Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 20, 2012

Lake Peigneur waterfall

November 20, 1980: The Lake Peigneur disaster occurs. Lake Peigneur, located in Louisiana near the northernmost tip of Vermillion Bay changed drastically. The freshwater lake was popular with sportsmen until this date, when disaster struck and changed it all. Prior to this date, the lake had a depth of about ten feet. There were two commercial interests in the region. The Diamond Crystal Salt Company operated the Jefferson Island salt mine under the lake. A Texaco oil rig was drilling down from the surface of the lake looking for oil.

While Texaco used a 14-inch drill bit to drill for the hoped-for petroleum. There was some miscalculation and the bit entered the salt mine, rather than an oil pocket. It is difficult to know what happened exactly as all evidence was washed away in the ensuing disaster. It is believed that Texaco drilled through the roof of the third level of the salt mine. The hole created an opening at the bottom of the lake and the water drained into the hole, while expanding as water continued to cascade into space below. The salt mines were enormous caverns due to years of salt extraction.

As more water continued to pour into the mines, it created a whirlpool, just like water draining from a bathtub. The drilling platform, eleven barges, and many of the trees from the surrounding 65 acres were sucked down the hole. So much water emptied into the caverns that the Delcambre Canal reversed and rather than fresh water emptying into the Bay, Vermillion Bay flowed into the lake. For a few days, the water flowing backwards created the tallest waterfall in Louisiana. The waterfall was 164 high as salt water from the Bay flowed into the new low ground region. As water continued to flow into the caverns, the air was compressed within and later, 400-foot geysers were released through the mine’s shafts.

Amazingly, and thanks to many practice drills, all 55 employees of the salt mine were able to escape without loss of life. Those working on the drilling rig were able to escape before it was sucked into the whirlpool and all of those men also survived. One local fisherman also out on the lake was able to get to shore safely. Days later, nine of the eleven barges resurfaced via the whirlpool hole. The lake remains, however it has been irrevocably changed. It is now a salt water lake, not from the salt mine below, but from the backflow of the salt water during the disaster. The ecosystem has changed and there are different parts of the lake now with a much greater depth.

Admitting Error clears the Score, And proves you Wiser than before. – Arthur Guiterman

If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error. – John Kenneth Galbraith

Some of the best lessons we ever learn are learned from past mistakes. The error of the past is the wisdom and success of the future. – Dale Turner

Tis this desire of bending all things to our own purposes which turns them into confusion and is the chief source of every error in our lives. – Sarah Fielding

Also on this day:

What a Yo-Yo – In 1866, the yo-yo was patented.
God, Save the Queen – In 1992, Windsor Castle caught fire.
Sperm Whale’s Revenge – In 1820, the whaling ship Essex was attacked.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 19, 2012

The Prestige sinks

November 19, 2002: The Prestige sinks. The ship was registered in the Bahamas but under Liberian ownership. The 797 foot long, single-hulled craft was built by Hitachi Shipbuilding and Engineering Co. and completed in 1976. The ship was hauling 77,000 metric tons of cargo. There were two different grades of heavy fuel oil aboard. One of the twelve tanks burst during a storm off Galicia, Spain. The Greek operated ship was in peril and the captain called for help from Spanish rescue workers. Rather than help, the captain was told he had to steer his ship away from the coast and head in a northwest direction.

Galicia is in the northwestern corner of Spain, north of Portugal. Sending the ship northwest, meant the ship would enter the Bay of Biscay and head toward France. The French government then forced the ship to head southward and into Portuguese waters. Portugal no more wanted the oil tanker in its waters than either Spain or France. Portugal sent navy vessels out to intercept the ship and not allow it into Portuguese waters. None of the three countries would permit the ailing ship to dock at their ports. The longer the ship was in distress, the greater that distress became. The storm waged on and finally a 40-foot section of the hull broke off and released a “substantial” amount of fuel into the waters.

