It is groundhog day again–it seems like the last one was only yesterday. A few years ago, a colleague did a great post on Groundhog Day itself, so I won’t repeat that here, but I started thinking about rodents (the groundhog is one). Here are a few rodent morsels on which to chew. (Ew, that didn’t sound right.):
–Rodents are from the order Rodentia, and they account for around half of all mammal species. (Note about this link: This takes you to the subject browse area of eLibrary. Anything with a yellow star next to it includes a Research Topic page.)
-The word “rodent” comes from Latin word meaning “to gnaw.” This makes sense, considering that their large front teeth and gnawing habit are probably the things that most define them in our minds. They gnaw because those front teeth grow continuously and failure to wear them down would result in death from starvation or impalement of the skull.
-The smallest rodent is the pygmy jerboa, only about an inch long. The largest rodent in the world, currently, is the capybara, but its extinct cousin Josephoartigasia monesi was the largest ever, measuring in at eight feet. And just for the awwwww-factor, here is a picture of two cute baby capybaras with their mother.
-Among the common animals that are mistaken for rodents but are not, are the rabbit and the opossum, which is a marsupial. (Speaking of marsupials, here is a crazy one: the Tasmanian wolf. It became extinct in the 1930s, and scientists had hoped to bring it back through cloning. He sure doesn’t look like a kangaroo.)
-Most rodent species are highly social. In an interesting experiment, a researcher showed that rats show empathy by working to free others from cages.
-While they were once killed in huge numbers for their pelts and to eliminate them as pests, beavers, the second-largest rodents, are becoming respected for the benefits they provide, including erosion prevention, improvement of fish and wildlife habitat and soil enrichment.
-On the other hand, some rodents can carry diseases deadly to humans, including plague and hantavirus.
On January 31, 1606, four men were dragged by horses (drawn) through the streets of London to the place of their execution. One by one, they were hanged by the neck until nearly dead and, while still alive, cut into four pieces (quartered). After having watched the three men before him suffer so horribly, Guy Fawkes was spared the agony by either falling or jumping from the scaffold and breaking his neck.
Fawkes, Robert Catsby, Thomas Percy, Thomas Wintour and John Wright, along with a number of others, had planned to blow up the House of Lords and King James I on the opening day of Parliament in November of 1605. They had hoped that the Gunpowder Plot, as it became known, would spur a revolt that would bring a Catholic monarch back to the throne and end a long period of persecution against Catholics.
The conspirators had managed to place 36 barrels of gunpowder in the basement of the House of Lords, but Fawkes was discovered guarding the powder and the assassination was foiled. Authorities had acted on an anonymous letter that tipped them off to the plan. Fawkes was tortured into giving up his associates, and all were tried and found guilty of treason. Somewhat ironically, the incident only spurred increased pressure on Catholics.
The foiling of the plot was celebrated with an official national holiday until 1859, and the tradition of Guy Fawkes Night (or Bonfire Night) on November 5 persists to this day. Traditionally, the revelry included the burning of a Guy Fawkes effigy made from old newspaper-stuffed clothes and a grotesque mask. Children would go through town asking for “a penny for the Guy” to pay for the effigy and for fireworks. The word “guy” eventually entered everyday language, coming to refer to any male person.
Follow the links above to find more information, and be sure to do your own searches in eLibrary to find lots of articles, images, websites and our Research Topics on thousands of subjects.
Have you ever seen a shooting star? If not, it is a pretty cool thing to see, and you might have your chance this week. The annual Leonid meteor shower is getting underway, providing skywatchers about a week of increased meteor activity, November 13-21, 2016. The peak of this year’s shower will be Thursday night (November 17) into Friday morning. But, If you want the best chance to see something, you’ll have to stay up very late; the show will not really get going until after midnight. And, since the frequency of sightings increases through the early morning hours and peak before sunrise, it might be a better idea to go to bed early and get up before dawn.
Unfortunately, this is not expected to be a great year for the Leonids. The showers happen because Earth travels near trails left by Tempel-Tuttle, a comet that orbits the sun every 33 years. Bits of the comet are pulled by Earth’s gravity into the atmosphere at tens of thousands of miles per hour, and the resulting friction causes them to burn as they fall. When our planet travels directly through one of these trails, we get what is known as a meteor storm or meteor outburst. Such storms usually occur in the years following Tempel-Tuttle’s pass, but they can occur in years in between. But, this is not one of those years, and the number of shooting stars is expected to be low. (Too bad it is not 1833 or 1996, years when the Leonid storms were especially spectacular, with thousands of meteors per hour.) In addition, the shower this year will be competing with a waning gibbous moon which will fill the sky with light for most of the night.
