Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Dennis Collins and Pension Rights.

In 1832, Dennis Collins an able seaman who had lose a leg at the battle of Trafalgar, limped 21 miles from London to Ascot, where he attended the races and threw a stone at King William IV as a protest against the removal of his pension rights. The stone dented the King’s top hat and Collins was sentenced to be hanged.

This was later commuted to deportation, but Collins died before he could be shipped out to the Caribbean.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Cheetah Racing

In 1937, Gandar Dower introduced cheetah racing into England as an exciting alternative to greyhounds.

He imported 8 cats and staged highly publicized events at Romford and Haringey. He had not discovered the cheetahs are remarkably uncompetitive, and too intelligent to mistake a length of rag on a stick for a Thompson gazelle or other prey.

The cheetahs wandered round in a state of indifference and the experiment was abandoned.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Windscreen Wiper

The 1908 FA Cup Final was played at Crystal Palace between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Newcastle United.

The omens looked bad when before the match the ground was lashed with rain, sleet and heavy snow showers. But just before the kick off the skies cleared and a crowd of 75,000 watched Wolves win 3-1 in bright sunshine.

Something good came of the snow showers, however. One Wolves supporter, Captain Gladstone Adams, drove to the match in his motor-car, something of a novelty in those days. But as he drove through the snowstorm he struggled to see where he was going as the snow stuck to his windscreen, and he was forced to fold down his windscreen. That gave him the idea for inventing the windscreen wiper, which he patented in 1911.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Thomas Burgess Swims the Channel.

At Dover on 6th September 1911, under a warm blue sky, Yorkshireman Thomas Burgess, aged 37, started his 16th attempt to swim the English Channel.

He was stark naked except for a pair of motorist’s goggles and a rubber bathing cap,  and was smothered with lard. Badly seasick and stung by jellyfish, his spirits were lifted by an accompanying boat crew singing to him whilst he was fortified by hot chocolate, grapes and 20 drops of champagne each hour.

He land near Sangatte, almost an entire day later. Remarkably he had only done 18 hours training for the swim that year.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Raining Small Fish

On 15th July 1841, a heavy thunderstorm over Derby brought a shower of things very strange, as described in the Sheffield Patriot newspaper:

Hundreds of small fishes and frogs in great abundance descended with the torrents of rain. Some of the fish had very hard pointed spikes on their backs and are commonly called sticklebacks. The frogs were from the size of a horse bean to that of a garden bean; numbers of them came down alive, and jumped away as fast as they could, but the bulk were killed by the fall on the hard pavement. We have seen some alive today, which appear to enjoy themselves, in a glass of water.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Strange Coincidence of Erskine Ebbin

Moped rider Erskine Lawrence Ebbin was knocked of his moped by a taxi and killed in Hamilton on 20th July 1975.

It was the same taxi, with the same driver, carrying the same passenger, that killed his brother Neville, on the same day of the previous year. Both brothers were 17 at the time, and had been riding the same moped in the same street.

Only one thing prevented history repeating itself precisely: the time of day was 50 minutes different.

Monday, 15 October 2012

To Live For 200 Years

John Butterick, a researcher at West Virginia University, was obsessed with long life.  While studying in Canada, he spent six months ingesting BTH, a chemical used in food packaging to retard spoiling, but later he believed he had found the substance that would allow him to live for 200 years. The substance was warfarin, sometimes used in small quantities as an anti-congulant, but best known for its use as rat poison.

In January 1980, he was found lying on his bed in his apartment, having bled to death, with blood covering his clothes, the mattress, a glass, the kitchen floor and the bathroom. Butterick’s quest for immortality had been cut short at the age of 33.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Town Clocks

The end of the Middle Ages saw town clocks being introduced all over Europe. The concept of arriving for and leaving work at certain times was just one example of the effect clocks had, particularly in towns and cities, where increasingly efficiency was the underlying motive for introducing clocks.

By the middle of the 15th century the steel spring had been introduced for powering clock mechanisms, instead of the weight drive. Smaller clocks could now be made, but springs lose their energy gradually as they unwind, so a device called a fusee had to be incorporated. It was tapered or conical drive wheel that compensated for the loss of energy. In 1581, Galileo Galilei noticed the phenomenon of the pendulum. A hundred years later the pendulum would set a new bench-mark in time-keeping accuracy.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Blast Furance

In the 1100’s Europeans had mastered a technique for producing cast iron, some 1,500 after the Chinese. This was by means of a blast furnace, so called because of the blasts of air required to achieve a high enough temperature to melt iron. Water and sometimes wind power were used to operate the bellows and for crushing up the iron ore to increase its surface area. Blast furnaces gradually grew in capacity to meet the demand for the new cast iron, which had wider applications than wrought iron, but two distinct problems arose as a result.

Charcoal began to run short as Europe’s trees were increasingly felled, and slag impurities prevented as much as 50 percent of the iron from being run off for casting. The introduction of coke and lime into the process, solved both of these problems, but not for several centuries to come.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Bombardment of Constantinople

The bombardment of Constantinople

In 1452, when Urban, a Hungarian engineer was turned away by Constantine, the Byzantine Emperor, he was employed by Mehmet II to construct a cannon 27ft long and with a range of a mile. The Ottomans had already realized the importance of cannons and by 1364 had begun production, they used field artillery at Kosovo in 1389.

Mehmet arrived at Constantinople with his 100,000 men, a huge train and kept up a ceaseless bombardment of the city for six weeks. Within a week, the outer wall had been breached in several places, and when the Ottoman placed more cannon on a pontoon across the Golden Horn of the city was safe from their bombardment. On two occasions, Mehmet thought that the bombardment had done enough, but was repulsed each time. On the third attempt, the city fell.
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