Sample text for Absolute zero and the conquest of cold / Tom Shachtman.

Bibliographic record and links to related information available from the Library of Congress catalog

Copyrighted sample text provided by the publisher and used with permission. May be incomplete or contain other coding.

Counter Chapter 1

Winter in Summer

King James I of England and Scotland chose a very
warm day in the summer of 1620 for Cornelis Drebbel's
newest demonstration and decreed that it be held in
the Great Hall of Westminster Abbey. Drebbel had
promised to delight the king by making the atmosphere
of some building cold enough in summer to mimic the
dead of winter, and by choosing the Great Hall the
king gave him an enormous challenge, the largest
interior space in the British Isles, 332 feet from
one end to the other and 102 feet from the floor to
the golden bosses of its vaulted white ceiling.
In 1620 most people considered the likelihood
of reversing the seasons inside a building
impossible, and many deemed it sacrilege, an attempt
to contravene the natural order, to twist the
configuration of the world established by God. Early-
seventeenth-century Britons and Europeans construed
cold only as a facet of nature in winter. Some
believed cold had an origin point, far to the north;
the most fanciful maps represented Thule, a near-
mythical island thought to exist six days' sailing
north of the northern end of Britain and supposedly
visited only once, by Pytheas in the fourth century
B.C. -- an unexplored, unknown country of permanent
Not until the end of the nineteenth century
would a true locus of the cold become a more real
destination, as Victorian scientists tried to reach
absolute zero, a point they sometimes called "Ultima
Thule." Likening themselves to contemporary explorers
of the uncharted Arctic and Antarctic regions, these
laboratory scientists sought a goal so intense, so
horrific, yet so marvelous in its ability to
transform all matter that in comparison ice was warm.
In the early seventeenth century, even
ordinary winter cold was forbidding enough that the
imagination failed when trying to grapple with
it. "Natural philosophers" could conceive
technological feats that would not be accomplished
until hundreds of years later -- heavier-than-air
flight, ultrarapid ground transportation, the
prolongation of life through better medicines, even
the construction of skyscrapers and the use of
robots -- but not a single human being envisioned a
society able to utilize intense cold to advantage.
Perhaps this was because while the sources of heat
were obvious -- the sun, the crackle of a fire, the
life force of animals and human beings -- cold was a
mystery without an obvious source, a chill associated
with death, inexplicable, too fearsome to investigate.
Abhorrence of cold was reflected in only
sporadic use made of natural refrigeration, an
omission that permitted a large percentage of
harvested grains, meats, dairy products, vegetables,
fruits, and fish to spoil or rot before humans could
eat them. And since natural refrigeration was so
underutilized, producing refrigeration by artificial
means was considered a preposterous idea. No fabulist
in 1620 could conceive that there could ever be a
connection between artificial cold and improving the
effectiveness of medicine, transportation, or
communications, or that mastery of the cold might one
day extend the range of humanity over the surface of
the earth, the sky, and the sea and increase the
comfort and efficiency of human lives.
How did water become snow in the heavens or
ice on the earth? What formed the snowflakes? Why was
ice so slippery? In 1620 these and dozens of other
age-old, obvious questions about the cold were
considered not only unanswerable but beyond the reach
of investigation. Cold could neither be measured, nor
described as other than the absence of heat, nor
created when it was not already present -- except,
perhaps, by a magician.
On that summer day when the king and his
party approached Westminster Abbey -- which was in
need of some repair, the fabrics torn, the buttresses
on the northwest side crumbling in places -- James
Stuart was getting on in years, having recently
passed his fifty-fourth birthday. In middle age he
was still short, broad-shouldered, and barrel-
chested, but his hair, once dark, had thinned to a
light brown, and the rickets that had affected his
growth in youth had lately made his gait more uneven
and erratic, requiring him as he walked to lean on a
companion's shoulder or arm. He suffered from sudden
attacks of abdominal pain, rheumatism, spasms in his
limbs, and melancholy. After the loss of his queen,
Anne of Denmark, in 1619, he had begun to do
uncharacteristic things: even though the king and
queen had been estranged and had lived separately for
years, James honored Anne in death by siting her
sepulcher in Westminster, near the last resting place
of his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots. Very few
sepulchers or honorary statues decorated the abbey
just then.
