Little Bits of History

June 14

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 14, 2017

1966: The Index Librorum Prohibitorum or List of Prohibited Books is abolished. The Roman Catholic Church had maintained a list of books no good Catholic should read from as early as the 9th century. The first list was created then, but never officially authorized. Decretem Glasianum gave way to the Pauline Index first published in 1559 by Pope Paul IV. The invention of the movable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440 changed the way books were published. Handwritten copies of books were rare and kept in a small number of libraries. But with mass production possible, more books came to print and were dispersed among the general citizens. After about 100 years of continual growth of books and literacy, both the Church and European governments tried to regulate or control printing.

The Protestant Reformation helped to spur on many new works and the texts were often in direct opposition to the Catholic Church. This was the area of texts the Pope was concerned about. Governments had different concerns and both entities tried to control what could be printed and where it could be sold. Government tried to control who could have the presses and they issued licenses for the right to trade or print books. England and France were both concerned with ideas spread via the printed words and tried to stop the output. The Church had less access to this method of control and so began printing lists of books banned to the faithful. Even so, the first Indexes did not come from Rome. The first came from the Dutch (1529) and the next was from Venice (1543) which was followed by Paris (1551).

By the middle of the century, religious wars were waged in Germany and France and the ideas spread by the written words were quickly found in the hands of rebels. It was deemed by those in charge, that controlling the presses was imperative to their continued existence. The first Roman Index was issued in 1557 with a new edition in 1559 banning the entire works of about 550 authors as well as some individual titles. The censors were seen as being too restrictive, even within the intelligentsia of the Catholic Church. A new list came out in 1564 and was the basis for later texts even up to 1897.

Some Protestant scholars were blacklisted by the Catholic Church as well as some ideas that might be outside dogma as presented by the Church. Special dispensation could be granted so scholars could read the banned works. The last edition was published in 1948. It was the 20th edition and had about 4,000 titles included. Heresy and sexual explicitness could land a work on the list. Atheists could be blacklisted. Pope Pius VI brought the practice to an end. Good Christians still need to be wary of heretical topics, but they can no longer be punished by ecclesiastical law.

Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world. – Malala Yousafzai

There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and the tired man who wants a book to read. – Gilbert K. Chesterton

Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image, but thee who destroys a good book, kills reason its self. – John Milton

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. – Oscar Wilde


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 14, 2015


June 14, 1951: UNIVAC is dedicated by the United States Census Bureau. UNIVAC was the first American computer designed for business and administrative use. Programmed with relatively simple arithmetic and data transport routines, it did not deal with complex numerical calculations used with scientific computing. UNIVAC competed directly against punch card machines although in its original state, it could neither read nor punch cards. This shortcoming made it a difficult sale to companies who had backlogs of data stored on cards which would have had to have been entered into the machine. The problem was eventually corrected by add on hardware – the UNIVAC Card to Tape converter and the UNIVAC Tape to Card converter which transferred data between punch cards and the magnetic tape used by the computer.

Even with this update, sales were not what Remington Rand Company (the maker of the computer) had hoped for. They partnered with CBS to have the computer predict who would win the 1952 Presidential election. Adlai Stevenson was favored by the pollsters but UNIVAC predicted a landslide victory going to Dwight Eisenhower. The computer was correct. This helped boost the public’s awareness of the power of the computer. Even before the elections, the first sales of UNIVAC were to the US government. The first was to the Census Bureau who purchased it during a formal ceremony on March 31. The machine was dedicated on this date in another ceremony. It was the sole fully setup model and the company needed it for demonstration purposes so the machine did not actually ship until December.

The Census Bureau had the machine installed at Suitland, Maryland. The next year (1952) two more computers were purchased with one going to the US Air Force at the Pentagon and the other to the US Army Map Service in Washington, D.C. Finally, in 1953 a UNIVAC was purchased by an entity not the government when New York University purchased one, although it was for the Atomic Energy Commission. Two more were sold in 1953 and by 1954 business boomed with twelve sold. General Electric was the first business to buy one (after Remington Rand actually purchased one to use in its sales office). Metropolitan Life was the next business. US Steel was the first company to buy two with one for their Pittsburgh plant and one in Gary, Indiana.

The original price tag was $159,000 ($1.5 million today) but the price rose as time went on and by the end of production of UNIVAC I, the cost had risen to between $1.25 and $1.5 million or about $13 million today. Unlike IBM, Sperry Rand did not have enough money to donate many computers to universities, but they did give three: to Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, and Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. They sold 46 systems in all before technology progressed and outstripped the machine. The behemoths were powerful machines and an insurance company in Tennessee managed to keep theirs up and running until 1970 for 13 years of service.

