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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Archive for November 9th, 2009
by Gerald Boerner


“Infrared photography calms me. I love it.”
Author Unknown

“…infrared photography is not the same thing as thermal imaging – the night-vision video technology used by the police and sensationalist TV shows.”
—, “Popular Myths”

“Most films have a layer of opaque dye on the back, called an anti-halation layer, which essentially absorbs light and prevents light from bouncing around within the film itself. (this layer is washed away during film processing, which is why undeveloped film is opaque but developed film is clear.”
—, “Popular Myths”

“Sadly, it’s true that most current Canon EOS cameras fog high-speed infrared film (Kodak HIE and EIR). However, they aren’t alone. Other camera makers use IR diodes for some of their products, including Nikon…”
—, “Popular Myths”

“The reason why deciduous trees, grass, etc., glow white on HIE film is primarily because the structure of their living cells reflects a great deal of the sun’s infrared energy rather than absorbing it.”
—, “Popular Myths”


[NOTE: This is the first of an occasional series of postings in this blog related to significant contributors to the technologies that enable photography in all of its forms. Today, we start out by looking at photography using “invisible light.” Please enjoy this first posting.]


Photography with Invisible Light: Robert W. Wood

Robert_Williams_Wood Robert Williams Wood  (1868 – 1955) was a physicist and inventor. He is often cited as being a pivotal contributor to the field of optics and is best known for giving birth to the so-called "black-light effect". Wood’s patents and theoretical work shed much light on the nature and physics of ultra-violet radiation and made possible the myriad of uses of uv-fluorescence which became popular after World War I.

Born in Concord, Massachusetts, Wood attended The Roxbury Latin School with the initial intent of becoming a priest. But he decided to study optics instead when he witnessed a rare glowing aurora one night and believed the effect to be caused by "invisible rays". In his pursuit to find these "invisible rays", Wood studied and earned numerous degrees from Harvard, MIT and the University of Chicago. He taught briefly at the University of Wisconsin and eventually became a full-time professor of "optical physics" at Johns Hopkins University from 1901 until his death.

His wrote many articles on spectroscopy, phosphorescence and diffraction. But it’s his work in ultra-violet light that his is most well known for.

He discovered that the darkest area of the Moon in ultraviolet light is the Aristarchus Plateau. In 1909, Wood constructed the first practical liquid mirror astronomical telescope, by spinning mercury to form a paraboloidal shape, and investigated its benefits and limitations.

Wood has been described as the "father of both infrared and ultraviolet photography". Though the discovery of electromagnetic radiation beyond the visible spectrum and the development of photographic emulsions capable of recording them pre-date Wood, he was the first intentionally to produce photographs with both infrared and ultraviolet radiation. He developed a filter, Wood’s glass, that was opaque to visible light but transparent to ultraviolet and is used in modern-day blacklites. He used it for ultraviolet photography but also suggested its use for secret communication. He was also the first person to photograph ultraviolet fluorescence. He also developed a lamp, Wood’s lamp, that radiated only ultraviolet. The slightly surreal glowing appearance of foliage in infrared photographs is called the Wood effect.

Wood also authored non-technical works. In 1915, Wood co-authored a science fiction novel, The Man Who Rocked the Earth, with Arthur Train; a sequel, The Moon Maker, was published the next year. He also wrote and illustrated two books of children’s verse, How to Tell the Birds from the Flowers (1907) and Animal Analogues (1908).

Infrared Photography

In infrared photography, the film or image sensor used is sensitive to infrared light. The part of the spectrum used is referred to as near-infrared to distinguish it from far-infrared, which is the domain of thermal imaging. Wavelengths used for photography range from about 700 nm to about 900 nm. Usually an "infrared filter" is used; this lets infrared (IR) light pass through to the camera, but blocks all or most of the visible light spectrum (the filter thus looks black or deep red).

IR-VIS_Rudin-houseExample of Black & White Photo using the Visual
Spectrum of Light (left) and the Invisible (near-IR)
Spectrum of the same house

When these filters are used together with infrared-sensitive film or sensors, very interesting "in-camera effects" can be obtained; false-color or black-and-white images with a dreamlike or sometimes lurid appearance known as the "Wood Effect," an effect mainly caused by foliage (such as tree leaves and grass) strongly reflecting in the same way visible light is reflected from snow. There is a small contribution from chlorophyll fluorescence, but this is marginal and is not the real cause of the brightness seen in infrared photographs. The effect is named after the infrared photography pioneer Robert W. Wood, and not after the material wood, which does not glow under infrared.

