Category Archives: Poe and Science

The Poe & Science Series

Poe Exposes Maelzel’s Automated Chess Player, Part II Murray Ellison | Dec. 2nd, 2017 In 1836, Poe asks readers of the Richmond-based Southern Literary Messenger to ponder the implications for the future if a machine could calculate without human input. He writes, “There is no analogy, whatever, between the operations of the chess-player and those…

Poe’s Investigations of a 19th-Century Automated Chess Machine – Part I

Charles Babbage’s First Automated Chess Machine on Display in the London Science Museum Written By Murray Ellison  |  November 1st, 2017 Literary Historian, Gerald Kennedy writes, “In Poe’s writing career he worked… as a proofreader, editor, reviewer” of newspapers in Baltimore, Richmond, Philadelphia, and New York—the publishing centers of the United States” (64). These venues…

Poe’s Hair Sheds Light on Unsolved Mystery

From June 22 until September 17, 2017, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia will feature Investigating History: Testing Edgar Allan Poe’s Hair, a groundbreaking new exhibit examining the latest scientific testing of the nineteenth century author Edgar Allan Poe’s hair by University of Virginia scientist Stephen Macko. These tests provide valuable clues to…

Poe’s First Published Story about a Shipwreck Foreshadows Eureka: A Prose Poem (Part I of II)

By Murray Ellison Poe’s first important tale, “MS. Found in a Bottle,” (1833) won the Baltimore Visiter’s first prize for fiction. Poe scholar, Thomas Mabbott calls it a “masterpiece,” contending that “winning the contest set the author on the way to lasting fame” (Tales and Sketches 131). The Visiter wrote that “Poe’s tales are eminently distinguished…

Sonnet-to Science: Poe’s Early Ambivalence About 19th-Century Technologies

By the time that Poe started writing professionally, the Industrial Revolution had already introduced many dramatic advancements that affected the lifestyles and culture of the nineteenth-century public. For example, the literacy rate had steadily increased in the United States, and many people were able to understand most articles written in the newspaper. They could also…

Some Words About Poe’s Tale About a Mummy*

Poe’s tale, “Some Words with a Mummy” (1845) provides one of his most informative views about the value of nineteenth-century science. Although the narrator of this short story does not go anywhere special, Poe’s imagined mummy travels from ancient Egypt to the nineteenth century to reflect on the relative values of ancient and the technologies…

Private Perry is Mr. Poe

John Limon argues that Poe was one of the first American writers who was important both to the fields of literature and science because he engaged in literary mediation, or “negotiation with science.” Limon notes that Poe’s works provide abundant examples that he anticipated forecasted several future developments in technology, e.g., exploration of the Poles,…

The Challenge of Evaluating Poe’s, Eureka: A Prose Poem

  In my last column, I discussed the reasons that I decided not to focus my entire Master’s Thesis research on Poe’s Eureka: A Prose Poem. That conclusion became obvious to me after I examined all of the clues that were available to me at the beginning of my investigation. First of all, I found that Eureka was…

Third Anniversary of the Positively Poe Conference at the University of Virginia

  Poe was in the second class of students who attended the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville. According to the UVA Website(aig.alumni.virginia.edu), “Edgar Allan Poe enrolled at the University on February 14, 1826, the 136th of 177 students registering for the second session. He attended classes in the Schools of Ancient and Modern Languages, under…

Conducting a Comprehensive Study of Poe’s, Eureka: A Prose Poem

    First, I am going to propose what a researcher might have to do to conduct a comprehensive study of Poe’s 1848 book, Eureka: A Prose Poem. Then, I am going to explain why I decided not to fall into the trap of attempting to evaluate Poe’s final work. As I noted in my previous…