...AND WE ALL FALL DOWN.
EXCAVATION OF THORNTON ABBEY: DNA ANALYSIS, 3D MODELING, AND SURPRISES TOO!
Fredrick Law olmsted: Landscape Architect of NYC Central Park, Frontier Explorer of Wild West & South pacific
The tragic life of Frederick Law Olmsted is arguably the most important historical figure that the average American knows the least about. Best remembered for his landscape architecture, from New York's Central Park to Boston's Emerald Necklace to Stanford University's campus, Olmsted was also an influential journalist, early voice for the environment, and abolitionist credited with helping dissuade England from joining the South in the Civil War. This momentous career of public service in now retold.
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, AWARD- WINNING SPACE HISTORIAN
Cool image time! The image on the right, reduced to show here, provides an overall summary of what astronomers know about the atmospheres of many gas giant exoplanets that also orbit very close to their suns and are tidally locked. The view is of the planet hemisphere facing away from the star, which is also where most of the clouds are thought to be. These results come from Kepler data combined with computer modeling, and show what scientists thinks happens with different cloud compositions at different temperatures.
“Hot Jupiters are exoplanets that orbit their stars so tightly that their temperatures are extremely high, reaching over 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit (1600 Kelvin). They are also tidally locked, so one side of the planet always faces the sun and the other is in permanent darkness. Research suggests that the "dayside" is largely free of clouds, while the "nightside" is heavily clouded.
This illustration represents how hot Jupiters of different temperatures and different cloud compositions might appear to a person flying over the dayside of these planets on a spaceship, based on computer modeling.
Cooler planets are entirely cloudy, whereas hotter planets have morning clouds only. Clouds of different composition have different colors, whereas the clear sky is bluer than on Earth. For the hottest planets, the atmosphere is hot enough on the evening side to glow like a charcoal.
Figure 1 shows an approximation of what various hot Jupiters might look like based on a combination of computer modeling and data from NASA's Kepler Space Telescope. From left to right it shows: sodium sulfide clouds (1000 to 1200 Kelvin), manganese sulfide clouds (1200 to 1600 Kelvin), magnesium silicate clouds (1600 to 1800 Kelvin), magnesium silicate and aluminum oxide clouds (1800 Kelvin) and clouds composed of magnesium silicate, aluminum oxide, iron and calcium titanate (1900 to 2200 Kelvin).”
“Breakthrough Listen recently entered into a partnership with FAST and the National Astronomical Observatory of China,” which built and operates the telescope, said Andrew Siemion, director of the SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, who is also a co-director of Breakthrough Listen.
"The dips found by Kepler are real. Something seems to be transiting in front of this star and we still have no idea what it is." confirms German astronomer Michael Hippke. Even if aliens are not involved, Tabby's star remains "the most mysterious star in the universe" as Yale astronomer Tabetha Boyajian described it in a TED talk.
“…SpaceX today released an update on its investigation of the September 1 Falcon 9 launchpad explosion.
Previously, we announced the investigation was focusing on a breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank. The root cause of the breach has not yet been confirmed, but attention has continued to narrow to one of the three composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) inside the LOX tank. Through extensive testing in Texas, SpaceX has shown that it can re-create a COPV failure entirely through helium loading conditions. These conditions are mainly affected by the temperature and pressure of the helium being loaded.
SpaceX’s efforts are now focused on two areas – finding the exact root cause, and developing improved helium loading conditions that allow SpaceX to reliably load Falcon 9. With the advanced state of the investigation, we also plan to resume stage testing in Texas in the coming days, while continuing to focus on completion of the investigation.
The report suggests that they are starting to pin down the very specific temperature and pressure conditions during loading of the helium tank that cause the problem, which also suggests they will soon also be able to adjust their procedures to avoid those conditions. This also suggests that they repeated assurances that they will be able to fly before the end of the year are not unreasonable….”
“First reported in September 2015 by Boyajian, then a postdoc at Yale University, Tabby’s star – more properly called KIC 8462852 – had been flagged by citizen scientists because of its unusual pattern of dimming. These volunteers were looking at stars as part of the internet project Planet Hunters, which allows the public to search for planets around other stars in data taken by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, which has been monitoring 150,000 stars for regular dimming that might indicate a planet had passed in front of it.