Summer played havoc with the king's delicate
skin, described as "soft as taffeta sarsnet," thin,
fragile, and subject to frequent outbreaks of itching
and to sweating, which exacerbated the itches. He
also suffered from a sensitivity to sunlight so
severe that undue exposure to the sun overheated him
to the point of danger. His susceptibility to heat
was worsened by the thick clothing he habitually wore
and the doublets specially quilted to resist knife
thrusts, an augmentation deemed necessary after
several assassination attempts against him. "Look not
to find the softness of a down pillow in a crown,"
the king had written earlier that year, in a small
book of meditations on the biblical verse about Jesus
crowned with thorns, "but remember that it is a
thorny piece of stuff and full of continual cares."
Aside from obtaining relief from the heat,
James's interest in the coming demonstration derived
from his lifelong obsession with witchcraft and
unnatural matters, given fullest flower in his book
Demonologie, published in 1597. In 1605, two years
after James had ascended to the throne of England
upon the death of Queen Elizabeth, his fascination
with the occult and his continual search for
entertainment led him to accede to an entreaty for
patronage by the Dutchman Cornelis Drebbel. James
installed Drebbel and his family, with room and board
and a grant for expenses, in a suite at Eltham Palace
so that Drebbel could set up a laboratory and
manufacture, for the particular delight of James's
son Henry, such devices as a "perpetual-motion"
apparatus, a self-regulating oven, a magic lantern,
and a thunder-and-lightning machine.
That Drebbel billed himself to James as a
magician, not a scientist, shines through in a letter
the Dutchman sent home in 1608, regarding his magic-
lantern display:

I take my stand in a room and obviously no one is
with me. First I change the appearance of my
clothing. . . . I am clad first in black velvet, and
in a second, as fast as a man can think, I am clad in
green velvet, in red velvet, changing myself into all
the colors of the world . . . and I present myself as
a king, adorned in diamonds, and all sorts of
precious stones, and then in a moment become a
beggar, all my clothes in rags.

In front of his audience, Drebbel appeared to change
into a lion, a bird, a tree with trembling leaves; he
summoned ghosts, first the menacing kind, then heroic
spirits such as Richard the Lionhearted. Given
Drebbel's apparent ability to produce thunder and
lightning at will, and to change shapes, it was no
wonder that some in his audience deemed him godlike.
The precise date of Drebbel's 1620
demonstration of the power of cold, the identities of
those present at it, and the efficacy of the cooling
went unreported by eyewitnesses. We have only
secondhand accounts of it. But reasoned guesses based
on other known information may shed additional light
on the event. It probably occurred after July 12, the
installation date of John Williams as dean of the
abbey, replacing a long-serving, more conservative
dean. Williams of Salisbury was a progressive of
sorts and more likely than his predecessor to have
acquiesced to Drebbel's display in the hallowed
abbey. Moreover, he had been chosen as dean by George
Villiers, then the marquis of Buckingham, King
James's last and most influential homosexual lover.
Buckingham was likely to have been in the small crowd
that day; he and the king shared a fondness for
magic, alchemy, and surprising mechanical
apparatuses. To arrange his own entertainments,
Buckingham employed on his estate a young man from
Antwerp named Gerbier, who in all probability was
likewise in attendance at Westminster, perhaps as an
assistant to Drebbel; two years earlier, Gerbier had
praised Drebbel in an elegy on the death of Drebbel's
brother-in-law, which suggests a working relationship
between the Dutch expatriates. Other guests may have
been the astrologer and crystal gazer John Lambe,
whose influence at court was considerable, and
Salomon de Caus, maker of fantastic fountains and
spectacular gardens, who had earlier worked alongside
Drebbel in the royal service. Assisting Drebbel were,
in all likelihood, Abraham and Jacob Kuffler, Dutch
brothers who had come to England that year, begun
apprenticeships with him, and concocted a scheme in
which one or the other would marry Drebbel's daughter
and thereby become privy to his marvelous secrets.
So: Probably in the afternoon, when the heat
of the day was at its height, and between one of the
seven daily sessions of monks' devotions, the royal
party entered the abbey, presumably through a side
door to the north portal -- opening the great north-
portal doors would have spoiled everything -- and
stood in the shadowed edifice, to be welcomed by one
of the most mysterious men of his time. Many in
England believed, with Ben Jonson, that Drebbel was a
mountebank, a charlatan, and possibly a necromancer.
