In Memoriam/laurawisewell

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laurawisewell's Wiki User page and DP Profile page show her multi-faceted involvement at DP. She was Content Provider, Project Manager, Proofer, Foofer, Mentor, Post-processor, and Post-processing Verifier. She was one of our LaTeXers, and was a leading force in encouraging and helping PPers make e-texts accessible for people with disabilities. In addition, she was an active participant in Forum discussions, trying to help make DP the best it could be.

How We Heard the Sad News

laurawisewell's death was announced in the DP Forums by susanskinner on 6-Aug-2007 (server date) in the laurawisewell 1976-2007 thread:

"It's with great sadness that I have to announce the unexpected death of laurawisewell on 25th July.
"Laura joined DP back in 2005 and was an extremely active and passionate volunteer. Laura will be remembered for many things on DP, in particular her involvement with LaTeX projects (including persuading the University of Glasgow to donate several hundred mathematics texts) and her determination to make HTML versions of eBooks more accessible.
"On a more personal note, Laura had become a good friend of mine off-line as well as on-line and I'm going to miss her very much.
"I will be writing to Laura's family to express my condolences at this time and if people want, I can do so on behalf of DP, or pass on any other messages that people wish to send.

JulietS added her thoughts later in the same thread:

"From an email that I sent to Laura at the end of June:
'I've been meaning to write to you for quite awhile now (several months at least). I must compliment you on your transformation from the shy new person I met at the London gather a couple years ago to the vibrant, vital part of DP that you've become. Since it's happened gradually and you are on the inside, you may not be aware of what a leader you've become in our community. Your work on the accessibility issues is wonderful and really important. I'd been hoping for several years that someone would take an interest in that, do the research, and let us know if there are simple changes we could make that would be of significant benefit to accessibility. Your work with the Latex team has also been extremely important.... I saw you write in the Latex Team thread that you didn't think the DP process works for Latex projects. I'm inclined to agree that you are right. Do you have any ideas about how to distribute the process of converting math texts to Latex?'
"I remember meeting Laura at the London meeting a couple years ago. She had said beforehand in the forums that she was very shy and didn't much like meeting new people. In person, she was very thin and hid behind her long hair. She seemed like a whisp. It was such an act of courage for her to meet us then and I know that I'm very glad she took that step. As we all know, she developed into an important and influential part of our community.
"I would like to do something beyond this thread to honor and remember her passing. I like the idea of putting "Beloved Emerita" under her name in the forums. Other suggestions are definitely welcome. We will be setting a precedent here and I think it's something that the community should agree on.
"Susan, if you have an address for Laura's family, would you be willing to make a CD of the projects that she PP'd and send it to them? As well as our condolences, I'd like them to know what beautiful and lasting work she did here.

laurawisewell's projects

Arrived at Distributed Proofreaders on 27 Mar 2005.

During her time here, she:

  • Posted 2,677 messages in the Forums.
  • Proofed 479 R* pages.
  • Proofed 628 P1 pages.
  • Proofed 715 P2 pages.
  • Proofed 646 P3 pages.
  • Formatted 406 F1 pages.
  • Formatted 1,030 F2 pages.
  • Post-Processed 32(?) books. [1]
  • Post Process Verified 5(?) books. [2]

She posted to Project Gutenberg the Manual of Surgery volume that has been the #1 download in the PG Top 100 for quite some time now.


Completed As PP

All comments are Laura's own, from her personal Webpage.

