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Friday, 30 January 2015


Fibonacci was the name given to medieval Italian mathematician Leonardo Bonacci also known as Leonardo of Pisa, who was born in 1175 and died around 1250.

The name came from a misreading of "filius Bonacci" (son of Bonaccio) on a manuscript.

19th century statue of Fibonacci in Camposanto, Pisa. By Hans-Peter Postel 

The Fibonacci sequence, begins 1,1,2,3,5,8 with each number equal to the sum of the previous two.

Fibonacci introduced the Fibonacci sequence in a discussion of a problem about breeding rabbits.

Fibonacci numbers play a part in describing many natural processes, particularly in the field of botany.

The number of petals on a daisy is always a Fibonacci number, with 21, 34 or 55 most common.

If you trace back the family tree of a drone bee, the number of parents in each generation follows the Fibonacci sequence.

A game for two called Fibonacci, played on a hexagonal board, was invented by Thomas Naylor in 1990.

The last year that was a Fibonacci number was 1597. The next one will be 2584.

Now best known for his sequence, Fibonacci's real claim to fame is the major part he played in introducing the numbers we now use to replace Roman numerals. He did so in his Liber Abaci (Book Of Calculation) in 1202.

A page of Fibonacci's Liber Abaci from the Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze

Source Daily Express

Thursday, 29 January 2015


Giovanni Agnelli (1866 -1945) was born in Piedmont, North Italy on August 13, 1866. He studied at a military academy, and became a cavalry officer. In 1899 he co-founded Fiat (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino).Within a year he was the company's managing director. Agnelli was still active with Fiat at the start of the Second World War, and died soon after it ended in 1945 at the age of 79.

Giovanni Agnelli

The first Fiat plant opened in 1900 with 35 staff making 24 cars.

In 1906 the first Fiat car dealer in US was established, in Manhattan, New York.

Fiat's Lingotto factory was completed in 1923. Unlike any other automobile factory to date, it was designed so that each car would progress upwards story by story as it was assembled until it was finalized at the top, where it would be tested on a rooftop test track.

The practical and affordable Fiat 500 was launched in 1957. Measuring only three metres long, and originally powered by an appropriately sized 479 cc two-cylinder, air-cooled engine, it is considered one of the first city cars (see below). Production didn't end till 1975.

The Fiat 127 was the first modern supermini. Introduced in 1971 as the replacement for the Fiat 850, iIt could do 0-60 mph in a then-impressive 15 seconds, and over 12 years more than four million rolled off the production line. Production of the 127 in Italy ended in 1983 following the introduction of its replacement, the Fiat Uno.

Source The Independent March 3 2008

Wednesday, 28 January 2015


During the Crusades Muslims living west of the Nile were unable to make pilgrimages to Mecca so instead they made trips to the Moroccan city of Fez,  which was a notable center of Islam.. At that time a scarlet cylindrical tasselled cap was part of the uniform of one of the great schools there. Pilgrims who often wore similar headgear brought home what became known as the fez.

The conspicuous tassle attached to the top of this brimless headcover, now apparently solely decorative, had a religious significance. It symbolized the lock of hair by which, according to tradition, Allah would pull the faithful into paradise.

In 1826 Sultan Mahmud II of the Ottoman Empire made the fez part of the official dress. Three years later the Sultan ordered his civil officials to wear the plain fez, and also banned the wearing of turbans.The intention was to coerce the populace at large to update to the fez, and the plan was successful..

The 1908 Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina resulted in a boycott of Austrian goods, which became known as the "Fez Boycott" due to the near monopoly the Austrians then held on production of the hat. Although the hat survived, the year-long boycott brought the end of its universality in the Ottoman Empire as other styles became socially acceptable.

The wearing of a fez was banned in Turkey’s modernisation reforms in 1925. It is still illegal to wear one in governmental areas.

Sources  Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999, Daily Mail, Wikipedia

Sunday, 25 January 2015


In agrarian times, pigeon poop was often was used as a dowry because it served as good fertilizer.

Before oil was discovered in Texas, the state’s richest export was bat droppings which were used as fertilizer.

An estimated 300,000 mummified cats were found at Beni Hassan, Egypt in the late 19th century. They were sold at $18.43 per ton, and shipped to England to be ground up and used for fertilizer.

Run off from fertilizers is creating vast “dead zones” in the ocean which have no fish, a 2004 UN report warned . Five areas off Britain are among nearly 150 globally which have been starved of oxygen because of pollution from nitrogen-based fertilisers. The number of dead zones doubled between 1990 and the year of the report.

The use of commercial fertilizers has increased steadily in the last 50 years, rising almost 20-fold to the current rate of 100 million tonnes of nitrogen per year.

Source Daily Mail


The profession of the ferryman is embodied in Greek mythology in Charon, the boatman who transported souls across the River Styx to the Underworld.

In mid 16th century central and northern Europe, the persecution of Anabaptist Christians was so prevalent that they were forced to find devious ways to practice their faith. For instance Peter Peters of Amsterdam, a ferry boatman, loaded up his boat with Anabaptists and whilst pretending to ferry his company across the river, they would hold a Bible study.

Inventor John Stevens' boat, the Juliana, begun operation on October 11, 1811 as the first steam-powered ferry. It ran between New York City and Hoboken, New Jersey.

Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794 – 1877) dropped out of school at 11 and began working on his father's ferry in New York Harbor. He started his own New York Harbor ferry service at just 16 ferrying freight and passengers between Staten Island and Manhattan. From a $100 loan from his mother, the tycoon was able to grow a steamboat and shipping empire so large it left him money to earn an even bigger fortune in railroads.

Bridge designer John Augustus Roebling died of a tetanus infection in 1869 after having his leg crushed by a ferryboat while working on the Brooklyn Bridge.

There had been a ferry service operating in Woolwich across the River Thames in East London since the 14th century, and commercial crossings operated intermittently until the mid-19th century. The free service opened on March 23, 1889 with the paddle steamer Gordon, following the abolition of tolls across bridges to the west of London.

Woolwich Ferry departing north terminal. Assumed by Alistair1978 Wikipedia Commons

History's worst peacetime sea disaster happened in 1987, when the passenger ferry Doña Paz sunk after colliding with the oil tanker Vector 1 in the Tablas Strait in the Philippines, killing an estimated 4,000 people.

The busiest single ferry route is across the northern part of Øresund, between Helsingborg, Scania, Sweden and Elsinore, Denmark. A car ferry departs from each harbor every 15 minutes during daytime.


Their name comes from the Latin furittus meaning ‘little thief’- a likely reference to their habit of hiding small items.

Ferret-like animals on leashes are pictured on the walls of Egyptian tombs

In Leonardo da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine, painted around 1489, the subject is said to have a ferret on her arm.

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.

When ferrets get excited, they frantically duck, twist and tumble in a ‘weasel war dance.’

Ferrets are born with white fur and can fit in a teaspoon.

A female ferret will die if it goes into heat and cannot find a mate.

A female can have 160 babies, with two litters of about nine babies each year.

Males are called hobs, females are jills.