At around 8 AM, the ship finally split in half. It sank during the afternoon hours and released millions of gallons of oil into the ea. It was reported that Prestige was 150 miles off the coast of Spain when it sunk. An earlier oil slick had already reached the coast. Greek Captain, Apostolos Mangouras, was arrested and charged with not cooperating with salvage crews and harming the environment. After the ship sunk, it continued to leak oil at the rate of about 125 tons per day, damaging the coastal region of Galicia.

Thousands were organized to help with the cleanup effort. Neither the local Galicia government nor the Spanish government helped with efforts. Even so, people were able to make a concerted effort and not only cleaned the oil spill damage, but were able to help with accumulated damage to the beaches along the coastal region. The year after the spill, there were more blue flags (a designation from the European Union for beaches meeting the highest standards) than there were the year before. Original estimates of leaked oil was 17,000 tons and it was hoped that the remained 60,000 would freeze and not leak. Rescue efforts in 2004 removed the remaining oil from the wreck and it was found that 20 million US gallons had eventually leaked from the ship.

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry. – Thomas Fuller

The earth we abuse and the living things we kill will, in the end, take their revenge; for in exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future. – Marya Mannes

Till now man has been up against Nature; from now on he will be up against his own nature. – Dennis Gabor

We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap. – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Also on this day:

Synonymous with Failure – In 1959, the Ford Edsel line was discontinued.
Seven – In 1997, the McCaughey septuplets were born.
87 Years Later – In 1863, Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 18, 2012


November 18, 1105: Antipope Sylvester IV lays claim to the papacy. Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor and members of the Roman aristocracy set up Maginulfo, the Archpriest of St. Angelo in Peschiera (a province of Milan in today’s Italy) took the name Sylvester IV when he became the antipope on this day. He was to replace Pope Paschal II who was outside Rome at the time. Sylvester was consecrated in the Church of St. Maria Rotonda (the Pantheon) and enthroned in the Lateran, a basilica in Rome. Paschal returned the next day and Sylvester fled first to Tivoli and then settled in the province of Ancona under the protection of the local Count.

Sylvester was being used by Henry V to put pressure on the real Pope in order to gain his way about investiture of Catholic bishops. Since much power was held by the bishops, the person who granted them their powerful position could be due obedience in matters of great political and economic importance. Finally, Paschal and Henry came to an agreement about this process on April 11, 1111 and at that time, Henry asked Sylvester to step down. Sylvester complied and was allowed to live out the rest of his life, again under the protection of his patron, the Count.

Antipopes are people who claim the papacy against the Roman Catholic Pope who was legitimately elected by the Cardinals. Antipopes must have support of significant factions of either religious cardinals or secular kings or, as in this case, emperors. There have been some who have claimed to be pope but without this support and they are not officially counted in lists of antipopes. The first of these antipopes is usually considered to by Hippolytus of Rome who died in 235. He was supported by a large following against Callixtus I, but eventually Hippolytus was reconciled with Callixtus’s second successor, Pope Pontian and both men are saints in the Catholic Church.

There were sixteen antipopes in the first millennium ranging from Hippolytus to John XVI who laid claim to the position of Bishop of Rome and leader of the Church from 997-998. Many of the antipopes were in place against a single legitimate pope however, some held their claim through a variety of duly elected Pontiffs. Novatian lasted for only seven years, but sat against four elected Popes. The last antipope to make the list was Felix V who held power for nearly 9.5 years against the elected pope, Nicholas V. There are some later men who have tried to claim the Papal seat, but they don’t meet the strict definition of the term.

Anybody can be Pope; the proof of this is that I have become one. – Pope John XXIII

I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self. – Martin Luther

I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it. – George Carlin

The pope dies, you get another pope. – Dino De Laurentiis

Also on this day:

Jonestown – In 1978, a mass suicide takes place in Jonestown, when 913 of Jim Jones’s followers kill themselves.
Great Shot – In 1307, William Tell shot an apple from his son’s head, according to legend.
Steamboat Willie – In 1928, the cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse was released

Anglo-Swedish War

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 17, 2012

Swedish and British flags

November 17, 1810: War is declared. During the Napoleonic Wars which were fought between 1803 and 1815, strange things happened. After the French Revolution of 1789, Napoleon came to power in France and then tried to bring French power and rule to more of Europe. During this time, Sweden and the United Kingdom were allies. However, Sweden was defeated in the Finnish War and the Pomeranian War. Treaties were signed to end these conflicts. The Treaty of Paris concluded on January 6, 1810. Part of the treat stated that Sweden would join the Continental System.