But while most such dimming by transiting planets is brief, regular and blocks just 1 or 2 percent of the light of the star, Tabby’s star dims for days at a time, by as much as 22 percent, and at irregular intervals.
While Boyajian speculated in her 2015 paper that the irregular dimming might be explained by a swarm of comets breaking up as it approached the star, subsequent observations show the star, which is located about 1,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus, is far more irregular than a comet swarm would produce. In fact, it seems to have been dimming at a steady rate for the past century.
Speculation eventually arose that the dimming was caused by a Dyson structure: a massive orbiting array of solar collectors that physicist Freeman Dyson once proposed would be a natural thing for a civilization to build as it needed more and more energy to power itself. Theoretically, such a structure could completely surround the star – what he termed a Dyson sphere – and capture nearly all the star’s energy….”
If intelligent aliens actually do live around Tabby's star, astronomers are determined to find them.
The Breakthrough Listen initiative, which will spend $100 million over the next 10 years to hunt for signals possibly produced by alien civilizations, is set to begin studying Tabby's star with the 330-foot-wide (100 meters) Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, project team members announced Tuesday (Oct. 25).
Electron Microscope Picture of Martian Microbe
NASA officials are trying to determine whether Earth microbes aboard Curiosity could contaminate the potential Martian seeps from a distance. If the risk is too high, NASA could shift the rover’s course — but that would present a daunting geographical challenge. There is only one obvious path to the ancient geological formations that Curiosity scientists have been yearning to sample for years (see ‘All wet?’).
“We’re very excited to get up to these layers and find the 3-billion-year-old water,” says Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity’s project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “Not the ten-day-old water.”
The streaks — dubbed recurring slope lineae (RSLs) because they appear, fade away and reappear seasonally on steep slopes — were first reported1 on Mars five years ago in a handful of places. The total count is now up to 452 possible RSLs. More than half of those are in the enormous equatorial canyon of Valles Marineris, but they also appear at other latitudes and longitudes. “We’re just finding them all over the place,” says David Stillman, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, who leads the cataloguing.
The incredible true story of how a cycle of rain, cold, disease, and warfare created the worst famine in European history—years before the Black Death, from the author of Justinian's Flea and the forthcoming Miracle Cure
In May 1315, it started to rain. For the seven disastrous years that followed, Europeans would be visited by a series of curses unseen since the third book of Exodus: floods, ice, failures of crops and cattle, and epidemics not just of disease, but of pike, sword, and spear. All told, six million lives—one-eighth of Europe’s total population—would be lost.
With a category-defying knowledge of science and history, William Rosen tells the stunning story of the oft-overlooked Great Famine with wit and drama and demonstrates what it all means for today’s discussions of climate change.
“Rosen (The Most Powerful Idea in the World) argues persuasively that natural disasters are most catastrophic when humankind’s actions give them a push. The depredations committed in battle by Englishmen and Scots were augmented by years of bad weather: the result was that people died in droves. The interactions Rosen describes have been studied but are seldom incorporated into popular history, and the author never overreaches in his conclusions, providing a well-grounded chronicle.... This book will appeal foremost to history lovers, but it should also interest anyone who enjoys a well-documented story.”
“William Rosen is a good enough writer to hold interest and maintain the fraught relations between nature and politics as a running theme. He ends The Third Horseman with a stark observation: in some ways, global ecology is more precarious nowadays than it was in the 1300s.”
“Rosen is a terrific storyteller and engaging stylist; his vigorous recaps of famous battles and sketches of various colorful characters will entertain readers not unduly preoccupied by thematic rigor.... Rosen’s principal goal, however, is not to horrify us, but to make us think.... While vividly re-creating a bygone civilization, he invites us to look beyond our significant but ultimately superficial differences and recognize that we too live in fragile equilibrium with the natural world whose resources we recklessly exploit, and that like our medieval forebears we may well be vulnerable to ‘a sudden shift in the weather.’”