UNIVAC a device, which contained 20,000 vacuum tubes, occupied 1,500 square feet and weighed 40 tons there was also a laptop version weighing 27 tons. – Dave Barry

The earliest admonition we had about the computer was to quit using the phrase electric brain. The folks in Philadelphia tried to convince us that the UNIVAC didn’t have a brain, and that whatever we fed into it would determine what we got out of it. – Walter Cronkite

The UNIVAC introduced the use of the magnetic tape drive to be — for its time — a high-volume IO mechanism. – George Gray

Up until that point, every computer was one of a kind. They were really in it as a business to make a bunch of these. – George Gray

Also on this day: Which is Witch – In 1648, the first “witch” was hanged in Salem.
Early Computing – In 1822, Charles Babbage presented a paper on computing.
Maize – In 1789, Bourbon was first produced.
First Non-Stop Transatlantic Flight – In 1919, Alcock and Brown made it to Europe.
Auschwitz – In 1940, the prison camp opened.

* “Univac I at CHM.agr” by ArnoldReinhold – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 14, 2014


June 14, 1940: The first transport of 728 Polish prisoners arrive at Auschwitz. The camp first opened with 30 German criminal prisoners arriving in May. These men were intended to act as functionaries within the prison system. On this day, 728 Polish political prisoners from the city of Tarnow arrived. They had been involved with the resistance movement and most of them were Catholics, although there were 20 Jews included. They were sent by the German Security Police or Sicherheitspolizei. The people had been held previously at Sachsenhausen and were ordered to take a shower and disinfect themselves the previous day. From there they were marched to a train station escorted by the SS and pushed into waiting rail cars.

Original records show that 753 people were on a transport list. The twenty-five person discrepancy is a mystery. There was one person who was released at the train station, according to witnesses. The people arriving at Auschwitz were numbered 31 through 758, since the original German prisoners took the first numbers. There is a notation in the records at Auschwitz for June 15 which reads, “Transport Stalowa Wola, 24 persons” and so it thought that perhaps the 24 missing people were from Stalowa Wola and returned on the next day.

Number 31 was given to Stanislaw Ryniak, the first Pole at Auschwitz who was 24 years old at the time of his entry into the camp. He had been arrested in May and accused of being a member of the resistance. He survived the war and became an architect afterward. He lived to be 88 and died in 2004. The last of the numbers for this group was assigned to Ignacy Plachta who had been captured while trying to escape to Hungary. Also in this group of prisoners, number 349, was the Polish Olympic skier Bronislaw Czech. He was not as lucky as Ryniak and died on June 4, 1944 at Auschwitz at the age of 35.

The camp eventually became synonymous with the killing of Jews by the Third Reich. The first extermination of prisoners took place in September 1941 and the camp went on to become a major site of the Nazi Final Solution to the Jewish Question. Between 1942 and 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers and at least 1.1 million prisoners died there. About 90% of those killed were Jewish or about 1 out of 6 Jews who were killed, were killed here. Also deported to Auschwitz were 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet POWs, and tens of thousands more. The gas chamber was the great killing machine, but many more died of starvation, forced labor, disease, individual execution, and medical experiments.

 Someday I will understand Auschwitz. This was a brave statement but innocently absurd. No one will ever understand Auschwitz. – William Styron

Christmas and Easter can be subjects for poetry, but Good Friday, like Auschwitz, cannot. The reality is so horrible it is not surprising that people should have found it a stumbling block to faith. – WH Auden

This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. – Jacob Bronowski

No matter what I accomplish, it doesn’t seem like much compared to surviving Auschwitz. – Art Spiegelman

Also on this day: Which is Witch – In 1648, the first “witch” is hanged in Salem.
Early Computing – In 1822, Charles Babbage presented a paper on computing.
Maize – In 1789, Bourbon was first produced.
First Non-Stop Transatlantic Flight – In 1919, Alcock and Brown made it to Europe.

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Early Computing

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 14, 2013
Charles Babbage

Charles Babbage

June 14, 1822: The Astronomical Society (Royal Astronomical Society since 1831) is presented a paper entitled “Note on the application of machinery to the computation of astronomical and mathematical tables.” The paper was presented by Charles Babbage. The paper’s proposal was for a mechanical calculator. It was designed to solve polynomial functions. Logarithmic and trigonometric functions can both be expressed by polynomials. A polynomial is either zero or can be expressed as the sum of one or more non-zero terms (infinite number of terms permitted).

Babbage’s time predates computers in the sense of a machine. However, in the 1800s, computers were people who solved math equations – or computed the answers. Unfortunately, the fallibility factor made the calculations unreliable. Babbage got funding from the British government and began to build his machine. When work did not progress as rapidly as was hoped and more funds were requested, all monies were withdrawn. Babbage improved his design and called his next version Difference Engine No. 2.

