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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Jane Austen

The seventh of eight children, Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775 at Steventon rectory. She had six brothers and one older sister, Cassandra, to whom she was very close.

Watercolour-and-pencil portrait of Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen (1773-1845) - Wikipedia Commons

Jane's father, Rev George Austen (1731-1805), was an educated gentlemanly parson of moderate means, who was the vicar at Steventon for over 40 years. Her mother was Cassandra (1739-1827). Her parents left 101 grandchildren when they died.

Jane was modest about her education, saying: “I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible vanity, the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress.”

Jane started writing when young and her novel Love & Friendship was written when she was only 14 years old. At first she wrote in secret covering her papers whenever the creaking door of her room warned her someone was coming.

Jane wasn't a beauty but certainly attractive, though her sister Cassandra was considered prettier. A contemporary described her as a “clear brunette with a rich colour, hazel eyes, fine features and curling brown hair."

Jane had several suitors, one of whom she accepted it only to withdraw it the next morning. One of the marriage proposals she turned down was to a chap called Harris Bigg-Wither, who though prosperous was “big and awkward”. In a letter to Cassandra she wrote- "Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection."

Jane Austen wrote the first draft of Sense and Sensibility sometime around 1795 when she was about 19 years old, and gave it the title !Elinor and Marianne." She later changed the title to Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility was published anonymously (it was attributed to "a lady") on October 30, 1811. By the middle of 1813, the novel had sold out its first print run of 750 copies, marking Austen 's first successful work. It then had a second print run later that year.

Title page from the original 1811 edition

Pride and Prejudice was originally titled First Impressions. It was rejected by publishers in 1797, so the novel languished for 14 years until, flush with the success of Sense and Sensibility, Austen revised the manuscript. It was published on January 28, 1813 when she was 37 years old.

Like both its predecessors Sense and Sensibility and Northanger AbbeyPride and Prejudice was written at Steventon Rectory.

Jane Austen didn’t put her name on her novels, and would only say they were "By a Lady." The title page of Pride and Prejudice said, “by the author of Sense and Sensibility.” It wasn’t until after her death that her brother revealed her name to the public.

Title page from the first edition of the first volume of Pride and Prejudice

Before she began Emma, Jane wrote in a letter, "I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like."

All of Jane's' novels were published anonymously. In 1803 Northanger Abbey was sold to the publishers Crosby & Sons for £10 but they did not publish it until after her death.

In 1809 Jane moved to a cottage of Elizabethan origin at Chawton, near Alton, Hampshire, on the property of her brother Mr Knight. Its a long two storey building which now partly serves as a museum with many of her personal belongings. she wrote in the busy family parlour Persuasion, Mansfield Park and Emma. She based many of her characters on local Chawton folk.

By her late 30s Jane began to earn money from her writing. She sold Pride and Prejudice for £110 having asked for £150. The first edition of Sense & Sensibility turned a profit of £140 for her. She received a total of £700 for the four novels published in her lifetime, a fair amount of money in those days but not enough to demonstrate she'd been noticed in the literary world.

Her novels were fairly well received when they were published, with Sir Walter Scott in particular praising her work. The Prince Regent was such a fan of Austen's work that he asked her to dedicate her next book to him, which she did.

Among the hundreds of words and phrases Jane Austen contributed to our vocabulary were "dinner-party," "brace yourself," "family portrait," "door bell," "breakfast room" and ‘"f I’ve told you once, I’ve told you 100 times."

In 1815 Jane included the first literary mention of soft boiled eggs in her book Emma when the heroine’s father, Mr Woodhouse, announced that “an egg boiled soft is not unwholesome”.

Like Elizabeth and Jane in Pride and Prejudice, Jane was very close to her sister Cassandra, writing to each other almost every day when they were apart.

Jane was accomplished at music and she played the piano to a good standard. Her letters to Cassandra were full of news on music trends. She would get up early in the morning to practice her piano playing so as not to disturb the rest of her family and liked piano pieces such as "I'm Jolly Dick the Lamplighter" and "The Tippling Philosophers".

Jane also excelled at the game bilbocatch, throwing and catching a ball in a cup to which it is attached by a string.

