rather than increase it, because your tendency will be to explain away rather than seek out... Fly with your mind without assuming that nature has set a very special trap for you.

Don't undertake a project unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.

Any problem can be solved using the materials in the room.

Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity.

If you dream of something worth doing and then simply go to work on it and don't think anything of personalities, or emotional conflicts, or of money, or of family distractions; it is amazing how quickly you get through those 5,000 steps.

It's not that we need new ideas, but we need to stop having old ideas.

Marketing is what you do when your product is no good.

Politeness is the poison of collaboration.

Science is a method to keep yourself from kidding yourself.

The most important thing about power is to make sure you don't have to use it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Positive Quiddity: The Periodic Table

The periodic table may be the grand slam of science, the greatest single accomplishment of theoretical chemistry and physics. It gives an amazing amount of organized, certain information about all matter at the atomic level or larger, in spite of the fact that our knowledge of subatomic particles and interactions is

The periodic table of the chemical elements (also periodic table of the elements or just the periodic table) is a tabular display of the chemical elements. Although precursors to this table exist, its invention is generally credited to Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869, who intended the table to illustrate recurring ("periodic") trends in the properties of the elements. The layout of the table has been refined and extended over time, as new elements have been discovered, and new theoretical models have been developed to explain chemical behavior.

The periodic table is now ubiquitous within the academic discipline of chemistry, providing a useful framework to classify, systematize, and compare all of the many different forms of chemical behavior. The table has found many applications in chemistry, physics, biology, and engineering, especially chemical engineering....

[various representations of the Periodic Table are available at ]
The main value of the periodic table is the ability to predict the chemical properties of an element based on its location on the table. It should be noted that the properties vary differently when moving vertically along the columns of the table than when moving horizontally along the rows.

The periodic table is organized in rows and columns called Periods and Groups respectively. Each row (period) in the table corresponds to the filling of a quantum shell of electrons. The elements in a group have similar configurations of the outermost electron shells of their atoms (most chemical properties are dominated by the orbital location of the outermost electron). See for more details on the meaning of groups and periods.

atomic number – In the modern periodic table, the elements are actually arranged in order of increasing atomic number--that's the number of protons in one atom of a particular element. An undisturbed atom is electrically neutral, so the number of electrons in it is the same as its atomic number.

Atomic weight almost always increases with atomic number, so Mendeleev's sequence of elements was almost exactly the same as the one used today, though there are a couple of weird exceptions. In general, it's correct to think of atoms getting heavier as you go down a column or to the right across a row.

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Atomic weight

Atomic weight includes the combined mass of the element's protons, electrons and neutrons. Most elements have isotopes – that means that some atoms have a certain number of neutrons and others have a different number of neutrons. Normally this is a discrete distribution of a specific number of neutrons (which is to say that neutrons are not randomly distributed within an element – certain isotopes prevail). Hafnium, for example, is “further down” the periodic table than zirconium, but it is “lighter” because it has a mixture of isotopes with fewer neutrons than does zirconium. This is a rare exception to the general rule that the further down or to the right an element is on the periodic table, the greater is the atomic weight.

Different celestial bodies have different mixtures of isotopes for the elements. The “atomic weight” for an element of Earth's copper, for example, is slightly but universally different than the atomic weight of copper from a meteor that originated on Mars. This would not match the atomic weight of copper from a meteor originating from Venus. Thus, through laboratory analysis, we can tell whether a rock is natural to the Earth or of non-terrestrial origin. The exception here deals with rocks from Earth and Earth's Moon. We know from the NASA Apollo missions and the rocks brought back to Earth that these have the same distribution of isotopes and the same atomic weight element by element as elements of Earth. This proves that the Earth and Moon were once a single planetary body before a collision separated them. No other explanation is reasonable.