The Continental System or Continental Blockade was a foreign policy instituted by Napoleon I against his arch-enemy, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The British retained control of the seas even as Napoleon’s power swept across Europe. The small island nation could therefore control trade and imports to the continent. In order to break the British stranglehold on trade, Napoleon ordered countries under his control to halt all trade with Britain. The embargo began on November 21, 1806 and ended with Napoleon’s first abdication in 1814. It was not completely effective since the people of Europe were engaged in frequent smuggling of goods they desired despite the Emperor’s edict.

The Finnish War was fought from February 1808 to September 1809 between Russia, backed by France and Spain, and Sweden, backed by the United Kingdom and Portugal. The Russians won and the Treaty of Fredrikshamn separated Finland from Sweden with Finland as an autonomous country under Russia. During the same time, an Anglo-Russian War was also being fought. From September 1807 to July 1812, Russia, supported by Denmark, and the UK, supported by Sweden, were engaged in conflicts. However, this war was limited mostly to a few naval actions on the Baltic Sea. The British Navy was victorious.

Great Britain and Sweden were trade partners and if Sweden had enforced the embargo as demanded by the Treaty of Paris, it would have ruined her economy. So she ignored the mandate. On November 13, 1810, France delivered an ultimatum to Sweden. France demanded that Sweden declare war on Great Britain, confiscate all British ships in their harbors, and seize all British products in Sweden. So Sweden declared war. No battles were ever fought. British ships continued to trade with Sweden from Swedish ports. There was now a chance of a British invasion and the only fatalities of the war occurred when Major-General Hampus Mörmer tried to conscript some local farmers. The “war” ended on July 18, 1812.

War is what happens when language fails. – Margaret Atwood

There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for. – Albert Camus

Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows. – Martin Luther King Jr.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. – Sun Tzu

Also on this day:

The Heidi Game – In 1968, NBC didn’t finish the game, leaving a football game in progress to air the previously scheduled movie.
Point Made – In 1970, the computer mouse was patented.
Delta Phi – In 1827, the fraternity was formed.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 16, 2012

Fyodor Dostoevsky

November 16, 1849: Fyodor Dostoevsky is sentenced to death by the Russian courts at the age of 28.  His father had grown wealthy enough to buy land and serfs working as a doctor at Moscow’s Hospital for the Poor. Fyodor suffered from epilepsy. He studied military engineering and became a civil servant. However, while working in that capacity he also secretly wrote novels. His first, Poor People, was a success. His second, The Double, was a flop. Both were published in 1846. He began to get involved with radical intellectual group called Petrashevsky Circle. They were a discussion group but suspected of subversive activities. This led to Dostoevsky’s arrest and sentencing.

Dostoevsky was led before the firing squad on December 22, 1849 but received a last-minute reprieve. He was instead sent to a Siberian labor camp with his sentence commuted to hard labor; four years passed before he was released. During that time, he also managed to write one novel which would published until 1860 and then in journal form. Upon his release, he worked as a soldier on the Mongolian frontier. He met a widow and married her and they eventually returned to Russia in 1859. Back home, he started up a magazine, Time, and eventually began to travel. In 1862, he first went west to Europe.

His magazine was successful and had more than 4,000 subscribers, but it was closed in 1863 by the Tsarist regime. After the magazine was shut down, Dostoevsky went back to Europe again, this time to Paris. There he found the second love of his life. His brother and then his wife died in 1864. Dostoevsky had lost all his money gambling while in Europe and suddenly was in charge of both his stepson and his brother’s family. He was destitute and in need of money, having borrowed from all his friends and out of sources.

