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Sunday, 20 October 2013


In 1642 Blaise Pascal designed and built a mechanical adding machine. It was the first mechanical calculator in history.

On June 14, 1822 English mathematician Charles Babbage proposed a difference engine, an automatic, mechanical calculator designed to tabulate polynomial functions. The proposal was made in a paper presented to the Royal Astronomical Society, titled "Note on the application of machinery to the computation of astronomical and mathematical tables". His proposed machine used the decimal number system and was powered by cranking a handle.

The first difference engine,built from Babbage's design. Wikipedia

The American Arithmometer Company was established in St. Louis, Missouri in 1886 to produce and sell an adding machine that William Seward Burroughs was developing. The inventor received a patent for the first successful adding machine in the US on August 21, 1888. American Arithmometer Company, became Burroughs Corporation and evolved to produce electronic billing machines and mainframes, and eventually merged with Sperry to form Unisys.

An early Burroughs adding machine

Beat author William S. Burroughs was a grandson of William Seward Burroughs. He wrote  a collection of essays called The Adding Machine.

American inventor Herman Hollerith invented the first device that recorded data on a medium, which could then be read by a machine in the late 1880s. He was inspired by conductors using holes punched in different positions on a railway ticket to record traveler details such as gender and approximate age.

Hollerith developed his electromechanical punched card tabulator to assist in summarizing information and, later, accounting. He was issued US patent #395,791 for the 'Art of Applying Statistics' on January 8, 1889. His invention of the punched card tabulating machine marks the beginning of the era of semiautomatic data processing systems

Hollerith built machines under contract for the Census Office, which used them for the 1890 census. Clerks used keypunches to punch holes in the cards entering age, state of residence, gender, and other information from the returns.

Replica of an early:Hollerith punched card tabulator and sorting box Photo by Adam Schuster Flickr: Proto IBM

In 1896 Hollerith started his own business when he founded The Tabulating Machine Company. Many major census bureaus around the world leased his equipment and purchased his cards, as did major insurance companies.

Hollerith built machines under contract for the Census Office, which used them for the 1890 census.

In 1948 the Curta calculator, a hand-cranked, barrel-shaped calculator small enough to fit in the pocket and capable of basic calculations was introduced.

The mathematics master of Harrow predicted to the Mathematical Association in a speech on April 9, 1953 that by 2003, schoolchildren would be working out sums on calculating machines and there would be no multiplication tables. He said: "Each maths room will have its calculating machine, and the child on duty for the day will do any calculating needed."

The ANITA Mark VII and ANITA Mark VIII calculators were launched simultaneously in late 1961 as the world's first all-electronic desktop calculators.

Photo of Anita Mk VIII calculator by MaltaGC at English Wikipedia

The first portable calculator placed on sale by Texas Instruments in 1971 weighed only two and a half pounds and cost a mere $150.

The first slimline digital pocket calculator was the Sinclair Executive, which was launched in 1972. It cost about three times the average weekly wage but set the standard.

The HP-35, Hewlett-Packard's first pocket calculator, was introduced on February 1, 1972. It was the world's first scientific pocket calculator, featuring trigonometric and exponential functions.

An HP-35 pocket calculator. By Seth Morabito 

Source The Independent 3/11/07


Calcium is an essential component of bones, leaves, milk and teeth. It forms 1.5% of the human body by mass.

The element name "calcium" comes from the Latin word "calcis" meaning "lime."

Calcium isn't found free in nature, but it can be purified into a soft silvery-white alkaline earth metal.

Calcium has been known since the first century, when the ancient Romans were known to make lime from calcium oxide.

Though calcium has been known for thousands of years, it was not purifed as an element until 1808 by Sir Humphrey Davy

Calcium is used for making cement and cheese, removing nonmetallic impurities from alloys, and as a reduction agent in the preparation of other metals.

Calcium is the fifth most abundant element in the Earth's crust, present at a level of about 3% in the oceans and soil.

Half of a cup of figs will give you just as much calcium as half a cup of milk.

People who meet their calcium need reduce their risk of developing kidney stones.

Black bears have a way of recycling calcium into their bones while they hibernate so they wake up just as strong as when they nodded off.



England's King Edward III annexed Calais in 1347. Siege guns were used by the English for one of the first times.

Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Burghers of Calais commemorates the siege of Calais in 1347.

The siege ended when Edward III agreed to spare the townsfolk if six of their leaders presented themselves to be executed. Six leaders did so but Edward’s wife, Queen Philippa, persuaded him to spare them.

Half the population of Calais in the fifteenth century worked for the British wool trade.

Calais was the last continental territorial possession of England until its capture on January 7,  1558 by the French under Francis, Duke of Guise.

Map showing the situation of 1477, northern France and the pale of Calais

Spain captured Calais in 1596 during their war with Henry IV of France. but gave it back to France two years later.

Guy Fawkes participated in the capture of the city of Calais by the Spanish.

Nelson’s mistress Emma Hamilton went to live in Calais after he died to flee her creditors. Penniless, she died there of dysentery in 1814.

Swimming the English Channel was first achieved on 24-25 August 1875 by Captain Matthew Webb (1848-83). He covered the 21 miles from Dover to Calais Sands in 21 hours 45 minutes using the breast stroke.

At 21 miles from England across the Strait of Dover, Calais is the French town closest to the UK.

The line from Calais to Dover is the boundary between the English Channel and the North Sea.

Calais is one of five French towns allowed by royal decree to have their own flags. The other four are Boulogne, Dunkirk, Le Havre and Saint-Malo.

Source Daily Express



The legend of King Alfred burning a villager’s cakes when in disguise dates only from the 12th century, some 300 years after he lived.

The word ‘cake’ dates from the 13th century. It comes from the Old Norse ‘kaka’, and is related to modern-day Danish ‘kage’ and German ‘Kuchen.’

In early Yorkshire, England, a plate holding wedding cake was thrown out of the window as the bride returned to her parent's home after the wedding.

Because of the abundance of candied fruits and sugars in fruitcake, it was considered “sinfully rich” and was outlawed in Europe in the early 18th century. It became popular again in the 19th century when it was included at tea time in England.

The earliest known reference to a ‘birthday cake’ was in 1785.

Putting candles on birthday cakes originated with the ancient Greeks. They made round cakes to honor Artemis, the goddess of the moon, which were often decorated with candles to represent the lunar glow.

Jane Austen wrote in a letter to her sister in 1808, “You know how interesting the purchase of a sponge-cake is to me.”  This is the earliest known use of the hyphenated word “sponge-cake”.

German chocolate cake did not originate in Germany. It was named after an American, Samuel German, who in 1852  developed a type of dark baking chocolate for the American Baker's Chocolate Company. The brand name of the product, Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate, was named in honor of him.

Queen Victoria adopted the mid nineteenth century craze for tea parties. The Victoria sandwich cake, named after her was one of the queen's favorites at these culinary events.

In 1867 Charles Ranhofer, the chef of the famous Delmonico's restaurant in New York,  created a new sponge cake covered in ice cream to celebrate the American purchase of Alaska from the Russians. It was, at first, called Alaska-Florida Cake, before being changed to Baked Alaska.

A new sponge cake made with apricot jam was named a Battenberg cake in honor of the marriage of Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Victoria to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884.

The oldest known recipe of carrot cake dates from 1892, in a book of the housekeeping school of Kaiseraugst (Canton of Aargau, Switzerland) It did not become popular until the 1940s because of rationing during the Second World War.

The oldest still existing wedding cake was baked in 1898. It now resides in the Willis Museum in Basingstoke.

Sometimes, early telephone operators would get to know their customers so well, the customers would ask for a reminder call when it was time to remove a cake from the oven.


In 2011, a man crashed Paris Hilton's 30th birthday party, stole her $3,200 birthday cake, and served it to the homeless.