Shell levels

Particles have “mass.” The larger the particle, the more mass they have. Particles always move in wave formation. Suppose we have a steel sphere we roll from point A to point B. It may appear to move in a straight line, but we know from physics that in moves in a wave-- both above and below a straight line rolling from A to B. The larger this sphere, the more relatively tiny is the wave action. We can ignore the wave action of particles for large items and use Euclidean geometry when talking about size and motion. But for subatomic chemistry, this common sense approach doesn't work. A tiny electron revolves around a proton. To find the electron, we would have to pump energy or radiation into it, which moves it significantly. So there is no real-time way to know exactly where the electron is. This peculiarity is called the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. For hydrogen, an element with a single proton, the electron is located at the surface of a spherical cloud forming essentially a spherical shell around the proton. For helium, there are two protons and thus two electrons, which are located on the surface of two egg-shaped clouds around the protons.

As elements get larger (because of a greater number of protons at the center), the shape of the orbital probability spheres changes from spherical to egg-shaped to tear-drop shaped around the core of the atom. There is a critical point here that cannot be underestimated in its significance: though we don't know the exact location of the electrons, we do know that they are located at the surface of the sphere or egg or teardrop and not in between. If we excite an electron orbiting in a spherical manner, it will stay where it is until the energy it is receiving allows it to jump to an egg-shaped orbital. If we excite it further it will jump to a teardrop orbital when, but only when, it has enough energy. There are names for these orbital shapes: s, p, d, and f (and, theoretically, g, h, i and k). These orbitals are discrete – electrons only move their orbital shape when the move from one shape to another. They don't dance around in between these distinct shapes. An example is a neon light. We take neon gas and pump electrons through it. Some electrons replace those already existing in the outer shell of the neon atom. With enough energy, they “bump” the orbit to a larger and different probability shape. When this happens, they are primed for returning to their normal shape, and when this happens, they reduce their energy, return to the smaller and normal orbital, and expend the spare energy by emitting a photon. This is how neon (and other fluorescent) lights work.

As noted above, we can't know exactly where an electron is, but we can know what the orbit looks like and what the size of that orbital is. Another critical advantage is that we can assume that all of the inner shells of an elemental atom are stable. The outer shell is doing all the swapping and energy transfers; so, electrically and chemically, an element is defined by this outer shell (and its tendency to shrug off or accept spare electrons – its valence). The outer shell is termed the valence shell, and this is plain from simply looking at a periodic table and noting where, by row and column, that element is located.

These ideas are presented along with some complex mathematical concepts and a probability animated diagram at Wikipedia's “atomic orbital” topic at this link:

Blocks” of Shell levels

[this concludes the section of the discussion written by the blog author, who is also responsible for the brief introduction at the beginning of this piece and the concluding footnote]

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A block of the periodic table of elements is a set of adjacent groups. The term appears to have been first used (in French) by Charles Janet. The respective highest-energy electrons in each element in a block belong to the same atomic orbital type. Each block is named after its characteristic orbital; thus, the blocks are:
The block names (s, p, d, f. and g) are derived from the quality of the spectroscopic lines of the associated atomic orbitals: sharp, principal, diffuse and fundamental, the rest being named in alphabetical order. Blocks are sometimes called families.
The following is the order for filling the "subshell" orbitals, according to the Aufbau principle, which also gives the linear order of the "blocks" (as atomic number increases) in the periodic table:
1s, 2s, 2p, 3s, 3p, 4s, 3d, 4p, 5s, 4d, 5p, 6s, 4f, 5d, 6p, 7s, 5f, 6d, 7p, ...

For discussion of the nature of why the energies of the blocks naturally appear in this order in complex atoms, see atomic orbital and electron configuration.
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Charles Janet (1849-1932) devised a periodic chart which flows easily and without breaks through the increasing shell levels. Janet also conceived of an element “zero” consisting of two neutrons (with no electrons nor protons) as well as negative matter in a negative periodic table, in other words, he correctly theorized the existence of anti-matter. Janet died in 1932, just before the discovery of the neutron, the positron [itself the first known anti-matter particle] and heavy hydrogen (which is a hydrogen elemental atom with a second neutron). See – the special periodic chart at this link shows the elements in clear, increasing shell order. Janet's correct speculations, though he was neither a physicist nor a chemist, show the intuitive power and probable truth to his model of the periodic table of the elements. His correct speculation of the existence of antimatter commands high respect.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Negative Quiddity: USA is bankrupt

Any politician of either party who dismisses this is either posturing incompetently or lying outright or too stupid to make public decisions.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Positive Quiddity: Roger Tory Peterson

Roger Tory Peterson (August 28, 1908 – July 28, 1996), was an American naturalist, ornithologist, artist, and educator, and held to be one of the founding inspirations for the 20th century environmental movement.

