Wikipedia:Today's featured article/September 2008

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September 1

Leo Ornstein, circa 1912

Leo Ornstein (1893–2002) was one of the leading American experimental composers and pianists of the early twentieth century. His performances of works by avant-garde composers and his own innovative and even shocking pieces made him a cause célèbre on both sides of the Atlantic. Ornstein was the first important composer to make extensive use of the tone cluster. As a pianist, he was considered a world-class talent. By the mid-1920s, he had walked away from his fame and soon disappeared from popular memory. Though he gave his last public concert before the age of forty, he continued writing music for another half-century and beyond. Largely forgotten for decades, he was rediscovered in the mid-1970s. Ornstein completed his eighth and final piano sonata at the age of ninety-seven, making him the oldest published composer in history (a mark since passed by Elliott Carter). Ornstein was born in Kremenchug, a large town in the Ukrainian province of Poltava, then under Imperial Russian rule. (more...)

Recently featured: Dartmouth CollegeLocal Government Commission for EnglandWalter de Coventre

September 2

The Battle of Dyrrhachium took place on 18 October 1081 between the Byzantine Empire, led by the Emperor Alexius I, and the Normans of Southern Italy under Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia & Calabria. The battle was fought outside the city of Dyrrhachium, the Byzantine capital of Illyria, and ended in a Norman victory. Following the Norman conquest of Byzantine Italy and Saracen Sicily, the Byzantine Emperor, Michael VII betrothed his son to Robert Guiscard's daughter. When Michael was deposed, Robert took this as an excuse to invade the Byzantine Empire in 1081. His army laid siege to Dyrrhachium but his fleet was defeated by the Venetians. On 18 October, the Normans engaged a Byzantine army under Alexius I Comnenus outside Dyrrhachium. The battle began with the Byzantine right wing routing the Norman left wing which broke and fled. Varangian mercenaries joined in the pursuit of the fleeing Normans but became separated from the main force and were massacred. Norman knights in the centre attacked the Byzantine centre and routed it, causing the Byzantines to flee. After the capture of Dyrrhachium in February 1082, the Normans advanced inland capturing most of Macedonia and Thessaly. (more...)

Recently featured: Leo OrnsteinDartmouth CollegeLocal Government Commission for England

September 3

Two of the accused witches, Anne Whittle (Chattox) and her daughter Ann Redferne

The Pendle witch trials of 1612 are among the most famous witch trials in English history, and some of the best recorded of the 17th century. The twelve accused lived in the area around Pendle Hill in Lancashire, and were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of witchcraft. All but two were tried at Lancaster Assizes 17–19 August 1612 along with the Samlesbury witches and others, in what became known as the Lancashire witch trials. One was tried at York Assizes on 27 July 1612, and another died in prison. Of the eleven Pendle witches who went to trial – nine women and two men – ten were found guilty and executed by hanging and one was found not guilty. The Lancashire witch trials were unusual for England at that time in two respects: the official publication of the trial proceedings by the clerk to the court, Thomas Potts, in his The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, and in the number of witches hanged together: ten at Lancaster and one at York. In more recent times, the witches have become the inspiration for Pendle's tourism and heritage industries. (more...)

Recently featured: Battle of DyrrhachiumLeo OrnsteinDartmouth College

September 4

Emmy Noether

Emmy Noether (1882–1935) was a German Jewish mathematician who is known for her seminal contributions to abstract algebra. Often described as the most important woman in the history of mathematics, she revolutionized the theories of rings, fields, and algebras. She is also known for her contributions to modern theoretical physics, especially for the first Noether's theorem which explains the connection between symmetry and conservation laws. By the time she delivered a major address at the 1932 International Congress of Mathematicians in Zürich, her algebraic acumen was recognized around the world. The following year, Germany's Nazi government had her fired from the University of Göttingen, and she moved to the United States, where she took a position at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. In 1935, she underwent surgery for an ovarian cyst and, despite signs of speedy recovery, died four days later at the age of 53. Noether's mathematical work has been divided into three "epochs". In the first (1908–19), she made valuable contributions to the theories of algebraic invariants and number fields. In the second epoch (1920–26) Noether developed the theory of ideals in commutative rings into a powerful tool with wide-ranging applications. In the third epoch (1927–35), she published major works on noncommutative algebras, as well as united hypercomplex numbers and the representation theory of groups with the theory of modules and ideals. (more...)