—The Daily Beast
The Countries Affected by the Great Famine
A 51 year old book collector and librarian named Abdel Kader Haidara lives in the fabled city of Timbuktu, an ancient city in West Africa called Mali. In April of 2012 having returned home from a brief trip to Europe, he witnessed the envelopment of his city from al-Qaeda and its African affiliates throughout the Islamic Maghreb; panicked knowing the cities libraries would soon be plundered he grabbed the nearest phone and called The Ford Foundation in Nigeria. The game was on to rescue Islamic manuscripts from an ever encroaching black flag.
The Ford Foundation knew of Mr. Haidara because of a grant he was given to pursue studies at Oxford, he called pleading that the committee find a way to transfer that money for the purchasing of empty oil barrels, donkeys, carts and petty cash.
Three days later, the monies flowed and Haidara was off, secretly finding trustworthy fellow travelers in secretly identifying the manuscripts, packaging them for release. . .
The goal was to disperse all 400,000 manuscripts. . .
Metal and wooden trunks, empty oil barrels and carts arrived at nearly 80 a day, packed tight and released to strangers. . .
In the course of 8 months, his Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library and other were empty. . .
The smuggling was enormous, quiet and ruthlessly efficient.
By January of 2013, upon the arrival of French troops in Mali, the smuggling operation was over. . . And the process of return completed with national honor.
Read The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, by Joshua Hammer, out by Simon & Schuster.
The Fate Awaiting These Priceless Manuscripts
MR. ABDEL KADER HAIDARA
Most visitors to New York City travel right past it, never noticing the majesty of Egypt's New Kingdom in the new world. Cleopatra's Needle resides in NYC immediately adjacent to Central Park; there's nothing like it throughout the entire city landscape.
It is an obelisk, and it was used by the ancient Egyptians to commemorate Dynastic achievement; for the Romans, it was used to acknowledge a superior foe defeated in combat.
Most obelisk's weigh hundreds of tons, there are 28 Egyptian obelisk's standing today, only 6 of them remain in Egypt. Rome possesses 11 and many more remain scattered throughout the littoral Mediterranean. Three of the most famous are in New York, Paris, and London.
The obelisks's in Paris, New York, and London were all moved two times before landing where they now reside. The previous author of these said obelisk's was Emperor Augustus himself.
Egyptian technology was extremely primitive, possessing only bronze chisels from which to work limestone used to build the pyramids, they had absolutely no metal tools capable of dealing with far harder granite from which obelisk's were quarried. Egyptian dynasties used dolerite balls (an igneous rock very much shaped and used like bowling balls) to pound the surrounding granite of a future obelisk. Working 12 hour days, a quarryman could lower a trench around the obelisk nearly an inch a day. Taking six months to separate sides from the quarried obelisk, the harder part was freeing the bottom, this was done by pounding sideways.
The world's foremost authority on obelisk's is Bob Brier, his book Cleopatra's Needles is now out from Bloomsbury. Here you discover how the Egyptians, Romans, Renaissance Vatican engineers and new world plutocrats moved these lovely megaliths.
Author website Bob Brier
Cleopatra's Needle, NYC Evidence of Weathering
The Prussian naturalist (1769-1859) inspired Darwin to take the voyage on The Beagle, bringing all 9 volumes of his writings on board to accompany his journey throughout South America. When he died, his funeral in Berlin went on for weeks, newspapers covered his achievements for months, tens of thousands of fans besieged Berlin paying homage to his achievement. And he spawned untold faithfulness from Henry David Thoreau, Charles Darwin, John Muir (American naturalist founder of U.S. National Parks, Preservationist) & Fredrick Law Olmstead, father of Central Park NYC.
von Humboldt is every child digging in the sand, on the beach or drawing wild flowers.
With the Balkanization of the sciences, two World Wars devoted to halting German expansion dimmed our vision of how Germania wrought this astonishing man forward to jungles, rivers, fauna and fowl in far away exotic places.
How did that happen?
von Humboldt was born at a time when the social impact of the industrial revolution was beginning; like Alexander Hamilton, von Humboldt implicitly understood how the boring of steel for rifles or train tracks would change social relations, ushering in social mobility impacting aristocratic classes in rigid societies. Like Alexis Tocqueville, von Humboldt grasped early on that virtue held to industriousness would procure untold talent. The man never stopped traveling, discovering, exploring and writing.
