Illustration of a dispersive prism decomposing white light into the colours of the spectrum, as discovered by Newton (from Wiki).
I can’t watch. That’s David standing behind me as I clean his workbench. A workbench is a place where one makes and fixes household items. David’s work bench has been repository for every project undertaken during the entire 34 years we’ve been married.
Because he built some nice things for me, including my garden shed, bookcases and other items, I encouraged him to carve out a space or “workshop” from our former den. Little did I know what this would mean.
Born in 1929, making him a child of the Depression, David has never thrown anything away. He’s had the workbench since the 1950s. He says he put it in storage when he was stationed in Germany with NATO and while he lived in student housing at UNC. He moved it many times. When we met he had stored it in his lockup. Somehow, I never noticed. After I finished cleaning it yesterday, the load of junk we hauled to the trash bin must have weighed 200 pounds. He thanked me for clearing it.
Years ago, while I taking a class in the history of science I mentioned Newton to David (a retired electrical engineer). Sir Isaac Newton was a pioneer in western science who discovered the nature of the energy-light spectrum as reflected in the rainbow.
I had a “show and tell” one evening and decided to talk about how the Catholic Church had fostered western science (although Protestant propaganda, particularly in the South, would lead you to believe otherwise).
My paper and talk described how the European Cathedrals the Church constructed, beginning in the tenth century, were really huge sundials designed to measure and predict the annual course of the sun. The objective was to establish the dates of the moveable feasts like Easter.
I asked David to read my paper and offer comments, whereupon he became very excited and retrieved a box containing beautiful wires of every color of the rainbow from his workshop. What are they? I asked.
“Resisters” he answered, “I used these to repair radios when I was in high school. These were remainders from WWII WALKIE-TALKIES.”
I took the box of resisters to class and used it for my talk along with the slide show I had emailed to my professor who loaded it in his computer ready for the class discussion.
My talk covered:
1/ attempts by the Church to trace the movement of the sun and stars, using ocelli, gnomon and median strips in cathedrals
2/to Newton in the sixteenth century who ascertained that a white light when it passes through a prism breaks into the color spectrum,
3/to a handout of David’s resistors.
After showing the class the wires and explaining how they were used (if you have electricity, you have them in your house), a classmate whispered to me, “Is your husband a packrat?
Well, I ask you, doesn’t everyone have something from WWII in their house?