Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Timeline of Timelines

Issue 13 Spring 2004

A Timeline of Timelines

Compiled by Sasha Archibald & Daniel Rosenberg

This is an expanded version of a timeline that appeared in Cabinet's "Histories of the Future" issue. Daniel Rosenberg's introduction to the timeline can be found here. Although we have not been able to preserve the horizontal design, we have added additional entries for this web version. If there are omissions or errors, we'd love to hear from you. Please email Cabinet at this e-mail address.


Jewish scholar José ben Halafta calculates the exact length of time between Creation and the destruction of the Second Temple. By the Julian calendar, existence begins on Monday, 7 October 3761 BC at 10:10 pm.


In his Chronicle, Eusebius of Caesarea innovates the "canon table," a device to coordinate chronological events depicted in the Bible. Abraham's life structures the chronicle; events are matched to the age of Abraham and then to the year of various monarchies. Eusebius calculates the beginning of time as 5,198 years before the Incarnation.


Augustine's allegorical interpretation of the Biblical chronology forms a framework for interpreting human history according to the "six ages of man."


Scythian monk Dionysius Exiguus introduces the convention of dating events "Anno Domini."


Rule of St. Benedict organizes devotional practice around the "canonical hours" measured by the clock.


Muslim year 1 established by Caliph Umar I as 622.


In De Temporum Ratione, Bede calculates the beginning of time at 3,952 years before the Incarnation. In The Ecclesiastical History, Bede implements the "Dionysian system" of dating in relation to the birth of Christ.


An anomalous graph appears in an edition of Macrobius's commentary on Cicero's In Somnium Scipionis, an analysis of physics and astronomy. The drawing, probably added to the text by a transcriber, plots planetary and solar movement as a function of time. Although the graph does not seem to convey accurate information, it is nonetheless the first known example of changing values measured against a time axis.


Moses Maimonides promotes use of the mundane era among Jewish scholars.

12-13th CENTURY

Explosion of narrative genres including the lay, fabliau, and romance. Rise of the notion of Purgatory as a variable, measurable, and manipulable period in the after life.

12-13th CENTURY

Jesse Trees, pictorial depictions of Christ's royal ancestry as given in Matthew, proliferate in medieval manuscripts, murals, and stained glass windows. Jesse, the father of King David and the claimed ancestor of the Virgin, is typically pictured at the base of the scene, the tree's trunk growing from his navel.


Following the Franconian reforms, music becomes a true time series. Franco of Cologne's (c.1240-c.1280) treatise Ars cantus mensurabilis codifies a system of music notation that fixes the durational value of notes, while their relative value is measured against the breve, Franco's base unit of musical time.


The pivotal year in humanity's transition to the third and final "state" of history according to Joachim of Fiore (1135-1202). Twelfth- and thirteenth-century renderings depict Joachim's system of historical states (status) and phases (aetates) as trees, chains, and ladders.

14-15th CENTURY

A genre of illuminated private prayer books, the Book of Hours contains the texts of certain prayers to be said at the canonical hours; the devotionals are often prefaced with a richly illustrated 12-month calendar, depicting events common to each month or season.


Leon Battista Alberti's I Libri della famiglia insists on the importance of a literal accounting of the hours of the day.


By highlighting its anachronisms, Lorenzo Valla shows the much-disputed Church document, The Donation of Constantine, to be a forgery.


The Nuremburg Chronicle of the World depicts the creation of the earth with seven concentric circles. Also of note, the Chronicle represents royal ancestry with portraits interconnected with vines to indicate marriage and parenthood, thereby participating in a broader tradition that associates genetic lineage and arboreal growth. image below

c. 1500

Leonardo da Vinci is both the first to use rectangular coordinates to analyze the velocity of falling objects and the first to recognize a correlation between the particular climate and precipitation of a given time period and the shape of the resultant tree rings.


Jean Bodin's Method for the Easy Comprehension of History argues for an absolute chronology that applies to all historical events regardless of place, time, or culture.


Gregorian calendar reform instituted. Ten days dropped from the year. October 5-14, 1582 do not take place.


In his Opus novum de emendatione temporum, Joseph Scaliger attempts to produce a complete and self-contained chronology of world history including translation tables for integrating all existing chronologies. His Thesaurus temporum (1606) collects and arranges all of the available ancient chronological sources.


Henri Voisin de la Popelinière, History of Histories.


Galileo plots the speed of a rolling ball on a time axis.