He wrote and published his sixth and most famous novel, Crime and Punishment. The first two parts of the books were published in January and February 1866 in the periodical The Russian Messenger. The teasers worked and as one critic said, “Only Crime and Punishment was read during 1866.” The next year, Dostoevsky married his French lover and yet all was not bliss. She did not get along well with his family, and when they finally could honeymoon, he spent the time gambling away all her money. He continued to write and produced some other great works, The Brothers Karamazov among them. He died in 1881 after several pulmonary hemorrhages brought on, perhaps, by stress.

A real gentleman, even if he loses everything he owns, must show no emotion. Money must be so far beneath a gentleman that it is hardly worth troubling about.

Happiness does not lie in happiness, but in the achievement of it.

Men do not accept their prophets and slay them, but they love their martyrs and worship those whom they have tortured to death.

The formula ‘Two and two make five’ is not without its attractions. – all from Fyodor Dostoevsky

Also on this day:

The Fugitive? – In 1966, Dr. Sam Sheppard was finally acquitted of his wife’s 1954 murder.
UNESCO – In 1945, UNESCO was founded.
Wagons, Ho – In 1821, the first Santa Fe trail crossing was completed.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 15, 2012

Jefferson Memorial

November 15, 1939: The cornerstone for the Jefferson Memorial is placed by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Washington, D.C. needed a new monument, according to thinkers of the late 19th century. By 1901 the Senate park Commission (aka the McMillan Commission) proposed a pantheon-like structure with “statues of the illustrious men of the nation” included therein. However, Congress did not act on that notion. The Tidal Basin Inlet Bridge was completed in 1908 and this led to more use of the parks in the specific area. In 1918, large liquid chlorine dispensers were installed which made the inlet suitable for swimming and brought even more people to the region, but due to the “Whites Only” signs, it closed in 1925 to avoid the question of racial discrimination.

A design competition was held in 1925 under Theodore Roosevelt and the winning design for the proposed inclusive memorial was submitted by John Russell Pope but again this was not funded by Congress and not built. Teddy’s cousin, FDR, was an admirer of Thomas Jefferson and asked about creating a memorial to him. A Commission was formed and when it was stated it would be a memorial to the third President of the US, funding became available. Several different sites were evaluated but the one on the Tidal Basin, directly south of the White House seemed like the perfect spot. Pope designed a new building and finally construction began on December 15, 1938.

By the time the cornerstone was laid on this date, Pope had died and his surviving partners took over the construction of the building. The design was modified in response to a request from the commission of Fine Arts to a more conservative design. However, they still were not happy with the design itself and went so far as to write a pamphlet opposing the design being built. Construction went on despite this. In 1939, the Commission opened a competition to select a sculptor for the statue that was planned to be placed at the center of the building. Rudulph Evans was chosen as the  sculptor of the statue itself and Adolph A Weinman was chosen to do the relief above the entrance. The building was dedicated on April 13, 1943, Jefferson’s 200th birthday. The statue was made of plaster because of shortages occasioned by World War II. A bronze statue was placed in 1947.

The building is comprised of circular marble steps, a portico, a circular colonnade of Ionic columns, and a shallow dome – similar to  the Pantheon in Rome. It is located on the Potomac River in the area of the National Mall. Centered under the 129-foot dome, is the 10,000 pound, 19 foot tall statue of Thomas Jefferson with excerpts from the Declaration of Independence inscribed on the wall. It is surrounded by cherry trees, blossoming beautifully in the spring.

A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.

How much pain they have cost us, the evils which have never happened.

Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people.

