Wikipedia:Today's featured article/April 2012

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April 1
Pigeon with German miniature camera, probably taken during the First World War

Pigeon photography was an aerial photography technique invented in 1907 by Julius Neubronner, court apothecary of Empress Frederick, who also used pigeons for film special effects and to deliver medications. A homing pigeon was fitted with an aluminum breast harness to which a lightweight time-delayed miniature camera could be attached. The technique was publicized at the 1909 Dresden International Photographic Exhibition. It was successfully demonstrated at the first German Aviation Show and at the 1910 and 1911 Paris Air Shows. The lack of military or commercial interest in the technology after the First World War led Neubronner to abandon his experiments, but his idea was briefly resurrected in the 1930s by a Swiss clockmaker, and reportedly also by the German and French militaries. There was interest in the concept even during the Cold War, by the American Central Intelligence Agency. The construction of sufficiently small and light cameras with a timer mechanism, and the training and handling of the birds to carry the necessary loads, presented major challenges, as did the limited control over the pigeons' position, orientation and speed when the photographs were being taken. Today some researchers, enthusiasts, and artists similarly employ small digital photo or video cameras with various species of wild or domestic animals. (more...)

Recently featured: Body CountCathedral of the Immaculate ConceptionWilliam Walton

April 2
An 1880 portrait of Talbot Reed from "Boy's Own Writers"

Talbot Baines Reed (1852–1893) was an English writer of boys' fiction who established a genre of school stories that endured into the second half of the 20th century and was widely imitated. Among his best-known work is The Fifth Form at St. Dominic's. He was a regular and prolific contributor to The Boy's Own Paper, in which most of his fiction first appeared. Through his family's business, Reed became a prominent typefounder, and wrote a classic History of the Old English Letter Foundries which, published in 1887, was hailed as the standard work on the subject. Reed's affinity with boys, his instinctive understanding of their standpoint in life and his gift for creating believable characters, ensured that his popularity survived through several generations. He also wrote regular articles and book reviews for his cousin Edward Baines's newspaper, the Leeds Mercury. After struggling with illness for most of 1893, Reed died in November that year, at the age of 41. Tributes honoured him both for his contribution to children's fiction and for his work as the definitive historian of English typefounding. (more...)

Recently featured: Pigeon photography - Body CountCathedral of the Immaculate Conception

April 3

The Tiananmen Square self-immolation incident took place in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing on 23 January 2001. The incident is disputed: the official Chinese press agency, Xinhua News Agency, stated that five members of Falun Gong, a banned spiritual movement, set themselves on fire to protest the unfair treatment of Falun Gong by the Chinese government. The Falun Dafa Information Center stated the incident was a hoax staged by the Chinese government to turn public opinion against the group and to justify the torture and imprisonment of its practitioners. The incident received international news coverage, and video footage was broadcast later in the People's Republic of China by China Central Television. A wide variety of opinions and interpretations of what may have happened emerged: the event may have been set up by the government, it may have been an authentic protest, or the self-immolators may have been "new or unschooled" practitioners, among others. The campaign of state propaganda that followed the event eroded public sympathy for Falun Gong, and the government began sanctioning "systematic use of violence" against the group. (more...)

Recently featured: Talbot Baines ReedPigeon photography - Body Count

April 4
Tryon Creek running through the forest in Marshall Park

Tryon Creek is a 4.85-mile (7.81 km) tributary of the Willamette River in the U.S. state of Oregon. Part of the drainage basin of the Columbia River, its watershed covers about 6.5 square miles (16.8 km2) in Multnomah and Clackamas counties. The stream flows southeast from the Tualatin Mountains (West Hills) through the Multnomah Village neighborhood of Portland and the Tryon Creek State Natural Area to the Willamette in the city of Lake Oswego. Parks and open spaces cover about 21 percent of the watershed, while single-family homes dominate most of the remainder. The largest of the parks is the state natural area, which straddles the border between the two cities and counties. The bedrock under the watershed includes part of the last exotic terrane, a chain of seamounts, acquired by the North American Plate as it moved west during the Eocene. Named for mid-19th century settler, Socrates Hotchkiss Tryon, Sr., the creek ran through forests of cedar and fir. Efforts to establish a large park in the watershed began in the 1950s and succeeded in 1975 when the state park was formally established. As of 2005, about 37 percent of the watershed was wooded and supported more than 60 species of birds as well as small mammals, amphibians, and fish. (more...)