Jane mentioned Baseball in Northanger Abbey. Her heroine "prefers cricket, baseball to books." This was the first recorded use of the word "baseball" in English.

Jane Austen's novel Mansfield Park was based on her brother's residence Godmersham Park, Kent, which she frequently visited.

Apart from her father, two of Jane's brothers and four of her cousins were all clergymen. Jane herself was a little sympathetic to the evangelical movement but was put off by some of the more narrow-minded evangelicals, whose seriousness and inability to understand human nature disgusted her. She once wrote in a letter that she has " a great respect for Sweden because it had been so zealous for Protestantism."

March of 1817 saw Jane Austen's health decline rapidly and she was forced to abandon her current work of Sanditon, after completing twelve chapters. It is thought she had Addison’s disease.

On April 27th  Jane wrote out her will and then on May 24th moved with Cassandra to Winchester, to be near her physician. It was in Winchester where she died, in the arms of her sister, on Friday, July 18, 1817, at the age of only 41. Her last words were, "I want nothing but death."

House in Winchester where Austen spent her final days. By Photograph by Mike Peel (

Only four people – the Rev Thomas Watkins and three Austen brothers – attended her funeral. It was held in the early morning before the cathedral’s service began.

The one page of Jane's will left all her possessions to her sister Cassandra and £50 to her brother Henry. The will was proved in London on September 10, 1817, at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Jane having died in July. Her total assets were valued at £800.

When Jane died she was practically unknown in the literary world and her tombstone doesn't even mention she was a writer. She only really became well known after JE Austin Leigh's memoir in 1870 of her after which the Jane Austen cult began to develop.

Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne is a song, whose title means literally "old long since" or more idiomatically, "days of long ago".

The Scottish poet, Robert Burns (see below), restored the song based on fragments of an old ballad dating from over 150 years before. Burns came across the song in the late 1780s. Burns transcribed it from "an old man singing," having been deeply moved by the words and in particular the line "should old acquaintances be forgot". He added at least two new verses, to those which already existed and sent it to his friend James Johnson, the publisher of Scots Musical Museum, as an old Scottish song. Johnson delayed publishing it until after Burns’ death.

The American bandleader Guy Lombardo popularized the association of the song with the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve in the early 1930s.

In 1999 Cliff Richard had a UK chart topper with his "Millennium Prayer," which was the words of The Lord's Prayer sung to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne."

In the movie When Harry Met Sally, just seconds after he successfully declares his love for Sally (Meg Ryan) at a New Year's Eve party, Harry (Billy Crystal), goes on a rant about "Auld Lang Syne", saying: "My whole life, I don't know what this song means. It means 'Should old acquaintance be forgot.' Does that mean we should forget old acquaintances or does it mean that if we should happen to forget them, we should remember them which is not possible because we already forgot?"
Sally then replies: "Well maybe it just means that maybe we should remember that we forgot them or something. Anyway, it's about old friends."

Source Songfacts


Augustus was born at Ox Head, a small property on the Palatine Hill, very close to the Roman Forum in Rome on September 23, 63 BC.

His father,  Gaius Octavius, was descended from an old, wealthy equestrian branch of the gens Octavia. Despite being from a wealthy family, his family was plebeian, rather than patrician. As a novus homo ("new man"), he would not be of a senatorial family.

Young Augustus lost his father when he was four. His mother, Atia Balba Caesonia, was the niece of Julius Caesar. In 45BC Augustus' Great Uncle Julius officially adopted him.

His full name was Gaius Octavius Thurinus, possibly commemorating his father's victory at Thurii over a rebellious band of slaves. until he was adopted by Julius Caesar. For the next seventeen years he was Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus.

His Uncle Caesar had Gaius raised to the college of Pontifices, a major Roman priesthood, at the age of 16. Four years later, following the death of Julius Caesar, Gaius compelled the Roman Senate to elect him Consul on August 19, 43 BC.

In a meeting near Bologna in October 43 BC, Gaius, his brother-in-law Mark Antony and Lepidus (who had been Caesar's master of horse) formed a junta called the Second Triumvirate. It was agreed that Augustus controlled the West, Antony the East and Lepidus Africa.