Some in Holland called Drebbel pochans or grote
ezel, "braggart" or "big jackass," but there were as
many others, in both countries, who respected Drebbel
as an inventive genius because he had astonished them
with some marvelous devices.
Born at Alkmaar in the north of Holland in
1572 to a landowning family, Cornelis Jacobszoon
Drebbel had little formal schooling. For many years
he remained unable to read or write in Latin or
English, and even after he had taught himself both
languages, he continued to despise books and wrote
little. In his teens he apprenticed in nearby Haarlem
to Hendrik Goltzius, an engraver who dabbled in
alchemy, and later married Goltzius's sister. He also
evidently learned some technical matters from two
Haarlem brothers who later became well known for
innovations in mathematics and optics. In 1598
Drebbel was awarded patents for a water-supply system
and for a form of self-winding and self-regulating
clockworks. In 1604 he published On the Nature of the
Elements, a short treatise confabulating alchemy,
pious thoughts, and speculation about the
interpenetration of the four elements -- earth, fire,
air, and water. In 1605 Drebbel wrote to James of
England, promising him the greatest invention ever
seen, a perpetuum mobile, a perpetual-motion machine,
and dedicating to the king the English edition of his
book on the elements.
The device Drebbel made at Eltham did not
produce perpetual motion, of course, since that is
impossible, but according to the contemporary account
of Thomas Tymme, a professor of divinity who thought
it wondrous, this was a clock with a globe, girdled
with a crystal belt in which water was contained,
accompanied by various indicators that told the day,
month, year, zodiac sign of the month, phases of the
moon, and rise and fall of the tides. In Tymme's
eyes, Drebbel's machine reflected the perpetual
movement of the universe, set in motion by the
Creator. Tymme reported in a book that when King
James had seemed unwilling to believe in its
perpetual motion, Drebbel, that "cunning Bezaleel, in
secret manner disclosed to his maiestie the secret,
whereupon he applauded the rare invention." Though
Tymme said the machine was operated by "a fierie
spirit, out of the mineral matter," most likely it
was powered either by variations in atmospheric air
pressure or by the expansion and contraction of
heated and cooled air.
By 1610 the fame of "the philosopher of
Alkmaar" had reached the court of Rudolf II, emperor
of Bohemia, who invited Drebbel and his family to
Prague, where Drebbel would have opportunity to
replace the former wizard of the castle, the noted
English alchemist Dr. John Dee. Rudolf had earlier
lured Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe to the castle at
Hradschin, but by this era the emperor had gone
beyond such true scientists and was neglecting the
affairs of state to work alongside his invited
artificers in an effort to find the elusive
philosophers' stone, a substance that alchemists
believed would transmute base metal into gold.
Drebbel's adventure in Prague ended in disaster:
Rudolf died in 1612 and his successor imprisoned the
Dutchman, either for his loyalty to the wrong faction
or for his alleged involvement in a scheme to
embezzle money and jewels. Drebbel wrote an
impassioned letter to King James in 1613, promising
not only a new and improved self-regulating clockwork
but also "an instrument by which letters can be read
at a distance of an English mile" as well as an
elaborate fountain featuring curtains and doors that
opened at the touch of the sun, water flowing on cue,
and music playing automatically on small frameless
keyboards, while "Neptune would appear from a grotto
of rocks accompanied by Tritons and sea-goddesses."
The king forthwith sent Drebbel instructions to
return to England and money for the journey.
Drebbel made that fountain for King James,
along with a camera obscura and a crude telescope. As
time went on, pressure grew on him to continue to
produce magically ingenious if not miraculous devices
in exchange for his supper, especially after 1618,
when circumstances combined to spur James to submit
to a new regime of austerity and curb his prodigious
household spending.
In 1620 Cornelis Drebbel was forty-eight, and
although his beard had turned gray he was still
the "fair and handsome man . . . of gentle manners"
that a visiting courtier had described years earlier;
the Dutch poet and scientist Constantijn Huygens, a
recent acquaintance, thought he looked like a "Dutch
farmer" but one full of "learned talk . . .
reminiscent of the sages of Samos and Sicily."
Drebbel's genteel reputation was often contrasted
with that of his wife, Sophia, who according to
another account spent all of Drebbel's income "on the
entertainment of sundry lovers." Huygens's parents
warned him against associating with this "magician"
and "sorcerer" -- but still asked their son to find
out about lens-grinding techniques from him.