The first engine had about 25,000 parts, weighed 15 tons and stood 8 feet high. It was never finished. Engine No. 2 was finally built in 1989-1991 using Babbage’s plans and 19th century goods. It worked and the first result was calculated to 31 digits, more than the average pocket calculator. These early designs led to Babbage’s Analytical Engine. The second type of device was actually a series of machines and could be programmed using punch cards. Babbage’s machines have led us into the computer age even though they were not completed during his life.

The Difference Engine was built with columns which were numbered 1 to N. There was a four-step process for calculations with each successive step based on the result of the previous step. Gears were used to move levers. The machine could add and subtract, but not multiply. It produced, rather, nearby values for an unknown X. By some miracle of higher mathematics, this produced an answer via the method of finite differences. The Difference Engine finally built in the 20th century worked, but by then we had smaller, easier to use, electronic calculators. Phew.

“I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam.”

“Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.”

“On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], ‘Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’ I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.”

“The whole of the developments and operations of analysis are now capable of being executed by machinery. … As soon as an Analytical Engine exists, it will necessarily guide the future course of science.” – all from Charles Babbage

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Charles Babbage was born in London (exact location unknown) in 1792 (but this, again, is disputed and it was probably a year earlier). He was one of four children and his father was a banking partner until the family moved and he was then a warden of the local church. At about age eight, Charles was sent to a country school while recovering from a life-threatening fever. He attempted some public schooling, but his health issues forced him back to private tutors. Eventually he was well enough to attend Cambridge where he was dissatisfied with the mathematics department’s shortcomings. He was not, however, just a mathematician, but also a philosopher and a mechanical engineer as well as a political scientist. He died in London in 1871.

Also on this day: Which is Witch – In 1648, the first “witch” is hanged in Salem.
Maize – In 1789, Bourbon was first produced.
First Non-Stop Transatlantic Flight – In 19191 Alcock and Brown made it to Europe.

First Non-Stop Transatlantic Flight

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 14, 2012

John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown

June 14, 1919: John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown fly east from St. John’s Newfoundland. Alcock, 26, was the pilot while Brown, 32, was the navigator. The English pilot and Scots navigator were vying for a prize offered by The Daily Mail. The £10,000 prize was for any aviator to fly from anywhere in North America to anywhere in Great Britain or Ireland in 72 continuous hours. The pair flew a modified Vickers Vimy, a biplane of British manufacture, powered by two Rolls-Royce Eagle engines. Modifications included extra fuel storage and a cockpit change to allow the pilot and navigator to sit side by side.

The plane was built in England, shipped to Canada, and reassembled. The field to be used for takeoff had to be cleared of debris and made smooth enough for the plane to taxi. The plane was a wood frame with fabric covering powered by a total of 720 horsepower. The fuel capacity was 865 gallons which gave the men a range of about 2,400 miles. They took to the air at 1:45 PM from Lester’s Field and began their nearly 16 hour flight.

It was not an easy flight due to engine trouble as well as weather conditions. There was fog, snow, and ice to contend with. They were only able to maintain altitude by Brown continually walking out onto the wings and removing ice from the frozen engines. They were flying in an open cockpit and it would fill with snow. Their altitude for the first transatlantic flight ranged from just above sea level to about 12,000 feet. Their average speed was 115 mph. They landed in Connemara, Ireland at 8:40 PM on June 15. Landed might be a stretch, since they were once again encased in fog. The area they picked to land the plane looked like a field from the sky, but was actually a bog. They crashed more than landed, but no one was hurt.

They were awarded the £10,000 prize for making the first non-stop transatlantic flight. There were two other prize monies offered for another £3,000 ( totaling nearly half a million pounds today). Both men were knighted by King George V. Their plane was presented to the Science Museum in London. Alcock was present for the ceremony on December 15, 1919. Three days later, while flying a new Vickers plane in an air show in Paris, the plane stalled and crashed into a tree, killing the pilot. Brown went to work for Vickers. He lived to the age of 62.

All serious daring starts from within. – Eudora Welty

Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary. – Cecil Beaton

Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Everything depends on whether we have for opponents those French tricksters or those daring rascals, the English. I prefer the English. Frequently their daring can only be described as stupidity. In their eyes it may be pluck and daring. – Manfred von Richthofen

Alcock and Brown showed me the way! – Charles Lindbergh on landing in Paris

Also on this day:

Which is Witch – In 1648,the first “witch” is hanged in Salem.
Early Computing – In 1822, Charles Babbage presented a paper on computing.
Maize – In 1789, Bourbon was first produced.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 14, 2011

Elijah Craig Bourbon (photo by Craig L Duncan)

June 14, 1789: Reverend Elijah Craig produces a new beverage in Bourbon County, Kentucky. Rev. Craig was born in either 1738 or 1743 in Orange County, Virginia. He was converted by David Thomas and was ordained a Baptist preacher in 1771. Two of his brothers were also ordained. Before the American Revolution, Craig – like most non-licensed preachers of the time – had been jailed at least once.  While preaching his gospel in 1777, he had the chance to discuss freedom of religion with future President James Madison.