Black Forest Cake (see below) consists of layers of chocolate cake with whipped cream and cherries between them. The cake is decorated with more whipped cream, maraschino cherries and chocolate shaving. The cake is German in origins (early 1900’s) and named from distilled cherries from the Black Forest mountain range in southwestern Germany.

The name Brownie comes from the deep brown color of the confection. Its origin is with a housewife from Bangor, Maine who was baking chocolate cake one day and it fell. Instead of throwing it out, this thrifty cook cut the collapsed cake into bars and served it.

Adolf Hitler loved chocolate cake.

The world record for the most layers in a cake was 255. It was created in 2011 by three Toronto bakeries to celebrate Canada’s 144th birthday. It required 287lb of sugar.

Indonesia holds the record for the world’s tallest cake, with a 108ft-high monster.

The biggest cake in the world was a wedding cake made by chefs at the Mohegan Sun Hotel and Casino, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA. It was unveiled at the New England Bridal Showcase on February 8, 2004. The cake measured 17 feet high and weighed 15,032 pounds.

Pound cake is so named not just because of the pound of butter, but more precisely because each of the four main ingredients (flour, butter, sugar and eggs) are weighed out as a pound.

The ‘cakewalk’ dance began in the southern USA as a competition in graceful walking, with cake awarded as a prize.

69% eat the cake before the frosting.

The record for fruit cake eating is 4lb 14.25oz in ten minutes. It was set by Sonya Thomas in 2003.

German Chocolate Cake is not German. It got its name from Sam German, who came up with a specific type of chocolate in 1852 for the Baker's Chocolate Company.

Sources Food For Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World by Ed Pearce,


Cairo is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in Africa with a metropolitan population of over 19 million.

It is situated on the east bank of the River Nile eight miles above the apex of the delta and 100 miles from the Mediterranean.

Cairo has long been settled. In the 4th century Romans built a fortress down on the banks of the Nile river .

In 641, Muslims took control of the area and founded the city of El Fustat (Old Cairo) moving its capital there from Alexandria.

In 969 El Azhar, a Muslim university and mosque was founded at El Fustat. From its inception it has been a significant influence in Muslim higher education. It is said to be the oldest university in the world.

A  new city was built by the Fatimid ruler Gowhar north of El Fustat in about 1000 to serve as its capital. The city was called Al-Qahira, which translates to Cairo.

In 1168 the Crusaders entered Egypt and El Fustat was intentionally burned down to prevent the destruction of Cairo. Under the Mamelukes (1250–1517) the city prospered.

Cairo's growth began to slow beginning in 1348 and lasting into the early 1500s due to the outbreak of numerous plagues and the discovery of a sea route around the Cape of Good Hope, which allowed European spice traders to avoid Cairo on their routes east.

Cairo became the capital of the virtually-autonomous kingdom of Egypt established by Mehmet Ali in 1805

In 1882 the British entered the region and economic center of Cairo moved closer to the Nile. At that time 5% of Cairo's population was European.

The intercontinental airline service made its debut in 1927. The flight, by Imperial Airways, was from London to Cairo.

During World War II Cairo was the headquarters of the Allied forces in north Africa.

In 1952 much of Cairo was burned in a series of riots and anti-government protests.

The Cairo Opera House was destroyed by fire in 1970. Ironically the Cairo fire station was located inside the same building.

On January 25, 2011 over 20,000 protesters entered the streets of Cairo protesting over Egypt's government. The protests continued for several weeks and hundreds were killed and/or wounded as both anti and pro-government demonstrators clashed.

As of 2006 Cairo's population density was 44,522 people per square mile (17,190 people per sq km). This makes it one of the most densely populated cities in the world. .

With the attractions of the pyramids and sphinx at Giza and the Egyptian museum, which has one of the world's leading archaeological collections, Cairo has a very substantial tourist industry.

Cairo's film and publishing industries serve most of the Middle East.

Its metro is one of the busiest in the world and it is the only one in Africa.

Sources, Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2013. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.

Michael Caine

Michael Caine was born on March 14, 1933 in St Olave's Hospital, Rotherhithe, London, the son of Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, a fish market porter, and Ellen Frances Marie (née Burchell), a cook and charwoman.

Micael Caine in 2012. By Manfred Werner / Tsui - Own work, Wikipedia Commons

Born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, he took his stage name from the film The Caine Mutiny (1954).

While he uses "Michael Caine" professionally, he uses his given name in his personal life.

Caine was called up for national service in the British Army in 1951 when he was aged 18 and was deployed to South Korea to help in the aftermath of the North Korean invasion. He served as part of the Royal Fusiliers. He said he had gone into it feeling sympathetic to Communism, coming as he did from a poor family. But he has said the experience left him permanently repelled

Some time after his mother died, Caine and his younger brother, Stanley, learned they had an elder half-brother, named David. He suffered from severe epilepsy and had been kept in Cane Hill Mental Hospital his entire life. Although their mother regularly visited her first son in the hospital, even her husband did not know the child existed. David died in 1992.

In 1957, at Brighton University, Caine appeared in a one-act play written by a fellow actor who went by the name of David Baron. It was Baron's very first play. He later changed his name back to Harold Pinter, the name under which he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005.

Caine lodged with composer John Barry in the early 1960s for a few months, after being forced to leave his own flat, penniless.

Caine shared a London flat with actor Terence Stamp early in his career.

The role of Alfie was turned down by Anthony Newley and Terence Stamp before it was offered to him.

His first American accent was in the film Hurry Sundown (1967). He was taught the Southern drawl by Vivien Leigh, who told him to say "four door Ford" all day long for weeks.

When he starred in 1969 heist film The Italian Job, Caine didn’t have a driving licence.

Throughout the 1960s he was by his own estimation drinking two bottles of vodka and smoking at least eighty cigarettes a day. He quit smoking cigarettes following a stern lecture from Tony Curtis at a party in 1971, and finally quit smoking cigars shortly before his 70th birthday in 2003.

Trivia books written by Caine include Not Many People Know That!, And Not Many People Know This Either!, Michael Caine's Moving Picture Show and Not A Lot of People Know This is 1988. Proceeds from the books went to the National Playing Fields Association (now Fields in Trust) of which Caine was a prominent supporter.

Most Caine impressions include the catchphrase "Not a lot of people know that." Peter Sellers initiated this when he appeared on BBC1's Parkinson show on 28 October 1972 and said: "Not many people know that. This is my Michael Caine impression. You see, Mike's always quoting from the Guinness Book of Records. At the drop of a hat he'll trot one out. 'Did you know that it takes a man in a tweed suit five and a half seconds to fall from the top of Big Ben to the ground?' Now there's not many people who know that!".

The production offices of Mona Lisa (1986) were located in the disused St Olave's hospital, the very hospital in which Caine was born.

Has been nominated for an Oscar at least once in five consecutive decades (1960s-2000s).

Caine wasn't present at the Academy Awards ceremony when he won best supporting actor for Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) because he was filming Jaws: The Revenge (1987), for which he was nominated for worst supporting actor at the Razzie awards the following year.

"Michael Caine", a top 10 song in Britain in the mid-'80s by the group Madness, had his "My Name Is Michael Caine" quote sampled into the song.

He was awarded the CBE (Commander Of The Order Of The British Empire) in the 1993 Queen's Honours List for his services to drama and formally knighted in the 2000 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his contribution to the performing arts.

He officially changed his name from Maurice Micklewhite to Michael Caine in July 2016 at the age of 83. He said: "An airport security guard would say, ‘Hi, Michael Caine,’ and suddenly I’d give him a passport with a different name on it. I could stand there for an hour. So I changed my name.”

Educating Rita (1983) is his favourite film of his own, and the performance he's the most proud of.

