Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hashime Murayama: Immigration, WWII and the Importance of the Scientific Career Path

On Friday, this photo of George Takei at the Rowher Internment Camp in Arkansas came up on my Facebook feed. The image, combined with my current research on marine science illustrators, led me to think about why internment camps, and the history of immigration, matters greatly to both the history of science, and to individuals who may be interested in pursuing scientific careers in today. 

Betty Smocovitis has written a paper on the impact Masuo Kodani's status as a Japanese immigrant had on his career as a geneticist in the mid- 20th century. Unlike other immigrant groups, Japanese immigrants had less support structure within the United States, and during WWII this lack of support lead to a drastically different war experience. Kodani was born in California and was a citizen, but his wife was a Japanese citizen (they met as students at Berkeley), and the Kodanis were interned at Manzanar during the war. Masuo continued to work on genetics in Manzanar and published work with Ledyard Stebbins. His experiences during the war were difficult, but the end of the war did not alleviate his suffering. Continued stress over the threatened deportation of his first and second wife lead to an unstable career after the war. In response to threats of deportation, the Kodanis moved to the United States, back to Japan, and after his second marriage, eventually to Columbia, Missouri- a career trajectory based, not on new and better opportunities  but fears of deportation. 

Smocovitis states that:

"Neither attaining the status of lead researchers in a stable work environment, nor being rendered entirely invisible in the scientific power structure at the time, Kodani occupied a social and intellectual space where his skills could be exploited and his insights make the occasional news, but where he was nonetheless doomed to play the role of temporary assistant or associate in any laboratory setting." (365)

Masuo's experience during and after the war are mirrored by those of a man I have been studying, the scientific illustrator Hashime Murayama. Unlike Kodani, Murayama was a Japanese immigrant, as was his wife. He came to the United States in 1905 and married his wife Nao in New York City in 1910. His sons were born in 1911 and 1919. 

The Murayama family in 1925.
Hashime was hired by National Geographic as the first staff illustrator in 1921. Known for his meticulous attention to detail combined with a romanticized style, his paintings were printed not only in National Geographic but in other scientific publications.

While little information exists on Murayama's work before or after WWII (although his paintings are readily available online- google him and you'll find little or no personal data but loads of beautiful watercolors being sold as prints), some stories survive. In Alice Carter's book on the history of illustration in National Geographic, she tells the tale of the Hashime's visit to the New York Aquarium to view living trout and salmon for a new illustration. The director of the Aquarium, Charles Townsend, had fresh fish brought in for Murayama to paint, but all of the fish died within days because the water temperature was too high. Despite the difficulties, Murayama produced amazing images from living specimens (see the one above). 

In 1941, Hashime was fired from National Geographic because of his immigrant status (even though, similar to Kodani's biography, his German immigrant counterparts were not fired) . He was interned with his family twice during the war- although little information exists about where they were relocated. These internments were short; Hashime's work with George Papanicolaou was considered important to American health and therefore a priority by the government. Before his work at National Geographic, Murayama worked at Cornell illustrating cell cultures. As Papanicolaou's work on cervical cancer accelerated during WWII, he chose Hashime to illustrate the cultures. It was this highly technical work that kept the family out of relocation camps- but the damage had already been done to his career path. 

It is somewhat easy today to find Murayama's marine illustrations; it's equally as easy to find his name in academic publications written by Papanicolaou who never failed to give Hashime credit for his amazing illustrations--but Murayama's accomplishments and his role as one of the principal scientific illustrators of his generation have been largely forgotten. 

In some sense, the fading of Murayama into history involves the change in his work during and after the war. Before he was fired from National Geographic, Murayama was a scientific illustrator, but in a certain sense he was also an independent artist. His style and his paintings were utilized in multiple ways- not just magazines but scientific publications and as stand-alone art. Hashime signed all of his work, a detail that is telling. His work, which is today sold in print form as "art", was also regarded in the early 20th century as both "art" and "illustration." 

