VES PROJECT and the Internet

José Álvarez-Cornett
(@chegoyo en Twitter)
November 14, 2019


Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are
not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)


Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
caminante no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.

(Wayfarer, your footprints
are the only road, nothing else.
Wayfarer, there is no road;
you make your own path as you walk)
Antonio Machado (1875-1939)


This year marks the 50th Anniversary since the first Internet message was dispatched from UCLA (when the computers of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) were connected for the first time, on October 29, 1969, creating a network of two nodes).

The roads taken by VES PROJECT have led us to study unsuspected topics when we started with our independent research initiative back in 2013. But, what does VES PROJECT have to do with the Internet?

Today, we want to make a brief historical account of our project. As you might know, normal life in Venezuela has deteriorated a great deal. This current situation has hindered but has not impeded our work. In adversity, we only work harder! To support the VES PROJECT, click here.

VES PROJECT is an independent research initiative created in 2013 to study the life profiles of migrant STEM professionals, mainly scientists and engineers, in Venezuela (this includes, both, the immigration of foreign scientists and engineers to Venezuela and the emigration of Venezuelan scientists and engineers to other countries; people like Rafael Reif, the current President of MIT, an electrical engineer graduated from the University of Carabobo, a university located in the city of Valencia, in the central region of Venezuela.)

VES is an acronym with a double meaning. When referring to the immigration into Venezuela of scientists and engineers, it means: Vinieron, Educaron y Sembraron (they Came, Taught and Sowed) and, when it deals with the ongoing emigration of Venezuelan STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) professionals, VES means: Viajaron, Emigraron y Surgieron (they Voyaged, Emigrated and Succeeded).

We have been successful in our mission and in our VES PROJECT portal we have already published a large number of biographical profiles (mainly in Spanish but some in English like the life of the American physicist Larry Ray Foreman) or the testimonials of scientists from the University of Kansas who lived in Venezuela in the mid-sixties. Our research lines PATENTADAS — the study of Venezuelan women who are patent holders — and NIHON VES — the case of Japanese scientists in Venezuela and Venezuelan immigrant scientists and engineers in Japan — have also been published in Revista Persea, a science communication online magazine in Spanish for Latin America.

In VES PROJECT, all our research is done using the Internet and social media networks by applying a methodology that we developed and named Digital Historical Sounding (DHS). The first time DHS appeared “in society” was, on November 28, 2013, at the Symposium of the Venezuelan Group for the History and Sociology of Science (GVHSC, in Spanish), at the University of Carabobo, where we presented a paper on how to use the Internet and social networks to support research in the History of Science and Technology (HST).

On that occasion we presented the case study of a man who at that time was unknown in the annals of the HST in Venezuela: the Austrian physicist Juan Gschwendtner (actually, Johannes von Gozdava Gschwendtner), a former captain of the Luftwaffe and Professor of Physics at the Central University of Venezuela (we presented the story of Professor Gschwendtner in an academic paper and in our blog, see Validating Dr. Gschwendtner’s Story.)

Johannes von Gozdava Gschwendtner (1916-1996)

After this “first entry into society” came other talks where we introduced the DHS methodology: at UCAB, at CIHCyTAL (Mexico), at the Bolívar and Bello Chair of the Center for Advanced Studies (CEA) of the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC) and, more recently, at the VI Congress of Invecom (the Venezuelan Communication Researchers conference) (our paper was called Digital Chronicles of Venezuelan Technoscientific Migration: VES Project and Digital Historical Sounding; in Spanish, Crónicas digitales de la migración tecnocientífica venezolana: Proyecto VES y Sondeo Histórico Digital). 

We also participated in the 40th Anniversary of the Center for Science Studies at IVIC, with a poster entitled: Crónicas digitales. El despegar de nuestra ciencia (Digital Chronicles. The take-off of our science); to see the poster, click here.

Can DHS tell us anything new about the Internet in Venezuela?

PROJECT VES has benefited a great deal from the Internet. Therefore, it is not surprising that on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the birth of the Internet, we asked ourselves what DHS could say about the Internet in Venezuela. Our question was only a mere curiosity. As, in fact, we did not believe that anything new could be said about it. However, after applying DHS we unearthed from the Web some unknown aspects about Venezuela’s entry into cyberspace.

So, six years after having announced the DHS methodology, these new facts about Venezuela and the cyberspace will be presented, on November 21, 2019, at the Andrés Bello Catholic University (UCAB), at the annual Symposium of the Venezuelan Group of History and Sociology of Science (GVHSC) to be held during the 69th Annual Convention of AsoVAC (the Venezuelan Association for the Advancement of Science). Our paper is titled La entrada de Venezuela en el ciberespacio (1988-1998). Una indagación con Sondeo Histórico Digital (The Entrance of Venezuela in Cyberspace (1988-1988). An Inquiry With Digital Historical Sounding.) A summary (in Spanish) of our paper can be read here

Now, in this same symposium, we are also presenting a second paper related to remembering the 20th-century innovations in Venezuela. But, how is it that VES PROJECT is also involved with innovation in Venezuela?

