The careful reading of this multidisciplinary resource will allow you — a high-school student and a custodian of the only known habitable planet in the Universe for the species Homo sapiens — an opportunity to initiate a lifetime of intellectual, practical, and humanitarian experiences worthwhile to yourself, to your loved ones, and to our species. ... Shall we start at the beginning?
1: HISTORICAL DATA
Nature, Nurture, Chance
Caveat 1. If — I repeat, if — there is any point at all in reading The Lord of the Flies, written in 1953 by William Golding, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983, it is that one fully understands how Piggy — who can make no sense of the past, who can make no sense of the present, and who has no hope for the future — feels just before he commits suicide: not — I repeat, not — to write some ephemeral piece of coursework. Moreover, the arrival of the naval captain on the island is a truly outrageous deus ex machina ...
Piggy's mother is on the mainland, yet to grieve for her belovèd son; grief that will be with her, for the rest of her life.
Caveat 2. The archetypal «true man» in British history is Sir Thomas More, the Lord Chancellor, who was executed on 6th July 1535, and the archetypal «false man» is King Henry VIII, the first supreme governor of the Church of England via the 1534 Act of Supremacy, who reigned from 21st April 1509 until his natural death on 28th January 1547. The archetypal «true» and «false» men in French history are, respectively, King Louis XVI, who was guillotined on 21st January 1793, aged 39, and either François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, who died a natural death on 30th May 1778, aged 83, or Charles de Talleyrand-Périgord, who died a natural death on 17th May 1838, aged 84.
Voltaire, ostensibly an enlightened intellectual, who is enshrined in Le Panthéon national (Paris), writes in a letter, dated 21st October 1736, to Nicolas-Claude Thiériot, his intimate friend from 1714 until the latter's death in 1772, "One must lie like the devil: not timidly, not for a while, but brazenly, and always." In another, dated 19th March 1766, to Étienne-Noël Damilaville, an intimate friend of six years standing, he writes, "It is apposite that the people be guided: but not educated, for they are not worthy of being so." In another, following the «Calas Affair» (1763-1765), dated 28th October 1766, to the Duc de Richelieu, an intimate friend since their school days together at the Collège Louis-le-Grand, he writes, "I agree with everything you've told me about these obsequious Huguenots and their impertinent assemblies." In another, dated 21st November 1766, to Mme du Deffand, a French patron of the arts and close friend of the Whig politician Horace Walpole, he writes, "I believe him [Jean-Jacques Rousseau, author of On the Social Contract, Principles of Political Right, 1762] to be descended in a straight line from the coupling of Diogenes' dog with one of the snakes of discord." In another, dated 11th August 1770, to Catherine the Great, he writes, "Without my humanitarian principles, I would say that I would want [to see the Turks of Mustafa III] all exterminated or at least driven so far away that they never return." In another, dated 26th February 1776, to the bibliographer Nicolas-Toussaint Lemoyne des Essarts, he writes, "All I know is that if I were the judge, I would write on the Jew's forehead: Man to be hung." Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera: ad nauseam [see Jean Sévilla (2003) and Xavier Martin (2006)].
Caveat 3. The second section of the historical data, Parts 3-6 below, is presented with the precision, clarity, and principal intention of ensuring that your interpretation is identical to that of the author of a learnèd paper in an academic journal; i.e., 2 + 2 = 4: no more, no less. As such, it shares one Achilles' heel of all texts forwarded as a contribution to the advancement of knowledge, factual disinformation, because it fails to include all raw data, which almost invariably results in an irretrievable loss of same. This particular Achilles' heel was avoided in my three-volume doctoral thesis, Studies in Tetraazamacrocycles — formally published with its deposition in the British Library — by designating all the laboratory data and all the numerical data as appendices, in the second and third volumes, respectively. Now, given that, to date, its number of readers has reached the grand total of four (the external examiner, the two internal examiners, and yours truly), my thesis might be regarded as the quintessence of human folly. However, mirroring what is presently a universal truth, nothing is quite what it seems. This thesis represents the first published fruits of an epigenetically-modified mind born on 25th December 1957: not the mind of the individual born on nth July 1952, who, unbeknownst to his biological parents, had passed away that Christmas Day; if there be an Almighty God, I hope He received his spirit into Heaven: the only resting place for each innocent individual, who is conceived and born without original sin.
[Homeostasis: the maintenance of a constant internal environment despite changes in the external environment. Genome: the entirety of an organism's hereditary information; it is encoded in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), and includes both the protein coding sequences (genes) and the non-protein coding sequences. Epigenetic modification: the temporary or permanent deposition of an endogenous substance on the genome and its associated proteins, which results in changes in the activation or inactivation of one or more genes, but which does not change the genome itself; i.e., no mutation of the DNA sequence. Epigenome: all the epigenetic modifications on the DNA genome and its associated proteins.]
100-d% of epigenomic raw data has been irretrievably lost on the death of each living organism since the creation of life on this planet, regardless of whatever the evolutionary mechanisms are or are guesstimated to be. Now, accepting four-square that biology is the study of living organisms, including and in particular the planet's custodial species Homo sapiens, the prompt and universal recognition of epigenomic lacunae should, on the one hand, irreversibly shatter the (deadening) paridigm that evolution is the explanatory thesis for biology, and on the other, obligate the acceptance of this proposal forthwith: Homeostasis and epigenesis should be the framing, explanatory, and pragmatic theses for biology — the study of living organisms in the immediate past, the present, and the foreseeable future — via the complementary scientific disciplines of ecology, epigenetics, genetics, genomics, and statistics.
[Incidentally, or otherwise, 100-d% of historical raw data has been irretrievably lost on the death of each custodian since time immemorial, where d is an infinitesimally small amount.]
A. On arriving back home in Whitstable (5 miles or so distant from Canterbury), Mum asked me, "How did the interview go?" As I dashed upstairs, I replied, "I did alright, I suppose." I rooted through a pile of issues of Look and Learn, a weekly educational magazine for children that Mum and Dad bought for me, to find the picture; when I had done so, a photograph of same, I realized something I had never been cognizant of before: that one could copy a picture. Hitherto, I had assumed that each framed picture or painting that I had seen was an original; I had been in very few private houses or public buildings and rarely watched the television.
B. Very shortly thereafter, Mum and Dad received a letter informing them, firstly, that I had been awarded a scholarship for the full tuition fees, and secondly, that Kent County Council had, on the advice of the Headmaster, awarded me a grant for the full boarding fees. Accordingly, I arrived bag and baggage at Kent College in September 1963 as a boarding scholar.
[Ordinary or O-level, an externally assessed qualification nominally equivalent to the present GCSE in a subject. Advanced or A-level, similarly an externally assessed qualification nominally equivalent to the present A-level in a subject.]
C. Immediately following the sitting of the final O-level examination in June 1968, each boy in the Fifth (Year 11) was required to submit his chosen combination of three A-level subjects for study in the Lower & Upper Sixth (Years 12 & 13); providing there were no unresolvable clashes on the time-table, the boy's chosen combination was approved.
D. A few days after the boys' submissions, the Headmaster, in his study, read through a list — which had the names of three approved A-level subjects alongside the respective boy's surname for 37 boys, and the word "leaving" alongside the surname of 3 boys, whose parents had informed him that their son would be withdrawn from the school at the end of term — then proceeded to walk from his study to a classroom, in order to share a «rites of passage» moment with those boys whose futures would irreversibly begin to take shape by their approved choice of A-level subjects.