They sleep up to 20 hours a day.

Ferrets can sleep so soundly that they cannot be woken up even when picked up and jostled.

You can teach your ferret to blow his nose into a cloth handkerchief. That actually comes quite naturally.

Ferrets usually live to be 6 or 7 years old.

Source Daily Mail 


Enzo Ferrari was not initially interested in the idea of producing road cars when he formed Scuderia Ferrari in 1928 as a sponsor for amateur drivers headquartered in Modena. He prepared, and successfully raced, various drivers in Alfa Romeo cars until 1938, when he was hired by Alfa Romeo to head their motor racing department.

The company moved into production of street-legal vehicles as Ferrari S.p.A. in 1947.

The rampant horse logo of the Ferrari automobile company was the emblem of Italian air ace Francesco Baracca, who had 35 kills and died in the closing months of World War I. When Baracca’s mother met Enzo Ferrari many years later, she suggested he use her son’s personal emblem on his cars for good luck.

Enzo Ferrari wore the same black tinted glasses every day for the rest of his life in honor of his son who died of muscular dystrophy.

The Ferrari 288 GTO, one of the most iconic cars of the Eighties, had a top speed of 179mph — but only 272 were produced and sell today for around $2,9 million (£2 million) each.

The fastest street Ferrari is the F50 GT1, which can go over 370 kph (about 222 mph).

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

Ferrari engines are musically engineered to sound perfect by utilizing third and sixth harmonics on the air intake, like a flute or organ.

Because of Ferrari’s attention to detail, it only produces a maximum of 14 cars per day.

45 percent of all Ferraris sold are red.

Source Wikipedia


The benefits of eating fennel have been rumoured for many years, and it was introduced to Britain by the Romans, whose warriors are said to have eaten it to make them strong.

It is a strong antioxidant, with animal studies showing its anethole molecules reduce inflammation and help to prevent cancer.

In India the seeds are used as breath freshners.

Fennel has been used in gripe water to settle babies' tummies, as a syrup to ease coughs, and in a tea to ease wind.

In Latin America it has been used for centuries to induce milk production in mothers.

Flies are thought to be allergic to fennel. In powdered form it is sometimes used to keep flies away from horses.


An Egyptian relief from the time of Pharaoh Rameses III (1190 BC) depicts a practice fencing match. The carving, excavated in a temple near Luxor, shows the points of the swords covered. The fencers wear masks and are watched by a group of spectators, while judges supervise the fight.

Spaniards made fencing a highly scientific pursuit. Gonzalo de Cordoba (d. 1515), known as "the Great Captain," is credited with having invented the hand guard. His sword is still displayed in a Madrid museum.

Henry VIII, himself an enthusiastic fencer in his younger days, by a Letter Patent of 1540 incorporated professors of fencing in his realm to teach the noble science of defense. The professor enjoyed this right as a privilege and a monopoly. Scholars graduated to become Provosts of Defense.

In 1602 the six-year-old Rene Descartes wrote a treatise on fencing. It was his first book.

In 19th-century Germany, fencing was a serious part of academic life, and dueling scars, usually inflicted on the left hand side of the face, were a badge of honor. The practice was eventually outlawed, but it never really died out.

When he was a pupil at Harrow, Winston Churchill became the school's fencing champion.

To prepare for his role in the film The Mask of Zorro, Antonio Banderas practiced with the Olympic fencing team in Spain for four months.

The three swords that are used in fencing have evolved from different weapons of combat. The foil developed from the light French court sword and was also the practice weapon of the 17th century. The epee evolved from the 16th-century rapier used by the French musketeers. The saber derives from the slashing cavalry sword of the 18th-century Hungarian hussars.

In fencing each weapon requires slight variations of style, technique, and rules. The epee has been scored with an electrical apparatus since 1937; the foil, since 1957. The saber is still judged by jury.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was the captain of his high-school fencing team.

Sources Europress Encyclopedia, Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc


Christine de Pizan (1364-1430), wrote the first feminist tome, The Book of the City of Ladies, in which she compiled the great women who came before her, from Dido to the Queen of Sheba.

Illustration from The Book of the City of Ladies

The two-day Seneca Falls Convention, the first women's rights and feminist convention held in the United States, opened in Seneca Falls, New York on July 19, 1848. It advertised itself as "a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman."

U.S. postage stamp commemorating the Seneca Falls Convention 

La Fronde (The Sling) was a French feminist newspaper first published in Paris on December 9, 1897 by activist Marguerite Durand. The paper gave extensive coverage to a broad range of feminist issues and profiled such things as admission to the Bar association and the École des Beaux-Arts. Financial problems forced the paper to cut back to a monthly publication, and then to close altogether in March 1905.

The term feminism was first used in Great Britain in the 1890s, and the United States in 1910. It comes from the French word "feminism," coined by the Utopian socialist Charles Fourier, in 1837.

Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique was first published on February 19, 1963. The book reawakened the Feminist Movement in the United States as women's organizations and consciousness raising groups spread.

By Source, Fair use,

The National Organization for Women, the United States' largest feminist organization, was founded in Washington D.C. on June 30, 1966. It was started by 28 people attending the Third National Conference of State Commissions on the Status of Women, the successor to the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.

In the fall of 1968, a group of young feminists in New York created W.I.T.C.H.—the Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell.

The Women’s Strike for Equality was a strike which took place in the United States on August 26, 1970. It celebrated the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment, which effectively gave American women the right to vote. More than 20,000 women participated in the strike, organized by Betty Friedan to demand equal rights gathered for the protest in New York City and throughout the country. At this time, the gathering was the largest on behalf of women in the United States.

In October 1970, Germaine Greer published The Female Eunuch. The thesis of the book was that the progress made by first wave feminists such as suffragettes had plateaued. A woman's life has become even more 'immobile', and the home even more of a prison than before. 

Roger Federer

Roger Federer was born at the Basel Cantonal Hospital in Basel, Switzerland on August 8, 1981.

His father, Robert Federer, is Swiss and his mother, Lynette Federer (born Durand), is a South African whose ancestors were Dutch and French Huguenots. Roger Federer holds both Swiss and South African citizenship.

Federer peaks Swiss German, Standard German, English and French fluently, Swiss German is his native language.

Federer was raised as a Roman Catholic and met Pope Benedict XVI while playing the 2006 Internazionali BNL d'Italia tournament in Rome.

Like all male Swiss citizens, Federer was subject to compulsory military service in the Swiss Armed Forces. However, in 2003 he was deemed unfit because of a long-standing back problem and was subsequently not required to fulfill his military obligation.

Federer met former Women's Tennis Association player Mirka Vavrinec when both were competing for Switzerland in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. They were married at Wenkenhof Villa in Riehen near Basel on April 11, 2009.

On 23 July 2009, Mirka gave birth to identical twin girls, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva. On May 6, 2014. the Federers had another set of twins, this time boys whom they named Leo and Lennart, called Lenny.

After winning his first-ever Wimbledon title, Federer was gifted a milking cow, which he named ‘Juliette’.

