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WOSSNAME - MARCH 2007-- PART 3 OF 6 (continued)

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  • JSCHAUM111@aol.com
    WOSSNAME - MARCH 2007-- PART 3 OF 6 (continued) ... oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ====Part 2 - DATA BANK OF USELESS INFORMATION 11)
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 29, 2007
      WOSSNAME - MARCH 2007-- PART 3 OF 6 (continued)



      by Steven D'Aprano and Annie Mac

      The Wizard 'Numbers' Riktor of Unseen University was an obsessive
      counter and measurer who even created a machine to measure "resons" -
      units of reality. Since Pterry is a leading picker-up of inconsidered
      trifles, it is almost certain that he based Riktor on the Roundworld
      historical figure Francis Galton.

      Galton, first cousin of Charles Darwin, was a typical Victorian
      gentleman who scorned the notion of working for a living but used his
      considerable wealth to follow his passion of going around the world
      measuring everything he could, from the size of Hottentot
      tribeswomen's bottoms to the amount (per cent) that public opinion
      tended to differ from established fact. His favourite saying was, "If
      you can, count." And count he certainly did. Among the things Galton
      counted, measured and compared were the number of childless
      heiresses, the number of years in prison terms meted out by ten
      thousand judges, and the relative amounts of colour change on the
      faces of excited trackside punters during the course of horse races.
      He kept a pair of cards in his pockets and created a "Beauty Map" of
      Britain by pricking holes in each card -- right-pocket for plain
      women, left-pocket card for pretty ones -- as he wandered the streets
      of various cities. He measured the size of every part of the human
      body (not including, we must assume, the most personal and private
      ones; after all, this was Victorian England), even the patterns of
      the skin on fingertips -- his 200-page book on the subject of
      fingerprints, published in 1893, was the almost-immediate inspiration
      for police use of fingerprinting. Galton was also the first person
      ever to invent a probability counting machine: the Quincunx, which
      physically measured probabilities through the use of pins dropping
      into drawers inside a large boxlike structure and which was without a
      doubt the model for Riktor's "resograph"; in fact, a later model of
      the Quincunx, in 1874, used pellets rather than pins. Can you say "plib"?

      Francis Galton was certainly a man of his times. In true Victorian
      gentlemen's fashion, he went on the Grand Sneer, hunting game in
      previously unexplored (by Europeans, at least) parts of Africa and,
      of course, measuring every beast he shot or captured. He studied
      medicine and mathematics, attended Cambridge, sailed up the Nile and
      published a number of books on science and naturalism. He was a
      member of the Royal Geographic Society and a Fellow of the Royal
      Society. He invented a device he called a "Gumption-Reviver machine"
      which kept wetting his head with cold water between the hours of ten
      in the evening and two in the morning so that he would never fall
      asleep whilst at his studies, and a device for reading under water
      (he nearly drowned in the bath one time when a fascinating book
      "sank" him).

      Galton's most famous -- and at the same time, ultimately infamous --
      achievement was his work in quantifying the traits and
      characteristics of human heredity. As was the case with other members
      of his family dynasty of scientists, he was fascinated by the
      similarities and differences in heritable traits and spent years
      studying people in order to understand why some were geniuses and
      some mentally deficient; why some were strong and healthy and some
      weak and sickly; why some were beautiful and some dreadfully
      unattractive; and most of all, why great talents or great dysfunction
      seemed to run in families through the generations, and if it could be
      possible to selectively breed "bad" traits out of the human race and
      breed to strengthen "good" traits. In 1883 he coined a term for it:
      "eugenics", based on the ancient Greek word for "good". Galton's
      dream and desire was to encourage -- to advance -- the perpetuation of
      brilliance and physical vigorousness by giving every opportunity to
      people showing the qualities, regardless of their race or
      socioeconomic status; he would have been horrified by the uses to
      which the Nazi regime put this term and these concepts, long after
      his death. Francis Galton has often been vilified as the man who gave
      the Nazis their evil Holy Grail of "racial purity", but the truth is
      that he had never intended any of it as a blueprint for active
      genocide; in fact, in his day he lobbied for inviting "emigrants and
      refugees from other lands" to settle in Britain and improve their lot
      in life. Even more importantly, his researches in this field led
      directly to the finding of exemplars, "typical" examples of a person,
      thing, trait, quality, et cetera, and greatly advanced the field of
      statistics by proving what is known as regression to the mean. There
      is not an insurer or stockbroker alive today who doesn't revere his
      name -- or there certainly shouldn't be!

      Francis Galton, 1822-1911: genius, gentleman, Renaissance man, true
      eccentric. He would have made a fine addition to the Faculty of
      Unseen University -- and through the inventiveness of Terry Pratchett,
      one could say that he has, in the character of 'Numbers' Riktor.
      (referenced from the internet and from Against the Gods: The
      Remarkable Story of Risk, by Peter L. Bernstein)


      A video of Pterry discussing the writing of Wintersmith:

      A new place for archiving Pterrystuff - articles, interviews, links, etc.:


      Takahe, the BU Chrestomather, reports:

      I've just run across the 'Bang went sixpence' joke in Punch. It had a
      1868 tag attached - so you know what *this* means ...

      ... Pterry is a lot older than we thought !

      The joke was in pretty good company though. It was hob-nobbing with
      the 'Curates Egg' (1895), the 'Sometimes I Sits and Thinks' (1906)
      and the 'Cavalry's Purpose is to give Tone' (1892).
      End of Part 3, says my computer -- continued on Part 4 of 6
      If you did not get all 6 parts, write: jschaum111@...

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