At the time of the cold demonstration,
according to Drebbel's assistants, the inventor
lived "like a philosopher," oblivious to fashion,
despising the world and especially its great men,
caring for naught but his work, willing to talk only
to those who shared his fondness for tobacco, often
neglecting to eat because he was lost in scientific
thought. These were the circumstances that led him to
devise a triumph of man over nature, the reversal of
the seasons, the creation of winter in summer.
When the king and his followers entered the
abbey that summer day, probably through a door
beneath the great rose stained-glass window, they
were likely ushered to a section near the center, the
sacrarium, a relatively narrow and shorter enclosure
within the larger hall. There the air was, as Drebbel
had promised, quite cool. All would have felt the
chill to one degree or another. Guests would have
looked askance at certain troughs and other devices
they could not fathom, placed near the bases of the
walls, and perhaps for guidance up to the white
ceiling, partially blackened with soot from the tens
of thousands of candles burned in the chamber over
the centuries. Shortly, because of James's overheated
condition and near-continual sweating, the king began
to shiver and he retreated outside, followed by the
rest of his party. The demonstration was a success.

How did Drebbel do it? Since he left no written
description, and the few accounts of the event are
secondhand, answering the question requires some
lateral analyses. Years before the incident at
Westminster Abbey, the engineer and dramatist
Giambattista della Porta had produced ice fantasy
gardens, intricate ice sculptures, and iced drinks
for Medici banquets in Florence; the excited reports
by the nobility about these feats spread through
Europe and can be found today in letters and memoirs.
Of the more reliable reporters of Drebbels's feat,
only Francis Bacon made reference in a 1620 book
to "the late experiment of artificiall freezing" at
Westminster, so there is a decided lack of detail
about the demonstration of mechanical air
conditioning, though it was stark evidence that
people could exert mastery over a condition of nature.
The lack of notice was consistent with a
general failure to take Drebbel's remarkable
demonstration seriously. To contemporaries, this must
have seemed just another piece of magic at a time
when the elite of society were struggling to free
themselves from a fascination with the more-than-
natural that had held the world in thrall for a
thousand years. Magic and "natural science" then
coexisted uneasily, and it was far from certain that
science would eventually prevail.
Drebbel's "experiment" may also have failed to
attract more attention because of its lack of
immediate practical application.
Considerably more astonishment was professed
at Drebbel's well-reported 1621 demonstration of a
submarine. In three hours the boat traveled "two
Dutch miles" underwater on the Thames, from
Westminster to Greenwich, in front of the king and
thousands of onlookers. None could figure out how the
submerged crew of twelve -- plus the inventor
himself, who risked drowning along with them -- could
continue to breathe in the absence of fresh air.
Drebbel provided a clue to the submarine's air supply
in his Fifth Element, published that year, which
included the cryptic statement that "saltpetre,
broken up by the power of fire, was thus changed into
something of the nature of the air." Scientific
analysis was so rare in 1621 that no one picked up on
that clue; decades later British chemist and
physicist Robert Boyle would partially comprehend
what this demonstration accomplished, writing
that "Drebbel conceived that it is not the whole body
of the air, but a certain quintessence . . . or
spirituous part of it that makes it fit for
respiration," and figuring out that when Drebbel
observed that the air in the submarine was becoming
exhausted, "he would by unstopping a vessel full of
his liquor speedily restore [to] the troubled air
such a proportion of the vital parts, as would make
it again, for a good while, fit for respiration." In
short, Drebbel had isolated and discovered oxygen,
150 years before Joseph Priestley. But today
Drebbel's name is nowhere associated with that major
advance in chemistry.
Drebbel's fondness for the dramatic
presentations of the magician rather than the steady
progress of the scientist may also help explain, in
part, why his preternatural stunt of cooling
Westminster in summer produced few reverberations. An
inventor and court entertainer, he felt keenly the
need to keep the secrets of his demonstrations to
himself, a need reflected by his lifelong refusal to
document and publish his experiments properly or to
keep a diary. "Had Drebbel compiled notebooks
describing his undoubted technological works," writes
L. E. Harris, president of a society dedicated to the
history of engineering, "he might have attained some
lasting fame even without having an influence on
future technologies, as is the case with Leonardo da
Vinci." In the time-honored way of the magician,
Drebbel vouchsafed his "secrets" only in fragments to
his apprentices, the voracious Kufflers -- but
evidently he did not tell them very much, for after
Drebbel's death they were not able to replicate his
feats, though they made money from a dye works based
on his "secret" formula.