Recently featured: Tiananmen Square self-immolation incident - Talbot Baines ReedPigeon photography

April 5
David Fincher

Zodiac is a 2007 American mystery-thriller film directed by David Fincher (pictured) and based on Robert Graysmith's non-fiction book of the same name. The Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. joint production stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey, Jr. Zodiac tells the story of the hunt for a notorious serial killer known as "Zodiac" who killed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area during the late 1960s and early 1970s, leaving several victims in his wake and taunting police with letters and ciphers mailed to newspapers. The case remains one of San Francisco's most infamous unsolved crimes. Fincher, screenwriter James Vanderbilt, and producer Brad Fischer spent 18 months conducting their own investigation and research into the Zodiac murders. During filming, Fincher employed the digital Thomson Viper Filmstream camera to shoot the film. Contrary to popular belief, Zodiac was not shot entirely digitally; traditional high-speed film cameras were used for slow-motion murder sequences. Reviews for the film were highly positive; however, it did not perform strongly at the North American box office. It performed better in other parts of the world, earning $84 million, with a budget of $65 million spent on its production. (more...)

Recently featured: Tryon CreekTiananmen Square self-immolation incident - Talbot Baines Reed

April 6
A coin depicting Offa of Mercia

Offa was the King of Mercia from 757 until his death in July 796. The son of Thingfrith and a descendant of Eowa, Offa came to the throne after a period of civil war. In the early years of Offa's reign it is likely that he consolidated his control of midland peoples such as the Hwicce and the Magonsæte. Taking advantage of instability in the kingdom of Kent to establish himself as overlord, Offa was also in control of Sussex by 771, though his authority did not remain unchallenged in either territory. He extended Mercian supremacy over most of southern England and regained complete control of the southeast. Offa was a Christian king but came into conflict with the Church, and had long-running disputes with both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Worcester. Many historians regard Offa as the most powerful Anglo-Saxon king before Alfred the Great. His reign was once seen by historians as part of a process leading to a unified England, but this is no longer the majority view. Offa died in 796 and was succeeded by his son, Ecgfrith, who reigned for less than five months before Coenwulf of Mercia took the throne. (more...)

Recently featured: ZodiacTryon CreekTiananmen Square self-immolation incident

April 7
The underside of the Madagascan sunset moth

The Madagascan sunset moth is a day-flying moth of the Uraniidae family. It is considered to be one of the most impressive and beautiful Lepidoptera. Famous worldwide, it is featured in most coffee table books on the Lepidoptera and is much sought after by collectors. It is very colourful, though the iridescent parts of the wings do not have pigment; rather, the colours originate from optical interference. The moth was considered to be a butterfly by Dru Drury, who described it in 1773 and placed it in the genus Papilio. Jacob Hübner placed it in the moth genus Chrysiridia in 1823. Later redescriptions led to junior synonyms such as Chrysiridia madagascariensis. At first the moth was thought to be from China or Bengal, but was later found to be endemic to Madagascar. It is found throughout the year in most parts of the island, with peak populations between March and August, and smallest numbers between October and December. Females lay about 80 eggs under the leaves of Omphalea spp. The caterpillars are whitish-yellow with black spots and red feet and are covered in club-ended black setae. Silk spun from the mouth helps the caterpillars hold onto smooth leaves and climb back to the plant when they fall. (more...)

Recently featured: Offa of MerciaZodiacTryon Creek

April 8
A 19th-century depiction of the Biddenden Maids from The Gentleman's Magazine

The Biddenden Maids, Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst, were conjoined twins supposedly born in the village of Biddenden, Kent, in the year 1100. It is claimed that they were joined at both the shoulder and the hip, and that on their death they bequeathed land to the village. The income from this land was used to pay for a gift of food and drink to the poor every Easter. Since at least 1775 this has included hard biscuits imprinted with an image of two conjoined women, known as "Biddenden cakes". Some historians dismissed the story as a folk myth, claiming that the image on the cakes had originally represented two poor women and that the story of the conjoined twins was invented to account for it. Despite doubts as to its authenticity, in the 19th century the legend became increasingly popular and the village of Biddenden was thronged with rowdy visitors every Easter. In 1907 the land supposedly bequeathed by the twins was sold. The income from the sale allowed the annual distribution of gifts to expand in scale, providing the widows and pensioners of Biddenden with cheese, bread and tea at Easter and with cash payments at Christmas. Biddenden cakes continue to be given to the poor of Biddenden each Easter Monday, and are sold as souvenirs to visitors. (more...)

