Archive for August, 2011

August 23,1902: Fannie Farmer opens cooking school

August 27, 2011

August 23: General Interest
1902: Fannie Farmer opens cooking school

On this day in 1902, pioneering cookbook author Fannie Farmer, who changed the way Americans prepare food by advocating the use of standardized measurements in recipes, opens Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery in Boston. In addition to teaching women about cooking, Farmer later educated medical professionals about the importance of proper nutrition for the sick.

Farmer was born March 23, 1857, and raised near Boston, Massachusetts. Her family believed in education for women and Farmer attended Medford High School; however, as a teenager she suffered a paralytic stroke that turned her into a homebound invalid for a period of years. As a result, she was unable to complete high school or attend college and her illness left her with a permanent limp. When she was in her early 30s, Farmer attended the Boston Cooking School. Founded in 1879, the school promoted a scientific approach to food preparation and trained women to become cooking teachers at a time when their employment opportunities were limited. Farmer graduated from the program in 1889 and in 1891 became the school’s principal. In 1896, she published her first cookbook, The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, which included a wide range of straightforward recipes along with information on cooking and sanitation techniques, household management and nutrition. Farmer’s book became a bestseller and revolutionized American cooking through its use of precise measurements, a novel culinary concept at the time.

In 1902, Farmer left the Boston Cooking School and founded Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery. In addition to running her school, she traveled to speaking engagements around the U.S. and continued to write cookbooks. In 1904, she published Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent, which provided food recommendations for specific diseases, nutritional information for children and information about the digestive system, among other topics. Farmer’s expertise in the areas of nutrition and illness led her to lecture at Harvard Medical School.

Farmer died January 15, 1915, at age 57. After Farmer’s death, Alice Bradley, who taught at Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery, took over the business and ran it until the mid-1940s. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook is still in print today.

August 24,79: Vesuvius erupts

August 27, 2011

August 24: General Interest
79: Vesuvius erupts

After centuries of dormancy, Mount Vesuvius erupts in southern Italy, devastating the prosperous Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing thousands. The cities, buried under a thick layer of volcanic material and mud, were never rebuilt and largely forgotten in the course of history. In the 18th century, Pompeii and Herculaneum were rediscovered and excavated, providing an unprecedented archaeological record of the everyday life of an ancient civilization, startlingly preserved in sudden death.

The ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum thrived near the base of Mount Vesuvius at the Bay of Naples. In the time of the early Roman Empire, 20,000 people lived in Pompeii, including merchants, manufacturers, and farmers who exploited the rich soil of the region with numerous vineyards and orchards. None suspected that the black fertile earth was the legacy of earlier eruptions of Mount Vesuvius. Herculaneum was a city of 5,000 and a favorite summer destination for rich Romans. Named for the mythic hero Hercules, Herculaneum housed opulent villas and grand Roman baths. Gambling artifacts found in Herculaneum and a brothel unearthed in Pompeii attest to the decadent nature of the cities. There were smaller resort communities in the area as well, such as the quiet little town of Stabiae.

At noon on August 24, 79 A.D., this pleasure and prosperity came to an end when the peak of Mount Vesuvius exploded, propelling a 10-mile mushroom cloud of ash and pumice into the stratosphere. For the next 12 hours, volcanic ash and a hail of pumice stones up to 3 inches in diameter showered Pompeii, forcing the city’s occupants to flee in terror. Some 2,000 people stayed in Pompeii, holed up in cellars or stone structures, hoping to wait out the eruption.

A westerly wind protected Herculaneum from the initial stage of the eruption, but then a giant cloud of hot ash and gas surged down the western flank of Vesuvius, engulfing the city and burning or asphyxiating all who remained. This lethal cloud was followed by a flood of volcanic mud and rock, burying the city.

The people who remained in Pompeii were killed on the morning of August 25 when a cloud of toxic gas poured into the city, suffocating all that remained. A flow of rock and ash followed, collapsing roofs and walls and burying the dead.

Much of what we know about the eruption comes from an account by Pliny the Younger, who was staying west along the Bay of Naples when Vesuvius exploded. In two letters to the historian Tacitus, he told of how “people covered their heads with pillows, the only defense against a shower of stones,” and of how “a dark and horrible cloud charged with combustible matter suddenly broke and set forth. Some bewailed their own fate. Others prayed to die.” Pliny, only 17 at the time, escaped the catastrophe and later became a noted Roman writer and administrator. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, was less lucky. Pliny the Elder, a celebrated naturalist, at the time of the eruption was the commander of the Roman fleet in the Bay of Naples. After Vesuvius exploded, he took his boats across the bay to Stabiae, to investigate the eruption and reassure terrified citizens. After going ashore, he was overcome by toxic gas and died.

