Little Bits of History

October 15

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 15, 2017

1894: Alfred Dreyfus is arrested. He was born in 1859 in Mulhouse, Alsace and was the youngest of nine children born to a prosperous Jewish textile manufacturer. The Franco-Prussian War broke out when Alfred was ten and forced the family to move to Paris. This pivotal act led the young boy to pursue a life in the military. He entered military schools and rose through the ranks. He graduated ninth in his class at École Supérieure de Guerre or War College. He was expected to do well in the final examinations but General Bonnefond felt “Jews were not desired” on the staff and gave Dreyfus poor marks for a category we might call “likeability”. This would later prove damning since the stated belief of the French military was that Jews were not discriminated against.

In 1894, it was found that information regarding new artillery parts was being passed to the Germans by a highly placed spy, mostly likely on the General Staff. Dreyfus was suspected and arrested on this day. On January 5, 1895 he was convicted in a secret court martial and publicly stripped of his rank with humiliating public ceremony before being sent to Devil’s Island to serve out a sentence of life imprisonment. In August 1896, the new head of French military intelligence, Lt. Col. Georges Picquart, reported he found no evidence of Dreyfus’s guilt and believed Major Ferdinand Esterhazy to be the real traitor. Picquart was silenced and sent to Tunisia within months.

News of the miscarriage of justice against Dreyfus found its way into the press along with military tolerance of anti-Semitism even at the highest levels. This was appalling to citizens who believed in equal rights for all citizens. Esterhazy was found not guilty in another secret court martial but immediately fled to England. A cadre of supporters began to campaign for Dreyfus’s release and exoneration. Emilie Zola was one of the most vocal of the these and Dreyfus was given a second trial in 1899 and once again found guilty despite evidence in favor of his innocence.

President Emilie Loubert offered Dreyfus a pardon in 1899 as a way to save face for the military miscarriage of justice. If Dreyfus did not accept the pardon, he would have had to return to Devil’s Island which he couldn’t face. So he accepted the pardon, but was still officially a traitor. He lived in a state of house arrest with one of his sisters after his release. On July 12, 1906, Dreyfus was officially exonerated by a military commission and readmitted into the army with a promotion in rank. He served in the army during World War I, as did his son with both of them receiving honors. Dreyfus died in Paris in 1935 at the age of 75. The Dreyfus affair remains one of the most egregious political dramas in French history.

The government of the Republic has given me back my freedom. It is nothing for me without my honor. – Alfred Dreyfus, speaking of his pardon

As you know, I am a novelist, and I really want to write novels. But I knew enough about the Dreyfus case to understand immediately why what happened to Dreyfus was not merely a cause celebre from the end of the 19th century, but an event that could be shown to teach us lessons of the greatest importance for our own time. – Louis Begley

Racial prejudice, anti-Semitism, or hatred of anyone with different beliefs has no place in the human mind or heart. – Billy Graham

Anti-Semitism has no historical, political and certainly no philosophical origins. Anti-Semitism is a disease. – Daniel Barenboim



Horace Hunley – Inventor

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 15, 2015
Recovery of the CSS HL Hunley*

Recovery of the CSS HL Hunley

October 15, 1863: Horace Lawson Hunley dies. He was born in 1823 in Tennessee but shortly after his birth, his family moved to New Orleans. Hunley was a lawyer who had an established practice in New Orleans as well as serving in the Louisiana State Legislature. When the US Civil War began, he joined up with James McClintock and Baxter Watson in order to build submarines. Their first attempt was named Pioneer and it was for use by the Confederacy. The US Navy was also working on their own submarine. Pioneer was first tested in February 1862 in the Mississippi River and was then taken to Lake Pontchartrain for more trials. New Orleans fell to Union troops and so the men scuttled Pioneer to keep her out of enemy hands. She was raised and examined by Union troops and then sold for scrap.

The three men attempted to build a second submarine but it was a failure and sunk in Mobile Bay, Alabama. McClintock and Watson both abandoned the project. Hunley used his own funds and built a third submarine, the H.L. Hunley. Early trials were encouraging. Unfortunately during a trial run, a passing boat swamped the sub which was sailing with open hatches. The sub sank and four men were able to escape to safety; five men died. A new crew was recruited in Charleston, South Carolina.