The other attributes of infrared photographs include very dark skies and penetration of atmospheric haze, caused by reduced Rayleigh scattering and Mie scattering, respectively, compared to visible light. The dark skies, in turn, result in less infrared light in shadows and dark reflections of those skies from water, and clouds will stand out strongly. These wavelengths also penetrate a few millimeters into skin and give a milky look to portraits, although eyes often look black.


Until the early 1900s, infrared photography was not possible because silver halide emulsions are not sensitive to infrared radiation without the addition of a dye to act as a color sensitizer. The first infrared photographs to be published appeared in the October 1910 edition of the Royal Photographic Society Journal to illustrate a paper by Robert W. Wood, who discovered the unusual effects that now bear his name. The RPS is co-ordinating events to celebrate the centenary of this event in 2010. Wood’s photographs were taken on experimental film that required very long exposures; thus, most of his work focused on landscapes.

Infrared-sensitive photographic plates were developed in the United States during World War I for improved aerial photography.

IR_Bending_Tree_800px-SD10 Infrared photography became popular with photography enthusiasts in the 1930s when suitable film was introduced commercially. By 1937 33 kinds of infrared film were available from five manufacturers including Agfa, Kodak and Ilford. Infrared movie film also available and was used to create day-for-night effects in motion pictures, a notable example being the pseudo-night aerial sequences in the James Cagney/Bette Davis movie The Bride Came COD.

False-color infrared photography became widely practiced with the introduction of Kodak Ektachrome Infrared Aero Film, Type 8443, in the 1960s.

Infrared photography became popular with a number of 1960s recording artists, because of the unusual results; Jimi Hendrix, Donovan, Frank Zappa and the Grateful Dead all issued albums with infrared cover photos. The unexpected colors and effects that infrared film can produce fit well with the psychedelic aesthetic that emerged in the late 1960s.

For some, infrared photography can easily look gimmicky, but many photographers such as Elio Ciol and Martin Reeves have made subtle use of black-and-white infrared-sensitive film. With the advent of digital infrared photography, as a part of full spectrum photography, the technique is gaining popularity and is being sold as fine art photographs in a variety of galleries worldwide.


A near-infrared photograph of
a Ringling Brothers’ train idling
near MIT in Cambridge,

Infrared light lies between the visible and microwave portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Infrared light has a range of wavelengths, just like visible light has wavelengths that range from red light to violet. "Near infrared" light is closest in wavelength to visible light and "far infrared" is closer to the microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The longer, far infrared wavelengths are about the size of a pin head and the shorter, near infrared ones are the size of cells, or are microscopic.

Focusing infrared

Most manual focus 35 mm SLR and medium format SLR lenses have a red dot, line or diamond, often with a red "R" called the infrared index mark, that can be used to achieve proper infrared focus; many autofocus lenses no longer have this mark. When a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera is fitted with a filter that is opaque to visible light, the reflex system becomes useless for both framing and focusing, one must compose the picture without the filter and then attach the filter. This requires the use of a tripod to prevent the composition from changing. A sharp infrared photograph can be done with a tripod, a narrow aperture (like f/22) and a slow shutter speed without focus compensation, however wider apertures like f/2.0 can produce sharp photos only if the lens is meticulously refocused to the infrared index mark, and only if this index mark is the correct one for the filter and film in use. However, it should be noted that diffraction effects inside a camera are greater at infrared wavelengths so that stopping down the lens too far may actually reduce sharpness.

Most apochromatic (‘APO’) lenses do not have an Infrared index mark and do not need to be refocused for the infrared spectrum because they are already optically corrected into the near-infrared spectrum. Catadioptric lenses do not require this adjustment because mirrors do not suffer from chromatic aberration.

Zoom lenses may scatter more light through their more complicated optical systems than prime lenses, that is, lenses of fixed focal length; for example, an infrared photo taken with a 50 mm prime lens may look more contrasty than the same image taken at 50 mm with a 28–80 zoom.

Some lens manufacturers such as Leica never put IR index marks on their lenses. The reason for this is because any index mark is only valid for one particular IR filter and film combination, and may lead to user error. Even when using lenses with index marks, focus testing is advisable as there may be a large difference between the index mark and the subject plane.

Film cameras

Many conventional cameras can be used for infrared photography, where infrared is taken to mean light of a wavelength only slightly longer than that of visible light. Photography of rather longer wavelengths is normally termed thermography and requires special equipment.

With some patience and ingenuity, most film cameras can be used. However, some cameras of the 1990s that used 35mm film have infrared sprocket-hole sensors that can fog infrared film (their manuals may warn against the use of infrared film for this reason). Other film cameras are not completely opaque to infrared light.