Recently featured: Madagascan sunset mothOffa of MerciaZodiac

April 9
A 6-inch naval gun on a "Percy Scott" carriage, firing over Vimy Ridge behind Canadian lines at night

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a First World War battle in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France between four divisions of the Canadian Corps and three divisions of the German Sixth Army. It lasted from 9 to 12 April 1917, as part of the opening phase of the British-led Battle of Arras, a diversionary attack for the French Nivelle Offensive. The Canadian objective was to take the German-held high ground along an escarpment at the northern end of the offensive. Supported by a creeping barrage, the Canadians captured most of the ridge on 9 April. The town of Thélus fell on the 10th, as did the crest of the ridge once the Canadians overcame a salient of considerable German resistance. The final objective, a fortified knoll near Givenchy-en-Gohelle, fell to the Canadians on 12 April, and the Germans retreated to the OppyMéricourt line. Canadian success is attributed to technical and tactical innovations, meticulous planning and training, and powerful artillery support, and the failure of the Germans to properly apply their new defensive doctrine. For the first time all four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force fought together and the battle remains a Canadian symbol of achievement and sacrifice; the battleground now contains the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. (more...)

Recently featured: Biddenden MaidsMadagascan sunset mothOffa of Mercia

April 10
Kelsey Grammer voices Sideshow Bob

Sideshow Bob is a recurring character in the animated television series The Simpsons. He is voiced by Kelsey Grammer (pictured) and first appeared briefly in the episode "The Telltale Head". Bob is a self-proclaimed genius who is a graduate of Yale, a member of the Republican Party, and a champion of high culture. He began his career as a sidekick on Krusty the Clown's television show, but after enduring constant abuse, Bob attempted to frame his employer for armed robbery in "Krusty Gets Busted". The plan was foiled by Bart Simpson, and Sideshow Bob was sent to prison. Bob made his second major appearance in season three's "Black Widower". In each appearance thereafter, Bob has assumed the role on The Simpsons of an evil genius. Episodes in which he is a central character typically involve Sideshow Bob being released from prison and executing an elaborate revenge plan, usually foiled by Bart and Lisa. His plans often involve murder and destruction, usually targeted at Bart or, less often, Krusty, though these plans often involve targeting the entire Simpson family. Sideshow Bob shares some personality traits of Grammer's character Frasier Crane from the sitcoms Cheers and Frasier, and has been described as "Frasier pickled in arsenic". As of 2012, Bob has had speaking appearances in thirteen episodes and been featured in eleven; the most recent of the latter, "The Bob Next Door", aired during the twenty-first season. (more...)

Recently featured: Battle of Vimy RidgeBiddenden MaidsMadagascan sunset moth

April 11
Black Francis performing at Brixton Academy in 2009

Black Francis (born 1965) is an American singer, songwriter and guitarist. He is best known as the frontman of the influential alternative rock band Pixies. Following the band's breakup in 1993, he embarked on a solo career. After releasing two albums with 4AD, he left the label and formed a backing band, Frank Black and the Catholics. He reformed the Pixies in 2004 and continues to release solo records and tour as a solo artist. His vocal style has varied from a screaming, yowling delivery as lead vocalist of the Pixies to a more measured and melodical style in his solo career. His cryptic lyrics mostly explore unconventional subjects, such as surrealism, incest and biblical violence, along with science fiction and surf culture. His use of atypical meter signatures, loud–quiet dynamics and distinct preference for live-to-two-track recording in his career as a solo artist give him a distinct style within alternative rock. As frontman of the Pixies, his songs (such as "Where Is My Mind?" and "Debaser") received praise and citations from contemporaries, including Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. Cobain once said that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was his attempt at trying to "rip off the Pixies". However, in his solo work and records with the Catholics, he received fewer popular and critical accolades. (more...)

