History and Philosophy

Kees Boeke, Cosmic View

Kees Boeke is perhaps best known outside of The Netherlands for his book, Cosmic View: The Universe in 40 Jumps (1957), which served as the basis for the film by Charles and Ray Eames The Power of Ten (1968) which is now the basis of an extensive interactive web site at www.powersof10.com and inspired the IMAX film the Cosmic Voyage (1996).

The book presents a series of forty pictures composed to help children develop a sense of scale and to understand themselves in relation to the universe. Each picture jumps, in exact scale, in powers of 10, from a picture of a girl outdoors in a chair up to a view of her neighborhood, then to her country, and so on until the pictures reach the edge of the universe. Then they move back from the girl in the chair into microscopic views of her skin tissues and finally, under a magnification of ten million, the nucleus of a sodium atom. In the forward, Boeke said:

At school we are introduced to many different spheres of existence, but they are often not connected with each other, so that we are in danger of collecting a large number of images without realizing that they all join together in one great whole. It is therefore important in our education to find the means of developing a wider and more connected view of our world and a truly cosmic view of the universe and our place in it. (Boeke 1957)