By 31 BC Gaius had defeated both Lepidus and Antony thus becomes sole leader and master of the Roman world.

On January 16, 27 BC Gaius was given the title of Augustus by the Roman Senate meaning "venerable, grand, majestic," so until his death he was known as Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus. This marked the end of the Roman republic and the beginning of the Roman empire.

Augustus was named Pontifex Maximus, incorporating the position into that of the Emperor on March 6, 12 BC. The Pontifex Maximus ("greatest pontiff" or "greatest bridge-builder") was the high priest of the College of Pontiffs in ancient Rome. A distinctly religious office under the early Roman Republic, it gradually became politicized until, with Augustus, it was subsumed into the Imperial office.

Augustus as Pontifex Maximus

Augustus had a full flock of yellowish curly hair with two pincer shaped locks over his right eye. He was five and a half foot tall, handsome with a serene expression. A Roman nose and complexion half way between dark and fair. Suetonius recorded that Augustus was “unusually handsome and graceful.”

Augustus was self conscious about his five foot six size - he used to wear platform shoes to make himself appear taller.

Colossal statue of the seated Augustus with a laurel crown. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen (2011)

Once he became, emperor, Augustus was eager to re-establish traditional Roman values. He wore woolen clothes made by his wife to encourage women to return to their looms. In winter he wore no less than four tunics with a heavy woolen gown and beneath them a woolen chest-protector and woolen garters.

Famously sober, Augustus only drunk three cups of wine with his meal. (They would have been diluted with water).

Augustus didn't have a large appetite but was very fond of asparagus and originated a saying, "Quicker than you can cook asparagus.” In the Roman Empire asparagus was not only eaten in season but was dried for later use.

Augustus himself was a writer known for his simple and direct style. He published an account of his reign My Achievements, a much fatter tome than some of his successors.

His reign was known as the "Augustian Age", and a golden age for literature- Horace, Livy, Ovid, Virgil etc.

Augustus renamed the 30 day month of Sextiles c31 giving it the name of August to honor himself. He chose August as it had been his most successful month, in that month he had began his consulship, tamed Egypt and ended civil wars. Augustus took a day from February (which originally had 29 days every year) and added extra day to August so that his month would be on a par with July which had been named after Julius Caesar.

He was a strict adherent of Roman virtues in times of growing permissiveness, when divorce was prevalent and the institution of the family was threatened. Augustine attempted to buck the trend by morality crusade, promoting marriage, family, and childbirth while discouraging luxury, "interbreeding," unrestrained sex (including prostitution and homosexuality), and adultery. It was largely unsuccessful (indeed, his own daughter was banished and subsequently perished due to it).

By Till Niermann - Wikipedia Commons

Augustus is mentioned in the Bible in a clear example of a non-believer fulfilling God's will by issuing a decree that a census be taken of (Luke 2 v1) the entire Roman world. As a result Joseph and his family had to register at his home town of Bethlehem. Thus the prophecy about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem in the Old Testament book of Micah (Chapter 5 v 2) was fulfilled.

He was very superstitious about putting left shoe on before right.

Augustus died on August 19, 14 AD after becoming ill en route to his summer villa. Unable to complete the trip, he stopped at Nola, his parental home, where his father had died 60 years before. His friends gathered round him, charioteering across from Rome.

Augustus introduced to Rome water system, fire brigade, a police force, professional army an efficient administrative system including gathering of taxes and reorganized the welfare system including the distribution of corn.

Augustus was an early adopter of the concept of legacy. Understanding that he could influence how he would be regarded after his death, he commissioned his "Res Gestae" - a list of his achievements - to be distributed around the Empire once he'd gone. For posterity, it ignored all his failures and overstated the good.

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Saint Augustine (354-430) was born on November 13, 354 in the municipium of Thagaste (now Souk Ahras, Algeria) in Roman Africa.

Augustine admitted in his autobiography Confessions, that as a boy he "told lies to my tutors, my masters and my parents all for the love of games and the craving for stage shows." Young Augustine also stole pears from a neighbor's tree, and the sin troubled him for the rest of his life.