Recently featured: Pendle witch trialsBattle of DyrrhachiumLeo Ornstein

September 5

Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff

The Calgary Flames are a professional ice hockey team based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They are members of the Northwest Division of the Western Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). The club is the third major-professional ice hockey team to represent the city of Calgary, following the Calgary Tigers (1921–27) and Calgary Cowboys (1975–77). The Flames are one of two NHL franchises in Alberta, the other being the Edmonton Oilers. The Flames arrived in the city of Calgary in 1980 after spending their first eight seasons in Atlanta, Georgia, as the Atlanta Flames. The Flames played their first three seasons in Calgary at the Stampede Corral before moving into their current home arena, the Olympic Saddledome (now Pengrowth Saddledome), in 1983. In 1986, the Flames became the first Calgary team since the Tigers in 1924 to compete for the Stanley Cup. The Flames' unexpected run to the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals captured the imagination of Canadians, leading Prime Minister Paul Martin to dub them "Canada's team", while the Red Mile celebrations by fans became nationally famous. (more...)

Recently featured: Emmy NoetherPendle witch trialsBattle of Dyrrhachium

September 6

The Alanya harbor

Alanya is a seaside resort city and district of Antalya Province in the Mediterranean region of Turkey, 120 km (75 miles) from the city of Antalya. The municipal district, which includes the city center, has close to 400,000 inhabitants. The population is almost entirely of Anatolian origin, but is home to almost 10,000 European residents, with a growing presence in the city and its economy. Because of its natural strategic position on a small peninsula into the Mediterranean Sea below the Taurus Mountains, Alanya has been a local stronghold for many Mediterranean-based empires, including the Ptolemaic, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires. Alanya's greatest political importance came in the Middle Ages with the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm under the rule of Alaeddin Keykubad I, from whom the city derives its name. His building campaign resulted in many of the city's landmarks, such as the Kızıl Kule (Red Tower), Tersane (Shipyard), and Alanya Castle. The relatively moderate Mediterranean climate, natural attractions, and historic heritage makes Alanya a popular destination for tourism. Tourism has risen since 1958 to become the dominant industry in the city, resulting in a corresponding increase in city population. (more...)

Recently featured: Calgary FlamesEmmy NoetherPendle witch trials

September 7

A flock of sheep

Domestic sheep are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals kept as livestock. Like all ruminants, sheep are even-toed ungulates, also commonly called cloven-hoofed animals. Domestic sheep are the most numerous species in their genus, numbering a little over 1 billion, and are most likely descended from the wild mouflon of Europe and Asia. One of the earliest animals to be domesticated for agricultural purposes, sheep are primarily valued for their fleece and meat. A sheep's wool is the most widely used of any animal, and is typically harvested by shearing. Ovine meat is called lamb when from younger animals and mutton when from older ones. They continue to be important for wool and meat today, and are also occasionally raised for pelts, as dairy animals, or as model organisms for science. Sheep husbandry is practised throughout the inhabited world, and has played a pivotal role in many civilizations. In the modern era, Australia, New Zealand, the Patagonian nations, and the United Kingdom are most closely associated with sheep production. Sheep-raising has a large lexicon of unique terms which vary considerably by region and dialect. Sheep figure in many mythologies—such as the Golden Fleece—and major religions, especially the Abrahamic traditions. (more...)

