In case you’re wondering…

As you may know, BHL recently acquired tens of thousands additional titles by ingesting open access texts supplied by the Internet Archive. Read the original announcement here.

One title in particular stands out as one of those works that really highlights the passage of time, the evolution of scientific thought, and associative leaps we take for granted is Robert Lee Bates’ 1923 investigation The effects of cigar and cigarette smoking on certain psychological and physiological functions“.

The author quantifies the effects smoking on the performance of daily tasks that require a variety of cognitive and physiological coordinations. I found the methods of the dart throwing sequence and the description of the darts used particularly interesting (made of wood, six inches long including the feathers). A smoker’s word choice is also considered in free association studies. Do we repeat ourselves more after smoking? Does a non-smoker use more colorful language, favoring ornate description?

While we take for granted that smoking is toxic, we don’t generally think of its effects on cognitive ability in the same way we would a shot of tequila. Should we? What makes a drug a drug? and if smoking interferes with hitting a bull’s eye, what about sugar? For me, the BHL never ceases to provide an opportunity to consider and (re)evaluate our notions of scientific truth.

I won’t give away all the fun and seemingly antiquated bits of scientific inquiry. But, suffice it to say, at the end of the day back in 1923, more study was needed.

🙂 Enjoy.

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Erin Thomas served as a Digital Collections Librarian at Smithsonian Libraries from 2009-2014.