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The nature of the energy received from the Sun was a mystery. Analogies were sought in better understood phenomena: water waves and sound. Water waves produce an up and down motion of the surface, but do not move the water except in the special circumstances of the very long waves known as the tides and tsunamis. The speeds of different kinds of waves could be readily determined. However, they can be used as analogs to visualize what happens in other kinds of wave. Sound waves are compression waves in the air. The speed of sound in air was also readily determined. Although sound waves cannot be seen, they have properties that can be used in trying to understand light.
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It took a few months for me to really appreciate Basel. The city lies on a broad bend in the Rhine River, where it changes from flowing to the west, out of the Lake of Constance, to the north, toward Frankfurt. Switzerland, France, and Germany come together at this point, and the metropolitan area is in all three countries. The south side of the bend is a high bluff, the north side much lower. The city on the south side is Basel proper, on the north side it is called Klein Basel (Little Basel) . The Romans founded a town, Augusta Raurica, a few miles upstream from Basel. The site there has beautifully preserved mosaic floors. Since the time I lived in Basel, excavations for building repair on both sides of the Rhine have exposed Roman mosaic floors beneath the medieval buildings, revealing that the Roman settlements we quite extensive.. The city was destroyed in a major earthquake on October 18, 1356 . Its magnitude is estimated to have been between IX and X on the Mercalli Scale, or between 6.7 and 7.1 on the MMW scale. One of the few buildings to survive, at least partially, was the Münster (cathedral), which had been started in 1019 and was finally finished in 1510 . The earthquake holds the record as the largest to ever strike central Europe, and is commemorated in song and legend as the ‘Tod zu Basel’ (Death in Basel). The ‘Totentanz’ (Dance of Death) is a common topic in paintings of the time. There was a church with fine medieval paintings of the Totentanz near what is how Basel’s Cantonal Hospital. For many years the tram stop next to the hospital was named, Totentanz, until someone realized that was not very comforting for friends and relatives coming to visit a patient. Now the streetcar stop is an innocuous ‘Kantonsspital’. In the parts of the city on the bluff above the Rhine, on either side of the Münster, the construction dates on the houses are mostly from the late 14th and early 15th centuries. A notable exception is the Natural History Museum, which dates from 1821 , and which houses, among other things, very important collections of larger foraminifera and planktonic foraminifera. From 1431–1449 Basel was the site of the Roman Catholic Council of Basel. The Council considered itself to have higher authority than the Pope. It concerned itself with the heresies of the followers of Johannes Hus, the reformer in Prague who preceded Martin Luther, and who had been burned at the stake in 1415 . When, in 1437 Pope Eugenius IV, tried to move the Council to Ferrara, and change its membership to get it back under control, the Council in Basel simply elected an Antipope, Felix. After that church affairs got messy for a while. Basel managed to come out of this mess with a University sanctioned and endowed by Pope Pius II in 1459 . It opened its doors on April 4, 1460. I was able to see part of the elaborate ceremonies surrounding the t500h anniversary of this event. There was a memorable procession in the city with representative of all the major Universities of Europe, and a few of the older Universities of the Americas in their finest academic regalia. Alas for the church, the University of Basel seemed especially attractive to progressives and liberals, like Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466–1536) the catholic priest who became better known as the Prince of Humanists, and Paracelsus (Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493–1541), a Swiss Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general all-round occultist. Basel became, and remains, the center of Humanism in Europe. Humanism is variously defined as: (1) a system of thought that rejects religious beliefs and centers on humans and their values, capacities, and worth, or (2) an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matter. Humanism is the antithesis of religious dogmatism. This led the University of Basel to become a center for Mathematics (Leonard Euler, and the Bernoulli family), Science, Medicine (leading to Basel’s present pharmaceutical industry) history (Jacob Burckhardt, famous for recognizing the importance of the Renaissance), and many others. My home in Basel was in the Eulerstrasse, and the Geological Institute was in a building known as the Bernoullianum. Because of its location, where