Benjamin Franklin’s Electrical Kite

June 10, 2015 · Posted in America · Comments Off on Benjamin Franklin’s Electrical Kite 

We have all heard the story about Franklin flying a kite in a thunderstorm and proving that lightening is electric and the charge it creates can be collected in a Leyden jar.

History purports that this experiment by Franklin took place on June 10, 1752, but there are those who question if Franklin actually ever said that he did the experiment and that instead it may have been more of a thought experiment than a practical test he enacted in reality.

To learn more and decide for yourself read the 2003 New Yorker book review
American Electric Did Franklin fly that kite?

Reign of Terror

May 13, 2015 · Posted in French History · Comments Off on Reign of Terror 

What is the history behind the Reign of Terror or simply the Terror?

The time period was from Sept. 5, 1793, to July 27, 1794. The Terror took place in France during the revolution, when democratic reform turned into executions by guillotine.

The former ruling royals King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette met their death via Madame Guillotine in 1793.

“Let them eat cake!” words alleged to have left the lips of Marie Antoinette upon being told that starving French peasants lacked bread to eat has never been proven. Maxime de la Rocheterie wrote of her:

‘She was not a guilty woman, neither was she a saint; she was an upright, charming woman, a little frivolous, somewhat impulsive, but always pure; she was a queen, at times ardent in her fancies for her favourites and thoughtless in her policy, but proud and full of energy; a thorough woman in her winsome ways and tenderness of heart…’

Her famous last words before the quick, clean cut of a guillotine blade ( her death was viewed with great joy by the crowd cheering “Vive la nation!”), Marie Antoinette’s last words were,”Pardon me sir. I did not mean to do it,”to a man whose foot she stepped on before she was executed by the guillotine” source:

The powerful Maximilien Robespierre became the person most associated with the Terror. Just the suspicion of “crimes against liberty” was enough to get one executed during the Reign. Ironically Maximilien Robespierre himself was guillotined by “The National Razor” in July 1794.


Public guillotining in Lons-le-Saunier, 1897. Picture taken on 20 April 1897, in front of the jailhouse of Lons-le-Saunier, Jura. The man who was going to be beheaded was Pierre Vaillat, who killed two elder siblings on Christmas day, 1896, in order to rob them and was condemned for his crimes on 9 March 1897.

Public executions became so popular for a time that vendors sold programs and regulars would attend. parents even brought their children to watch the horror as a morbidly sick form of entertainment.

150 years since Abraham Lincoln’s death

April 14, 2015 · Posted in Presidential history · Comments Off on 150 years since Abraham Lincoln’s death 

The gunshot that killed Lincoln came from John Wilkes Booth’s .44-caliber derringer as the president and his wife watched “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre.

 At 7:22 the following morning, April 15, 1865, in the Petersen boarding house across from the theatre, the 16th president of the United States took his last breath, but not before making his mark in history. Who the Secretary of State Edwin M. Stanton called “the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen.”

Ford’s Theatre is hosting a comprehensive series of Lincoln memorials, which it calls Ford’s 150: Remembering the Lincoln Assassination. The commemorations will be on Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Learn more about the details of the upcoming commemorations.

Napoleon’s Failed War: Factors and Foes

March 3, 2015 · Posted in History Lessons in Leadership · Comments Off on Napoleon’s Failed War: Factors and Foes 
Painting by Adolph Northen/Wiki Commons

Painting by Adolph Northen/Wiki Commons


In Lynch Bennett’s article The Grand Failure: How Logistics of Supply Defeated Napoleon in 1812, he points to logistical errors as a primary and often overlooked reason for Napoleon’s “Grand Failure” to invade Russia in 1812. As the popular idiom states “the devil is in the detail”; devilish details grew large and unruly, details that Napoleon neglected to anticipate. He was blinded by ambition and hubris, fed by his past accomplishments of conquest; he had by 1812 conquered the whole of continental Europe. The logistical difficulties involved in supplying his Grande Armeé of over 600,000 men were multiple and grave. By the time the French retreated Russia in a devastating defeat the army had dwindled down to only a few thousand.