Hunley was not part of the test crew but on this day, he decided to take command of a routine exercise. While out on maneuvers, the sub once again sank but this time there were no escapes and all eight crewmen died, including Hunley. He was 40 years old at the time. The sub was raised and was eventually able to be used. It was the first time a sub was able to sink an enemy vessel and the H.L. Hunley was responsible for sinking the USS Housatonic on February 17, 1864. After sinking the ship, the Hunley rose above the waters to signal land using a “blue light” and then submerged to return to land. It was lost at sea with eight men aboard.

The fate of the submarine was certain, but the cause has remained undetermined. It was possible that on their return to Sullivan’s Island, she may have collided with the USS Canandaigua as the Union warship went to the aid of the Housatonic. There is also some possibility that the torpedo used by the Hunley did not detonate properly. The sub was supposed to be at least 150 feet away but was reported to have been closer (100 feet). The sub may have been damaged by the blast. When the wreckage was finally discovered, it was noted that the pumps were not set, indicating the cabin was not flooding. It is possible the crew simply ran out of air and suffocated. There is also the possibility that the sub was actually struck by a cannon ball from the Housatonic. It is also possible the crew was knocked unconscious by the concussion of the torpedo due to proximity and died without waking and the blue light was something else.

Submarine life most of the time is hours and hours of boredom with intermittent terror thrown in to keep you on your toes! – Paul Perris

Life is not fair, life was not meant to be fair. We in the submarine service are fortunate to learn this fact early in life, that life is not fair. – Danny A. Alexander

Some ships are designed to sink… others require our assistance. – Nathan Zelk

The only good Marine is a SUB-marine! – EN1-SS Steve D. Gardella

Also on this day: Rostov Ripper – In 1992, Andrei Chikatilo, of Russia, was found guilty of 52 murders.
Going Postal – In 1888, a letter was received, purportedly from Jack the Ripper.
You Got Some ‘Splainin To Do – In 1951, I Love Lucy premiered.
Chance Chants – In 1764, Edward Gibbon was inspired to write his work on the fall of Rome.
Upgrade – In 1956, a new computer language was born.




Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 15, 2014
FORTRAN statement punch card

FORTRAN statement punch card

October 15, 1956: The FORTRAN Automatic Coding System for the IBM 704 programmer’s reference manual is released. The name comes from FORmula TRANSlating system and it is a general-purpose imperative programming language which is especially useful for numeric computation and scientific computing. It was developed by IBM for use with scientific and engineering applications and it dominated the area of programming from the early days. It has been in continuous use since its release and today finds use in applications using massive numerical data such as weather prediction, element analysis, and computations areas of fluid dynamics, physics, and chemistry.

It is the language used for programs which benchmark and rank the world’s fastest supercomputers. It was based on previous computer programming languages: ALGOL 58, BASIC, C, PL/I, PACT I, MUMPS, and Ratfor. As each new version evolved, it was given a higher number appended to the name. FORTRAN is written in all caps up until FORTRAN 77 but the name eventually became Fortran without being all caps, which happened officially with Fortran 90. Newer versions added extensions but usually provided for legacy use of older versions of the code.

In late 1953, John Backus submitted a proposal to IBM to develop and more practical alternative to assembly language for programming the IBM 704 mainframe, a room size behemoth of a computer. Backus put together a team of programmers: Richard Goldberg, Sheldon Best, Harlan Herrick, Peter Sheridan, Roy Nutt, Robert Nelson, Irving Ziller, Lois Haibt, and David Sayre. The team worked on a method which would include easier entry of equations into a computer, something that was still done using punch cards. The first draft specification for The IBM Mathematical Formal Translating System was completed in mid-1954. The first FORTRAN compiler was delivered in April 1957. Customers were reluctant to use the new language because they didn’t believe it would be better than hand-coded assembly language.

