Filed: ABC Wednesday

John Ellis

Of all the occupations one might choose to follow, perhaps the strangest is that of executioner. What is it that might set you on that career path? Perhaps too many games of hangman as a child.

But when you look at the characteristics of the people who have become the state’s executioners, what is striking is their otherwise everyday ordinariness and one such was John Ellis. Read more ›››

Eccentric and naive he might have been, but Lord Timothy Dexter was also shrewd enough to sell coal to Newcastle, bed warmers to the West Indies and Bibles to India and managed to become a successful author despite being semi-literate.

Dexter was born in Malden Massachusetts in 1747 to a family of farm labourers when America was still a British colony. He had little or no schooling and was working in the fields at the age of eight. Read more ›››

The early days of flying was an age for pioneers and none more so than Bessie Coleman who was both the first woman of African-American descent and the first of Native American descent to hold a pilot’s licence.

Coleman was born in 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, the daughter of sharecropper George Coleman, who was mostly Cherokee and part African-American, and his African-American wife Susan. Read more ›››

Alan Blumlein was one of the most prolific inventors of the twentieth century filing 128 patents for electronic and audio engineering, but one we have to thank him for is ‘binaural sound’ or what we today would call stereo.

Blumlein was born in London in 1903, the son a German-born naturalised Britsh subject of Jewish descent. Read more ›››

Mary Anderson was a remarkable woman. She was a real estate developer, cattle farmer and vineyard manager, but her real claim to fame is that she invented something we all rely on – the car windscreen wiper.

Anderson was born in 1866 in Alabama in the wake of the American Civil War. Her father died when she was four years old and she and her mother and sisters continued to live in Greene County on the proceeds of his estate. Read more ›››

Z is for Zazel

On 21st May this year, Ringling Bros and Barnum Bailey said a final sad farewell after almost a century of The Greatest Show on Earth, bringing to an end many of the acts unique to the circus world.

And of those acts, perhaps the bravest is the human cannonball, but who was the first person to be shot into the air? Step forward Rosa Matilda Richter, better known as Zazel. Read more ›››

Henry Yule

English is a rather predatory language that snatches words and phrases from other tongues, making them its own. and few cultures have added more than India and the Asian sub-continent.

The man who chronicled the words loaned to the English language was the geographer, Orientalist and travel writer Sir Henry Yule whose Anglo-Indian dictionary has never been out of print. Read more ›››

X is for Xenophon

Xenophon

Another repeat of an earlier ABC Wednesday post in the soldier and philosopher, Xenophon, who wrote seven books, the most famous of which is Anabasis which tells the story of one of the great Greek military adventures.

The action took place in 480BC when Xenophon joined the 10,000 strong army of Greek mercenaries hired by Cyrus the Younger who planned to seize the throne of Persia from his brother after the death of their father, Darius II. Read more ›››

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