E. After I left the headmaster's study, I disappeared from the school grounds in order to find additional relief through my vice in life: smoking cigarettes. Whilst I was puffing on my first evil weed, I promised myself that I would never break a promise in my life if the Headmaster "saw me through this". To date, I have not done so: because he kept his promise in spirit and to the letter. Over the next four years, I would see him only five times and exchange about a dozen letters; but it was he, and he alone, who allowed me somehow to reconstruct my life, which had been shattered in every important respect: my relationship with Mum and Dad, my dream of going to Oxford, and, most importantly in the short-term, my self-confidence, self-belief, and feelings of self-worth were distinguished only by their absence.
F. In autumn 1968, merely because I didn't want to work in an office and biology was the only science I had liked at school, I accepted a position as a laboratory assistant in the pharmacology department of a major pharmaceutical company; it suffices to say here that, apart from finding my first three lodgings unsatisfactory, I loathed the job from the first week onwards.
G. In mid-February 1969, although I did not realize it at the time, I had my first piece of good fortune since leaving school: I obtained lodgings with a couple in their early-60s, who were deeply in love and probably had been since the day they first met; she spoilt me rotten and, after returning from my job each afternoon at about 5 o'clock, he regaled me with no end of interesting and extremely funny stories from his younger days. At 7 o'clock each evening, whilst they watched the television, I respected their privacy by going to my room, where I would either read or listen to BBC Radio 4; at 10 o'clock on the dot, the good lady brought me a mug of hot cocoa.
H. In early April 1969, I began mulling over my former Headmaster's exclamatory sentences — "Remember the picture, Roger! ... That's why I gave you the scholarship! ... That's why I wanted you here!" — without making head nor tail of them, aside from accepting that they must be true. Nevertheless, I needed to determine for myself the answers to two interrelated questions: "Was I worthy of a scholarship? Would I have gone to Oxford?" Accordingly, I went to the public library, consulted an A-level History syllabus, borrowed several seemingly relevant books, and read intensely and annotated conscientiously from 7 o'clock to 10 o'clock each evening, with two additional sessions each day of the weekend. Some 8 or 9 weeks later, in early June, shortly before my 17th birthday, after no more than 300 hours of individual study, I sat the two, three-hour essay-based examinations in A-level History; I found out that I had passed in August. Given that I had planned about 500 hours of intense reading during the summer vacation between the Fifth and the Lower Sixth, I judged that I was indeed worthy of a scholarship and that I would have gone to Oxford.
I. My success in A-level History gave me a smidgen of self-belief, but it was my former Headmaster's belief in me and his steadfast support from afar that provided my «lighthouse», outside the workplace, for the next three years.
J. In autumn 1969, I accepted a position as a scientific assistant in the Analytical & Quality Control Department of Smith, Kline & French in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. Given that I had not shown the slightest aptitude for any practical subject at school, I had the gravest doubts that my tenure would last beyond the probationary period: but my pessimism proved unfounded for three complementary reasons. One, I took to the job like the proverbial «duck to water»; in part because I clearly understood that innumerable persons unknown to me were implicitly relying on my pharmaceutical analyses for their mental or physical health, and in part because I had subconsciously absorbed lessons about quantitative analysis from the practical assignments in O-level Physics at school. Two, the laboratory was awash with warm-hearted people, each of whom showed forbearance whenever my personal troubles surfaced. And three, most importantly, the quite extraordinary supervisory skills of Mr. Allan Cameron. In particular, Allan created an environment that ensured continuous improvement in the quality, quantity, depth, difficulty, and range of my analytical work; with the relevant reference to his irrefutably genuine authority, he made his disappointment crystal-clear to me whenever my self-confidence in my diverse skills veered into counterproductive over-confidence; and he was both sympathetic and pragmatic whenever the occasion demanded.
K. In late spring 1972, my former Headmaster wrote a letter to me, whose substance and tone, prefigured in our meeting of late autumn 1971, was as follows: 'Roger, you cannot afford to stay another year at Smith, Kline & French; you'll just be treading water. Go to university; get a degree, no matter what the subject: and let the future take care of itself.'
L. In the laboratory there was copy of Finar's Organic Chemistry, then the country's most widely-used undergraduate textbook in the subject, whose author was a certain Dr. I. L. Finar, «Principal Lecturer, Department of Chemistry, Polytechnic of North London». After determining that this institution offered biology as a degree subject, I applied to same and was accepted to read Biology, Physical Biology, and Chemistry for Part I, and Biology for Part II (finals). Following my acceptance for this degree course, Hertfordshire County Council, on behalf of the generous rate payers of the county, awarded me a full maintenance grant for three years.
M. Also in late spring 1972, Allan Cameron presented me with one final gift: the task of revising all the laboratory's volumes of standard analytical methods; and, as a result of his generosity, I had an extensive opportunity to write scientific-technical English for the first time.
N. In early autumn 1972, I arrived at the aforementioned institution and immediately adopted the following modus operandi: full attendance and commitment to the lectures, tutorials, and practicals in Biology and Physical Biology; reasonably dutiful attendance to same in Chemistry; and, devoid of any distractions, three-hour spells of intense reading of biology monographs during the evenings and the weekends.
O. That same evening I executed the tutorial sheet's advanced calculations «through the lens» of the just recently acquired chemical model. Then I decided, albeit with a heavy heart, to ditch Biology and read Chemistry for finals; whereas biology made some sense — via «the characteristics of living organisms» — chemistry made absolute sense. Finally I decided to investigate discreetly this Dr. Owston, who was the first person that I had found in this institution who could give me what I needed (i.e., make my grey matter do what it couldn't do by itself), in order to determine whether there might be any possibility of me being his doctoral student.
[At undergraduate level, the inclusion of such topics such as the genetic code and recombinant DNA technology were several years away for most institutions on both sides of the pond.]
P. I saw Dr. Owston only once more during my 1st year; we nodded to each other, in the manner of having seen someone before, but did not converse.
[The elusiveness of the Chemistry Department's staff was baffling: e.g., Dr. Finar, he of Finar's Organic Chemistry, a makeshift door-stopper rather than a cozy read with one's bedtime cocoa, would become visible for the first time only when I attended his opening lecture at the start of my 2nd year; and one can only assume that my other future doctoral supervisor shared an office with him, presumably proofreading a new edition of this splendid tome — quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus.]
Q. Everything I discovered about Dr. Owston indicated there was no possibility of me being his doctoral student. Thus, his doctoral and postdoctoral supervisor was the crystallographer Dame Kathleen Lonsdale (1903-1971), who had attained a plethora of firsts for a female scientist, and whose doctoral supervisor was the polymath Sir William Bragg (1862-1942), who had been awarded the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics, and is regarded as the «father» of modern-day crystallography [cf., Abbé René-Just Haüy (1743-1822)]; he had three degrees (B.Sc., Ph.D. and D.Sc.); he was a renowned expert in the both physical and chemical X-ray crystallography — the latter appeared to me sine quâ non for most worthwhile research projects, but the former would be effectively inaccessible from my decidedly modest base of O-level Physics; he had just completed a 20-year period occupying very high level positions at ICI — then the largest manufacturing company in the Commonwealth, and commonly regarded as the «bellwether of the British economy»; he had no active research programme, but would inevitably choose graduates and doctorates from prestigious universities when he did so; he had a heavy administrative burden; etc., etc., etc.; and, lastly, I couldn't see the slightest advantage to him in being my Ph.D. supervisor. Accordingly, there appeared to be no other option than to continue with my former Headmaster's Plan A: '... get a degree, and let the future take care of itself.'
[In the November 1964 issue of New Scientist, one reads "Electron Spin Resonance by Dr P. G. Owston" (pp. 373-376); one also reads the prescient "Biology and climate changes by Dr G. W. Heath" (pp. 347-348) — one must profoundly regret that "Violin wood and deforestation by Nero", presumably rejected by peer review, has continued to be shoved under the carpet by nearly one and all from Kyoto to Davos.]
