Little Bits of History

Leap Day

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2013
Leap Day

Leap Day

February 29, 1584: Due to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in many parts of Europe, the first Leap Day occurs. Calendars are used to order time for social, religious, or commercial purposes. Time units for calendars are divided into years, months, and days. Cultural groups needed to know when to plan for a viable harvest and that often included a need to know when to placate which gods in order to assure for a successful growing season.

Many different calendars have been created and many still exist today. Some religions maintain their own calendars while there are some held as sacrosanct by certain countries. Today, the world runs on the Gregorian calendar with many of these secondary means of tracking time, as well. Much of Europe adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1582-83 but many non-Catholic regions would not be persuaded by the Pope’s science. Turkey succumbed in 1926 and China completed the conversion in 1929.

While humans prefer things tidy and easily categorized, the fact remains that the Earth does not orbit the sun in an even number of days. Therefore, certain years are given an extra day, called “leap day” in order to realign the calendars with the Earth’s solar orbital position. The formula for the calendar is 365 + 1/4 – 1/100 +1/400 = 365.2425 days. The true length of the year is 365.242374 days and so after 8,000 years the calendar will be about one day behind.

The Gregorian calendar is simply a correction of the Julian calendar that was in effect from 45 BC. In ancient Rome, winter time was so useless that January and February weren’t even named until around 700 BC. February is named for the Latin term for purification, februum. It is also the only month that defies universal pronunciation, a fact Walter Cronkite playfully noted on a yearly basis. People born on February 29 are called leaplings and can celebrate their birthday on either February 28 or March 1 during non-leap years. There are some countries that have gone to the trouble to legislate which day is the official “birthday” date for non-leap years, but it is usually left to the celebrant to decide.

“Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.” – Jane Austin

“There are years when nothing happens and years in which centuries happen.” – Carlos Fuentes

“Some days are for living. Others are for getting through.” – Malcolm S. Forbes

“Each day is a little life; every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: We don’t just keep track of the passage of time by calendars, we separate the past from the future by the moment called the present. This passage is a dimension we call time. It has been the subject of religion, philosophy, and eventually science but there is difficulty in defining the term without using the term in the definition. Measuring the passage of time can be done with clocks. These are the one of the oldest human inventions and allowed for the measurement of smaller increments of time. Sundials and candle clocks were the first means of measuring time. Today, with ever smaller increments of time measured, we have atomic clocks tracking us. 

Also on this day: Hammerin’ Hank – In 1972, Hank Aaron signed with the Atlanta Braves for a record salary.
Child Labor Law – In 1916, a new minimum age for workers was passed in South Carolina.
Run For Office – In 1932, Bill Murray was on the cover of TIME magazine.

B&O Railroad

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2013
B&O Railroad Museum

B&O Railroad Museum

February 28, 1827: Maryland passes Chapter 123, a law permitting the formation of the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad. The Commonwealth of Virginia passed the law on March 8 and the railroad was formally incorporated on April 24. Philip E. Thomas and George Brown provided the impetus behind the new enterprise. They had spent the previous year in England, studying the commercial value of railways. They called a meeting with 25 prominent men, most of whom were Baltimore merchants and bankers. They proposed building a railroad from Baltimore to some suitable place on the Ohio River.

The Erie Canal was 7 years old and successful. But a faster route was needed for getting supplies, goods, and people to and from the Midwest. The beginning capital was set at $5 million or about $90.5 million in today’s currency. Construction began with a groundbreaking ceremony on July 4, 1828 with Charles Carroll (a delegate to the Continental Congress and signatory of the Declaration of Independence) throwing a spade full of dirt. The first section of track from Baltimore west to Ellicott’s Mills, now Ellicott City, opened on May 24, 1830.

Moving ever westward, new sections of the B&O line opened periodically until finally reaching Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia) with a grand opening on January 1, 1853. There was a flurry of legal activity in the early-1830s between the B&O Railroad and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal as they fought over control of land along the Potomac River. The suits led to a sharing of the right of way.

B&O built a line from Baltimore to Washington, DC which was chartered in 1831 and completed in 1835. In 1843, Congress approved $30,000 ($660,000 in today’s money) to build a telegraph line along the right of way between Washington and Baltimore. The railroad played a major role in the Civil War. It supported the Union and was a major artery from the Capitol to all points north. As such, it was the focus of 143 raids and battles, suffering significant losses. The company continued to operate until 1963 when it was purchased by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.

