Sunday, July 24, 2011

Today -100: July 24, 1911: Of war widows and x-raying souls


Remember how until recently they kept discovering new “last Confederate widows,” some 100-year-old woman who’d married a 100-year-old Confederate veteran when she was a teenager? Well, in 1911 there was at least one living War of Independence widow. Born in 1800, at 19 she married one Hiram Proctor, a veteran of both the Revolution and the War of 1812. She gets a $12 a month pension because of his service in the latter war, and is cared for in a tumble-down cabin in North Carolina by her 90-year-old daughter.

There is a serious scientific dispute going on about whether the human soul can be x-rayed. An experiment is about to be conducted at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Duncan MacDougall of Haverhill, Mass. thinks that it can’t be done, because the skull gets in the way, except perhaps at death, when the soul substance becomes more agitated. He says it gives off a light just like that of interstellar ether. Oh, and that the soul weighs between ½ and 1¼ ounces. MacDougall has performed experiments on dying people that prove it.

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