By Sirquine - Own work, CC BY 3.0, $3

Federer became the #1 ranked men's singles player on February 2, 2004, a position he would hold for a record 237 weeks.

In 2009 Federer won a record 15th Grand Slam title in tennis, when he beat Andy Roddick at Wimbledon.

Federer won a record Wimbledon title and 19th Grand Slam a few weeks before his 36th birthday on July 16, 2017.



When a Roman aristocrat had eaten his fill at a banquet, he would get a slave to dangle a feather down his throat so that he could be sick and make room for more food.

Edward the Black Prince was awarded the crest of John having distinguished himself at the Battle of Crécy.  His crest shows three ostrich feathers and has been carried by every Prince of Wales since. From this comes the phrase "A feather in ones cap".

In 1495 The English Parliament passed a statute regulating the content of bed stuffing, requiring that it be good, clean feathers, not dirty old horse hair.

In 1507, John Damian, court alchemist to James IV of Scotland, built himself a pair of wings and tried to fly from the ramparts of Stirling Castle. He hit the ground and broke his leg, blaming it on his use of feathers from fowl unused to flying.

Swans provided the best feathers for quill pens, although geese were more commonly used.

Research has found that Native American tribes rarely ate turkeys—they raised the large birds for their coveted feathers.

From the early 17th to early 19th centuries, golf was played with a ‘featherie’ ball- a hand-sewn cowhide bag stuffed with goose feathers and painted.  Tightly-packed feathers made balls that flew the farthest.

The song “Yankee Doodle” was invented by the British to insult American colonists. The section where Doodle puts a feather in his cap and calls it macaroni is slap at the ragged bands of American troops.


All birds have feathers: every creature with feathers is a bird.

Typical garden birds have about 3,000 feathers

Swans have the most feathers of all birds, with the Arctic-breeding tundra variety kept warm by more than 25,000.

A duck feather weighs approximately .016 to .063 grams.

If a bald eagle loses a feather on one wing, it'll shed a corresponding feather on the other to stay balanced.

Thanks to their feathered legs and toes and feathered nostrils, grouse are among the few animals that can survive in Arctic regions.

The barn owl’s secret weapon is its exceptional hearing, which enables it to locate its prey in pitch darkness. Its face feathers create a disc, which traps and focuses sound.

Not only do barn owls' feathers allow completely silent flight, they are also super soft to touch. But unlike ducks, they're not waterproof. The drawback of soft, poofy feathers? Barn owls can't fly, let alone hunt, in the rain.

The tail feathers of birds-of-paradise  are so black that they absorb 99.95% of all light, just .01% less than the blackest human-made nanomaterial, and help make brightly-colored patches stand out more during mating dances.

Peahens choose the male peacock with the biggest and most spectacular feathers. He usually has a harem of several hens.

Newborn penguins do not have waterproof feathers so must wait before going in the water.

Penguins have the highest feather density of any bird, at about 100 feathers per square inch. They are needed to keep them warm.

The tuxedo pattern of a penguin's feathers is a form of camouflage. From above, their dark body blends into the ocean water, from below their white stomachs match the bright sun-lit surface.


Pteronophobia is the fear of being tickled by feathers.

A 'white feather' meaning a display of cowardice comes from cockfighting and the belief that a cockerel sporting a white feather in its tail is likely to be a poor fighter. Pure-breed gamecocks do not show white feathers, so its presence indicates that the cockerel is an inferior cross-breed with a lack of courage.

It is illegal to collect or possess eagle feathers in the United States, and only enrolled members of a federally recognized Native American tribe may legally possess them.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is an agency of the United States Government. It serves as both a federal criminal investigative organization and an internal intelligence agency.

The bureau was established on July 26, 1908 as the Bureau of Investigation (BOI). Its name was changed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1935.

The BOI was founded by Charles Joseph Bonaparte, a grandnephew of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who was the US Attorney General at the time.

The bureau's first official task was visiting and making surveys of the houses of prostitution in preparation for enforcing the White Slave Traffic Act, passed on June 25, 1910.

The first five black FBI agents were recruited in 1919 to investigate Marcus Garvey's organization in order to find some grounds for deporting Garvey, who was a citizen of Jamaica, from the U.S. A charge of mail fraud was brought against Garvey in connection with stock sales of the Black Star Line after the U.S. Post Office and the Attorney General joined the investigation.

J. Edgar Hoover was the Director of the Bureau from 1924 until his death in 1972.

As gangster Machine Gun Kelly surrendered to the FBI on September 26, 1933, he shouted out, "Don’t shoot, G-Men!", which became a nickname for FBI agents.

The FBI headquarters is the J. Edgar Hoover Building, located in Washington, D.C. They have 56 main offices in cities throughout the United States.

The FBI began its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List in 1950 as a way to get the public's help in finding the nation's most dangerous criminals.

Ruth Eisemann-Schier became the first woman to be placed on the FBI's Most Wanted List in 1968 (for kidnapping, extortion, and other crimes.)

The FBI swore-in its first-ever female agents in 1972. They were former marine Susan Lynn Roley and former nun Joanne Pierce.

As of October 31, 2014, the FBI had a total of 35,104 employees. That includes special agents and support professionals such as intelligence analysts, language specialists, scientists, and information technology specialists.

Source Wikipedia

Guy Fawkes


Guy Fawkes was born in Stonegate, York on April 13, 1570. He was the only son of Edward Fawkes of York, a proctor and an advocate of the consistory court at York and his wife Edith née Blake.

Guy's mother was from a well known merchant family who were recusant Catholics, and his cousin, Richard Cowling, became a Jesuit priest.

His family lived with Guy's well-to-do and respected grandmother, Ellen Harrington. It appears she disliked Edith Fawkes, judging from grudging references and bequests in her will. (Guy only received a whistle and a gold coin in her will.)

In 1579, when Guy was eight years old, his father died. His mother remarried several years later, to the Catholic Dionis Bainbridge, who was connected with the Pulleyns and the Percy family.

Guy was surrounded by many Catholics during his school days, including the Wright brothers, who were later to be involved in the Gunpowder Plot.

He attended St Peters School, York, a 'free schole in ye Horsefair’. This was at the corner of Gillygate and Lord Mayor's Walk (now occupied by a car park).

No details of Guy’s schooldays exist, but he received at St Peters Roman Catholic teachings. The previous headmaster of St Peter's, John Fletcher, had been imprisoned for 20 years as a Catholic recusant. Guy's Head Master - John Pulleyn, was outwardly conforming, but seems to have influenced the boys greatly in two ways - drama and Catholicism, though later he denounced a disguised priest.


In person Guy Fawkes was tall and athletic, with pale blue/grey eyes, a profusion of brown hair, and an auburn-colored beard.

According to Father Greenway, he was, "A man of great piety, of exemplary temperance, mild and cheerful demeanour, enemy of disputes, a faithful friend".

Fawkes was from a mainly Protestant family (his mother was a secret Catholic). He was baptized on April 16, 1570 in St Michael-le-Belfry, York. (The baptismal Register still exists)

He became a Roman Catholic at the age of 16 after the marriage of his widowed mother to a man of Catholic background and sympathies. (He may have been converted by his cousin, Father Richard Collinge of York). Fawkes was unusually devout with a passion for theology.