                                        Roger Tory Peterson

Peterson was born in Jamestown, New York, August 28, 1908. His father, Charles Peterson, was an immigrant from Sweden, coming to America as an infant. At the age of ten, C. Peterson's father died of appendicitis, and he was sent off to work in the mills. After leaving the mills, he earned his living as a traveling salesman. His mother, Henrietta Badar, was an immigrant from Germany, at the age of four, growing up in Rochester, New York. She went to a teachers' college, and was teaching in Elmira, New York, when she met Charles. They married, and moved to Jamestown, a small, industrial city in south-west New York, where C. Peterson took a job at a local furniture factory.


Peterson's first work on birds was an article "Notes from field and study" in the magazine Bird-lore, where he recorded anecdotally two sight records from 1925, a Carolina Wren and a Titmouse.

In 1934 he published his seminal Guide to the Birds, the first modern field guide, which sold out its first printing of 2‚000 copies in one week, and subsequently went through 6 editions. He co-wrote Wild America with James Fisher, and edited or wrote many of the volumes in the Peterson Field Guide series, on topics ranging from rocks and minerals to beetles to reptiles. He developed the Peterson Identification System, and is known for the clarity of both his illustrations of field guides and his delineation of relevant field marks.

Paul R. Ehrlich, in The Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds (Fireside. 1988), said this about Peterson:
In this century, no one has done more to promote an interest in living creatures than Roger Tory Peterson, the inventor of the modern field guide.
Peterson received every major American award for natural science, ornithology, and conservation, as well as numerous honorary medals, diplomas, and citations from America and elsewhere, including the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Order of the Golden Ark of the Netherlands. In 1977, he was honored by selection by the two Swedish District lodges of the Vasa Order of America to be Swedish-American of the Year. He received nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize and honorary doctorates from numerous American universities.
He died in 1996 at his home in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Roger Tory Peterson was cremated following his death. A portion of his ashes were spread on and round Great Island near Old Lyme, Connecticut. Another portion of his ashes are buried in the Old Lyme Cemetery also known as the Duck River Cemetery. A third portion of his ashes is inurned in the Pine Hill Cemetery, Falconer, New York in the family plot where his father and paternal grandparents are buried.
The Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, New York is named in his honor. A critically lauded biography, Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson (The Lyons Press. 2008) by Elizabeth Rosenthal, was published for the centennial anniversary of Peterson's birth.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Positive Quiddity: George C. Marshall

Introduction:  perhaps the greatest American in public life during the 20th century.

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George Catlett Marshall (December 31, 1880 – October 16, 1959) was an American military leader, Chief of Staff of the Army, Secretary of State, and the third Secretary of Defense. Once noted as the "organizer of victory" by Winston Churchill for his leadership of the Allied victory in World War II, Marshall served as the United States Army Chief of Staff during the war and as the chief military adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As Secretary of State, his name was given to the Marshall Plan, for which he was awarded the Nobe Peace Prize in 1953.
                                              George C. Marshall
Early life

George Cattlet Marshall was born into a middle-class family in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, the son of George C. Marshall, Sr. and Laura Bradford Marshall. Marshall was a scion of an old Virginia family, as well as a distant relative of former Chief Justice John Marshall. Marshall graduated from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), where he was initiated into the Kappa Alpha Order, in 1901.

World War I

Following graduation from VMI, Marshall was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Until World War I, he was posted to various positions in the US and the Philippines, and was trained in modern warfare. During the war, he had roles as a planner of both training and operations. He went to France in mid-1917 as the director of training and planning for the 1st Infantry Division. In mid-1918, he was promoted to American Expeditionary Forces headquarters, where he worked closely with his mentor General John J. Pershing and was a key planner of American operations. He was instrumental in the design and coordination of the Meuse-Argonne offensive, which contributed to the defeat of the German Army on the Western Front.

