Why the Mark Helprin quote in my Introduction?

Full access to Block by Block’s Introduction—and then some! they certainly share a lot!—is available on google books here (pp. xiii-xx). The Introduction shares the motivations that drove me along with the structure I created to guide me. In keeping with the intent of the series of posts I plan on publishing for the foreseeable future, which is to highlight a single idea from each chapter from my book, I want to draw your attention to the following quote that I used in the Introduction:

People say, Think if we hadn’t discovered Emily Dickinson. I say, Think of all the Emily Dickinsons we’ve never discovered” – Catherine Thomas Hale character in Mark Helprin’s In Sunlight and in Shadow

I chose this quote for two reasons, the first being that Mark Helprin is one of my favorite authors. A Soldier of the Great War, Winter’s Tale, Refiner’s Fire. Beautiful, magical writing. Of the many, many quotes I could have used, I chose the above because of my second reason: it captured the historical reality of thermodynamics.

I feel for those who toiled away at the experimentalist’s lab bench or the theoretician’s desk and generated results that were ignored by history. So many individuals were involved in creating the new field of thermodynamics, but we only see the few. This post is a simple but deeply felt acknowledgment to all of those “Emily Dickinsons” we never discovered.

Published by Robert T Hanlon

I earned my Sc.D. in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and subsequently conducted post-doctoral research at Karlsruhe University in Germany. My professional career took me to Mobil Oil Research & Development Corporation, the Rohm and Haas Company, and then back to MIT where I am currently involved with their School of Chemical Engineering Practice.

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