A soldier of fortune, Fawkes first worked in the house of the viscount Montague, enlisting in 1593 as an adult in the Spanish army, which was occupying the Netherlands (then in Spanish hands), allowing him the freedom to practice his Catholic religion openly.

In 1596 Fawkes participated in the capture of the city of Calais by the Spanish in their war with Henry IV of France.

Fawkes gained a reputation as a good man in a tight corner. He was wounded twice gaining a reputation for bravery, but rose no higher than the rank of ensign.

He gained considerable expertise with explosives and in 1604 appalled by the treatment of Catholics in England, Fawkes was enlisted to join the plot to blow up the King and Parliament.


A plot led by Robert Catesby was hatched to blow up King James I together with the House of Lords and the house of Commons when they were assembled for the opening of Parliament. Catesby was a young Roman Catholic gentleman who, tired of the many broken promises of James I to grant religious toleration, decided on desperate action.

The first meeting of the five central conspirators took place on May 20, 1604, at an inn called the Duck and Drake, in the Strand district of London.

Eventually there were thirteen plotters - three of whom - Guy Fawkes and the brothers John and Christopher Wright were school-fellows at St Peter's School in York.

It is uncertain when Fawkes returned to England, but he was back in London by late August 1605. The conspirators met at Fawkes' house in Dunchurch, Warwickshire to discuss their conspiracy. His final role in the plot was settled during a series of meetings in October, when it was decided he was to light the fuse and then escape across the Thames.

The plotters were able to be able to rent a cellar directly below the parliament chamber, and in this they stored thirty-six barrels of gunpowder.  It was Guy Fawkes who was to remain in the cellar and light the fuse at the appropriate moment.

The conspirators met the night before the opening of Parliament (Nov 3rd) in London and the next day, the King’s men observed an unusual amount of firewood near the offending cellar. When the owner of the house (Whynniard) revealed who the tenant was, a party conducted by Sir Thomas Knevett returned about midnight on Nov 4th and arrested Guy Fawkes.

Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot (c. 1823), Henry Perronet Briggs

Fawkes gave his name as John Johnson and remained defiant. When asked what he was doing in possession of so much gunpowder, Fawkes answered that his intention was "to blow you Scotch beggars back to your native mountains.”

Far from denying what he was doing, Fawkes said openly that he wanted to destroy the King and Parliament. They searched his pocket and found fuses and kindling.

King James I ordered that Fawkes be removed to the Tower of London and lodged in the infamous cell known as "Little Ease". This was so small that it was impossible to stand, sit or lie down properly.

Fawkes withstood several days of torture rather than give the names of his fellow conspirators, hoping perhaps to give his comrades time to escape abroad. Little did he realize that the government already had a complete list of the plotters.


On  January 31, 1606, Fawkes and three other conspirators were dragged from the Tower on wattled hurdles to the Old Palace Yard at Westminster, opposite the building they had attempted to destroy. His fellow plotters were then hanged and quartered.

Fawkes was the last to stand on the scaffold. He began to climb the ladder to the noose, but either through jumping to his death or climbing too high so the rope was incorrectly set, he managed to avoid the agony of the latter part of his execution by breaking his neck.

A 1606 etching by Claes (Nicolaes) Jansz Visscher, depicting Fawkes's execution

On November 5, 1605 Londoners were encouraged to celebrate the King's escape from assassination by lighting bonfires. An Act of Parliament designated each November 5th as a day of thanksgiving for "the joyful day of deliverance", and remained in force until 1859.

Guy Fawkes is the only Englishman to have a day named after him (if you exclude St George).

The burning on November 5th of an effigy of Fawkes, known as a "guy," led to the use of the word "guy" as a term for "a person of grotesque appearance" and then to a general reference for a man, as in "some guy called for you." In the 20th century, under the influence of American popular culture, "guy" gradually replaced "fellow," "bloke," "chap" and other such words in that country; The practice gradually spread throughout the English-speaking world.

Procession of a Guy (1864)

The aftermath of the conspiracy was to do a great favour in effect to James I. It certainly united the nation in a common bond of determination and unity, unknown before.

The West Coast American band Green on Red's 1985 album No Free Lunch features "Ballad of Guy Fawkes."


A device built by the Scottish clockmaker Alexander Bain in 1843, which comprised a pen attached to a pendulum kept in motion by electromagnetic impulses, is remarkably similar in principle to the modern fax machine.

Italian physicist Giovanni Caselli invented The Pantelegraph, which he used for the first commercial telefax service between Paris and Lyons in 1865, some 11 years before the invention of telephones.

In 1881, English inventor Shelford Bidwell constructed the scanning phototelegraph that was the first telefax machine to scan any two-dimensional original, not requiring manual plotting or drawing.

The 1888 invention of the telautograph by Elisha Grey marked a further development in fax technology, allowing users to send signatures over long distances, thus allowing the verification of identification or ownership over long distances.

German physicist Arthur Korn's Bildtelegraph was widely used in continental Europe after a wanted-person photograph was transmitted from Paris to London in 1908.

On May 19, 1924, scientists of the AT&T Corporation "by a new process of transmitting pictures by electricity" sent 15 photographs by telephone from Cleveland to New York City, such photos suitable for newspaper reproduction.

Édouard Belin's Belinograph of 1913, which scanned using a photocell and transmitted over ordinary phone lines, formed the basis for the AT&T Wirephoto service.

Édouard Belin and his Belinograph

Later in 1924 the first fax was sent across the Atlantic, by General Electric engineer Dr. Ernst Alexanderson to his father in Sweden.

In 1964, Xerox Corporation introduced the first commercialized version of the modern fax machine, under the name (LDX) or Long Distance Xerography. This model was superseded two years later by the Magnafax Telecopier, a smaller, 46-pound facsimile machine. This unit was far easier to operate, could be connected to any standard telephone line and was capable of transmitting a letter-sized document in about six minutes.

Dr. Hank Magnuski, founder of GammaLink, produced the first computer fax board, called GammaFax in 1985.

Anonymous sent thousands of all-black faxes to the Church of Scientology to deplete all their ink cartridges.

North Korea uses a fax machine to send threats to South Korea.

Sources Wikipedia, The Independent 

Johann Faust

Johann Faust (c1480-1540) of Germany was a wandering astrologist, scholar and magician who slighted Jesus' miracles and bragged that he could do the same. He was hated and feared by Martin Luther and when he disappeared in a strange manner and was later found dead in a pile of dung, many felt his strange demise was the work of the devil. Subsequently his name became the center of a great body of legend and poetry in European literature.

In 1808 the German Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe completed the first part of his poetic play, Faust, a lifelong preoccupation for the writer. Though many others have recounted the story of Faust, it was Goethe who  transformed it into a struggle between the good and bad natures of man. Faust’s theme is that of spiritual questioning and hunger for experience and knowledge.  This pursuit of insight can lead man to temptation but is derived from a divine spark, which can lead to salvation.