Recently featured: Sideshow BobBattle of Vimy RidgeBiddenden Maids

April 12
A swamp in Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park is a national park in the U.S. state of Florida that protects the southern 25 percent of the original Everglades. It is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, and is visited on average by one million people each year. It is the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states. It has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance, only one of three locations in the world to appear on all three lists. Unlike most U.S. national parks, Everglades National Park was created to protect a fragile ecosystem instead of safeguarding a unique geographic feature. Thirty-six species designated as threatened or protected live in the park, including the Florida panther, the American crocodile, and the West Indian manatee. All of South Florida's fresh water, which is stored in the Biscayne Aquifer, is recharged in the park. In the 20th century the natural water flow from Lake Okeechobee was controlled and diverted to the explosive growth of the South Florida metropolitan area. The park was established in 1934 to protect the quickly vanishing Everglades. The ecosystems in Everglades National Park have suffered significantly from human activity, and the repair and restoration of the Everglades is a politically charged issue in South Florida. (more...)

Recently featured: Black FrancisSideshow BobBattle of Vimy Ridge

April 13

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is a first-person shooter video game developed by Iguana Entertainment and published by Acclaim for the Nintendo 64 console and personal computer platforms. It was released in 1997 in North America and Europe. Turok is an adaptation of the Acclaim Comics comic book series of the same name. The player controls a Native American warrior, Turok, who must stop the evil Campaigner from conquering the universe with an ancient and powerful weapon. As Acclaim's first exclusive title for the Nintendo 64, Turok was part of a strategy to develop games internally and license merchandise; Acclaim acquired the rights to Turok when it purchased Acclaim Comics (né Valiant) in 1994. Suffering from cash flow problems and falling sales, Turok became Acclaim's best hope for a financial turnaround. Iguana pushed the Nintendo 64's graphics capabilities to its limits, and were forced to compress or cut elements to fit the game on its 8-megabyte cartridge. Bugs delayed the game's release from holiday 1996 to 1997. Critical reception of Turok was highly positive. Becoming one of the most popular games for the console on release, Turok won praise for its graphics and evolution of the genre. Complaints centered on graphical slowdowns caused by multiple enemies appearing onscreen and occasionally awkward controls. The game sold 1.5 million copies and boosted sales of the Nintendo 64. Turok spawned a video game franchise that includes six sequels. (more...)

Recently featured: Everglades National ParkBlack FrancisSideshow Bob

April 14
An adult Galápagos tortoise

The Galápagos tortoise is the largest living species of tortoise and 10th-heaviest living reptile. With life spans in the wild of over 100 years, it is one of the longest-lived vertebrates. The tortoise is native to seven of the Galápagos Islands, a volcanic archipelago about 1,000 km (620 mi) west of the Ecuadorian mainland. Shell size and shape vary between populations; these differences helped Charles Darwin to develop his theory of evolution. Tortoise numbers declined from over 250,000 in the 16th century to a low of around 3,000 in the 1970s. The decline was caused by hunting for tortoise meat and oil, habitat clearance for agriculture, and introduction of non-native animals such as rats, goats, and pigs. Ten subspecies of the original fifteen survive in the wild. An eleventh subspecies has only a single known living individual, in captivity, nicknamed Lonesome George. Conservation efforts beginning in the 20th century have resulted in thousands of captive-bred juveniles being released onto their home islands, and it is estimated that numbers exceeded 19,000 at the start of the 21st century. Despite this rebound, the species as a whole is classified as "Vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). (more...)

Recently featured: Turok: Dinosaur HunterEverglades National ParkBlack Francis

April 15
"Untergang der Titanic" by Willy Stöwer (1912), depicting the Titanic sinking

The sinking of the RMS Titanic on 15 April 1912, with the loss of over 1,500 lives, was one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history. Four days into her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, Titanic – at the time the world's largest ship – struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic off Newfoundland. Five of her watertight compartments were holed, causing the ship to flood deck by deck. She carried too few lifeboats for her 2,223 passengers and crew, and many seats were left empty due to a poorly managed evacuation. Titanic's officers loaded the lifeboats "women and children first", leaving most of the men aboard the ship. Two hours and forty minutes after the collision, Titanic sank with over a thousand people still aboard. Almost all those who jumped or fell into the freezing water soon died of hypothermia or drowned. The RMS Carpathia rescued the survivors from the lifeboats a few hours later. Public outrage at the loss of life led to tougher maritime safety regulations. Titanic's wreck was not found until 1985. The disaster has inspired a wealth of popular culture including many films, most notably James Cameron's Titanic in 1997. (more...)