Sources Imdb, Wikipedia


The 24 year-old German analytical chemist Friedrich Runge started conducting chemical experiments at a young age. In 1819  the writer Johann Goethe encouraged him to analyze coffee. Arising from these investigations he isolated a major purine alkaloid found in coffee- caffeine. 

Most mid nineteenth century writers habitually took a stimulant to help them keep awake at night to write. Often this would be caffeine consumed in strong coffee, or green tea.

Decaffeinated coffee was developed in 1903 after a German coffee importer, Ludwig Roselius, turned a batch of ruined coffee beans over to researchers. Although not the first to remove caffeine, he perfected the process of removing caffeine from the beans without destroying their flavor.

Athletes who test positive for more than 12 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of urine may be banned from the Olympic Games. This level may be reached after drinking about five cups of coffee.

There are 100 to 150 milligrams of caffeine in an eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee, ten milligrams in a six-ounce cup of cocoa, five to ten milligrams in one ounce of bittersweet chocolate, and five milligrams in one ounce of milk chocolate.

In 2015, two students at Northumbria University in North East England were accidentally given a lethal dose of caffeine during a scientific experiment. They received 30g instead of the planned 0.3g and immediately suffered side effects, including dizziness, blurred vision, shaking and a rapid heartbeat. The error was caused by a misplaced decimal point on the phone used to calculate the caffeine dosage.  The university was fined £400,000.

Coffee represents 75% of all the caffeine consumed in the United States.

Tea contains half the amount of caffeine found in coffee.

Retail espresso vendors report an increase in decaffeinated sales in the month of January due to New Year's resolutions to decrease caffeine intake.

Special studies conducted about the human body revealed it will usually absorb up to about 300 milligrams of caffeine at a given time. About four normal cups.

The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-V handbook classifies caffeine withdrawal as a mental disorder.

In Canada it's illegal for clear or non-dark sodas to contain caffeine.

Decaf coffee is not caffeine-free. About 1-2% of the caffeine is still present in decaffeinated drinks.

Certified organic decaf coffee must be made with the Swiss Water Method, which only uses water to extract caffeine from the beans.

After the decaffeinating process, processing companies don't throw the caffeine away; they sell it to soft drink and pharmaceutical companies.

Caffeine acts as a natural pesticide in plants and it can also be toxic to household pets such as cats and dogs,

The chemical dichloromethane (DCM), used to extract caffeine from coffee and tea, is very bad for the ozone layer — with twice as much in the atmosphere in 2017 as there was in 2000.

The tiny borer beetle can ingest high levels of caffeine—the equivalent of a 150-pound person throwing back 500 shots of espresso.

You would have to drink 100 cups of coffee in four hours to get a lethal dose of caffeine–ten grams.

Sharon Stone is allergic to caffeine.

The chemical name for caffeine is 1,3,7-trimethylzantihine.

Coffee has about five times the amount of caffeine as a can of Coke.

Source Great

Café au Lait

After the Turks were seen off in the Siege of Vienna in 1683, a Polish Army Officer, Franz Kolschitzky, retained the 500 sacks of coffee beans left by the fleeing Turkish army. He had previously lived in Turkey and, being the only person there who knew how to use it, claimed the coffee for himself.

The following year, Kolschitzky opened central Europe's first coffeehouse in Vienna with the stock of coffee beans. He established the habit of refining the brew by filtering out the grounds, then heating up some milk, whisking it to create a foaming liquid before sweetening it with honey and adding a dash of cream. This drink became known as café au lait.

Milk as an additive to coffee became popular in the 1680's, when a French physician recommended that cafe au lait be used for medicinal purposes.

In Spain, it is common to pour chocolate milk or café au lait on cereal for breakfast.


The first coffee shop, called Kiva Han, opened in Constantinople in the early sixteenth century. Turkey had become the chief distributor of coffee, with markets established in Egypt, Persia, and Venice.

In Persia coffeehouses sprang up in the sixteenth century where men assembled to drink coffee and play chess or listen to music.

England’s first coffee shop was opened by a Turkish Jew named Jacob at Oxford University in 1650.

Christopher Bowman opened the first coffeehouse in London in St Michael's Alley, Cornhill, in 1652.

These first English coffeehouses were called "penny universities" as a penny was charged for admission and a cup of coffee.

By 1670 coffee had replaced beer as  the favorite breakfast beverage for many New England colonists.  There were now coffeehouses in most major North American towns including Baltimore, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. These establishments sold a greater variety of drinks than the European ones as they offered  not only coffee but also chocolate, ales, beers and wines.

In London such was the popularity of coffee houses amongst gentlemen by 1674 that their wives were protesting that their husbands were never to be found at home. Instead they were constantly to be found drinking and conversing in the coffee houses. As a result The Women's Petition Against Coffee was set up.

In 1675 England's King Charles II was alerted by his spies to the seditious possibilities of coffeehouses where coffee, chocolate, tea and fruit flavored iced water were drunk whilst political matters was discussed. He was warned they are hotbeds of revolution and seminaries of sedition so he issued a royal proclamation to suppress them.  However, such was the public outcry the ban lasted just eleven days. Instead Charles taxed heavily the public sale of coffee.

In 1686 the Sicilian chef Francesco Procopia dei Coltelli (1651 - 1727) opened Le Procope, the first café in Paris.The café faced the Theatre Francais, where it drew the artists and actors of the day.

Within a few years of its opening, customers were gathering in Le Procope, which was elegantly decorated with chandeliers, mirrors and wood paneling, to sample Procopia's choice of around 90 flavors of different ices and sorbets. It also became a meeting place for Parisians to discuss politics and read news-sheets.

Café Procope is still in business today A plaque at the establishment states that it is the world's oldest continually functioning café.

Before the first French café, coffee was sold by street vendors in Europe, in the Arab fashion.

Bistro is not French for Cáfe, but the word Russian Cossacks would shout at French waiters, meaning "quickly."

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was born on July 13, 100 BC. in Rome. He was untimely ripped from his mother's womb at birth hence his name Caesarian. (Latin Caedere) .

His father and namesake, Caius Julius Caesar, was a Roman Praetor of the most ancient and aristocratic lineage who had encountered hard times. His mother was an Aurelia from the Cottae branch, a rich and influential family of plebeian stock.

As a young child Caesar used to race around in a little cart pulled by a goat. A show-off as he grew older he would ride at top speed without stirrups with his hands behind his head.

As a young boy, he lived in a modest house in the Subura quarter, where he apparently learned to speak several languages, including Hebrew and Gallic dialects.

Caesar had a large head, set on a sinewy neck broad forehead, strong and aquiline nose, soft white skin, dark piercing eyes, very slightly built, wiry figure.

Caesar had a very short cropped hairstyle. He was very vain about his locks, having began to lose his hair when younger. Baldness was considered a deformity by the Romans and he was sensitive of it. Cicero noted: "When I notice how carefully arranged his hair is and when I watch him adjusting the parting with one finger, I cannot imagine that this man could conceive of such a wicked thing as to destroy the Roman constitution."

The Tusculum portrait, perhaps the only surviving statue created during Caesar's lifetime. Gautier Poupeau from Paris, France. Wikipedia Commons

Caesar was given permission by Roman senate to wear his laurel wreath all of the time to hide his baldness.

He had his facial hairs individually plucked out with tweezers every day.

Particular of dress, neat in appearance, Caesar was distinctive in his scarlet cloak.

Caesar was self confident and very ambitious, he said: "would rather be first in a little Iberian village then second in Rome"

A brave man, he refused a bodyguard saying "It is better to die once rather than live always in fear of death."

At the age of 17, Caesar married Cornelia the youngest daughter of Lucius Cornelius Cinna,, a leader of the "populist democratic" party. This angered Cinna's enemy, the reactionary consul, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who ordered him to be put her away. Caesar refused and his life was only saved by powerful friends in Rome, though he had to flee to Asia for a while. He returned to Rome four years later when Sulla left office.