All that said, you might still want to give it a shot, especially if you have never seen a meteor. So, where should you look? Meteor showers are named after the place in the sky from which they appear to radiate, in this case, the constellation Leo. In reality, they can appear across the sky and go in many directions. So, the best strategy is just to lie back and take in as much of the sky as possible. Of course, to increase your odds, try to watch from a spot as far away from the glow of the city and other light sources as you can.
If you’d like to learn more about the stuff in the sky, check out the links in the text above, see the Research Topics pages below or do your own searches.
As they say in astronomy circles, clear skies to you!
So, you think November 8 is not so special? Check out these events that happened on this day in the last few hundred years. Follow the links to great resources in eLibrary:
-1745: Charles Edward Stuart invades England
Catholic King James VII of Scotland (and II of England) had been removed in 1689 by the English Parliament in favor of the Protestant William of Orange, and over the decades there had been numerous attempts to bring James’ House of Stuart back into power. James’ grandson, Charles Edward Stuart, aka “The Pretender” and “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” led what became know as the Jacobite Rising of 1745. After having had success in raising an army and defeating government forces in a number of engagements in Scotland, an emboldened Charles crossed the border into England, where his forces besieged the city of Carlisle and marched unhindered into Manchester and Preston. Fearing defeat by several English armies, Charles’ advisers persuaded him not to attack Derby and to fall back into Scotland, where his rebellion was ended at the Battle of Culloden.
-1861: The Trent Affair occurs
Half a year into the Civil War, the USS San Jacinto intercepted a British ship and detained two Confederate diplomats on their way to Europe in an effort to gain diplomatic recognition from Britain and France. The British government protested, and for a couple of weeks there was the possibility of war with Britain. President Lincoln defused the situation by releasing the Confederates and issuing an apology.
-1923: The Beer Hall Putsch takes place in Munich, Germany
Inspired by Benito Mussolini’s successful takeover of Italy, Adolf Hitler attempted a coup against the Weimar Republic government. He and and group of armed Nazi Party associates surrounded a beer hall at which Gustav von Kahr, who along with Colonel Hans Ritter von Seisser and Reichswehr General Otto von Lossow were running Bavaria under emergency powers, was speaking. After gaining support of the crowd with a rousing speech, Hitler eventually talked the three into supporting his plan. After fights and chaos across Munich through the night and the next day, the putsch failed and Hitler was tried and convicted of treason. However, the incident gave him national exposure, and while in prison, Hitler wrote his manifesto Mein Kampf.
-1960: John F. Kennedy wins the presidency over Richard Nixon
After having led an effective campaign over a more-experienced opponent, Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy, barely into only his second term as a senator, defeated Republican Richard Nixon. The campaign and election were notable for a number of reasons, including the occurrence of the first televised presidential debate (famous for Nixon’s paleness and sweating), the extremely tight race (Kennedy won the popular vote by only about 113,000 votes nationwide and won in the Electoral College 303 to 219) and the election of the first Roman Catholic president.
Brooke, a centrist Republican, defeated former governor Endicott Peabody in a landslide despite the fact that there were very few black people in Massachusetts. Brooke was a champion of civil rights for blacks, but said he did not want to be seen as “a national leader for the Negro people.”
-2013: Typhoon Haiyan strikes the Philippines and other parts of southeast Asia
The massive storm achieved wind speeds of up to 195 miles per hour, making it the most powerful tropical storm to make landfall. The storm devastated the Philippines, killing around 6,300 people and leaving thousands without permanent housing two years after the storm.
The 2017 National History Day theme, Taking a Stand in History, has been established, and eLibrary is ready to help students get a start on their research. We have created a jump page that features links to Research Topics related to many of the topics suggested on the National History Day website.
If you are not familiar with National History Day, it is a national program that provides a broad theme and challenges students to take a deep look at history and develop a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance or website. From NHD’s site:
…The intentional selection of the theme for NHD is to provide an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding.
The NHD theme provides a focused way to increase students’ historical understanding by developing a lens to read history, an organizational structure that helps students place information in the correct context and finally, the ability to see connections over time.
Following local and state events showcasing the projects, the program culminates in a national contest featuring the top entries from around the world. This school year’s national contest will be held June 11-15, 2017.
Check out our ProQuest Research Topic Guide: National History Day.
