Tuesday

Oct. 1, 2013

Upon Westminster Bridge

by William Wordsworth

3 Sept, 1802

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear

The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

"Upon Westminster Bridge" by William Wordsworth, from Selected Poems. © Penguin Classics, 2005. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

The first installment of Gustave Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary (books by this author) began appearing in the Paris Review on this day in 1856 — the story of Emma Bovary, an unhappy woman who has an affair and in the end commits suicide. The novel was published in installments through December 15, 1856. The French government immediately brought Flaubert to trial on grounds of immorality, and he barely escaped conviction.

It's the birthday of author Tim O'Brien (books by this author), born in Worthington, Minnesota. He graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul and went to Harvard for graduate school. He was drafted to go to the Vietnam War, and he went, even though he was opposed to it. Before he went off to Vietnam, he was spending the day in northern Minnesota and had the chance to cross the border into Canada, but he decided not to. He said later: "I did not want people to think badly of me. My conscience told me to run, but I was ashamed of my conscience, ashamed to be doing the right thing." When he returned from Vietnam, he worked as an intern at The Washington Post. He left journalism after the publication of his book If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home (1973). Almost all of his books deal with the Vietnam War. O'Brien also wrote Going After Cacciato (1978), July, July (2002), and The Things They Carried (1990).

The Things They Carried (1990) is a series of linked short stories about a group of soldiers in Vietnam, including a soldier named Tim O'Brien. The title story is one of the most anthologized short stories in contemporary American literature. It begins: "First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack. In the late afternoon, after a day's march, he would dig his foxhole, wash his hands under a canteen, unwrap the letters, hold them with the tips of his fingers, and spend the last hour of light pretending."

Tim O'Brien said: "Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can't remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember but the story."

The first Computed Tomography scan was performed on a patient on this date in 1971. It's also known as a CT scan or sometimes a CAT scan, for Computed Axial Tomography. A CT scan produces images of cross sections or "slices" of the human body. It makes it possible for doctors to examine the soft tissues of the body, which are difficult to see with traditional X-rays. In 1971, the scanner took about five minutes to capture a single slice, and it took a couple of hours to produce a single image from the raw data. Today's scanners can capture multiple slices and return images, all in under a second.

The first diagnostic scan was performed at Atkinson Morley's Hospital in London, and the first patient was a woman who was suspected of having a tumor in her frontal lobe. The scan — quite blurry by today's standards — revealed what appeared to be a mass. When surgeons opened up the woman's skull, one of them remarked that it looked exactly like the picture. The CT scan had proved its usefulness.

Partial credit for the development of the CT scanner is due the Beatles, according to British radiologist Ben Timmis. That's because the band's recording label, EMI, heavily funded the research of the CT's inventor, Sir Godfrey Hounsfield. Because the Beatles sold so many records and made so much money for EMI, Hounsfield was able to devote four years of full-time work to the development of a commercial CT machine, which was called the EMI-Scanner.

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