According to Pliny the Younger’s account, the eruption lasted 18 hours. Pompeii was buried under 14 to 17 feet of ash and pumice, and the nearby seacoast was drastically changed. Herculaneum was buried under more than 60 feet of mud and volcanic material. Some residents of Pompeii later returned to dig out their destroyed homes and salvage their valuables, but many treasures were left and then forgotten.

In the 18th century, a well digger unearthed a marble statue on the site of Herculaneum. The local government excavated some other valuable art objects, but the project was abandoned. In 1748, a farmer found traces of Pompeii beneath his vineyard. Since then, excavations have gone on nearly without interruption until the present. In 1927, the Italian government resumed the excavation of Herculaneum, retrieving numerous art treasures, including bronze and marble statues and paintings.

The remains of 2,000 men, women, and children were found at Pompeii. After perishing from asphyxiation, their bodies were covered with ash that hardened and preserved the outline of their bodies. Later, their bodies decomposed to skeletal remains, leaving a kind of plaster mold behind. Archaeologists who found these molds filled the hollows with plaster, revealing in grim detail the death pose of the victims of Vesuvius. The rest of the city is likewise frozen in time, and ordinary objects that tell the story of everyday life in Pompeii are as valuable to archaeologists as the great unearthed statues and frescoes. It was not until 1982 that the first human remains were found at Herculaneum, and these hundreds of skeletons bear ghastly burn marks that testifies to horrifying deaths.

Today, Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano on the European mainland. Its last eruption was in 1944 and its last major eruption was in 1631. Another eruption is expected in the near future, would could be devastating for the 700,000 people who live in the “death zones” around Vesuvius.

August 25,1835: The Great Moon Hoax

August 27, 2011

August 25: General Interest
1835: The Great Moon Hoax

On this day in 1835, the first in a series of six articles announcing the supposed discovery of life on the moon appears in the New York Sun newspaper.

Known collectively as “The Great Moon Hoax,” the articles were supposedly reprinted from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. The byline was Dr. Andrew Grant, described as a colleague of Sir John Herschel, a famous astronomer of the day. Herschel had in fact traveled to Capetown, South Africa, in January 1834 to set up an observatory with a powerful new telescope. As Grant described it, Herschel had found evidence of life forms on the moon, including such fantastic animals as unicorns, two-legged beavers and furry, winged humanoids resembling bats. The articles also offered vivid description of the moon’s geography, complete with massive craters, enormous amethyst crystals, rushing rivers and lush vegetation.

The New York Sun, founded in 1833, was one of the new “penny press” papers that appealed to a wider audience with a cheaper price and a more narrative style of journalism. From the day the first moon hoax article was released, sales of the paper shot up considerably. It was exciting stuff, and readers lapped it up. The only problem was that none of it was true. The Edinburgh Journal of Science had stopped publication years earlier, and Grant was a fictional character. The articles were most likely written by Richard Adams Locke, a Sun reporter educated at Cambridge University. Intended as satire, they were designed to poke fun at earlier, serious speculations about extraterrestrial life, particularly those of Reverend Thomas Dick, a popular science writer who claimed in his bestselling books that the moon alone had 4.2 billion inhabitants.

Readers were completely taken in by the story, however, and failed to recognize it as satire. The craze over Herschel’s supposed discoveries even fooled a committee of Yale University scientists, who traveled to New York in search of the Edinburgh Journal articles. After Sun employees sent them back and forth between the printing and editorial offices, hoping to discourage them, the scientists returned to New Haven without realizing they had been tricked.

On September 16, 1835, the Sun admitted the articles had been a hoax. People were generally amused by the whole thing, and sales of the paper didn’t suffer. The Sun continued operation until 1950, when it merged with the New York World-Telegram. The merger folded in 1967. A new New York Sun newspaper was founded in 2002, but it has no relation to the original.

August 27,1883: Krakatau explodes

August 27, 2011

August 27: General Interest
1883: Krakatau explodes

The most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history occurs on Krakatau (also called Krakatoa), a small, uninhabited volcanic island located west of Sumatra in Indonesia, on this day in 1883. Heard 3,000 miles away, the explosions threw five cubic miles of earth 50 miles into the air, created 120-foot tsunamis and killed 36,000 people.

