Winter Wisdom 2017

at the Morrell Room of the Curtis Memorial Library, Brunswick

Wednesdays, 12:15 – 1:45 pm

Free and Open to the Public

The Winter Wisdom lecture series is sponsored by:


January 4

Music of the 19th Century Sailor

During the latter half of the 19th century, the Atlantic Seaboard of America was involved in an intense and far reaching maritime industry.  During this time, music was an integral part of the lives of men who worked on sailing ships. Songs referred to as “Chanteys” and “Forecastle Songs” were often sung “to cheer the soul, curse the after guard, mark the beat, and lighten the labor” (Stan Hugill). In this illustrated presentation we will examine through live performance, the culture of sailors as reflected through their music. Stuart Gillespie holds a Master’s degree from the University of Connecticut where he wrote his thesis on the songs of the 19th century sailor.  In 1970 he began his 15-year summer career as a musical historian and demonstrator of ship board music at Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut. In 1976, he appeared on national TV as the singer of sailor songs for the PBS special Anyone for Tennyson. In that same year he produced a vinyl record of Chanteys and Ballads with Folkways Records to celebrate our American bicentennial.

January 11

A Look at the Life of Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838)

Although born in poverty with almost no formal education, Bowditch was able to take advantage of opportunities that put him in the right place at the right time.  While indentured as a young man to a chandlery in Salem Harbor during Salem’s peak involvement in the China Trade, Bowditch displayed a quick facility with mathematics. This was the first step toward becoming one of the best navigators of all time and producing The New American Practical Navigator, still used by the U.S. Navy and ships around the world.  This lecture will focus on Bowditch’s early years in Salem, and touch on the significant developments that changed his life even further in Boston. Susan Bowditch grew up in the Midwest and had never heard of Nathaniel Bowditch until she married one of his descendants.  She received a BA from the College of Wooster and a MA from Vermont College.  Living in Salem in 1997 she applied for and was awarded a grant from the Salem Marine Society through The House of Seven Gables, to research the life of Nathaniel Bowditch.  The result was a lengthy paper, several lectures on Bowditch, plus designing and executing a walking tour for all the important landmarks in his Salem life.

January 18

FDA and the Drug Approval Process

“FDA and the Drug Approval Process” is an introductory review of clinical research. It outlines the fundamental tactics for conducting evidence-based clinical trials that we use here in the US to evaluate the safety and efficacy of drug and medical devices to be used in humans. After describing the history and logic behind various clinical trial designs, and the protection of human subjects who participate in such trials, this talk will review more recently developed strategies that will allow more patients with increasingly complex medical conditions to be incorporated into the research process. Finally, it will identify some difficult issues and questions that clinical research professionals will be confronting in the years ahead. Dr. James Parmentier received his AB degree in Biology from Princeton, and PhD in Biological Sciences from UC Santa Barbara, studying chemoreception and the mechanisms of action of neurotransmitters. He has extensive experience in academic medicine as well as a researcher for the pharmaceutical industry. He has served as Chief investigator at the Mass General Hospital Institute of Health Professions, and also as a member of the Rutgers School of Health Professions. He retired as an Associate Professor from the Rutgers faculty in 2014.

January 25

Mapping Brunswick: Charting Five Centuries of a Town in Maine.

Over five centuries, Maine’s mid coast region including Brunswick, has hosted native peoples, explorers, settlers, farmers, scholars, industrialists, immigrant mill workers, military heroes, and religious and political leaders. This illustrated talk is a whirlwind look at the history of the town of Brunswick through the lens of five hundred years of maps and charts. Jym St. Pierre, a native of Auburn, has a BA degree in Philosophy and a Master’s degree in Natural Resources from the University of Maine. He has worked for conservation agencies and nonprofit organizations in Maine for more than 40 years. He is also an award-winning photographer, editor of the “Maine Environmental News” website, and author of the Brunswick Outdoors brochure, which highlights recreation and open space lands in the community.

February 1

The Origin of Satellite TV, GPS, and Weather Satellites

Among the many challenges facing the pioneers of the U.S. space program was the development of an effective communications system.  In 1958, in answer to the launch of Russia’s Sputnik satellite, a small group of U.S Signal Corps engineers was charged with creating America’s first space electronics organization.  Later that year it went on to help produce the first communications satellite carrying the tape-recorded message of peace from President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  From that moment to the broadcast of Neil Armstrong’s message of “one small step for man…”, communications played a critical role in the success of America’s space program, and contributed significantly to developments in the navigation and other information devices we enjoy today. George Krassner, a member of this Signal Corps, is a recognized pioneer in the American space program. He designed the electronics for the world’s first communication and weather satellites and for the fuel control system in the command module of the Apollo spacecraft. He wrote the first book on space communications, worked with the original seven astronauts, and teamed with Dr. Wernher von Braun on a top secret moon project. Mr. Krassner will share insider stories, secrets, and goofs in the infant years of the space program, and display souvenirs, photos, and space program memorabilia. He holds an MS in Engineering from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He was president of several technology corporations, and has served on the Board of companies in the U.S., Canada, England, and India.

February 8

Ben Franklin’s “Way To Wealth” and the American Dream

Ben Franklin’s “Way to Wealth”, first published in 1758 as the untitled preface to his final Poor Richard’s Almanac, came to be published by 1851 in 26 languages and at least 1,200 times.  This short text of about 3,500 words, advised readers to work hard, save their money, and not go into debt.  It backed up this message with aphorisms, among them “A penny saved is a penny earned” and “Lost time is never found again.” Who were the publishers? Who were the readers? And why was this text so widely disseminated?  What was its impact? Is it the origin of the “American dream”? Ken Carpenter majored in history at Bowdoin, spent his career in the Harvard University libraries, working mostly with rare books.  He became interested in the dissemination of pre-1851 economic literature through translation and was able to carry out research in libraries in Europe and the United States, including the Bowdoin College Library. In 2002, shortly after retirement, he published a book on the French translations of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, and he has continued to seek out and describe translations of this work. The study of Franklin’s “Way to Wealth” grows out of this larger project.

February 15
Longfellow Days: Looking at Longfellow

Films, exhibits and discussion of illustrators of art associated with Longfellow’s poetry. Speaker to be announced.

February 22
Snow Make-up day

A scene from the 2016 Winter Wisdom series

Print Friendly, PDF & Email