  • Frank and Fanny by Clara Moreton. (1851) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (us-ascii); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (us-ascii)]
    • This is a children's book, and has nice pictures.
  • Crayon and Character by J Griswold. (1913) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (us-ascii); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (us-ascii)]
    • This is a collection of short talks for a minister to deliver to young people, to instil Christian morality. Each one has a picture that the speaker is to draw and add to as the talk progresses.
  • The Gay Cockade by Temple Bailey. (1921) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • General fiction.
  • The Life Story of Insects by George H Carpenter. (1913) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • A science book, with illustrations.
  • Poems Every Child Should Know by Mary E Burt. (1904) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • This contains a lot of famous poems, not specially ones aimed at children. I worked on this book because I felt that maybe I should know them and don't!
  • Robert Burns: How to Know Him by William Allan Neilson. (1917) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (us-ascii); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • Another book I worked on for my own education. As you can imagine, this was a killer to spell-check.
  • Sermons Preached At Brighton by Frederick Robertson. (1884) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • Robertson is an interesting character, and had some connections with Edinburgh and the university.
  • Noteworthy Families by Francis Galton. (1906) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • Galton is well known for his theories of eugenics, and here he uses a sample of fellows of the Royal Society and some very dodgy statistics to support his idea that “noteworthiness” is hereditary.
  • The Healthy Life edited by Charles William Daniel. (1913) [EPUB; HTML; Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1)]
    • This volume consists of four issues of a magazine about vegetarianism and healthy lifestyles.
  • A Rudimentary Treatise on Clocks, Watches, and Bells by Edmund Beckett, Baron Grimthorpe. (1903) [PDF; RDF; TeX]
    • This was the first LaTeX project I post-processed. It has many illustrations of the workings of clocks, and a great deal of (highly opinionated) material on the design of the clock at Westminster.
  • Manual of Surgery Volume 1: General Surgery by Alexander Miles and Alexis Thomson. (1921) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii); Text (utf-8)]
    • This edition was produced just after the First World War. It contains accounts of such lovelies as gangrene, tuberculosis and syphilis. Read it and be grateful that you live in a time and country with antibiotics—in this book, amputation is the answer to everything.
    • The authors are both of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. There are two more volumes of this manual, which are slowly being proofread along their way to my post-processing queue. Meanwhile, I am preparing more of those gory illustrations...
  • A Book of Natural History by David Starr Jordan. (1902) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii); Text (utf-8)]
    • This is a lovely book, but it took me an eternity to process all those pictures and get the html text to flow around them properly.
  • Moral Principles and Medical Practice by Charles Coppens. (1897) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii); Text (utf-8)]
    • This is a book of lectures on medical jurisprudence, particularly on issues around abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, and mental illness. It approaches these from a religious standpoint.
  • Introduction to Infinitesimal Analysis by Oswald Veblen and N J Lennes. (1907) [PDF; RDF; TeX]
    • This is a textbook on real analysis. An interesting feature is the unusual notation used for open and closed intervals.
  • The Science of Human Nature by William Henry Pyle. (1917) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • This is a book on psychology for use in schools and has an emphasis on learning and memory.
  • Outlines of a Mechanical Theory of Storms by T Bassnett. (1854) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii); Text (utf-8)]
    • This book tries to explain the weather by calculations involving the moon and planets. One thing I found interesting was that it included data on a hypothesised planet. The data do not match Pluto (which in any case was not discovered until 1930) but it may refer to Planet X. The author names it “Volcano”.
  • The Concept of Nature by Alfred North Whitehead. (1920) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii); Text (utf-8)]
    • This is a series of lectures on philosophy given at Trinity College.
  • Applied Psychology for Nurses by Mary F Porter. (1921) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • This is all about not allowing patients to acquire the “illness habit.” The social stereotypes described in it are interesting—it's also outrageously racist in parts, though probably typical of its time.
  • Response in the Living and Non-Living by Jagadis Chandra Bose. (1902) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • Bose seems to have been an important figure, anticipating some of Marconi's work on radio waves. This book is a little bizarre, detailing the effects of electric current, vibration etc on various things, mostly salad vegetables.
  • Theory of Circulation by Respiration by Emma Willard. (1861) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii); Text (utf-8)]