“When the scheme for the construction of a railroad from Baltimore to the waters of the Ohio River first began to take form, the United States had barely emerged from the Revolutionary period.”

“The United States as we know it today is largely the result of mechanical inventions, and in particular of agricultural machinery and the railroad.”

“Many of the railroad evils were inherent in the situation; they were explained by the fact that both managers and public were dealing with a new agency whose laws they did not completely understand.”

“If we seek the real predecessor of the modern railroad track, we must go back three hundred years to the wooden rails on which were drawn the little cars used in English collieries to carry the coal from the mines to tidewater.” – all from John Moody

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: The B&O Railroad Museum is located in Baltimore, Maryland and dedicated to the railway. It was opened in 1953 and houses what is purported to be one of the greatest treasures of railroad memorabilia. They have the greatest collection of 19th century locomotives in the US. The building is the old B&O Railroad’s Mount Clare Station and the adjacent roundhouse. These structures were part of the B&O’s railroad manufacturing complex and began in 1829, making them the oldest complex in the US. They hold 250 pieces of rolling stock from the 19th and 20th centuries. They also have 15,000 artifacts related to railroad history. The mile of track that is part of the complex is considered to be the oldest extant track in the US.

Also on this day: Dord – In 1939, the unknown word DORD was found in Webster’s Dictionary.
Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen – In 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H was televised.
Betrayal – In 1844, an explosion aboard the USS Princeton shocked the nation.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 27, 2013


February 27, 1864: The first Northern POWs arrive at the Confederate run prison camp outside Andersonville, Georgia. At the beginning of the Civil War, captured men were held until both sides could arrange an exchange. The two sides would trade prisoners and the newly freed men could then return to their respective front lines. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s men killed a group of black Union soldiers instead of holding them for an exchange. Ulysses S. Grant unilaterally voided the exchange policy.

Confederate POWs were detained without parole until the South guaranteed that all soldiers, regardless of race, would be treated the same. This promise was not forthcoming from either CSA President Jefferson Davis or General Robert E. Lee. The South began constructing its own prisons instead. A site in central Georgia was selected because it was deemed to be far enough away from raiding Union troops.

The original prison construction began in January 1864 and contained 16.5 acres of land within a 12-foot stockade. It was to house 10,000 prisoners. The prison was of a rectangular design with a creek running through the center. Area slaves were impressed to build the original stockade. No barracks were constructed. By June, the prison population had climbed to 20,000 and more space was needed. One hundred, thirty prisoners were forced to work for 14 days to enclose an additional 10 acres. By August, more than 33,000 Union soldiers were held on the 26.5 acres.

Andersonville prison had a total of 49,485 prisoners come through the gates during the 14 months it was in operation. Of those, 13,700 men died of malnutrition, exposure, or disease. Nearly one-third of the prisoners died of dysentery. The South was chronically short of supplies by this time in the war, but the treatment of the prisoners was cruel and inhumane regardless of the issue of supply shortages. The Commanding Officer, Henry Wirz, was arrested in May 1865 and sent to Washington, DC where he stood trial for war crimes. He was found guilty and hanged, the only man to be so convicted from the War.

“A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him.” – Winston Churchill

“To my mind, to kill in war is not a whit better than to commit ordinary murder.” – Albert Einstein

“I’ll tell you what war is about: you’ve got to kill people, and when you’ve killed enough, they stop fighting.” – General Curtis LeMay

“No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” – Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

After the war ended, many of the survivors of this death camp were returning home on the Sultana when disaster struck again. A very sad ending to a horrible story. – the editor

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: This was not the only horrible POW camp in the US during the Civil War. There was also Camp Douglas located in Chicago. It was a place of deprivation and hardship as well. Scurvy was rampant with about 13% of inmates ill during October 1864. The next month, water was shut off while repairs were being made and prisoners risked being shot to gather snow for drinking purposes. The next month, remnants of General Hood’s troops arrived and were forced to stand naked in the ice and snow while they were robbed of any and all valuable. Records show that 2,235 prisoners died while at the camp, but there are some who say this is 967 short of the actual figure. Others put the death toll at over 6,000. Most died of disease or starvation while others succumbed to the bitter cold of a Chicago winter.

Also on this day: Party in New Orleans! – In 1827, Mardi Gras was celebrated in New Orleans for the first time.
The Lord and the Luddites – In1812, George Gordon Byron spoke out in the House of Lords.
Suffrage – In 1922, Leser V. Garnett was decided by the US Supreme Court.

