Little Bits of History

September 13

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 13, 2017

1848: Phineas Gage is injured. Born in 1823 in New Hampshire, he was the first of five children. Little is known of his childhood except that he was literate. He worked with explosives on the family farm and as a young man he worked on construction of the Hudson River Railroad. By the time of his accident, he was a blasting foreman on construction projects and was said to be efficient and capable as well as a good business man. He was energetic and able-bodied. He had commissioned a custom-made tamping iron which was used for setting explosive charges.

On this day, Gage was supervising a work gang blasting rock for the Rutland & Burlington Railroad in Vermont. A hold had been bored deep into an outcropping of rock. Blasting powder and fuse were added and then using his special rod, sand, clay, or some inert substance was tamped into the hole above the powder. Gage was in the middle of this task when he was distracted by men working behind him. It was around 4.30 PM as he looked behind him to talk to the men and brought his head lower, right in line with the blasting hole. His rod sparked against the rock and the powder exploded.

The tamping rod was blown from the hole and entered the left side of Gage’s face in an upward angle just forward of the lower jaw hinge. The bar was 1 ¼ inches in diameter and 41 inches long. It weighted 13 ¼ pounds. The rod was angled so that it passed behind his left eye and through the left side of his brain. It exited out of the top of his skull through the frontal bone. While the case was called the “American Crowbar Case” at the time, the bar was perfectly straight and relatively smooth. The tamping iron was found, covered in blood and brains, about 80 feet away from where Gage had been hit.

Gage was thrown onto his back by the blast and had some convulsions immediately after the injury. Within a few minutes he was able to speak and was able to walk a short distance with a little help. An oxcart was brought to the scene and he sat upright for a ride of about ¾ of mile back to his lodgings. About 5 PM, Edward Williams, a local doctor, found Gage who was talking to him coherently. When Gage got up later to vomit, it caused brain material to bulge through the exit wound in his skill. By 6 PM, John Harlow took over since the army surgeon seemed to have more experience with this type of wound.

Gage survived and lived for another twelve years. In that time he was studied closely and much was learned about the functions of neurology, psychology, and neuroscience. Personality changes were noted and it became evident that the brain had various localizations for functions. Since Gage’s frontal lobe was destroyed as the bar pierced his brain, personality changes were studied and new theories were advanced as the working of the brain or mind. Although Gage physically recovered and worked at odd jobs after his accident, he had a seizure disorder which eventually led to his death when he was 36.

When I drove up he said, “Doctor, here is business enough for you.”

I first noticed the wound upon the head before I alighted from my carriage, the pulsations of the brain being very distinct. The top of the head appeared somewhat like an inverted funnel, as if some wedge-shaped body had passed from below upward.

Mr. Gage, during the time I was examining this wound, was relating the manner in which he was injured to the bystanders. I did not believe Mr. Gage’s statement at that time, but thought he was deceived. Mr. Gage persisted in saying that the bar went through his head.

Mr. G. got up and vomited; the effort of vomiting pressed out about half a teacupful of the brain, which fell upon the floor. – all from Edward Williams, recounting his first seeing Phineas Gage



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Thank Gods

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 13, 2015
City or Rome with looming temples

Eventual City of Rome with looming temples

September 13, 509 BC: The Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus is dedicated. It was the most important temple in Ancient Rome and located on the Capitoline Hill. The Hill was located between the Forum and the Campus Martius and was one of the seven hills of Rome. It was analogous to the ancient Greek Acropolis. The temple’s date is known because it was the Ides of September. Roman calendars were not numbered sequentially, but dates derived from the Kalendae or Kalends (first day of the month or the day of the new moon), the Nones (the day of the half moon), and the Ides (the day of the full moon). The Ides fell on the 15th if the month had 31 days and the 13th on other months. So the Ides of September would be the 13th day of the seventh month (years began at the spring equinox).