It was better. It reduced the number of programming statements necessary to operate a machine by a factor of 20. It quickly gained acceptance. Because the language was being used by many scientists, compiler writers were urged on to create compilers able to generate faster and more efficient coding. The initial release of FORTRAN contained 32 statements (computer orders). Programs were entered on a keypunch keyboard onto 80 column punched cards, one line per card. The cards were fed into a card reader to be compiled. These did not usually deal with special characters and so special cards were needed. After many new versions, the language began being called Fortran with the date of revision. The Fortran in use today is Fortran 2008 with the next revision due to come out in 2015.

Much of my work has come from being lazy. I didn’t like writing programs, and so, when I was working on the IBM 701, writing programs for computing missile trajectories, I started work on a programming system to make it easier to write programs.- John Backus in a 1979 interview

Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the universe trying to build bigger and better idiots. So far, the universe is winning. – Rick Cook

Don’t worry if it doesn’t work right. If everything did, you’d be out of a job. – Mosher’s Law of Software Engineering

FORTRAN is not a flower but a weed — it is hardy, occasionally blooms, and grows in every computer. – Alan J. Perlis

The evolution of languages: FORTRAN is a non-typed language. C is a weakly typed language. Ada is a strongly typed language. C++ is a strongly hyped language. – Ron Sercely

Also on this day: Rostov Ripper – In 1992, Andrei Chikatilo, of Russia, was found guilty of 52 murders.
Going Postal – In 1888, a letter was received, purportedly from Jack the Ripper.
You Got Some ‘Splainin To Do – In 1951, I Love Lucy premiered.
Chance Chants – In 1764, Edward Gibbon was inspired to write his work on the fall of Rome.

Going Postal

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 15, 2013
Jack the Ripper murder reported

Jack the Ripper murder reported

October 15, 1888: A letter is sent to Mr. Lusk, supposedly coming “From hell.” This was the third and last of the letters most frequently deemed to have come from an unknown assailant terrorizing the streets of London’s Whitechapel area. While the crime spree is given different dates due to “unknown assailant” status for other crime victims, there are five canonical victims. Mary Ann Nichols, aka Polly, was murdered on August 31, 1888. Annie Chapman fell on September 8. Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes were both killed on September 30 and Mary Jane Kelly was butchered on November 9. There were 11 similar murders between April 3, 1888 and February 13, 1891. The five listed are said to be the true victims of the criminal dubbed Jack the Ripper.

The first of the three most likely letters from Jack, the “Dear Boss” letter, was sent to the Central News Agency of London on September 27, 1888. The letter commented on various aspects of the case and was written in red ink since the blood saved from the last victim had clotted and couldn’t be used. The author promised to cut the ears off the next victim and send them to the police. The next missive, the “Saucy Jacky” postcard, was sent October 1. The postcard refers to the two killings on September 30. There was some speculation these letters may have also been hoaxes perpetrated by journalists. Scotland Yard was inundated with them, but these three were given credence.

The “From hell” letter was sent to George Lusk, the head of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee. The letter arrived with a small box containing a human kidney preserved in ethanol. One of Eddowes’s kidneys had been removed at the time of her murder. Many of the physical evidence artifacts have been removed from police custody. It is assumed they were stolen as souvenirs from the famous case. What we have today are photographs of the postcard and last letter. The first letter was returned anonymously to the Metropolitan Police in 1988.

The case was never solved. Six main suspects were identified by the police at the time. Five more possible perpetrators were identified by journalists and citizens interested in the case. Fourteen other names have been mentioned by researchers working from a later date. No one knows who Jack the Ripper was, why he started his killing spree, and even more importantly – why he stopped. The name for the murderer came from the signature line of the Dear Boss letter. It was signed “Jack the Ripper” with an additional line “Dont mind me giving the trade name.”

“Mr Lusk,
I send you half the Kidne I took from one women prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise. I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a whil longer” – entire text of the ‘From hell’ letter

“I was not codding dear old Boss when I gave you the tip, you’ll hear about Saucy Jacky’s work tomorrow double event this time number one squealed a bit couldn’t finish straight off. Had not got time to get ears off for police thanks for keeping last letter back till I got to work again.” – entire text of the ‘Saucy Jacky” postcard

“I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits. I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled.” – partial text from ‘Dear Boss’ letter

“I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I cant use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha. ha.” – partial text from ‘Dear Boss’ letter

