Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chapter 34 - "Don't You See The Electron?": Part 5 - The Queer Duck and the French Secretary

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

Korzybski had already gotten copies of one or more of his chapters to Bridgman, Roy Haywood, Bell, Graven, Luella Twining, and Mira (and perhaps a few others). But, since the early summer he had been desperately looking for someone to type for him. What an onerous job it would be if he had to personally type enough copies of the manuscript (even using carbon paper) for everyone he wanted to get it to. He also felt the need to have someone check his English to help him ‘smooth’ it out—he realized the book’s linguistic innovations would make his prose seem odd enough without having, in addition, unnecessary non-fluencies possibly arising because English was not his native language. 

When he first came to Pasadena, he had met some fans of Manhood of Humanity, a couple named the Witherspoons, who lived nearby. He had gone to their house several times for tea. Mrs. Witherspoon had writing and editing experience and initially had some interest in helping Alfred with the book. Perhaps she could find a typist for him. But she didn’t quite seem to understand the unusual and difficult scope of what Alfred was trying to produce in the book (something both scientists and scientific laymen would find usable). Beside that, Mr. Witherspoon was having health problems, which began to occupy her attention. Alfred was going to have to keep looking for help.

Another avenue of possible help opened up when he met Dr. Anita Muhl, a psychiatrist then living in San Diego who had worked at St. Elizabeths prior to his time there. Alfred had several meetings with her. She was interested in his work and knew a psychologist and pre-med student, Helene Powner, who might be able to help Alfred in exchange for private classes in non-aristotelian, physico-mathematical methods. Miss Powner didn’t have the typing skills Alfred needed, though she did develop an interest in his work. She met several times with him to talk about her career decisions and health problems. Alfred gave her his Time-Binding booklets and taught her some of the basics of his approach to helping people. (She later wrote to him thanking him for the advice he had given her.) A friend of hers, who did have the clerical skills that Alfred needed, apparently didn’t work out either.

Not until sometime in the fall of 1928 (probably November) did Alfred finally get the typing and English help he needed. Calvin Bridges, who had just come to Pasadena, provided the means for both. Thomas Hunt Morgan had been invited by Millikan to start a biology department at Caltech and had brought along Bridges, an indispensable member of his Columbia University genetics team, as a research associate. (Bridges retained his status as a research fellow with The Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C.) Morgan, Bridges, and others moved their famous “fly room” from New York City to Pasadena for the fall term. Bridges, who died unexpectedly in 1938, worked there for the remainder of his career.

In 1928, soon after he came to town, Bridges hooked up with his old friend Korzybski who, years later, told of their time together:
…Dr. Calvin Bridges, an outstanding geneticist. He’s the fly man. He was dealing with the Drosophila Melanogaster. He was already a lonesome man and he was interested very much in social problems. He didn’t read much [outside of his field] and he spent all the time in the laboratory playing and observing all the time many many generations of flies, fruit flies they call it in English. It was a very important work and the main point of it was that he took care of them for a great many generations. This is the main point. So this was a sort of sacred work because the flies had to be kept from generation to generation alive to carry on eventual studies of heredity. But he was very lonesome. He was a married man with children. There was a French girl who was a perfectly good typist in English. She did some secretarial work and she followed from New York Bridges to Pasadena. To avoid some sort of scandals, I sort of protected [them] and Bridges who was a very close friend of mine came often to my cottage to advise me and eventually edited the first manuscript. The first manuscript of S&S I typed myself. Bridges corrected the English with me and then the French girl typed the corrected manuscript in many copies. I don’t know, four, five, or six. But it was already written up and edited…(31) 

As a newcomer to Caltech politics and as a ‘bohemian’ type who didn’t seem to concern himself much with the opinion other people had of him, Bridges didn’t seem prone to pay attention to any supposed ban on Korzybski:
Bridges…lived in a hotel on Colorado Avenue [Boulevard] somewhere and he also was all engrossed in his work and reading. He was a queer duck too. Completely devoted to his work and nothing but. And he was thinking more or less the way I did, and we were friends for so many years that he and I were simply like two brothers, and he was sort of a cook. He had some jalopy he bought for $50 or so because although he had a good salary, he lived, I believe, on $100 a month and $200 or so he was sending home to his wife and children. So he lived on actually $100 a month, and using his old clothes, looking like a tramp, but very serviceable. Occasionally he came to cook for himself and me, I don’t know what not. We were very chummy that way, and I wrote originally offhand with two fingers, typing with two fingers the entire manuscript. Then Bridges was reading, I made everything into two copies, so he read either in my place or in his place, most of the time in my place because he had a small hotel room. Because there was no fun there, so he preferred to have the larger freedom of our comparatively larger house. So he spent quite a bit of time in my place… 
I was older. He was sort of my student, so the relationship was not only friends and brothers but also that of teacher and student. We had a very, very pleasant relationship. And he was from a practical point of view very practical, hard working fellow anyway. So how much he helped me cooking, housekeeping, I don’t know, but anyway he helped. When his girl came from New York, the French girl, oh, I had to, oh I don’t know, had to shelter them somehow to prevent scandal. Everybody knew he was a married man and here came his girl, French girl, very expert typist, extremely fine girl just the same. She was madly in love with him. Then there was the three of us. They lived separately, means from me in town, but before they found their own places to live, I sheltered them in my house, being sort of chaperone. So I was pecking with two fingers the original manuscript, then we discussed what I have written without editing with Bridges. Then I began to edit what I have written with Bridges and still a question of English. In many ways, he was not trained physico-mathematically, and so he had sometimes objections through not understanding the physico-mathematical side. I had to explain them and I don’t know [what] not. And this was a good training for me because I had to explain. It was very, very good training. (32)

By the end of September 1928, Alfred had started writing about quantum mechanics. By the first part of November, he had completed this and all the more technical parts of the book (which eventually became Book III) and began the writing of his own stuff, the general theory of time-binding, which would become Book II of Science and Sanity. He found that section the easiest one to do but it still took him several months more to write this, a conclusion, and the first run-through of the preface. He felt eager to get the draft done. He missed Mira and had had enough of Pasadena and Southern California.
…After the whole book was edited and finished, edited originally by Bridges. He wrote English phrases. The book was not changed. This is quite, quite, I am quite proud of it, to be able to do such thing. The amount of memory and orientation, all of which was new to the attitude, that all is human behavior, mathematics and physics is human behavior. This was written in this way. After the whole thing was edited, the first editing, it was quite smooth reading. Then I had to, after this was finished, I had to rush East. (33) 

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
31. Korzybski 1947, pp 265–267. 

32. Ibid., 490–491. 

33. Ibid., pp. 492–493.

Part 4

No comments: