The story of the rubber ducky, an early example of the early work of British scientists, is the subject of an intriguing new book by Stephen Green, a professor of history at Harvard University and author of The Science of Invention.
The Rubber Dixie Song is a tale of scientific innovation, innovation, and the triumph of reason over superstition and faith in science and technology, he says.
“It was the kind of thing that people were already thinking about.
People were asking questions about what they were seeing in the sky, they were wondering if the sky was actually blue, they had the impression that the world was round, the idea of a human mind working with computers,” he says in an interview.
Green’s book, written with Michael Hirst, the author of the seminal book The Scientific Revolution, tells the story of how the British mathematician Robert Hooke and his colleagues came up with the first mechanical clock, and how Hooke’s ideas were used by the British government and later by the Royal Society.
“There’s a very significant sense in which it’s an attempt to tell a story that was not just a science story but a history story,” he explains.
“What Hooke was saying was that there was a scientific revolution that happened in the eighteenth century that had a huge impact on human societies, that there were really changes that happened at the beginning of the twentieth century that made people more rational, more humane and more scientific.”
A modern storyBut the story Green tells of the Rubber Duckies’ origins is far more complex than a simple story of science and machine.
He writes that the story starts in 1828 when Hooke, a mathematical physicist, set out to solve a problem that would allow a clock to run continuously for the first time.
He named the problem the clock problem, and in the process invented the first electronic oscillator, which would revolutionise the way clocks worked.
Hooke is said to have been a devout Catholic who lived in the town of Chelmsford, near Oxford, during the 19th century.
He wanted to make a mechanical clock that could work continuously, he explained, so he went to the Royal Institution, which had recently been founded, to ask permission to make his own mechanical clock.
“It’s like asking a rabbi for permission to build a synagogue,” Green explains.
“They give you a long list of things they can’t build, so you have to go to the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEEE) and ask them to say ‘what can I do for you to make your clock?'”
The IAEA granted the application, but Hooke would later be killed when his clock crashed into a train in London.
The body of Hooke has never been found, but Green says the clock story has a rich, complex history.
“Hooke’s theory of the clock was quite complex and it had some very important consequences,” he said.
“He was thinking about the problem of clock-making, and it’s possible that he had a similar idea in mind about a human brain.
He was also thinking about how clocks work, so I think he might have had some similar ideas about what a clock was, and what a human being was like.”
In fact, in the book there is a chapter on the role of religion in the development of science, and religion played an important role in his ideas.
This is a kind of historical narrative that is very much part of the modern story about what we are trying to tell.””
What Hoke was saying about a scientific progress that had been made in the seventeenth century was that he saw himself as part of a scientific advance,” he tells the BBC.
“This is a kind of historical narrative that is very much part of the modern story about what we are trying to tell.”
In a similar way, Green writes that scientists and engineers had a history of trying to solve problems that had nothing to do with technology or science.
“The whole history of the British civil service is a history that is all about trying to get things done, and trying to work out how to solve some problems.
And the problem with this story, in my view, is that this is the sort of story that we all need to hear,” he adds.”
To be sure, there are some wonderful inventions that people have made in this way, and there are very clever people, but the way in which they are used is not the way that we think about the role that technology plays in society today.”
The Rubber Duckies’ inventorProfessor Green has described the rubber duck as a perfect example of what he calls “scientific discovery”, because it shows the ingenuity of humans and their ability to innovate.
“I think the question of whether there was any innovation in the rubber is a matter of debate,” he told the BBC last year.
“If there was, then why did it not work?
But if it did, why did