Grand Canyon

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 26, 2013
Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park

February 26, 1919: US President Woodrow Wilson signs an act establishing the Grand Canyon National Park. The gorge created by the Colorado River is considered to be one of the wonders of the world. The area around the Grand Canyon became a national monument on January 11, 1908 and became a National Park on this date, testimony to early environmental efforts. Park status kept the Colorado River from being dammed within the preserved area although could not stop the Glen Canyon Dam being built upstream. UNESCO has declared it to be a World Heritage Site.

The Park covers 1,217,403 acres or 1,902 square miles of rugged and beautiful country. The Colorado River and her vast system of tributaries have cut through the striated rocks dating from the Precambrian period. The Colorado River is thought to have shifted north due to activity along the San Andreas Fault, a major geologic transform fault along the western coast of the US. The fault line is the border between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates and an area of great volatility and earthquake activity. It is thought the Colorado River once emptied into the Pacific Ocean somewhere along the California coast.

The Colorado River drains an area of 41,070 square miles and the entire region has not yet been mapped. A survey in 1979 covered 1,881 square miles and found 57 perennial water sources – 21 streams and 36 seeps. There are several major ecosystems within the Park. The biodiversity available covers 5 of the 7 life zones and 3 of the 4 desert types in North America. There are over 1,500 plant species and 355 bird, 89 mammalian, 49 reptile, 17 fish, and 9 amphibian species in the Park.

The Park is also rich in scientific resources. The layered rock formations tell the Earth’s story from millions of years ago. There are nearly 40 identified rock layers exposed within the canyon walls. The geological studies remain incomplete and draw scientists to the natural wonders. The oldest human artifacts found in the Park are nearly 12,000 years old. There are over 4,800 archeological resources recorded with a mere 3% of the area surveyed. The Park is breathtaking geologically, archeologically, and of course, visually.

“The region is of course, altogether valueless. It can be approached only from the South, and after entering it there is nothing to do but leave. Ours has been the first, and will doubtless be the last, party of whites to visit this profitless locality. It seems intended by nature that the Colorado River, along with the greater portion of its lonely and majestic way, shall be forever unvisited and undisturbed.” – Lt. Joseph Christmas Ives

“In fact, just about all the major natural attractions you find in the West – the Grand Canyon, the Badlands, the Goodlands, the Mediocrelands, the Rocky Mountains and Robert Redford – were caused by erosion.” – Dave Barry

“The Grand Canyon is carven deep by the master hand; it is the gulf of silence, widened in the desert; it is all time inscribing the naked rock; it is the book of earth.” – Donald Culross Peattie

“To stand upon the edge of this stupendous gorge, as it receives its earliest greeting from the god of day, is to enjoy in a moment compensation for long years of ordinary uneventful life.” – John L. Stoddard

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: The Grand Canyon National Park is the 15th oldest park in the US. It is located within the state of Arizona. President Theodore Roosevelt visited the area in 1903 and proclaimed “The Grand Canyon fills me with awe.” He wanted the area preserved, but he was not the first to want to do so. The first bill to create a national park was placed by then-Secretary Benjamin Harrison in 1882. It would have made this the second national park if it had been acted upon. Bills were again introduced in 1883, 1886, and 1893 when it was made a forest reserve. It took quite some time before it was declared a national park and it came under the administration of the National Park Service, established just three years earlier.

Also on this day: Waist Overalls – In 1829, Levi Strauss was born.
WorldWideWeb Browser – In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee introduced his WorldWideWeb browser, the first stable web browser.
World Trade Center – In 1993, the WTC was bombed.

Gas Tax

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 25, 2013
Gas pump

Gas pump

February 25, 1919: Oregon becomes the first state to impose a gasoline tax at the rate of 1¢/gallon. Eventually all 48 states and the District of Columbia levied their own version of this revenue enhancing scheme. By 1932, a federal gasoline tax was further added at the same rate of 1¢/gallon. US citizens are currently paying a federal tax of 18.4¢/gallon as well as taxes paid to the state. Maine charges drivers 27.6¢/gallon while Alaska tacks on only 8¢/gallon. Gasoline tax in the US is dedicated to transportation – road construction and maintenance or mass transit subsidies.