Recently featured: AlanyaCalgary FlamesEmmy Noether

September 8

Fires approach the Old Faithful complex on September 7, 1988

The Yellowstone fires of 1988 together formed the largest wildfire in the recorded history of Yellowstone National Park, United States. Starting as many smaller individual fires, the flames spread quickly out of control with increasing winds and drought and combined into one large conflagration, which burned for several months. The fires almost destroyed two major visitor destinations and, on September 8, 1988, the entire park was closed to all non-emergency personnel for the first time in its history. Only the arrival of cool and moist weather in the late fall brought the fires to an end. A total of 793,880 acres (3,213 km2), or roughly 36 percent of the park was affected by the wildfires. Thousands of firefighters fought the fires, assisted by dozens of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft which were used for water and fire retardant drops. At the peak of the effort, over 9,000 firefighters were assigned to the park. The Yellowstone fires of 1988 were unprecedented in the history of the National Park Service, and many questioned existing fire management policies. Media accounts of mismanagement were often sensational and inaccurate, sometimes wrongly reporting that most of the park was being destroyed. While there were temporary declines in air quality during the fires, no adverse long-term health effects have been recorded in the ecosystem. (more...)

Recently featured: Domestic sheepAlanyaCalgary Flames

September 9

Chinua Achebe (born 1930) is a Nigerian novelist, poet and critic. He is best known for his first novel, Things Fall Apart (1959), which is the most widely-read book in modern African literature. Raised by Christian parents in the Igbo village of Ogidi in south Nigeria, Achebe excelled at school and won a scholarship for undergraduate studies. After graduation, he worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Service and soon moved to the metropolis of Lagos. He gained worldwide attention for Things Fall Apart in the late 1950s; his later novels include No Longer at Ease (1960), Arrow of God (1964), A Man of the People (1966), and Anthills of the Savannah (1987). Achebe writes his novels in English and has defended the use of English, a language of colonizers, in African literature. Achebe's novels focus on the traditions of Igbo society, the effect of Christian influences, and the clash of values during and after the colonial era. His style relies heavily on the Igbo oral tradition, and combines straightforward narration with representations of folk stories, proverbs, and oratory. He has also published a number of short stories, children's books, and essay collections. He is currently the Charles P. Stevenson Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. (more...)

Recently featured: Yellowstone fires of 1988Domestic sheepAlanya

September 10

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle is a medieval shell keep castle in Warwick, the county town of Warwickshire, England. It sits on a cliff overlooking a bend in the River Avon. Built by William the Conqueror in 1068 to replace an Anglo-Saxon burh, Warwick Castle was used as a fortification until the early 17th century, when Sir Fulke Greville converted it to a country house. It was owned by the Greville family, who became earls of Warwick in the mid-18th century, until 1978. Warwick Castle has been compared with Windsor Castle in terms of scale, cost, and status. Since its construction in the 11th century, the castle has undergone structural changes with additions of towers and redesigned residential buildings. Originally a wooden motte-and-bailey, it was rebuilt as a stone shell keep in the 12th century. It is protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade I listed building. The castle is a popular tourist attraction and features one of the world's largest siege engines. (more...)

Recently featured: Chinua AchebeYellowstone fires of 1988Domestic sheep

September 11

Flight 93 crash site

United Airlines Flight 93 was a scheduled U.S. domestic passenger flight from Newark International Airport, in Newark, New Jersey, to San Francisco International Airport. It was hijacked in 2001 by four men as part of the September 11 attacks. Over 40 minutes into the flight the hijackers breached the cockpit, overpowered the pilots and took over control of the aircraft, diverting it toward Washington, D.C. Several passengers and crew members made telephone calls aboard the flight and learned about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As a result, the passengers decided to mount an assault against the hijackers and wrest control of the aircraft. The plane crashed in a field just outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, about 150 miles (240 km) northwest of Washington, D.C., killing all 44 people aboard, including the hijackers. The plane fragmented upon impact, leaving a crater, and some debris was blown miles from the crash site. The remains of everyone on board the aircraft were later identified. Subsequent analysis of the flight recorders revealed how the actions taken by the passengers prevented the aircraft from reaching either the White House or United States Capitol. A permanent memorial is planned for construction on the crash site. The chosen design has been the subject of criticism and is scheduled to be dedicated in 2011. (more...)

Recently featured: Warwick CastleChinua AchebeYellowstone fires of 1988

September 12

Jackie Chan in 2002

Jackie Chan (born 1954) is a Chinese actor, action choreographer, film director, producer, martial artist, comedian, screenwriter, singer and stunt performer from Hong Kong. Chan is one of the best-known names in kung fu and action films worldwide, known for his acrobatic fighting style, comic timing, use of improvised weapons and innovative stunts. He has acted since the 1970s, appearing in over 100 films, and has received stars on the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As a cultural icon, Chan has been referenced in various pop songs, cartoons and video games. Besides acting, Chan is a Cantopop and Mandopop star, having released 20 albums since 1984 and sung many of the theme songs for the films in which he has starred. In 2008, Chan, along with Andy Lau, Liu Huan and Emil Chau, performed the farewell song "Hard to Say Goodbye" at the 2008 Summer Olympics closing ceremony. (more...)

Recently featured: United Airlines Flight 93Warwick CastleChinua Achebe

September 13

Sanctuary of Congregation Baith Israel Anshei Emes

Congregation Baith Israel Anshei Emes is an egalitarian Conservative synagogue located at 236 Kane Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York City. It is currently the oldest continuously operating synagogue in Brooklyn. Founded as Baith Israel in 1856, the congregation constructed the first synagogue on Long Island, and hired Rabbi Aaron Wise for his first rabbinical position in the United States. Early tensions between traditionalists and reformers led to the latter forming Congregation Beth Elohim, a Reform synagogue, in 1861. The synagogue nearly failed in the early 1900s, but the 1905 hiring of Israel Goldfarb as rabbi, the purchase of its current buildings, and the 1908 merger with Talmud Torah Anshei Emes, re-invigorated the congregation. The famous composer Aaron Copland celebrated his bar mitzvah there in 1913, and long-time Goldman Sachs head Sidney Weinberg was married there in 1920. Membership peaked in the 1920s, but with the onset of the Great Depression declined steadily, and by the 1970s the congregation could no longer afford to heat the sanctuary. Membership has recovered since that low point; the congregation renovated its school/community center in 2004, and in 2008 embarked on a million-dollar capital campaign to renovate the sanctuary. (more...)

Recently featured: Jackie ChanUnited Airlines Flight 93Warwick Castle

September 14

Francis Harvey

Francis Harvey (1873–1916) was an officer of the British Royal Marine Light Infantry during the First World War. Harvey was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for valour available to British military personnel, for his actions at the height of the Battle of Jutland. A long serving Royal Marine officer descended of a military family, during his career Harvey became a specialist in naval artillery, serving on many large warships as gunnery training officer and gun commander. Specially requested for HMS Lion, the flagship of the British battlecruiser fleet, Harvey turned the ship into one of the very best ships for gunnery in the Royal Navy. At Jutland Harvey, although mortally wounded by German shellfire, ordered the blazing magazine of Q turret on the battlecruiser Lion to be flooded. This action prevented the hundreds of shells stored there from catastrophically detonating in an explosion that would have destroyed the vessel and all aboard her. Although he succumbed to his injuries seconds later, his dying act saved over a thousand lives and prompted Winston Churchill to later comment: "In the long, rough, glorious history of the Royal Marines there is no name and no deed which in its character and consequences ranks above this". (more...)

Recently featured: Congregation Baith Israel Anshei EmesJackie ChanUnited Airlines Flight 93

September 15

John Bull locomotive

The John Bull is an English-built railroad steam locomotive, operated for the first time on September 15, 1831; it became the oldest operable steam locomotive in the world (150 years) when the Smithsonian Institution operated it in 1981. Built by Robert Stephenson and Company, the John Bull was initially purchased by and operated for the Camden and Amboy Railroad, the first railroad built in New Jersey. The railroad gave John Bull the number 1 and its first name, "Stevens". The first woman to ride a steam-powered train in America, Catherine Willis Gray, traveled on a train pulled by the locomotive on November 12 1831. The C&A used the locomotive heavily from 1833 until 1866, when it was removed from active service and placed in storage. After the C&A's assets were acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) in 1871, the PRR refurbished and operated the locomotive a few times for public displays: it was steamed up for the Centennial Exposition in 1876 and again for the National Railway Appliance Exhibition in 1883. A replica was constructed in 1939 to prevent unnecessary wear on the original. Today, the original John Bull is on static display in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, DC, and the replica John Bull is preserved at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. (more...)