Caesar became a widower after Cornelia's death trying to deliver a stillborn son in 68BC.

Caesar had a child Caesarion, his only known biological son, by Cleopatra whilst in Egypt. He was 52 and she was 21.

Caesar divorced his second wife Pompeia in 61BC after the tribune Clodius had entered his house dressed as a woman. Clodius had amorous designs on Pompeia and he was charged with sacrilege but was acquitted after bribing the jurors. Caesar divorced his wife justifying it by saying "Caesar's wife must be beyond suspicion."

Caesar had many mistresses, one of whom was Servilia, the mother of a certain Marcus Juncus Brutus. He was nicknamed "the bald adulterer" by soldiers.

Caesar threw spectacular games that included the diversion of the Tiber River for a specific representation in the Circus. He ended that year in glory but in bankruptcy. His debts reached several hundred gold talents (millions of Dollars in today's currency) and threatened to be an obstacle for his future career.

In 45BC Caesar was officially recognised as a god and a temple was erected in his honour in his forum.

Caesar paid his soldiers in salt (a valuable commodity in Roman times) rather than money-the word "salary" comes from this.

In a gluttonous age, Caesar was moderate in his culinary intake. When on a campaign he ate the same food as his men did and drank the same wine.

The Roman legions marched across the Roman world singing filthy songs about Julius Caesar, which the Roman authorities tried to ban.

Caesar started one of the earliest newspapers, The Acta Divrna (The Daily News) containing daily announcements of various orders, marriages, births, deaths, military appointments etc was written on a board in public places in Rome. It also included news of gladiatorial contests, accounts of battles. Scribes from all over the Roman Empire copied it down and sent it back by letter to their masters.

Caesar's accounts of his invasion of Britain and subdual of Gaul, Die Bello Gallico and Die Bello Civile were models of simple and clear writing of military history. He wanted to ensure he would be recorded in posterity as a victorious hero.

As overseer of public games, Caesar increased his popularity by preparing magnificent spectacles in the Circus Maximus at a cost of a crushing burden of debt for himself. He was booed for catching up with his correspondence during gladiatorial games.

A skilful swordsman and horseman, Caesar had incredible stamina and endurance and could travel long distances quickly. He could march besides his legionaries on foot and out tire the best of them.

A superb swimmer with a powerful stroke. When shipwrecked off Alexandria, Caesar jumped overboard to swim ashore carrying his sword between his teeth, he held his commentaries with his left hand above the water while beating it with his right.

Caesar participated in the hobby of sigillography (the collector of seals). Stamps were used to authenticate documents.

On route to a rhetoric course, Caesar was captured by pirates. When informed that they had demanded a ransom of twenty talents, Caesar burst out laughing. They did not know, he said, who it was that they had captured, and he volunteered to pay fifty.  He spent 40 days with the pirates whilst the ransom was being arranged and Caesar spent his time playing dice with them or joking how he would capture and crucify them. The pirates laughed once the ransom was paid and Caesar was set free. He immediately gathered a fleet, to go after the pirates. Caesar caught them and crucified them to a man.

Caesar got into the senate party due to the lavish bribes he distributed. He was totally motivated by political ambitions.

A very clear mind when thinking out military strategy, Caesar regarded Alexander the Great as his model war leader.

He summarised his quick campaign against King Pharnaces in Zela Asia Minor (47BC) as "Veni, vidi, vici" (I came, I saw, I conquered)

Caesar used a simple cipher for passing secret messages advancing one letter of the alphabet so his name was Dbftbs.

Caesar was willing to join in the front line with his troops in his troops even when he was nearing 50, the sight of their commander joining in and fighting with them greatly encouraged his troops, who thought him the salt of the earth, and gave them renewed vigour. He was willing to march besides his legionaries on foot and out-tire them to set the pace for his cavalry and to seize a spade and give them a hand digging in.

Caesar once slipped and fell on his face as he disembarked on the coast of Africa,. This would have been considered a fatal omen by his army, but instead, he shouted: "Africa, I have tight hold of you!". The expedition proved a success.

In 55-54 BC Caesar crossed to Britain because of help given by Britons to his enemies in Gaul. He lost many ships as he didn't beach them high enough, not allowing for tides. The woad painted inhabitants of Kent outfought Caesar's Romans.

On his second British expedition, Caesar got further, crossing the River Thames at Brentford. Caesar's stone marked the spot where the crossing was supposedly effected.

He wrote about the Britons he encountered at Deal and their habit of going into battle naked except for blue body paint, their hair stiffened into spikes wearing just a bracelet or two. “Briton” comes from the Celtic word “Pretani”, a tribal name meaning “the painted ones” or “the tattooed people”.

It is likely that herding dogs were brought to England by Caesar during his 55BC invasion and that specimens were left behind & interbred with the local dogs.

In military terms the two expeditions were a disaster, but Caesar was economic with the truth in his reports back home and he succeeded in impressing the authorities.

Between 58-51 BC, Caesar subdued Gaul selling thousands of Belgic tribes into slavery by a process of total annihilation of Gaelic forces. At the Battle of Alesia which ended on October 3, 52, Caesar's 100,000 troops were outnumbered 4:1 but they still won.

The Fortifications built by Caesar in Alesia Wikipedia

According to Plutarch, the whole Gaul campaign resulted in 800 conquered cities, 300 subdued tribes, one million men sold to slavery and another three million dead in battle fields. Ancient historians are notorious for exaggerating numbers of this kind, but Caesar's conquest of Gaul was certainly the greatest military triumph since the campaigns of Alexander the Great.

Caesar's victories in the Gallic Wars extended Rome's territory to the English Channel and the Rhine.
These achievements granted him unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse the standing of his rival for the leadership of the Roman state, Pompey, who had realigned himself with the Senate.

With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his military command and return to Rome. Caesar refused the order, and instead marked his defiance in on January 10, 49 BC by crossing the Rubicon (a stream that divided Caesar's province from Italy proper) with the 13th Legion, signaling the start of civil war.

Caesar paused on the banks of the Rubicon

When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he uttered the famous phrase "ālea iacta est" ("the die has been cast"). Illegally entering Roman territory under arms was an act of treason and Caesar fought the ensuing war against Pompey defeating him at Pharsalus. Having started the civil war, his leniency resulted in his fighting the same enemies over and over again.

In 48BC Caesar decisively defeated Pompey at Pharsalus, in Greece. Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was assassinated on the order of Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII. In Rome, Caesar was appointed dictator.

Caesar's final victory in Spain at Munda over the sons of Pompey in 45 BC rubber-stamped him as sole leader of the Roman world.

To celebrate his victory over Pompey, Julius Caesar gave a banquet at which 150,000 guests were seated at 22,000 tables. It lasted for two days.

Caesar wasn't that strong physically. He was an epileptic who suffered from migraine headaches.

Due to increasing traffic congestion, Caesar had to ban all wheeled vehicles, including chariots in the centre of Rome during hours of daylight in 45BC.

According to Cicero, Julius Caesar once felt ill after dinner and retired to his bedroom instead of the latrine where his would-be assassins were waiting for him, purportedly avoiding assassination.

Caesar's wife Culpurnia had a fearful dream on the night before the fatal Ides of March and she begged her husband not to take part in the festival. But Caesar did not look to his laurels.

The day before his death, Caesar was dining with friends and the question arose "What is the best kind of death?" "A sudden one" replied Caesar before anyone else.

The night before he died, the ceremonial armor which Caesar kept in his house fell off with a great crash.

In the street a few minutes before his assassination a Greek logic teacher named Artemidoros had handed Caesar a note containing a list of conspirators and warning him that assassins planned to attack him as he entered the hall. But Caesar put it aside. He ignored the warnings as he had important business to attend to. He still had the bit of paper in his hand when he took his seat in the chamber.