Forsaking the Refuge of Vitebsk

Originally, on July 27, 1812, Napoleon had planned to stay put in Vitebsk wisely accessing that the city was a good fortress in which to delay the overtaking of Moscow until 1813. Despite having the support of his army in this plan, he ignored his common sense and shifted gears. Instead of camping out in Vitebsk, he decided they should move forward. It was a rash decision motivated by his inability to remain inactive. This change in course set the way for death in the dead of winter.

The Unforgiving Winter

Napoleon and what still remained of his dragging and bedraggled army upon entering the nearly deserted Moscow, which was set on fire by its own Russian governor, were forced to retreat just as winter was arriving on Oct 19, 1812. Those with enough strength and resources of food, medicine and proper clothing to endure the frigid temperatures, were able to make it out alive, but most did not. Most starved, froze or were killed by Russian Guerilla attacks as they made the long journey back to France. Their fate was sealed, when Napoleon, in a move that was a betrayal to his men, even further diminishing their chances of survival when he detoured the route back. He took the Smolensk way back to France, “The desolate road, riddled with corpses every fifty paces, afforded no reprieve to the starving soldiers.”

Typhus Fever

The infectious organism that causes Typhus is called Rickettsia prowazekii. At the time of Napoleon’s campaign to seize Russia in 1812, it was not yet discovered that typhus thrives and is transmitted via the feces of lice. A century later in 1916 a Brazilian doctor named Henrique da Rocha Lima, during research on typhus in Germany, discovered that the organism responsible for so many deadly epidemics, resides in the feces of lice.

The French soldiers were put into extremely unsanitary circumstances of filth, sweat and unclean clothes,as they made their way to Russia in 1812. Not only were the French perfect hosts for the organism, but the poor of Russia were living in deplorable conditions. The unfortunate co-mingling of French and Russians, each having to endure unsanitary states beyond their own control, exacerbated the infestation. In fact, some historians believe that typhus killed more soldiers than did the Russian army. Once the lice feces gets onto someone in their hair, skin, clothes, etc., it is only a matter of a simple cut or scratch for the organism to infect its host.

History of the Personal Computer

January 25, 2015 · Posted in Firsts in History · Comments Off on History of the Personal Computer 

Alan Kay considers the LINC (1962) the first Personal Computer.


But most people think of Gates and Jobs when associations are made to the personal computer. This association is well deserved. Gates and Jobs developed major innovations that literally put the PC on the everyday person’s desk and made it mobile from there.

Bill Gates had the goal to put the personal computer into every home. It was at the young age of 13 that Gates began programming in Basic. Fifty Years of BASIC, the Programming Language That Made Computers Personal The computer programming language acronym BASIC stands for “Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code” The combination of Gates and BASIC started a technological revolution that is still playing out decades later.

Running parallel to Gates on the personal computer timeline and having at least an equal role in the PC revolution was Steve Jobs. Jobs and Wozniak introduced the Apple I board at the Homebrew Computer Club in March of 1976 and the rest as they say is History.

The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956

December 28, 2014 · Posted in Famous Writers, Historic Crimes, Russian History, This Day in History · Comments Off on The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956 

The first volume of The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956, a history and memoir of life in a Soviet Union prison camp, written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, was first published in Paris in the original Russian on Dec 28, 1973.

“… authorized for Western publication only after the Soviet secret police seized a copy of the manuscript last August, …”

The Soviets arrested Solzhenitsyn on February 12, 1974 taking away his citizenship and deporting him.

Solzhenitsyn warned the Russian people, citizens of a severely, censorial, 1973 Russia, in the preface of his book The Gulag Archipelago (a three-volume work), that they must consider the reading of his writings as a “very dangerous” act.

Learn more about life in Stalin’s Gulag.

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