Friday, March 8, 2013

Part 2: The Serendipitous Apparitions of 1898

When Thomas Atherton Bramwell left St. Louis in January 1898 to resettle in the little town of Springfield Missouri he brought with him much of the remarkable equipment that he had accumulated in his previous 4 years of research into the creation and identification of "invisible rays", an effort begun in earnest following his witnessing Nikola Tesla's historic St. Louis demonstration of 1893.  Bramwell established his new laboratory on high ground north of town on the road to Kansas City near the location where W.H. Hopkins had reported contacting the occupants of a Martian Airship the previous year.  Interestingly, this spot was only a few miles east of the village of Bethesda and its secretive Lodge frequented by a number of Springfield's notable citizens.  Before long, Bramwell became a favored guest of businessman and future city mayor Benjamin Meyer who appears to have tolerated the scientist's more irritating personality traits, referring to him as "a latter day Paracelsus".  It appears that it was Meyer who introduced Bramwell to the Fraternal Order of the Seekers after Bramwell's first reporting his discovery of the "Ephemerozoa".

As mentioned before, Bramwell had come to Southwest Missouri in hopes of witnessing a hoped-for return of the Martian Airship.  He believed that invisible rays, similar to those discovered by Wilhelm Röntgen earlier in the decade, were responsible for the vessel's flight.  He also suspected that these rays were being used by the Martians for communication in the manner of a radiotelegraph.  As he waited for the return of the Martians he continued his efforts to replicate and prove the existence of the rays.

Bramwell, 1898
One night, as he worked to focus the radiation created by his High Frequency Discharge Lamp onto a target screen of barium platinocyanide, he became aware that he was not alone in the room, as he noted:
"Several small undulating globes... floating in the still air... faintly phosphorescent... similar to the animalcules seen under a microscope"
Unfortunately, the images disappeared as quickly as they had appeared.  Many of Bramwell's contemporaries would have judged these apparitions to be of the realm of Spiritualism, but he instantly realized that he had seen naturally invisible organisms becoming visible in the strange light of his apparatus.  Only an accidental modulation in frequency had brought them into view.  He could now claim the greatest biological discovery since Antonie van Leeuwenhoek - If only he could replicate the specific frequency that allowed them to be seen!

NEXT WEEKEND - The Strange Disappearance of T. A. Bramwell

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