I’m waiting to hear back from my editor about The language of my former heart (writer clock and publishing clock dance in dissonance in a black hole) and biding my time collecting digital ephemera related to the story. Like the cocktail party effect I’m hyper-tuned in to elements of my story floating in the world. And I can’t resist chasing synchronicity.
The language of my former heart takes place in three time periods. Carl Saker, the hero of the Georgian story, makes and sells microscopes and works at night to be the first astronomer to prove the existence of a new planet using mathematics.
In their excellent post, “Germs Discovered in 1835,” Two Nerdy History Girls illustrate the terror and violent disbelief that often follow a scientific discovery.
From The Athenaeum, 26, September 1835: ‘An Essay on the Nature of Diseases, by A. Green, L.L.B.‘—An essay on mirth by an undertaker, we could understand, for things may be defined by their contraries; but an essay on diseases by an L.L.B., was rather puzzling, until the secret transpired in the few first pages. The author has been to see the oxy-hydrogen microscope exhibited, and has been “ frighted from his propriety” by the spectacle. His hallucination is, that all diseases are occasioned by animalculae; and his logical formula is this: “ whatever may be, may be; nothing prevents it from being, therefore it is.” Read more at Two Nerdy History Girls
“The proposition that animalcules are the causes of all diseases is not new, neither is it true. Thus to imagine that animalcules are the cause of all continued and intermittent fevers, all contagious diseases, syphilis, plague, hydrophobia, small-pox, measles, hooping-cough, scarlatina, sea-scurvy … appears to us not only untenable, but perfect nonsense.”—London Medical and Surgical Journal 1835. – Read more at Two Nerdy History Girls
In the scene below Carl is arguing with a doctor about the implications of a controversial astronomical discovery by William Herschel.
EXCERPT The language of my former heart
“The image revealed through that microscope exists now and has existed in that shape long before we were able to see it,” Carl said. “Yet men of earlier centuries might have denied its existence until their dying breath. Herschel has already proved the existence of radiant heat. And he has found a pattern linking the appearance of sunspots to rising and falling corn prices. What possible reason could there be to ignore a pattern that has already been identified?”
“What reason is there to assume that the two patterns are linked in any way?” Mr. Baylis said genially. “One could as easily point to the sunspots and the rise and fall of birth rates in the City but I doubt there is any meaningful connection between the two.”
Carl forgot his exhaustion.“What would you do if you could uncover the cause of disease and use that information to predict when an epidemic might emerge?”
“The rich already take advantage of the Bills of Mortality in order to escape the presence of plague,” Mr. Baylis said. “The poor still die in the same numbers.”
Carl curled his long fingers into one another behind his back and took a steadying breath. “If we had a method to predict which years would be bad for grain we could make arrangements so that fewer people would go hungry,” he said. “Your hospital would be emptier if people were well-fed.”
“Then I might be out of a job and hungry myself,” Mr. Baylis said winking. He reached for Carl’s shoulder. “Calm yourself, Mr. Saker, I was joking.”
Carl exhaled and stepped back.
“You’re not an astronomer, Mr. Saker,” Mr. Baylis said, poking Carl in the chest with his soft finger. “You’re a reformist.”
“Everything is connected,” Carl said. “That is what Humboldt is trying to prove.”
“But what of stars and planets?” Mr. Baylis said. “What of a new Uranus?” he added, using German astronomer Johann Bode’s name for the Georgian Planet.
“There’s enough time for that,” Carl said.
“How old are you?” Mr. Baylis asked.
“Twenty-one,” Carl said.
The round man laughed. “Ah. Well I hope you’re not wasting your vital years entirely on cold stars and sunspots. There are warmer bodies here in London that are just as mysterious.” Mr. Baylis winked, and ushered Carl out of the alcove.
“I’ll send you the money by the end of the month,” Mr. Baylis said. “Unexpected expenses,” he added sheepishly. “Good day, Mr. Saker.”