Zindler's Book Blog
As explained in Post #4, Memoir Seven, “Annus Mirabilis,” tells of my “Wonder Year”—the year I was thirteen years old. That was the year I started to be a scientist, a linguist, a musician and composer, a teacher, and the year I read the entire Christian Bible—experiencing a moral revulsion that led to my rebirth as an Atheist five years later—while simultaneously reading Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Oh, yes! Most importantly, it was the year I taught myself to type. “Aunt Lydia’s C-Note and the Typewriter” recounts the amusing circumstances that made that life-changing learning possible.
I had become enthralled with astronomy and astrophysics in sixth grade, when my grade-school Mrs. Purdy passed on to me several paperbacks her engineer husband had read and enjoyed: George Gamow’s One, Two, Three—Infinity, and Birth and Death of the Sun. By the time I was in ninth grade and had started high school, thanks to those books, I had a good grasp of how the sun produced its energy, and thought I might like to become an astronomer. When an older friend in my biology class told me about the Berrien County Astronomical Society, I wanted to join. The society required applicants for admission to deliver a qualifying lecture on some aspect of astronomy. On the spot, I strode up to the black board, wrote “The Carbon-Nitrogen Cycle in the Sun,” and delivered “The Astronomy Lecture,” explaining the astrophysics of solar energy production. More than thirty years later, I learned that astrophysicists no longer consider the Carbon-Nitrogen Cycle to be the major source of solar energy. Blame Gamow, not the Whiz Kid!
My Wonder Year saw my first of many attempts to learn to read Egyptian hieroglyphics. It would lead to trips to the Field Museum in Chicago, a museum famed for its Egyptology research and the museum in which the movie Night in the Museum was filmed. My own “Night in the Museum” tells the amusing story of how I was locked inside a rare-book study-cage in the library of that same museum—and forgotten.
Thirteen was the year in which I began to teach music—accordion and piano—at the Cady School of Music, the year in which I began to compose an opera and a symphony, and the year in which I formed my own polka band—my year for “Music in Earnest”— the episode that tells how my stepfather, Uncle Lloyd, took an ax to my piano when the agony of my composing became more than he could stand. “The Wedding Party” tells how the remarriage of my mother led to the I’m-My-Own-Grandpa-like condition of me becoming my own first-cousin.
Other episodes of “Annus Mirabilis” include “The Lost (Vocal) Chord,” “The Diver and the Cannon Ball,” “Music Teaching,” and “Mother Darwin Knows Best.”
Next time: I will discuss the heart-breaking but funny Memoir 8, “The Tent Meeting,” and begin my discussion of Memoir 9, “Miss Mary Louise Williams”—the English teacher who would inspire my attempts at writing poetry and philosophical essays. Memoir 9 includes the tale of how I tried to carry on a conversation with Aldous Huxley at the beginning of the Brave-New-World era of experimentation with psychedelic drugs.
For 17 years, Frank R. Zindler was a professor of biology, geology, and psychobiology at Fulton-Montgomery Community College (SUNY), and became Chair of the Division of Science, Nursing, & Technology. For over 37 years he has served as a linguist and editor of scientific literature for a learned scientific society in Ohio. Managing editor of American Atheist Press since the murder of Madalyn Murray O'Hair in 1995, he became interim president of American Atheists, Inc., in 2008, and still serves on the board of directors of that organization. He is a former member of the Jesus seminar, and is an internationally known exponent of the Christ-Myth Theory, the theory that Christianity began without a historical Jesus.