R. On the second or third day of my 2nd year, I walked through a set of swing doors to catch an elevator at the very moment Dr. Owston stepped out of one. Immediately he said, in a warm and welcoming tone, "Hello, Roger." I replied, "Hello, Dr. Owston." He continued, "What have you been up to all summer?" I replied, "Well, I spent a few weeks working at Butlin's [holiday camp] on Barry Island [a peninsular on the Welsh coast], but it was absolutely dreadful, so I went back to Smith, Kline & French to keep my hand in." He said, "Mmm, good.", nodded, then passed besides me; I took the next elevator.
S. For the next two years, I was the Chemistry Department's elected student representative on the Academic Board and on the Science Faculty Board, as well as being the sole student representative on the Academic Planning Committee in my 3rd year; I accepted fully my responsibilities by thoroughly reading the minutes (verbosity was limited to the unwieldy Academic Board), carefully listening to each contributor (except the other student representatives on the Academic Board, because none of them said anything remotely germane to the topic in hand), and contributing whenever I judged that my perspective might be worthwhile (attentiveness was the hallmark of the twenty-strong Faculty Board and de rigueur for the seven-strong Planning Committee). I concluded from my experiences as a student representative that the efficacy of any truly serious-minded assembly increases as the number of participants decreases; this relationship has held true to date.
T. Despite my best intentions, my earliest contributions to the Academic and Faculty Boards were sprinkled with faux pas and non sequiturs. I sought Dr. Owston's advice, and during the tea-break or at the conclusion of a meeting he would generously bring his wisdom to the table, so to speak. From about the 8th week of my 2nd year onwards, I regarded Dr. Owston as my de facto personal tutor; we never once talked about my past, chemistry, or my future.
U. Early in my 3rd year, Dr. Owston appeared to me to be close to making a major departmental decision which appeared to be an unequivocal breach of contract; this was deeply disquieting. Accordingly, after the indispensable discussion with my closest (and subsequently life-long) chum Jim Johri, I sought extremely detailed information from Dr. Mary McPartlin, who generously devoted many long hours of her invaluable time; following my independent verification and analysis of this good lady's information, I concluded that his projected but unpopular decision was not merely correct, but the only decision which would have allowed him to fulfil his contract. Therefore, Dr. Owston had, unknowingly, irrefutably proven himself to me as a «true man».
V. My unwavering conviction that Dr. Owston would not agree to be my doctoral supervisor forever delayed my decision to broach the matter, because I knew that it had to be him or no one, and I had the greatest uncertainty that I was mentally strong enough to deal with the anticipated rejection; Plan B, a return to Smith, Kline & French, would be merely a booby prize. Nevertheless, with the end of my undergraduate career looming, I decided to execute Plan C: nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Caveat 4. A worthwhile definition of a «good teacher» might be: Someone who successfully guides a student from something he or she does know to something he or she doesn't, in steps that makes sense to that particular student, without endangering his or her self-confidence in the present or for the future.
An unknown gentleman [Dr. Owston], who understood the «voice of the learning process», guided an undergraduate student to a self-consistent and comprehensive model of chemistry in November 1972. Dr. Owston's technique mirrored that of Mr. Chalcraft, the teacher of woodwork and metalwork at Kent College, Canterbury, during the 1960s; thus, after carefully demonstrating the correct method of either using a craft tool or executing a specific technique to the whole class of twenty students, he would then patiently and successfully guide each student individually to the required level of competence or beyond without endangering that particular student's self-confidence.
The method of teaching by both Dr. Owston and Mr. Chalcraft precluded any element of competition and required neither gentleman to be an inspiration to his respective student: but did require the student to show both concentration and a measure of commitment. Their method was paralleled by Mr. Hughes, a teacher of history at Kent College during the same period, who similarly dispensed with competition, structured his lessons so that each student concentrated on the subject — and nothing but the subject — for 1½ hours (the length of a typical O-level examination paper), and devised a method of assessment whereby the pass mark, 70% (the percentage required to obtain the top grade at O-level), was within range of each student; this inevitably increased both the self-confidence and achievement of «weaker» students — who often languished in the lower region of the rank ordering within the class for almost any given subject — because they became the equal of «stronger» students, both in principle and in practice.
The foregoing may prompt you to judge that these exemplars alone shatter two received wisdoms prevalent in education: that «a good teacher must be an inspiration to his or her student», and that «competition drives up standards». However, both common sense and prudence demand that you seek independent verification of your judgement; and, in my opinion, this is achievable by reference to Donald Wheeler's Understanding Variation; The Key To Managing Chaos (1993), from which the following two paragraphs are drawn from his Introduction:
"Numerical illiteracy is not a failure with arithmetic, but it is instead a failure to know how to use the basic tools of arithmetic to understand data. Numerical illiteracy is not addressed by the traditional courses in the primary or secondary schools, nor is it addressed by advanced courses in mathematics. This is why even highly educated individuals can be numerically illiterate.
The qualitative precepts within this book should be more readily appreciated if: firstly, you consider it to have the working title of «Making Sense of Data»; secondly, you focus your attention on Donald Wheeler's perceptive distinction between the «Voice of the Process» and the «Voice of the Customer»; and thirdly, you co-opt a «good teacher».
Caveat 5. For the last forty years, in a nearly-parallel universe, Britain's «powers that be» have required that Lennon-McCartney songs are a compulsory element in each student's secondary education: no other composers have been so «honoured». This is equivalent to asserting that any song in the Lennon-McCartney canon is of more educational value than any song composed since time immemorial, including any one on Fairport Convention's Liege and Lief (1969), The Who's Tommy (1969), Deep Purple's In Rock (1970), Frank Zappa's Hot Rats (1970), Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Waters (1970), Jethro Tull's Aqualung (1971), Led Zeppelin IV (1971), The Strawbs' Grave New World (1972), Fleetwood Mac's Rumours (1977), and Home Service's Alright Jack (1986), to name but ten albums. You are invited to consider «Revolution 9», the final track on The Beatles' White Album (1968), as a reference point.
For the last forty years, Britain's «powers that be» have required that Shakespeare is a compulsory element in each student's secondary education: no other author has been so «honoured». This is equivalent to asserting that any passage, scene, play, poem, or sonnet in the Shakespearean canon is of more educational value than any work written since time immemorial, including and in particular The Holy Bible, The Holy Quran, and The Constitution of the United States; regardless of one's religious or political views, for better or worse, these three works have guided the lives of untold millions since they first graced this earth: ... and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.
Now, these «powers that be» are typically highly educated, in the commonly understood sense of the term: yet they have uniformly failed to provide one substantive reason why Shakespeare should be so «honoured», much less provide any substantive evidence that even one student has become more enlightened than he or she would otherwise have been by reading any other author. You are invited to consider — but are not limited to considering — Mark Twain (Is Shakespeare Dead?, 1909), Giles Cooper (Unman, Wittering and Zigo, 1958), Robert Bolt (A Man for All Seasons, 1961), George MacDonald Fraser (Flashman, 1969), Patrick O'Brian (Master and Commander, 1969), Angie Debo (A History of the Indians of the United States, 1970), John Innes Mackintosh Stewart (The Gaudy, 1974), Finlay J. Macdonald (Crowdie and Cream, 1982), Pauline Maier (American Scripture: How America Declared its Independence from Britain, 1997), and Homer Hickham (October Sky, 2000).
Caveat 6. Every year since 1919, on 11th November at 11 a.m., the people of Britain have observed two minutes silence, in remembrance of those members of the armed forces who paid the ultimate sacrifice whilst serving their country, including and in particular the 900,000 or more who did so during World War I (1914-1918).