Murayama in his studio at National Geographic. Known for his meticulous but romantic painting style, many of his scientific illustrators were also seen as stand-alone artwork.  Carter, The Art of National Geographic, 18.

Because of his immigrant status and treatment during the war, Hashime Murayama switched careers- from somewhat independent artistic illustrator to cell culture illustrator and an extension of the scientist's toolbox. Murayama was able to utilize one aspect of his artistic ability, his highly meticulous eye, but his romanticized vision of nature was stripped from his work. Hashime didn't sign his cell culture drawings for Papanicolaou, and even though he was acknowledged continuously be the researcher for his efforts, his work later in life failed to achieve the vision, or the personal freedom, exhibited by his work before the war. In fact, his images of cell cultures don't come up readily in google images and must be accessed in the papers for which they were published (Papanicolaou and Trout, 1941). Most of Murayama's drawings for Papanicolaou's research remained behind the scenes- part of the scientific process of understanding cervical cancer smears- not meant for public consumption. 

Murayama's biography is the exact opposite of many scientific illustrators during this period. Individuals like Charles Bradford Hudson and Charles R. Knight went from operating as an extension of researchers' tools to painting independently as naturalistic artists with a developed vision of their own.   Hudson and Knight were lauded for their artwork later in life and considered themselves independent artists, not scientific illustrators, during their final years. Murayama had found the success of an artist before the war, but due to his immigrant status, was pushed back into the laboratory work out of which he had advanced years before. 

Kodani and Murayama's biographies highlight the importance of internment and immigration research to the history of science. Both men experienced life altering events during WWII- not necessarily based on their experiences within these camps, but the changes in life course and career course that their immigrant status imposed. We must ask ourselves, what is the proper path through a scientific career? And what happens when that path is upset by circumstances beyond a person's control? If it is the case that the scientist or scientific worker must follow very specific paths through their career in order to achieve certain status, and those that are derailed are relegated to sideline, but still highly important, positions- what might this say about the role of race, class, and gender in science?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Photographing Octopuses

A short post as I'm currently trying desperately to write something of my chapter these days (epic fail as of now).

There seems to be a general understanding that certain sea creatures are more popular with humans than others. Of course, visitors to aquariums commonly flock to cetaceans- dolphins and whales are all the rage with crowds even though few small aquariums have them. After mammals come the less popular but still exciting toothy exhibits: sharks and piranhas and alligators. Several public aquariums I've visited have feeding times for these carnivores and children especially seem to love to watch these animals feed. To each his own I suppose. After these exciting exhibits, there's a few others that grab attention: pennipeds (if the aquarium has them), penguins (even though the exhibits smell so horrible) and sea horses (everyone's favorite, am I right?). Eh, the fishes are okay- but they are just swimming around- whatever.

One other marine organism, popular both in public aquariums and in the early 20th photographs I've been studying, is the octopus.

Fabre-Domergue, La Photographie animaux aquatiques (1899)
John Oliver La Gorce, National Geographic Magazine (1921)
Unknown photographer, Scripps Institution of Oceanography  (1931)

The three images I've lined up above were all taken with a stationary camera on a tripod with some sort of illumination (the type changes throughout the time I've covered) from above. All of the images were taken through the glass of an aquarium- the first was taken through a special "photography aquarium" built specifically for photographing marine organisms. The two other photographs were taken through aquarium glass at public aquariums. The second photograph was taken by John Oliver La Gorce, a rather famous fellow who was the editor of National Geographic and if you're from Miami, has a whole fancy island (Gorce Island) named after him. He was an explorer when people still got to call themselves explorers and he loved taking photographs. This one was taken at the newly-opened Miami Aquarium and marine laboratory. The third photograph was taken at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, although I've got little information on the photograph as I found it in the New York Aquarium papers at the Wildlife Conservation Society archives.