On September 8, 1966, NBC aired the first episode of a show that lasted only three seasons. The network could not have predicted that the show, whose introduction announces a five-year mission, would spawn a franchise that would persist for 50 years and have a profound effect on culture and science.
Of course, the show was Star Trek. And, to celebrate its birthday, here are some easily digestible bullet-pointed facts:
-The show was created by Gene Roddenberry and starred William Shatner as the dashing Captain James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as the logic-driven Spock and DeForest Kelley as grumpy doctor Leonard McCoy, who resumed their roles in the movies of the 1980s. In the reboot films, those roles are played by Chris Pine, Zachary Qunito and Karl Urban.
-Desilu Studios, the company founded by famous TV couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, produced the show, and the call to go ahead with production was made by Lucy herself. She was running the company following her divorce from Arnaz and decided to pull the trigger because she she thought Star Trek promised something different from the average TV fare.
-Trek fans have been devoted from the very beginning. Due to low ratings, the show was threatened with cancellation in the second season, but a write-in campaign by fans helped keep it on the air for a third. All these years later, fandom is still strong.
-Roddenberry, hoping to break from the tired tropes of TV, intended Star Trek to explore topics that weren’t normally allowed on the air. “You really couldn’t talk about anything you cared to talk about. It seemed to me that perhaps if I wanted to talk about sex, religion, politics, make some comments against Vietnam, and so on, that if I had similar situations involving these subjects happening on other planets to little green people, indeed it might get by, and it did.”
-Which brings us to …
Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura engaged in what is often referred to as the first televised interracial kiss. This was, of course, controversial in 1968, and there were efforts to avoid showing the actors’ lips touching before the scene was allowed to run as written.
-The Original Series, or TOS, predicted and even directly influenced many technological developments, including mobile phones, computer tablets and plasma TVs. For example, Martin Cooper, inventor of the first cell telephone, said that the Star Trek communicator was the inspiration for the now-ubiquitous device.
-From over-budget to big profits: The pilot for TOS went over budget and cost $616,000 ($4.7 million in 2016 dollars), and then was scrapped by NBC before it greenlighted the series. The 2009 reboot movie brought in $385.7 million.
Besides those found in the links above, here are some more resources you can beam up from eLibrary:
For your entertainment and enlightenment, here are five historical events that occurred on July 19. Follow the links in the text to Research Topics pages and other documents in eLibrary.
1. 1848: Seneca Falls Convention–Organized by Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others, this meeting was held “to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman.” A third of the attendees of the convention signed the Declaration of Sentiments, which laid out grievances about the standing of women in a male-dominated society. The convention, which an editorial at the time deemed “the most shocking and unnatural incident ever recorded in the history of womanity,” is considered the beginning of the women’s rights movement.
2. 1863: Battle of Buffington Island–Brigadeer General John Hunt Morgan‘s 1,700-strong group of Civil War “raiders” clashed with Union forces in Ohio, a battle that marked the beginning of the end of their Great Raid through four states. After having made raids and engaged the enemy a number of times in Tennessee and Kentucky in a campaign to distract Union forces, Morgan–disobeying an order from General Braxton Bragg not to cross the Ohio River–invaded Indiana and ransacked numerous towns before moving into Ohio. But, Morgan’s campaign ran into great trouble as he tried to evade Union pursuers by crossing into West Virginia. The Battle of Buffington Island, which included the involvement of the U.S. Navy ironclads, resulted in the capture of half of his men. The Great Raid was finally ended a week later with Morgan’s surrender after the Battle of Salineville, but not before striking fear into northerners and attaining mythical status.
3. 1864: Third Battle of Nanking Ends–The Taiping Rebellion, which raged from 1850 to 1864 was one of the bloodiest wars in history, resulting in between 20 million and 70 million deaths. The rebellion was waged by the Heavenly Kingdom of Peace, a Christian millenarian movement led by Hong Xiuquan, who claimed to be the brother of Jesus Christ, against the ruling Qing dynasty. While the Third Battle of Nanking resulted in a victory for the government and effectively ended the rebellion, China was changed forever. The imperial government was severely weakened and, having accepted assistance from France and Britain, had opened China to foreign influence.
4. 1870: The Franco-Prussian War Begins–Looking to regain prestige lost in the Austro-Prussian War a few years earlier and concerned about the power of an alliance between the German states and Spain, French emperor Napoleon III wanted war. The French Parliament voted for it on July 16, and hostilities commenced three days later. Napoleon’s advisers had been very confident that France could prevail, in part because of new weapons–the breech-loading chassepot rifle and early form of machine gun called the mitrailleuse. This confidence was mistaken, and the Germans won a stunningly quick victory in about 10 months. In the aftermath of the war, Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck achieved his goal of creating the German Empire.