    • Willard believes that blood circulates not due to the heart's pumping, but due to expansion of the blood having been warmed in the lungs by the heat of respiration. The experimental evidence used is at times amusing, including one very bizarre experiment involving an alligator.
  • Studies in Forensic Psychiatry by Bernard Glueck. (1916) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii); Text (utf-8)]
    • This book mostly consists of case studies and interviews with prisoners/patients, with much discussion of how to tell if a person is malingering.
  • The Antichrist by F. W. Nietzsche. (1918) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • Nietzche's diatribe against Christianity. I disagree with it, naturally....
  • Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves—Arkansas Part 3. (1941) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • These are fascinating. The interviews were typewritten verbatim, including spelling to reflect colloquialisms, and the many personalities come through clearly. There were also comments by the interviewers, some handwritten, giving an insight into their racial views also. Some of the accounts are harrowing, see for example the interview with Ida Blackshear Hutchinson.
  • How to Live by Irving Fisher and Eugene Fisk. (1916) [EPUB; HTML; Mobipocket; RDF; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii); Text (utf-8)]
    • A guide to hygiene and healthy living, covering diet, clothing, sleeping habits, exercise, mental well-being.... The second part has a lot of facts and figures on mortality and the effects of alcohol and smoking.
  • Elements of Structural and Systematic Botany by Douglas Houghton Campbell. (1890) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii); Text (utf-8)]
    • Another one with lots of pictures.
  • Lamarck, the Founder of Evolution by Alpheus Spring Packard. (1901) [EPUB; HTML; Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • I might never have taken this one on, had I realised how much of it was in French! I did find it interesting, though, particularly as I have visited the Jardin des Plantes in Paris recently.
  • The Measurement of Intelligence by Lewis M Terman. (1916) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • The description and instructions given for IQ testing are interesting and at times amusing, although the old terminology (idiot, imbecile, moron...) and the undercurrent of eugenics leaves a bad taste.
  • The Parables of Our Lord by William Arnot. (1874) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii); Text (utf-8)]
    • This was the first book I did after becoming interested in Web Accessibility. So I hope some of the features in the HTML make it more usable. But I also hope it looks nice, as this book had beautiful decorative chapter headers and dropped capitals.
  • Practical English Composition by Edwin L. Miller. (1916) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii); Text (utf-8)]
    • This one contains everything from how to write an editorial to how to report on a baseball game (complete with tables of statistics I don’t understand). The challenge for the post-processor was Coleridge’s poem ‘Metrical Feet’ explaining different poetic metres, because it was covered in breves and macrons.
  • How to Become Rich by William Windsor. (1898) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • The subtitle is “A Treatise on Phrenology, Choice of Professions and Matrimony”. Basically, the guy claims that by examining your skull he can tell you your ideal job and your ideal partner, as well as determining whether or not you have criminal tendencies. The ads at the back are even better: “Eat Some Sand!”
  • An Analysis of the Lever Escapement by H. R. Playtner. (1910) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii); Text (utf-8)]
    • I didn't enjoy this one so much. Mainly because I felt that in the interests of accessibility I really should provide long descriptions of the many diagrams. But in the end I didn't, because I couldn't work out what they were meant to show, never mind explain it coherently.
  • The Untroubled Mind by Herbert J. Hall. (1915) [EPUB; HTML; HTML (iso-8859-1); Mobipocket; RDF; Text; Text (iso-8859-1); Text (us-ascii)]
    • A fairly straightforward one, quite a relief.

Completed As PPV

All comments are Laura's own, from her personal Webpage.

PP or PPV In Progress at the Time of her Death

Lord Kelvin {P1->P1} {P3 skipped} Needs a PP to adopt. Left F2 after July 25, 2007.

More Reminiscences

Feel free to add your thoughts here.

  • A huge asset has been lost, and will be greatly missed. It seems she touch more people than she probably even realized. God Bless - --Warmheart 16:02, 7 August 2007 (PDT)
  • She was extremely generous with her time, and always willing to share her expertise. I can't count the number of my PP projects she helped to improve with her advice on elegant HTML tricks and her candid, constructive comments. Thank you, Laura.... LCantoni


26 December 1976 -- 25 July 2007

(from Glasgow Herald):

WISEWELL LAURA JANE (Glasgow). Tragically, on 25th July, 2007, Laura Jane, aged 30 years, dearly loved and loving daughter of Jennifer and the late Ron, sister of the late Christopher, stepdaughter and sister to Bryan Tomlinson and family, also a dear niece and cousin. Funeral service at 11am, on Saturday, 4th August, at Kirkcaldy Crematorium. No flowers please.

See Also

Laura's homepage on Project Gutenberg had been available at but is now inaccessible. It can still be viewed here using The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.