The past is a foreign country.
Literature can take you there.
Young John Goodricke practiced astronomy in late 18th century England, a time with a new sensitivity towards nature. The scientists who explored it have often been depicted as lone amateurs toiling away in lonely garrets. A romantic metaphor perhaps, but one true in the case of Goodricke. Despite his genius he was humble and self-effacing, qualities all too often absent from our own narcissistic culture.
Achievement in science was one thing, but something else entirely for someone deaf from early childhood. It may have been the ‘Enlightenment’, but prospects for the deaf were bleak in a culture more callous than caring. Goodricke’s parents, however, were both progressive and determined. They enrolled him in the first school for the deaf in in all Great Britain thus beginning his path to later pioneering work.
Goodricke’s Time is an historical novel, but not an alternate history. Samuel Johnson, William Herschel, Thomas Braidwood, Edward Pigott, Joseph Banks and Nevil Maskelyne all play their part on the page as they did in life. It is a tale of disability, dogged science and the conflict between solitude and loneliness we all carry within.
Lowell Through Time
Lowell Through Time visually explores how this riverfront city has adapted to changes in architecture, commerce, demographics and entertainment. The rigid demands of textile manufacturing drove its initial layout, walling off the city proper from the Merrimack River by a ‘mile of mills’. The southward migration of this industry began as far back as the nineteenth century. Later shifts in shopping and entertainment patterns further weakened the commercial core. Other cities in Massachusetts also suffered economic downturns, but Lowell has rebounded better than most, undergoing a mini-renaissance with an expanding university, destination as a National Park and a resurrected business district. Industrial architecture was seen as heritage rather than blight and its demolition halted. Preservation of Lowell’s past did not stop entrepreneurial activity, however. Old textile mills, former department stores, fire stations and schools have been recycled. Lowell may now look much the same, but, in many ways, it is not. These photos tell something of that story.
Martha’s Vineyard Through Time I
This book is written for those who visit Martha’s Vineyard, but know little about it. Its rich history is briefly reviewed in the introduction. Following this the nature, extent and direction of many of the changes that have occurred are identified through the comparison of paired photographs taken well over one hundred years apart. Change usually occurs gradually, incrementally, but here we can comprehend its outcome in an instant. Martha’s Vineyard is a small island, but it is a large subject. The theme of this book is largely kept to the design of hardscape and landscape. Because it is an island fashionable design trends did not cycle through here as they have on the mainland, allowing much of the local architecture to remain idiosyncratic and iconic. Another generator of this island’s atmosphere has been its development as a summer destination and retreat. A companion book, Martha’s Vineyard Through Time, Tourism and the Cleansing Sea, will be available in summer 2021.
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Martha’s Vineyard Through Time II
No East Coast summer resort has as intriguing an origin as that of Martha’s Vineyard. Before it became a tourist mecca, it already had thousands of summer visitors, but visitors who came for salvation, not the sun. Wesleyan Grove, the site of perhaps the most successful campground revivals held anywhere, provided congregants communal support for new their evangelical lives. The Vineyard Campground, however, also attracted those who craved physical expression in sunshine and sea air even more. Local investors inevitably recognized the financial opportunity this presented, leading to the creation of Cottage City. This was the first town in America laid out and built expressly for tourism. Images documenting this period are herein paired with contemporary photographs. There have been changes, but the basic yearnings of summer vacationers remain as they were over one hundred fifty years ago. A previous volume, Martha’s Vineyard Through Time, The Present in the Past, focuses more on the Island’s architecture than commercialization.
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Grounds for Review explores the role of the garden festival in modern urban planning and design. More than mere temporary horticultural expositions, garden festivals have significance as planing stratagems, reclamation projects, public art venues, and precursors of new urban parks. Typically exceeding 50 hectares, they stimulate development and steer set design through a unique merger of domestic garden culture with a large-scale urban project. Nevertheless, their impact on the urban landscape has been understated or overlooked, especially by the American design community. This is the first comprehensive book on the subject.
A.C. Theokas has long been lured by the history of science. Through it we learn about inspirational men and women who thought freely and went against convention to do so. There is often great drama in this with remarkable real-life stories such as that of John Goodricke. Theokas believes a more personalized understanding of the experiences of those who have come before us is obtained through historical fiction. If it is true that travel broadens the mind, then what are we to make of the notion that the past itself is a foreign country? How might we best journey there? Museums or theme parks come to mind, but the more the past is appreciated for its own sake, the less real or relevant these become. It is literature that offers the more immersive experience. Theokas holds a doctorate in astronomy from The Victoria University of Manchester and studied urban design at Harvard University. He has lectured at Boston University, Villanova University and Harvard College, has published numerous papers in professional journals and a non-fiction work by Liverpool University Press. The third volume of his Martha’s Vineyard trilogy will be available in late spring 2023. Currently, he is working on a second historical novel, Chrysanthe’s Comet.