Recently featured: Francis HarveyCongregation Baith Israel Anshei EmesJackie Chan

September 16

Flag of the Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang

The Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang is a revolutionary socialist political party that sought independence from French colonial rule in Vietnam during the early 20th century. Its origins lie in the mid-1920s, when a group of young Hanoi-based intellectuals began publishing revolutionary material. From 1928, the VNQDD attracted attention through its assassinations of French officials and Vietnamese collaborators. Under increasing French pressure, the VNQDD leadership switched tack, replacing a strategy of isolated clandestine attacks against individuals with a plan to expel the French in a single blow with a large-scale popular uprising. After stockpiling home-made weapons, the VNQDD launched an uprising on February 10, 1930 at Yen Bai with the aim of sparking a widespread revolt. The mutiny was quickly put down, with heavy French retribution. Nguyen Thai Hoc and other leading figures were captured and executed and the VNQDD never regained its political strength in the country. During the 1930s, the party was eclipsed by Ho Chi Minh's Indochinese Communist Party (ICP). Vietnam was occupied by Japan during World War II and, in the chaos that followed the Japanese surrender in 1945, the VNQDD and the ICP briefly joined forces in the fight for Vietnamese independence. However, after a falling out, Ho purged the VNQDD, leaving his communist-dominated Vietminh unchallenged as the foremost anti-colonial militant organisation. (more...)

Recently featured: John BullFrancis HarveyCongregation Baith Israel Anshei Emes

September 17

David Lovering

David Lovering (born 1961) is an American musician and magician. He is best known as the drummer for the alternative rock band Pixies, which he joined in 1985. After the band's breakup in 1993, Lovering drummed with several other acts, including The Martinis, Cracker, Nitzer Ebb and Tanya Donelly. He also pursued a magic career, performing scientific and physics-based experiments on stage. When the Pixies reunited in 2004, Lovering returned as the band's drummer. As a drummer Lovering was inspired by bands from a variety of genres, including Rush and Steely Dan. His musical style while in the Pixies was highly acclaimed by critics. Author Ben Sisario described him as the "great unacknowledged anchor" of the band, and stated that his unique influences gave "a precision and versatility essential to following Black Francis's songwriting quirks". However, since the band's breakup, Lovering has received fewer critical accolades for his musical output. (more...)

Recently featured: Viet Nam Quoc Dan DangJohn BullFrancis Harvey

September 18

The observatory viewed looking north-northeast

The Toronto Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory is a small observatory located on the grounds of the University of Toronto. The original building was constructed in 1840 as part of a worldwide research project run by Edward Sabine to determine the cause of fluctuations in magnetic declination. Measurements from the Toronto site demonstrated that sunspots were responsible for this effect on Earth's magnetic field. When this project ended in 1853, the observatory was taken over by the Canadian government, greatly expanded in 1855, and operated as the primary meteorological station and official Canadian timekeeper for over fifty years. The Observatory is the country's oldest surviving scientific institution, and is considered the birthplace of Canadian astronomy. (more...)

Recently featured: David LoveringViet Nam Quoc Dan DangJohn Bull

September 19

1888 e-print "Blind monks examining an elephant" by Hanabusa Itchō

Anekantavada is one of the most important and basic doctrines of Jainism. It refers to the principles of pluralism and multiplicity of viewpoints, the notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view, and that no single point of view is the complete truth. Jains contrast all attempts to proclaim absolute truth with adhgajanyāyah, which can be illustrated through the maxim of the "Blind Men and an Elephant". In this story, one blind man felt the trunk of an elephant, another the tusks, another the ears, another the tail. All the men claimed to explain the true appearance of the elephant, but could only partly succeed, due to their limited perspectives. According to the Jains, only the Kevalins—the omniscient beings—can comprehend objects in all aspects and manifestations; others are only capable of partial knowledge. Consequently, no single, specific, human view can claim to represent absolute truth. Anekāntavāda encourages its adherents to consider the views and beliefs of their rivals and opposing parties. Proponents of anekāntavāda apply this principle to religion and philosophy, reminding themselves that any religion or philosophy, even Jainism, that clings too dogmatically to its own tenets, is committing an error based on its limited point of view. (more...)

