On this day:
Anti-paganism policy of Constantius II
The anti-paganism policy of Constantius II lasted from 337 till 361. It was marked by laws and edicts that punished pagan practices. Laws dating from the 350s prescribed the death penalty for those who performed or attended pagan sacrifices, and for the worshipping of idols; temples were shut down, and the Altar of Victory was removed from the Senate meeting house. There were also frequent episodes of ordinary Christians destroying, pillaging, desecrating, vandalizing many of the ancient pagan temples, tombs and monuments. Paganism was still popular among the population at the time. The emperor’s policies were passively resisted of many governors and magistrates. Herbermann contends that the anti-paganism legislation had an unfavourable influence on the Middle Ages and become the basis of the Inquisition.
Sickles shoots Key in 1859
Sickles was censured by the New York State Assembly for escorting a known prostitute, Fanny White, into its chambers. He also reportedly took her to England, while leaving his pregnant wife at home. He presented White to Queen Victoria, using as her alias the surname of a New York political opponent.
In 1859, in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House, Sickles shot and killed Philip Barton Key II, the district attorney of the District of Columbia; he was the son of Francis Scott Key. Sickles had discovered that Philip Key was having an affair with his young wife.
Sickles surrendered at Attorney General Jeremiah Black’s house, a few blocks away on Franklin Square, and confessed to the murder. After a visit to his home, accompanied by a constable, Sickles was taken to jail. He was able to receive visitors, and so many came that he was granted the use of the head jailer’s apartment to receive them. He received numerous perquisites, including being allowed to retain his personal weapon, and receive numerous visitors. They included many congressmen, senators, and other leading members of Washington society. President James Buchanan sent Sickles a personal note.
The trial of Sickles. Engraving from Harper’s.
Harper’s Magazine reported that the visits of his wife’s mother and her clergyman were painful for Sickles. Both told him that Teresa was distracted with grief, shame, and sorrow, and that the loss of her wedding ring (which Sickles had taken on visiting his home) was more than Teresa could bear.
Sickles was charged with murder. He secured several leading politicians as defense attorneys, among them Edwin M. Stanton, later to become Secretary of War, and Chief Counsel James T. Brady, like Sickles associated with Tammany Hall. Sickles pleaded temporary insanity—the first use of this defense in the United States. Before the jury, Stanton argued that Sickles had been driven insane by his wife’s infidelity, and thus was out of his mind when he shot Key. The papers soon trumpeted that Sickles was a hero for “saving all the ladies of Washington from this rogue named Key”.
Sickles had obtained a graphic confession from Teresa; it was ruled inadmissible in court, but, was leaked by him to the press and printed in the newspapers in full. The defense strategy ensured that the trial was the main topic of conversations in Washington for weeks, and the extensive coverage of national papers was sympathetic to Sickles. In the courtroom, the strategy brought drama, controversy, and, ultimately, an acquittal for Sickles.
Sickles publicly forgave Teresa, and “withdrew” briefly from public life, although he did not resign from Congress. The public was apparently more outraged by Sickles’s forgiveness and reconciliation with his wife, than by the murder and his unorthodox acquittal.
Born on this day:
1859 – Svante Arrhenius, Swedish physicist and chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1927)
Svante August Arrhenius (19 February 1859 – 2 October 1927) was a Nobel-Prize winning Swedish scientist, originally a physicist, but often referred to as a chemist, and one of the founders of the science of physical chemistry. He received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1903, becoming the first Swedish Nobel laureate, and in 1905 became director of the Nobel Institute where he remained until his death. His lasting contributions to science are exemplified and memorialized by the Arrhenius equation, Arrhenius definition of an acid, lunar crater Arrhenius, the mountain of Arrheniusfjellet and the Arrhenius Labs at Stockholm University, all named after him. He was the first to use basic principles of physical chemistry to calculate estimates of the extent to which increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide increase Earth’s surface temperature through the greenhouse effect, leading him to conclude that human-caused carbon dioxide emissions are large enough to cause global warming.
1941 – David Gross, American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate
David Jonathan Gross (/ɡroʊs/; born February 19, 1941) is an American theoretical physicist and string theorist. Along with Frank Wilczek and David Politzer, he was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of asymptotic freedom. He is the former director and current holder of the Frederick W. Gluck Chair in Theoretical Physics at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics of the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is also a faculty member in the UC Santa Barbara Physics Department and is currently affiliated with the Institute for Quantum Studies at Chapman University in California. He is the Foreign Member of Chinese Academy of Sciences.
1942 – Will Provine, American biologist, historian, and academic (d. 2015)
William Ball “Will” Provine (February 19, 1942 – September 1, 2015) was an American historian of science and of evolutionary biology and population genetics. He was the Andrew H. and James S. Tisch Distinguished University Professor at Cornell University and was a professor in the Departments of History, Science and Technology Studies, and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Provine was born in Tennessee. He held a B.S. in Mathematics (1962), and an M.A. (1965) and Ph.D (1970) in History of Science from the University of Chicago. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1969. He suffered seizures in 1995 due to a brain tumour. Provine died on September 1, 2015, due to complications from the tumor.
History of theoretical population genetics
Provine’s Ph.D. thesis, later published as a book, documented the early origins of theoretical population genetics in the conflicts between the biostatistics and Mendelian schools of thought. He documented later developments in theoretical population genetics in his biography of Sewall Wright, who was still alive and available for interviews. In this book, Provine criticizes Wright for confounding three different concepts of adaptive landscape: genotype to fitness landscapes, allele frequency to fitness landscapes, and phenotype to fitness landscapes. Provine later grew critical of Wright’s views on genetic drift, instead attributing observed effects to the consequences of inbreeding and consequent selection at linked sites. John H. Gillespie credits Provine with stimulating his interest in the topic of hitchhiking or “genetic draft” as an alternative to genetic drift. Provine later published his critique of genetic drift in a book. Provine defended the importance of mathematics’ contribution to the modern evolutionary synthesis.
In 1970, Provine was instrumental in the founding of Cornell’s Risley Residential College. He was the first faculty member in residence.
Provine was a philosopher, atheist, and critic of intelligent design. He engaged in prominent debates with theist philosophers and scientists about the existence of God and the viability of intelligent design. He debated the founder of the intelligent design movement, Phillip E. Johnson, and the two had a friendly relationship. Provine said that his course on evolutionary biology began by having his students read Johnson’s book, Darwin on Trial.
Provine was a determinist in biology, but not a determinist in physics or chemistry; he rejected the idea that humans exercise free will. Provine believed that there is no evidence for the existence of God, is no life after death, no absolute foundation for moral right and wrong, and no ultimate meaning or purpose for life.
In popular culture
Professor Provine appeared in Ben Stein’s movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Provine supervised the thesis written by Bad Religion member Greg Graffin. Graffin was a student of paleobiology at Cornell. Provine also supervised the sociology thesis of Steve Leveen in 1982.
Mackenzi Lee: The Improbable Life of the Inventor of the Modern Bra
She was also a pioneering publisher and, later, a princess.