Faust first edition 1808. Source Antiquariat Dr. Haack Leipzig. > Privatbesitz. Author © Foto H.-P.Haack. Wikipedia Commons.

Gabriel Fauré

Gabriel Fauré was born in Pamiers, Ariège, Midi-Pyrénées, in the south of France on May 12, 1845. He was the fifth son and youngest of six children of Toussaint-Honoré Fauré and Marie-Antoinette-Hélène Lalène-Laprade.

Gabriel was sent to live with a foster mother until he was four years old. When his father was appointed director of the École Normale d'Instituteurs, a teacher training college, at Montgauzy, near Foix, in 1849, Fauré returned to live with his family.

The young Fauré often played the harmonium at the small chapel attached to the school where his father was director. An old blind lady heard him and told his father that he ought to send his boy to a good music school.

At the age of nine, Fauré was sent to a music college in Paris, where he was trained to be a church organist and choirmaster. Among his teachers was Camille Saint-Saëns, who became a lifelong friend.

Fauré as a student, 1864

During the 1870 Franco-Prussian War Fauré volunteered for military service. He took part in the action to raise the Siege of Paris, and saw action at Le Bourget, Champigny and Créteil. He was awarded a Croix de Guerre.

In January 1877 Fauré's Violin Sonata No.1,was performed at a Société Nationale concert with great success, marking a turning-point in his composing career at the age of 31.

In 1883 Fauré married Marie Fremiet, the daughter of a leading sculptor, Emmanuel Fremiet. The marriage was affectionate, but Marie became resentful of Fauré's frequent absences and his affairs, while she remained at home.

Fauré and Marie in 1889. PD-US, $2

Fauré and his wife had two sons. The first, born in 1883, Emmanuel Fauré-Fremiet, became a biologist of international reputation. The second son, Philippe, born in 1889, became a writer; his works included histories, plays, and biographies of his father and grandfather

Fauré became professor of composition at Paris Conservatoire in 1896, where he taught several students who became important French composers, including Maurice Ravel and Nadia Boulanger.

He became successful in his middle age, holding the important posts of organist of the Église de la Madeleine and director of the Paris Conservatoire. However,, Fauré lacked time for composing, so he retreated to the countryside in the summer holidays to concentrate on writing music.

Fauré started to lose his hearing in about 1902, and he kept it secret from all but his closest friends. From 1905 he was director of the Paris Conservatoire and a member of the examining jury, so each year he had to audition students and pretend he could hear the music being played.

Fauré in 1907. PD-US, $2

By his last years, Fauré was recognized in France as the leading French composer of his day. An unprecedented national musical tribute was held for him in Paris in 1922, headed by the president of the French Republic.

Fauré died in Paris from pneumonia on November 4, 1924 at the age of 79. He was given a state funeral at the Église de la Madeleine and is buried in the Passy Cemetery in Paris.

Sources Classic FM magazine, Wikipedia

Saturday, 24 January 2015


An apparition of a lady dressed in white appeared to three shepherd children above an olive tree at the Cova da Iria near the Portuguese town of Fátima on May 13, 1917. The lady, later referred to as Our Lady of the Rosary, indicated that she was sent by God with a message of prayer, repentance and consecrations. Further appearances were reported on June and July 13th.

Lúcia Santos (left) with her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto, 1917

On August 13, 1917, the provincial administrator Artur Santos believing that the events were a fabrication of the church, imprisoned the children before they could reach the Cova da Iria. The children were threatened with a cauldron of boiling oil, but they insisted they were telling the truth. Eventually they were believed and were released.

By the fall of 1917, thousands of people were flocking to Fátima, drawn by reports of visions and miracles. Finally a large crowd gather during a cloud-burst in response to the children's claim that a miracle would occur on October 13, 1917. The incessant rain  ceased, the black clouds parted and the Sun broke through in a dull grey disc shape that could be looked at directly. As the Sun started whirling wildly then plunging dramatically towards Earth, there were various changes of color on the surroundings. Such was the heat emitted that in a space of ten minutes the people’s wet clothing was completely dried.  This  "miracle of the sun" was witnessed by an estimated 70,000 people.

Part of the crowd looking at the sun during the "Miracle of the Sun"

In order to mark the location of the apparitions, a wooden arch with a cross was initially constructed in Cova da Iria. Pilgrims began to visit the site, so the following year a chapel was built, which grew into a centre for Marian devotion.

On July 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary is said to have entrusted the children with three revelations. Two of the revelations were revealed in 1941 in a document written by the only survivor of the three children, Lúcia dos Santos, who had become a Carmelite nun. The first revelation was a vision of Hell.. In the second the Madonna prophezied the ending of the First World War but that another World War would follow. She also predicted the spread of communism with much persecution for believers but later the conversion of Russia.

In 1943, Lúcia fell ill with influenza and pleurisy, which had killed her cousins. At the suggestion of her bishop Lúcia wrote the the third revelation down. She sealed it in an envelope with instructions for tit to be revealed either in 1960 or after her death, at the discretion of the Holy See.

On a visit to Portugal for the beatification of the Fátima shepherd children Jacinta and Francisco (Lúcia was still alive at the time), Pope John Paul II made a declaration about the third secret revelation.  He announced that he believed it referred to the 20th century persecution of Christians that culminated in the failed assassination attempt on him on May 13, 1981, the 64th anniversary of the first apparition of the Lady at Fátima.

Father's Day

The idea for a father's day originated when Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington, heard a sermon on Mother's Day in 1909 and was inspired to create a date to honor fathers like her own, a Civil War veteran. Through her efforts, the first Father's Day was celebrated in Spokane on June 19, 1910.

Although Dodd initially suggested June 5, her father's birthday, the Spokane pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.

Dodd used the "Fathers' Day" spelling on her original petition for the holiday, but the spelling "Father's Day" was already being used in 1913 when a bill was introduced to the U.S. Congress as the first attempt to establish the holiday.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak in a Father's Day celebration and wanted to make it official, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized.

President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day in 1966. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

Over 87 million cards are sent each year on Father's Day, making it the fourth most popular day for sending cards.

In the Roman Catholic tradition, Fathers are celebrated on Saint Joseph's Day, commonly called Feast of Saint Joseph, March 19, though in certain countries Father's Day has become a secular celebration. For that reason, Father's Day is celebrated on March 19th in a number of Catholic countries including Italy, Portugal and Spain.

In Thailand, Father's Day falls on December 5 - the birthday of the late King, Bhumipol Adulyadej (December 5, 1927 – October 13, 2016).

 King Bhumibol Adulyadej 

 In Australia, Father's Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of September.

Father Christmas

In England, Father Christmas is the personification of Christmas, in the same way as Santa Claus is in the United States Although the characters are now synonymous, historically Father Christmas and Santa Claus have separate entities, stemming from unrelated traditions.

First written about in Tudor England and pre-dating the first recording of Santa Claus, Father Christmas was a jolly well nourished man who typified the spirit of good cheer at Christmas, bringing peace, joy, good food and wine and revelry.