Throughout his life he tried to escape the suffocating confines of his mother, yet he was torn not to abandon her. After university he acquired a job in the Prussian mines, bringing him into contact with the father of geology, the Scottish James Hutton (d. 1797). As a child he loved the explorations of Spanish conquistadors and circumnavigators like Louis Antoine de Bougainville. But it was not until his mothers death of cancer in 1796, at the age of 27, that he was free. He NEVER attended her funeral.
He immediately abandoned his career with the Prussian civil service and began planning a great voyage. He settled for South America. He told King Carlos IV of Spain that he conceived of the entire Earth as a living organism, he aspired to tackle cloud structures, insect and specimen behavior, rivers, temperatures and geography throughout the Spanish kingdom. King Carlos gave him a colonial passport running to explore Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Peru discovering the magnetic equator along with new plants, animals and minerals. He brought home to Germania electric eels to experiment with electricity. His contacts with indigenous tribes was voluminous. The 34 volume Voyage to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent was published, much to the ire of imperial rivals in Paris or London.
Climbing the Chimborazo volcano at 17,000 feet we see him crawling a two inch wide ridge during winter to outline geography of South America. This map, with its notations is pictured above. With disintegrating shoes he continues barefoot with his companion Aime Bonpland.
After a 5 year journey throughout South America, he landed in Washington D.C. in 1804 entertaining President Jefferson, Secretary of State James Madison and Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia, perhaps the only man who matches von Humboldt's temperament.
Having arrived in Washington, he advises Jefferson on Texas (at the time it was Mexico), but von Humboldt convinced Jefferson that its savanna's and water routes were worth fighting Mexico.
While flying the Beagle toward South America, Darwin read Personal Narrative to discover von Humboldt's writings regarding natural selection. The word would be coined by Darwin, Humboldt wrote that animals "limit each other's numbers' through long continued contest for nourishment and territory." The Origin of Species has its patrimony with Humboldt's work, mostly written while journeying throughout South America.
His accomplishments exerted a profound influence with Goethe, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor, Coleridge, Flaubert, Pushkin, Emerson, Poe, Whitman, Aldous Huxley, Ezra Pound and too many other writers, composers to mention. His impact is immeasurable.
Humboldt's Original Drawings, Cambridge University, Haddon Library (drawings on bottom of web page) http://haddon.archanth.cam.ac.uk/haddon-specials/library-online/blandowskipublscans/
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf
Andrea Wulf Twitter http://@andrea_wulf
Personal Webpage http://www.andreawulf.com/
One of von Humbolt's Paintings
Alexander von Humbolt's Drawings (greatly influenced Charles Darwin)
The Expedition Route
The Ship Named in His Honor
Other Honors Include Species of Flora and Fauna (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Katharina's first accuser was her own son, Heinrich, a mercenary held in financial bondage throughout Europe. Having been arrested, she was thrown into prison and shown the tools of torture. She was released and returned home.
Dr. Rublack has unearthed a fascinating study of the social mores of early modern Europe during difficult social, geopolitical times. With her book, we are introduced to thinking of those that spent most of their time working at night, on rooftops with arcane maps and zodiacs.
University of Cambridge http://www.joh.cam.ac.uk/professor-ulinka-rublack
Terry Hunt & Carl Lipo finally resolved the Eco-cide that brought about the demise of Easter Island. After years of painstaking field research the resolution isn't apocalyptic as other authors have sought. Previous historians, geologists, and adventurers have tried to uncover the madness of how the inhabitants of this Island collapsed. Both Hunt & Lipo have brought extravagant mythology to an end; the Island didn't fall from civil war, but the inadvertant introduction of European germs was a factor. Human excess isn't a culprit either, the forests that collapsed introducing climate, soil erosion had its origin in the introduction of Polynesian rats that ate the seen saplings of indigenous plants, introducing ecocide. It only took decades, not centuries, but once started it was quick and lethal.
"The Statues that Walked" is now out from Free Press and it is great reading. Both archeologists have served their discipline well in finally putting to rest the demise of Easter Island.