Later Roman traditions tell us of this first building of the temple. Lucius Tarquinius Priscus promised to build a temple to honor Jupiter while battling the Sabines and began the terracing necessary to support the foundation of the temple. Modern archeological investigation has confirmed much excavation was needed to just get a level building site established. Most of the foundation and superstructure were completed by Lusius Tarquinius Superbus, the last King of Rome. Myths stated that other temples had already existed near the site and the only two gods who refused permission to tear down their temples were Terminus and Juventas and so their shrines were incorporated into this new building. These were read as good omens for various reasons.

The temple was dedicated on this day. It was built to please Jupiter and his companion deities, Juno and Minerva. The man chosen to dedicate the temple was selected by lots and the duty fell to Marcus Horatius Pulvillus, one of the consuls serving that year. In Livy’s records created in 495 BC, he stated the Latins were so grateful for the release of 6,000 Latin prisoners, they sent a crown of gold to the temple. The original temple measured 200 x 200 feet and was the most important religious temple in the entire state of Rome. Each deity had his/her own separate cella with Jupiter in the center and Juno on his left and Minerva on his right.

With such an important temple, subsequent rulers would attempt to appease the gods or impress the citizenry with their devotion and so the temple was rebuilt several times. The first time, the building was completed and dedicated in 69 BC. It was here that Brutus hid after his assassination of Caesar. Vespasian rebuilt and the dedication was held in 75 AD but that temple burned in 80 AD, during the reign of Titus. That meant immediate rebuilding needed to be done and the fourth building went up. The building itself lasted for about 300 years, but by then not only were religious mores changing, but the Roman Empire was in decline as well. There are remains of the final iteration of the temple located behind the Palazzo dei Conservatori.

Apollo said that every one’s true worship was that which he found in use in the place where he chanced to be. – Michel de Montaigne

The lover is a monotheist who knows that other people worship different gods but cannot himself imagine that there could be other gods. – Theodor Reik

A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell. – C. S. Lewis

Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat. – John Morley

Also on this day: It’s Hot, Hot, Hot – In 1922, the highest temperature in the shade was recorded.
Jumpman – In 1985, Super Mario Bros. was released by Nintendo.
Traffic Fatality – In 1899 – the first traffic fatality in the US took place.
Supply and Demand – In 1812, supplies heading for Fort Harrison were captured.
Theft Goes Horribly Wrong – In 1987, a theft from a closed hospital led to death.

Theft Goes Horribly Wrong

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 13, 2014
Caesium-137 container

Caesium-137 container

September 13, 1987: The Goiânia accident takes place. The Instituto Goiano de Radioterapia (IGR) was a private radiotherapy hospital in Goiânia, Brazil. They moved to a new location in 1985 and left the old hospital abandoned. In 1977, the hospital had purchased a caesium-137-based teletherapy unit and this remained at the abandoned facility. The unit held 93 grams of highly radioactive caesium chloride inside a container with a turning wheel inside which would allow the radioactive materials to be used therapeutically. When closed, the radiation was contained. When the wheel was opened, radiation could escape.

After the hospital was left empty, the courts (knowing hazardous materials were still inside) had a guard posted. On this day, the guard did not come to work, opting to go to the movies (Herbie Goes Bananas) with his family instead. Roberto dos Santos Alves and Wagner Mota Pereira illegally entered the building. They found something they thought might have scrap value and loaded it into a wheelbarrow and took it to Alves’ home. They began to take the equipment apart at the house. That evening, both men became ill. This did not stop them from working. Eventually Pereira developed a burn on his hand which would cause him to have a partial amputation of his fingers. Alves took the “thing” outside and continued to take it apart. His burns would eventually lead to the amputation of his arm.

On September 18, the stuff was sold to a nearby scrap yard and the buyer came to the house with another wheelbarrow and wheeled the radioactive item through the streets. The thing was glowing from what we now know was caused by moisture absorbed by the caesium. This material enticed several people to scoop some out of a small hole by using a screwdriver and then passing it around to amaze their families and friends. Many of the people associated with this were becoming severely ill. Gabriela Maria Ferreira noticed this and figured out the cause. On September 28 (15 days after the theft), she went to another scrap yard, now in possession of the materials, and gathered everything up in a plastic bag and took it by bus to a hospital.

