1690 – Job Charnock of the East India Company establishes a factory in Calcutta, an event formerly considered the founding of the city (in 2003 the Calcutta High Court ruled that the city has no birthday).
The East India Company (EIC), also known as the Honourable East India Company (HEIC) or the British East India Company and informally as John Company, was an English and later British joint-stock company, which was formed to pursue trade with the “East Indies” (or Maritime Southeast Asia in present-day terms) but ended up trading mainly with Qing China and seizing control of the Indian subcontinent.
Originally chartered as the “Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies”, the company rose to account for half of the world’s trade, particularly in basic commodities including cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpetre, tea and opium. The company also ruled the beginnings of the British Empire in India.
The company received a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I on 31 December 1600, making it the oldest among several similarly formed European East India Companies. Wealthy merchants and aristocrats owned the company’s shares. Initially the government owned no shares and had only indirect control.
During its first century of operation, the focus of the company was trade, not the building of an empire in India. Company interests turned from trade to territory during the 18th century as the Mughal Empire declined in power and the East India Company struggled with its French counterpart, the French East India Company (Compagnie française des Indes orientales) during the Carnatic Wars of the 1740s and 1750s. The Battle of Plassey and Battle of Buxar, in which the British, led by Robert Clive, defeated the Indian powers, left the company in control of Bengal and a major military and political power in India. In the following decades it gradually increased the extent of the territories under its control, ruling the whole Indian subcontinent either directly or indirectly via local puppet rulers under the threat of force by its Presidency armies, much of which were composed of native Indian sepoys.
By 1803, at the height of its rule in India, the British East India company had a private army of about 260,000—twice the size of the British army. The company eventually came to rule large areas of India with its private armies, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions. Company rule in India effectively began in 1757 and lasted until 1858, when, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Government of India Act 1858 led to the British Crown’s assuming direct control of the Indian subcontinent in the form of the new British Raj.
Despite frequent government intervention, the company had recurring problems with its finances. It was dissolved in 1874 as a result of the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act passed one year earlier, as the Government of India Act had by then rendered it vestigial, powerless, and obsolete. The official government machinery of British India had assumed its governmental functions and absorbed its armies.
1556 – Sophia Brahe, Danish horticulturalist and astronomer (d. 1643)
Sophia or Sophie Brahe or after marriage Sophie Thott Lange (22 September 1556 or 24 August 1559 – 1643), was a Danish horticulturalist with knowledge of astronomy, chemistry, and medicine. She assisted her brother Tycho Brahe with his astronomical observations.
She was born in Knudstrup, as the youngest of ten children, to Otte Brahe rigsråd, or advisor to the King of Denmark; and Beate Bille Brahe, leader of the royal household for Queen Sophie. Famous astronomer Tycho Brahe, 10 years her senior, was Sophie’s oldest brother. When she was 17, she started assisting her brother with his astronomical observations in 1573, and helped him with the work that became the basis for modern planetary orbit predictions. She frequently visited his observatory Uranienborg, on the then-Danish island of Hveen. Tycho wrote that he had trained her in horticulture and chemistry, but he told her not to study astronomy. He expressed with pride that she learned astronomy on her own, studying books in German, and having Latin books translated with her own money so that she could also study them (Tjørnum). Brother and sister were united by their work in science, and by their family’s opposition to science as an appropriate activity for members of the aristocracy. Tycho referred with admiration to her ‘animus invictus’, her “determined mind” (Det Kongelige Bibliotek).
She married Otto Thott in 1576, an older man than her: he was 33. She had one child with him before he died on 23 March 1588. Their son was Tage Thott, born in 1580. Upon her husband’s death, Sophie Thott managed his property in Eriksholm (today Trolleholm Castle), running the estate to keep it profitable until her son came of age. During this time, she also became a horticulturalist, in addition to her studies in chemistry and medicine. The gardens she created in Ericksholm were said to be exceptional. Sophie was particularly interested in studying chemistry and medicine according to Paracelsus, in which small doses of poison might serve as strong medicines. She also helped her brother with producing horoscopes, continuing with that until 1597 (Det Kongelige Biblioteck).
On 21 July 1587, King Frederick II of Denmark signed a document transferring to Sophia Brahe title of Årup farm in what is now Sweden (Svensson, et al.).
During the times she visited at Uranienborg, Sophia Thott met Erik Lange, a nobleman who studied alchemy. In 1590, Sophie took 13 visits to Uranienborg, and they became engaged in that year. Lange used up most of his fortune with alchemy experiments, so their marriage was delayed some years while he avoided his debtors and traveled to Germany to try to find patrons for his work. Tycho Brahe wrote the poem “Urania Titani” during the couple’s separation, expressed as a letter from his sister Sophia to her fiance in 1594.
In 1599, she visited Lange in Hamburg, but they did not marry until 1602 in Eckernförde. They lived in this town for a while in extreme poverty. Sophie wrote a long letter to her sister Margrethe Brahe, describing having to wear stockings with holes in them for her wedding. Lange’s wedding clothes had to be returned to the pawn shop after the wedding, because the couple could not afford to keep them. She expressed anger with her family for not accepting her science studies, and for depriving her of money owed to her. By 1608, Erik Lange was living in Prague, and he died there in 1613 (Det Kongelige Bibliotek).
Sophie Brahe personally financed the restoration of the local church, Ivetofta kyrka. She planned to be buried there, and the lid for her unused sarcophagus remains in the church’s armory (Svensson, et al.). But, by 1616 she had moved permanently to Zealand and settled in Helsingør. She spent her last years writing up the genealogy of Danish noble families, publishing the first major version in 1626 (there were later additions). Her work is still considered a major source for early history of Danish nobility(Det Kongelige Bibliotek). She died in Helsingør in the year 1643, and was buried in Kristianstad, in Trefaldighets kyrka, with the Thott family (Tjørnum).
In 1626 Sophie had completed a 900-page manuscript on the genealogies of 60 Danish noble families, which is held by Lund University.
In 1691 Pieter van der Hulst painted a portrait of an old woman named Live Larsdatter; he wrote a note claiming she was born in 1575, and was 116 years old. Sparse sources claimed that Larsdatter worked for Tycho in Denmark, and later for Sophie, who taught her medicine. Larsdatter was variously said to have lived to 123 or 124 years and to have become known for her “miracle plaster”.
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Today, we are introducing ReFigure, a new science curation and publication tool supported by the eLife Innovation Initiative.
ReFigure is a chrome extension and website that allows researchers to connect new and previously reported findings across publisher websites and repositories.
It is currently in beta and being developed in the open on GitHub.
ReFigure was born from an idea that research outputs should be incremental, immediately connected to published findings and not confined to the websites of individual journals. For instance, there should be a way to rapidly curate a collection of related figures across publications based on similar experimental hypotheses, making it easier to identify whether the findings were reproducible. We also wanted to highlight new insights by connecting our own research findings, whether reproduced, negative or incremental new findings, to relevant, previously published research.
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