Switzerland, France and Germany come together, Basel is inherently a bilingual city. Baseler’s don’t actually speak high German, but have their own dialect, not unlike the Allemanic one hears in neighboring Swabia and Alsace. Fortunately, since I had become proficient in the Swiss dialect spoken in Zürich, it took me only a few months to learn ‘Baseltüütsch’. So by December I was able to understand the discussions around the morning coffee table at the Institute. Fortunately, my French was good enough to handle that side of things as well. French is the language used in restaurants and clothing stores in Basel. German is used in hardware stores, the automobile repair shops, and most everywhere else. Dinner table conversation can switch back and forth depending on the topic. Of course, today most everyone also speaks English, but that marks you as an outsider. Remember that Switzerland is like a giant club. I discovered that if you spoke ‘Baseltüütsch,’ you didn’t need your passport to go to dinner in neighboring Alsace (France) or the Black Forest (Germany) . Basel has a unique festival, ‘Fasnacht’, which starts on the first Monday after Ash Wednesday—at 4:00 AM. All city lights go out at 3:59 AM, and then begins the most interesting part of the festival, ‘Morgestreich’, which lasts until dawn. Groups of costumed, masked Basler’s (called ‘cliques’) carrying fantastically painted lanterns on poles and accompanied by fife and drum corps playing tunes from the time of the Napoleonic Wars march through the city center. There is no set route for the cliques, each goes its own way, and the scene is one of total chaos. The streets are filled with spectators who must get out of the way when one of the cliques comes marching along. I remember getting crushed into doorways as they went by. The lanterns are new each year and make fun of political and current events. The only way to appreciate what it is like is to google Basler Fasnacht. Professor Reichel had recovered enough so that he was able to come in for the morning coffee hour. He had some suggestions for collecting sites in Italy. A particularly interesting stratigraphic section had been studied in the 1930s by one of his doctoral students, H. H. Renz. However Renz had taken only hard limestone samples that could be studied in thin section. A thin section is made by grinding a flat surface on a fragment of the rock, gluing it to a glass slide, and then carefully grinding away the other side until the slice glued to the slide is so thin light can pass through it. It is a painstaking process and takes a lot of time and effort. Reichel said that the limestone layers, which were only a few centimeters thick were interbedded with marl that might also contain other microfossils. I asked why Renz had not also taken samples of the marl layers —it seemed so much easier to wash the microfossils out of it. But to do that, you need good brass sieves. Reichel pointed out that in the 1930s the Institute had not been able to afford sieves. In the early spring, I started out on sample collecting again. This time the idea was to start in the south, Sicily, where it was warm, and work my way back up the Italian peninsula. One of the students in the Institute, Giovanni Lorenz, was a resident of Milan, and I invited him to go along with me and help out finding the localities, since I didn’t know much Italian. Giovanni spoke not only Italian, but also German and the Basler dialect. If you have read Stendahl’s The Charterhouse of Parma you will be familiar with the fact that Lombardy (where Milan is located) was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire before the unification of Italy, and German was widely spoken there. Giovanni’s family was bilingual. In 1854 Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg (1795–!876) published a two volume work ‘Mikrogeologie’ in which he presented beautiful drawings of the microscopic fossils found in rock samples he had obtained from colleagues in Europe, Asia, Japan, Indonesia, and the Americas. Ehrenberg worked at the Museum of Natural History in berlin, and became well known for his studies of microscopic organisms. However, the ‘Mikrogeologie’ was unique. It opened a whole new field of science, which we now call Micropaleontology. Unfortunately, the localities from which his samples came were not very precise. For example, he described microfossils from North America as coming from samples taken ‘west of the Mississippi.’ One particularly beautiful suite of microfossils had been described as coming from Cretaceous chalk near the village of Cattolica-Eraclea in Sicily. Another from a marl thought to be of Cretaceous or Early Tertiary age from the Greek island of Aegina. The figures in his book are magnificent, and the specimens of planktonic foraminifera and nannofossils from these sites are among the most beautiful. There was just one small problem—they didn’t look like any Cretaceous microfossils I had seen. I wanted to recover these localities and started with the one in Sicily. We drove south to Naples and took a ferry to Palermo. I had heard that it could be a dangerous city for foreigners (in Sicily at that time, ‘foreigners’ included Italians from the mainland). We stayed at one of the new ‘Jolly Hotels’ that were being built to open up southern Italy and Sicily to tourism. In the hotel we were warned it would not be a good idea to go out at night. The next day we did some sample collecting around Palermo and the following day headed off to the village of Cattolica-Eraclea across the island. We had no idea whether we could find the place which had provided the sample to Ehrenberg, but it was remarkably easy. There was only one fossiliferous layer near the town, marked as Pliocene ‘trubi’ on the geologic map. All of the rest of the rocks were gypsum, now known to have been past of the salts deposited throughout the region when the Mediterranean Sea dried up at the end of the Miocene. But it was in the hunt for the fossiliferous layer that Giovanni discovered that Sicilian was an almost unintelligible version of Italian. Our next place for collecting was near the Straits of Messina, and to get there, you have to go around Mount Etna. We started out spending a night in Agrigento, about 40 miles east of Cattolica-Eraclea. I knew that Sicily had once been a Greek colony, but I was unprepared for the magnificent Greek temple ruins just south of Agrigento. Even more interesting, the building stone is full of fossil shells, so the Greeks must have had some thoughts about geology. On the east cost of the island we spent a night in the resort town of Taormina. Taormina has a Greco-Roman amphitheater, located so Mount Etna is in the background over the stage. It would have been an incredible site for the performance of a Greek tragedy with the volcano erupting in the background. I repeated much of this same itinerary in 2001, taking more time to enjoy the island. From the amphitheater in Taormina, Etna had recently erupted and there was a red glow from it at night. Sicily today is a very open and friendly place to visit. We left Sicily taking a ferry across the Straits of Messina. There were a number of geological localities to collect in Calabria, the southern part of the peninsula. Finding them was often a problem, and Giovanni was getting frustrated that no one seemed to speak proper Italian. We worked our way gradually back north, recovering fossil localities that had been described in the t19h century. Finally we came to H. H. Renz’s section, near Gubbio. It was a spectacular sequence of alternating thin beds of limestone and marl. We collected representative samples to take back to Professor Reichel. The Gubbio material was later worked up by students at the Institute and found to full of well-preserved planktonic foraminifera. Gubbio has turned out to be a classic section across the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. Now there remained that other Ehrenberg sample site, on the Greek island of Aegina, that had such beautiful microfossils. Enough travel money had accumulated in the fund for Giovanni and I to go to Greece and try to find it. According to the geologic map of Greece at the Institute, there were indeed Cretaceous rocks on Aegina, but there was no detailed map of the island. We flew to Athens and visited the geoscientists at the Museum there. They didn’t know much about Aegina. So, without really knowing where we were going, we took a boat from the port of Athens, Piraeus, to Aegina. The island is one of those in the Saronic Gulf, about 17 miles south of Athens. We landed about noon, and decided to have lunch at an outdoor restaurant while we figured out how we were going to find the site which had provided Ehrenberg with his sample. We spoke no Greek and it seemed that no one on the island spoke any other language. During lunch I noticed a shop with pottery across the street. If it was made locally, the clay used for its manufacture might also have been what Ehrenberg had obtained. After much confused discussion, the shop owners thought we were looking for a vineyard, we found that the pottery came from the village of Mesagros in the interior of the island. There was a bus that stopped at Mesagros every hour. We took the bus, and sure enough, on the hillside south of the town were clay pits in a bluish marl. We selected one with the best-looking exposures and found its owner just ready to send a load to a local pottery. Looking at the clay with a magnifying glass, it was clear that it was rich in microfossils. They turned out to be of Pliocene age, like those at Cattolica-Eraclea. Both of these rock samples represent deep-sea deposits. How they were uplifted to become part of these islands would become evident many years later when the history of the Mediterranean became known. As spring arrived, the collecting trips turned to areas to the north. I invited Herbert Hagn, micropaleontologist in the Paleontological Institute at the University in Munich, to accompany me to hunt out classic localities around Paris, and in Belgium and the Netherlands. We