Augustine taught rhetoric at Carthage, and then handed in his notice as he had heard that the students in Rome were better behaved than their loutish counterparts in Paris or Carthage. The students in Carthage were prone to cheating the teachers of their fees.

Augustine was reputed to have been the first ever person to read to himself without moving his lips.

He was slim, clean shaven, shaven haired, sharp features. If you go by the paintings of Augustine, he was very fair for a North African.

The earliest known portrait of Saint Augustine in a 6th-century fresco, Lateran, Rome

Augustine never married but he had several lovers prior to his conversion to Christianity. He later confessed that as a youth, he had the "most wicked sins of evil lusts."

Augustine was baptized, along with his son Adeodatus, on Easter Vigil on April 25, 387 in Milan. Augustine recorded his entrance into the church thus: "And we were baptized and all anxiety for our past life vanished away."

In his Confessions Augustine describes the baptism ceremony thus: "I wept at the beauty of the hymns and canticles and was powerfully moved at the sweet sound of your church is singing. My feeling of devotion overflowed and the tears ran for my eyes and I was happy in them."

Tradition has it that whilst Augustine was being baptised by Saint Ambrose,the two of them improvised the "Te Deum Laudamus" (We Praise Thee O Lord) in alternate verses.

In 391 Augustine was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius (now Annaba), in Algeria. Four years he was made coadjutor Bishop of Hippo, and became full Bishop shortly thereafter. He remained in that position until his death in 430.

The Hippo in Hippo Regius came from a Carthaginian word meaning harbor and had nothing to do with hippopotamuses.

He believed in evolution. Well, Augustine thought that some species of plants and animals had developed from earlier creations.

In Book 11 of Confessions Augustine recorded a startling, brilliant discovery. He came to see that God had not only created both time and space but had created them simultaneously and interdependently. This insight, which Augustine derived from meditation on the Bible, anticipated Einstein's theory of relativity by 1500 years.

Augustine is partly to blame for the fallacy that Christians have a problem with fun. He confidently asserted that there was "no frivolous jollity" in Paradise.

The great theologian developed many Catholic doctrines helping make infant baptism, belief in purgatory and the teaching that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church normal practice.

Portrait by Philippe de Champaigne, 17th century

Augustine's teachings that no one can really love God or believe in him properly until the grace of God comes to them influenced Luther and Calvin.

Augustine died aged 76 on August 28, 430 in Hippo, while the Vandals were besieging his Episcopal city. As he lay dying, Augustine had the penitential psalms copied on parchment and fixed to the wall of his room so he could read them from bed.

Pope John Paul II was once so taken by Gerald Depardieu’s resemblance to Augustine that he asked the French actor to impersonate the saint on a world tour.

Augustine wrote about 230 books and treatises and in addition around 350 of his sermons survive today. More of Saint Augustine's words survive than those of any other writer of antiquity.

Saint Augustine of Canterbury

Saint Augustine (d604) was a respected Abbot of St Andrew Monastery in Rome who in 595 was chosen by Pope Gregory to convert England to Christianity.

Augustine's mission came about when Pope Gregory I spotted some Angles (British) boys who had been bought to Rome. On being told they were pagan "angli" the pope exclaimed "They are not Angles but Angels". Inspired he instructs the respected abbot, Augustine to lead a mission to convert Britain. "Certainly do not destroy the temples of the idols that the English have", he wisely recommended, "sprinkle them with holy water and let altars be constructed."

On their way to England every step of the way, Augustine and his party of 40 read the terrifying stories of the cruelty and barbarity of their future hosts. Augustine was "struck with a cowardly fear." By the time they reached Aix-en-Provence in France, the stories had become so frightening that for a time they turned back before Pope Gregory persuaded them to proceed on.

Augustine landed in Kent at Ebbsfleet, Isle of Thanet accompanied by his party of 40 monks in 597. The King of Kent Æthelberht's Frankish wife, Bertha was a Christian and he considered the claims of the Catholic missionary for a time before converting and on June 2, 597 he was baptized.

Sculpture of Æthelberht on Canterbury Cathedral in England

Æthelberht permitted the missionaries to settle and preach in his capital of Canterbury where they used the church of St Martin's for services.