Recently featured: Galápagos tortoiseTurok: Dinosaur HunterEverglades National Park

April 16
The "spiny puffball", species Lycoperdon echinatum

Lycoperdon echinatum, commonly known as the spiny puffball or the spring puffball, is a type of puffball mushroom in the genus Lycoperdon. The saprobic species has been found in Africa, Europe, Central America and North America, where it grows on soil in deciduous woods, glades, and pastures. Molecular analysis indicates that Lycoperdon echinatum is closely related to the puffball genus Handkea. Initially white in color, the puffballs turn a dark brown as they mature, at the same time changing from nearly round to somewhat flattened. The fruit bodies are edible when young, when the interior is white and firm and before it has turned into a powdery brown mass of spores. Young specimens of L. echinatum resemble another edible spiny puffball, Lycoperdon pulcherrimum, but this latter species does not turn brown as it ages. Laboratory tests have shown that extracts of the fruit bodies can inhibit the growth of several bacteria that are pathogenic to humans. (more...)

Recently featured: Sinking of the RMS TitanicGalápagos tortoiseTurok: Dinosaur Hunter

April 17
The first page of the St Cuthbert Gospel

The St Cuthbert Gospel is a 7th-century pocket gospel book, written in Latin, placed in the tomb of Saint Cuthbert at Lindisfarne, probably a few years after he died in 687. Its finely decorated leather binding is the earliest known Western book-binding to survive, and the whole book is in outstanding condition for its age. It was probably made as a gift from Monkwearmouth-Jarrow Abbey, where it was written, intended to be placed in St Cuthbert's coffin when his remains were placed behind the altar at Lindisfarne in 698. It presumably remained in the coffin through its long travels after 875, forced by Viking invasions, ending at Durham Cathedral. There the book was found inside the coffin and removed in 1104, and kept with other relics, and important visitors were able to wear the book in a leather bag around their necks until the English Reformation. It has been on long-term loan to the British Library, who today announced the purchase of the book for £9m ($14.3m) from the British Jesuits. The library describes it as "the earliest surviving intact European book and one of the world's most significant books." (more...)

Recently featured: Lycoperdon echinatumSinking of the RMS TitanicGalápagos tortoise

April 18

Nigel Kneale (1922–2006) was a British screenwriter from the Isle of Man. Active in television, film, radio drama and prose fiction, he wrote professionally for over fifty years, was a winner of the Somerset Maugham Award and was twice nominated for the British Film Award for Best Screenplay. Predominantly a writer of thrillers which used science-fiction and horror elements, he was best known for the creation of the character Professor Bernard Quatermass. Quatermass was a heroic scientist who appeared in various television, film and radio productions written by Kneale for the BBC, Hammer Film Productions and Thames Television between 1953 and 1996. Kneale wrote original scripts and successfully adapted works by writers such as George Orwell, John Osborne, H. G. Wells and Susan Hill. He was most active in television, joining BBC Television in 1951 as one of its first staff writers; his final script was transmitted on ITV in 1997. Kneale wrote well-received television dramas such as The Year of the Sex Olympics (1968) and The Stone Tape (1972) in addition to the Quatermass serials. He has been described as "one of the most influential writers of the 20th century", and as "having invented popular TV". (more...)

Recently featured: St Cuthbert GospelLycoperdon echinatumSinking of the RMS Titanic

April 19
Albert Einstein in 1921

General relativity is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1916. It is the current description of gravitation in modern physics. General relativity generalises special relativity and Newton's law of universal gravitation, providing a unified description of gravity as a geometric property of space and time. In particular, the curvature of spacetime is directly related to the four-momentum of whatever matter and radiation are present. The relation is specified by the Einstein field equations. Some predictions of general relativity differ significantly from those of classical physics. Examples of such differences include gravitational time dilation, gravitational lensing, the gravitational redshift of light, and the gravitational time delay. General relativity's predictions have been confirmed in all observations and experiments to date. Although general relativity is not the only relativistic theory of gravity, it is the simplest theory that is consistent with experimental data. However, unanswered questions remain, the most fundamental being how general relativity can be reconciled with the laws of quantum physics to produce a complete and self-consistent theory of quantum gravity. (more...)