Drebbel appears to have been convinced that
if he disclosed the secrets of his work, he would
lose the aura of mystery that made him attractive to
the king; moreover, by retaining the secrets, he
affected to possess a power over nature that in some
measure counterbalanced the power of the king over
ordinary mortals. But this was only posturing. How
dependent Drebbel was became obvious only when King
James's death removed his stipend, which reduced him
to what Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens wrote was
an "extraordinary" appearance of such shabbiness and
disarray that it "fills one with surprise."
Drebbel's refusal to reveal his secrets was
accepted and sealed by his audience's equal
reluctance to demand explanations for marvelous
devices and demonstrations. Heinrich van Etten, a
contemporary, suggested that audiences found
mathematical and scientific puzzles more entertaining
if their inner workings were concealed, "for that
which doth ravish the spirits is an admirable effect
whose cause is unknowne, which if it were discovered,
halfe the pleasure is lost." The statement reflects a
lack of curiosity that ran throughout society at that
time, from the basest peasant to the highest noble.
Today we believe curiosity is central to
science and perhaps to all of human progress;
curiosity is the engine that drives the intellect to
seek the causes of things. "Curiosity is one of the
permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous
mind," Samuel Johnson would write in 1751, and few
could disagree with him.
But in 1620 prevailing opinion disparaged
curiosity. The distaste rested on two pillars of
ancient thought that resonated throughout the late
medieval and Renaissance eras. In the fifth century
Saint Augustine had condemned curiosity as a base
longing to know the trivial, contrasting it with the
elevated pleasures of faith, which he believed
provided all the explanations that humankind needed;
curiosity was anathema because it meant delving too
deeply into what God had created. Adding to the
distrust of curiosity and of any quest to unlock
the "secrets" of natural phenomena was a belief that
investigating nature's hidden workings ran counter to
Aristotle's teachings, inscribed nearly a thousand
years before Augustine. Aristotle had taught that
nature could be entirely apprehended by the senses,
that knowledge was not obtainable through experiment
and could be derived only as a byproduct of reason
and logic. In the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas
had fused the philosophies of Aristotle and
Augustine, as they related to scientific inquiry, and
since then his synthesis had been dominant. John
Donne, who owed his high ecclesiastical position to
King James, vehemently agreed with Aquinas that it
was impious to attempt to uncover any hidden truths
about nature.
In the early 1600s, however, beliefs that
decried curiosity and restricted information about
the "secrets" of nature to a handful of cognoscenti
were under attack, and the most highly influential
English opponent of such views was a man who tried to
explain Drebbel's demonstration at Westminster,
though he probably had not been present at it: Sir
Francis Bacon, Baron Verulam, lord chancellor of
England. Lawyer, historian, philosopher, and
politician, Bacon more than anyone else in England
helped banish magic and secrets by championing
science based on experimentation. Constantijn Huygens
might write of Drebbel and Bacon in the same sentence
and contend that their accomplishments were of equal
moment, but they were not colleagues. Rather, they
were polar opposites, Drebbel among the last of the
magician-artificers and Bacon the first true English
scientific thinker. In Drebbel's refusal to explain
his stunt and Bacon's insistence on trying to discern
its chemical mechanism of cooling lies the deeper
significance of Drebbel's demonstration: it
symbolized the passing of the era in which magic held
all the fascination and the arrival of science at
center stage to begin the process of providing
explanations of nature that would greatly advance
human civilization.
We infer Bacon's absence at the Westminster
event because he did not write himself an immediate
note about it, as he had done after viewing Drebbel's
demonstrations of earlier devices and machines at
Eltham Palace. Bacon's appetite for scientific stunts
was declining; in 1605, while courting King James, he
had condoned the study of marvels, witchcraft, and
sorcery "for inquisition of truth, as your majesty
has shown in his own example [in Demonologie]," but
later Bacon insisted that "experiments of natural
magic should be sifted diligently and severely before
they are received, especially those . . . commonly
derived . . . with great sloth and facility both of
believing and inventing."