For the past few decades, students have been introduced to the poetry written during this war, including Wilfred Owen's Dulce et decorum est: whether this particular poem is appropriate is a decidedly moot point, for at least three reasons.
First, the title is only the first half of a Latin tag, which reads, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, and means, "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country." But the reader can have little or no appreciation of the poem's savage irony without an understanding of the second half of the tag.
Second, from Wilfred Owen himself — who, in October 1917, wrote to his mother from Edinburgh, "Here is a gas poem, done yesterday [...] The famous Latin tag (from Horace, Odes) means of course it is sweet and meet to die for one's country." — to innumerable individuals in the intervening years, the assertion that the words of the tag were 'widely understood' is false. Thus, in contrast to this irrefutably brave soldier-poet, who received secondary education to the age of 18, at least 90% of those who sacrificed their lives during this war had not received one day's secondary schooling, much less one lesson of Latin (note, the 1893 Elementary Education Act raised the minimum schooling leaving age to 11, and the 1918 Education Act made secondary education compulsory up to the age of 14); moreover, 100% of women were disenfranchised until the 1918 Representation of the People Act.
And third, albeit unwittingly, the poem's subject obscures the fact that the greatest cause of death in this war, as in so many others prior to World War II, was disease (such as dysentary, cholera, and typhus).
Caveat 7. Whimsically stated ... In June 1992, a young lass in Year 6 named Cavia Porcellus, known to her chums as Ginny, sat her Key Stage 2 examinations in three subjects which are a statutory part of the National Curriculum: English, Mathematics, and Science. Unsurprisingly, Ginny was none too fussed about whether her performances would result in her primary school being promoted or demoted the following season. Be that as it may, Ginny was expecting her examination papers to be forwarded to «big school», during the long summer vacation, so that her Year 7 teachers in these subjects could carefully go through these raw data with her, so that she had specific details of her weaknesses with respect to her understanding of each subject and her examination techniques. Needless to say, perhaps, but Ginny was sorely disappointed in September 1992. However, although this will be of ice-cold comfort to the now considerably older Ginny, roughly half a million of her Year 7 peers were in the same Brobdingnagian-sized boat as she was; moreover, in each of the last nineteen years, a new such boat has been added to the fleet. Nevertheless, Ginny is ever the optimist: she hopes that copies of Donald Wheeler's Understanding Variation will weigh down Santa's sacks one magical Christmas in the not too distant future, even if this means Rudolph's nose-bag being weighed down with extra lichen and the ubiquitous robin being given the heave-ho.
Seriously stated ... From the perspective of the «powers that be», whoever they be, the percentage mark — e.g., 47% — in an internal or external examination is often the be-all and end-all of assessment. However, from your perspective, as the student, the most important aspect of any examination should be the precise determination of the reasons for your «missing percentage» — here, 53%; amongst others, these might be misreading of one or more questions, inattention to the mark scheme, incomplete or lack of understanding of one or more concepts, lack of factual knowledge, or health problems on the day of the examination. And, once you have determined precisely these reasons, via individual debriefing with a «good teacher», then you will have acquired sufficient self-confidence in your ability to achieve a higher percentage — e.g., 55% — in the next examination: ... and so on and so forth.
Caveat 8. Since time immemorial, the received wisdom would appear to be that a teacher asking a single factual question to a class of students is a worthwhile exercise; examples of single factual questions are: "Where is the headland known as Cape Trafalgar?" [In the province of Cádiz, south-west Spain]; "When was the Battle of Trenton?" [26th December 1776]; "In Romeo and Juliet, who was Romeo courting before he espied Juliet?" [Rosaline]; "What is the first differentiation of y = x³?" [dy/dx = 3x² or f'(x) = 3x²]; "What is the SI unit of force?" [Newton]; "What is the second differentiation of y = x³?" [d²y/dx² = 6x or f''(x) = 6x]; "What is the Latin for «Let the non-believer beware.»?" [Caveat infidelis]; "What is the abbreviation for ribonucleic acid?" [RNA]; and "What is the French for «I don't know.»?" [Je ne sais pas.] ... But!
In September 1995, Mr. Chips — who was the venerable teacher of chemistry in Years 10 and 11 at Ginny's «big school», and whom each student in Year 10 vaguely suspected of having laid the foundation stone for England's first blast furnace (in 1491) — had swashbuckled his way through a presentation of the «Extraction of Iron». Early in the following academic year, Mr. Chips asked the same class of students, now in Year 11, "What is the principal ore used in the extraction of iron?", which resulted in six of the twenty-five students raising their hands. Choosing one of these six, he asked, "Yes, Ms. Porcellus?", who replied, "Haematite, Sir." He said, "Correct. Well done, Cavia!", and then, in the time honoured manner, moved on to the next topic. ... Yet!
There were at least four reasons why a student might not have raised his or her hand: one, he or she had never registered this fact, perhaps because of inattention in Year 10; two, he or she had simply forgotten this fact; three, he or she had lacked self-confidence in the presence of his or her peers; and four, he or she didn't care one way or the other: but Mr. C. made no attempt to determine which reason was applicable to any one of the nineteen students who didn't raise his or her hand. Furthermore, Mr. C. made no attempt to determine whether any one of the other five students who raised his or her hand did indeed know the correct answer. And finally, although Ginny's answer was correct, this could have been of no value to Mr. C. — nor to any one of the other twenty-four students — because he did not know why Ginny knew the correct answer; and, without knowing the why, he had not increased the likelihood of Ginny — nor of any one of the other twenty-four students — producing the correct answer for any time when it truly matters. ... So!
Seemingly, Mr. Chips was unaware of, or had ignored, the dictum of Cyril Hinshelwood, who was awarded the Nobel prize for Chemistry in 1956 — that "Science is not the mere collection of facts, which are infinitely numerous and mostly uninteresting, but the attempt by the human mind to order these facts into satisfying patterns." — and, in consequence, he had not considered asking his question in an anchored and potentially more fruitful way: e.g., "Recalling, firstly, that cobaltite and chromite are the principal ores used for the extraction of cobalt and chromium, respectively, and secondly, that haemoglobin is an iron-containing protein which carries dioxygen in the blood of mammals, write down the name of the principal ore used in the extraction of iron."
Whilst you may care to examine further the ostensible worthwhileness of the aforementioned received wisdom, by considering single factual questions in diverse subjects and with diverse class sizes, in my opinion you would be well advised to accept the spirit of Hinshelwood's dictum in pursuing your studies in each subject, by anchoring each fact in a potentially fruitful context.
2: ABSOLUTE INDEPENDENCE OF MIND
3: SELECTED INTRODUCTORY ASPECTS OF EPIGENETICS
A FIRST PRELIMINARY ASPECT
The structural and line formulae of cyclohexane (4), cyclohexene (5), and cyclohexa-1,3-diene (6) are:
Personal preference, guided by the context, very often determines which carbons are designated skeletal; e.g., methylcyclohexane might be shown as 7a, 7b, or 7c — either of the latter two would probably be used when an author wished to emphasize this compound's topological similarities and/or differences to other substituted cyclohexanes (such as 8 and 9).
Double-stranded DNA includes both protein coding sequences (genes) and non-protein coding sequences; respectively, these are about 25% and 75% in C. elegans, and about 2% and 98% in H. sapiens. During mitotic cell division, both strands of the DNA are duplicated: by contrast, only one of the equivalent DNA strands is required to serve as the coding template for the synthesis of a given protein.
For the past fifty years or so, the lion's share of biological, biochemical, genetics, and genomics research has been directed at elucidating, in ever-greater detail, diverse aspects of the DNA sequence variations of an ever-increasing number of living organisms. Such a focus has been more than justifiable, simply because of the irrefutable importance of proteins in the correct and aberrant functioning of cells in all living organisms.