Recently featured: Nigel KnealeSt Cuthbert GospelLycoperdon echinatum

April 20
Stephen F. Austin was elected president of the Convention of 1832.

The Convention of 1832 was the first political gathering of colonists in Mexican Texas. Delegates sought reforms from the Mexican government and hoped to quell the widespread belief that settlers in Texas wished to secede from Mexico. The convention was the first of a series of unsuccessful attempts at political negotiation that eventually led to the Texas Revolution. On October 1, 1832, 55 political delegates met at San Felipe de Austin to petition for changes in the governance of Texas. Notably absent was any representation from San Antonio de Béxar, where many of the native Mexican settlers (Tejanos) lived. The delegates elected Stephen F. Austin (pictured), a highly respected immigrant, as president of the convention. Delegates passed a series of resolutions requesting, among other things, a repeal of the immigration restrictions, a three-year exclusion from custom duties enforcement, permission to form an armed militia and independent statehood. They also voted themselves the power to call future conventions. Before the petition could be delivered to Mexico City, the political chief of Texas, Ramón Músquiz, ruled that the convention was illegal and annulled the resolutions. In a compromise, the ayuntamiento (city council) of San Antonio de Béxar drafted a new petition with similar language to the convention resolutions and submitted it through proper legal channels. Músquiz forwarded the new document to the Mexican Congress. (more...)

Recently featured: General relativityNigel KnealeSt Cuthbert Gospel

April 21
The Virginia Tech Hokies football team takes the field before the start of the game.

The 2009 Orange Bowl game was the 75th edition of the annual college football bowl game known as the Orange Bowl. It pitted the 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) champion Virginia Tech Hokies against the Big East Conference champion Cincinnati Bearcats on January 1, 2009 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Cincinnati scored first, converting the game's opening possession into a touchdown and a 7–0 lead in the first quarter. Virginia Tech responded in the second quarter, tying the game at seven before taking a 10–7 lead with a field goal as time expired in the first half. In the third quarter, the two teams battled defensively, with only the Hokies able to score any points as Tech extended its lead to 13–7. During the final quarter, Virginia Tech scored its second touchdown of the game, giving the Hokies a 20–7 lead that lasted until time expired. In recognition of his performance during the game, Virginia Tech running back Darren Evans was named the game's most valuable player. Three months after the game, players from each team entered the National Football League (NFL) via the 2009 NFL Draft. Cincinnati had six players selected in the draft, while Virginia Tech had one. (more...)

Recently featured: Convention of 1832General relativityNigel Kneale

April 22
Katheen Ferrier in 1951

Kathleen Ferrier (1912–1953) was an English contralto who achieved an international reputation as a stage, concert and recording artist. Her early death from cancer, at the height of her fame, was a considerable shock to the music world. Ferrier began singing professionally in 1937, after winning a singing competition. During the Second World War she performed regularly with the Council for the Encouragement of the Arts (CEMA); her career developed considerably after the conductor Malcolm Sargent recommended her to the influential Ibbs and Tillett concert management agency. In 1946 she made her stage debut as Lucretia in the Glyndebourne Festival premiere of Benjamin Britten's opera The Rape of Lucretia. A year later she sang Orfeo in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice; these were her only two operatic roles. As a recitalist she became known internationally through her three tours of the United States and her many visits to continental Europe. She continued to perform and record after being diagnosed with breast cancer in March 1951. Her final public appearance was as Orfeo, at the Royal Opera House in February 1953; she died in October that year. Among her many memorials, the Kathleen Ferrier Cancer Research Fund was launched in May 1954; the Kathleen Ferrier Scholarship Fund, administered by the Royal Philharmonic Society, makes annual awards to aspiring young professional singers. (more...)