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The police suspects for Jack the Ripper were: Montague John Druitt, Seweryn Kłosowski alias George Chapman, Aaron Kosminski, Michael Ostrog, John Pizer, James Thomas Sadler, and Francis Tumblety. The press and public opinion of the time listed more suspects: William Henry Bury, Thomas Neill Cream, Thomas Hayne Cutbush, Frederick Bailey Deeming, Carl Feigenbaum, and Robert Donston Stephenson. Authors of later times added even more suspects: Joseph Barnett, Lewis Carroll, David Cohen, William Withey Gull, George Hutchinson, James Kelly, James Maybrick, Alexander Pedachenko, Walter Sickert, Joseph Silver, James Kenneth Stephen, Francis Thompson, Duke of Clarence, and Sir John Williams. There is still no definitive answer to the crime.

Also on this day: Rostov Ripper – In 1992, Andrei Chikatilo, of Russia, was found guilty of 52 murders.
You Got Some ‘Splainin To Do – In 1851, I Love Lucy premiered.
Chance Chants – In 1764, Edward Gibbon was inspired to write his work on the fall of Rome.

Chance Chants

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 15, 2012

Edward Gibbon

October 15, 1764: A group of barefoot Friars are heard singing Vespers in the temple of Jupiter in Rome. Edward Gibbon was born in 1737 and was an English historian and Member of Parliament. He was one of seven children and the only one to survive to adulthood, although he was not a healthy child. At age nine, he was sent away to school and shortly afterwards, his mother died. His aunt took him under her wing and began to teach the young boy, but soon she, too, died. At age 15, he was sent to Magdalen College, Oxford but was unsuited to the task. It was during this time that his religious beliefs were greatly influenced and he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1753. He fell in love with Suzanne Curchod but the affair was thwarted and she eventually married Jacques Necker from King Louis XVI’s court.

He left for a grand tour of the Continent and was abroad from 1758 – 1765. It was during this time that he heard the Friars singing in Rome. According to his autobiography, it was this that made him think to write a history of the decline and fall of the Eternal City. He wrote his first book, Essai sur l’Étude de la Littérature, published in 1761 while abroad. This gave him some fame and he enjoyed the celebrity. Although when he returned to England, he didn’t start on his greatest work immediately. His father died in 1770 and Edward had to attend to a poorly maintained family estate. After getting his affairs in order, there was enough for him to live comfortably in London without financial concerns. So he moved to 7 Bentinck Street and took to London society.

For seven years Gibbon worked on his manuscript. He did several rewrites and was “often tempted to throw away the labours of seven years,” but finally published the work on February 17, 1776. His famous work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was met by an eager public. The work was published in six volumes and only the first was out in 1776. That went through six printings and volumes II and III were published in 1781 with the remained seeing print in 1788-89. The original volumes were published in quarto sections, or small pamphlet sized offerings, which was common at the time. The work covers the Roman Empire as well as Europe and the Catholic Church from 98 to 1590.

The work is noted for being ironically detached and carries a dispassionate, critical tone. Gibbon often took on a moralizing voice and used aphorism for effect. The text includes notes as well as the major story, giving the reader a glimpse into the thought processes of the author. There are also copious citations, many from original sources. His asides or notes show the importance of each document used. The author, unlike many of his time, was given proper remuneration and received two-thirds of the profit. This amounted to £1,000 (about £ 101,000 today) for the first printings of the first volume alone.

Beauty is an outward gift which is seldom despised, except by those to whom it has been refused.

Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius.

History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.

The pathetic almost always consists in the detail of little events. – all from Edward Gibbon

Also on this day:

Rostov Ripper – In 1992, Andrei Chikatilo, of Russia, was found guilty of 52 murders.
Going Postal – In 1888, a letter was received, purportedly from Jack the Ripper.
You Got Some ‘Splainin To Do – In 1851, I Love Lucy premiered.

You Got Some ‘Splainin To Do

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 15, 2011

I Love Lucy

October 15, 1951: A new Situation Comedy appears on CBS when I Love Lucy premieres. The 30-minute show was about a Cuban-born bandleader, Ricky Ricardo, and his zany wife, Lucy. Their friends and landlords, Fred and Ethel Mertz, rounded out the early cast. Desi Arnaz created the show based on an older radio program, My Favorite Husband, in which Lucille Ball played Liz Cooper.