On Christmas Day 597 Augustine of Canterbury and his fellow missionary monks baptized in Kent more than 10,000 Anglo-Saxons.

Augustine sent a report of this encouraging progress to the pope and Gregory responded by dispatching more missionaries to help with the work.

He was Mediterranean looking, tall, distinguished. Augustine's lofty stature and patrician presence attracted every eye for he was "taller than any of the people from his shoulders and upwards."

Augustine founded Kings School Canterbury. It is the oldest still existing school in Britain and maybe in the world.

The Bible sent by Pope Gregory to Augustine for his English trip can be found in Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Augustine was the first Archbishop of Canterbury and made Canterbury the seat of authority for the church in England. He provided the basis from which the Church of England parish system has grown.

Augustine died on May 26, 604. His body was originally buried in the portico of what is now St Augustine's, Canterbury, but it was later exhumed and placed in a tomb within the abbey church, which became a place of pilgrimage and veneration.

Augustine's gravesite at Canterbury

The only surviving writings of Augustine are questions he asked Pope Gregory on behalf of the Anglo Saxons such as "Can expectant mothers be baptized?" He referred to the English in those writings as "uncouth."

The Benedictine Abbey he established at Canterbury became the center of learning and scholarship for all Europe.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Saint Audrey

St Audrey (otherwise Etheldreda, Abbess of Ely) (c636-679) was one of four daughters of King Anna of East Anglia all of whom eventually retired from secular life and founded abbeys. She founded a monastery at Ely in Cambridgeshire, England, and served as its abbess till her death in 679.

Though twice married, St Audrey had taken a vow of perpetual virginity and remained celebiate all her life.

Audrey developed a breast tumour, which she blamed on wearing rich necklaces of jewels as a child, and she died of it in 679.

The most venerated of all Anglo-Saxon female saints, she was honoured with the passing of years by the establishment of many sanctuaries, among them a shrine in Ely, now the site of the city's cathedral.

Her admirers bought modestly concealing lace goods at an annual fair held in her name in Ely, which they called “St Audrey’s lace”. As years passed, this lacework came to be seen as gaudy as unscrupulous hawkers palmed off the cheapest of wares. From this came the word “tawdry” meaning “cheap; trashy.”


The Romans were passionate about fish and the best quality eels, lampreys etc were kept, transported and sold live. The highest recorded price for an auctioned fish (two live red mullets) ever paid was 20 000 sestertii, (about $20,000).

James Christie (1730–1803), the founder of auction house Christie's, held his first sale on December 5, 1766, at rooms in Pall Mall, London, formerly occupied by the print warehouse of Richard Dalton. His sale included a pair of sheets, two pillowcases and two chamber pots.

Thomas Gainsborough Portrait of James Christie Wikipedia Commons

The 1933 double eagle is a gold coin of the United States with a $20 face value. 445,500 specimens of this Saint-Gaudens double eagle were minted in 1933, the last year of production for the double eagle, but no specimens ever officially circulated.  It currently holds the record for the highest price paid at auction for a single US coin, having been sold for $7.59 million.

Houston tavern owner Jim Anderson paid $3,000 at a British Columbia auction in 1983 for a pair of "bloomers" once worn by Queen Victoria. They are history's most expensive used bloomers.

A lock of British naval hero Lord Nelson's hair sold at an auction in 1997 for $8,096.

At a San Francisco auction in 2000, somebody ponied up almost $5,000 for a lot featuring Al Capone's toe-nail clipper, as well as dice, a christening medal and an ivory cigar holder once owned by the legendary crime boss.

The mobile phone number 666 6666 fetched £1.5 million in a charity auction in Qatar in 2007.

The most expensive melon in the world is the prized Yubari grown in Japan. In 2008 a pair of them were bought at an auction for £14,369.

A car number plate bearing only the number ‘1’ sold for £7.1 million at a charity auction in the United Arab Emirates in February, 2008.

The see-through dress that sparked Prince William's interest in Kate Middleton when she wore it at a university fashion show in 2002 was auctioned in 2011 for more than $120,000.

In 2005, executives from Christie’s and Sotheby’s played a game of Rock Paper Scissors to determine who’d get to sell a $20 million art collection that included works by Picasso, Van Gogh, and Cézanne. Christie’s scissors beat Sotheby’s paper.