Numerous cell types — including cardiomycetes, cartilage cells, insulin-secreting cells, and neurons — are not only fully differentiated, but the appropriate organ does not have a reservoir of less specialized cells — either intrinsically (e.g., the heart does not have cardiac stem cells) or because they have been destroyed by disease (e.g., the b-cells in the pancreas) — to remake such fully differentiated cells. In consequence, the destruction of such cells typically results in severe health problems (e.g., type I diabetes).
In 2006, Kazutoshi Takahashi and Shinya Yamanaka reported the creation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) from mouse fibroblasts, which are the main differentiated cells in connective tissue. And, in the intervening few years, innumerable researchers have extended their research to the creation of iPS cells from diverse human tissues and donors — thereby paving the way, at least in principle, for their therapeutic usage in the treatment of, amongst other diseases, diabetes, haemophilias, and osteo-arthritis.
In 1980, Peter Jones and Shirley Taylor published substantive evidence that the use of cytidine analogues prevented the methylation of cytosine residues in DNA; in particular, the use of analogue 5-azacytidine was shown to be a potent inhibitor of DNA methylation.
In 1985, Adrian Bird and his colleagues published further evidence linking DNA methylation and gene expression; in particular, the importance of «islands» of CpG methylation.
And in 1998, Adrian Bird and Alan Wolffe, and their respective colleagues, published research that showed that DNA methylation affects gene expression indirectly by changing the affinity of sequence-specific DNA-binding proteins for their target sites.
Broadly speaking, when mammalian histones are modified, gene expression increases near a specifically modified nucleosome: nevertheless, the histone code, published in 2001 by Thomas Jenuwein and David Allis, representing the patterns of modifications, is extremely complex.
Caveat 9. Ronald Fisher, who was primarily a statistician, and who was a pioneer in population genetics, wrote at the beginning of his book The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection (1930):
"Natural Selection is not Evolution. Yet, ever since the two words have been in common use, the theory of Natural Selection has been employed as a convenient abbreviation for the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, put forward by Darwin and Wallace. This has had the unfortunate consequence that the theory of Natural Selection itself has scarcely if ever received separate consideration."
Despite Fisher's cautionary words, the aforementioned "abbreviation", for better or worse, appears to have taken root with a vengeance; as is illustrated here by the following example.
'The over-use of a biocide typically results in living organisms with short life-cycles evolving resistance by the mechanism of natural selection, as exemplified by tsetse flies (Glossina palpalis), the vectors of the Trypanosoma protozoa which cause sleeping-sickness. Thus,
«Structural variation has occurred in populations of tsetse flies by natural mutations of their genome, followed by the exchange of genes via meiosis and random fertilization. Some of these mutations have resulted in some tsetse flies containing a gene which codes for the catabolism of the biocide DDT. These individuals have been the fittest in environments where the agent of selection is this biocide, and so more of these have survived to reproductive maturity. Their offspring have inherited this favourable gene; and so, within the gene pool of tsetse flies, the frequency of the DDT-resistant gene has increased.».'
A parallel construction is readily advanced for bread-and-butter flies (Panemetbutyrum circenses). Thus,
«Structural variation has occurred in populations of bread-and-butter flies by natural mutations of their genome, followed by the exchange of genes via meiosis and random fertilization. Some of these mutations have resulted in some bread-and-butter flies containing a gene which codes for the catabolism of the biocide SWAT. These individuals have been the fittest in environments where the agent of selection is this biocide, and so more of these have survived to reproductive maturity. Their offspring have inherited this favourable gene; and so, within the gene pool of bread-and-butter flies, the frequency of the SWAT-resistant gene has increased.».
However, as evinced by the following two constructions, and setting aside conceivable transgenerational inheritance via the germ cells, certain epigenetic modifications will also have consequences with respect to inheritance. Thus,
«Structural variation will occur in populations of bread-and-butter flies by epigenetic modifications on their genome. The resulting epigenomes will result in some bread-and-butter flies being the fittest in certain environments, and so more of these will reproduce. Therefore more bread-and-butter flies will inherit this genome, mutant or otherwise; and so, within the gene pool of bread-and-butter flies, the frequency of this genome will increase.»,
«Structural variation will occur in populations of bread-and-butter flies by epigenetic modifications on their genome. The resulting epigenomes will result in some bread-and-butter flies not being the fittest in certain environments, and so fewer of these will reproduce. Therefore fewer bread-and-butter flies will inherit this genome, mutant or otherwise; and so, within the gene pool of bread-and-butter flies, the frequency of this genome will decrease.».
But, in common with each living organism which has existed hitherto, 100-d% of epigenomic raw data for bread-and-butter flies has been irretrievably lost; ... as has 100-d% of environmental raw data.
Caveat 10. Finally, if you accept that you are a custodian of the only known habitable planet in the Universe for the species Homo sapiens, then you might care to mull over two interrelated received wisdoms: that «all knowledge is valuable», and that «the quantity of knowledge is increasing exponentially».
Firstly, consider if you will, as illustrative examples, the supposèdly important questions of: "Did birds evolve from dinosaurs?", and "Is there water on planets in distant galaxies?" There are only two definitive answers to either question: "Yes" or "No". But would either answer, regarding aspects of the distant past and the distant future, respectively, be of any conceivable value to a custodian who shares responsibility for the well-being of the species Homo sapiens in the present and the foreseeable future? Moreover, would resources allocated to determining the answers to such questions not inevitably result in fewer resources being allocated to determining worthwhile knowledge that is self-consistent with a custodian's responsibility?
And secondly, note that, despite common parlance, "knowledge" and "information" are not synonyms, neither are "misinformation" and "disinformation".
Appendix 1: Ariadne's Thread and Captain of the Ship
Between 1975 and 2005, I occasionally attempted to determine why my Headmaster and Dr. Owston each remembered his first meeting with me, some thirty or more months after the event. Then, in 2006, whilst re-reading through and mulling over various texts in my mind, the latter paused on the following sentence: "The captain was a warm-hearted gentleman, but he expected his orders to be obeyed to the letter." The description "warm-hearted gentleman" immediately brought both my Headmaster and Dr. Owston to the forefront of my mind: and thence to the word "captain". I had never considered either of these gentlemen as the «captain of a ship»: but, for all intents and purposes, that is precisely what each one was. However, neither gentleman gave me the merest hint of an order during our first meeting; and there my deliberations might have ground to a halt, if I had not instinctively felt that I had, albeit serendipitously, finally teased out the end of Ariadne's Thread. Accordingly, I ruminated upon the roles of a captain on an 18th century ship; and, during these ruminations, I realized that everyone on board, from the ship's boy to the first lieutenant, was, in principle if not in practice, «hanging on the captain's every word». And this realization prompted the following train of thought.
When a master entered a classroom for a lesson, all twenty boys would stand up from their seats in near unison and «hang on his every word»; this was the master's subconscious expectation, because this would be the uniform occurrence. Then he would say, for example, "Good morning, boys. Please sit down." or "Bonjour. Asseyez-vous, s'il vous plaît.", whereupon all twenty boys would sit down in near unison and «hang on his every word»; yet again this was the master's subconscious expectation, because this too would be the uniform occurrence. [Then he might say, for example, "Please open your books at page ..." — and the remainder of the lesson would be in free format.]
Almost from the start of the interview in June 1963, and contrary to his subconscious expectation, the Headmaster's conscious mind registers that the «wretched boy» before him was not «hanging on his every word», as evinced by his repeated glancing at a picture; such brazen inattention would have been extremely rare, possibly unique, throughout his career as a headmaster. Furthermore, despite his subconscious expectation, his conscious mind is behaving t'other way round, and, upon registering this anomaly, he decides to investigate the reason for same ["You keep on looking at that picture?"].