Between World War I and II

In 1919, he became an aide-de-camp to General John J. Pershing. Between 1920 and 1924, while Pershing was Army Chief of Staff, Marshall worked in a number of positions in the US Army, focusing on training and teaching modern, mechanized warfare. Between World Wars I and II, he was a key planner and writer in the War Department, commanded the 15th Infantry regiment (United States) for three years in China, and taught at the Army War College. From June 1932 to June 1933 he was the Commanding Officer at Fort Screven, Savannah Beach, Georgia, now named Tybee Island. In 1934, Col. Marshall put Edwin F. Harding in charge of the Infantry School's publications, and Harding became editor of Infantry in Battle, a book that codified the lessons of World War I. Infantry in Battle is still used as an officer's training manual in the Infantry Officer's Course, and was the training manual for most of the infantry officers and leaders of World War II.
Marshall was promoted to Brigadier General in October 1936. He commanded the Vancouver Barracks in Vancouver, Washington from 1936–1938. Nominated by President Franklin Roosevelt to be Army Chief iof Staff, Marshall was promoted to full General and sworn in on September 1, 1939, the day German forces invaded Poland, which began World War II. He would hold this post until the end of the war in 1945.

World War II

As Chief of Staff, Marshall organized the largest military expansion in U.S. history, inheriting an outmoded, poorly-equipped army of 189,000 men and, partly drawing from his experience teaching and developing techniques of modern warfare as an instructor at the Army War College, coordinated the large-scale expansion and modernization of the U. S. Army. Though he had never actually led troops in combat, Marshall was a skilled organizer with a talent for inspiring other officers. Many of the American generals who were given top commands during the war were either picked or recommended by Marshall, including Dwight Eisenhower, Lloyd Fredendall, Leslie McNair, Mark Wayne Clark and Omar Bradley.

Grows military force forty fold

Faced with the necessity of turning an army of former civilians into a force of over eight million soldiers by 1942 (a fortyfold increase within three years), Marshall directed General Leslie McNair to focus efforts on rapidly producing large numbers of soldiers. With the exception of airborne forces, Marshall approved McNair's concept of an abbreviated training schedule for men entering Army land forces training, particularly in regards to basic infantry skills, weapons proficiency, and combat tactics. At the time, most U.S. commanders at lower levels had little or no combat experience of any kind; without the input of experienced British or Allied combat officers on the nature of modern warfare and enemy tactics, many of them resorted to formulaic training methods emphasizing static defense and orderly large-scale advances by motorized convoys over improved roads. In consequence, Army forces deploying to Africa suffered serious initial reverses when encountering German armored combat units in Africa at Kasserine Pass and other major battles. Even as late as 1944, U.S. soldiers undergoing stateside training in preparation for deployment against German forces in Europe were not being trained in combat procedures and tactics currently being employed there.

Replacement system criticized

Originally, Marshall had planned a 200-division Army with a system of unit rotation such as practiced by the British and other Allies. By mid-1943, however, after pressure from government and business leaders to preserve manpower for industry and agriculture, he had abandoned this plan in favor of a 90-division Army using individual replacements sent via a circuitous process from training to divisions in combat. The individual replacement system (IRS) devised by Marshall and implemented by McNair greatly exacerbated problems with unit cohesion and effective transfer of combat experience to newly-trained soldiers and officers. In Europe, where there were few pauses in combat with German forces, the individual replacement system had broken down completely by late 1944. Hastily-trained replacements or service personnel re-assigned as infantry were given six weeks' refresher training and thrown into battle with Army divisions locked in front-line combat. The new men were often not even proficient in the use of their own rifle or weapons system, and once in combat, could not receive enough practical instruction from veterans before being killed or wounded, usually within the first three or four days. Under such conditions, many replacements suffered a crippling loss of morale, while veteran soldiers were kept in line units until they were killed, wounded, or incapacitated by battle fatigue or physical illness. Incidents of soldiers AWOL from combat duty as well as battle fatigue and self-inflicted injury rose rapidly during the last eight months of the war with Germany. As one historian later concluded, "Had the Germans been given a free hand to devise a replacement system ..., one that would do the Americans the most harm and the least good, they could not have done a better job."
Marshall's abilities to pick competent field commanders during the early part of the war was decidedly mixed. While he had been instrumental in advancing the career of the able Dwight D. Eisenhower, he had also recommended the swaggering Lloyd Fredendall to Eisenhower for a major command in the American invasion of North Africa during Operation Torch. Marshall was especially fond of Fredendall, describing him as "one of the best" and remarking in a staff meeting when his name was mentioned, "I like that man; you can see determination all over his face." Eisenhower duly picked him to command the 39,000-man Central Task Force (the largest of three) in Operation Torch. Both men would later come to regret that decision after the U.S. Army debacle at Kasserine Pass.