Easter Island Statue Project: http://www.eisp.org
Explore Easter Island Digitally: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/easter/explore/
September 14, 1822 Jean-Francois Champollion burst into his brother's Paris office at the Academy of Inscriptions yelling 'I've done IT'. Champollion promptly fainted before he could utter new of the great intellectual feat for which he's still celebrated: the decipherment of ancient Egyptian hieroglyph's.
The story of this young, brash, hot-headed, volatile scholar began after being continuously expelled from every local school he attended. At age 10 he arrived at Grenoble, a town in southwest France where he found himself engrossed in Oriental history and languages. Born in 1790 during a time when France was basking in the new exotic glow of Napoleon's Egyptian campaign (1798-1801). He began learning ancient Coptic at age 12 by narrating his daily domestic routine of manual labor and reading, soon he began scaling his ambition to conquer an unimaginable challenge: decipherment! His older brother would remain an invaluable asset, strengthening his Jean's temperament, his reach and social connections as well as purchasing a large library to facilitate his younger brothers learning.
His first breakthrough was in deciding that the ancient Egyptian code did NOT refer to abstractions BUT was phonetic. Having trusted his instincts, he began to work his code breaking skills to fortify an assumption that put him at odds with many others established scholars. Champollion's breakthrough would initially be fielded by a young Englishman named Thomas Young, who in 1819 published a key insight that hieroglyph's were alphabetic in nature. Champollion's insight would finally seek ratification between 1822-1824 with numerous sophisticated publications proving his initial instincts correct.
In 1828, Champollion would make a two year financed journey to Egypt. This would remain the single most powerful intellectual experience of his life. Moving between traditional finds like Abu Simbel and the tombs in the Valley of the Kings would open up to him as he quickly sought to record both new and old inscriptions. Having returned home in 1832, he died early at the age of 41 while working on his magnum opus, a hieroglyphic dictionary.
His discoveries were nearly lost because Champollion didn't have trained students working under him. The task of collating volumes of unpublished letters, monographs and professional correspondence was left for his brother to assemble. Most were published decades after his death!
Grave of Jean Francois Champollion http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Champollion+&GSfn=jean+&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=
Personal Writings of Champollion http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008910273
Amazon Biography http://amzn.com/0199914990
Today's technologically advanced cultures understand disease and pathogens differently from pre-modern peoples, who viewed calamities as mythological, millenial and threatening.
William McNeill's ground breaking seminal book (Plagues & Peoples) is a cogent account of archaic, mythological civilizations beginning to congregate after the achievement of planting, the single most advanced achievement of neolithic man. Epidemic diseases flourished throughout neolithic periods with the propensity for large homogenized concentrations of peoples in tight quarters with pestilence ridden animals created the vortex of opportunity for extreme pathogens to flourish.......as does the terror.
A second century smallpox epidemic ultimately quickened the pace of the fall of Rome; the 14th century saw the of bubonic plague captured by Italian merchants along the Silk Road arriving south to Mediterranean littoral regions like Venice and Constantinople wiping out nearly a third of western Europe's population.
William McNeill recounts how human ingenuity, trading routes and progress itself is inseparable from the mythological terror of premodern societies.
Author's Page http://www.amazon.com/William-H.-McNeill/e/B000APKA14/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
Fredrick Catherwood's drawings/etchings (called lithographs) of lost Mayan Civilization is worthy of great study, his work is unmatched in detail and historical accuracy providing contemporary fields with unmatched recordings of indigenous archeological finds. Prior to discovering lost Mayan Civilization, Catherwood spent a decade traveling, drawing Egyptian, Greek, Ottoman civilization. Catherwood remains the only westerner to draw the 'Temple Mount' in Jerusalem providing us with rare details on ancient architecture. Only one artist remotely resembles the rigor of Catherwood, the famed Italian draftsman Piranesi.
When Catherwood broke open the discovery of Mayan Civilization, he touched a nerve in advocating that Central/South American Civilizations were indigenous and therefore unrelated to Near Eastern Civilizations. His work and genius would require others to ratify what he first saw and believed, namely that Mayan, Incan Civilizations were sui generis (latin for 'of its own kind' pronounced 'Sue-ee Gen-ER-Rus').