There is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. – all from Thomas Jefferson

Also on this day:

The King – In 1956, Love Me Tender, Elvis Presley’s first movie, was released.
Clutter Family – In 1959, Herb and Bonnie Clutter and their two children were murdered.
Where’s the Beef? – In 1969, Dave Thomas founded Wendy’s.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 14, 2012

Southern Airways Flight 932 crash

November 14, 1970: Southern Airways Flight 932 crashes. The crash occurred in Wayne County, West Virginia near Ceredo. The plane, a Douglas DC-9, had left Stalling Field in Kingston, North Carolina on its way to Huntington Tri-State Airport/Milton J. Ferguson Field. Aboard the plane were the 37 members of the Marshall University Thundering Herd football team. They were returning home from losing a game (17-14)  to the East Carolina Pirates in Greenville, North Carolina. Also aboard the plane were eight members of the coaching staff and 25 boosters as well as four flight crew members and one employee of the charter company.

The plane was a 95-seat twin jet engine Douglas DC-9-31. The tail registration was N97S and it was captained by Frank H. Abbot. First Officer was Jerry Smith and Pat Vaught and Charlene Poat were the flight attendants. Also aboard was Danny Deese, a Southern Airways employee who was aboard to coordinate charter activities.  At the time, Marshall University teams rarely flew to games. They played in regions where they were easily within driving distance. They vacillated on whether or not to charter a flight for this game and eventually opted to use Southern Airways. They flight was the first for the football team that year.

They left Stallings Field and flew toward Huntington without incident. At 7:23 PM, the flight communicated with air traffic control where they received instructions to descend to 5,000 feet. They were also advised that there was “rain, fog, smoke and a ragged ceiling” which would make the landing more difficult, but not impossible. At 7:34 PM, the crew reported passing the Tri-State Airport’s outer marker. They were given clearance to land.

As they neared on their final approach, the plane collided with the tops of trees on a hillside 5,543 feet west of runway 12. The plane burst into flames and left charred ground 95 feet wide and 279 feet long. According to official reports, the accident was “unsurvivable”. The report went on to say the plane “Dipped to the right, almost inverted and had crashed into a hollow ‘nose-first’.” When the plane finally stopped, it was 4,219 feet short of the runway and 275 feet south of the middle marker. All 75 people aboard were killed. Officials also reported that there could have been an error due to water in the altimeter, thus giving it a false reading. The pilots had never flown into this airport before and there was little visibility of the runway. Therefore they had little option but to believe their instrumentation.

They shall live on in the hearts of their families and friends forever and this memorial records their loss to the university and the community. – memorial plaque

I wouldn’t mind dying in a plane crash. It’d be a good way to go. I don’t want to die in my sleep, or of old age, or OD…I want to feel what it’s like. I want to taste it, hear it, smell it. Death is only going to happen to you once; I don’t want to miss it. – Jim Morrison

Life is a gamble. You can get hurt, but people die in plane crashes, lose their arms and legs in car accidents; people die every day. Same with fighters: some die, some get hurt, some go on. You just don’t let yourself believe it will happen to you. – Muhammad Ali

The secret of flight is this: you have to do it immediately, before your body realizes it is defying the laws. – Michael Cunningham

Also on this day:

Nellie Bly – Woman Journalist – In 1889, Nellie Bly left for her trip around the world.
The Big Barbecue – In 1957, a Mafia meeting was held in Apalachin, New York.
Sugar and Spice – In 1997, Reena Virk is murdered.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 13, 2012

Caister-on-Sea memorial

November 13, 1901: it was a dark and stormy night. Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk is a seaside resort town on the east coast of England. There has been an onshore lifeboat in the area since 1791. This boat was used to rescue people or salvage ships in duress on the sand banks at sea. On this evening, a gale was blowing, creating heavy seas and slashing rain. Shortly after 11 PM, a flare was fired as a distress signal indicating a vessel in trouble. The crew of the lifeboat, Beauchamp, was alerted and made an attempt to launch the beached craft in order to help those caught in the storm. The boat weighed five tons when empty and when loaded with gear and ballast, much more. It took 36 men to bring her ashore after a rescue was made.

