Daily Speculations

The Web Site of Victor Niederhoffer & Laurel Kenner

Dedicated to the scientific method, free markets, deflating ballyhoo, creating value, and laughter;  a forum for us to use our meager abilities to make the world of specinvestments a better place.



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An Ingenious Pumping Device:
We are indebted to Mr. Alex Castaldo for bringing to our attention a gem from the endless supply in Francis Galton’s life and work.

 In 1845 Francis Galton, 23 years old, took a semester off from Cambridge University to travel to the Middle East.  In Syria he visited Beyrout and later went to Jaffa (today in Israel).  He wrote [Memories, page 105]:

 "The soil around Jaffa is perfectly dry and wonderfully fertile, but only on the strict condition of being amply supplied with water.  Its environs were traversed by dusty roads between dull mud walls, on whose other side the richly watered gardens lay; so pedestrians, as might be expected, were thirsty and covetous.  I saw a sort of pump handle with a spout on the side of the road, and an inscription above bearing some such encouraging text as "Drink! Here is water!" Accordingly we pumped, and a little water did certainly come; but however hard we pumped there issued no more than a scanty streamlet out of the spout.  We heard, all the same, a sound of abundance of water that never reached us, the cause of which was soon discovered to be an ingeniously arranged division, by means of which the pumper got only a small fraction of the water he raised, and the garden got all the rest.  It was an excellent example of the higher forms of commercial enterprise.  They enrich all round, but the merchant to whose initiative they are due gets by far the biggest share."

 (I have a suspicion the engineer who designed this clever contraption also invented the stock brokerage firm.  The principles of operation are fairly similar.) – Alex Castaldo (8/1/2003)