The Eccentric Mind
This online exhibition is a tribute to the inventive and eccentric minds that produced, often with loving care and craftsmanship, items that intrigue us today, even if we're not always sure why they were made. Click on the pictures for details.
Sivartha Chart of The Earth and the Heavens
The World According to Sivartha
Better Living Through Science

This sweeping view of the universe, from the earth's crust to the stars, was drawn by Alesha Sivartha, an obscure American philosopher who wrote and illustrated a series of books in the latter half of the 19th century in which he sought to demonstrate how the advance of science would facilitate the social and spiritual progress of humanity. According to Sivartha, the data amassed from inquiry into diverse fields such as geology and anatomy would pave the way toward creating an ideal and harmonious society, a task that had eluded previous great civilizations, such as the ancient Greeks, because their scientific understanding was incomplete. His books are a curious mixture of straightforward presentations of the history and science of his day, elaborate pseudoscientific diagrams and earnest, idiosyncratic ideas for a new social order. He described his vision for civilization with great precision, down to an hourly schedule for the schools of the future, a new universal language called "the Vesona," and a "harmonic architecture" in which buildings would be designed according to "the great laws of the Brain Ellipse," his conception of the structure and function of the human brain.

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Exhibits:

Introduction

Ostrich Egg Holder

Physiognomy: You Are the Sum of Your Parts

Muggletonians: Unconventional Beliefs

Malevolent Monkey

Macabre Silhouettes

Professional Pedestrians

Freudian Slip?

Clever Cat Automaton Doll

April Fish

Better Living Through Science

Extreme Makeover

Flying Saucer Designs

Improbable Architecture

Big Hair

Artificial Memory

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Extreme Makeover

Sometime during the 19th century, we think, an anonymous artist decided to transform four 18th-century natural history prints of monkeys from the famous Buffon encyclopedia by dressing them in whimsical costumes and placing musical instruments in their hands. There is a striking attention to detail in the embellishments, cut from metallic paper, down to tiny ankle garters. The original engravings for Buffon's work were made by Jacques E. De Sève, and as one writer observed, "The animals do not seem like wild beasts roaming free in their native woods, deserts and mountains, but like actors performing among stage props and painted scenery..." The prankish artist who transformed these monkeys into circus performers might agree.

Unadorned print of Le Saimiri Saimiri with collage

Before and After: What the De Sève monkey probably looked like (left) before it joined the circus (detail, right).

Flying Saucer Designs

The diagram at right comes from Flying Saucer Designs, a self-published manifesto by Kenneth Lloyd Larson attempting to make connections between UFO sighting data and geographic formations on Earth. The eccentric theories include the conjecture that "two views of the USA West Coast can be combined in such a manner so as to form a side view of a UFO shape or design."

The book includes 50 geometric diagrams, as well as biblical "interpretations" of the data contained therein. By assigning numerical values to biblical passages, for instance, the author derives graphing coordinates.

Larson published several books on his UFO theories under his own imprint between 1965 and 1994.

UFO diagram

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