Black-and-white infrared film

IR_Tree_example_800px Black-and-white infrared negative films are sensitive to wavelengths in the 700 to 900 nm near infrared spectrum, and most also have a sensitivity to blue light wavelengths. The notable halation effect or glow often seen in the highlights of infrared photographs is an artifact of Kodak High Speed Infrared (HIE) black-and-white negative film and not an artifact of infrared light. The glow or blooming is caused by the absence of an anti-halation layer on the back side of Kodak HIE film, this results in a scattering or blooming around the highlights that would usually be absorbed by the anti-halation layer in conventional films.

Digital cameras

IR_Nikau-553px Digital camera sensors are inherently sensitive to infrared light, which would interfere with the normal photography by confusing the autofocus calculations or softening the image (because infrared light is focused differently than visible light), or oversaturating the red channel. Also, some clothing is transparent in the infrared, leading to unintended (at least to the manufacturer) uses of video cameras. Thus, to improve image quality and protect privacy, many digital cameras employ infrared blockers. Depending on your subject matter, infrared photography may not be practical with these cameras because the exposure times become overly long, often in the range of 30 seconds, creating noise and motion blur in the final image. However, for some subject matter the long exposure does not matter or the motion blur effects actually add to the image. Some lenses will also show a ‘hot spot’ in the centre of the image as their coatings are optimized for visible light and not for IR.

An alternative method of digital SLR infrared photography is to remove the infrared blocker in front of the CCD and replace it with a filter that removes visible light. This filter is behind the mirror, so the camera can be used normally – handheld, normal shutter speeds, normal composition through the viewfinder, and focus, all work like a normal camera. Metering works but is not always accurate because of the difference between visible and infrared reflection. When the IR blocker is removed, many lenses which did display a hotspot cease to do so, and become perfectly usable for infrared photography. Additionally, because the red, green and blue micro-filters remain and have transmissions not only in their respective color but also in the infrared, enhanced infrared color may be recorded.


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Robert W. Wood that can be found at…

Infrared Photography that can be found at… 

Other References:

Infrared Photography…

Getting Started with Infrared Photography…

Andrew Davidhazy: Infrared Photography Examples…

by Gerald Boerner


“Remember, George, this is no time to go wobbly.”
— Margaret Thatcher

“I can tell you this: If I’m ever in a position to call the shots, I’m not going to rush to send somebody else’s kids into a war.”
— George H.W. Bush

“By God, we will make the fire eat up half of Isreal if it tries to do anything against Iraq.”
— Saddam Hussein

“Achieving our goals will require sacrifice and time, but we will prevail. Make no mistake about that.”
— George H.W. Bush

“We are not intimidated by the size of the armies, or the type of hardware the US has brought.”
— Saddam Hussein

“Our strategy to go after the Army is very, very simple. First we are going to cut it off, and then we’re going to kill it.”
— General Colin L. Powell

“Our firm view is that the president has no legal authority, none whatsoever, to commit American troops to war in the Persian Gulf or anywhere else without congressional authorization.”
— Senator George J. Mitchell

“More than 200 ships from 13 nations conducted over 10,000 flawless intercepts, which formed a steel wall around the waters leading to Iraq. And these operations continue today. Thanks to these superb efferts not one cargo hold, not one crate, not even one pallet of seaborne contraband even touched Saddam Hussein’s shores. The result: Iraq lost 90% of its imports, 100% of its exports, and had its gross national product cut in half.”
— General Norman Schwarzkopf


Veterans Day: The Persian Gulf War

Gulf_War_Photobox_488px The Persian Gulf War (2 August 1990 – 28 February 1991), also known as the Gulf War, the First Gulf War, the Second Gulf War, by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein as The Mother of all Battles, and commonly as Desert Storm for the military response, was the final conflict, which was initiated with United Nations authorization, by a coalition force from 34 nations against Iraq, with the expressed purpose of expelling Iraqi forces from Kuwait after its invasion and annexation on 2 August 1990.

The great majority of the military forces in the coalition were from the United States, with Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Egypt as leading contributors, in that order. Around US$40 billion of the US$60 billion cost was paid by Saudi Arabia.

George_H._W._Bush,_official_portrait_cropped The invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops was met with international condemnation, and brought both immediate economic sanctions against Iraq by members of the UN Security Council, and preparations for war by the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The initial conflict to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait began with an aerial bombardment on 17 January 1991, following the expiration of the UN deadline; this was followed by a ground assault on 23 February, which was a decisive victory for the coalition forces, who liberated Kuwait and advanced into Iraqi territory. The coalition ceased their advance, and declared a cease-fire 100 hours after the ground campaign started.