Cephalopods are very popular images during this period- as photographers sought to refine the techniques needed to accurately capture marine organisms either underwater or in the aquarium, they often took pictures of organisms that they thought looked "interesting" or "exotic". In addition to an interesting subject to photograph, there's a better reason that there are so many pictures of certain marine organisms during this time: it was a heck of a lot easier to take pictures of things that didn't move quickly.

These photographers were taking low light photos- most public aquariums and marine laboratories utilized natural light from overhead to illuminate their buildings. Artificial light was still touch-and-go in some places, and the organisms seemed to respond better to natural light. In addition, many of these creatures are most active at night. These photographers were usually working in aquariums at night after everyone else was gone- just waiting around until they could get a lobster or fish or octopus to turn towards the camera for long enough to try to snap a photo. So, the octopus was a great subject- it was visually striking, seemingly exotic, and still enough to capture on film that might need longer exposure in lower light.

There were few other organisms that were as photogenic as the octopus- the lobster, starfish, and molluscs (you can see what looks to be an abalone in the third photo)- but the cephalopods really made such startling subjects. I hope you enjoy the photos- I find them visually striking and they give me something to think about:  how do I envision the ocean? Is my image of underwater based mostly on experience, or upon the images presented to me by photographs like those above?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Arcturus Expedition: Illustrating a Scientific Voyage.

In 1926, G.P. Putnam's and Sons published The Arcturus Adventure: An Account of the New York Zoological Society's First Oceanographic Expedition. The book was a popular account of the high-profile voyage of The Arcturus from New York to the Sargasso Sea on to the Galapagos and then back, lead by William Beebe. The expedition took 6 months; during that time, Beebe and the crew kept the public updated on the adventure by sending word about the voyage to newspapers.

The Arcturus Adventure made William Beebe a household name. During the expedition, he used a diving helmet (seen above on the back cover of the book) to describe underwater regions never seen by humans. While Beebe was not the first scientist to work underwater with a diver helmet, and not even the most systematic, his popularity immediately marked him as the cutting edge of marine exploration to the general public. 

My interest in the Arcturus Expedition stems from my current chapter writing. I'm working on the history of taxonomic illustration in marine science. Basically, I'm interested in how scientists illustrated their specimens. While the Arcturus Adventure is a popular work, it is also a scientific publication. Beebe and his crew spent much of the voyage dredging off the boat, pulling up as many deep sea creatures as they could, and somehow preserving these organisms for scientists and interested parties on dry land. 

They did this in a variety of ways- and the different avenues they took to documenting these creatures is very telling to me as a historian. Here is the list of crew on board the Arcturus as it appears in the 1925 publication:

William Beebe- Director
W.K. Gregory- Associate in vertebrates (Elizabeth Trotter is his assistant)
L. Segal- Associate in Special Problems
C.J. Fish- Associate in Diatoms and Crustacea (on loan from the USBF)
John Tee-Van- General Assistant
William H. Merriam- Assistant in Field Work
Isobel Cooper and Helen Tee-Van- Scientific Artists
Ruth Rose- Historian and Technicist
M.D. Fish- Assistant in Larval Fish (wife of C.J. Fish, also on loan from the USBF, mislabeled- real name is Mary Poland Fish)
Elizabether Trotter- Assistant in Fish Problems
Dwight Franklin- Assistant in Fish Preparation
Jay F.W. Pierson- Assistant in Microplankton
Don Dickerman- Assistant Artist
E.B. Schoedsack- Assistant in Photography (listed as assistant in cinematography in subsequent editions)
Serge Chetyrkin- Preparateur
D.W. Cady- Surgeon

It's a varied group of people- but by far the largest group of specialists were those individuals brought on board to illustrate the work of others. Isobel Cooper, Helen Tee-Van, Dwight Franklin, Don Dickerman and E.B. Schoedsack were all included in the expedition for this purpose. On a scientific expedition, almost 30% of the crew was there to provide lasting images of the work. In addition to the individuals whose sole purpose it was to render accurate illustrations or materials in whatever form seemed most appropriate (more on this later), other members provided illustrations from their individual work. Charles Fish and Mary Poland Fish both illustrated their work on diatoms and larval fishes. 

