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What is a pasilalinic-sympathetic compass — and why did it make history today?

October 2nd

Jean-August-Dominique Ingres - Portrait of Andre Benoit Barreau, called Taurel 1819October 2, 1851 — The pasilalinic-sympathetic compass is demonstrated today, but proves to be a fake. Also referred to as the snail telegraph, this contraption was an attempt to prove the hypothesis that snails create a permanent telepathic link when they touch.

French occultist Jacques Toussaint Benoit (pictured above) and his colleague Monsieur Biat-Chretien developed the theory in the early to mid 19th century. They believed that the telepathic bond between two snails had no physical limit, thus making communication possible over any distance. By touching one half of the snail partnership it was suggested that the other snail would sense the contact and would move.

Benoit built an apparatus to test his theories, but it quickly became apparent that what he expected to be a communication revolution was in fact just a costly failure.

Words of Wisdom

Jacques Toussaint Benoit pasilalinic-sympathetic compass is an apparatus that consists of a square wooden box containing a large horizontal disc. In the disc are 24 holes, eachcontaining a zinc dish lined with a cloth soaked in a coppersulphate solution; the cloth was held in place by a lineof copper. At the bottom of each of the 24 basins is a snail, glued in place, and each associated with a different letterof the alphabet. An identical second device holds the paired snails. To transmit a letter the operator touches one of the snails. This causes a reaction in the corresponding snail whichcan be read by the receiving operator.


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