News Flash: Europe not center of known universe after all
I'm going to be a little longer with the MA-thing. I've gotten an extension until the 22nd of May because of some logistical issues.
But I just wanted to share something I learned today completely by accident. As it turns out, Gutenberg didn't invent movable type first after all. In fact, a fellow named Bi Sheng did, in China, way back in the 1040's sometime. His type was made out of baked clay, which was later turned into wooden type by others.
And as if that wasn't enough to shake my eurocentric view of the universe, it turns out that Michel de Montaigne was not the first essayist, either! Well, I knew that, actually. He just popularised it, and created a really elegant style in it. But I was intrigued by the introduction to this Wikipedia article on Shen Kuo, a Chinese polymath and scholar:
...Because this is basically the biography of Michel de Montaigne, set in China. Montaigne was a noted statesman and occasional soldier who sort-of-retired from public life to a country estate near Bordeaux (which he was also elected mayor of twice, while being sort-of-retired from public life). He spent his days reading and writing in his tower and occasionally combating the plague in nearby Bordeaux.The Dream Pool Essays (Pinyin: Meng Xi Bi Tan; Wade-Giles: Meng Ch'i Pi T'an Chinese: 梦溪笔谈) was an extensive book written by the polymath Chinese scientist and statesman Shen Kuo (1031-1095) by 1088 AD, during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) of China. Although Shen was previously a highly renowned government official and military general, he compiled this enormous written work while virtually isolated on his lavish garden estate near modern-day Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province. He named the book after the name he gave to his estate, the "Dream Brook". The literal translated meaning is Brush Talks from a Dream Brook, and in his biography in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography (New York 1970-1990), Shen Kuo is quoted as saying:
Because I had only my writing brush and ink slab to converse with, I call it Brush Talks.
Lesson: the Chinese do everything before we do, and get only a fraction of the credit for it.
Oh, and if you haven't read Montaigne, you really, really should.