Aerial and ground combat was confined to Iraq, Kuwait, and areas on the border of Saudi Arabia. However, Iraq launched missiles against coalition military targets in Saudi Arabia, and at Israel, a non-combatant. The latter action was an attempt to precipitate Israeli retaliation, which would have destabilized the coalition by alienating its Arab members.

EF-111_over_Desert2_800px After Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, U.S. President George H. W. Bush deployed U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard units to Saudi Arabia as a part of Operation Desert Shield, while urging other countries to send their own forces to the scene. UN coalition-building efforts were so successful that by the time the fighting (Operation Desert Storm) began on 16 January 1991, twelve countries had sent naval forces, joining the regional states of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states, as well as the huge array of the U.S. Navy, which deployed six carrier battle groups.

Eight countries sent ground forces, joining the regional troops of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the seventeen heavy and six light brigades of the U.S. Army and nine Marine regiments, with their large support and service forces. Four countries sent combat aircraft, joining the local air forces of Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine aviation, for a grand total of 2,430 fixed-wing aircraft.

Bradly Fighting Vehicles_406px Iraq had only a few gunboats and small missile craft to match the coalition’s armada, but approximately 1.2 million ground troops, 5,800 tanks, 5,100 other armoured vehicles, and 3,850 artillery pieces, which made for greater strength on the ground. Iraq also had 750 fighters and bombers, 200 other aircraft, and elaborate missile and gun defenses.

"Operation Desert Storm" was the U.S. name of the air and land operations, and is often incorrectly used to refer to the entire conflict; although the U.S. Postal Service issued a postage stamp reflecting Operation Desert Storm in 1992, and the U.S. military awarded campaign ribbons for service in Southwest Asia.

Each nation participating had its own operation name for its contribution: U.S. – Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm; UK – Operation Granby; Canada – Operation Friction; France – Operation Daguet, etc.


Gulf war roomThroughout much of the Cold War, Iraq had been an ally of the Soviet Union, and there was a history of friction between it and the United States of America. The US was concerned with Iraq’s position on Israeli–Palestinian politics, and its disapproval of the nature of the peace between Israel and Egypt.

The US also disliked Iraqi support for various Arab and Palestinian militant groups such as Abu Nidal, which led to its inclusion on the developing U.S. list of state sponsors of international terrorism on 29 December 1979. The US remained officially neutral after the invasion of Iran, which became the Iran–Iraq War, although it assisted Iraq covertly. In March 1982, however, Iran began a successful counteroffensive – Operation Undeniable Victory, and the United States increased its support for Iraq to prevent Iran from forcing a surrender.

saddam_On ThroneIn a US bid to open full diplomatic relations with Iraq, the country was removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. Ostensibly this was because of improvement in the regime’s record, although former United States Assistant Secretary of Defense Noel Koch later stated, "No one had any doubts about [the Iraqis’] continued involvement in terrorism… The real reason was to help them succeed in the war against Iran."

With Iran’s new found success in the war, and its rebuff of a peace offer in July, arms sales to Iraq reached a record spike in 1982. An obstacle, however, remained to any potential US-Iraqi relationship – Abu Nidal continued to operate with official support in Baghdad. When Iraqi President Saddam Hussein expelled the group to Syria at the United States’ request in November 1983, the Reagan administration sent Donald Rumsfeld to meet President Hussein as a special envoy and to cultivate ties.

Tensions with Kuwait

DesertStormMap_v2_800px By the time the ceasefire with Iran was signed in August 1988, Iraq was virtually bankrupt, with most of its debt owed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Iraq pressured both nations to forgive the debts, but they refused. Kuwait was also accused by Iraq of exceeding its OPEC quotas and driving down the price of oil, thus further hurting the Iraqi economy.

oilfield The collapse in oil prices had a catastrophic impact on the Iraqi economy. The Iraqi Government described it as a form of economic warfare, which it claimed was aggravated by Kuwait slant-drilling across the border into Iraq’s Rumaila oil field.

Iraq claimed Kuwait had been a part of the Ottoman Empire’s province of Basra. Its ruling dynasty, the al-Sabah family, had concluded a protectorate agreement in 1899 that assigned responsibility for its foreign affairs to Britain. Britain drew the border between the two countries, and deliberately tried to limit Iraq’s access to the ocean so that any future Iraqi government would be in no position to threaten Britain’s domination of the Persian Gulf. Iraq refused to accept the border, and did not recognize the Kuwaiti government until 1963.