Religious and political ferment in England produces numerous apocalyptic tracts including Joseph Mede's Key of the Revelation. The Key maps the end of history onto a complex graphical figure combining cyclical and linear forms. image below


Domenicus Petavius argues that orienting a chronological system around the birth of Christ is pure convention. His Rationarium temporum rigorously separates questions of history from those of chronology and maintains that chronology is a purely technical specialty.


James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, publishes a widely influential calculation of Biblical chronology, placing the beginning of time at 23 October 4004 BC. Twenty-five years later, Thomas Guy begins printing Bibles annotated with Ussher's chronology; Bibles inscribed with Ussher's dates remain in print until the early 20th century.


In Praeadamitae, Isaac Lapeyrère argues that Scripture authorizes belief in human existence prior to Adam.


Three years after La Peyrère's Praeadamitae, the Jesuit missionary Martino Martini published the first Chinese chronology in the West: Historiae sinicae decas prima. Father Martini based his work on the traditional Chinese chronologies and came to the shocking conclusion that authentic Chinese history goes back to the year 2952 B.C., i.e., 600 years prior to the year fixed by the Hebrew Bible for the Great Flood. This meant that China had to be inhabited long before the flood. Martini did not try to reconcile Biblical with Chinese chronology, but many of his successors did: Martini's work had demonstrated the importance of the use of Chinese historical records, and such records and their interpretation henceforth became a crucial ingredient of world chronologies.[Thanks to Professor Urs App for this entry]


Christopher Wren's weather clock is one of a plethora of new mechanic self-registering devices that produce automated moving graphs of various natural forces; Wren's weather clock, for example, generates a continuous line graph of temperature and wind direction.


Baruch Spinoza's Tractatus theologico-politicus criticizes the tradition of religious prophecy and argues for a historical interpretation of Scripture.


In an attempt to synchronize Biblical history with new geological ideas, Thomas Burnet's The Sacred Theory of the Earth argues that the great deluge was the result of waters underneath the earth's surface breaking through the earth's crust, thereby destroying what Burnet believed to be the earth's pre-flood state—a perfectly smooth, featureless surface, like that of an egg. The book's frontispiece is a series of drawings depicting the cycle of stages in the geological history of the Earth beginning at Creation and culminating in the Apocalypse.


Jacques Bossuet's Discours sur l'histoire universelle.


Isaac Newton's Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica proposes a theory of absolute time. Newton's posthumous Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended (1728) uses astronomical observations to argue that the Kingdom of Israel antedated those of Egypt and Greece.


After Cromwell's invasion of Ireland, Sir William Petty is hired to formulate a methodology for assessing and partitioning the spoils; his Discourse on Political Arithmetic (1690) applies this "political arithmetic" to England. Because the methodology involves calculating a total value index based on all "properties" of the country—people, land and infrastructure—it impels not only the collection of vast amounts of data, but new methods of visually depicting that data.


Pierre Bayle's Dictionnaire historique et critique treats figures from secular and religious sources within a single scholarly apparatus. The second edition concludes with an exhaustive 10-page "Chronological Table of all the Eminent Persons Treated in this Dictionary." The table begins with Adam and ends in 1700.


The convention of dating events BC becomes popular.


In La Scienza Nuova, Giambattista Vico criticizes both the astronomical and mathematical basis of 17th-century chronology and proposes a new universal chronology based on a theory of cyclical human progress. La Scienza Nuova includes a chronological table that aligns the histories of the Hebrews, Chaldeans, Scythians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans beginning with the Deluge.


Jacques Barbeu-Duborg, the French translator and disciple of Benjamin Franklin, creates his Carte chronologique, a 54-foot timeline of history from Creation contained in an iron case. image below


Building on da Vinci and Galileo's early use of vertical and horizontal axes, mathematician Leonard Euler establishes the modern convention that axes must be perpendicular.


Laurence Sterne's novel, Tristram Shandy, includes a set of sketches indicating the non-linear path of a well-told story; narrative digressions appear as deviations from a straight line. image below


The German philosopher and scientist J. H. Lambert is credited with observing that diagrams may do "incomparably better service" to the sciences than tables. Lambert's Pyrométrie (1779) includes tabular data of the rise and fall of annual temperatures, from which a curved line can be easily extrapolated.