Recently featured: 2009 Orange BowlConvention of 1832General relativity

April 23
A Soviet postage stamp celebrating growth in the Soviet chemical industry

Broad-sweeping wage reforms were instituted in the Soviet Union during the Khrushchev era, from 1956 through 1962. These were intended to move Soviet industrial workers away from the mindset of overfulfilling quotas that had characterised the Soviet economy during the preceding Stalinist period, and toward a more efficient financial incentive. Throughout the Stalinist period, most Soviet workers had been paid for their work based on a piece-rate system. Thus their individual wages were directly tied to the amount of work they achieved. This policy was intended to encourage workers to toil and therefore increase production as much as possible. The piece-rate system led to an enormous level of bureaucracy and contributed to huge inefficiencies in Soviet industry. Additionally, factory managers frequently manipulated the personal production quotas given to workers to prevent workers' wages from falling too low. The wage reforms sought to remove these wage practices and offer an efficient financial incentive to Soviet workers by standardising their wages and reducing their dependence on overtime or bonus payments. (more...)

Recently featured: Kathleen Ferrier2009 Orange BowlConvention of 1832

April 24
Sculpture of an Iguanodon, displayed in Germany

Iguanodon is a genus of ornithopod dinosaur that lived roughly halfway between the first of the swift bipedal hypsilophodontids and the ornithopods' culmination in the duck-billed dinosaurs. Many species of Iguanodon have been named, dating from the Kimmeridgian age of the Late Jurassic Period to the Cenomanian age of the Late Cretaceous Period from Asia, Europe, and North America. However, research in the first decade of the 21st century suggests that there is only one well-substantiated species named I. bernissartensis, that lived from the late Barremian to the earliest Aptian ages (Early Cretaceous) in Belgium, between about 126 and 125 million years ago. Iguanodon's most distinctive features were its large thumb spikes, which were possibly used for defence against predators, combined with long prehensile fifth fingers able to forage for food. Named in 1825 by English geologist Gideon Mantell, Iguanodon was the second dinosaur formally named, after Megalosaurus. A large, bulky herbivore, Iguanodon is a member of Iguanodontia, along with the duck-billed hadrosaurs. (more...)

Recently featured: Wage reform in the Soviet Union, 1956–1962Kathleen Ferrier2009 Orange Bowl

April 25
Harry Chauvel at Maribyrnong camp during the Citizen Military Force (CMF) in 1923

Harry Chauvel (1865–1945) was a senior officer of the Australian Imperial Force who fought at Gallipoli and in the Middle East during the First World War. He was the first Australian to attain the rank of lieutenant general and later general, and the first to lead a corps. The son of a grazier, Chauvel was commissioned in 1886 as a captain in a unit organised by his father. After seeing service during the 1891 Australian shearers' strike, he became a regular officer in 1896, and commanded a company of the Queensland Mounted Infantry in the Boer War. He commanded the 1st Light Horse Brigade and later the 1st Division at Gallipoli. In March 1916, Chauvel became commander of the Anzac Mounted Division. He won victories at Romani and Magdhaba, and nearly won the First Battle of Gaza. At Beersheba in October 1917, his light horse captured the town and its vital water supply in one of history's last great cavalry charges. By September 1918, Chauvel was able to effect a secret redeployment of three of his mounted divisions and launch a surprise attack on the enemy that won the Battle of Megiddo. After the war, Chauvel was appointed Inspector General, the Army's most senior post. (more...)

Recently featured: IguanodonWage reform in the Soviet Union, 1956–1962Kathleen Ferrier

April 26
English writer Richard Hakluyt pictured in a stained glass window in the West Window of the South Transept of Bristol Cathedral

Richard Hakluyt (c. 1552 – 1616) was an English writer. He is principally remembered for his efforts in promoting and supporting the settlement of North America by the English through his works, notably Divers Voyages Touching the Discoverie of America (1582) and The Principal Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoueries of the English Nation (1589–1600). Educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, between 1583 and 1588 Hakluyt was chaplain and secretary to Sir Edward Stafford, English ambassador at the French court. An ordained priest, Hakluyt held important positions at Bristol Cathedral and Westminster Abbey and was personal chaplain to Sir Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, principal Secretary of State to Elizabeth I and James I. He was the chief promoter of a petition to James I for letters patent to colonize Virginia, which were granted to the London Company and Plymouth Company (referred to collectively as the Virginia Company) in 1606. (more...)