Landing in British Honduras in 1839 for a year of exploration, he pursued finding and marking lost Civilization's of the Americas. His first discovery was the ancient city of Copan in 1839, his lithographs of sacrificial altars, empty temples devoted to astronomy and calendric memory were the first known representations of the New World.
His work was published in 1841 titled Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chipas and Yucatan. His work represents an original casting of groundbreaking archeological sites known as Copan, Palenque, Uxmal, Las Monjas, Chichen Itza and Tulum.
He would die an unfortunate death aboard a steam vessel bound for New York from Liverpool, England after resuming life in San Francisco during the gold rush. Born in 1799, he was lost at sea in 1854.
Brief article detailing his travels throughout Central America http://www.ancient.eu/article/419/
All lithographs referenced here http://www.casa-catherwood.com
His personal papers are located at the Pennsylvania State University & Stanford University Rare Manuscripts Division http://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/5713307
Originally reproduced digital copies of his first publications here http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015038660737;view=1up;seq=11
His best biographer is Victor W. von Hagen's publication F. Catherwood: Architect-Explorer of Two Worlds.
The Russian Sofia Kovalevskaya (pronounced Co-val-levs-sky-yah) began her love affair with mathematics at the age of 11. She didn't understand the symbolic notations of what she was writing, yet the walls of her bedroom were papered over with the work of famous Russian mathematicians. She enjoyed the secrecy, ambiguity and authority these notations had on the effects of fellow men and family.
In 1874 she began her doctorate on a study of Saturn's great rings while studying at Gottingen University. Denied a Chair (a noted profession) because of her gender didn't surprise her, yet still she managed to find mentors to assist her. Arriving at the University of Stockholm, Sweeden in 1884 for a five year professorate in Astronomy. She is the first women to ever hold a professorate in mathematics, however both Laura Bassi (1711-1778) and Maria Agnesi (1718-1799) preceded her.
Her family was scandalized from her love affair with mathematics. Working at night, while tending to her family throughout the day, she resembled ancient pagan priests/astronomers and cartographers who had to work in extraordinary solitude with little institutional support. She was forced into marriage so as to travel abroad, she's buried a few miles from where she worked at the University of Stockholm. Her work on differential equations and integral analysis or Abelian integrals is still studied today.
Ebola has historical precedents!
A flea's host boards shipping vessels in Byzantine Venice and Florence, only later did the Monarchy discover that its exporting bubonic plague.
A vast percentage of western Europe is wiped out!
Sorting through the evidence requires painstaking grave digging, micro-biologists and review of historical data to confirm its origin from the Eurasian Silk Road.
A series of natural disasters in the Orient during the fourteenth century brought about the most devastating period of death and destruction in European history.
The epidemic killed one-third of Europe's people over a period of three years, and the resulting social and economic upheaval was on a scale unparalleled in all of recorded history.
Synthesizing the records of contemporary chroniclers and the work of later historians, Philip Ziegler offers a critically acclaimed overview of this crucial epoch in a single masterly volume. The Black Death vividly and comprehensively brings to light the full horror of this uniquely catastrophic event that hastened the disintegration of an age.
The flea ingests bacteria as a host on rats. Because the insect cannot digest the pathogen (bacteria) it vomits out this bacteria into the host causing a plague. Today, this is treatable with antibiotics (antibiotics only work against bacteria not viruses.)
The map reveals that bubonic plague was first documented in Asia Minor modern day Turkey, along the Black Sea region around the year 500 A.D. Historically, the source is China and the Silk Road leading west from China through Eurasia. By 1350, with the fall of Constantinople to Islam, the twin Italian papal city states of Florence and Venice became staging ports receiving merchant capital from fallen Constantinople. These wetlands would become ports of entry for bubonic plague as they were oversea shipping routs from Asia into the northern Mediterranean. By the 1350, the plague, known as the Black Death had arrived.
The FIRST Sign of Trouble: Swollen Lymph Nodes throughout the body.
Then the body begins to turn black, hense the term "The Black Death".
