Mar 162016


I am going to depart from my usual practice of celebrating just ONE event in this post, and instead give you an omnibus (from the Latin, “for all” — original name of what we now call by the shortened form “bus”). I’m doing this partly as a whim, and partly because next year I am shifting from celebrating events based on the Gregorian calendar to events that shift around the Gregorian calendar because they are based on lunar calendars, or because they shift for convenience. So, I cannot celebrate one birthday or anniversary today with the assurance that next year I can pick another from the same list. So here goes:


Today is the birthday (1750) of Caroline Lucretia Herschel, astronomer and the sister of astronomer Sir William Herschel ( ), with whom she worked throughout her career. Her most significant contributions to astronomy were the discoveries of several comets, including the periodic comet 35P/Herschel-Rigollet, which bears her name.

She was the first woman to be paid for her contribution to science, to be awarded a Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1828), and to be named an Honorary Member of the Royal Astronomical Society (1835, with Mary Somerville). She was also named an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy (1838). The King of Prussia presented her with a Gold Medal for Science, on the occasion of her 96th birthday (1846).


Today is the birthday (1751) of James Madison, Jr., a political theorist, and statesman who served as the fourth President of the United States (1809–17). He is sometimes called the “Father of the Constitution” for his pivotal role in drafting and promoting the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Madison inherited his plantation Montpelier in Virginia and owned hundreds of slaves during his lifetime. He served as both a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and as a member of the Continental Congress prior to the Constitutional Convention. After the Convention, he became one of the leaders in the movement to ratify it, both nationally and in Virginia. His collaboration with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay produced The Federalist Papers, among the most important treatises in support of the Constitution. Madison changed his political views during his life. During deliberations on the constitution, he favored a strong national government, but later preferred stronger state governments, before settling between the two extremes late in his life.

In 1789, Madison became a leader in the new House of Representatives, drafting many basic laws. He is noted for drafting the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and thus is known also as the “Father of the Bill of Rights”. He worked closely with President George Washington to organize the new federal government. Breaking with Hamilton and the Federalist Party in 1791, he and Thomas Jefferson organized the Democratic-Republican Party. In response to the Alien and Sedition Acts, Jefferson and Madison drafted the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions arguing that states can nullify unconstitutional laws.

As Jefferson’s Secretary of State (1801–09), Madison supervised the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the nation’s size. Madison succeeded Jefferson as President in 1809, was re-elected in 1813, and presided over renewed prosperity for several years. After the failure of diplomatic protests and a trade embargo against the United Kingdom, he led the U.S. into the War of 1812. The war was an administrative morass, as the United States had neither a strong army nor financial system. As a result, Madison afterward supported a stronger national government and a strong military, as well as the national bank, which he had long opposed.


Today is the birthday (1774) of Captain Matthew Flinders RN, an English navigator and cartographer, who was the first to circumnavigate Australia and identify it as a continent. Flinders made three voyages to the southern ocean between 1791 and 1810. In the second voyage, George Bass and Flinders confirmed that Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) was an island. In the third voyage, Flinders circumnavigated the mainland of what was to be called Australia.

Heading back to England in 1803, Flinders’ vessel needed urgent repairs at Isle de France (Mauritius). Although Britain and France were at war, Flinders thought the scientific nature of his work would ensure safe passage, but a suspicious governor kept him under arrest for more than six years. In captivity, he recorded details of his voyages for future publication, and put forward his rationale for naming the new continent ‘Australia’, as an umbrella term for New Holland and New South Wales – a suggestion taken up later by Governor Macquarie.

Flinders’ health had suffered, however, and although he reached home in 1810, he did not live to see the publication of his widely praised book and atlas, A Voyage to Terra Australis.


Today is the birthday (1789) of Georg Simon Ohm, born in Erlangen, Brandenburg-Bayreuth (then a part of the Holy Roman Empire). He was a physicist and mathematician who, as a school teacher, began research on electricity using the new electrochemical cell, invented by Italian scientist Alessandro Volta. Using equipment of his own creation, Ohm found that there is a direct proportionality between the potential difference (voltage) applied across a conductor and the resultant electric current. This relationship is known as Ohm’s law.


Today is the birthday (1856) of Napoléon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte, prince impérial de France, the only child of Emperor Napoleon III of France and his Empress consort Eugénie de Montijo. After his father was dethroned in 1870, he relocated with his family to England. On his father’s death in January 1873, he was proclaimed Napoleon IV, Emperor of the French by the Bonapartist faction.

In England he trained as a soldier. Keen to see action, he successfully put pressure on the British to allow him to participate in the Anglo-Zulu war. In 1879, serving with British forces, he was killed in a skirmish with a group of Zulus. His early death sent shockwaves throughout Europe, as he was the last serious dynastic hope for the restoration of the Bonapartes to the throne of France.