5. 1903: The First Tour de France Concludes–The Tour de France was conceived as a way of boosting the sagging sales of the magazine L’Auto. The first race in 1903 comprised six stages averaging about 250 miles and saw favorite Maurice Garin lead from start to finish of the 1,509-mile contest. The race was a success, and L’Auto’s readership skyrocketed. Today, the Tour is even longer at around 2,100 miles, but it is made up of 21 shorter stages over 23 days. Of course, many of us know the Tour de France largely because of Lance Armstrong, the American cyclist who won seven consecutive Tours, only later to be stripped of them because of admitted doping, or use of banned performance-enhancing substances.
Recently, while watching a show about the West on PBS, I was stunned by a photograph from the 1870s of a man standing atop a 20-foot-high pile of bison skulls. There were so many bison carcasses blanketing the plains–left by hunters who were mostly interested in the skins–that industrious settlers began collecting and delivering them to railroad lines to be shipped east for processing. The ground bone was used for such purposes as the production of bone china and to clarify wine, but the biggest demand was from the fertilizer industry–the product was tilled into soil to add calcium and phosphorus. So, in a weird circle-of-life arrangement, settlers cleared land of the bison remnants so that they could farm and then bought back the ground up bones to return them to the land.
The photograph is a graphic reminder of the one of America’s darkest wildlife episodes. It is estimated that the bison population before 1800 was from 10 million to 70 million (estimates vary wildly), and the animals were seen by those who exploited them to be an unending resource. That idea was proven incorrect, as the number of bison fell to fewer than a thousand by the end of the 1800s.
Hunters poured into the plains to cash in on the growing demand for bison hides. They would kill the animals, skin them and leave the rest to rot. Hunters were also contracted to kill the animals for meat for railroad workers–“Buffalo Bill” Cody got his nickname by being a prolific hunter for a railroad, supposedly killing more than 4,000 bison in a year and a half. Another method of hunting was for a train to slow to the speed of a herd, allowing men to fire rifles from the windows and the top of the cars for an easy slaughter. The role of Native Americans in the collapse of the bison population is still being debated. While the popular narrative is that Native Americans only killed numbers necessary for sustenance and used all parts of the animal, some argue that their involvement in the fur trade and their adoption of the white man’s hunting techniques made them significant in the decline of the bison.
In addition to excessive hunting, it is believed that grazing competition and diseases from European cattle also played a part in the downfall of the American bison.
By the mid-1880s, there were a few hundred wild bison left on the continent, marking the near complete destruction of a species. Along the way, there had been some laws to protect bison from wanton killing, but they were largely ignored or not enforced. In 1884, Congress called upon the Army to protect the 25 or so animals living in Yellowstone National Park, and later the American Bison Society was formed to increase the bison population. In addition, there had been ranchers who had been attempting to build private herds and zoos had kept some animals. These efforts and the establishment of the National Bison Range gradually allowed bison numbers to increase. Today, more than half a million American bison exist–about 30,000 in conservation herds and the rest kept as livestock, and most of the bison living today are hybrids resulting from managed interbreeding with domesticated cattle.
The decimation of the bison is considered to the be inspiration for the modern conservation movement, and the species’ restoration has been hailed as a great conservation success. Currently, there are calls to expand the range of bison in the grasslands and allow them to come closer to their original role as a keystone species in the ecological scheme of the Great Plains, much to the concern of cattle ranchers who worry about the spread of disease to their stocks. The story of the bison’s comeback may not be over yet, so stay tuned.
On May 24, 1607, about 100 men and boys disembarked their ships and established Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World.
Okay, right off the bat we need a couple of explanations. First off, the date of the establishment of Jamestown is a bit confusing because of the differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars. Many sources cite the date as May 14, and this is what the colonists recorded because they were using the Julian calendar. However, today we use the Gregorian calendar, which offsets the date by ten days, making the the date May 24 in today’s terms. (After much searching around online for a definitive answer to this question, it is still murky, with some actually going the other direction, placing the date at May 4. In his writings, George Percy wrote, “The fourteenth day [of May], we landed all our men …”. Since England did not adopt the new calendar until 1752, it makes sense to me that the corrected date is May 24. And, it looks like the Library of Congress agrees. (See note number 1.) Let this be a lesson that history is sometimes messy, and you should get your information from multiple and reliable sources.)