Now, whilst Dr. Owston was the «captain of a ship» in November 1972, because he knew that none of the 1st year undergraduates would have known who he was at such an early stage in the academic year, his conscious mind would override his otherwise subconscious expectation. Nevertheless, because his conscious mind registers the anomaly of an apparently «idle oaf» amongst a class of seemingly conscientious undergraduates, he decides to investigate the reason for same ["And what are you meant to be doing?"].
Appendix 2: Chance Favours the Prepared Mind
Between 1975 and 2005, my sporadic attempts at identifying and then unravelling Ariadne's Thread were hampered by two assumptions. First, that, prior to our first meeting in June 1963, the Headmaster's knowledge about me was limited to my performance in the scholarship entrance examination. And second, that, prior to our first meeting in November 1972, Dr. Owston had no knowledge about me, because I was a nondescript undergraduate with respect to the Chemistry Department. I present below circumstantial evidence that not only was neither of my assumptions correct, but that the mind of each gentleman was prepared on three important occasions.
Headmaster's prepared mind in June 1963 ...
Prior to the interview, the Headmaster would have had my marks in the school's entrance examination, together with a report written by the form master of my primary school, but signed by its headmaster, which would have had the following gist: 'This scholarship candidate, who will certainly pass the 11+ examination to grammar school, invariably occupies first or second position in the class for each subject. When all the boys in the class are taught together, he reveals a tendency to idleness, which results in a loss of concentration. By contrast, when he is separated from the class, which is a good quarter of the time, he patiently executes, for periods of two hours or more, his own original projects on diverse topics in history and geography. Whilst he has shown no delinquent characteristics, his temperament has, on occasions, necessitated the use of strong disciplinary measures.'
It would be reasonable to infer that the Headmaster had — prior to the interview — already decided to award me a scholarship for the tuition fees, based: firstly, on my academic performances at the primary school and in the entrance examination; and secondly, on the evidence of an independence of mind coupled with an ability to focus for extended periods on subjects which interested me. If this inference is correct, then the Headmaster's principal purpose of «interviewing» me was to have an informal discussion, so as to confirm that the school's Sixth Form — whose structure facilitated a high degree of independent study in three A-level subjects — would be suitable. [Certainly, his graceful manner and warm and welcoming tones prompted me to think, "Ooh, I'm going to have a nice chat with this lovely old gentleman."]
Headmaster's prepared mind in June 1968 ...
When the Headmaster, in his study, read through a list — which had the names of three approved A-level subjects alongside the respective boy's surname for 37 boys, and the word "leaving" alongside the surname of 3 boys, whose parents had informed him that their son would be withdrawn from the school at the end of term — he would have made the reasonable assumption that the parents would have informed their respective son that he was being withdrawn at the end of term. Accordingly, he expected to share a «rites of passage» moment with only 37 boys.
Following his introduction — "Good afternoon, boys. Please sit down." — an automatic visual sweep of the classroom would have revealed to him that there were 38 boys who were «hanging on his every word»: and he would have realized, firstly, that the 38th boy had not been informed by his parents that he was being withdrawn from school at the end of term, and was therefore going to be truly devastated on hearing the words "Peters: leaving.", and secondly, that he must be ready to act decisively if said boy should receive these words particularly badly.
Immediately he spoke those fateful words, he would have observed my stare of utter despair — which, as he continued to read the list, changed into one that was also terrified: and he would have realized, firstly, that I had become suicidal, and secondly, that my suicidal thoughts must be expunged in an absolutely safe place. Accordingly, when he finishes reading the list, he says loudly and very forcefully, in a spectacular display of titular authority, "Peters, see me in my study straight afterwards!" — in order to lock temporarily my thoughts in a positive manner. He could not accompany me from the classroom to his study for two reasons: firstly, there is nothing he could say between these two rooms that could conceivably expunge my suicidal thoughts; and secondly, he needed time to consider the precise words and tones he must use to allow me, on the one hand, to make some sense of both the past and the present, and on the other, to have unequivocal hope for the future. [His first (precise) word was, "Roger, ..."]
Dr. Owston's prepared mind in November 1972 ...
A particularly striking anomaly of my first meeting with Dr. Owston, in the 8th week of my 1st year, was that «the gentleman» neither introduced himself nor enquired about my name. The incident detailed below, which I never mentioned to anyone at the time, and would not remember for nigh on thirty-eight years, would appear to provide the background to his reticence.
«In the 6th week of my 1st year, the Head of the Biology Department presented two essay-based questions, for completion within his lecture period, to the entire cohort of 1st year science undergraduates who had opted to read Biology as one component of their Part I. He returned the marked scripts at the start of his lecture in the 7th week. I was extremely disgruntled both with my (otherwise satisfactory) mark and his comments adorning my script; moreover, my ill-humour, so to speak, worsened during the following fifty-five minutes — as he presented his general comments on the questions and the scripts to one and all — to such an extent that I was livid. Nevertheless, because, on the one hand, this assignment was non-assessed, and on the other, I was hungry, I decided to go to the student union's cafeteria rather than pursue my real or imagined grievances: indeed, I considered the matter closed.
Now, it would be reasonable to assume that, as a matter of professional courtesy, the Head of the Biology Department would disclose the aforementioned incident to his counterpart in the Chemistry Department, so as to forewarn the latter (Dr. Owston): 'That there is not merely a loose canon in this year's intake of science undergraduates, but one which readily detaches itself from its mountings. However, with careful handling, said canon can be remounted, so to speak.'
From the details of this serendipitous encounter — which would not have occurred had I decided to head for "the library in order to read the newspapers" a few seconds earlier or later — Dr. Owston would have readily determined my strengths, including determination, independence of mind, highly developed analytical skills, absolute respect for genuine authority, and humility, as well as my weaknesses, including poorly developed synthetic skills, little or no respect for titular authority, precipitousness, and undue forcefulness. But, given that, in the early 1970s, undergraduate chemistry was a much more logical science than biology, he would have been bemused that I was planning to read Biology for finals rather than Chemistry, unless I had not hitherto acquired a fundamental understanding of the latter subject — which demanded an investigation, incognito in the manner of Polixenes in A Winter's Tale, of his now prospective research student.
Appendix 3: Cognitive Disinformation
For over forty years, as detailed below, I inadvertently truncated my memory of my interview with the Headmaster in June 1963; in consequence, I failed to recognize a crucially important commonality between the Headmaster and Dr. Owston in their respective first meetings with me: ... I viewed each as a favourably disposed gentleman whose titular status was unknown to me.
Appendix 4: Tetraazamacrocycle exemplar
This de novo monoimine was synthesized in near-quantitative yield (96%), via the selective reduction of its de novo diimine analogue (1975), and fully characterized (1976); its molecular geometry, derived from the structure determination of its hemi-pyridinate via single-crystal X-ray diffraction analysis (1977), was subsequently used to determine its stereo-electronic structure in the ground-state, via the calculation of its LCAO-SCF CNDO/2 M.O. wavefunction, for (caveated) quantitative comparison with the diimine analogue, and with octamethylcorrole-21H,23H,24H and octamethylcorrole-21H,22H,23H (C27H30N4), amongst other tetraazamacrocycles, acyclic diimines, and benzodiazepines, via selected M.O. indices (1978-1979).
1. Following the successful 2¼ hour defence of my doctoral thesis, Studies in Tetraazamacrocycles, I left the building to have a breath of fresh air — or, strictly speaking, to do the precise opposite. After about 30 minutes chain-smoking myself to an early grave, I spent a similar amount of time focused on the most suitable form of words to express my deepest appreciation of Dr. Owston, who had kept both his promises of May 1975 in spirit and to the letter; in doing so, I completely forgot one of his leitmotifs: he was as predictable as the British weather.