In the 1950s, most sitcoms were shown live from New York City and were filmed with low cost 35mm or 16mm kinescope technique for broadcast across the rest of the country. Ms Ball was pregnant with her first child and preferred to work out of Hollywood, home to the real life couple. Karl Freund, a cinematographer of several 1920s and 30s movies, was hired to film for Desilu, the company producing the sitcom. Filming was done in front of a live audience with three 35mm cameras, a first for television sitcoms.

Lucille Ball was 40 when the series began, 6 years older than her husband, Desi Arnaz. The show had many autobiographical facts: Lucy Ricardo shared the same birthday as Lucille Ball. The Ricardos were married in the same place as the Arnazes. Vivian Vance played Ethel Mertz and was only two years older than Ms Ball. William Frawley, Fred Mertz, was 64 when the series began and Fred was a WWI vet and a parsimonious soul who lived through the Great Depression.

I Love Lucy ran until May 6, 1957 with 181 episodes (two were “lost”). The show received Emmy Awards for Best Situation Comedy for two years, Best Comedienne, Best Series Supporting Actress, and Best Actress along with a host of other nominations. Ball’s second pregnancy was incorporated into the program and when “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” aired on January 19, 1953 (the same day that Desi Arnaz, Jr. was born) it captured 68% of the viewing audience. Little Ricky was added to the cast for the remainder of the show.

“Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!” – Ricky Ricardo

“Madam, it doesn’t seem to be getting through to you, but this seat is taken.” – Lucy Ricardo, when a large woman had just sat on her

Ricky: Everybody knows you can get around a lady with a little sweet talk.
Fred: That’s alright for Lucy, but it’s a little longer trip around Ethel.

Ricky: What do you know about rice?
Fred: Well, I had it thrown at me on one of the darkest days of my life.

Also on this day:
Rostov Ripper – In 1992, Andrei Chikatilo, of Russia, was found guilty of 52 murders.
Going Postal – In 1888, a letter was received, purportedly from Jack the Ripper.

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Rostov Ripper

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 15, 2010

Andrei Chikatilo

October 15, 1992: Andrei Chikatilo, of Russia, is found guilty. Chikatilo was born in the village of Yablochnoye in 1936. He suffered from hydrocephaly, water on the brain, which led to later difficulties with bladder control and seminal functioning. His childhood was traumatic. Stalin’s collective farming experiment led to mass famine and war with Germany exacerbated any problems on the home front. His mother severely beat him for wetting the bed. He did well in school, but failed entrance exams to enter college.

Chikatilo’s sister arranged a marriage for him. And while he suffered from impotence, he did manage to father two children. In 1971, he finished a degree in literature via a correspondence course. He became an unsatisfactory teacher, moving from school to school fleeing accusations of indecent assaults.

Chikatilo committed his first murder in 1978 for which another person was accused, found guilty and executed. He did not murder again until 1982. He found runaways and young vagrants at bus stops or railway stations, took them into the woods and killed them. He killed seven people in 1982 and another four in 1983, all during the summer months.

The USSR at the time denied that child rape or serial murders could happen in their country because they were crimes spawned by the “hedonistic capitalist nations.” Chikatilo continued on his killing spree. He was first arresting in 1984, but released after three months. He murdered fewer people in the next few years but picked up the pace again in 1988. He was finally arrested on November 20, 1990 and confessed to 56 murders. He was eventually found guilty of 52 of those murders and sentenced to death for each offense. He was executed by a shot to the back of the head on February 14, 1994.

“I am a mistake of nature, a mad beast.” – Andre Romanovich Chikatilo, during his trial for 52 murders

“Remorse for what? You people have done everything in the world to me. Doesn’t that give me equal right?” – Charles Manson

“Murderers, in general, are people who are consistent, people who are obsessed with one idea and nothing else” – Ugo Betti

“We kill because we are afraid of our own shadow, afraid that if we used a little common sense we’d have to admit that our glorious principles were wrong.” – Henry Miller

Also on this day, in 1888 a letter was sent to Mr. Lusk, apparently from Jack the Ripper.