But hey, what were these people actually doing on board?

Isobel Cooper, Helen Tee-Van, and Don Dickerman were illustrators. They were in charge of drawing and painting specimens that Beebe felt were either special or important to capture in this medium. A scientist might ask one of these illustrators to draw and color a particular specimen that was integral to their work, or they might systematically go about drawing and painting specimens that appeared to be new or had interesting coloring. One might ask, why would you need illustrators on board? Couldn't you just bring specimens back that were preserved? 

It was important that illustrators be on board for the journey because it is very difficult to preserve the color of marine organisms after their death. Because of this difficulty, many of the organisms these three individuals drew and colored were still alive when they did so. Below is a photograph from the voyage of Isobel Cooper illustrating a specimen from life. 

The first was caught in the open ocean and then placed in a special tank to be held still during illustrating. This way, Cooper would be assured she was not misremembering the color of the specimen. In addition to the difficulty of coloring, many of the most novel organisms identified during the expedition were deep sea specimens such as the little sea devil first described by Beebe during the voyage. 

The "little sea devil" that Beebe pulled up during the voyage was illustrated by Dwight Franklin. Most deep sea organisms pulled up during dredging could not survive the handling and change in pressure (fish get the bends just like anything else that is pulled from the bottom of the ocean too quickly). Many of these forms died quickly, so having an illustrator on hand made it easier to accurately capture color and other features of these organisms on paper. For more information on Isobel Cooper- her grandson has a blog here that might be interesting.

In addition to drawing and painting, Franklin also made models of the specimens. In a photo posed similarly to that of Cooper painting, Franklin is busy in front of a aquarium fashioning a plaster replica of a specimen from life. Just as coloring was important to illustrators who were painting, it was equally important to individuals making casts and molds of organisms. In addition to these casts, Franklin and Serge Chetyrkin worked to find the best way to preserve actual specimens in alcohol so that they could be transported back to the New York Zoological Society. Preserving specimens did not merely require dumping them into preserving alcohol, but instead required careful preparation of the dead organism so that it maintained as much structure and color during preservation that was possible. Some organisms, especially jellyfish, easily dissolved in the alcohol and required special preparation. 

In addition to illustrations and molds of fishes, Beebe also brought along a photographer/cinematographer. Ernest B. Schoedsack, best known for being the co-director of the movie King Kong, needed money for his next film so he signed on to document Beebe's voyage. He thought it would be interesting to shoot underwater. Many of his pictures appear in the Arcturus Adventure, one of which includes his future wife Ruth Rose diving at Cocos (in Bermuda) in 15 feet of water (unfortunately I can't find a copy of this picture on the internet). Schoedsack's supplemented the illustrators and preparateurs. When specimens were brought up and placed in an aquarium on deck, Schoedsack would immediately take a picture in case the organism died quickly or the color changed when exposed to the air. These photos became the basis of many of the illustrations and molds by Cooper, Tee-Van, and Franklin. 

The whole crew of The Arcturus  was amazing. On another day, I'll tell you about my new hero Marie Poland Fish, one of the pioneers of bioacoustics. If you're interested in learning more about William Beebe, check out this biography written by Carol Grant Gould. Gould is best known for co-writing books on bees and animal behavior with her husband Jim Gould. The story of Beebe's life, and especially his married life, is circuitous. Beebe did not want his second wife to write his biography after death, so he gave his papers (the few he didn't destroy) to his assistant and told her to seal them until she found someone she thought could write a proper biography. In turn, she let Gould see the papers (and no one else has had access to these highly personal papers). Much of the history of Beebe and his professional and personal life has been lost, but Gould's book is an interesting read none the less. 

By looking at the illustrators and visual media created during the Arcturus Expedition, we can see that during this period, the act of scientific exploration and discovery was not merely the act of finding, but of documenting; not only of describing but of preserving.