Recently featured: Toronto Magnetic and Meteorological ObservatoryDavid LoveringViet Nam Quoc Dan Dang

September 20

Michael Baisden and the Rev. Al Sharpton during a march in Jena

Jena Six was the name given to a group of six black teenagers charged with the beating of Justin Barker, a white student at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana, United States, on December 4, 2006. Barker was injured, but was released from the emergency room the same day. A number of events took place in and around Jena in the months preceding the Barker assault, which have been linked to an alleged escalation of racial tensions. These events included the hanging of nooses from a tree in the high school courtyard, two violent confrontations between white and black youths, and the destruction by fire of the main building of Jena High School. The Jena Six case sparked protests by those viewing the arrests and subsequent charges, initially attempted second-degree murder (though later reduced), as excessive and racially discriminatory. The protesters believed that white Jena youths involved in other incidents were treated leniently. On September 20, 2007, between 15,000 and 20,000 protesters marched on Jena in what was described as the "largest civil rights demonstration in years". Related protests were held in other US cities on the same day. Subsequent reactions include songs alluding to the Jena Six, a considerable number of editorials and opinion columns, and Congressional hearings. (more...)

Recently featured: AnekantavadaToronto Magnetic and Meteorological ObservatoryDavid Lovering

September 21

Diagram of a normal brain (left) and an Alzheimer's patient brain (right)

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. This incurable, degenerative and terminal disease was first described by German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer in 1901. Generally it is diagnosed in people over 65 years of age, although the less-prevalent early-onset Alzheimer's can occur much earlier. An estimated 26.6 million people worldwide were afflicted by Alzheimer's in 2006; this number may quadruple by 2050. Although each sufferer experiences Alzheimer's in a unique way, there are many common symptoms. The earliest observable symptoms are often mistakenly thought to be 'age-related' concerns, or manifestations of stress. The most commonly recognised early symptom is memory loss, such as difficulty in remembering recently learned facts. When a doctor or physician has been notified, and AD is suspected, the diagnosis is usually confirmed with behavioural assessments and cognitive tests, often followed by a brain scan if available. As the disease advances, symptoms include confusion, irritability and aggression, mood swings, language breakdown, long-term memory loss, and the general withdrawal of the sufferer as his senses decline. (more...)

Recently featured: Jena SixAnekantavadaToronto Magnetic and Meteorological Observatory

September 22

The border between Water Conservation Area 3 (bottom) with water, and Everglades National Park, dry

The history of draining and development of the Everglades goes back to the 19th century, before Florida became a state. A national push for expansion and progress toward the latter part of the 19th century stimulated interest in draining the Everglades for agricultural use. According to historians, "From the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, the United States went through a period in which wetland removal was not questioned. Indeed, it was considered the proper thing to do." A pattern of political and financial motivation, and a lack of understanding of the geography and ecology of the Everglades has plagued the history of drainage projects. The first attempt to drain the region was made by real estate developer Hamilton Disston in 1881. During his 1904 campaign to be elected governor, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward promised to drain the Everglades, and his later projects were more effective than Disston's. Severe hurricanes in 1926 and 1928 caused catastrophic damage and flooding from Lake Okeechobee that prompted the Army Corps of Engineers to build a dike around the lake. Further floods in 1947 prompted an unprecedented construction of canals throughout southern Florida. Following another population boom after World War II, the Everglades was divided into sections separated by canals and water control devices. However, in the late 1960s, following a proposal to construct a massive jetport next to Everglades National Park, national attention turned from developing the land to restoring the Everglades. (more...)