A similar figure with the same name (in translation) exists in many other countries, including Canada and France (Père Noël), Spain (Papá Noel, Padre Noel) and almost all Hispanic South America (Papá Noel).

The American version of the tradition, Santa Claus, is derived from Bishop Nicholas of Myra who died in Asia Minor aged 73 on December 6, 343. He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. After his death, it became known that Bishop Nicholas had also secretly provided dowries for numerous poor brides-to-be.

Saint Nicholas is also said to have helped three poor girls by throwing purses of money through their window. The idea of Santa Claus coming down chimneys to deliver presents has its origin in that story.

Many of the modern ideas of Santa Claus became canon from a poem written by university professor, Dr. Clement Moore, for his children called "A Visit from St. Nicholas." The poem was never meant for publication, for he feared he would be ridiculed for writing children's verse. A friend, however, sent a copy to the Troy, New York, Sentinel where it was published on December 23, 1823. Most of Santa's modern attributes are established in this poem, such as riding in a reindeer-pulled sleigh that lands on the roof, entering through the chimney, and having a bag full of toys.


Fat is one of the three main types of nutrient – the others are carbohydrate, and protein.

Fats are needed to keep cell membranes functioning properly, to insulate body organs against shock, to keep body temperature stable, and to maintain healthy skin and hair.

The body does not manufacture certain fatty acids and the diet must supply these.

The terms "oil" and "fat" are sometimes confused. "Oil" normally refers to a fat with short or unsaturated fatty acid chains that is liquid at room temperature, while "fat" may specifically refer to fats that are solids at room temperature.

A fat, or triglyceride, molecule. 

The term slush fund was originally a nautical term: the slush was the fat or grease skimmed from the top of the cauldron when boiling salted meat. Ship officers would sell the fat to tallow makers, with the resulting proceeds kept as a slush fund for making small purchases for the ship's crew.

The average American eats an amount of fat equivalent to one whole stick of butter each day.

The average U.S. man has the same amount of fat as 170 sticks of butter.

It would take roughly 17,500 sit ups to burn one pound of fat.

During weight loss, 84% of the fat lost is exhaled in the form of carbon dioxide — the remaining 16% becomes water.

The human brain has the same percentage of fat as clotted cream.

The unique smell of Crayola Crayons can be attributed to beef fat!


Lent itself was not observed by the early Church fathers but from the fourth century a time of fasting in the time preceding Easter was maintained. The extent of fasting varied, for instance Pope Gregory the Great fasted for six weeks of six days each, during Lent making thirty-six fast days in all, He wrote to St Augustine of Canterbury "We abstain from flesh meat, and from all things that come from flesh, such as milk, cheese, and eggs."

In 441 St Patrick spent 40 days in retreat on the Crough Patrick Mountain, fasting and praying with tears that Ireland might be delivered from the hands of the pagans.  

The Catholic Church ordered 166 days of fasting a year in medieval Europe during which fish but not meat could be eaten.

At the start of the seventeenth century religious leaders found themselves engaged in arguments about whether chocolate was a beverage or a food. Religious fasts forbade the taking of nourishment, and yet chocolate had become popular among those who were fasting precisely because it eased their hunger. Most people, including all of the popes consulted during the course of the debate (from Gregory XIII to Benedict XIV) agreed that, since one drank it, it did not break the fast.

In 1697 Samuel Sewall (1652-1730), one of the three presiding judges involved in the Salem witchcraft trials admitted that the convictions were a mistake. He accepted the “blame and shame” for them and for the next 33 years until his death the judge annually spent a day of repentance in fasting and prayer.

President Jefferson delayed a state dinner for the Tunisian ambassador in 1805 until after sunset to accommodate the ambassador's observance of the Ramadan fast.

In 1832 a cholera epidemic, which had been devastating Europe, crossed the Atlantic and reached Chicago. Such was the concern in Britain that the government declared March 21, 1832 to be a day of fasting and penitence.

The Vatican lifted the compulsory Friday fasting for Catholics in 1966.

The world record for fasting went to a 456 pound man who was able to survive due to his excess fat. He fasted for 382 days, consuming only water and vitamins and losing 276 pounds with no ill effects.

Fast Food

White Castle is the oldest burger chain in America. It was started in 1921 by Walter A. Anderson and E.W. Ingram who sold their burgers for 5 cents a piece.

In-N-Out Burger is credited as the first fast food chain to have a two-way speaker system for drive-thru ordering. The original In-N Out Burger opened in 1948 in the Los Angeles area. Until that point, drive-ins with carhops who took your order and delivered your food were the norm.

A Fred DeLuca borrowed $1,000 from his friend Peter Buck to start "Pete's Super Submarines" in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He sold his first sandwich on August 28, 1965. In 1968, the sandwich shop was renamed "Subway" and it is now the largest single-brand restaurant chain and the largest restaurant operator in the world.

Subway restaurant in Pittsfield Township, Michigan (2011). By Dwight Burdette - Wikipedia

McDonalds and Burger King sugar-coat their fries so they will turn golden-brown.

Warm colors such as yellow, orange and red make you hungry - Which is why many fast food restaurants are yellow, orange and red.

American fast food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A is the largest buyer of U.S. peanut oil, since it's what their chicken is fried in.

The average American visits a fast food restaurant six times a month.

About 25% of Americans eat fast food daily in the US.


Fascism is named after the fasces, which is an old Roman Empire name for a group of sticks tied together - the idea being it is easy to break one stick in half, but very hard to break many sticks tied together in half. Fascists believe that everyone following the same leader makes the country strong the same way the sticks are.

Benito Mussolini founded the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento in Milan, Italy, on March 23, 1919. It became the Partito Nazionale Fascista (National Fascist Party) on November 9, 1921.

Benito Mussolini with three of the four quadrumvirs during the March on Rome:

The first fascist government was run by Benito Mussolini in Italy from 1922 until 1943. The governments of Engelbert Dollfuss in Austria and Adolf Hitler in Germany are also referred to as fascist. Other examples are Greece under Ioannis Metaxas, Spain under the rule of Francisco Franco, and Portugal when António de Oliveira Salazar was the head of the government.

In 1940, the fascist Italians, with support from Nazi Germany, approached the Greeks to join their side in WWII. The Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas Metaxas declined. Historians believe that if the Greek's did not refuse, WWII could have lasted longer with dramatically different outcomes.

In the 20th century, fascism and the Nazi Party's application of racial theories led to organized persecution and the genocide of the Holocaust. Between 1933–45 about 6 million Jews died in concentration camps and in local extermination pogroms, such as the siege of the Warsaw ghetto. 

Monday, 19 January 2015



Rather than moving from camp to camp in search of food, by 8000BC the people who dwelled in the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys had began to plant seeds themselves and grow their own barley and wheat. They were also rearing their own goats and sheep. These first farmers now had a permanent source of food and they no longer had to depend on hunting for their meat. They were less subject to variations of the weather and the dangers of hunting.

Independently a type of agriculture centered upon maize in Peru and rice in South Eastern Asia had emerged by 7500BC.