The next day, it was found to be radioactive. Walter Mendes Ferreira (no relation to the woman above) spent the day trying to convince authorities this plastic bag of stuff was dangerous. Eventually, 130,000 people came forward to be tested for high levels of radioactivity. High residue was found on the skin of 250 of these people. Twenty people showed signs of radiation sickness which required medical intervention. Four them died, included Gabriela and six-year-old Leide das Neves Ferreira who both died on October 23. Admilson Alves de Souza had died on October 18 and Israel Baptista dos Santos died on October 27.

To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence. – Mark Twain

Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance. – George Bernard Shaw

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. – Confucius

Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance. – Plato

Also on this day: It’s Hot, Hot, Hot – In 1922, the highest temperature in the shade is recorded.
Jumpman – In 1985, Super Mario Bros. was released by Nintendo.
Traffic Fatality – In 1899, the first traffic fatality in the US took place.
Supply and Demand – In 1812, supplies heading for Fort Harrison were captured.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 13, 2013
Shigeru Miyamoto with the boys

Shigeru Miyamoto with the boys

September 13, 1985: Super Mario Bros., a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) game, is released in Japan. The game was a sequel to the popular Mario Bros. game released in 1983. Shigeru Miyamoto with direction from Gunpei Yokoi created “Jumpman” for the Donkey Kong game. He was a goofy and awkward character and remained nameless in Japan. When Donkey Kong was shipped to Europe and the US, the character got a name. Minoru Arakawa was the president of Nintendo of America in New York City. He said the carpenter looked just like the landlord for their offices – Mario Segali. When the carpenter appeared again in Donkey Kong, Jr. he was officially named as Mario.

Game systems were less sophisticated in the 1980s. Mario looked the way he did because he was easier to draw as well as easier to see. The mustache and colorful hat as well as the overalls made him stand out in the low-resolution setting. He was created as a carpenter because he was to be seen as hardworking but not heroic, a common man. Because of the limited number of colors available, he doesn’t wear gloves in the arcade games. It was decided he would change size by eating mushrooms, a nod to Alice in Wonderland. In the first Mario Bros. game, Luigi was introduced. The brothers do have a surname. They are Mario Mario and Luigi Mario.

The brothers switched professions and became plumbers. Mario, and Luigi if using multiple players, battle through the eight worlds of the Mushroom Kingdom to save Princess Toadstool (later Princess Peach) from King Koopa (later named Bowser). Super Mario Bros. has sold over 40 million copies (not counting Game Boy or Virtual Console sales) and is second only to Wii Sports. Super Mario Bros. was released in the US in 1986, and in Europe and Australia in 1987. Mario has appeared in over 200 games.

Shigeru Miyamoto created Donkey Kong, Mario, Zelda, and many others. His first design was for a game called Radar Scope, not very successful in the US. He modified the game and called it Donkey Kong. Today he is a producer with Nintendo and is the Senior Managing Director as well as a General Manager. He has been with Nintendo since 1977 when he was hired as a staff artist. Nintendo was founded in 1889 as a card manufacturing company. They entered the electronic gaming field in 1975. In 2008, their total revenues were ¥1.672 trillion or ≈ $16.68 billion.

“One day, the kingdom of the peaceful Mushroom Kingdom people was invaded by the Koopa, a tribe of turtles famous for their black magic. The quiet, peace-loving Mushroom People were turned into mere stones, bricks, and even field horsehair plants, and the Mushroom Kingdom fell into ruin.” – from the game manual

“Thank you Mario. But our princess is in another castle!” – Toad

“Thank you, but our princess is in another castle… Just kidding.” – Princess Peach

“Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock-n-roll.” – Shigeru Miyamoto

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Shigeru Miyamoto was born on November 16, 1952 in Sonobe, a rural town northwest of Kyoto. As a child, he explored the area and one day found a mysterious cave. He waited and debated for days before entering and exploring. The experience came to video in The Legend of Zelda series. Miyamoto graduated from Kanazawa Municipal College of Industrial Arts with a degree in industrial design. He had no job lined up at graduation and considered a job as professional manga artist. However, a video game of the time made him change his mind. The game that inspired Miyamoto? Space Invaders. He is responsible for the best selling games in video history – both Mario Bros. and Wii Sports and also a long list of beloved action figures.