A well-preserved Stradivarius violin was sold on June 20, 2011 in an online auction for £9.8 million ($15.9m) to raise money for disaster relief in Japan.

Antonio Stradivari violin of 1703, By User:Husky  

The world auction record for cars was set in August 2011 by a 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa at $16.4 million.

The most expensive book or manuscript ever sold at an auction was The Codex Hammer, a notebook belonging to Leonardo da Vinci. It sold for $30.8 million.

Clement Attlee

Clement Atlee was born in Putney, London, the seventh of eight children on January 3, 1883. His father was Henry Attlee , a solicitor, and his mother was Ellen Bravery Watson.

In 1911 Atlee took up a government job as an 'official explainer', touring Britain to explain David Lloyd George's National Insurance Act. He spent the summer of that year touring Essex and Somerset on a bicycle, explaining the Act at public meetings.

During World War I, Attlee was given the rank of captain and served with the South Lancashire Regiment in the Gallipoli Campaign in Turkey. After a spell in a Maltese hospital to recover from dysentery he returned to the front, and was informed that his company had been chosen to hold the final lines when Gallipoli was evacuated. He was the last-but-one man to be evacuated from Suvla Bay (the last being General F.S. Maude).

His decision to fight in the war caused a rift between him and his older brother Tom Attlee, who as a pacifist and a conscientious objector spent much of the war in prison.

Attlee met Violet Millar on a trip to Italy in 1921. Within a few weeks of their return they became engaged and were married at Christ Church, Hampstead on January 10, 1922. They remained wed until her death in 1964 and had four children together.

At the 1922 general election, Attlee became the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Limehouse in Stepney.

The story goes that when Attlee visited King George VI at Buckingham Palace to kiss hands after winning the 1945 General Election, the notoriously laconic Attlee and the notoriously tongue-tied George VI stood for some minutes in silence, before Attlee finally volunteered the remark "I've won the election." The King replied "I know. I heard it on the Six O'Clock News."

Attlee meeting King George VI after Labour's 1945 election victory

His government presided over the decolonisation of a large part of the British Empire when India, Pakistan, Burma, Ceylon and Jordan were granted independence.

Attlee's government carried out their manifesto commitment for nationalisation of basic industries and public utilities. By 1951 about 20% of the British economy had been taken into public ownership.

Although one of his brothers became a clergyman and one of his sisters a missionary, Attlee himself is usually regarded as an agnostic. In an interview he described himself as "incapable of religious feeling", saying that he believed in "the ethics of Christianity" but not "the mumbo-jumbo". When asked whether he was an agnostic, Attlee replied "I don't know".

Attlee died of pneumonia at the age of 84 at Westminster Hospital on 8 October 1967.

When Attlee died, his estate was sworn for probate purposes at a value of £7,295, a relatively modest sum for so prominent a figure.

In 2004, Atlee was voted the greatest British prime minister of the 20th century in a poll of 139 academics organised by MORI.

Source Wikipedia


Attila the Hun (406-453) was called "Scourge of God" by the Romans, "Etzel" by the Germans, "Ethele" by the Hungarians and something unrepeatable by a lot of people.

Young Attila was a member of the ruling family of the Huns. His warlord dad Rugila was a major factor in the Huns' early victories over the Roman Empire.

Priscus, a historian who travelled with Maximin on an embassy from Theodosius II in 448 described Attila as a Hun but no hunk. He said he was: "Short of stature, with a broad chest and a large head; his eyes were small, his beard thin and sprinkled with grey; and he had a flat nose and a swarthy complexion, showing the evidences of his origin.

The Romans complained how much Attila and his fellow Huns smelled. The Barbarians had not got into the Roman habit of bathing.

Attila was a skilled archer. He and his fellow Huns shot their arrows from horseback at full gallop with unerring accuracy.

Attila had a fairly superficial Arian Christian faith which at least helped him to maintain certain high standards of Christian morality. Most of the conquering Barbarian tribes were in fact Arian Christians, so much church property was left unransacked, as they had tremendous reference for Christian relics and treasures.

