I wrote this to a good friend of mine, Kate O'Brien. The subject was what inspired us to work for freedom. My story included two people who inspired me. One of them was my grandfather, Arthur C. Pillsbury. Read on to discover the other one.
I found a copy of Atlas Shrugged on a shelf in the family library when I was 12. I had already read everything else, so I took it back to my bedroom and opened it. Mother tried to take it away from me when I failed to come out for dinner. She could not wrest it from my hands, and she did try. Dad told her to leave me alone, that I would get hungry soon enough. I finished the book after dawn the next morning. I was ravenous and ate two servings of breakfast.
Later, Mother said to me, "I knew I should have stopped you from reading that book." She need not have worried about my becoming a devotee of Rand’s.
Then, I knew little about Ayn Rand, actually assumed Ayn was a male name. It was not until after I have become a Libertarian, by which I mean, had joined the LP, in 1973 that I got to know people who knew Ayn. One of my new friends had taken the classes in NY from Branden. This moved me to start researching Rand's life, which brought me to Rose Wilder Lane and Isabel Patterson.
It is not intellectually honest to take ideas, mark them as your own, and give no credit. Clearly, this had been what Rand did. But what I had learned about her relations with her family, her husband, and other associates also disappointed me greatly.
I had already found out that John Hospers was a pedophile from a close friend from my Junior High School, Webster, West LA. He had firsthand knowledge of this. I was shocked. This was confirmed to me, though I did not doubt Tommy, by several other sources. People can disappoint you. But I had both these experiences before encountering Ed Crane, who I had learned about through a woman who had 'volunteered' to work in his office (apartment), around 1973 - 1974.
Volunteering, she told me, was typing for a half hour and then having sex with Crane. Girls were scheduled at hour intervals, half an hour of typing, a half hour of bedroom duties.
The ideas of freedom resonated with me very early on. This included the value of each person, regardless of gender or any other differences in color or background.
My cousin, Jimmy, he told me to call him Cousin Jimmy, had explained these to me when I was about 5. He had read The Fountainhead and then seen the movie. He told me about the scenes, the dramatic conflicts over freedom against tyranny. But he had not liked how the movie was taken from the book and was determined to remake it. Unfortunately, he died before this was possible. I would have to say Cousin Jimmy was, and remains, my own personal champion and advocate for freedom, though others might not agree.
Jimmy’s name was James Byron Dean. I will always remember Jimmy and our conversations; these introduced me to a wider world of ideas. When I have time, I’ll finish writing the Jimmy Stories. One or two of those were up at Star for Christmas.
Cousin Jimmy also awakened my interest in the natural world, which was sparked with his comments about my grandfather’s work while I was showing him the photos and other items in the cabinet where these were stored in the living room. I also handed him Grandfather’s book, which he leafed through, exclaiming. He said he had to get the book for himself!
Arthur C. Pillsbury was determined to open people to understanding everything around them which was, then, beyond human sight.
I’ll likely never know if he bought a copy of Grandfather’s book, Picturing Miracles of Plant and Animal Life, published by J. B. Lippincott in 1937. Grandfather’s inventions and innovations included the first specimen slicer for a microscope(1892) https://tinyurl.com/39rspcvn, the first circuit panorama camera (1897), his proposed senior project while majoring in mechanical engineering at Stanford. His Senior Advisor told him not to bother building the camera because it would not work. https://tinyurl.com/56dfjn9v
Grandfather built it, it worked. He left school and went to the Yukon in January of 1898, having found clients who wanted photos of the Gold Rush and later the panoramas and other photos of the 1906 Earthquake in San Francisco.
He made the first nature movie (1909) https://tinyurl.com/ytuwty2v, made to persuade John Muir, a friend of his, to use films to stop the allocation of the Hetch Hetchy, the first lapse-time motion-picture camera to record the life cycle of plants, (1912) https://tinyurl.com/ytuwty2v, he built this to stop the mowing of the meadows in the National Parks, the first microscopic motion picture camera (1925). He borrowed a lab room at UC Berkeley and showed the first film to an eminent group of scientists in various disciplines teaching there. https://tinyurl.com/3usx8t9x
Their reaction was funny. They had not realized they were seeing cells dividing. Imagine!
His next invention was the first X-Ray motion picture camera (1929), followed by the first underwater motion picture camera (1930).
He went on to identify the process of osmosis in plants in October 1942. This was published in Popular Science. https://tinyurl.com/mss47wen
Seeing is believing. The films he made, and showed, around the world and on every major campus in the United States, impacted generations. Most people forgot his name, however, because it was excluded in the media because his views were recognized as dangerous to the powers, then feeling the potential for controlling the minds of Americans.
The only article which appeared at the time was published in Sunset Magazine in the April 1927 Issue https://tinyurl.com/yx682z5y
Grandfather’s life was too full to talk about in one article. But on freedom and his goals, this is enough.
Arthur C. Pillsbury believed it was possible to understand the world and keeping knowledge open to everyone was essential. The ignorance and unwillingness to see into the future became clear to him at an early age through his own life experiences.
He also believed firmly that the autonomy of the individual to learn, experiment, and improve their understanding was the right path for humanity. He called this the "Knowledge Commons." Today we would say, Open Source.
These experiences through life grew and reinforced my conviction that the free market and individual agency, to choose and to do, causing no harm to others, were essential to each of us.