Secondly, you’ll note that I said “permanent” settlement. There were a couple of settlements that predate Jamestown–the most famous being Roanoke–but they failed fairly quickly. So, Jamestown wasn’t the first, but it was the first to endure.
And now, back to our story.
Arriving under the charter of the Virginia Company of London, the colonists’ three ships had spent some time sailing up the James River (which they named after King James I) looking for a suitable location, and they chose a spot on a peninsula that they determined would be defendable against attack. Fortunately, it was not inhabited by natives; unfortunately, the swampy area was a terrible place to grow crops.
After building a fort, the colonists began suffering great losses due to disease and food shortages. The Powhatan Indians helped with gifts of food until a supply ship arrived in 1608. The settlement was nearly wiped out again in the 1609-1610 winter’s “starving time,” during which two-thirds of the colonists died from starvation and attacks by the Powhatan, whose relationship with the settlers had turned sour. It was during this period that, archaeologists say, some inhabitants of the fort resorted to cannibalism. Relief finally arrived in May of 1610, when a much-delayed ship brought more provisions. Later that year, the decision was made to give up on Jamestown, but the abandonment was short-lived, as a fleet of ships arrived, bringing more supplies and settlers.
A number of industries were attempted at Jamestown, including glassmaking and wood production, but fortunes improved only after John Rolfe began growing tobacco, which became America’s first cash crop.
Rolfe married the Chief Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas, bringing about a period of peace with the Indians. The relationship became strained once again after the deaths of both Pocahontas and her father and the continued encroachment of farms onto native land. Intending to undo the colonists once and for all, the natives attacked and killed more than 300 in what became known as the Indian Massacre of 1622.
In 1624, King James revoked the Virginia Company’s charter and made Virginia a royal colony. After Jamestown was burned down during Bacon’s Rebellion, the capital of the colony was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg.
Efforts to preserve find and preserve aspects of Jamestown’s history began in the late 1800s, and in 1994 archaeologists began rediscovering the original settlement, which had been thought to have been claimed by the James River.
March 15 is most famous as the day Julius Caesar got whacked in the Senate by Brutus and conspirators in 44 BC. (You can read about the “Ides of March” in an item posted on this blog a couple of years ago: click, please) But what else happened on this day? Well, keep reading and follow the links embedded in the text to see Research Topics and other resources in eLibrary.
-1848: The Hungarian Revolution broke out. Led by fiery journalist Louis Kossuth and spurred on by a Kossuth-inspired uprising in Vienna, protesters took to the streets, demanding freedom of the press, an independent government and more. The revolt was at the beginning of more than a year of unrest in the Habsburg Empire that saw Austrians, Hungarians, Slovenes, Poles and others attempting to gain independence. The Hungarian Revolution was part of a wave of revolts, known collectively as the Revolutions of 1848, which swept across Europe. The contagious nature of these events would be seen again a century and a half later in the Revolutions of 1989 and the Arab Spring in 2011. (While we’re at it, bonus uprising: Hungarian Revolution of 1956.)
-1913: Woodrow Wilson held the first U.S. presidential press conference … by accident. The new president was scheduled to meet members of the press one by one to develop a rapport like that he had with journalists when he was governor of New Jersey. Because of the large number of reporters who showed up, he decided to address them collectively, initiating what has become the regular way presidents communicate with the press and the American people.
1917: Nicholas II, the last emperor of Russia, abdicated. Years of hardship in Russia due to involvement in World War I brought about the February Revolution, part of the Russian Revolution, in which waves of strike and protests against the government broke out. Nicholas came to the decision that his rule was untenable, and he gave up power. Later that year, as the Bolsheviks seized power in the October Revolution, Nicholas and his family were imprisoned and later executed. Only in 2008 were the bones of all of the victims positively identified, putting an end to rumors that a couple of them escaped.
1944: The Third Battle of Monte Cassino began. In January of 1944, during the Italian Campaign of World War II, the Allies began a bloody operation to break through the Germans’ Gustave Line and get to Rome. The third of these assaults involved a huge amount of bombing that destroyed the town of Cassino. After a fourth assault, the Germans were finally driven out, but at the cost of 55,000 Allied casualties.
And how about this for up-to-the-minute?: Pope Francis is scheduled to have meeting with Catholic cardinals TODAY at which he is expected to sign the papers to officially declare Mother Teresa a saint.