planned to hunt down not only the sites where planktonic foraminifera had been described, but also to visit the type localities of Stages of the Tertiary and Cretaceous. He was delighted, and we started off by driving to Paris to consult with colleagues I had already met at the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle. To our distress we were told that the classic localities in the Paris Basin had all been lost. Deteriorated, built over, gone. Fortunately we also had scheduled a luncheon meeting with a priest, Abbe l’Avocat who worked on vertebrate fossils. He told us that the people in the Museum simply had never visited the classic localities. They were all still there. He put us onto an old guidebook that described them. We succeeded in locating every one of the old Stage type localities. Some were indeed off the beaten track, and one turned out to be in a World War I trench that was filled with leaves. We had a lot of good luck and in Antwerp we stumbled into an area where new port facilities were being dug, exposing geologically young shell beds. Later in the spring and early summer, I sought out localities in southern Germany and Austria. I made many geological friends that spring and summer; they went on to important academic and industrial positions, and we have remained in close contact ever since. In his retirement my father was following one of his old interests. He had frequently been to Washington, doing what would now be called lobbying for the life insurance industry. He had been president of the American Life Convention. The 1960 election was coming up and Lyndon Johnson, whom he had known for many years, asked him to work for his nomination. Dad had been looking for a wife to fill the vacuum after my mother had passed away. Now he was dating Perle Mesta, the well-known Washington hostess, and enjoying the Washington social scene. They went to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in July together. Dad told me that as soon as he arrived in Los Angeles, he discovered that John Kennedy had already tied up the nomination. The Johnson supporters were amateurs compared with Kennedy’s organization. Lyndon Johnson was offered the Vice-Presidency. Dad said that Lyndon called him that night to ask what he thought about it. My father’s advice was for him to decline the offer. Lyndon Johnson was, after all, the most powerful person in the Congress. Johnson didn’t take my father’s advice, but they remained good friends. The 21st International Geological Congress was organized by the five Nordic Countries, with the meetings held in Copenhagen during August,1960 . I attended, along with many of the faculty from the University of Illinois. Before the Congress I traveled to Sweden and Norway, and I participated in a Pre-Congress excursion to Spitsbergen, my first experience in the Arctic. George White had kept one faculty slot in the University of Illinois’ Department of Geology open for a Visiting Professor each year. Two of the Congress organizers had been Illinois Visiting Professors. The Illinois Alumni party of the 21st IGC was the largest, and I was duly impressed with my soon-to-be home Institution. After the Congress I participated in a post-Congress Excursion to see the Cetaceous rocks of southern Sweden. It was on that excursion that I met Czech micropaleontologist Vladimir Pokorný, and his student Pavel Čepek, about whom you will hear more later. The ever patient George White had arranged for me to arrive a week late for the start of classes. I sailed back to New York on the USS United States. The most memorable thing about the trip back was that the ship battered its way through every wave. A walk on deck of the United States was more of a series of lurches. It turns out that it was built to serve as a troop ship in an emergency, and it was the wrong length for operating in the North Atlantic. My father met me as the United States docked in New York the morning before Hurricane Donna struck. That evening we braved the storm, and I met the woman he was going to marry, Nadine Depuisieux. He had gone into Bergdorf-Goodman to buy a bottle of perfume for his former secretary. Nadine was the saleswoman behind the counter. She had just become a US citizen after emigrating from France. She had been born in Russia and their family had emigrated to France after the October Revolution. A day later I was at last on my way to the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Over the years I have learned that for a geologist what you have read is not as important as what you have seen. That Postdoctoral year provided me not only with a broad knowledge of Europe and its geology, but with friendships in many countries that have lasted over the years. The mental flexibility to accept new ideas, and cast away old ones, comes from broad experience and encounters with things that are new, different, and unexpected.
- The Nature of Energy Received from the Sun: The Analogies with Water Waves and Sound
William W. Hay
- Springer Berlin Heidelberg
- Chapter 6