Also on this day: It’s Hot, Hot, Hot – In 1922, the highest temperature in the shade is recorded.
Traffic Fatality – In 1899 – the first traffic fatality in the US took place.
Supply and Demand – In 1812, supplies heading for Fort Harrison were captured.

Supply and Demand

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 13, 2012

Battle of Fort Harrison

September 13, 1812: A supply wagon is captured on the way to Fort Harrison. As part of the War of 1812, the Siege of Fort Harrison lasted from September 4 to September 15, 1812. The successful conclusion to the siege was the first land victory for the US during the war. The outnumbered troops garrisoned inside the Fort were successful in defending themselves from a combined force of Native Americans near modern day Terre Haute, Indiana. The fort was established by then-General William Henry Harrison in 1811 when he was heading north to the Battle of Tippecanoe. The fort was situated strategically on the Wabash River.

The fort was to protect the army supply lines as well as serve as the capital for the Indiana Territory. The fort had a 150 foot stockade encircling it which protected the small garrison. At the outbreak of the War of 1812, Captain Zachary Taylor was sent from Fort Knox to assume command of the fort. The fledgling country suffered a series of defeats early in the war, declared by the British, Canadians, and Indians. These early victories gave other tribes reason to also take up arms, especially against remote outposts.

On September 3, a band of Miami came to the fort and warned Taylor of an impending attack from a variety of banded Native forces. Although that night shots were heard, Taylor was loathe to send out a scouting party. He had only 50 men at the garrison and illness had reduced the number of effective soldiers to a mere 15 soldiers with five settlers also able to help. A 600-strong force of Indians were outside when the blockhouse was set on fire by a warrior who climbed over the stockade. A bucket brigade extinguished the fire eventually. The night sky ablaze was a message that the fort was in danger.

Supplies were being shipped to the fort via the Narrows on this day, but were waylaid by Potawatomi warriors. Two men managed to escape, but the supplies as well as eleven soldiers were lost. Several Potawatomi were also killed in the battle. A second supply wagon was also sent two days later. They were unaware of the fate of the previous wagon and also entered the Narrows and were attacked. The commander realized he was outnumbered and called for a retreat, leaving the supplies behind, which the Potawatomi collected. A battalion under Major McGary discovered the bodies and got messages to the command that the supply wagons never reached Fort Harrison. In spite of the lost supplies, Fort Harrison did not fall. Since two future presidents commanded it, it is also called The Fort of Two Presidents.

I contend that the strongest of all governments is that which is most free. – William Henry Harrison

There is nothing more corrupting, nothing more destructive of the noblest and finest feelings of our nature, than the exercise of unlimited power. – William Henry Harrison

I have always done my duty. I am ready to die. My only regret is for the friends I leave behind me. – Zachary Taylor

It would be judicious to act with magnanimity towards a prostrate foe. – Zachary Taylor

Also on this day:

It’s Hot, Hot, Hot – In 1922, the highest temperature in the shade is recorded.
Jumpman – In 1985, Super Mario Bros. was released by Nintendo.
Traffic Fatality – In 1899 – the first traffic fatality in the US took place.

Traffic Fatality

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 13, 2011

Henry Bliss in 1873

September 13, 1899: The first victim of a traffic fatality in the US falls. Henry H. Bliss was leaving a streetcar at West 7th Street and Central Park West in New York City. He was struck by an electric powered taxicab (Automobile No. 43). He was crushed by the impact and suffered head and chest injuries. He died the next morning from this trauma. The driver of the taxi, Arthur Smith, was arrested and charged with manslaughter. He was acquitted on the grounds that this accident was unintentional. An interesting tidbit: the passenger in the taxi was Dr. David Edson, son of a former mayor of New York City.