Krakatau exhibited its first stirrings in more than 200 years on May 20, 1883. A German warship passing by reported a seven-mile high cloud of ash and dust over Krakatau. For the next two months, similar explosions would be witnessed by commercial liners and natives on nearby Java and Sumatra. With little to no idea of the impending catastrophe, the local inhabitants greeted the volcanic activity with festive excitement.

On August 26 and August 27, excitement turned to horror as Krakatau literally blew itself apart, setting off a chain of natural disasters that would be felt around the world for years to come. An enormous blast on the afternoon of August 26 destroyed the northern two-thirds of the island; as it plunged into the Sunda Strait, between the Java Sea and Indian Ocean, the gushing mountain generated a series of pyroclastic flows (fast-moving fluid bodies of molten gas, ash and rock) and monstrous tsunamis that swept over nearby coastlines. Four more eruptions beginning at 5:30 a.m. the following day proved cataclysmic. The explosions could be heard as far as 3,000 miles away, and ash was propelled to a height of 50 miles. Fine dust from the explosion drifted around the earth, causing spectacular sunsets and forming an atmospheric veil that lowered temperatures worldwide by several degrees.

Of the estimated 36,000 deaths resulting from the eruption, at least 31,000 were caused by the tsunamis created when much of the island fell into the water. The greatest of these waves measured 120 feet high, and washed over nearby islands, stripping away vegetation and carrying people out to sea. Another 4,500 people were scorched to death from the pyroclastic flows that rolled over the sea, stretching as far as 40 miles, according to some sources.

In addition to Krakatau, which is still active, Indonesia has another 130 active volcanoes, the most of any country in the world.

August 20,1911: First around-the-world telegram sent, 66 years before Voyager II launch

August 20, 2011

August 20: General Interest
1911: First around-the-world telegram sent, 66 years before Voyager II launch

On this day in 1911, a dispatcher in the New York Times office sends the first telegram around the world via commercial service. Exactly 66 years later, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sends a different kind of message–a phonograph record containing information about Earth for extraterrestrial beings–shooting into space aboard the unmanned spacecraft Voyager II.

The Times decided to send its 1911 telegram in order to determine how fast a commercial message could be sent around the world by telegraph cable. The message, reading simply “This message sent around the world,” left the dispatch room on the 17th floor of the Times building in New York at 7 p.m. on August 20. After it traveled more than 28,000 miles, being relayed by 16 different operators, through San Francisco, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Bombay, Malta, Lisbon and the Azores–among other locations–the reply was received by the same operator 16.5 minutes later. It was the fastest time achieved by a commercial cablegram since the opening of the Pacific cable in 1900 by the Commercial Cable Company.

On August 20, 1977, a NASA rocket launched Voyager II, an unmanned 1,820-pound spacecraft, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was the first of two such crafts to be launched that year on a “Grand Tour” of the outer planets, organized to coincide with a rare alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Aboard Voyager II was a 12-inch copper phonograph record called “Sounds of Earth.” Intended as a kind of introductory time capsule, the record included greetings in 60 languages and scientific information about Earth and the human race, along with classical, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll music, nature sounds like thunder and surf, and recorded messages from President Jimmy Carter and other world leaders.

The brainchild of astronomer Carl Sagan, the record was sent with Voyager II and its twin craft, Voyager I–launched just two weeks later–in the faint hope that it might one day be discovered by extraterrestrial creatures. The record was sealed in an aluminum jacket that would keep it intact for 1 billion years, along with instructions on how to play the record, with a cartridge and needle provided.

More importantly, the two Voyager crafts were designed to explore the outer solar system and send information and photographs of the distant planets to Earth. Over the next 12 years, the mission proved a smashing success. After both crafts flew by Jupiter and Saturn, Voyager I went flying off towards the solar system’s edge while Voyager II visited Uranus, Neptune and finally Pluto in 1990 before sailing off to join its twin in the outer solar system.

Thanks to the Voyager program, NASA scientists gained a wealth of information about the outer planets, including close-up photographs of Saturn’s seven rings; evidence of active geysers and volcanoes exploding on some of the four planets’ 22 moons; winds of more than 1,500 mph on Neptune; and measurements of the magnetic fields on Uranus and Neptune. The two crafts are expected to continue sending data until 2020, or until their plutonium-based power sources run out. After that, they will continue to sail on through the galaxy for millions of years to come, barring some unexpected collision.

