Morning, noon and night

Three random things I learned, or remembered, today

Archive for History

Guy Fawkes Day

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MORNING

“Remember, remember, the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.”

BRITANNICA BLOG – WHERE IDEAS MATTER

“The maiden” three mummified Inca children

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NOON

In September, the New York Times published an article on three Inca children mummified for over 500 years by natural conditions prevailing in the mountains of Argentina. Their frozen bodies were almost completely intact and are regarded as “the best preserved bodies ever found”. They look as if they are asleep rather than dead.

It is a sad story which leaves a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, because these children did not die naturally but were healthy children sacrificed for the sake of a religious ritual.

THE CHILDREN OF THE COLD

Smallpox

NIGHT

LAST DEATH FROM SMALLPOX

This was a tragedy.

And another 9/11 date.

On 11 September 1978 Janet Parker died from Variola Major (severe form of smallpox). She was exposed to the virus as a result of a laboratory accident in the University of Birmingham Medical School, UK.

She did not work in the laboratory, but was a medical photographer and worked in a darkroom above a laboratory where research with live smallpox vaccine was being carried out. It was thought she was infected because the virus spread in air currents from service ducts from the microbiology department below.

Her mother also contracted the illness but survived. There were no other victims from the disease although Professor Henry Bedson who was in charge of the microbiology laboratory later committed suicide.

He left the following note:

“I am sorry to have misplaced the trust which so many of my friends and colleagues have placed in me and my work.”

Cats and infection control

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MORNING

Unfortunately, one of the theories believed at the time was that The Black Death was being spread by cats.

Thousands of cats were put down as a consequence.

But it was rats that were spreading plague. The households that kept their cats were less affected.

Mercury poisoning

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MORNING

Louisa May Alcott who wrote “Little Women” and “Jo’s Boys” died of mercury poisoning.

She contracted this as a result of treatment for typhoid fever. In these days the drug calomel (mercurous chloride) was used to treat this condition.

Mercuric compounds were used in the 19th century as a diuretic and purgative and more recently in the 20th century in soaps and cosmetics as a skin lightening cream but these preparations are now illegal.

The term “mad hatter” may originate from the time that mercury was used in the process of curing felt used in hat making. Hatters inhaled the fumes. Over time, mercury poisoning leads to nervous stem damage sometimes manifest as psychosis and hallucinations.

Einstein’s brain

NIGHT

Just following on from this afternoon’s posting, I remembered reading somewhere that Einstein’s brain had been studied in detail by a neuropathologist.

So, in morbid mode, I did a google search to find out the circumstances of his death and whether in fact his brain was anatomically different from the rest of humanity.

I found this:

LINK TO EVERYTHING THAT IS KNOWN ABOUT EINSTEIN

And then I found this:

WHAT BECAME OF ALBERT EINSTEIN’S BRAIN?

The mystery surrounding Einstein’s brain which was hidden and carted around the country for 20 years by a possessive pathologist, and the subsequent medical papers which eventually were published, is well worth a read.

Albert Einstein

NOON

At the age of 5, Albert Einstein was given a compass. This fascinated him. He seemed to become aware at an early age that the compass was telling him that there was an external force influencing the needle.

Would Einstein’s brain have developed in the same way if he had not been given that compass?

Who knows.