On hundred years after his death, a plaque was dedicated on the site to commemorate the event of this first accident. The inscription reads in part that Mr. Bliss was the first traffic fatality in the Western Hemisphere. However, the hemisphere technically includes area west of Greenwich making this assertion false. Mary Ward was killed by a steam powered car in Ireland in 1869 and Bridget Driscoll was a pedestrian killed by a car on the grounds of the Crystal Palace in Sydenham in 1896. That place is also west of the Prime Meridian, making it the Western Hemisphere. Mr. Bliss was the first fatality in the Americas.

Road traffic safety is a way to measure how safe users are on a particular road or in a particular area. Since the main indication of our safety is the likelihood of collisions, this is measured to arrive at a figure indicating how safe drivers, passengers, and pedestrians are. There are outside issues that can help to increase safety such as construction of roadways and traffic engineering practices – stop signs or traffic signals, for example. Other ways to protect oneself on the road is to drive cautiously and defensively. And the safety of the vehicle itself is also a determining factor.

Crashes are one of the world’s largest public health issues. Victims are usually quite healthy prior to an accident which can then be devastating. In 2004, it was reported by WHO that 1.2 million people are killed in traffic accidents around the world each year. Another 50 million are injured. It is the leading cause of death for children aged 10-19. The math behind calculating how safe or dangerous an area is based on billion passenger kilometers (in the US, crashes per million vehicle miles are used). As more cars travel longer distances, the issue has become a worldwide phenomenon.

“Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn’t block traffic.” – Dan Rather 

“Communities and neighborhoods are affected. Idling trains, traffic backups, grade crossing accidents and other safety issues all affect the quality of life in our neighborhoods.” – Bill Lipinski

“I have some road rage inside of me. Traffic, especially in L.A., is a pet peeve of mine.” – Katie Holmes

“I stop and look at traffic accidents. I won’t hang around, but when I hear something is terrible, as bad as it is, I’ve gotta look at it.” – Norman Lear

Also on this day:
It’s Hot, Hot, Hot – In 1922, the highest temperature in the shade is recorded.
Jumpman – In 1985, Super Mario Bros. was released by Nintendo.

It’s Hot, Hot, Hot

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 13, 2010

Hot, really hot

September 13, 1922: The highest temperature in the shade is recorded in El Azizia, Libya. The temperature hit 136.4º F or 58º C The African village lies just 25 miles south of Tripoli, the capital of Libya. It is just a few miles south of the Mediterranean Sea.

The highest temperature in North America was in the US and recorded at Death Valley, California on July 10, 1913 where it reached 134º F. The Asian continent tops out with a temp of 129º F at Tirat Tsvi, Israel on June 21, 1942. Australia reached 128º F on January 16, 1889. Seville, Spain is Europe’s hot spot reaching 122º F on August 4, 1881. Argentina has the record for South America where it reached 120º F at Rivadiavia on December 11, 1905. Even in Antarctica it reached a blistering 59º F at Vanda Station, Scott Coast on January 5, 1974.

All these high temperatures are from long ago and not associated with today’s issue of global warming. The global warming problem is not based on place temperatures, but averages taken globally. Records have been kept only since 1880 and temperatures from earlier times are deduced by scientific methods. January, April, September, and October of 2005 were the hottest on record while three more months were the second hottest. The average global temperature was 58.6º F in 2005. The second warmest year was 1998 at 58.5º F.

There are several reasons for increased temperature. The amount of carbon dioxide is frequently cited. There is also the deforestation of the planet. In just a fifteen year period, 1990-2005, the world lost more than 3% of her total forestation. About 1.4 billion hectares of forest remain today with an annual loss of about 6 million hectares.

“Every day we have some weather, and yesterday was no exception.” – John Carr

“[The] Earth is a single huge organism intentionally creating an optimum environment for itself.” – Richard A. Kerr

“I believe more and more that God must not be judged on this earth. It is one of His sketches that has turned out badly.” – Vincent van Gogh

“Man masters nature not by force but by understanding.” – Jacob Bronowsky

Also on this day, in 1985 Super Mario Bros. was released in Japan.

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