Line upon line, precept on precept

August 18, 2011
Line upon line, precept on precept
That is how He lifts us
That is how He teaches His children.
Line upon line, precept on precept
Like a summer shower
Giving us each hour His wisdom.
If we are patient we shall see
Hopw the pieces fit together in harmony.
We'll know who we are in this big universe
And then we'll live with Him forever!
Line upon line, precept on precept
That is how He lifts us
That is how He teaches His children.
Line upon line, precept on precept
Like a summer shower
Giving us each hour His wisdom.

Saturdays Warrior: Yes Linda and Ella

August 18, 2011

Who are these children coming down, coming down.
Like gentle rain though darken skies.
With glory trailing from their feet as they go.
And endless promise in their eyes!
Who are these youn ones growing tall, growing tall.
Like silver trees against the storm.
Who will not bend with the wind or the change,
But stand to fight the world alone!
These are the few, the warriors
Saved for Saturday, to come
The last day of the world
These are they, on Saturday.
These are the strong, the warriors
Rising in the might to win
The battle raging in
The hearts of men, on Saturday.
Strangers from a realn of light
Who have forgotten all.
The memory of their former life.
The purpose of their call.
And so they must learn why they’re here
And who they really are.
They must learn why they’re here
And who they are!
These are the few, the warriors
Saved for Saturday, to come
The last day of the world
These are they, on Saturday.

August 13 1961: Berlin is divided

August 15, 2011

August 13: General Interest
1961: Berlin is divided

Shortly after
midnight on this day in 1961, East German soldiers begin laying down barbed wire
and bricks as a barrier between Soviet-controlled East Berlin and the democratic
western section of the city.

After World War II, defeated Germany was
divided into Soviet, American, British and French zones of occupation. The city
of Berlin, though technically part of the Soviet zone, was also split, with the
Soviets taking the eastern part of the city. After a massive Allied airlift in
June 1948 foiled a Soviet attempt to blockade West Berlin, the eastern section
was drawn even more tightly into the Soviet fold. Over the next 12 years, cut
off from its western counterpart and basically reduced to a Soviet satellite,
East Germany saw between 2.5 million and 3 million of its citizens head to West
Germany in search of better opportunities. By 1961, some 1,000 East
Germans–including many skilled laborers, professionals and intellectuals–were
leaving every day.

In August, Walter Ulbricht, the Communist leader of
East Germany, got the go-ahead from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to begin
the sealing off of all access between East and West Berlin. Soldiers began the
work over the night of August 12-13, laying more than 100 miles of barbed wire
slightly inside the East Berlin border. The wire was soon replaced by a
six-foot-high, 96-mile-long wall of concrete blocks, complete with guard towers,
machine gun posts and searchlights. East German officers known as Volkspolizei
(“Volpos”) patrolled the Berlin Wall day and night.

Many Berlin
residents on that first morning found themselves suddenly cut off from friends
or family members in the other half of the city. Led by their mayor, Willi
Brandt, West Berliners demonstrated against the wall, as Brandt criticized
Western democracies, particularly the United States, for failing to take a stand
against it. President John F. Kennedy had earlier said publicly that the United
States could only really help West Berliners and West Germans, and that any kind
of action on behalf of East Germans would only result in failure.

The
Berlin Wall was one of the most powerful and iconic symbols of the Cold War. In
June 1963, Kennedy gave his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” (“I am a Berliner”)
speech in front of the Wall, celebrating the city as a symbol of freedom and
democracy in its resistance to tyranny and oppression. The height of the Wall
was raised to 10 feet in 1970 in an effort to stop escape attempts, which at
that time came almost daily. From 1961 to 1989, a total of 5,000 East Germans
escaped; many more tried and failed. High profile shootings of some would-be
defectors only intensified the Western world’s hatred of the Wall.

Finally, in the late 1980s, East Germany, fueled by the decline of the
Soviet Union, began to implement a number of liberal reforms. On November 9,
1989, masses of East and West Germans alike gathered at the Berlin Wall and
began to climb over and dismantle it. As this symbol of Cold War repression was
destroyed, East and West Germany became one nation again, signing a formal
treaty of unification on October 3, 1990.

August 15 1969: The Woodstock festival opens

August 15, 2011

August 15: General Interest
1969: The Woodstock festival opens in Bethel, New
York

On this day in 1969, the Woodstock Music Festival opens on a patch
of farmland in White Lake, a hamlet in the upstate New York town of Bethel.