Attila indirectly founded a great city. The story goes that families fleeing Attila and his hordes ended up in a series of mudbanks within a lagoon at the head of the Adriatic Sea. They stayed there, the settlement grew and it became Venice.

Despite being short, squat, ugly Attila acquired 12 wives. Attila's 12th wife was Ildico, a beautiful German. However he died on their wedding night.

There are conflicting accounts that Attila was poisoned, had a severe nosebleed or according to the Roman Count Marcellinus "pierced by the hand and blade of his wife."

When Attila died, his troops cut his hair and slashed their faces " to mourn with blood rather than tears."

The unfortunate men who buried Attila and his treasures were put to death so that his burial place would remain unknown.


The Greek philosopher Democritus was the first to suggest that all things are made of atoms in 450 BC. The Greeks believed that nothing could be smaller than an atom.

The British chemist John Dalton (September 6, 1766 - July 27, 1844) proposed the existence of atoms, which he considered to be the smallest parts of matter. The idea of atoms was already known at the time, but not widely accepted. Dalton's theory of atoms was based on actual observation. Before this, ideas about atoms were based more on philosophy.

Dalton begun using symbols to represent the atoms of different elements on September 6, 1803.

Various atoms and molecules as depicted in John Dalton's A New System of Chemical Philosophy (1808).

A Swedish man  was arrested in 2011 after attempting to split atoms in his kitchen, claiming that he was only doing it as a hobby.

A cesium atom in an atomic clock beats over nine billion times a second.

Hydrogen is the most common atom in the universe.

Different measurements of the size of the hydrogen atom nucleus when a muon replaces an electron is an unsolved problem in physics known as the proton radius puzzle.

The largest atom, caesium, has a diameter of 0.00000002 of an inch.

Atoms are invisible to light itself— atoms are so much smaller than the wavelength of visible light that they don’t really interact.

No one has ever seen an atom. They’re too small to be seen by a microscope and can’t be counted or weighed individually.

Every year, about 98% of the atoms in your body are replaced.

One teaspoon of water contains about three times as many atoms as the Atlantic Ocean contains teaspoons of water.

The nucleus in an atom is incredibly tiny compared with the orbits of the electrons. Tom Stoppard, the playwright said that  if the nucleus is like the altar of St Paul's cathedral, an electron is like a moth in the cathedral, one moment by the altar, the next by the dome.

An atom is about 99.999% empty space, making everything in the universe mostly nothing.

If there was no space between any of its atoms, the Earth would be the size of a baseball.

If the empty space in atoms could be removed, the entire human race could fit into a sugar cube.

A person is made up of 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (that's 7 octillion) atoms.

Every atom in your body is billions of years old.

Sunday, 2 October 2011


The first modern atlas was the Theatrum orbis terrarum, by cartographer Abraham Ortelius. It was published on May 20, 1570. by Gilles Coppens de Diest at Antwerp.

The atlas contained virtually no maps from the hand of Ortelius, but 53 bundled maps of other masters, with the source as indicated.

Demand for the Theatrum orbis terrarum was immediate and persisted for decades, during which time dozens of editions were published in several languages.

Ortelius World Map Typvs Orbis Terrarvm, 1570.

The first English atlas was a 1579 collection of the counties of England and Wales by Christopher Saxten.

From 1569 Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator devoted himself to producing a series of large engraved maps, designed for binding into volume form. By the time of his death in 1594 he'd published or prepared maps, of France, Germany, Italy, the Balkans and the British Isles.

When Rumold Mercator published his father's maps in 1595, he illustrated the title page and decorated the outside cover with the image of the Greek mythological character Atlas supporting the world on his back. In doing so the giant's name became the standard European word for a volume of maps.

The Goode's School Atlas, named for its first editor, Dr. J. Paul Goode, was published in 1923. It became a standard text for high school and college geography curricula. Later retitled Goode's World Atlas, it is now in its 22nd edition.

The Rand McNally Auto Chum, later to become the ubiquitous Rand McNally Road Atlas, was first published in 1924. The first full-color edition was published in 1960. It became fully digitized in 1993.  