Africa was always dubbed 'The Dark Continent'. This sobriquet never referred to pigment of skin, instead it referred to the impenetrable geography that immediately arises from the sands of both East and West Africa. Prior to the invention of the railroad (steam) and the boring of hard steel (rifle), Africa remained the 'Dark Continent'. It was simply not available for exploration. Certainly the Romans were familiar with the northern coast of Africa, given available references in numerous literature we can surmise Romanic understanding of Africa.
Given the Islamic irritant that was Spain and the success of its pincer movement up into both Hungary and France around 1200 A.D. It fell to the Spanish and Henry the Navigator to find away around the sons of Ishmael. Given new rigging of ships and the political motivation to outpace Islam, both Spain and Portugal set out to hug the west coast of Africa in search of what became of India, the Philippines and Japan. How else to say it: that Mediterranean Lake became a sideshow after the discovery of the Americas.
The Dark Continent would again capture the imagination of western Europeans in what became Victoria's Empire. The names of Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley, Richard Burton are well known forerunners to our Lawrence of Arabia. The two key decades of exploration into both Central African Congo and the search for the origins of the Nile are told by Tim Jeal in 'Explorers of the Nile: The triumph and tragedy of a great Victorian adventure.'
Exploring Central Africa from its Eastern border as well as going south to discover the origin of the Nile meant wading into and surviving the backdrop of torture, casual execution, disease, warfare, massacre, pillage and extortion almost impossible for contemporary people to imagine.
Tim Jeal is the biographer of both Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley. He begins with Richard Burton and Speke's journey to Lake Tanganyika (1856-9) and Speke's 'discovery' of Lake Victoria. Jeal ends with Stanley's legendary trans-African crossing (1874-7) from Zanzibar in the east to the mouth of the Congo in the west, perhaps the greatest feats of exploration in the entire annals of history.
There are ten biographies of Burton, but only one of Speke. Speke solved the world's greatest mystery by discovering the source of the Nile. In 1858 John Speke stood on the shore of a huge lake that was called Nyanza Ukerewe (renamed by Speke as 'Victoria'), he instinctively sensed that this was the source of the Nile River flowing 4,230 miles north. John Speke was right and Richard Burton had it wrong. Burton claimed that the origin of the Nile was Lake Tanganykia. Nevertheless, it was Burton who garnished the greatest acclaim, even being Knighted before his untimely death in 1890.
Here's how Speke won: In May of 1858, Speke, on his own inclination, left Burton's Lake Tanganyika expedition (Burton was ill and could no longer travel) and journeyed with a few men 200 miles north to find Lake Ukerewe. The sheer size of the body of water and its height above sea level (Speke's calculation was 4,000 feet above sea level, considerable higher than Tanganyika) convinced him that here lay the headwaters for the Nile. Speke returned in 1860-63 with James Grant to explore its shores and found the falls (Ripton Falls) where the Nile exited Lake Victoria to begin with its journey north into the Mediterranean.
Both Livingstone and Burton were violently against the 'speculations' of John Speke. Given the flair that became of both it is obvious that they are burnished onto the British psyche. But it was Speke who was right! Not Burton or Livingstone. As in our day, flair, charisma and drama overcome all other considerations.
It fell to Henry Morton Stanley in 1874 to circumnavigate the lake to vindicate Speke.
The question becomes, what accounts for the failure that was Speke's untarnished reputation?
The answer is simple. John Speke died in a horrible hunting accident exactly at the moment when the Nile Debate was at its feverish height, leaving the field clear for other competitors.
John Speke and Richard Burton were scheduled to debate each other at the Royal Geographical Society during the summer of 1864, arbitrated by Livingstone. The day before the debate, Speke's rifle accidently went off killing him immediately during a hunting trip. The only witness was his cousin George Fuller, the gamekeeper was to far away to be of any real forensic assistance. According to the only biography of John Speke (Alexander Maitland's 1971 biography) Speke's gun had an extremely light pull on the trigger, making it lethal for any user or circumstance to fire.
The best explanation is that Speke nervously cocked the hammer of one barrel so lightly that a jar on the stock would make it fire. Having climbed a wall with his rifle jammed into his armpit, bringing the stock into violent contact with stone killed him instantly.
Thus ending a brilliant career of England's best explorer.