Caesar was killed by a republican group during Ides of March (March 15, 44 BC) at the senate house. The 60 people involved in the plot included Brutus the son of his mistress. They feared Caesar was going to make himself King of Rome.

23 daggers in total were thrust into Caesar. He struggled until he saw his supposedly faithful friend, Caesar ceased to struggle.

The Death of Caesar (1798) by Vincenzo Camuccini

After the murder Brutus and the other murderers had their homes set on fire by angry crowds. According to legend Brutus settled in Britain after the assassination.

When Julius Caesar died, he left today's equivalent of about $270 to each and every Roman citizen.

After the assassination of Julius Caesar a large comet, the Julium Sidus, hit the Earths atmosphere, It was seen in Rome and China, and may have been brightest daylight comet in recorded history. The appearance of the comet led to Caesar being Deified, an Imperial Cult, and the building of the 'Temple of the Comet Star'.

The King of Diamonds from a deck of cards represents Julius Caesar.

"Beware the Ides of March" is an anagram of "Caesar: few bothered him".

Soueces 4,000 Amazing Trivia Facts by Gyles Brandeth, The Faber Book of Anecdotes by Clifton Fadiman

Sunday, 13 October 2013


Cadillac was founded on August 22, 1902 by Henry Leland, a master mechanic and entrepreneur, who named the company after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the founder of the city of Detroit.

Cadillac's first automobiles, the Runabout and Tonneau were two-seat horseless carriages powered by a 10 hp (7 kW) single-cylinder engine. They were practically identical to the 1903 Ford Model A.

Cadillac Model A, 1902. By Iwao from Tokyo, Japan Wikipedia Commons

Cadillac was the first volume manufacturer of a fully enclosed car in 1906

Cadillac was the first American car to win the Dewar Trophy from the Royal Automobile Club of England, having successfully demonstrated the interchangeability of its component parts during a reliability test in 1908. This spawned the firm's slogan "Standard of the World."

In 1911 Cadillac introduced the electric starter and dynamo lighting.

Cadillac introduced in 1928 the synchromesh gearbox, facilitating gear changing.

The longest car ever made was a 100ft-long Cadillac with 26 wheels, a swimming pool, a Jacuzzi, a helipad and a hinged section in the middle to enable it to turn corners.

Chuck Berry owns a warehouse full of old Cadillacs, one from every three or four model-years, all the way back to the mid-fifties. He claims to be trying to get rid of them, but as nobody will give him a fair price, he just stores them away.

Source Wikipedia


After serving an apprenticeship in Leeds, 23-year-old English Quaker John Cadbury opened a tea and coffee shop in Bull Street Birmingham. He offered tea (for which he employed a Chinese man to make) and coffee.

John Cadbury was listed in the 1828-29 Directory of Warwickshire as a tea dealer.

Cadbury soon added cocoa to his product list, powdering it himself with a mortar and pestle. The Cadburys (like other famous chocolate families, such as Fry and Rowntree) were Quakers, and the sale of cocoa and chocolate as drinks was seen as part of the fight against alcohol.

Cadbury later moved into the production of a variety of cocoa and drinking chocolates, made in a factory in Bridge Street and sold mainly to the wealthy because of the high cost of production. He became a partner with his brother Benjamin and the company they formed was called 'The Cadbury Brothers of Birmingham.

John Cadbury began a campaign against animal cruelty, forming the Animals Friend Society, a forerunner of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

In 1861 John Cadbury retired and ceded control of operations to his two oldest sons, Richard and George. By 1878 the business had grown to employ 200 workers.

Cadbury's created the first heart-shaped chocolate box. Richard Cadbury, the son of John Cadbury, came up with the idea for St. Valentine’s Day, in 1861.

Such was the success of their cocoa and drinking chocolate drinks that the Cadbury brothers stopped selling tea and coffee thus freeing them to concentrate on their more popular beverages.

It was a rule of Cadbury's that women had to leave work when they got married, and wedding gifts of a bible and a carnation were given to women who left to get married. This was on the insistence of George Cadbury who didn't want to take mothers away from their children, and who believed there were plenty of lazy husbands who would be content to send their wives out to work instead of working themselves.

Cadbury's developed the garden village of Bournville; now a major suburb of Birmingham. It had 313 houses by 1900, all built by chocolate-maker George Cadbury for his workers on 120 acres of land he’d bought in 1893, and all featuring big gardens and modern interiors.

The family developed the Cadbury's factory in Bourneville, and the district around the factory has been 'dry' for over 100 years, with no alcohol being sold in pubs, bars or shops.

In 1905 Cadbury's introduced to the world their Dairy Milk chocolate bar.

Cadbury donated 3,500lb of chocolate to Robert Scott for his ill-fated 1912 expedition to the South Pole.

Cadbury's released the first filled eggs in 1923, but the Creme Eggs we all know today were introduced to stores only in 1963.

Cadbury's was the second largest candy and chocolate company in the world, employing 70,000 people in 50 countries until it was acquired in a hostile takeover by US giant Kraft in 2010. It is now a subsidiary of the "Mondelez International family."

Cadbury once owned a specific shade of purple – defined as Pantone 2685C - and no other company could use the specific color that appeared on Dairy Milk packaging. It wasn’t until Nestle took them to court, lost a four year court battle and then won an appeal, that other companies could use the color freely.

Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was a taster for the Cadbury chocolate company when he was a boy.

A bar of Cadburys Dairy Milk chocolate is sold every two seconds, which is enough each year, to cover every Premier League and Football League pitch five times over.

Every year in the UK, Cadbury sells more than three Creme Eggs for every person who lives there.

Source Food For Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World by Ed Pearce 


1749 out of 1750 species of cacti are native to only The Americas, ranging from Patagonia in the south to parts of western Canada in the north. The only exception is the Rhipsalis baccifera, which also grows in Africa and Sri Lanka. Not a single cactus grows in the Sahara.

The fruit is fleshy and often edible, as in the case of the prickly pear, which was used for a variety of purposes by the Aztecs.

The Indian fig cactus has long been an important source of food. Both the fruit and pads are eaten, the former often under the Spanish name tuna, the latter under the name nopal. The nopal industry in Mexico was said to be worth US$150 million in 2007.

The former UK Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg was given community service as a 16-year-old student in Munich after setting fire to rare cacti owned by Germany’s foremost collector in what he called a ‘drunken prank’.

If you are stranded in a desert, do not open a cactus for water—cactus pulp contains toxic alkaloids that will make a person vomit.

The saguaro cactus blossom is the official state flower of Arizona. The white flower blooms on the tips of the saguaro cactus during May and June.

The saguaro is the largest American cactus.

Cable Car

Andrew Smith Hallidie of San Francisco, California developed the cable car system when he saw a loaded horse-drawn San Francisco streetcar slide backwards on a slippery, wet hill. The heavily weighted car dragged five of the horses to their deaths and the catastrophe prompted Andrew Hallidie and his partners to do something to prevent this from happening again.

Hallidie's Clay Street Hill Railroad, the first successful cable hauled street railway, first operated in San Francisco in August 1873.

Hallidie initially didn't call them cable cars. Originally, one took a trip on ‘the endless wire rope way.’

The San Francisco Municipal Railway, operator of the city's famed cable car system opened its first line in 1912.

The San Francisco cable cars are the only mobile national monuments in the United States .

The world's longest operable cableway is the Forsby-Köping limestone cableway in Sweden at 26 miles.


Sometimes Roman tightrope walkers stretched cables between the tops of two neighboring hills and performed comic dances and pantomimes while crossing.