This form of revenue is used by other governments as well. Canada has both federal and provincial rates of taxation. As an added bonus, some municipalities also tax the fuel. In the Yukon 16.2¢/L (60¢/gallon) is the tax while in Vancouver it is 30.5¢/L ($1.142/gallon). The federal government takes 10¢/L (37¢/gallon) in taxes and the average Canadian fuel tax is 31.9¢/L or $1.195/gallon. Diesel and aviation fuels are taxed at lower rates.

Australia has several different rates for different types of fuels and there are grants possible to reduce or remove certain fuel taxes. In the UK, road fuels are taxed at £0.5035/L with a £0.2 reduction for biodiesel and bioethenol. However, there is a VAT (Value Added Tax) also imposed at 17.5% on the fuel and on the tax. All these combined taxes account for 65.24p/L or $5.043/gallon. The Netherlands has a fuel tax that is now specifically set aside for road creation and road and public transport maintenance at the rate of €0.684/L or $3.50/gallon (as of 2007).

Germany adds 65.45 Euro-Cents/L for conventional unleaded petrol. They then add 19% VAT to the fuel and the Fuel Tax which adds up to a whopping €1.37/L or $7.615/gallon (September 2007 figures). All this taxation leads many drivers on The Continent to cross borders to fill their tanks in a cheaper country. In China, the National People’s Congress has exerted enough pressure on the government to make them forego this type of income – so far.

“Like mothers, taxes are often misunderstood but seldom forgotten.” – Lord Bramwell

“The point to remember is what the government gives it must first take away.” – John S. Coleman

“Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.” – Robert A. Heinlein

“All money nowadays seems to be produced with a natural homing instinct for the Treasury.” – Prince Phillip

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: In the US, the federal tax on gasoline remains at 18.4¢/gallon. It was last raised in 1993 and is not tied to inflation. State taxes vary and add on average, about 50¢/gallon. Diesel fuel is taxed at a different rate and the feds add 24.4¢ to each gallon. As of October 2012, the state with the lowest additional tax was still Alaska with a rate of 26.4¢ per gallon for gas and 32,4¢/gallon of diesel. They were they only state in the twenty-cent range. There were fourteen states who added in 30-39¢/gallon and 21 states tacked on 40-49¢. Nine more states added 50-59¢/gallon and the remaining states added 60-69¢ with New York adding the most at 69¢/gallon. Monies collected by this tax are used for the transportation infrastructure.

Also on this day: “Do you feel lucky?” – In 1836, Samuel Colt received a patent for his new revolver.
Cut Off – In 1570, Pope Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I.
Battle Stations – In 1942, Los Angeles was under fire.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 24, 2013
Claudio Monteverdi

Claudio Monteverdi

February 24, 1607: L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi premieres. The production was also called La Favola d’Orfeo or The Legend of Orpheus and is considered to be one of the earliest works recognized as an opera. Monteverdi wrote the music and Alessandro Striggio wrote the text to be presented at the annual carnival of Mantua. The opera was published in Paris in 1609 and had a modern debut in 1904. During its 400th anniversary year, the opera was performed around the world. The 5 act production tells the tale of the Greek myth of Orpheus and starred Giovanni Gualberto Magli in the 1607 production.

Monteverdi was born in Northern Italy in 1567. He was trained by Marc’Antonia Ingegnari, a singing master, at the Cathedral of Cremona. He wrote his first music for publication in 1582. His first works were motets and madrigals. He is credited with moving music away from the Renaissance Era and into the Baroque Period. He was famous in his own time and became wealthy from his music. He composed nine books of madrigals, perfecting the form. He composed at least 18 operas but only 3 survive in their entirety. He also wrote other types of music sparingly. He died at the age of 76.

Opera itself is a mix of music and theater. Nobles in Florence, Italy attempted to recreate the ancient Greek theater with some added music to the dramatic performances at the end of the 16th century. They went from reciting the play with background music to actually singing the play. They were not attempting to create anything new. Then came Monteverdi. He expanded the idea and added the aria, the high point of an opera where the performer can show off technique as well as giving emotional depth to the story.

Opera was the popular music of the era with the aria being the chart-topping hit song. The form spread across Europe. But even as it spread, it was considered to be the art form of Italy and many early operas were written in Italian. Soon special venues were built – the great opera houses. Christoph Gluck, a German in Vienna, changed the face of opera in 1762 – emphasizing the drama of the piece and tightening the performance. Eventually there were Italian, German, French, Spanish, and Russian operas. The form continues to develop with modern composers.