Promoters John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield and Michael Lang
originally envisioned the festival as a way to raise funds to build a recording
studio and rock-and-roll retreat near the town of Woodstock, New York. The
longtime artists’ colony was already a home base for Bob Dylan and other
musicians. Despite their relative inexperience, the young promoters managed to
sign a roster of top acts, including the Jefferson Airplane, the Who, the
Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence
Clearwater Revival and many more. Plans for the festival were on the verge of
foundering, however, after both Woodstock and the nearby town of Wallkill denied
permission to hold the event. Dairy farmer Max Yasgur came to the rescue at the
last minute, giving the promoters access to his 600 acres of land in Bethel,
some 50 miles from Woodstock.

Early estimates of attendance increased
from 50,000 to around 200,000, but by the time the gates opened on Friday,
August 15, more than 400,000 people were clamoring to get in. Those without
tickets simply walked through gaps in the fences, and the organizers were
eventually forced to make the event free of charge. Folk singer and guitarist
Richie Havens kicked off the event with a long set, and Joan Baez and Arlo
Guthrie also performed on Friday night.

Somewhat improbably, the chaotic
gathering of half a million young “hippies” lived up to its billing of “Three
Days of Peace and Music.” There were surprisingly few incidents of violence on
the overcrowded grounds, and a number of musicians performed songs expressing
their opposition to the Vietnam War. Among the many great moments at the
Woodstock Music Festival were career-making performances by up-and-coming acts
like Santana, Joe Cocker and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; the Who’s
early-morning set featuring songs from their classic rock opera “Tommy”; and the
closing set by Hendrix, which climaxed with an improvised solo guitar
performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Though Woodstock had left its
promoters nearly bankrupt, their ownership of the film and recording rights more
than compensated for the losses after the release of a hit documentary film in
1970. Later music festivals inspired by Woodstock’s success failed to live up to
its standard, and the festival still stands for many as a example of America’s
1960s youth counterculture at its best.

August 10 1846: Smithsonian Institution created

August 12, 2011

August 10: General Interest
1846: Smithsonian Institution created

After a decade of debate about how best to spend a bequest left to America from an obscure English scientist, President James K. Polk signs the Smithsonian Institution Act into law.

In 1829, James Smithson died in Italy, leaving behind a will with a peculiar footnote. In the event that his only nephew died without any heirs, Smithson decreed that the whole of his estate would go to “the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Smithson’s curious bequest to a country that he had never visited aroused significant attention on both sides of the Atlantic.

Smithson had been a fellow of the venerable Royal Society of London from the age of 22, publishing numerous scientific papers on mineral composition, geology, and chemistry. In 1802, he overturned popular scientific opinion by proving that zinc carbonates were true carbonate minerals, and one type of zinc carbonate was later named smithsonite in his honor.

Six years after his death, his nephew, Henry James Hungerford, indeed died without children, and on July 1, 1836, the U.S. Congress authorized acceptance of Smithson’s gift. President Andrew Jackson sent diplomat Richard Rush to England to negotiate for transfer of the funds, and two years later Rush set sail for home with 11 boxes containing a total of 104,960 gold sovereigns, 8 shillings, and 7 pence, as well as Smithson’s mineral collection, library, scientific notes, and personal effects. After the gold was melted down, it amounted to a fortune worth well over $500,000. After considering a series of recommendations, including the creation of a national university, a public library, or an astronomical observatory, Congress agreed that the bequest would support the creation of a museum, a library, and a program of research, publication, and collection in the sciences, arts, and history. On August 10, 1846, the act establishing the Smithsonian Institution was signed into law by President James K. Polk.

Today, the Smithsonian is composed of 19 museums and galleries including the recently announced National Museum of African American History and Culture, nine research facilities throughout the United States and the world, and the national zoo. Besides the original Smithsonian Institution Building, popularly known as the “Castle,” visitors to Washington, D.C., tour the National Museum of Natural History, which houses the natural science collections, the National Zoological Park, and the National Portrait Gallery. The National Museum of American History houses the original Star-Spangled Banner and other artifacts of U.S. history. The National Air and Space Museum has the distinction of being the most visited museum in the world, exhibiting such marvels of aviation and space history as the Wright brothers’ plane and Freedom 7, the space capsule that took the first American into space. John Smithson, the Smithsonian Institution’s great benefactor, is interred in a tomb in the Smithsonian Building.


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