Flying Weasel_Thunderbolt_II_Desert_Storm_800px In early July, Iraq complained about Kuwait’s behavior, such as not respecting their quota, and openly threatened to take military action. On the 23rd, the CIA reported that Iraq had moved 30,000 troops to the Iraq-Kuwait border, and the U.S. naval fleet in the Persian Gulf was placed on alert. On the 25th, Saddam Hussein met with April Glaspie, an American ambassador, in Baghdad. At that meeting, Glaspie told the Iraqi delegation, "We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts." On the 31st, negotiations between Iraq and Kuwait in Jeddah failed violently. On August 2, 1990 Iraq launched an invasion with its warplanes, bombing Kuwait City, the Kuwaiti capital. The main thrust was conducted by commandos deployed by helicopters and boats to attack the city, while other divisions seized the airports and two airbases.

In spite of Iraqi sabre-rattling, Kuwait did not have its forces on alert, and was caught unaware. After two days of intense combat, most of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces were either overrun by the Iraqi Republican Guard, or had escaped to neighboring Saudi Arabia. After the decisive Iraqi victory, Saddam Hussein installed his cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid as the governor of Kuwait.

Sadaam and Boy Saddam Hussein detained
several Westerners, with
video footage shown on
state television

On 23 August 1990 President Saddam appeared on state television with Western hostages to whom he had refused exit visas. In the video, he patted a small boy named Stuart Lockwood on the back. Saddam then asks, through his interpreter, Sadoun al-Zubaydi, whether Stuart is getting his milk. Saddam went on to say, "We hope your presence as guests here will not be for too long. Your presence here, and in other places, is meant to prevent the scourge of war."

UN resolution

un security council 10 14 Within hours of the invasion, Kuwaiti and US delegations requested a meeting of the UN Security Council, which passed Resolution 660, condemning the invasion and demanding a withdrawal of Iraqi troops. On 3 August the Arab League passed its own resolution, which called for a solution to the conflict from within the League, and warned against outside intervention. On 6 August UN Resolution 661 placed economic sanctions on Iraq.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 665 followed soon after, which authorized a naval blockade to enforce the economic sanctions against Iraq. It said the “use of measures commensurate to the specific circumstances as may be necessary … to halt all inward and outward maritime shipping in order to inspect and verify their cargoes and destinations and to ensure strict implementation of resolution 661.”

Operation Desert Shield

EF-111_over_Desert2_800px One of the main concerns of the west was the significant threat Iraq posed to Saudi Arabia. Following the conquest of Kuwait, the Iraqi army was within easy striking distance of Saudi oil fields. Control of these fields, along with Kuwaiti and Iraqi reserves, would have given Hussein control over the majority of the world’s oil reserves. Iraq also had a number of grievances with Saudi Arabia. The Saudis had lent Iraq some 26 billion dollars during its war with Iran. The Saudis backed Iraq, as they feared the influence of Shia Iran’s Islamic revolution on its own Shia minority (most of the Saudi oil fields are in territory populated by Shias). After the war, Saddam felt he should not have to repay the loans due to the help he had given the Saudis by stopping Iran.

Tomcats_DS_tanking_397px Soon after his conquest of Kuwait, Hussein began verbally attacking the Saudi kingdom. He argued that the US-supported Saudi state was an illegitimate and unworthy guardian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. He combined the language of the Islamist groups that had recently fought in Afghanistan with the rhetoric Iran had long used to attack the Saudis.

Acting on the policy of the Carter Doctrine, and out of fear the Iraqi army could launch an invasion of Saudi Arabia, U.S. President George H. W. Bush quickly announced that the U.S. would launch a "wholly defensive" mission to prevent Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia; Operation Desert Shield began on August 7, 1990 when U.S. troops were sent to Saudi Arabia. This "wholly defensive" doctrine was quickly abandoned, as On August 8, Iraq declared Kuwait to be the 19th province of Iraq.

Missouri_missile_BGM-109_TomahawkThe US Navy mobilized two naval battle groups, the aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, USS Independence and their escorts, to the area, where they were ready by August 8. A total of 48 U.S. Air Force F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, landed in Saudi Arabia, and immediately commenced round the clock air patrols of the Saudi–Kuwait–Iraq border areas to discourage further Iraqi advances. The U.S. also sent the battleships USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin to the region. Military buildup continued from there, eventually reaching 543,000 troops, twice the number used in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Much of the material was airlifted or carried to the staging areas via fast sealift ships, allowing a quick buildup.