“I don’t mind what language an opera is sung in so long as it is a language I don’t understand.” – Sir Edward Appleton

“Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings.” – Ed Gardner

“People are wrong when they say that the opera isn’t what it used to be. It is what it used to be. That’s what’s wrong with it.” – Noel Coward

“When an opera star sings her head off, she usually improves her appearance.” – Victor Borge

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Opera houses are theatrical buildings consstructed with the special needs of operas in mind. They contain the stage and seating area along with backstage areas for the cast and crew. They also have an orchestra pit for the musicians. Many of these buildings were separate spaces, but they can also be part of a larger performing arts center. The first opera house was built in Venice, Italy. It was called the Teatro San Cassiano and opened in 1637. They are generally larger than other venues with seating for more than 1,000. Some of the larger houses built in the 1800s had seating for 1,500 to 3,000. The Metropolitan Opera in New York City seats 3,800. The structure is also created with performances in mind and sounds are moved more easily due to the method of building the stage area.

Also on this day: Smile – In 1938, DuPont created a nylon-bristle toothbrush.
Murder, She Wrote – In 1981, Jean Harris was convicted of murder.
Religious Persecution – In 303, the new sect, Christians, were the subject of a Roman edict.

Cato Conspiracy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 23, 2013
Cato Conspiracy sign

Cato Conspiracy sign

February 23, 1820: A conspiracy to murder cabinet members is exposed. A group called Spencean Philanthropists met near Edgware Road and planned to disrupt a government already in a state of upheaval. Arthur Thistlewood had been involved in the Spa Field riots of 1816. He and his group were incensed by the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 where cavalry had charged into a crowd of 60,000-80,000 people who were demanding Parliamentary Reform, killing 15 and wounding 700. They were further angered by the Six Acts which immediately followed, limiting free speech and peaceful protests.

King George’s death on January 29, 1820 left the country in a state of crisis. George III had been ill for years and his son had been running the Empire since 1811. By 1820, George IV was possibly addicted to laudanum. With the throne in a state of flux, disaffected citizens felt the time was right to strike at the powers that be and kill the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, and his cabinet members as they dined at the home of Lord Harrowby, Lord President of the Council.

George Edwards and Thistlewood went ahead with plans and rented a house on Cato Street. They planned to use this as a base and attack the dining nobles with pistols and grenades. Or so they hoped. Edwards was working undercover as a spy. The Home Office was apprised of the situation and it was this august body that actually placed the announcement of the supposed dinner in The New Times. There was no dinner.

Twelve officers of the Bow Street runners, London’s first police force, along with the magistrate and another police spy waited across the way from the Cato Street house. At 7:30 PM the Thistlewood group entered the house. The police raided the building and a brawl broke out. One police officer was killed. Several of the conspirators were taken into custody. Thistlewood and 3 others escaped but were captured within days. The Cato Street Conspirators were found guilty of treason and sentenced to be drawn and quartered. All sentences were commuted with Thistlewood and four others hung at Newgate Prison while five more were transported to a penal colony for life.

“Oh, treacherous night! thou lendest thy ready veil to every treason, and teeming mischief’s beneath thy shade.” – Aaron Hill

“I love treason but hate a traitor.” – Julius Caesar

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” – Frederick Douglass

“There is no rule without revolts and conspiracies, even as there is no property without work and worry.” – Ivo Andric

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Spencean Philanthropists were a group of radicals following Thomas Spence. He died prior to this event, having been born in 1750 and dying in 1814. He was born into poverty in England and was the son of a Scots shoemaker. What seems to have been the beginning of his radical pursuits was the threatened enclosure of the Town Moor in Newcastle in 1771. Enclosure kept the lands from the locals and instead kept them for the aristocracy in the region. He was not so brazen as to demand nationalization of the land, but wanted instead to have self-contained lands run by the parish with locals farming and paying their rents to the church. He was also in favor of ending the aristocracy altogether.

Also on this day: The Rotary Club – In 1905, the Rotary Club was formed.
Gutenberg Bible – In 1455, the Gutenberg Bible was published.
ISO – In 1947, a new set of standards were adopted.