As the valiant men of the region tried to launch the craft, heavy seas knocked the boat off the skids. Therefore, she had to be hauled back up the beach and another attempt made. The crew, using warp and tackle worked until 2 AM, but finally the boat was launched, afloat, and ready to effect a rescue. The men on shore were soaked, cold, and tired and they went to their homes to escape the storm. Only 78 year-old James Haylet, Sr. remained on the shore. In his younger days, he had been the assistant Coxswain. Despite the discomfort of remaining out in the storm, he waited. He had two sons, a son-in-law, and two grandsons in the lifeboat.

The lifeboat steered toward the distressed vessel but sea considtions were horrendous and forced the boat back toward the shore. Beauchamp hit the beach, bow first, about fifty yards from the launch point. It was about 3 AM when the boat struck land and capsized, breaking the mast, and trapping the crew beneath the boat. Frederick Haylett and his grandfather rushed to the site. The Beauchamp was keel up, trapped in the surf. James was able to pull his son-on-law from the wreck and Frederick pulled John Hubbard clear. James returned to the surf and managed to free another person, his grandson Walter. No more men could be pulled from the overturned boat.

When the ship could finally be righted, eight bodies were found. One more body had washed away and was recovered the next spring. At an inquest, James was asked if the ship had given up and was trying to return to shore. He replied, “They would never give up the ship. If they had to keep at it ’til now, they would have sailed about until daylight to help her. Going back is against the rules when we see distress signals like that.” From this response came the motto, “Caister men never turn back.” The Beauchamp was abandoned in a boatyard and finally broken up. She had already made 81 trips and saved 146 lives. Records show that other boats in the region had also saved distressed ships with 1,281 lives saved in the 43 years before this incident.

After a storm comes a calm. – Matthew Henry

God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform. He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm. – William Cowper

Here’s to the pilot that weathered the storm. – George Canning

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore. – Vincent Van Gogh

Also on this day:

Deadliest Natural Disaster of the Twentieth Century – In 1970, the Bhola cyclone hits land.
Meteors – In 1833, the Leonids meteor shower occurred.
Sammy and May – In 1960, the two married.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 12, 2012

Robert Falcon Scott

November 12, 1912: Robert Falcon Scott’s frozen body is found. Scott was a Royal Navy officer and explorer who led two expeditions to Antarctica. The first exploration went well. The Discovery Expedition (1901 – 04) sponsored by both the Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society. The did not make a serious attempt to reach the South Pole but did bring back data on biology, zoology, geology, meteorology, and magnetism. They reached as far south as 82⁰17’S before returning to England. The trip brought fame to many of the Heroic Age of Discovery participants but they never mastered competent polar travel using dogs and skis. This would last throughout the period for British Antarctic expeditions. The team returned to England in September 1904 and became celebrities of a sort.

Between the two trips, Scott and a fellow explorer from the first trip began to vie for leadership for the next voyage. Ernest Shackleton wished to lead his own expedition. In the first one, he was near physical collapse and left the expedition early. The two men finally agreed to work in different areas of Antarctica but because of poor landing sites, Shackleton was not able to keep his part of the bargain. Between the two trips, Scott met and married Kathleen Bruce. While Scott was thus occupied, Shackleton made his trip to Antarctica and back, almost reaching the South Pole. This led Scott to make another voyage.

Scott was given leadership of the Terra Nova Expedition and stated his main purpose was to reach the South Pole. Both royal societies were hoping for a more scientific expedition but were not in charge of the trip. Scott did not realize he was in a race for the Pole until he heard word of Roald Amundsen’s quest in October 1910. Scott was still in Melbourne at the time. The rush to supply the ship for the trip south and Scott’s lack of understanding about travel there led to a couple mistakes. He had horses purchased for the trip which proved to be of poor quality and ill-suited to the task. The next issue was being stuck in an ice pack for 20 days, far longer than usual, giving his team a late start to the season. The main supply point was placed 35 miles farther north than originally planned.