American businessman and financier Cyrus West Field  and his colleagues completed the first transatlantic telegraph cable in 1858. It crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Valentia Island in Ireland to Heart's Content, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

 U.S. President James Buchanan inaugurated the new transatlantic telegraph cable by exchanging greetings with Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.

In an experiment requiring nothing more complicated than two buckets, a tap and some water, the Irish scientist John Tyndall in 1870 observed that a flow of water could channel sunlight. Fibre optics – tubes of glass or plastic capable of transmitting signals much more efficiently than traditional metal wire – operate under the same principles and were perfected by Charles Kao and George Hockham in 1966.

The first cable across the Pacific Ocean was spliced between Honolulu, Midway, Guam and Manila in 1903.

Ferrets were used to lay the TV cable for use during the broadcast of the festivities of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer's wedding in the Royal parks.

The longest cable in the world is the SEA-ME-WE-3, which runs from Western Europe, through the Middle East and finally to South East Asia and it provides communication to 33 countries. It's 24,200 miles (39,000 km) long.

In German, the word for when cables under the desk tangle and create a mess is "Kabelsalat"—"cable salad."

The O2 Arena in Greenwich is supported by 43 miles of high-strength cable which holds up 100,000 square meters of fabric.

Source The Independent 3/11/07

Cabinet (Politics)

The name cabinet derives from the 17th century, when monarchs wished to rule through a smaller body than the privy council. The chosen group of ministers met with the king in a more intimate room (a cabinet) and so became known as the cabinet council. Gradually this select body grew in power, especially after the Hanoverian kings gave up attending its meetings, a change which in the long term increased cabinet independence.

Francis Bacon was the first to refer to a body of secret advisers as a Cabinet council in 1605. The word cabinet was used to signify a small cabin or small room where they met in private.

George Washington convened the first U.S. Cabinet meeting in 1793 - at his home.

Calvin Coolidge was the first Vice President to attend Cabinet meetings on a regular basis, at the invitation of President Warren G. Harding. Prior to Coolidge, all Vice Presidents had been excluded from Cabinet meetings.

Royal Cabinets in England date back to the 17th century. Parliamentary cabinets arrived in 1916 with Lloyd George’s War Cabinet, which was formed during the First World War.

In 1929 Mrs Margaret Bondfield became Britain’s first woman cabinet minister as Minister of Labour in Ramsay Macdonald’s  Labour government.

Frances Perkins became in 1933 the first woman appointed to hold a U.S. Cabinet post as Secretary of Labor.

Robert Weaver became the first African American in US Presidential Cabinet when Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed him as the first United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Madeleine Albright was sworn in as the first female United States Secretary of State on January 23, 1997, becoming the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government at that time.

Madeleine Albright at World Economic Forum. By World Economic Forum .

The US President's Cabinet is composed of: the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Interior, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Health/Human Services, the Secretary of Housing/Urban Development, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Secretary of Education.

Sources Daily ExpressHistory World 

Cabinet (Furniture)

The Russian Czar Peter The Great was a keen craftsman and cabinet maker.

When Pablo Picasso commissioned a local cabinet maker to build a wardrobe for him he drew a sketch with the design and dimensions and gave it to the craftsman. "How much will it cost?" he asked "nothing at all just sign the sketch." replied the cabinet maker.

Harrison Ford worked as a carpenter in Los Angeles before achieving fame as an actor, mainly doing home remodelling work. Had a reputation as one of the best cabinetmakers in the city, and his services were much in demand on Los Angeles' trendy Westside long before he became a movie star.


The first log cabins built in North America were in the Swedish colony of Nya Sverige (New Sweden) in the Delaware River and Brandywine River valleys in 1638.

Abraham Lincoln was born in a one roomed log cabin, 16ft long & 18ft wide.

A house at 184 38th Street in Pittsburgh is the oldest known log house that continued to be used a residence in any major American city. It dates to the 1820s.


Traditionally, wild cabbage was used as an aphrodisiac.

The Chinese philosopher Confucius was brought up in poverty and lived on a diet of rice and cabbage.

The Ancient Greeks cultivated a headless cabbage, which had loose, narrow leaves, a thin stem, and whitish-yellow flowers. They ascribed its origin to Zeus who worked himself into a sweat trying to explain two conflicting prophecies. From this sweat sprang cabbage.

Roman emperor Diocletian retired in 305 AD to grow cabbages and tend to his vegetable gardens.

Jacques Cartier first brought cabbage to the Americas in 1541–42, and it was probably planted by the early English colonists, despite the lack of written evidence of its existence there until the mid-17th century.

To prevent scurvy when The Resolution became the first ship to sail into the Antarctic Ocean. Captain Cook placed on the deck a large barrel containing sauerkraut (cabbage reserved in brine, an unpopular food due to its German origins). To encourage his men to eat it he placed a notice on the barrel "FOR USE OF THE CAPTAIN AND OFFICER'S ONLY." It worked, no one caught scurvy and each night the levels of sauerkraut slowly decreased.

Babe Ruth wore a cabbage leaf under his hat while playing baseball, and he used to change it every two innings.

Cabbage heads generally range from 1 to 8 lbs and can be green, purple and white.

In 2012, Scott Robb of Palmer, Alaska, broke the world record for the heaviest cabbage at 62.71 kilograms (138.25 lb).

There are 26,253 words  in the European Community's rules on the sale of cabbages.

Cabbages are prepared in many different ways for eating. They can be pickled for dishes such as sauerkraut, steamed, stewed, sautéed, braised, or eaten raw.

Bubble and squeak is a traditional dish of cooked cabbage fried with potatoes and meat. Its name comes from the fact that the cold meat and fried greens were first boiled and so hissed or squeaked in the frying pan.

The spicy fermented pickled cabbage kimchi is very popular in South Korea.

Cabbage is a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C and fiber.

If you chew a cabbage leaf properly, you'll lose more energy than you'll gain from actually eating it.

Cabbage is 91% water.

Sources, Food For Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World by Ed Pearce, Wikipedia


Cabaret is a form of entertainment featuring variety turns. The audience usually sits at tables, often dining or drinking and the entertainment is often oriented towards adult audiences.

The first cabaret was opened in Montmartre, Paris on November 18, 1881 by the painter Rudolphe Salis. His Montmartre premises housed not only Friday night poetry readings but also elaborate shadow plays, scripted, designed and musically accompanied by leading artists.

Salis called his entertainment a cabaret because the songs and sketches were set forth like courses on a menu. Its name derives from the French 'cambret' meaning tavern.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky's quick waltz in the middle of the second movement of his Piano Concerto in B Flat was borrowed from the French cabaret song "Il faut s'amuser, danser et rire." ("One must have fun, dance and laugh").

The Moulin Rouge, which means Red Mill in French, opened in Paris on October 6, 1889. The cabaret venue is known as the birthplace of the modern form of the can-can.

Poster by Jules Chéret, 1890
In Germany, the first true cabaret was the Bunte Bühne (Motley Stage), created by Baron Ernst von Wolzogen and Otto Julius Bierbaum in 1901 to offer a superior form of variety show. The same year saw the founding of Berlin's Schall und Rauch (Noise and Smoke) by the young Max Reinhardt and actors of the Deutsches Theater.

Cabaret entertainment was imported to America from France by Jesse Louis Lasky in 1911.

Berlin became a centre for an increasingly political cabaret in the 1920s. Marlene Dietrich and Margo Lion's 1928 song "Wenn die beste Freundin" marked the biggest period of cabaret's popularity, and was an important and early song to deal with lesbianism. The entertainment was later suppressed by the Nazis.

The term karaoke means "empty orchestra" in Japanese, and the karaoke machine was designed originally to provide backing tracks for solo cabaret performers.


The cab was first built in Italy, in the late eighteenth century. Originally it was a horse-drawn two-wheeled vehicle, light in weight and well sprung. With roads still uneven and rough, it enabled passengers to have a comparatively smooth ride, no longer being jolted about by so many bumps.