Joseph Priestley, an English chemist, publishes the first of several timelines that contemporary audience would recognize as such: "A Chart of Biography" compares the life spans of 2,000 celebrated men from 1200 BC to 1750 AD, using bars set against a linear time axis to denote their life spans. image below


John Harrison awarded prize for successful invention of a marine chronometer.


Louis-Sébastien Mercier publishes perhaps the first future fiction. The Year 2440 describes French society and culture after seven centuries of progress.


In his Les Époques de la nature, the French naturalist Buffon argues that the Earth may be as much as 75,000 years old. In unpublished manuscripts, he speculates that it may be more than 3 million years old.


Immanuel Kant criticizes Newton's conception of absolute time in The Critique of Pure Reason.


Immanuel Kant, An Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View.


Joseph Priestley's timeline was shortly followed by political economist William Playfair's invention of the bar chart, an innovation whose merits remained unrealized for several decades. As a young man, Playfair worked in the shop of James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, where he was likely acquainted with Watt's self-registering device for measuring steam pressure.


Last volume of Johann Gottfried Herder's Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind published.


Introduction of French Revolutionary calendar declaring September 1792 as the beginning of the new "Year One."


The patenting and marketing of graph paper—preprinted with a rectangular coordinate grid—attests to the growing use of Cartesian coordinates in scientific data analysis.


Condorcet's Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of Mankind, a ten-stage account of human perfectibility from primitive to philosophical times.


Thomas Malthus, Essay on the Principle of Population, argues that while human population tends to increase geometrically,the means of human subsistence can only increase arithmetically.


The Encyclopædia Britannica contains a fold-out chart designed by Adam Ferguson "representing at one view the rise and progress of the principal state and empires of the known world" from the Deluge in 1656 Anno Mundi to 1900 Anno Domini (the years after 1797 are blank).


Jean-Baptiste Lamarck publishes Zoological Philosophy containing an evolutionary family tree branching out from simpler to more complex organisms.


Josiah Holbrook's broadside, Geography and Chronology are the Two Lights to History, depicts time as a branched tree, in an attempt to literalize Christ's statement in the New Testament: "I am the vine, ye are the branches." Each limb of the tree represents one hundred years, and each branch 10; the root structure encompasses the period before Christ.


William Smith's detailed and systematic geological maps of Britain including his Strata Identified by Organized Fossils inspire new theories of natural chronology.


Leopold von Ranke's History of the Latin and Germanic Nations from 1494 to 1514 offers the famous dictum that history "only wants to show what actually happened."


Charles Lyell's "uniformitarian" thesis. His Principles of Geology argues that all geological forms may be explained in terms of common natural processes assuming a long enough time scale.


The last of G.W.F. Hegel's lectures, on which his Philosophy of History (1837) was based.


Felix Bodin's Le Roman de l'avenir gives the first historical account of futuristic fiction.


First publication of Disturnell's Railway and Steamship Books.

May 1844

Religious leader William Miller acknowledges to his Adventists followers that his prediction that the world would end by March 1844 was erroneous; Miller promises the end by October 1844. When October passes without incident, the (non)event becomes known by Adventists as "The Great Disappointment."


Auguste Comte, Positivist Calendar of 558 Worthies of All Ages and Nations.


First use of the term "prehistoric" in English.


Florence Nightingale, a major innovator of statistical graphs and diagrams, submits her "Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East" as part of her Report to the Royal Commission on the Health of the Army. The diagrams demonstratethat over the course of the Crimean War, British deaths owe principally to "preventable or mitigable" diseases rather than battlefield wounds. image below


Charles Darwin's Origin of Species traces species' genealogies back more than 300 million years.


In his Critique of Political Economy, Karl Marx describes four great stages of history organized by modes of production.


Charles Joseph Minard's Carte figurative de pertes successives en hommes de l'Armée Française dans la campagne de Russie 1812-1813. Among the finest of Minard's graphical works, this chart plots the catastrophic loss of men in relation to place, time, and temperature during Napoleon's march to Moscow. image below


Sebastian Adams, Synchronological Chart or Map of History, an encyclopedic chart based on Ussher's dating system. A later version by Charles Deacon and Edward Hull continues to be available and reprinted under the title Wall Chart of World History.


Eadweard Muybridge and E. J. Marey each begin work in "chronophotography."


Friedrich Nietzsche's critique of historicism in The Use and Abuse of History.


Charles Renouvier's counterfactual Uchronie includes a chart depicting the theoretical relationship between the actual course of history and possible alternative paths. image below


The word "graph" is coined in English by the mathematician James Joseph Sylvester. (Lambert referred to his graphs as "figuren," Watt as "diagrams," and Playfair as "lineal arithmetic.")