Recently featured: Alzheimer's diseaseJena SixAnekantavada

September 23


Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD) was the first emperor of the Roman Empire, who ruled from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. Known as Octavian before becoming emperor, he was adopted by his great uncle Julius Caesar in 44 BC. In 43 BC, Octavian joined forces with Mark Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus in a military dictatorship known as the Second Triumvirate. After the demise of the Second Triumvirate, Octavian restored the outward facade of the Roman Republic, with governmental power vested in the Roman Senate and which became known as the Roman Empire. Augustus' control over the majority of Rome's legions established an armed threat that could be used against the Senate, allowing him to coerce the Senate's decisions. The rule of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana. Augustus expanded the boundaries of the Roman Empire, secured the Empire's borders with client states, and made peace with Parthia through diplomacy. He reformed the Roman system of taxation, developed networks of roads with an official courier system, established a standing army (and a small navy), established the Praetorian Guard, and created official police and fire-fighting forces for Rome. Upon his death in AD 14, Augustus was declared a god by the Senate. The month of Sextilis was officially renamed August in his honour. (more...)

Recently featured: Draining and development of the EvergladesAlzheimer's diseaseJena Six

September 24

Mom and Dad is a feature-length 1945 film directed by William Beaudine, and largely produced by the exploitation filmmaker and presenter Kroger Babb. Mom and Dad is considered the most successful film within its genre of "sex hygiene" films. Although it faced numerous legal challenges, and was condemned by the National Legion of Decency, it went on to become the third highest grossing film of the 1940s. Mom and Dad starred the young Hardie Albright. It is regarded as an exploitation film; a term used to describe repackaged films with a controversial content, sometimes including medical footage, designed to establish an educational value that might circumvent U.S. censorship law. Babb's marketing of his film incorporated old-style medicine show techniques, and used unique promotions to build an audience. These formed a template for his later work, which were aped by his contemporary filmmakers. In 2005, the film was added to the United States National Film Registry, in recognition of its numerous achievements. (more...)

Recently featured: AugustusDraining and development of the EvergladesAlzheimer's disease

September 25

Zhang Heng

Zhang Heng was an astronomer, mathematician, inventor, geographer, cartographer, artist, poet, statesman, and literary scholar from Nanyang, Henan, and lived during the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25–220) of China. After beginning his career as a minor civil servant, he eventually became Chief Astronomer, Prefect of the Majors for Official Carriages, and then Palace Attendant at the imperial court. His uncompromising stances on certain historical and calendrical issues led to Zhang being considered a controversial figure, which prevented him from becoming an official court historian. Zhang applied his extensive knowledge of mechanics and gears in several of his inventions. He invented the world's first water-powered armillary sphere, to represent astronomical observation; improved the inflow water clock by adding another tank; and invented the world's first seismometer, which discerned the cardinal direction of an earthquake 500 km (310 mi) away. Furthermore, he improved previous Chinese calculations of the formula for pi. His fu (rhapsody) and shi poetry were renowned and commented on by later Chinese writers. Zhang received many posthumous honors for his scholarship and ingenuity, and is considered a polymath by some scholars. (more...)

Recently featured: Mom and DadAugustusDraining and development of the Everglades

September 26

Verdeja 75 mm self-propelled howitzer

The Verdeja was a series of light tanks developed in Spain between 1938 and 1954 in an attempt to replace German Panzer I and Soviet T-26 tanks in Spanish service. The program was headed by Captain Félix Verdeja Bardales and led to the development of four prototype vehicles, including a self-propelled howitzer armed with a 75 mm gun. It was designed as an advanced light tank and was one of the first development programs which took into account survivability of the crew as opposed to the protection of the tank. The tank was influenced by several of the light tanks which it was intended to replace, including the Panzer I and T-26, both of which were originally used during the Spanish Civil War. The Verdeja was considered a superior tank to the T-26 after a lengthy testing period, yet was never put into mass production. Three light tank prototypes were manufactured between 1938 and 1942, including the Verdeja 1 and the Verdeja 2. Interest in the vehicle's development waned after the end of the Second World War. Despite attempts to fit a new engine in the Verdeja 2 and convert the Verdeja 1 into a self-propelled artillery piece, ultimately the program was unofficially canceled in favor of adopting the US M47 Patton Tank in 1954. A prototype of the 75 millimetre self-propelled howitzer and of the Verdeja 2 were put on display in the early 1990s. (more...)

