‘Mother, I know you can hear me. Mother, you were wrong! And now that I have your attention, can I stop eating my broccoli, please?’
Those are the words of Donald L Unger after he proved that his mother was wrong – that continually cracking your knuckles does not cause arthritis in later life as she so often warned him when he was a child. Read more ›››
Annie Edson Taylor was a remarkable woman. At an age when most people would think about putting their feet up and taking it easy, she decided that she would become the very first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.
She was born Annie Edson in Auburn, New York, in 1838, one of the eight children of flour mill owner Merrick Edson. He died when she was eight but the money he left meant supported the family. Read more ›››
There can be few people with a more unfortunate name as Clotworthy Skeffington, a cruel trick played on him by his parents, but one he tried hard to live up to.
Born in 1743, he was then the latest in a long line of Clotworthies, the family having adopted the first name from John Clotworthy, the Anglo-Irish politician who became the first Viscount Masserene whose title passed to his son-in-law, Sir John Skeffington. Read more ›››
The French Revolution resulted in many ridiculous ideas, but perhaps the most risible was the French Republican Calendar devised by Gilbert Romme.
The thinking behind the new calendar was twofold. First that it should remove all religious references and second that time itself should embrace decimalisation. The result was a largely unworkable system. Read more ›››
Acting is fraught with back-biting and bitchiness, but in the 18th century the profession was downright murderous, as illustrated by the life of actor and comedian, James Quin.
Quin was the son of a barrister and though he was born in London in 1693, his Irish parents took him back to Ireland where he spent his early years and attended Trinity College, Dublin, at least for a short time. Read more ›››
The gates of history turns on small hinges, at least if you believe that great events have their roots in trivial incidents. So did a punch on the nose lead to the massacre of a generation in World War One?
The year is 1878 and a nineteen-year-old Prince Wilhelm was misbehaving himself by throwing stones at beach huts on Rapparee Beach in Ilfracombe, Devon. Read more ›››
Whenever I write about the misdeeds of others, I generally focus on the villain of the piece but this week is different as I take a look at the victim – the foully murdered Sir Harry Oakes.
Oakes was born in Maine in America in 1874, one of five children of a successful lawyer. He studied medicine at Syracuse University but left before graduating to join the many thousands of hopeful prospectors in the Klondike Gold Rush to Alaska. Read more ›››
Félix Nadar was one of the most fascinating characters of the 19th century – bohemian, showman, caricaturist and proponent of powered flight though he was, he is best known as the world’s first great portrait photographer.
Nadar was born Gaspard-Félix Tournachon in Paris in 1820, the son of a printer and bookseller. The young Nadar was studying medicine when his father died and he was forced to give up his studies and seek work as a caricaturist and journalist for several newspapers. Read more ›››