Scott’s team left for the South Pole on November 1, 1911. Because both horses and dogs were used, the group traveled at different rates. While it was first planned for all to go to the Pole, it was finally decided that Scott and four men would make the run alone. They finally reached the Pole on January 17, 1912 only to find that Amundsen had been there first. They began their 800 mile journey back two days later. Edgar Evers died on the trip back on February 17 about half way back. Things were looking bleak for the rest of the group as well. The weather deteriorated and the men were exhausted, frozen, and dealing with snow blindness. Lawrence Oates was the next to die. The remaining men were caught in blizzard and died on March 29. The rest of their party found them eight months later, on this day, frozen in their tent and by the placement of the bodies determined Scott was the last to die.

We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last … Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for. – Robert Scott, last entry to his diary

As beautiful as simplicity is, it can become a tradition that stands in the way of exploration. – Laura Nyro

Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit. – Frank Borman

That is the exploration that awaits you! Not mapping stars and studying nebula, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence. – Leonard Nimoy

Also on this day:

Thar She Blows – In 1970, a rotting beached whale was removed from an Oregon beach, sorta.
Daring Young Man – In 1859, the first trapeze performance took place.
Terrorist Attack – In 1997, Ramzi Yousef was found guilty of the WTC bombing of 1993.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 11, 2012

Einstein’s refrigerator

November 11, 1930: US Patent # 1,781,541 is granted. The patent is for an absorption refrigerator which has no moving parts. It was granted to Leó Szilárd and his former teacher Albert Einstein. The two men invented the thing in 1926 and it was an improvement on the original design by Swedish inventors Baltzar von Platen and Carl Munters in 1922. Early refrigerators were filled with toxic elements used for cooling. The two scientists became involved in home refrigeration after they read about a family killed after a seal leaked toxic fumes into their home. With Einstein’s experience with patent offices, the two men were able to secure 45 patents in a variety of countries for the three designs they developed between 1926 and 1933.

The machine they designed was a single-pressure absorption refrigerator which used ammonia as the pressure-equalizing fluid and butane as the refrigerant. Water was the absorbing fluid and there were no moving parts. The machine did not need electricity to function but did need a heat source. That could have been a small gas burner or even solar energy. It could have also been electricity. The science behind the machines working was simplified and the chemicals used were safer to humans. The Einstein refrigerator has been described as “Noiseless, inexpensive to produce and durable.” There is renewed interest in this type of refrigerator which could be used in areas without electricity.

Szilárd was born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary in 1898. He was a physicist and inventor. He received other patents with other famous scientists. He and Enrico Fermi patented the idea of a nuclear reactor. Szilárd wrote to his old teacher for a signature to a letter which helped propel the institution of the Manhattan Project which built the atomic bomb. He conceived the electron microscope, the linear accelerator, and the cyclotron. He did not build these things and did not publish in scientific journals, therefore he never won the Nobel Prize, although others working with his ideas did.

In 1947, Szilárd was horrified by the atomic weapons, so he switched areas of study and became interested in molecular biology. He began working with Aaron Novick. He must have returned to weaponry because in 1950 he proposed a cobalt bomb which might destroy all life on the planet. He did say in an interview that violence wasn’t necessary and we could avoid its use with negotiation between enemies. He went on to write a book about the moral and ethical nature of the Cold War. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer and underwent cobalt therapy at Sloan-Kettering Hospital, a therapy he himself developed. Doctors warned that higher doses of cobalt would kill him, but he insisted and said he would die without the treatment anyway. Instead, the cancer was conquered. A few years later, he died in his sleep of a heart attack. He was sixty-six.

A scientist’s aim in a discussion with his colleagues is not to persuade, but to clarify.

I’m all in favor of the democratic principle that one idiot is as good as one genius, but I draw the line when someone takes the next step and concludes that two idiots are better than one genius.

If you want to succeed in the world, you don’t have to be much cleverer than other people. You just have to be one day earlier.

Pronouncement of experts to the effect that something cannot be done has always irritated me. – all from Leó Szilárd

Also on this day:

The War to End All Wars – In 1918, World War I ended.
This Isn’t the Hudson – In 1620, the Mayflower Compact was signed.
Mum’s the Word – In 1790, Chrysanthemums were introduced into England.