Creating a coalition

A series of UN Security Council resolutions and Arab League resolutions were passed regarding the invasion. One of the most important was Resolution 678, passed on 29 November 1990, which gave Iraq a withdrawal deadline of 15 January 1991, and authorized “all necessary means to uphold and implement Resolution 660,” a diplomatic formulation authorizing the use of force.[28]


H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr.
and President George H. W.
Bush visit US troops in Saudi Arabia
on Thanksgiving Day, 1990

The United States assembled a coalition of forces to join it in opposing Iraq, consisting of forces from 34 countries: Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Spain, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States itself.

Although they did not contribute any forces, Japan and Germany made financial contributions totaling $10 billion and $6.6 billion respectively. US troops represented 73% of the coalition’s 956,600 troops in Iraq.

Many of the coalition forces were reluctant to join. Some felt that the war was an internal Arab affair, or did not want to increase US influence in the Middle East. In the end, however, many nations were persuaded by Iraq’s belligerence towards other Arab states, offers of economic aid or debt forgiveness, and threats to withhold aid.

Liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi occupation

American decoy attacks on the night before the liberation of Kuwait were designed to make the Iraqis believe the main attack would focus on Central Kuwait. On February 23, 1991, the 1st Marine Division, 2nd Marine Division, and the 1st Light Armored Infantry crossed into Kuwait and headed toward Kuwait City. They overran the well designed, but poorly defended, Iraqi trenches in the first few hours. The Marines crossed Iraqi barbed wire obstacles and mines, then engaged Iraqi tanks, which surrendered shortly thereafter. Kuwaiti forces soon attacked Kuwait City, to which the Iraqis offered light resistance. The Kuwaitis lost one soldier and one aircraft, and quickly liberated the city. Most Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait opted to surrender rather than fight.

The end of active hostilities

Gulf_War_Saudi_Flag_405px Civilians and coalition military forces
wave Kuwaiti and Saudi Arabian flags
as they celebrate the retreat of Iraqi
forces from Kuwait as a result of
Operation Desert Storm

In Iraqi territory that was occupied by the coalition, A peace conference, where a cease fire agreement was negotiated and signed by both sides, was held. At the conference, Iraq was approved to fly armed helicopters on their side of the temporary border, ostensibly for government transit due to the damage done to civilian infrastructure. Soon after, these helicopters and much of the Iraqi armed forces were used to fight a Shi’ite uprising in the south. The rebellions were encouraged by an airing of "The Voice of Free Iraq" on February 2, 1991, which was broadcast from a CIA run radio station out of Saudi Arabia. The Arabic service of the Voice of America supported the uprising by stating that the rebellion was large, and that they soon would be liberated from Saddam.

In the North, Kurdish leaders took American statements that they would support an uprising to heart, and began fighting, hoping to trigger a coup d’état. However, when no American support came, Iraqi generals remained loyal to Saddam and brutally crushed the Kurdish uprising. Millions of Kurds fled across the mountains to Kurdish areas of Turkey and Iran. These events later resulted in no-fly zones being established in both the North and the South of Iraq. In Kuwait, the Emir was restored, and suspected Iraqi collaborators were repressed. Eventually, over 400,000 people were expelled from the country, including a large number of Palestinians (due to their support of, and collaboration with, Saddam).

There was some criticism of the Bush administration, as they chose to allow Saddam Hussein to remain in power instead of pushing on to capture Baghdad and overthrowing his government. In their co-written 1998 book, A World Transformed, Bush and Brent Scowcroft argued that such a course would have fractured the alliance, and would have had many unnecessary political and human costs associated with it.

In 1992, the United States Secretary of Defense during the war, Dick Cheney, made the same point:

I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today. We’d be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home.

And the final point that I think needs to be made is this question of casualties. I don’t think you could have done all of that without significant additional U.S. casualties, and while everybody was tremendously impressed with the low cost of the (1991) conflict, for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it wasn’t a cheap war. And the question in my mind is, how many additional American casualties is Saddam (Hussein) worth? And the answer is, not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the President made the decision that we’d achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

The Persian Gulf War that can be found at…

by Gerald Boerner


Banneker was "a scientific genius who played an integral role in the physical design of the nation’s capital.”
— Edmund C. Moy, United States Mint

“Banneker became intrigued by a pocket watch he had seen as a young man. Using a knife he intricately carved out the wheels and gears of a wooden timepiece. The remarkable clock he constructed from memory kept time and struck the hours for the next fifty years.”
— Historical marker that the National Park Service erected in
Benjamin Banneker Park in Washington, D.C.