Recently featured: Harry ChauvelIguanodonWage reform in the Soviet Union, 1956–1962

April 27
Roger Hornsby on a 1921 Exhibits baseball card wearing a St. Louis Cardinals road uniform

Rogers Hornsby (1896–1963) was an American baseball infielder, manager, and coach who played 23 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB). Hornsby was named the National League (NL)'s Most Valuable Player (MVP) twice, and was a member of the 1926 World Series champions. In 1915, he began his major league career with the St. Louis Cardinals and remained with the team for 12 seasons, winning his first MVP and his only World Series. He then played for the New York Giants and Boston Braves before being traded to the Chicago Cubs. He played with the Cubs for four years and won his second MVP before the team released him in 1932. Hornsby re-signed with the Cardinals in 1933, but was released partway through the season and was picked up by the St. Louis Browns. He remained there until his final season in 1937. From 1925 to 1937, Hornsby was intermittently a player-manager. He later managed the Browns in 1952 and the Cincinnati Reds from 1952 to 1953. Sportswriters consider Hornsby to be one of the best hitters of all time. His career batting average of .358 is second to Ty Cobb in MLB history. He also won two Triple Crowns, and is the only player to hit 40 home runs and bat .400 in the same year (1922). He was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1942. (more...)

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April 28
SMS König at sea

SMS König was the first of four König class dreadnought battleships of the German Imperial Navy during World War I. König (Eng: "King") was named in honor of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. Laid down in October 1911, the ship was launched on 1 March 1913. Construction on König finished shortly after the outbreak of World War I; she was commissioned into the High Seas Fleet on 9 August 1914. Along with her three sister ships, Grosser Kurfürst, Markgraf, and Kronprinz, König took part in most of the fleet actions during the war. As the leading ship in the German line on 31 May 1916 in the Battle of Jutland, König was heavily engaged by several British battleships and suffered ten large-caliber shell hits. In October 1917, she forced the Russian pre-dreadnought battleship Slava to scuttle itself during Operation Albion. König was interned, along with the majority of the High Seas Fleet, in Scapa Flow in November 1918 following the Armistice. On 21 June 1919, Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter gave the order to scuttle the fleet while the British guard ships were out of the harbor on exercises. König slipped beneath the waters of Scapa Flow at 14:00. Unlike most of the other scuttled ships, König was never raised for scrapping; the wreck is still sitting on the bottom of the bay. (more...)

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April 29
Photographic portrait of Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony of Madagascar, c. 1880

Rainilaiarivony (1828–1896) was the Prime Minister of Madagascar from 1864 to 1895. Named Commander-in-Chief of the Army by King Radama II upon the death of Queen Ranavalona I in 1861, Rainilaiarivony played a key role in transforming Madagascar's government from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. He was promoted to Prime Minister in 1864 and remained in power for the next 31 years by marrying three queens in succession: Rasoherina, Ranavalona II and Ranavalona III. As Prime Minister, Rainilaiarivony modernized state administration and legislated the Christianization of the monarchy. His diplomatic and military acumen preserved Madagascar's sovereignty from colonial interests until the French capture of the royal palace in September 1895. Although holding him in high esteem, the French colonial authority deposed the prime minister and exiled him to French Algeria, where he died less than a year later in August 1896. (more...)

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April 30
Percival Lowell, originator of the Planet X hypothesis

The search for planets beyond Neptune began following the discovery of the planet Neptune in 1846, amid considerable speculation that another planet might exist beyond its orbit. The search began in the mid-19th century but culminated at the start of the 20th with Percival Lowell's quest for Planet X. Lowell proposed the Planet X hypothesis to explain apparent discrepancies in the orbits of the gas giants, particularly Uranus and Neptune, speculating that the gravity of a large unseen ninth planet could have perturbed Uranus enough to account for the irregularities. Clyde Tombaugh's discovery of Pluto in 1930 appeared to validate Lowell's hypothesis, and Pluto was officially considered the ninth planet until 2006. In 1978, Pluto was found to be too small for its gravity to affect the gas giants, resulting in a brief search for a tenth planet. The search was largely abandoned in the early 1990s, when a study of measurements made by the Voyager 2 spacecraft found that the irregularities observed in Uranus's orbit were due to a slight overestimation of Neptune's mass. (more...)

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