About Michael D. Barton

Welcome to Transcribing Tyndall: Letters of a Victorian Scientist, my new blog to go along with a research project I will be working on at Montana State University-Bozeman starting in September 2008. Earlier this year, my undergraduate advisor approached me about joining him to work on the John Tyndall Correspondence Project, the objective being to transcribe and publish all the known correspondence of the nineteenth-century Irish physicist and popularizer of science, John Tyndall. Basically, he said he needed a graduate student (I am starting the history graduate program this fall) to work with him to type out a particular set of Tyndall’s correspondence from digital images of the actual letters previously prepared by historian of science Bernard Lightman, who studies Victorian science and has focused on Tyndall before.

I would like to use this blog to share items I came across about Tyndall’s life and work (online or elsewhere), the information about Tyndall and Victorian science gleaned from the letters I transcribe (which will mostly deal with Tyndall’s time mountaineering in the Alps), and the experience of transcribing the letters itself. Through August I hope to read up on Tyndall a little, so that I am familiar with the man whose letters I will work with. My advisor is currently researching Tyndall himself (hence the reason for him being involved in the project), so I think I will be reading something of his, as well as publications of Tyndall’s, journal articles about him, etc. Hopefully I can post about some of the stuff I read.

A little about me: I am originally from southern California, where I did my general education at a community college, and was an intended biology major at San Diego State University before moving to Montana. I came to Montana State University thinking I was going to study paleontology, but before I even started my first semester I found out about the history of science option through the history department, met a professor who became my advisor, and changed my major. I generally focused on the life and work of Charles Darwin as an undergraduate student, and I also did a minor in Museum Studies, which brought me the opportunity to do a summer internship with a historian in Yellowstone National Park. The paper I wrote for that internship about religious language in descriptions of Yellowstone will be published as a shorter article in Yellowstone Science, I believe, later this summer. I keep a blog about Darwin and the history of natural history in general, called The Dispersal of Darwin. And I am married with a two-and-a-half year old son.

Published on May 1, 2008 at 5:01 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Michael,

    Just come across this. I’d heard of Lightman’s Tyndall project and now I discover who’s doing the transcription. I’m impressed. As the person responsible for naming the UK climate change centre after John Tyndall I’m interested in the man!

    In particular there is a letter I believe dated 1 June 1866 from Tyndall to James Croll discussing the possible role of ‘greenhouse gases’ in the ice age cycles Croll was trying to explain. Have you come across this one yet? Is there a transcription of it you could share?

    Mike

  2. Hi Mike – I am glad you came across my blog for MY work on Tyndall Project. Keep in mind that I am one of many who are/will be transcribing letters. A fellow PhD student and I are transcribing letters between Tyndall and Thomas Archer Hirst about mountaineering in the Alps. So I have not (nor do I think I will) come across the letter you are interested in. On top of that, I am bound to not share the content of letters because of their intended publication. You may want to direct your inquiry to Bernard Lightman, who is in charge of the project: http://www.arts.yorku.ca/huma/lightman/index.html

    Thanks again for the comment! It’s nice to hear from someone interested in Tyndall.

  3. A quick question: I’ve written a novel in which Tyndall briefly appears, and the audio version is being recorded next week. I just wanted to check the pronunciation of his name. Could you direct me to a source? Thanks very much.

  4. Hi Michael,
    I have scores of family letters, most of them written in the 1830s. I plan to transcribe them and wonder whether there are any transcription tools you would recommend to facilitate the process. I’m finding it very awkward to glance back and forth between the sometimes fragile, unfolded (but not lying flat) letter and the computer screen. I love reading the letters but am feeling a bit overwhelmed at how slow it’s going. What was your method?
    Thank you!

    • Hi Katherine – Thank you for reaching out! When I transcribed Tyndall letters, I received them from the project manager as image scans in Word documents. While some transcribers had two desktop screens or a desktop/laptop set up (and had the letter scan open on one while their Word document for typing out the transcription was on the other), I dd mine on the same screen. I would make the image scan fill up the top half of my screen, and the Word document for typing the words on the bottom half. I would only need to scroll down on the scan when I finished transcribing what was visible on the screen. This might seem tedious, but I got used to it real quick.

      Are you able to take hi-res photos of the letters?


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