Appendix 7: Mark Twain and Shakespeare
In 1909, Mark Twain published a non-fiction work entitled Is Shakespeare Dead?. Within this work he presents his examination of the received truth that William Shakspere, baptized as Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere on 26th April 1564, was William Shakespeare, the author of the Shakespearean canon of poems, sonnets, and plays; the following extracts from Chapters II and III are particularly noteworthy.
Extracts from Chapter II of Mark Twain's Is Shakespeare Dead?
«When I was a Sunday-school scholar something more than sixty years ago, I became interested in Satan, and wanted to find out all I could about him. I began to ask questions, but my class-teacher, Mr. Barclay the stone-mason, was reluctant about answering them, it seemed to me. [... ...] I will say for Mr. Barclay that he was willing to tell me the facts of Satan's history, but he stopped there: he wouldn't allow any discussion of them. [...] In the course of time we exhausted the facts. There were only five or six of them, you could set them all down on a visiting-card. I was disappointed. I had been meditating a biography, and was grieved to find that there were no materials. I said as much, with the tears running down. Mr. Barclay's sympathy and compassion were aroused, for he was a most kind and gentle-spirited man, and he patted me on the head and cheered me up by saying there was a whole vast ocean of materials! I can still feel the happy thrill which these blessed words shot through me.
Then he began to bail out that ocean's riches for my encouragement and joy. Like this: it was "conjectured" — though not established — that Satan was originally an angel in heaven; that he fell; that he rebelled, and brought on a war; that he was defeated, and banished to perdition. Also, "we have reason to believe" that later he did so-and-so; that "we are warranted in supposing" that at a subsequent time he travelled extensively, seeking whom he might devour; that a couple of centuries afterward, "as tradition instructs us", he took up the cruel trade of tempting people to their ruin, with vast and fearful results; that by-and-by, "as the probabilities seem to indicate", he may have done certain things, he might have done certain other things, he must have done still other things.
And so on and so on. We set down the five known facts by themselves, on a piece of paper, and numbered it "page 1"; then on fifteen hundred other pieces of paper we set down the "conjectures", and "suppositions", and "maybes", and "perhapses", and "doubtlesses", and "rumors", and "guesses", and "probabilities", and "likelihoods", and "we are permitted to thinks", and "we are warranted in believings", and "might have beens", and "could have beens", and "must have beens"," and "unquestionablys", and "without a shadow of doubts" — and behold!
Materials? Why, we had enough to build a biography of Shakespeare!
Yet he made me put away my pen; he would not let me write the history of Satan. Why? Because, as he said, he had suspicions; suspicions that my attitude in this matter was not reverent; and that a person must be reverent when writing about the sacred characters. He said any one who spoke flippantly of Satan would be frowned upon by the religious world and also be brought to account.»
Extracts from Chapter III of Mark Twain's Is Shakespeare Dead?
He was born on the 23rd of April, 1564.
Of good farmer-class parents who could not read, could not write, could not sign their names.
At Stratford, a small back settlement which in that day was shabby and unclean, and densely illiterate. Of the nineteen important men charged with the government of the town, thirteen had to "make their mark" in attesting important documents, because they could not write their names.
Of the first eighteen years of his life nothing is known. They are a blank.
On the 27th of November 1582, William Shakespeare took out a license to marry Anne Whateley.
Next day William Shakespeare took out a license to marry Anne Hathaway. She was eight years his senior.
William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway. In a hurry. By grace of a reluctantly-granted dispensation there was but one publication of the banns.
Within six months the first child was born.
About two (blank) years followed, during which period nothing at all happened to Shakespeare, so far as anybody knows.
Then came twins — February 1585.
Two blank years follow.
Then — 1587 — he makes a ten-year visit to London, leaving the family behind.
Five blank years follow. During this period nothing happened to him, as far as anybody actually knows.
Then — 1592 — there is mention of him as an actor.
Next year — 1593 — his name appears in the official list of players.
Next year — 1594 — he played before the queen. A detail of no consequence: other obscurities did it every year of the forty-five of her reign. And remained obscure.
Three pretty full years follow. Full of play-acting.
Then — in 1597 — he bought New Place, Stratford.
Thirteen or fourteen busy years follow; years in which he accumulated money, and also reputation as actor and manager.
Meantime his name, liberally and variously spelt, had become associated with a number of great plays and poems, as (ostensibly) author of the same.
Some of these, in these years and later, were pirated, but he made no protest. Then — 1610-11 — he returned to Stratford and settled down for good and all, and busied himself in lending money, trading in tithes, trading in land and houses; shirking a debt of forty-one shillings, borrowed by his wife during his long desertion of his family; suing debtors for shillings and coppers; being sued himself for shillings and coppers; and acting as confederate to a neighbor who tried to rob the town of its rights in a certain common, and did not succeed.
He lived five or six years — till 1616 — in the joy of these elevated pursuits. Then he made a will, and signed each of its three pages with his name.
A thoroughgoing business man's will. It named in minute detail every item of property he owned in the world — houses, lands, sword, silver-gilt bowl, and so on — all the way down to his 'second-best bed' and its furniture.
It carefully and calculatingly distributed his riches among the members of his family, overlooking no individual of it. Not even his wife: the wife he had been enabled to marry in a hurry by urgent grace of a special dispensation before he was nineteen; the wife whom he had left husbandless so many years; the wife who had had to borrow forty-one shillings in her need, and which the lender was never able to collect of the prosperous husband, but died at last with the money still lacking.
No, even this wife was remembered in Shakespeare's will.
He left her that 'second-best bed'.
And not another thing; not even a penny to bless her lucky widowhood with.
It was eminently and conspicuously a business man's will, not a poet's.
It mentioned not a single book.
Books were much more precious than swords and silver-gilt bowls and second-best beds in those days, and when a departing person owned one he gave it a high place in his will.
The will mentioned not a play, not a poem, not an unfinished literary work, not a scrap of manuscript of any kind.
Many poets have died poor, but this is the only one in history that has died this poor; the others all left literary remains behind. Also a book.
If Shakespeare had owned a dog — but we need not go into that: we know he would have mentioned it in his will. If a good dog, Susanna would have got it; if an inferior one his wife would have got a dower interest in it. I wish he had had a dog, just so we could see how painstakingly he would have divided that dog among the family, in his careful business way.
He signed the will in three places.
In earlier years he signed two other official documents.
These five signatures still exist.
There are no other specimens of his penmanship in existence. Not a line.
Was he prejudiced against the art? His granddaughter, whom he loved, was eight years old when he died, yet she had had no teaching, he left no provision for her education although he was rich, and in her mature womanhood she couldn't write and couldn't tell her husband's manuscript from anybody else's — she thought it was Shakespeare's.
When Shakespeare died in Stratford it was not an event. It made no more stir in England than the death of any other forgotten theatre-actor would have made. Nobody came down from London; there were no lamenting poems, no eulogies, no national tears — there was merely silence, and nothing more. A striking contrast with what happened when Ben Jonson, and Francis Bacon, and Spenser, and Raleigh and the other distinguished literary folk of Shakespeare's time passed from life! No praiseful voice was lifted for the lost Bard of Avon; even Ben Jonson waited seven years before he lifted his.
So far as anybody actually knows and can prove, Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon never wrote a play in his life.
So far as anybody knows and can prove, he never wrote a letter to anybody in his life.
So far as any one knows, he received only one letter during his life.