Craig moved to Kentucky in 1781 along with his brother and their traveling church was made up of about 600 members. Craig purchased 1,000 acres in Scott County in 1782 and laid out the town of Lebanon which was incorporated in 1784. The town was renamed Georgetown in 1790. Craig continued to preach but he was also interested in education. He established the first classical school in Kentucky in 1787. The school was later linked to the Rittenhouse Academy, also founded by Craig.

He was not just a preacher and educator, he was also a businessman. Around 1789, Craig founded a distillery and improved on the locally made corn liquor and turned it into the smooth reddish beverage aged in barrels made of charred oak. The drink needed to be distinguished from rye-based drinks made east of the Alleghenies. The western corn-based drink became known as bourbon, named for the county in which it was made. The bourbon made today with his name on the label is his legacy.

Today, laws require what can and cannot be called “Bourbon.” The drink must be made in the US. It must be made of at least 51% corn and must be distilled to no more than 160 proof or 80% alcohol by volume. Like other whiskeys, it must be bottled at 80 proof or more (40% by volume). Bourbon must be placed in the barrel for aging at no more than 120 proof and must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. There is no minimum aging requirements. Straight Bourbon must be aged at least two years and have no added coloring, flavoring, or other spirits. If it has been aged less than four years, but still is Straight, the duration of the aging process must be on the label. Bourbon that is Blended may contain coloring, flavoring, or other spirits but it must still be at least 51% Straight Bourbon.

“How well I remember my first encounter with The Devil’s Brew. I happened to stumble across a case of bourbon — and went right on stumbling for several days thereafter.” – W. C. Fields

“The only way that I could figure they could improve upon Coca-Cola, one of life’s most delightful elixirs, which studies prove will heal the sick and occasionally raise the dead, is to put rum or bourbon in it.” –  Lewis Grizzard

“Between 9 and 10 AM the American radio is concerned almost exclusively with love. It seems a little like ending breakfast with a stiff bourbon.” – Dean Acheson

“I know folks all have a tizzy about it, but I like a little bourbon of an evening. It helps me sleep. I don’t much care what they say about it.” – Lillian Carter

Also on this day:
Which is Witch – In 1648,the first “witch” is hanged in Salem.
Early Computing – In 1822, Charles Babbage presented a paper on computing.

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Which is Witch

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 14, 2010

Salem witch trials

June 14, 1648: Margaret Jones was hanged for witchcraft, the first to be punished in this manner in a Massachusetts colony. Jones lived in Charlestown, Massachusetts and worked as a physician. Between 1648 and 1649 there was an outbreak of smallpox and whooping cough in the area. When Jones patients vomited and suffered violent seizures, she was considered to have a “malignant touch.” She was tried and found guilty of the crime of witchcraft. Aside from the famous Salem Witch Hunt, there were sixteen others executed in the colonies during the seventeenth century – fourteen were women; two men; and four actually confessed to the crime.

In the Salem imbroglio, there were over 200 accused with over 75% of them being women. Those who confessed were not killed. Even so, fourteen women and five men were hanged, one man was pressed to death, and two women died in prison. The last person hanged for witchcraft died in 1692.

In Germany, between the years of 1610 and 1630, “tens of thousands” were killed as witches. From 1676 to 1725, Poland also underwent a witch hunt. Later than most of Europe, but still quite aggressive, it was responsible for between 10,000 and 15,000 deaths. Other European countries also have a history of burning or hanging witches, but the death toll is much lower.

Even today, in third world countries, women are accused of witchcraft. After Duvallier fell from power in Haiti, “Tonton macoutes” were accused of witchcraft and executed by mobs. In the 1980s, both South Africa and Mexico had witches executed. In India, “Banamati” is a form of witchcraft and practitioners have been accused of causing illness or death to others. Western practitioners of neopaganism have taken the name of Wicca from the Old English wicce (female) or wicca (male) practitioner of witchcraft. Popularized in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, there are several different ways the religion in practiced today.

“‘Tis now the very witching time of night, When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world.” – William Shakespeare

“The archetype of the witch is very powerful, and each woman has that witch inside her in a powerful good sense, not in terms of black magic.” – Judith Orloff

“In the Middle Ages when people were convinced there were witches they certainly found them. This is a bit risky.” – Hans Blix

“Common justice demands that a witch should not be condemned to death unless she is convicted by her own confession.” – Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, authorizing use of torture for the Inquisition.

Also on this day, in 1822 Charles Babbage presents a paper on the computer.