Another likely reason for Bacon's absence was
the gathering storm, fomented by his political
enemies, that within a year would result in his
abject fall from favor. Shortly after James made
Bacon viscount of St. Albans in early 1621, the
nobleman was impeached for accepting bribes; after
confessing to his guilt, he was stripped of his
position and banished from London, though he was
spared incarceration. The deeper reason for Bacon's
eclipse was related to his growing advocacy of
experimental science. English scientist Robert Hooke
later identified that reason, in comparing Bacon's
treatment to that of Italian scientist Galileo by the
Inquisition: "Thus it happened also to . . . Lord
Chancellor Bacon, for being too prying into the then
receiv'd philosophy."
Bacon was never a man to ignore what another
experimenter might turn up that could be relevant to
his own studies, and perhaps that is why, in Novum
Organum, published later in 1620, he wrote the short
section that, according to an associate, tried to
fathom "the late experiment of artificiall freezing"
at Westminster: "Nitre (or rather its spirit) is very
cold, and hence nitre or salt when added to snow or
ice intensifies the cold of the latter, the nitre by
adding to its own cold, but the salt by supplying
activity to the cold of the snow." Nitre, also known
as saltpeter, is a common chemical compound (today
called potassium nitrate) and the active ingredient
of gunpowder. Bacon's guess about Drebbel using nitre
was a good one: the court artificer had himself
written of saltpeter and was also on intimate terms
with Sir Thomas Chaloner, author of a book solely
about nitre; moreover, as Bacon hints, many
alchemists and would-be scientists had been
experimenting with the cold-inducing aspects of nitre
and common salt.
A source for those experiments was one of the
most popular "books of secrets" of the age,
Giambattista della Porta's Natural Magic, first
published in Italy in 1558 and enlarged -- as well as
translated into virtually every other European
language -- in 1589. Della Porta was one of the most
famous men in Italy, a friend of German astronomer
Johannes Kepler and Galileo, a man so learned in the
ways of nature that he was expected at any moment to
discover the philosophers' stone. Jailed by the
Inquisition for his magic, he continued to write
about it. In Natural Magic, following sections
treating alchemy, invisible writing, the making of
cosmetics, gardening, and the accumulation of
household goods, della Porta appended a final
miscellany, "The Chaos," in which he mentioned mixing
snow and nitre to produce a "mighty cold" that was
twice as cold as either substance -- cold enough to
make ice.
With these hints, and some technology of the
era, we can finally reconstruct how Drebbel probably
accomplished his feat.
At an early hour of the morning, Drebbel and
his assistants brought into Westminster Abbey long,
watertight troughs and broad, low vats and placed
them alongside the walls and in the midst of the
limited part of the abbey that they planned to cool,
most likely that inner, narrow transept near the
portal through which the king and courtiers would
enter, an area they knew would be in shade most of
the day and especially at that hour. They also
brought in snow, which would have been available from
those among the nobility who had on their estates
underground snow pits to keep unmelted snow and ice
in storage after the winter, to use for cooling
drinks in summer. Drebbel filled the troughs and vats
partway with water, the coolest he could find, which
he no doubt had fetched directly from the nearby
Thames. For several hours, he infused nitre, salt,
and snow into the water, creating ice crystals and a
mixture whose temperature -- if he could have
measured the temperature, which he could not, since
no thermometers capable of such accuracy yet existed -
- was actually reduced below the freezing point of
water, as della Porta had guessed. Some of the
troughs were metal, and the freezing mixture chilled
the metal, which aided the refrigerating process by
keeping the contents of the troughs cold.
More to the point of the exercise, the
freezing mixture cooled the air directly above the
troughs and vats. In Drebbel's Elements treatise he
referred to the frequently observed phenomenon of
heated air rising, and he seems also to have
understood that cool air is heavier than warm air and
tends to stay close to the ground. Now he used this
principle to generate a mass of cool air that
displaced warmer air in the cathedral up in the
direction of the capacious ceiling. He did not need
to force the warm air to rise very far -- just 10
feet high or so, until it was above the height of the
king and courtiers. And he did not need to make the
space very cold -- a decrease in temperature from,
say, 85º to 65ºF would have proved sufficient to
chill an overheated king. This cooling Drebbel
accomplished over the course of several hours,
perhaps aiding the process by fanning the cool air so
that remaining pockets of warm air thoroughly
dispersed, before the court party arrived and
experienced the shock of the cold.

Copyright (c) 1999 by Tom Shachtman. All rights
reserved. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Low temperature research