Wilhelm Wundt's experiments to determine the duration of the present.


English Parliament gives legal sanction to Greenwich Mean Time.


International Meridian Conference establishes the Prime Meridian at Greenwich Observatory in England.


In Time and Free Will, Henri Bergson argues for a distinction between the homogeneous mathematical conception of time and heterogeneous experience of duration. He insists that the experience of time cannot be represented in a linear fashion.


H. G. Wells's Time Machine.


Stéphane Mallarmé's Un Coup de dés.


Ernst Te Peerdt, The Problem of the Representation of Instants of Time in Painting and Drawing.


Andrew Ellicott Douglass founds the field of dendrochronology by inventing a system whereby known sequences of events (floating chronologies) can be fixed to specific years (absolute chronologies) via the scientific analysis of tree rings.
image below


George Beard's American Nervousness.


Henry Adams' "Law of Acceleration."


Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity.


Raymond Poincaré convenes the International Conference on Time.


Emile Durkheim's Elementary Forms of Religious Life argues that the calendar expresses the rhythm of collective activity.


Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger's treatise on Cubism, Du Cubisme, articulates the Cubist approach as "moving around an object so as to record successive views of it which, when combined in a single image, reconstitute it in time."


In their 19th-century notebook sketches, evolution theorists represented cross-generational reproduction with concentric circles. In the case of this eugenics diagram, Arthur Estabrook and Charles Davenport use these visual cues to chart the members of the Nam family, aiming to convey the dizzying expansiveness of degenerates' unchecked reproduction. image below


Edmund Husserl elaborates his notion of the "specious present" as he completes his series of lectures entitled The Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness.


Eugène Minkowski begins How We Live the Future (and Not What We Know of It).


First volume of Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West is published.


The final installment of H.G. Wells' bi-weekly periodical, Outline of History: A Plain History of Life and Mankind, includes a comprehensive timeline that comprehensively depicts events from 1,000 BC to the present day.


James Joyce's Ulysses.


Sigmund Freud, "A Note on the Mystic Writing Pad."


Gertrude Stein: "Beginning again and again is a natural thing even when there is a series. Beginning again and again and again explaining composition and time is a natural thing."


Marcel Proust completes On the Remembrance of Things Past.


Werner Heisenberg argues that conventional understandings of time, space, and causation do not apply at the subatomic level.


Invention of the quartz clock.


English philosopher Olaf Stapleton investigates the future of the human race through fiction. Stapleton's two-billion year narrative, Last and First Men, includes a series of timelines highlighting the difficulty of translating conventional scales of human history into an evolutionary framework.


Victor Houteff publishes his religious philosophy in The Shepherd's Rod Vol. 1-2; his illustrative timelines convey the fast-approaching end of the world. Followers of his teachings include David Koresh.


Salvador Dali's The Persistence of Memory.


In a presentation to the Board of Trustees at the Museum of Modern Art, Alfred Barr, the museum's founding director and an amateur military historian, outlines the (soon abandoned) collection plan of MOMA with sketches of time as a torpedo. As the torpedo moves ahead through time, the work positioned at the back of Barr's torpedo passes from MOMA's collection to that of the Metropolitan, allowing MOMA to stay on the cusp of the modern. image below


Radiocarbon dating.


Fernand Braudel theorizes the history of the longue durée.


The Olympic Games in London make use of Omega's photofinish camera.


Invention of the atomic clock. In 1967, the length of the second will be redefined by use of this device.


Studies of the damage wrought by atom bombs prompt timelines broken into infinitely smaller fragments of time. image below


Electronic time-keeping devices entirely replace live judges in certifying race winners at the Olympics in Mexico City.


The year of the Apocalypse according to Dionysius Exiguus.


Throughout the late 20th century, professional semioticians struggle with the problem of constructing an iconographic language capable of communicating radiation dangers long after the death of current languages. Several of these symbolic systems are prepared for nuclear facilities, including the US government nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. image below


The year 2000.


Daniel Rosenberg is Assistant Professor of History in the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon. His next book concerns the history of the past. Sasha Archibald is an associate editor at Cabinet and a Helena Rubinstein Fellow in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

prosthetic God

Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God.

When he puts on all his auxiliary organs he is truly magnificent;

but those organs have not grown on to him and they still give him much trouble at times.

Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)