Plans invasion of Europe

During World War II, Marshall was instrumental in preparing the U.S. Army and Army Air Forces for the invasion of the European continent. Marshall wrote the document that would become the central strategy for all Allied operations in Europe. He initially scheduled Operation Overlord for 1 April 1943, but met with strong opposition from Winston Churchill, who convinced Roosevelt to commit troops to Operation Husky for the invasion of Italy. Some authors think that World War II could have been terminated one year earlier if Marshall had had his way, others think that such invasion would have meant utter failure. But it is true that the German Army in 1943 was overstretched and defense works in Normandy were not ready.

It was assumed that Marshall would become the Supreme Commander of Operation Overlord, but Roosevelt selected Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Commander. While Marshall enjoyed considerable success in working with Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he refused to lobby for the position. President Roosevelt didn't want to lose his presence in the states. He told Marshall, "I didn't feel I could sleep at ease if you were out of Washington." When rumors circulated that the top job would go to Marshall, many critics viewed the transfer as a demotion for Marshall, since he would leave his position as Chief of Staff of the Army and lose his seat on the Combined Chiefs of Staff.

On December 16, 1944, Marshall became the first American general to be promoted to 5 star rank, the newly created General of the Army. He was the second American to be promoted to a 5 star rank, as William Leahy was promoted to fleet admiral the previous day. This position is the American equivalent rank to field marshal.

Throughout the remainder of World War II, Marshall coordinated Allied operations in Europe and the Pacific. He was characterized as the organizer of Allied victory by Winston Churchill. Time Magazine named Marshall Man of the Year for 1943. Marshall resigned his post of Chief of Staff in 1945, but did not retire, as regulations stipulate that Generals of the Army remain on active duty for life.

Analysis of Pearl Harbor intelligence failure

After World War II ended, the Congressional Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack received testimony on the intelligence failure. It amassed 25,000 pages of documents, 40 volumes, and included nine reports and investigations, eight of which had been previously completed. Among these documents was a report critical of Marshall for his delay in sending General Walter Short, the Army commander in Hawaii, important information concerning a possible attack on December 6 and 7. The report also criticized Marshall’s admitted lack of knowledge of the readiness of the Hawaiian Command during November and December 1941. Ten days after the attack Lt. General Short and Admiral Husband e3. Kimmel, commander of the Navy at Pearl Harbor, were both relieved of their duties. The final report of the Joint Committee did not single out and fault Marshall. While the report was critical of the overall situation, the committee noted that subordinates had failed to pass on important information to their superiors, including Marshall. The report noted that once General Marshall received information about the impending attack, he immediately passed it on.

Post War: China, Secretary of State, Nobel Peace Prize

In December 1945, President Harry Truman sent Marshall to China to broker a coalition government between the Nationalist allies under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and Communists under Mao Zedong. Marshall had no leverage over the Communists, but threatened to withdraw American aid essential to the Nationalists. Both sides rejected his proposals and the Chinese Civil War escalated, with the Communists winning in 1949. His mission a failure, he returned to the United States in January 1947. As Secretary of State in 1947–48, Marshall seems to have disagreed with strong opinions in The Pentagon and State department that Chiang's success was vital to American interests, insisting that U.S. troops not become involved.