The inventors of the cab compared their novel vehicle's smooth run with the capering of a young goat. In fact, they called their carriage after it - capri-ola. (Caper in Latin is a goat.)

In a study that was done by the University of Chicago in 1907, it was concluded that the easiest color to spot is yellow. This is why John Hertz, who is the founder of the Yellow Cab Company picked cabs to be yellow.

The cab driver in the opening credits of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is Quincy Jones.

The Alaskan town of Bethel is the city with the most cabs per capita in the U.S., with 70 total taxi drivers—one for every 85 people.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, it is illegal for cab drivers to reach out and pull potential customers into their cabs.

In Ohio it is illegal to ride on the roof of a taxi cab.

Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire (395–1453) was the direct continuation of the Roman Empire in the East, and inherited many of its traditions and institutions.

When the Roman Empire was divided in the 4th century AD, Byzantium, later named Constantinople and known today as Istanbul, became the capital of the eastern part.

Christianity had an effect on Byzantine dress. In keeping with the puritanical teachings of the Orthodox Church, the men and women of Byzantium concealed their bodies entirely. Both sexes wore long, straight, sleeved tunics made of silk or linen and bound at the waist with a belt that was often heavily encrusted with jewels.  The silk and gold threads that were used in Byzantine garments made them look very different from those of Greece and Rome.

The greatest of the public buildings in Constantinople was the Hippodrome, an arena that could seat over 40,000 people. Byzantines gathered there to sit under silk awnings and watch chariot races, jugglers, circus acts, and fights between wild animals

The earliest known record of a carousel device is a Byzantine etching from 500 AD which portrays riders swinging in baskets tied to a center pole.

Chariot racing was a popular sport in the Byzantine Empire. In Constantinople the chariot drivers were divided between two teams, the blues and the greens. Their supporters clashed over not only sport but also political matters. In 521 a political demonstration and disturbances between Blues and Greens almost brought the overthrow of the Byzantine emperor Justinian.

In 674 a Muslim fleet attacking Constantinople was deterred by the first known use of the Byzantine secret recipe for liquid fire.

In 730 Emperor Leo III forbade the use of images in worship, except the cross, by Imperial decree. It was feared that the growing power of the Arabs, which was threatening the Byzantine empire, was due to the Byzantine sin of icon worship.

The Byzantine Empire decisively defeated an invading Arab army in the Battle of Lalakaon in Paphlagonia (modern northern Turkey) on September 3, 863. This meant that the main threats to the Byzantine borderlands were eliminated. The victory begun the era of Byzantine ascendancy, which would culminate in the great conquests of the 10th century.

The Battle of Lalakaon, as depicted in the Madrid Skylitzes

The Byzantine Empire maintained an increasingly precarious existence and on May 29, 1453 it was finally overthrown when the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople. The conquest of Constantinople followed a siege that had begun 53 days earlier. The end of the Byzantine Empire marks, for some historians, the end of the Middle Ages.

The last siege of Constantinople, contemporary 15th century French miniature

Lord Byron

Lord Byron (1788-1824) (birth name George Gordon) was the 6th Baron Byron. He was addressed as The Right Honourable Lord Byron by strangers and as Byron (the title, not the name) by friends. No one ever called him George after he became Byron, not even his mother.

Lord Byron was born on January 22, 1788 in a house on 24 Holles Street in London.

His father, Captain John "Mad Jack" Byron died when he was three, having spent all his inherited fortune. Byron was bought up by his mother, Catherine Gordon of Gight, an impetuous, volatile Scot and a Calvinist nurse in Aberdeen. A harsh and dependent parent, Catherine was just the wrong sort of person to raise a sensitive child, clinging to him one moment, and the next denouncing Byron as a "lame brat,” because of a club foot.

Byron was pronounced limp due to both his achilles tendons being deformed and a wrongly shaped right foot which he tried to disguise. He was forced to undergo painful and unsuccessful medical treatments throughout his childhood. Always deeply sensitive about his deformity, he finally received adequate medical care in his teens which corrected the problem.

His over-protective mother kept George separated from his peers and his elder half-sister, Augusta.

He claimed to have read more than 4,000 novels before the age of 15.

Byron was educated at a local strict Calvinist Aberdeen Grammar school between 1794 to 1798. Then Dr. Glennie’s School, Dulwich and Harrow. At Harrow, he was popular and outgoing, though by his own admission he did very little schoolwork.

Byron went on to Trinity College, Cambridge University in 1805 where he read much literature but cared little for their subjects. A strange and bellicose student. He left, without a degree and deeply in debt, in 1807 to pursue an extravagant lifestyle in London.

In 1798 Byron inherited a half ruined estate, Newstead Abbey, worth £140,000 and a moderate income from his Great Uncle.

Byron became the 6th Baron Byron of Rochdale upon the death of his great-uncle on 21 May 1798, and inherited Newstead Abbey, the family's ancestral home given to John Byron by Henry VIII in 1540. The half ruined estate,was worth £140,000.

Extravagant by nature, by 1809 he had accumulated debts of £13,000. Byron sold Newstead Abbey to schoolboy friend Thomas Wildman in 1818 for £94,500 to pay his debts.

Byron was 5' 8½" (1.74 m) tall with large grey eyes, a full mouth, a string, Clark Gable mustache and wavy chestnut hair. y the early 1820s he had grown unfashionably long hair. In his younger years he was somewhat porky. at the age of 18 he weighed 14 1/2 stone. Years of dieting reduced him to 9 3/4 stone.

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, by Richard Westall 

Byron was a dandy who wore cravats tied in a loose, floppy bow. Young men copied his fashion style of wearing an open collar and flowing cravat.

Flakes of his sunburnt skin can be found at the Biblioteca Classense in Ravenna, Italy.

Byron was "mad, bad and dangerous to know" according to his mistress  Lady Caroline Lamb. He obtained a reputation as being unconventional, eccentric, flamboyant and controversial. His life was ruled by his passions, at times Byron was lively and generous other times morose and self pitying.

Byron was tight fisted, and his servant Fletcher complained that his master was “so very economical, it was quite disagreeable.”

Byron was hugely intelligent. On his death, his brain weighed 82oz (average weight 49oz)

He was renowned for his acerbic sense of humour. On one occasion, Byron gave his publisher John Murray a handsome Bible as a gift and he left it on his table where his guests might see it. One day a visitor remarked that at John 18 v 40 in the sentence "Now Barabbas was a robber", the poet had deleted the word "robber" and substituted "publisher". Byron's present was removed from the table.

At the age of 14 he fell in love with a neighbour, Mary Chaworth, and wrote love poetry to her, calling her his “morning star”. Byron was heartbroken, however, when he overheard Mary callously call him "that little lame boy" while talking to a friend.

His affair with his voluptuous half sister Augusta Leigh, whom he got to know only when they were both adults, horrified the nation and the resulting criticism was motivation for Byron to modify his reputation and marry the amiable, religious, serious, literal minded mathematician Annabella Milbanke.

Byron married Annabella on January 2, 1815 in the drawing room of her father's home at Seaham Hall, Durham. Byron wrote "I got a wife and a cold on the same day, but have got rid of the last pretty speedily. I have got great hopes this match will turn out well."

Portrait of Annabella Byron (nee Anne Isabella Milbanke) (1792-1860)

The marriage ended after a year, Annabella leaving him after the birth of their daughter, probably because of suspicions of his sexual relationship with his half-sister, Augusta, to whom he was deeply attached.

Byron's 1816 poem The Dream described his long love for Mary Chaworth and the disaster of his marriage to Annabella Milbanke.

Byron never met their daughter Ada Augusta (1815-51). Her mother left him when Ada was a month old.