“…most distinguished honor that Banneker received was his appointment to serve with the commission to define the boundary lines and lay out the streets of the District of Columbia.”
— John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss, Jr., Historians

Barreker’s work showed “the powers of the mind are disconnected to the color of the skin.”
— James McHenry, signer of the Constitution

“… that your [Jefferson] sentiments are concurrent with mine, which are, t one universal Father hath given being to us all; and that he hath afforded us all the same sensations and endowed us all with the same faculties.”
— Benjamin Barrenker

Jefferson’s cordial reply “to see such proofs as you exhibit.”
— Thomas Jefferson’s reply to Barrenker


Benjamin Banneker: The African Astronomer

Benjamin Barreker Benjamin Banneker was a free African American astronomer, mathematician, surveyor, almanac author and farmer.

Although it is difficult to verify details of Benjamin Banneker’s family history, it appears that he was a grandson of a European American named Molly Welsh. The story goes that Molly met a slave named Banneka when she purchased him to help establish a farm located near the future site of Ellicott’s Mills, west of Baltimore, Maryland. This part of Maryland was out of the mainstream of the colonial South, and as result had a more tolerant attitude toward African Americans than did colonial areas in which slavery was more prevalent.

Perhaps a member of the Dogon tribe (reputed to have a historical knowledge of astronomy), Banneka may have cleared Molly’s land, solved irrigation problems, and implemented a crop rotation for her. Soon thereafter, Molly freed and married Banneka, who may have shared his knowledge of astronomy with her.

BannekerAlmanac_363px Title page of an edition of
Banneker’s 1792 almanac

Benjamin’s mother, Mary, was the daughter of Molly and Banneka. Although born after Banneka’s death, Benjamin may have acquired some of his grandfather’s knowledge via Molly, who appears to have taught him how to read, farm, and interpret the sky as Banneka had taught her. Little is known about Benjamin’s father Robert, a first-generation slave who had fled his owner.

As a young teenager, Banneker met and befriended Peter Heinrichs, a Quaker farmer who established a school near Banneker’s family’s farm. Heinrichs shared his personal library with Banneker and provided Banneker’s only classroom instruction. (During Banneker’s lifetime, Quakers were leaders in the antislavery movement and advocates of racial equality in accordance with their Testimony of Equality belief.)

Neighbors, Work, and Study

After his father died in 1759, Banneker lived with his mother and sisters. Then in 1771, a white Quaker family, the Ellicotts, moved into the area and built mills along the Patapsco River. Banneker supplied their workers with food, and studied the mills. In 1788 he began his more formal study of astronomy as an adult, using books and equipment that George Ellicott lent to him. The following year, he sent George Ellicott his work on the solar eclipse. In February 1791, Major Andrew Ellicott, a member of the same family, hired Banneker to assist in a survey of the boundaries of the 100-square-mile (260 km2) federal district (initially, the Territory of Columbia; later, the District of Columbia) that Maryland and Virginia would cede to the federal government of the United States for the nation’s capital in accordance with the federal Residence Act of 1790 and later legislation.

Ben_banneker_611px Benjamin Banneker cartoon
Charles Alston, 1943,
claiming that Banneker
had been a "city planner",
"was placed on the commission
which surveyed and laid out
the city of Washington, D.C.",
and had "constructed the
first clock made in America".

Banneker’s activities on the survey team resembled those used in celestial navigation during his lifetime. His duties consisted primarily of making astronomical observations at Jones Point in Alexandria, Virginia, to ascertain the location of the starting point for the survey and of maintaining a clock that he used when relating points on the surface of the Earth to the positions of stars at specific times. Because of illness and the difficulties in helping to survey the area at the age of 59, Banneker left the boundary survey in April 1791 and returned to his home at Ellicott’s Mills to work on an ephemeris. Andrew Ellicott continued the survey with his brothers Benjamin and Joseph Ellicott and other assistants through 1791 and 1792.

Banneker’s Almanacs and Journals

At Ellicott’s Mills, Banneker made astronomical calculations that predicted solar and lunar eclipses for inclusion in his ephemeris. He placed the ephemeris and its subsequent revisions in a six-year series of almanacs, which were published for the years 1792 through 1797 in Baltimore and Philadelphia. He also kept a series of journals that contained his notebooks for astronomical observations, his diary, and his mathematical calculations.

The title page of Banneker’s 1792 Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia Almanack and Ephemeris stated that the publication contained:

…the Motions of the Sun and Moon, the True Places and Aspects of the Planets, the Rising and Setting of the Sun, Place and Age of the Moon, &c.—The Lunations, Conjunctions, Eclipses, Judgment of the Weather, Festivals, and other remarkable Days; Days for holding the Supreme and Circuit Courts of the United States, as also the useful Courts in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Also—several useful Tables, and valuable Receipts.—Various Selections from the Commonplace–Book of the Kentucky Philosopher, an American Sage; with interesting and entertaining Essays, in Prose and Verse—the whole comprising a greater, more pleasing, and useful Variety than any Work of the Kind and Price in North America.

