Born on the 15th in 1791, Charles Knight entered into the field of publishing as an apprentice to his father, a publisher and bookseller in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in England. Knight achieved some success, but at the end of his apprenticeship, he chose to leave his father’s concern and venture into the strange world of journalism. His success continued. In fact, one publication he worked for, the Windsor, Slough and Eton Express remains in print to this day. One thing led to another however, and he left publishing in 1827. Not one to let sleeping dogs lie, he then became the superintendent of the publications of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. The society would publish inexpensive books that primarily dealt with self-help topics. Whatever you may think of the type of things they probably covered, doesn’t the name alone make you want to rush out and join the damn thing? I know that I do.
In 1828 and 1829, Knight would publishThe Library of Entertaining Knowledge. At least he hoped that it was entertaining.
Have you noticed that some days are just a lot busier than others are? The 14th is one such day. For instance, on the 14th in 1489, Catherine Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus, woke up one morning and sadly discovered that she had run just a bit short of ready cash. To remedy this singularly unpleasant turn of events, she sold her kingdom to Venice. The reaction of her subjects has been lost to time. Also on the 14th, in 1757, on-board the HMS Monarch, Admiral John Byng put in front of a firing squad and executed for wanton neglect of his duties as an admiral in his majesty’s navy. Who would have imagined that the British were such sticklers for details of that sort? The 14th in 1883 saw the death of Karl Marx. Contrary to popular belief, he was not the fifth Marx Brother, but a hirsute social theorist whose work has been largely misunderstood by university undergraduates and tenured professors everywhere. This date in 1984 was not a particularly good one for Gerry Adams, head of Sinn Fein. He was the target of, and seriously wounded in, a rather amateurish assassination attempt in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Overall, the 14th is more or less a wasteland brightened only in the latter part of the twentieth century by the birth of Marieke Elizabeth Perchik (pictured at right with her sister Katherine) in 1990.
Charles Bonnet, the son of French expatriates, was born in Geneva, Switzerland on the 13th in 1720. As an adult, he chose to make the practice of law his profession. He possessed a roving eye however, and dabbled in the murky worlds of philosophy and the natural sciences. His work with the law was passable but largely unremarkable. In the natural sciences however, he managed to make a bit of a splash. A portion of Bonnet’s work in that field resulted in his having a syndrome named after him. The Charles Bonnet Syndrome, is a condition in which vivid, complex visual hallucinations occur in apparently normal people. I was somewhat surprised to learn that because I had always thought that the condition described was in fact the Owsley Stanley Syndrome.
On the 12th in 1610, Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncios (Starry Messenger) was published. This book has the distinction of being the first scientific treatise to rely on observations obtained by using a telescope. It brought to Galileo a great deal of acclaim and, perhaps more importantly a degree of financial security. In her book Galileo’s Daughter, Dava Sobel on page 36, points out the rather sweet deal Galileo was able to swing. He was appointed “Chief Mathematician of the University of Pisa and Mathematician and Philosopher to the Grand Duke… He also secured a bonus in personal liberty by arranging for his university appointment in Pisa to entail no noisome teaching duties”
On October 31, 1992, Pope John Paul II expressed regret for how the Galileo affair was handled, and officially conceded that the Earth was not stationary, as the result of a study conducted by the Pontifical Council for Culture.
Edward Mallet rented rooms over the White Hart pub, on Fleet Street in London, England. From these rooms he wrote and published a newspaper called The Daily Courant. The paper was a single page with two columns. Publication of the paper began on the 11th in 1702. Its appearance made the paper the first regular daily newspaper in the United Kingdom. The paper had a decent run, lasting until 1735 when it merged with the Daily Gazetteer. Today, anyone with half a mind to do so can publish pretty much whatever he or she wants to. While the ‘half a mind’ part is not a requirement, a brief perusal of today’s papers will clearly show that writers with half a mind would immeasurably improve the stuff that is printed and sees the light of day.
Marcello Malpighi was born on the 10th in 1628 in Italy. He initially entered the University of Bologna at the age of 17 to study Aristotelian Philosophy. Like many entering college however he soon switched majors and decided to become a physician. My guess is that he did this to extend his time in college. Not, of course, that I even considered doing such a thing. He found his niche after making the switch however and went on to have a prosperous and happy career. He did a great deal of work with the aid of a relatively new tool – the microscope. He made quite a few discoveries in his work. You know, stuff like finding out that insects do not use lungs to breath. He also did ground breaking work in the study of development of chicken embryos in their eggs. He was the first person to discover and describe human taste buds. However, if the FBI should appear at your home to execute an arrest warrant, before you go blaming whatever rat turned you in, blame Marcello, because it was his work that led him to the discovery of human fingerprints.
Malpighi was Pope Innocent XII’s physician and he also taught medicine at the Papal Medical School
Sondre Norheim was born in Øverbø, Norway on June 10, 1825. He took to skiing as a duck does to water (or, for that matter, to orange sauce). He is generally credited with popularizing the sport of downhill skiing. He is also responsible for introducing the Norwegian words ski and slalom to the world at large. At some point, he immigrated to the United States and settled in North Dakota. While he always thereafter kept a pair of skis near his front door, he was somewhat disappointed by the scanty opportunities that the prairie offered for downhill skiing. He died slope-less on the 9th in 1897 and was buried in Denbigh, North Dakota.
The Olympic Flames for the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley and the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer were all lit at Norheim’s birthplace.