In 1833, Ada met Charles Babbage, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge and inventor of the Difference Engine, a calculating machine. During a nine-month period in 1842-1843, she translated for him Italian mathematician Louis Menebrea's memoir on Babbage's newest proposed machine, the Analytical Engine. With the article, she appended a set of notes which specified in complete detail a method for calculating Bernoulli numbers with the Engine, recognised by historians as the world's first computer program. On 10 December 1980, the U.S. Defence Department approved the reference manual for their new computer programming language, Ada.

Byron had an affair with the future PM Lord Melbourne's wife, the petite, blonde, emotional, wild, eccentric, Lady Caroline Lamb. It nearly broke Melbourne.

Countess Teresa Guiccioli (1801-73), the young wife of an elderly Italian count was introduced to Byron shortly after her marriage to elderly Count Guiccioli. She accompanied him on his later travels through Italy and Greece and was his mistress until his death. Teresa was a short, red-blonde blue eyed, curvaceous.

Byron had a little girl, Alba, by Clare Clairmont, the half sister of Mary Shelley. She died aged 5 of typhus and the death of Alba and of the poet Shelley plunged him into grief and despondency.

After an early collection of poems was badly reviewed, Byron toured Spain, Portugal, Asia Minor, Malta Albania and Greece. His travels were the genesis for his Childe Harold poem.

Overnight fame came to Byron with the first two cantos of Childe Harold (1812) about a pilgrim who roams about the world to escape from himself. After its publication Byron's entry in his memoranda was "I awoke one morning and found myself famous."

Lord Byron wrote his semi-autobiographical tale in verse The Corsair while snowed up at Newstead Abbey in England with Augusta Leigh. It was published on February 1, 1814 by John Murray.  It sold 10,000 copies on its first day and over 25,000 copies in the next month.

Byron didn't necessarily enjoy writing. He once said, "One of the pleasures of reading old letters is the knowledge that they need no answer".

He habitually used a rhyming dictionary. His seemingly effortless verses did not reflect the hard work in finding the right word to rhyme.

In 1819 Byron published the first part of his epic satire, Don Juan, about the amorous adventurer. Critics felt it was morally deprived though the public are lapped it up. Blackwood’s magazine denounced Don Juan as “a filthy and impious poem”.

Byron wrote a racy memoir, but his rival executors Hobhouse and Thomas Moore consigned them to flames three days after news of his death reached England.

Byron found it repulsive to watch women eat. He was put off a growing romance with a visiting Italian opera singer called “La Pulcella,” by watching her devour enormous dinners. Night after night he saw her fill her mouth with chicken wings, custards, peaches and sweetbreads.

Inclined to put on weight, fearful of getting fat, for days on end all Byron ate was biscuits and soda water, chewing tobacco to keep his mind off hunger occasionally treating himself to a mixture of fish, greens, potatoes or rice drowned in vinegar. He took vinegar to lessen his appetite and he refused most dinner invitations.

Lord Byron by Henry Pierce Bone

Byron owned a beloved Newfoundland dog called Boatswain. Sometimes when his female admirers requested a lock of his hair he sent one from his dog.

He wrote an epitaph of Boatswain, which read "Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity and all the virtues of men without their vices."

When at Cambridge students were banned pets, such as cats and dogs. So Byron got himself a bear as it wasn't mentioned on the banned list.

Boatswain lies buried at Newstead Abbey and has a monument larger than his master's. The epitaph he wrote for his dog, reads " Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity and all the virtues of men without their vices."

Byron had a great fondness for animals, and amongst his pets when he lived at Palazzo Mocegugo, Venice were a fox, at least two monkeys, a parrot, several cats, an eagle, a crow, a falcon, peacocks, guinea hens, an Egyptian crane, a badger, geese, a heron and a sickly cow.

Lord Byron would buy geese to fatten for Christmas but would become so attached to them he couldn’t kill them. He ended up with four pet geese.

After moving to Venice, Byron rented a flat at 1673 Calledella Piscira, near St Marks Square, Venice then after a year moved to Mocenigo Palazzo, on the SW curve of the Grand Canal.

He lived the last part of his life, from 1823, Missolonghi, a northern Greek town.

Byron was a keen swimmer, and and was prouder of his swimming than his poetry. He swam across the Hellespont, the stretch of water linking the Aegean with the Black Sea on May 3, 1810. He did it in imitation of Leander, who in Greek mythology crossed it each night to visit Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite. Nine years later, Byron boasted of his feat in his poem Don Juan.

After visiting one of his ladies at a Palazzo in Venice Byron departed and threw himself fully clothed into the Grand Canal and swam the canal. The next night he did the same thing but to avoid being wounded by the oars of a gondolier he swam with his right hand and held a torch in his left hand to give himself light.

A useful boxer, Byron once sparred with John "Gentleman" Jackson, the former bare knuckled champion in the boxer's Bond Street gym. He was a pupil at the boxing school there. Byron boxed in a dressing gown.

He played for Harrow in the first Eton v Harrow cricket match in 1805.

Lord Byron took his seat in the House Of Lords on March 13, 1809. He made little use of his seat but did speak on behalf of stocking weavers in his home county of Nottinghamshire on February 27, 1812.

House of Lords 1809

Byron's scandalous lifestyle was much condemned, he was notorious as an enemy of conventional morality and religion. He had a great contempt for the establishment including the Church of England.

The scandalous break up of marriage and his ensuing exploits invoked a public outcry. As a result of the public abuse and hounded by creditors, he fled out of England and wondered over Europe spending time with Percy Shelley which included that famous night in Switzerland of spooky tales that gave birth to Frankenstein.

Before he sailed Byron wrote farewell letters to friends on notepaper pillaged from Napoleon’s imperial bureau at Malmaison stamped with the Napoleonic eagle.

Byron dabbled in Italian revolutionary politics- he was a member of the Italian Carbonari, a political secret society.

He intended to serve the cause of Greek independence but died there before he could achieve much. After being nominated to the committee for Greek Independence in 1823 he joined the Greek combatants, who had risen against the Turks and landed at Missolonghi where he welcomed with regal honors.

Lord Byron in Albanian dress painted by Thomas Phillips in 1813.

He defaced the beautiful marble of the temple at Sunion in Greece by carving his name. It can still be seen today.

Byron was an epileptic. Three months before his death, Byron collapsed in agony with a major epileptic fit, clutching his stomach. He treated himself with huge quantities of cider with brandy chasers.

Byron died in the evening of April 19, 1824 after days of rheumatic fever caught from Missolonghi marshes. He passed away from a loss of blood due to Greek doctors attempting to cure his fits by leeches.

The citizens of Missolonghi observed a mourning period of 21 days. His body was embalmed and his heart buried under a tree in Messolonghi. His remains were sent to England and were buried in the Parish Church of Hucknall Torkard, near Nottingham.

Lord Byron on His Deathbed, by Joseph Denis Odevaere (c. 1826). 

The sight of Byron’s coffin being rowed up the Thames prompted grief on a huge scale with hysterical women hurling themselves at his corpse when it was put on public view.

Lady Caroline Lamb's accidental meeting with Byron's funeral procession helped provoke the disintegration of her mind .

In later years, the Abbey allowed a duplicate of a marble slab given by the King of Greece, which is laid directly above Byron's grave. In 1969, 145 years after Byron's death, a memorial to him was finally placed in Westminster Abbey.

In Guayaquil Ecuador, there is a statue in honor of the Ecuadorian poet, Jose Olemedo. It is really a statue of Lord Byron purchased because it would have cost too much to commission a statue of the poet himself.

Arguably Byron was Britain's first celebrity, who was famous for being famous.

Sources The Frank Muir Book, The Book of Lists. Independent Magazine 8/10/94, Oxford Book of English Literature, Microsoft® Encarta® 99 Encyclopedia.