Domesticated cows were being farmed in Greece and Crete by 6000BC after wild cattle were attracted to the fields of grain and robbed the locals of their food. Captured and bred they were farmed both for their meat and their milk.

As far back as 6000 BC, farmers alternated planting crops each year. They did not understand the chemistry of crop roration, but knew that doing so kept the soil healthy for good harvests.

The laws of Moses include some detailed priestly legislation. No farmer, for instance, was permitted to muzzle an ox when it was treading corn (Deuteronomy. 25.4). The animal could not be expected to perform the task while having food before its eyes without being able to eat some of it.

By 350 BC the Chinese had developed fish farming and the first treatise on carp culture had been written by Fan Li with useful advice on the construction, harvesting and economic management of fishponds.

Charlemagne ordered that all his farms have fish ponds to encourage the eating of fish on church fast days.

In medieval Bavaria, farmers harvested strawberries and tied small baskets of the fruit to the horns of their cows as an offering to the elves. They believed it would help their cows produce healthy calves and a good supply of milk.

In 1701 Jethro Tull invented the first mechanical seed-drill. Before his invention people sowed seeds by scattering them by hands. Tull’s machine could plant several rows of seeds at regular intervals, which meant that less seed was wasted. Tull used his first seed-drill on his own farm without telling anybody else for thirty years. His invention was the first step in the use of machines in British agriculture.

The selective breeding of cattle began in England in about 1770, with pioneer work by Robert Bakewell, an English farmer who lived between 1725 and 1795. His method was to pick a bull of good beef quality and mate it to a cow of similar good qualities. By carrying this plan of mating through several generations of cattle, he developed fine beef-type animals that usually had young of the same characteristics. His methods, qualified by later scientific discoveries in genetics, are still used by cattle breeders.

Modern high-volume poultry farms, with rows of cages stacked indoors for control of heat, light and humidity, began to proliferate in Great Britain around 1920.

Industrial refrigeration machinery and road transport had become more widespread by the 1920s, changing the American dairy industry. More farmers were by then milking their cows and temporarily storing the milk in large refrigerated tanks, then sending it on to the cities. Where the city's dairy herds had lived in the outer suburbs, they now increasingly frequently they were to be found much further away from the city.

The organic gardening and farming movement was founded in 1942 in America by Jerome Rodale.

In 1994 controls of export of British beef to the continent were imposed due to fears of contamination from BSE. The livelihoods of many British farmers were affected. Such health scares contributed to many turning to vegetarian options.

In 1997, rice farmers in Laos reported the successful use of pig manure as a snail repellent.


Each year, the American federal government gives $25 billion in subsidies to the farm industry. Most of it goes to large agribusinesses and farmers - according to one analysis, about three-fourths of all agriculture handouts go to just 10 percent of the nation's farms.

70% of the grain grown in the U.S. is fed to farmed animals, and it takes up to 13 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat.

Forty percent of the farm-grown catfish in the United States is consumed by Texans.

Only 4 percent of the Earth’s surface is suitable for growing food.

Here is a list of songs about farming.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce


Oliver Cromwell spent the entire 1620s as a farmer at St Ives, but failed to establish himself. In 1631 he sold most of his land at Huntingdon and rented grazing land at St Ives.

When Sir Isaac Newton left school he followed his first choice of career- a farmer. He was once fined in the manor court for letting his swine trespass while he built water wheels in the stream.

George Washington was one of the first American scientific farmers. He exchanged letters with agricultural experimenters at home and in England. He imported plants, shrubs, and trees from many parts of the world. and tried crop rotation at a time when plenty of new land awaited men whose old lands were worn out.

Thomas Jefferson was a remarkably progressive Virginia farmer as well as statesman. He planted some of the first Brussels sprouts in America and was one of the first to set out pecan trees.

After Robbie Burns' father died, he leased the farm of Mossgiel near Mauchline East Ayrshire with his brother Gilbert. Working their noses to the grind, he and his brother paid themselves £7 per year each. It was not successful and the arduous farm work and undernourishment permanently injured Burns health, leading to the rheumatic heart disease from which he eventually died.

In around 1816 a Cape Cod, Massachusetts farmer, Henry Hall noticed that cranberries were larger and juicier where a layer of sand from the dunes blew over the vines. He used this sand layering technique for his cranberries and became their first cultivator.

Rudyard Kipling lived the life of a farmer at his Bateman's mansion, owning rich pastures and a fine herd of Sussex cattle.

President Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer. After his presidency Carter returned to Georgia to his peanut farm, which he had placed into a blind trust to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. He found that the trustees had mismanaged the trust, leaving him more than one million dollars in debt.

The Archers, the world's longest running broadcast serial, was devised by the BBC for a practical purpose – to convey useful information to the farming community.

Many farmers love to attract barn owls as they are often better at reducing rodent populations than traps, poison or cats.

While there are 2.2 million real farmers in the US, there are 80 million active Farmville farmers.


The Roman poet Virgil's early home was on a farm in the village of Andes. After the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey the family farm was seized.

In 812 Charlemagne ordered a number of useful plants, among them anise, fennel, fenugreek, and flax, to be grown on the imperial farms in Germany.

Marie Antoinette had a mock farm at the Petit-Trianon, where, dressed as a milkmaid, she cared for her perfumed sheep and goats.

Mount Vernon was George Washington's favourite residence, which he inherited in 1851. Steadily adding to Mount Vernon, he increased its holdings to 8,000 acres, divided into five farms. He complained of heavy losses in bad years, but in good years his profits were large

In 1786 approximately 90 people lived on Washington's main Mansion House Farm, and another 150 or so lived on the four adjoining farms.

Jane Austen's parson father farmed a small holding where he kept cows,  pigs and sheep and grew wheat for making bread. Her mother kept fowl and looked after the orchards, herbs and vegetables.

Alfred Tennyson's wife, Emily run their Isle of Wight, Faringford farm successfully. Her wheat won international prizes.

Henry Ford felt that dairy cows are inefficient and unsanitary and proposed that milk be made synthetically. This probably harked back to his childhood milking cows on his father's farm.

Mohandas Gandhi established a commune near Johannesburg in 1910s, based on Tolstoy's ideas, a farm of 1,100 acres where he pitched in with the manual work along with everyone else.

Ikea is named after the initials of its founder, Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd, the farm on which grew up and Agunnaryd, the nearby village.

Elvis Presley's Graceland site was originally part of a 500-acre farm founded by Mr S..Toof, a Memphis businessman. Mr Toof’s daughter was called Grace and he named the ranch Graceland in her honor.

George Orwell loved the countryside. On his farm he grew vegetables and kept chickens and goats, which he could milk. He refused to keep pigs as they were are the only animal he didn't like.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Michael Faraday


Michael Faraday was born on September 22, 1791 in Newington Butts, which is now part of the London Borough of Southwark, but which was then a suburban part of Surrey.

His father, James Faraday, had moved his wife and two children to London during the winter of 1790 from Outhgill in Westmorland, where he had been an apprentice to the village blacksmith.

Michael had a poor, poverty stricken upbringing. His childhood was spent playing in the London alleys around his father’s blacksmith shop.