The 1792 almanac included the times for the rising and setting of the sun and moon. Weather forecasts and dates for yearly feasts were also included. Readers also saw a tide table for the Chesapeake Bay and home treatments for illnesses. In his 1793 almanac, Banneker included letters sent between Thomas Jefferson and himself. The cover of his 1795 almanac had a woodcut portrait of him as he may have appeared as a young man.

Letter to Thomas Jefferson on racism

On August 19, 1791, after departing the federal capital area, Banneker wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson, who in 1776 had drafted the United States Declaration of Independence and in 1791 was serving as the United States Secretary of State Quoting language in the Declaration, the letter expressed a plea for justice for African Americans. To further support this plea, Banneker included within the letter a handwritten manuscript of an almanac for 1792 containing his ephemeris with his astronomical calculations.

In the letter, Banneker accused Jefferson of criminally using fraud and violence to oppress his slaves by stating:

…Sir, how pitiable is it to reflect, that although you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of Mankind, and of his equal and impartial distribution of these rights and privileges, which he hath conferred upon them, that you should at the same time counteract his mercies, in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren, under groaning captivity and cruel oppression, that you should at the same time be found guilty of that most criminal act, which you professedly detested in others, with respect to yourselves.

Banneker’s letter did not offer any evidence to support this allegation. His message ended with the statement:

And now, Sir, I shall conclude, and subscribe myself, with the most profound respect,
Your most obedient humble servant,

An English abolitionist, Thomas Day, had earlier written in a 1776 letter:

If there be an object truly ridiculous in nature, it is an American patriot, signing resolutions of independency with the one hand, and with the other brandishing a whip over his affrighted slaves.[26]

While Banneker’s letter expressed similar sentiments, his missive went further when charging Jefferson with criminality and fraud when dealing with slaves.

Thomas Jefferson’s Reply to Banneker

Without directly responding to Banneker’s accusation, Jefferson replied to Banneker’s letter on August 30, 1791, in a series of nuanced statements that expressed his interest in the advancement of the equality of America’s black population. Jefferson’s reply stated in part:

No body wishes more than I do, to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren talents equal to those of the other colors of men; and that the appearance of the want of them, is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence, both in Africa and America. … I have taken the liberty of sending your Almanac to Monsieur de Condozett, Secretary of the Academy of Sciences at Paris, and Member of the Philanthropic Society, because I considered it as a document, to which your whole color had a right for their justification, against the doubts which have been entertained of them.

Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet, to whom Jefferson sent Banneker’s almanac, was a noted French mathematician and abolitionist. It appears that the Academy of Sciences itself did not receive the almanac.

Thomas Jefferson’s Opinion of Banneker and his Letter

In 1809, three years after Banneker’s death, Jefferson wrote:

The whole do not amount, in point of evidence, to what we know ourselves of Banneker. We know he had spherical trigonometry enough to make almanacs, but not without the suspicion of aid from Ellicot, who was his neighbor and friend, and never missed an opportunity of puffing him. I have a long letter from Banneker, which shows him to have had a mind of very common stature indeed.

Mythology of Benjamin Banneker

A substantial mythology exaggerating Banneker’s accomplishments has developed during the two centuries that have elapsed since he lived. Several such urban legends describe Banneker’s alleged activities in the Washington area around the time that he participated in the federal district boundary survey. Others involve his clock and his almanacs. All lack support by historical evidence. Some are contradicted by such evidence.


Other Events on this Day
  • In 1731…
    Mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Banneker is born near Baltimore

  • In 1872…
    A three-day fire in Boston destroys 775 buildings.

  • In 1906…
    Theodore Roosevelt becomes the first president to leave the country while in office when he embarks on a trip to inspect construction of the Panama Canal.

  • In 1965…
    A massive power failure leaves much of the northeastern United States without electricity for up to 13 1/2 hours.

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Benjamin Banneker that can be found at…

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The 6 Most Annoying Coworkers 

CB056550 A great coworker can help you look forward to going to work each day. An annoying coworker, on the other hand, can make you want to hide under the covers.

A large survey by the staffing firm Ranstad USA asked employees what their biggest office peeves were. It turns out they all involved coworkers. Annoying ones.

Do you recognize any of the top six most annoying coworker types?

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