The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

August 4, 2013

August 4, 1911

Hiram King (June 8, 1848 to August 4, 1911) graduated from Cornell University with a degree in agricultural science, or, as Garrison Keillor says, "agricultural physics", a field King helped shape. Here is Keillor's summary:

It's the birthday of the world's first professor of agricultural physics, Franklin Hiram King ...born on a farm near Whitewater, Wisconsin (1848). In 1888, King was hired by the University of Wisconsin in Madison to start a department of agricultural physics.
His most famous legacy from his years at Madison was the invention of the cylindrical silo. He was always looking for ways to reduce waste in farming, and he was struck by how much silage rotted in the corners of traditional rectangular silos. So he invented a cylindrical silo, which quickly became the standard for farmers across the country, transforming the rural landscape. Frank Lloyd Wright is said to have based his design for the Guggenheim Museum on King's idea.

Corners were not the only thing that occupied Hiram King. He published a number of books and we quote now from Ventilation for dwellings, rural schools and stables (1908), under the chapter section titled, "Light for dwellings and stables":

In the construction of every dwelling much care should be taken to secure an ample amount of light, in the kitchen, in the dining room and above all in the main living rooms. An abundance of light is needed not only, to facilitate work but to make the best of intentions more certain in attaining results. Besides, it requires an effort to be gloomy and feel ugly in the face of a hearty laugh and a bright sunny, cheerful room has much the same effect upon those who occupy it. Many disease germs are enfeebled by direct sunshine or are destroyed by it. Who has not observed the cat deliberately seek out the sunny spot on the carpet for the good feeling that comes with it and lasts after it. A sunny window is equally needed and enjoyed by the members of the family whose duties confine them so exclusively to the house.

[The] number, size and exposure of windows best suited to the requirements of dwellings and stables is not well established either in philosophy or in practice. It should go without saying, however, that sufficient window space must be provided to admit ample light for doing all necessary work with dispatch and efficiency and without an undue strain upon the eyes. How far beyond supplying such an amount of light it is best to go there is yet much room for difference of opinion, owing to the present state of knowledge, as to the efficiency of light of different intensities...

Hiram King's scientific approach breaks down a bit on the subject of cats, and he allows himself to get less scientific and more poetic, perhaps, when he mentions the good feelings cats have AFTER the sunshine is gone.  In my years studying the physics of writing a cat blog, no one else ever mentioned the after effects of a nap in a sunny spot, as an aspect of cat behavior. There are a couple of other items in this excerpt that seem misaligned with the stated intent of the author. Perhaps this results from the perspective of a century.

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