The Victorian race to explore Africa cannot be understood outside explorational antipathies that were primarily intellectual. We simply cannot ignore how Africa served as a great catalyst from which to expel personal demons and shape a life informed from passionate media. Solitude, strangeness, danger and the lure of great wealth and fame propelled most Victorian explorers. John Speke was different.
Speke was not motivated by stark contrasts, whether personal or not. He just never fit the bill that served as a template for most: the unending displays of petty bickering, petulance and self regard. Speke found no room in his heart for such. As such, the academics bane toward pedantic gesture was not for him. The complicated eccentric psyches that propelled the Victorian explorers are all on display in this book, one simply cannot ignore the sheer weight of multiple neuroses that contributed the tremendous energy, personal stamina and courage required to master the Dark Continent.
Tim Jeal's rehabilitation of John Speke is really long overdue.
It is true that most students hate science.
For the most part the teachers teaching it never studied the technique of discovery. The ancient Egyptians understood how to measure a sphere. They did so with a plumb line across great distances only to acknowledge that space is curved. The Ptolemy's (Macedonians in Egypt like Cleopoatra) were masters of geometry, they were the first one's to hypothesize about the size of the Earth and that it was a sphere. Of course they referenced Aristotle's acknowledgment of discovering Elephants in both Africa and India. This was Aristotle's first empirical observation that the Earth was in fact round! Aristotle travelled with Alexander The Great in his ambition to forever thwart Persia, he died somewhere in the borderlands between modern day Pakistan and India.
Nevertheless, France organized a scientific mission in 1735 to arrive at the Equator and measure the Earth.
The key to the shape of the planet was discovering the width of one degree latitude measured at the equator.
In 1735 a mission was organized by the French Academy of Sciences to fit explorers arriving in South America to accomplish this adventure. France was so eager to accomplish this exploration that it spent millions of dollars to obtain this very number.
The practical implication of this number is incalculable: it would help maintain accuracy in cartography, therefore assist in accurate navigation of the seas. It was instrumental in forging France into an Empire, unrivaled.
Newton's recently published theory of mechanics (physics) stipulated that the spinning earth would resemble more of an apple than a sphere, wider at the equator and flatter at the poles. For if the earth were a perfect sphere, then a degree latitude would be everywhere perfect.
To establish the width of one degree latitude at the equator would require thousands of measurements from positions not easily accessible.
Base camp was Quito, Ecuador.
The 200 mile arch that the scientists choose to survey traveled across a line of volcanoes in the Andes, each of which they had to climb. They camped at altitudes of 15,000 feet for months at a time, battling subzero temperatures and coping with altitude sickness while waiting for skies to clear. Good weather was essential for measurements required the use of known astronomy. There were 40 members assigned to this trip with over 200 slaves.
Many resident colonials, not understanding the mission or even what science was, took the French foreigners for smugglers. In South America of that time, all smugglers were believed to be Jews, practicing Judaism was punishable by death, the local head of the Inquisition took great interest in the travelers.
After nine long years of measuring the ground and the stars, the team of scientists finally triumphed in 1743. They now possessed the magic number of 68.70 miles for one degree latitude on the equator, as compared with 69.07 miles in Paris.
With the arrival of the War of Austrian Succession, England and Spain had drawn themselves into war against France, each member of the team had to make his own way home.
The first scientist to arrive in Paris was Pierre Bouguer, second was Charles Marie de La Condamine, who actually rode down the Amazon before crossing the Atlantic, he would later return and publish his findings in 1751.
The teams doctor, named Joseph de Jussieu didn't have the heart to leave behind the many people he came into contact with, especially those working in a silver mine that used mercury in separating ore, required his medical attention. He finally returned home to France after 36 years from the arrival of Pierre Bouguer.
The last to arrive was Jean Baptise Godin des Odonais who arrived in France 36 years after departing. He married a local women named Isabel yet were barred by Portuguese authorities from reentering Brazil to bring her home to France. They waited for one another 21 years in the Amazon, when he arrived dozens of miles upstream to discover her and bring her home to France. The year was 1773!
The Geodesic Mission of 1735 is chronicled by Larrie Ferreiro in "Measure of the Earth" Basic Books 2010.