So far as any one knows and can prove, Shakespeare of Stratford wrote only one poem during his life. This one is authentic. He did write that one — a fact which stands undisputed; he wrote the whole of it; he wrote the whole of it out of his own head. He commanded that this work of art be engraved upon his tomb, and he was obeyed. There it abides to this day. This is it:
Good friend for Iesus sake forbeare|
To digg the dust encloased heare:
Blest be ye man yt spares thes stones
And curst be he yt moves my bones.
In the list as above set down, will be found every positively known fact of Shakespeare's life, lean and meagre as the invoice is. Beyond these details we know not a thing about him. All the rest of his vast history, as furnished by the biographers, is built up, course upon course, of guesses, inferences, theories, conjectures — an Eiffel Tower of artificialities rising sky-high from a very flat and very thin foundation of inconsequential facts.»
In the intervening hundred years or so, Shakespeare's "vast history" has become ever more vast, with few biographers heeding Twain's caveats. Two notable exceptions are Nigel Cockburn (1998) and Peter Dawkins (2004), who, with scrupulous reference to seemingly all of the contemporaneous documents, have detailed unequivocal support for the essence of Twain's «biography». However, whether their strong circumstantial evidence for Francis Bacon (1561-1626) being the principal author of the Shakespearean canon will change hearts and minds, in the near or distant future, is moot.
Appendix 8: Silvanus P. Thompson and the Calculus
In 1910, Sylvanus P. Thompson published a book whose full title was as follows: "Calculus Made Easy, being a very-simplest introduction to those beautiful methods of reckoning which are generally called by the terrifying names of the Differential Calculus and the Integral Calculus"; Chapter I is invitingly titled: "To Deliver You From The Preliminary Terrors".
Chapter I of Silvanus P. Thompson's Calculus Made Easy
«The preliminary terror, which chokes off most [Year 11 students] from even attempting to learn how to calculate, can be abolished once and for all by simply stating what is the meaning — in common-sense terms — of the two principal symbols that are used in calculating.
These dreadful symbols are:
(1) d which means "a little bit of".
Thus dx means a little bit of x ; or du means a little but of u. Ordinary mathematicians think it is more polite to say "an element of", instead of "a little bit of". Just as you please. But you will find that these little bits (or elements) may be considered to be indefinitely small.
(2) ∫ which is merely a long S, and may be called (if you like) "the sum of".
Thus ∫dx means the sum of all the little bits of x ; or ∫dt means the sum of all the little bits of t. Ordinary mathematicians call this symbol "the integral of". Now any fool can see that if x is considered as made up of a little bits, each of which is called dx, if you add them all up together you get the sum of all the ∫dx's (which is the same thing as the whole x). The word "integral" simply means "the whole". If you think of the duration of time for one hour, you may (if you like) think of it as cut up into 3600 little bits called seconds. The whole of the 3600 little bits added up together make one hour.
When you see an expression that begins with this terrifying symbol, you will henceforth know that it is put there merely to give you instructions that you are now to perform the operation (if you can) of totalling up all the little bits that are indicated by the symbols that follow.
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Garfield, A.S., Cowley, M., Smith, F.M., Moorwood, K., Stewart-Cox, J.E., Gilroy, K., Baker, S., Xia, J., Dalley, J.W., Hurst, L.D., Wilkinson, L.S., Isles, A.R. & Ward, A.: Distinct physiological and behavioural functions for parental alleles of imprinted Grb10, Nature, 469, 534–538, 2011; the Grb10 mutant mice stand their ground!
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Kidd, A.H.: Discover Zelenka website; established in 2002.
Lorre, C., Holland, S. & Hernandez, T. (story), Prady, B., Molaro, S. & Reynolds, J. (teleplay): The Shiny Trinket Maneuver, [The Big Bang Theory, Season 5, Episode 12], Chuck Lorre Productions & Warner Bros. Television, Burbank, 2012.
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Owston, P.G., Peters, R. & Tasker, P.A.: The stability of functionalized vicinal diazides in the presence of mild base, J. Chem. Res. (S), 352–353, 1985.
Perrault, G.: Le Secret du Roi, L'Ombre de la Bastille & La Revanche américaine, Fayard, Paris, 1992, 1993 & 1996.
Peters, R.: Studies in Tetraazamacrocycles (doctoral thesis), The British Library, London, 1981; for smidgens of which, see Appendix 4 and Owston et al.
Peters, R.: Aufbau1 (a teaching resource for Year 10 & 11 chemistry students, which contains no falsehoods, no half-truths, and no non sequiturs: Student's Version & Teacher's Notes), unpublished Mss., 1996.
Peters, R.: Hat Wissensdrang die Katze getötet?, Eine Spinnwebe von Wissen? & Konsilienz: Die Kunst für die wissende Katze? (three suites of multidisciplinary resources for Year 10, 11 & 12 students in British, 1Br., 2Br., 3Br., 4Br., 5Br., 6Br., 7Br., 8Br. & 9Br., or American orthography, 1Am., 2Am., 3Am., 4Am., 5Am., 6Am., 7Am., 8Am. & 9Am.), unpublished Mss., 1996–2002.
Peters, R.: Boîtes chinoises asymétriques (11Frex.) & Asymmetric Chinese Boxes (11Brex.), extracts from Le Cinesi, unpublished Mss., 2006.
Peters, R.: Bensalem: die Verführerin von Wissen? (a suite of multidisciplinary resources, including comedy-drama N°11, Le Cinesi), et al., in progress.
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Secher, R. & Murat, Y.: Un Prince méconnu : Le Dauphin Louis-Joseph, fils aîné de Louis XVI, Éditions R.S.E., Paris, 1998.
Sévilla, J.: Historiquement Correct ; Pour en finir avec le passé unique, Perrin, Paris, 2003; Ch. 7 (« Les Lumières et la tolérance »).
Sharma, R.P., Gavin, D.P. & Grayson, D.R.: CpG Methylation in Neurons: Message, Memory, or Mask?, Neuropsychopharmacology, 35, 2009–2020, 2010; ex Conclusion: "CpG methylation is a stable covalent annotation of the genome, and provides a ready mechanism for the coding of new information in the brain. This modification has long been shown to influence gene regulation. [...] Appropriate genome-wide methylation is required for the long-term survival and functioning of neurons. In the fully matured post-mitotic state, neurons can modify methylation profiles in response to hypoxia, membrane depolarization, behavioral conditioning, and pharmacological perturbation. [...] We can now say with little reservation that given the scale of operations, from the single base to the genome, it is very likely that CpG methylation affects all three functions, message, memory, and the integration of promoter circuits by a mask-like function."
Skene, P.J., Illingworth, R.S., Webb, S., Kerr, A.R., James, K.D., Turner, D.J., Andrews, R. & Bird, A.P.: Neuronal MeCP2 is expressed at near histone-octamer levels and globally alters the chromatin state, Mol. Cell., 37, 457–468, 2010.
Takahashi, K. & Yamanaka, S.: Induction of pluripotent stem cells from mouse embryonic and adult fibroblast cultures by defined factors, Cell, 126, 663–676, 2006.
The Holy Bible, (Authorized) King James' Version, Deut. 5:16, Barker, London, 1611.
Thompson, S.P. (1851–1916): Calculus Made Easy, Macmillan, London, 1910.
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Waddington, C.H.: The Strategy of Genes, Unwin & Allen, London, 1957.
Wheeler, D.J.: Understanding Variation; The Key To Managing Chaos, SPC Press, Knoxville, 1993.
Zelenka, J.D. (1679–1745): Lamentatione II pro die Veneris Sancto, Dresden, 1722; scored for Alto, violin, chalumeau, bassoon and basso continuo, recorded in 1982 by members of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, and redistributed in 1991 on compact disc by Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (GD 77112).
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