November 21, 2010

Sir George Scharf's diary

My curiosity was piqued, reading about Sir George Scharf's light fingers with Richard II's relics.  Luckily his acquisitiveness has benefited historians today.  

And as a methodical man, Sir George kept a diary filled with both the sublime and the mundane.  It always strikes me as peculiar that what we consider trivial about today's activities (what we ate for lunch, that the trains were on strike, how much we paid for a coffee), are considered highly important facts for social historians of the future.  The moral is, therefore, "leave a written record for posterity."  So many important people lived through the first days of the telephone's appearance in society, yet so few recorded their impressions or their opinions on the import of this invention.  Did they not realise its significance?

Sir George noted in his diary for May 1878 that he visited the Royal Society to view experiments being performed with the telephone.  He was "much interested."  Among the sounds reproduced  were "long sentences" in Greek and four voices singing "God Save the Queen."  "Heigh diddle diddle" was also heard performed "slowly & gravely."

Another interesting tidbit - the annual report for 1899 records that the National Gallery installed in that year a telephone connection to the fire station in Old Scotland Yard.  Considering the importance of the building and its contents, they should have had a telephone connection years earlier.  But, better late than never.

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Digital Telephone Book by Elizabeth Chairopoulou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.