Today is the birthday (1899) of Alberto Gainza Paz, an Argentine journalist and political activist who served as editor of the newspaper La Prensa. He received a law degree from the University of Buenos Aires in 1921, and in 1943, assumed the role of editor of La Prensa from his uncle, Ezequiel Pedro Paz, who retired for health reasons. La Prensa was suspended for five days in 1944, after criticizing the government’s health program.

Paz and five other newspaper editors were arrested in 1945, charged with conspiring against the government. In January 1951, the Peronist government forced the newspaper to suspend publication, through its control of newspaper distribution. That March the Congress ordered the arrest of Gainza Paz, who was already in exile in Uruguay.

In 1951, Paz was quoted in a New York newspaper: “I am not saying that what happened in my country might some day happen here, but I will warn you that it is much easier to fight to keep the freedoms you have than to fight to regain the freedoms you have lost.”

He returned to La Prensa in 1956, the year after Juan Perón was deposed.


On this date in 1621 Samoset, also Somerset, (c. 1590–1653), an Abenaki sagamore strolled straight through the middle of the encampment at Plymouth Colony and greeted the colonists in English, which he had begun to learn from English fishermen frequenting the waters of what now is Maine. He was the first Native American to make contact with the colony. Mourt’s Relation is a 1622 account of the early days of Plymouth Colony. It describes Samoset’s visit thus:

Friday the 16th a fair warm day towards; this morning we determined to conclude of the military orders, which we had begun to consider of before but were interrupted by the savages, as we mentioned formerly; and whilst we were busied hereabout, we were interrupted again, for there presented himself a savage, which caused an alarm. He very boldly came all alone and along the houses straight to the rendezvous, where we intercepted him, not suffering him to go in, as undoubtedly he would, out of his boldness. He saluted us in English, and bade us welcome, for he had learned some broken English among the Englishmen that came to fish at Monchiggon, and knew by name the most of the captains, commanders, and masters that usually come. He was a man free in speech, so far as he could express his mind, and of a seemly carriage. We questioned him of many things; he was the first savage we could meet withal. He said he was not of these parts, but of Morattiggon, and one of the sagamores or lords thereof, and had been eight months in these parts, it lying hence a day’s sail with a great wind, and five days by land. He discoursed of the whole country, and of every province, and of their sagamores, and their number of men, and strength. The wind being to rise a little, we cast a horseman’s coat about him, for he was stark naked, only a leather about his waist, with a fringe about a span long, or little more; he had a bow and two arrows, the one headed, and the other unheaded. He was a tall straight man, the hair of his head black, long behind, only short before, none on his face at all; he asked some beer, but we gave him strong water and biscuit, and butter, and cheese, and pudding, and a piece of mallard, all which he liked well, and had been acquainted with such amongst the English. He told us the place where we now live is called Patuxet, and that about four years ago all the inhabitants died of an extraordinary plague, and there is neither man, woman, nor child remaining, as indeed we have found none, so as there is none to hinder our possession, or to lay claim unto it. All the afternoon we spent in communication with him; we would gladly have been rid of him at night, but he was not willing to go this night. Then we thought to carry him on shipboard, wherewith he was well content, and went into the shallop, but the wind was high and the water scant, that it could not return back. We lodged him that night at Stephen Hopkins’ house, and watched him.

The next day he went away back to the Massasoits, from whence he said he came, who are our next bordering neighbors. They are sixty strong, as he saith. The Nausets are as near southeast of them, and are a hundred strong, and those were they of whom our people were encountered, as before related. They are much incensed and provoked against the English, and about eight months ago slew three Englishmen, and two more hardly escaped by flight to Monchiggon; they were Sir Ferdinando Gorges his men, as this savage told us, as he did likewise of the huggery, that is, fight, that our discoverers had with the Nausets, and of our tools that were taken out of the woods, which we willed him should be brought again, otherwise, we would right ourselves. These people are ill affected towards the English, by reason of one Hunt, a master of a ship, who deceived the people, and got them under color of trucking with them, twenty out of this very place where we inhabit, and seven men from Nauset, and carried them away, and sold them for slaves like a wretched man (for twenty pound a man) that cares not what mischief he doth for his profit.

Saturday, in the morning we dismissed the savage, and gave him a knife, a bracelet, and a ring; he promised within a night or two to come again, and to bring with him some of the Massasoits, our neighbors, with such beavers’ skins as they had to truck with us.


On this date in 1971 US Patent # 3,570,156 was issued for the lava lamp. If you have not owned at least one in your life, you are not really living.


On this date in 1995 Mississippi formally ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, becoming the last state in the Union to formally approve the abolition of slavery. The gesture was purely symbolic because Thirteenth Amendment became U.S. law in 1865. One does wonder why it took so long, though.

Given the diversity of celebrations here you could cook an English, German, Native American, U.S., or Australian dish depending on which anniversary to choose to focus on.   Here’s a photo of my lunch that I am eating as I type. Like this post it’s a complete mish-mash — rabbit, leeks, mushrooms, hot peppers, and pasta in broth.


This is a very common habit of mine for breakfast or lunch — using up what I have on hand. It’s my omnibus dish du jour.