The Doria Atlas, commissioned by Andrea Doria in the late 1500s, was saved from a fire in 2004 by a human chain.

Atlantic Ocean

The SS Savannah left port at Savannah, Georgia, United States, on May 22, 1819 on a voyage to become the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The ship arrived at Liverpool, England, on June 20th. In fact, only a fraction of the distance was covered with the ship under steam power; the rest was sailed by wind power. In spite of her historic voyage, Savannah was not a commercial success as a steamship and was converted back into a sailing ship shortly after returning from Europe.

SS Savannah

The first great disaster in the Atlantic Ocean occurred in 1854 when the steamship SS Arctic sunk with 300 people on board.

Clam diggers Frank Samuelsen and George Harbo were the first men to row across the Atlantic. It took them 55 days to row the 3,000 miles from New York to the Scilly Isles. The time record for the two rowers has still not been broken.

Frank Samuelsen and George Harbo lived off tinned meat, biscuits and eggs boiled in their coffee on their open 18 ft boat.

The Greeks thought the Atlantic Ocean was a vast river encircling the world. It is named after the god Atlas who carried the Earth on his shoulders.

The first regularly scheduled transatlantic flights began in 1951. They were between Idlewild Airport (now John F Kennedy International Airport) in New York City and Heathrow Airport in London, and were operated by El Al Israel Airlines.

TAT-1, the first trans-Atlantic telephone cable went into service on September 25, 1956 with an exchange of greetings between London, Ottawa and New York. The new $42 million cable consisted of two lines laid 18 and a half miles apart on the ocean floor.

Joe Kittinger became the first person to fly a hot air balloon alone across the Atlantic Ocean in 1984.

SAS veteran Tom McClean rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1987 in 54 days and 18 hours. No other rower has completed the trip any quicker.

The Sargasso Sea is a region in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by ocean currents, and this is the only sea that has no coast.

The Atlantic Ocean is saltier than the Pacific Ocean.

The Atlantic Ocean is half the size of the Pacific Ocean.

Its greatest depth is at the Milwaukee Depth in the Puerto Rico Trench, which descends 28,374 ft.

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is the longest mountain chain on Earth (at 40 thousand kilometers).

Every year, thanks to the movement of the tectonic plates, the Atlantic gets 5cm wider.

In Newfoundland, Canada, the Atlantic Ocean sometimes freezes so people play hockey on it.


The area was settled in 1837 and was chosen as the southern terminus of the Western and Atlantic Railroad. Originally named Terminus, it was renamed Atlanta in 1843.

It got its current name from railroad engineer J. Edgar Thompson. It’s thought to be a shortened version of “Atlantica-Pacifica.”

On November 11, 1864, after Atlanta surrendered to the Union Army during the Civil War, General Sherman ordered the city to be burned to the ground, sparing only its churches and hospitals. Four days later he started Sherman's March to the Sea.

Atlanta in ruins during the Civil War, 1864

Only 400 buildings survived, which is why the Atlanta's symbol is a phoenix.

The Great Atlanta fire of 1917 caused $5.5 million in damages, destroying some 300 acres including 2,000 homes, businesses and churches, displacing about 10,000 people but leading to only one fatality (due to heart attack).

Atlanta was the first large city in the South to elect a black mayor, Maynard Jackson, in 1973.

Atlanta is the headquarters of Coca-Cola and also since 1994 EarthLink, an Internet service provider second only to AOL in the USA.

Atlanta hosted the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. A pipe bomb exploded at Centennial Olympic Park during the Olympics on July 27th. One woman (Alice Hawthorne) wass killed, and a cameraman suffered a heart attack fleeing the scene. One hundred eleven were injured.

Atlanta is the fifth capital of the state of Georgia. The previous capitals were Savannah, Augusta, Louisville and Milledgeville.

In Atlanta it is illegal to tie a giraffe to a telephone pole or street lamp.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the world's busiest airport, both in terms of passenger traffic and aircraft operations. The terminal is as big as 45 football fields.

Atlanta is located within a two-hour flight of 80% of the U.S. population.

The escalator in the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia is the longest freestanding escalator in the world, rising 160 feet or approximately eight stories in height.

Sources Hutchinson Encyclopedia,