Recently featured: Zhang HengMom and DadAugustus

September 27


Stigand was an English churchman in pre-Norman Conquest England. By 1020 he was serving as a royal chaplain and advisor. He was named bishop of Elmham in 1043, and then later Bishop of Winchester and Archbishop of Canterbury. Stigand acted as an advisor to several members of the Anglo-Saxon and Norman English royal dynasties, serving six successive kings. Excommunicated by several popes for his pluralism in holding the two sees of Winchester and Canterbury concurrently, he was finally deposed in 1070, and his estates and personal wealth were confiscated by William the Conqueror. Stigand was imprisoned at Winchester, where he died without regaining his liberty. He served King Canute as a chaplain at a royal foundation at Ashingdon in 1020, and as an advisor then and later. He continued in his role of advisor during the reigns of Canute's sons, Harold Harefoot and Harthacanute. When Canute's stepson Edward the Confessor succeeded Harthacanute, Stigand likely became England's main administrator. Monastic writers of the time accused Stigand of extorting money and lands from the church. By 1066, the only estates richer than Stigand's were the royal estates and those of Harold Godwinson. In 1043 Edward appointed Stigand to the see, or bishopric, of Elmham. (more...)

Recently featured: VerdejaZhang HengMom and Dad

September 28

Biman Bangladesh Airlines Airbus A310-300

Biman Bangladesh Airlines is the National Flag Carrier of Bangladesh, with its main hub at Zia International Airport in Dhaka. It also operates flights from Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong and earns significant revenue from the connecting service to Osmani International Airport in Sylhet. Currently it provides passenger and cargo service in different international routes in Asia and Europe along with major domestic routes. It has Air Service Agreements with 42 countries; but maintains flights to only 18 at present. Until July 2007 the airline was wholly owned and managed by the Government of Bangladesh; on 23 July 2007, it was transformed into Bangladesh's largest Public Limited Company by the Caretaker government of Bangladesh. Created in February 1972 using vintage aircraft, Biman enjoyed an internal monopoly in Bangladesh aviation industry until 1996. In the decades following its founding, the airline expanded both its fleet and its horizon (at its peak Biman operated flights to 29 international destinations with New YorkJohn F. Kennedy International Airport (New York City) in the west and TokyoNarita in the east), but suffered heavily owing to mass corruption and frequent mishaps. After becoming a public limited company, Biman has trimmed the number of staff and turned its attention to modernizing the fleet. (more...)

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September 29

Assata Shakur (born 1947) is an African-American activist who was a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army. From 1971 to 1973, Shakur was accused of several crimes, of which she would never be convicted, and made the subject of a multi-state manhunt. In May 1973, Shakur was involved in a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike, during which she and Trooper James Harper were wounded; New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster and BLA member Zayd Malik Shakur suffered fatal injuries. In 1977, she was convicted of the first-degree murder of Foerster and of seven other felonies related to the shootout. Between 1973 and 1977, Shakur was indicted in relation to six other alleged criminal incidents—charged with murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, bank robbery, and kidnapping—resulting in three acquittals and three dismissals. Shakur was then incarcerated in several facilities, where her treatment drew criticism from some human rights groups. She escaped from prison in 1979 and has been living in Cuba with political asylum since 1984. Since May 2, 2005, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has classified her as a "domestic terrorist" and offered a $1 million reward for assistance in her capture. Attempts to extradite her have resulted in letters to the pope and a Congressional resolution. Shakur was the aunt of hip hop artist Tupac Shakur (the sister of his stepfather, Mutulu Shakur), and her life has been portrayed in literature, film, and song. (more...)

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September 30

Semper Augustus Tulip

Tulip mania was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for bulbs of the newly-introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then suddenly collapsed. At the peak of tulip mania in February 1637 tulip contracts sold for more than 20 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman. It is generally considered the first recorded speculative bubble. The event was popularized in 1841 by the book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, written by British journalist Charles Mackay. According to Mackay, at one point 12 acres of land was offered for a Semper Augustus bulb. Mackay claims that many such investors were ruined by the fall in prices, and Dutch commerce suffered a severe shock. Although Mackay's book is a classic that is widely reprinted today, his account is controversial. Modern scholars believe that the mania was not as extraordinary as Mackay described, with some suggesting that no economically meaningful bubble occurred. (more...)

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