Hello, Dolly

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 22, 2013


February 22, 1997: The Roslin Institute, a government research facility in Edinburg, Scotland, announces the successful cloning of a sheep named Dolly, born on July 5, 1996. Dolly was the first mammal to be successfully cloned from an adult somatic cell (one from any part of the body rather than a gamete which is an egg or sperm). They used a process called nuclear transfer. This cloning technique proved that genetic material could be manipulated to express only a “distinct subset of genes” and therefore be programmed to make an entirely new organism.

To get Dolly – whose original cell came from a mammary gland and who was named after Dolly Parton for obvious reasons – was difficult. There were 277 eggs used which resulted in 29 embryos. Of those embryos, only three lambs were born and of those three, only one lived. There have been other farm mammals cloned as well as various other fish, pets, and creatures. Seventy calves have been born after making 9,000 attempts with fully one-third of them dying young. Prometea, a foal, was born after 328 attempts.

Dolly was a Fin Dorset sheep and should have lived 12-15 years. She was euthanized on November 11, 2003 at the age of six. There was debate over her cause of death. Autopsy confirmed that Dolly had a common retrovirus, Ovine Pulmonary Adenocarcinoma (Jaagsiekte), a progressive lung disease. Autopsy also showed that Dolly had unusually short telomeres which normally is the result of aging. Some scientists insist that Dolly’s cellular age at birth was six years as that was the age of the donor sheep and that her telomeres at death were the appropriate size for a 12-year-old sheep.

Cloning raises many ethical questions. The debate increased in 1952 when scientists first announced they had cloned a tadpole. Although the experiment could not be duplicated, ethicists were willing to point out the dangers intrinsic to the procedure. Some religions find the entire process an abomination before God. Others fear that human cloning will be misused or that the clones will be unstable, unhappy, non-distinct creatures used solely as spare parts for the parent.

“The cloning of humans is on most of the lists of things to worry about from Science, along with behavior control, genetic engineering, transplanted heads, computer poetry and the unrestrained growth of plastic flowers.” – Lewis Thomas

“Cloning is the sincerest form of flattery.” – unknown

“The possible cloning of human beings is now not relegated to the world of fiction, and the question to the world is this – what should we do with this science?” – James Greenwood

“Human cloning will take place, and it will take place in my lifetime. And I don’t fear it at all – I welcome it. I think it’s right and proper that we continue this kind of inquiry.” – Tom Harkin

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: The Roslin Institute has been part of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies within the College of Medicine of The University of Edinburgh since 2008. They now have over 400 staff and students working to “enhance the lives of animals and humans” via their world class research into animal biology. They have studied spongiform encephalopathies (mad cow disease) trying to determine how it is transmitted. They have also been able to create a genetically modified chicken which could produce eggs containing a protein needed to make cancer-fighting drugs. In 1997, they were able to clone two more sheep, Polly and Molly, both of which contained a human gene.

Also on this day: Copy Rights – In 1774, perpetual copyrights were banned by House of Lords.
Grady the Cow – In 1949, a cow got stuck in a silo and made national news.
The White Rose – In 1943, three young adults were executed.

Karl Marx

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 21, 2013
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

February 21, 1848: A new book is published in London by two Germans. The original print run was written in German and the 17,000 word treatise was finally translated into English in 1850. The authors were Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and their work was entitled The Communist Manifesto. There were several revisions made between 1872 and 1890. The work was translated into Russian in 1882. Various English translations are used and some include modified text.

Engels was born in Prussia in what is now Germany in 1820. His father was a textile manufacturer and at age 22 young Engels was sent to England to work in a textile mill where his father was part owner. Already influenced by Georg Hegel, the move to England only enhanced his disregard for the ruling or wealthy classes. Engels met Karl Marx in Paris in 1844 and the two became friends. They co-authored The Holy Family, an attack on a group of German philosophers called the Young Hegelians.

Marx was in 1818 and also born in Prussia. His father abandoned his Jewish heritage and converted to Lutheranism in order to practice Law. Karl married against family wishes and lived in poverty. Both he and his wife eventually inherited money from their families. Even so, they and their 7 children lived hand-to-mouth. Marx received a doctorate in philosophy in 1841. His own philosophical thoughts have been misinterpreted by both Marxists and anti-Marxists.

The Communist Manifesto is divided into prologue, three sections and conclusion. The Preamble is where the authors state Communism is seen as a specter and only needs explanation to eliminate fears. The first section is “Bourgeois and Proletarians” and explains historical materialism and the history of class struggle. The second section is “Proletarians and Communists” and it defines and defends Communism and lists the ten principles of The Communist Manifesto. The third section is “Socialist and Communist Literature” and it distinguishes between the two ideologies. Lastly is the conclusion where communist struggles in specific areas are discussed.