Well, it turns out that our DHS methodology, simultaneously, works with hundreds of case studies. We have dozens of cases that are incomplete for publishing because some important piece of data is missing (sometimes for something as small as a lacking a picture of the person being studied or not knowing their date of birth or death). Reviewing our archives, we found out that we had plenty of information about some innovators and their innovations made in Venezuela during the 20th century (because many of these innovators had emigrated or they were foreign immigrants in Venezuela, their names were in our portfolio of case studies).

At this conference, we will present cases of innovation in several Venezuelan industries: oil and gas, agriculture, food, construction, chemistry, ICT (software development) and, especially, in microelectronics.

So, we gathered and clustered information dispersed in our archives, and together with the results of other HST researchers, we have drafted a paper that will soon be submitted to peer-review for publication.

An outline of the main aspects of this work will be presented at the already mentioned symposium with the title: “We Have Innovated! Memories of Some Technological Developments in Venezuela during the 20th Century” ¡Hemos innovado! Recuerdos de algunos desarrollos tecnológicos en Venezuela durante el siglo XX (a summary of this paper, in Spanish, can be read here). 

Advances in two other research lines

All along, VES PROJECT has also been working on the research line “Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Scientific Relations: The Franco-Venezuelan Network of The Chemist Vicente Marcano (1848-1891)” (Relaciones científicas atlánticas decimónicas: la red franco-venezolana del químico Vicente Marcano (1848-1891).) This line of research arose from asking the question: Can SHD be applied to nineteenth-century case studies?

The answer is yes, it is possible.

The catalog (left) that Vicente Marcano (right) produced to chronicle Venezuela’s participation in the Universal Exposition of 1878 in Paris.

Two articles, parts II and III of VICENTE MARCANO (1848-1891), REDESCUBIERTO (VICENTE MARCANO (1848-1891), REDISCOVERED) have been submitted to the academic journal Bitácora-e for publication. These two new articles complement Part I (a draft of Part IV is already quite advanced and will soon be sent for publication).

Work continues on the three-parts essay Caribe Nipponica (Caribbean Nipponica) about the Japanese presence in the Caribbean Sea. The first part has already been published (an English translation is forthcoming) and the second part will be released soon. But, it will be only in the third part of this essay when our findings on the technoscientific activities of the Japanese in the Venezuelan Caribbean Sea will be presented. 

VES PROJECT and the Lunar Program?

But, there is more.

Every year, the annual ASOVAC convention features an event called: “Frontiers of Science” (Fronteras de la Ciencia). This year the organizers have decided to celebrate the Moon landing with a session named “50 Years Since the Voyage that Placed Humans on the Moon” (in Spanish, 50 años del viaje que posó humanos en la Luna), and they have invited us to give a talk.

But, wait, what does VES PROJECT have to do with NASA’s Lunar Program?

At first glance, it would seem that nothing at all. But, this is not so because three Venezuelans are connected in different ways to the program.

In Venezuela, the engineer Gustavo Rada (1934-2007) led Radio Caracas Television station (RCTV) efforts to make the first-ever satellite transmission in Venezuela. For this event, Venezuela (RCTV) installed a parabolic antenna in western Venezuela to receive the signal from NASA’s ATS-3 satellite that exclusively retransmitted Houston’s signal to Venezuela (the case of electrical engineer Rada is part of VES PROJECT’s case studies because, before his life in the world of television, he had specialized in nuclear engineering and served as the chief engineer in charge of keeping Venezuela’s only nuclear research reactor operative.)

The first page of one of Héctor Rojas report.

On the other hand, in the United States, Venezuelan scientist Humberto Fernández-Morán (1924-1999) — the inventor of the diamond knife —, at the University of Chicago, led a project for the analysis of lunar rocks by electron microscopy and, in Houston, another Venezuelan, the astrophysicist Héctor Rojas (1928-1991); Ph.D. University of Paris, 1956), working for Lockheed Electronics Company, carried out several studies to estimate the optimal moon landing area from satellite data (among others, Method of Predicting the Optimum Lunar Landing Area for a Manned Spacecraft).

Our presentation in Frontiers of Science (November 20, 2019) carries a somewhat poetic inspiration taken from a poem by the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca (1898-1936): Por el cielo va la luna con un niño de la mano (Across the sky goes the moon holding a child by the hand.) In our case, this child is a metaphorical representation of the innate curiosity of human beings to know more about all the world that surrounds us.)

VES PROJECT needs support

We have presented a brief account of the history of the VES PROJECT, an independent research initiative that needs funding to be able to give continuity to our research lines. Presently, because living conditions in Venezuela have become very difficult and harsh, your support today for VES PROJECT is more needed than ever to help us continue doing more research and writing.

Please, Support VES PROJECT !

If you want to support VES PROJECT and contribute to our efforts to investigate the history of foreign contribution to the scientific and technological development of Venezuela and to discover the successes and achievements in science and technology of the Venezuelan diaspora in the United States and other countries.

You can use PayPal to make a donation by clicking on the DONATE button shown below.


José G. Álvarez Cornett (Twiter: @Chegoyo)
Member of COENER,  and the “Physics and Mathematics for Biomedical Consortium“. Teacher of History of Physics and Cultural History of Science at the School of Physics, Faculty of Science, Central University of Venezuela and Alumni Representative before the School of Physics Council.









@Chegoyo 2019

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