After Marshall's return to the U.S. in early 1947, Truman appointed Marshall Secretary of State. He became the spokesman for the State Department's ambitious plans to rebuild Europe. On June 5, 1947 in a speech at Harvard University, he outlined the American plan. The European Recovery Program, as it was formally known, became known as the Marshall Plan. Clark Clifford had suggested to Truman that the plan be called the Truman Plan, but Truman immediately dismissed that idea and insisted that it be called the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan would help Europe quickly rebuild and modernize its economy along American lines. The Soviet Unionforbade its satellites to participate.

Marshall was again named Time's Man of the Year for 1947, and received the Nobel Peace Prize for his post-war work in 1953. He was the only U.S. Army General to have received this honor.

As Secretary of State, Marshall strongly opposed recognizing the State of Israel. Marshall felt that if the state of Israel was declared that a war would break out in the Middle East (which it did in 1948 one day after Israel declared independence). Marshall saw recognizing the Jewish state as a political move to gain Jewish support in the up coming election, in which Truman was expected to lose to Dewey. He told President Truman in May 1948, "If you (recognize the state of Israel) and if I were to vote in the election, I would vote against you."

Marshall resigned from the State Department because of ill health on January 7, 1949, and the same month became chairman of American Battle Monuments Commission. In September 1949, Marshall was named president of the American National Red Cross.

Secretary of Defense

When the early months of the Korean War showed how poorly prepared the Defense Department was, Truman fired Secretary Louis A. Johnson and named Marshall as Secretary of Defense in September 1950. On September 30, Defense Secretary George Marshall sent an eyes-only message to MacArthur instructing MacArthur to escalate the war in Korea "We want you to feel unhampered tactically and strategically to proceed north of the 38th parallel." His main role was to restore confidence and rebuild the armed forces from the post-war state of demobilization. He served in that post for less than one year, retiring from public office for good in September 1951. In 1953, he represented America at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

Impact of McCarthyism

U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy, whose hearings and black lists later spawned the term mcCarthyism, gave a speech titled America's Retreat from Victory: The Story of George Catlett Marshall (1951), in which he argued that General Albert Coady Wedemeyer had prepared a wise plan that would keep China a valued ally, but that it had been sabotaged. He concluded that "If Marshall were merely stupid, the laws of probability would dictate that part of his decisions would serve this country's interest." He suggested that Marshall was old and feeble and easily duped but did not charge Marshall with treason. McCarthy specifically alleged:
"When Marshall was sent to China with secret State Department orders, the Communists at that time were bottled up in two areas and were fighting a losing battle, but that because of those orders the situation was radically changed in favor of the Communists. Under those orders, as we know, Marshall embargoed all arms and ammunition to our allies in China. He forced the opening of the Nationalist-held Kalgan Mountain pass into Manchuria, to the end that the Chinese Communists gained access to the mountains of captured Japanese equipment. No need to tell the country about how Marshall tried to force Chiang Kia-shek to form a partnership government with the Communists."


Marshall died on Friday, October 16, 1959. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetary.

After leaving office, in a television interview, Harry Truman was asked who he thought was the American who made the greatest contribution of the last thirty years. Without hesitation, Truman picked Marshall, adding "I don't think in this age in which I have lived, that there has been a man who has been a greater administrator; a man with a knowledge of military affairs equal to General Marshall."

Orson Welles, in an interview with Dick Cavett, called Marshall "...the greatest human being who was also a great man... He was a tremendous gentlemen, an old fashioned institution which isn't with us anymore."

In spite of world-wide acclaim, dozens of national and international awards and honors and the Nobel Peace prize, public opinion became bitterly divided along party lines on Marshall's record. While campaigning for president in 1952, Eisenhower denounced the Truman administration's failures in Korea, campaigned alongside McCarthy, and refused to defend Marshall's policies. Marshall, who assisted Eisenhower in his promotions, and stood aside, turning down the opportunity to command the allied forces to allow Eisenhower to take that role, was surprised at the lack of a positive statement supporting him from Eisenhower during the McCarthy hearings.