“The theory of Communism may be summed up in one sentence: Abolish all private property.”

“The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.”

“Sell a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach a man how to fish, you ruin a wonderful business opportunity.”

“Philosophy is to the real world as masturbation is to sex.” – all from Karl Marx

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Georg Hegel was born in 1770 and was an influential German philosopher. He was a major figure in German Idealism and his accounts of an idealized history helped to shape European philosophy. His teachings included the method for which mind and nature integrated and worked to mitigate contradictions until one was ultimately integrated and united into an ideal. Life itself in full of contradictions and the goal is to be able to assimilate without reducing the extremes, but to realize an ethical life.

Also on this day: The Washington Monument – In 1885, the Washington Monument was dedicated.
Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz – In 1931, Miles Laboratories introduced Alka-Seltzer to the world.
Incas – In 1918, the last Carolina Parakeet died.

Medal of Honor

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 20, 2013
Edward "Butch" O'Hare

Edward “Butch” O’Hare

February 20, 1942: Lieutenant Edward O’Hare becomes the first American in World War II to be declared a flying ace. The 27-year-old naval aviator received the Medal of Honor (one of about 500 to do so during the war) for his aeronautic skill demonstrated on this day. Lt. “Butch” O’Hare began his military career at Annapolis when he graduated on June 3, 1937 as an Ensign. He began flight training in 1939. He eventually became proficient with a variety of planes and trained in aerobatics and aerial gunnery.

By 1942, Lt. O’Hare was assigned to the USS Lexington, one of the US Navy’s early aircraft carriers. Japanese bombers were headed toward the ship and were shown on radar while still about 35 miles out from the ship. Six planes were sent up to intercept the enemy. First two planes were sent to investigate and shot down one enemy plane. Two of the remaining planes were sent to engage another Japanese squadron that appeared on the radar. Another threat was seen on the radar and then disappeared.

Butch and his wingman, “Duff” Dufilho were the only two Wildcat pilots left to engage this new threat. Dufilho’s guns jammed leaving Butch alone to defend the aircraft carrier. He was armed with four 50-caliber guns with 450 rounds of ammunition per gun – or about 34 seconds of firing. Nine planes were attacking in a V pattern. O’Hare shot down one plane, veered to the other side and took out a second. They were now within the range of the anti-aircraft guns from the ship. While they were engaged, the shipboard guns were ineffective. Butch managed to shoot down three more planes before running out of ammo. As he approached the ship to land, his own anti-aircraft guns fired on him, missing him, too. Butch’s plane showed one bullet hole.

His last flight was the first night mission for the Navy’s aviators. O’Hare led the fighter attacks from the carrier and engaged a group of Japanese torpedo bombers. O’Hare’s plane was shot down and he was lost at sea. Robert R. McCormick of the Chicago Tribune proposed that Chicago’s Orchard Depot Airport be renamed to honor the fallen hero. On September 19, 1949 the Chicago airport became O’Hare International Airport.

“Son, if you don’t stop shooting at me when I’ve got my wheels down, I’m going to have to report you to the gunnery officer.” – Butch O’Hare to the anti-aircraft gunner who shot at him

“How strange is this combination of proximity and separation. That ground – seconds away – thousands of miles away.” – Charles A. Lindbergh

“The engine is the heart of an airplane, but the pilot is its soul.” – Walter Raleigh

“If God had really intended men to fly, he’d make it easier to get to the airport.” – George Winters

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Edward “Butch” O’Hare was born in 1914 in St. Louis, Missouri. His parents divorced in 1927 and Butch and his two sisters stayed with their mother. Edward Sr., a lawyer, moved to Chicago and worked with Al Capone for a time. He finally turned against Capone and helped the government build and prosecute a case against the mobster for tax evasion. He was shot to death in 1939, probably by a friend of Al Capone, a week before Capone was released from prison. There was some speculation at the time that Edward, Sr. turned state’s evidence in order to ensure his son would be admitted to the Naval Academy. Butch graduated from the Naval Academy on May 2, 1940.

Also on this day: Iceberg Ahead – In 1856, the ship John Rutledge struck an iceberg and sunk.
The Met – In 1872. New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opened.
Ice Skating – In 1998, Tara Lipinski won the gold medal at the Olympics.