In 1801, when Michael was 10, things were so difficult that he often had to survive for a whole week on a single loaf of bread.

Michael's education was rudimentary, only the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic which he received as a member of his parents' fundamentalist Sandemanian protestant denomination. His parents couldn't afford to pay for any more.


At the age of fourteen Faraday became the apprentice to a radical Huguenot bookbinder George Riebau, in Blandford Street, London.

When Faraday picked up a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which had been brought in to be rebound, an article on electricity captivated him. From then on he sought to devote himself to science.

Faraday changed career after attending a series of four Humphry Davy evening lectures at the Royal Institute. Faraday subsequently sent Davy a three-hundred-page book based on notes that he had taken during these lectures. He was eager to leave his bookbinding job as his new employer, Henry de la Roche, was hot-tempered. Davy said he would keep Faraday in mind but should stick to his current book-binding job.

After Davy damaged his eyesight in an accident with nitrogen trichloride, he employed Faraday as a secretary. When John Payne of the Royal Society was sacked for fighting, Davy recommended Faraday for the job of Chemical Assistant at the Royal Institution, which he started on March 1, 1813.

Despite becoming a pioneer of electromagnetism and electrochemistry, Davy's snobbish wife refused to let him eat with her husband, insisting he sat with the servants instead.

Faraday delivered chemistry lectures for the City Philosophical Society from 1816 to 1818 in order to refine the quality of his public speaking.

Faraday had a real concern to make science accessible to the masses. He initiated the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for young people in 1827 which continue to this day.

Faraday was famous for his public speaking. He would plant friends in his lectures to give signals when he spoke too fast, too slow or too long.

In 1833 became the first and foremost Fullerian Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, a lifetime position.

In 1835 Faraday was given a pension of £300 per year for life.


Faraday's first recorded experiment was the construction of a voltaic pile with seven halfpenny coins, stacked together with seven disks of sheet zinc, and six pieces of paper moistened with salt water. With this pile he decomposed sulphate of magnesia.

In 1823, Michael Faraday liquefied chlorine for the first time,and demonstrated that what was then known as "solid chlorine" had a structure of chlorine hydrate.

While the bladders of animals had been used as balloons for centuries, Faraday developed the first small lighter than air balloon. He used them in his experiments with hydrogen at London's Royal Institute. This led to the toy balloon industry.

As a chemist, Michael Faraday first isolated and identified benzene in 1825 from the oily residue derived from the production of illuminating gas, giving it the name bicarburet of hydrogen.

Faraday discovered the fundamentals of electromagnetic induction. After ten years of experiments, he discovered on August 29, 1831, that moving an iron ring through five cells of copper wire caused an electric current to flow through the wire.

On December 26, 1831 Faraday produced the homopolar generator, the first electric producing generator.

Faraday disk, the first homopolar generator

Faraday's inventions of electromagnetic rotary devices formed the foundation of electric motor technology, and it was largely due to his efforts that electricity became viable for use in technology. Today’s mass operation of everything from our lights to industrial machines is possible because of Faraday's work.

Faraday discovered in 1836 that if electricity strikes a metal object, it will only pass through the outside of the object. The inside is unaffected by the electricity. This is what keeps the people inside safe when lightning strikes a car or a plane. This is now called Faraday Cage.

Faraday was an excellent experimentalist who conveyed his ideas in clear and simple language; his mathematical abilities, however, did not extend as far as trigonometry or any but the simplest algebra.

Faraday consulted classics scholar and scientist William Whewell (1794-1866) when he invented the terms "anode", "cathode" and ion" to describe phenomena in electrolysis using Latin or Greek words.

The Farad, a unit of electrical capacity is named after Michael Faraday.

Michael Faraday has been credited with inventing the test tube. Until his time, wine glasses were often used for storage by chemists.


Michael Faraday married Sarah Barnard (1800-79), the daughter of a Sandemanian elder and silversmith on June 12, 1821.

Michael and Sarah Faraday

Sarah was a fellow member of the Sandemanian sect. They were devoted to each other but had no children.

In a class-based society, Faraday was not considered a gentleman. Humphry Davy's wife, Jane Apreece refused to treat him as an equal and, when on a continental tour, made the son of a blacksmith sit with the servants.

Faraday's sponsor and mentor was John 'Mad Jack' Fuller, who created the Fullerian Professorship of Chemistry at the Royal Institution.

He had one laboratory assistant, Sergeant Anderson, a soldier who remained with Faraday for the remainder of his working life. The quiet Anderson was well suited to Faraday's needs.


The dark-haired Faraday was clean shaven with prominent sideburns.

Michael Faraday by Thomas Phillips oil on canvas, 1841-1842 

Faraday was a loner. No great socialiser, he preferred to spend his time at his laboratory or at home with his wife.

Faraday had a bad memory, especially after suffering a nervous breakdown. He was so anxious about his lapses that he kept meticulous records of all he heard and did.


Faraday was deeply religious and was is a member of the small fundamentalist Sandemanian denomination, an offshoot of the Church of Scotland. His faith influenced his scientific thinking.

Faraday believed that he was able to read the Bible without the help of a priest and that scientists should read God’s creation through experiment. The most marked portion of his Bible was the Book of Job, with its emphasis on human frailty.

Faraday, attended the London Meeting House in Paul’s Alley, Barbican, and in 1840 he was appointed an elder of his Sandemanian Church.

Faraday was once briefly excluded from his denomination for failing to attend worship one Sunday without adequate reason. His ‘feeble’ excuse was that he had an appointment dining with Queen Victoria. Faraday had to undergo considerable penance before he was allowed to rejoin them.

Faraday was asked by the British government if it was possible to prepare poison gas in battlefield against Russia during the Crimean War. He agreed it was feasible but refused unequivocally to direct the project.

He refused a knighthood, believing that it was against the word of the Bible to pursue worldly reward. He stated that he preferred to remain "plain Mr. Faraday to the last."


The Sandemanian denomination Faraday belonged to required that money could not be saved but distributed amongst the needy especially members of his sect. After a 1841 nervous breakdown his lack of savings became a concern.

Due to his lack of savings, accommodation became a problem for Faraday, until Queen Victoria gave him a house in Hampton Court  .

The laboratory where Faraday worked at the Royal Institution in Albermarle Street, London, has been restored to the way it was in 1845. It is now a museum.


Whilst working with Davy, Faraday suffered damage to his eyes in a nitrogen chloride explosion. He spent the remainder of his life suffering chronic chemical poisoning.

Michael Faraday, ca. 1861

At the age of 50 Faraday suffered a severe nervous breakdown that put him out of action for four years. His memory was never the same again. He spent several months in Switzerland recovering from his breakdown..

Michael Faraday died peacefully in his study at his house at Hampton Court on August 25, 1867, aged 75. As he lay dying, journalists asked him questions regarding his speculations on death. The devout scientist replied: “I know nothing about speculations, I’m resting on certainties.” He then quoted 2 Timothy 1 v12, “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”

Sources The History of Scientific DiscoveryCollins Biographical Dictionary of Scientists