On this day:
1302 – Dante Alighieri is exiled from Florence.
Durante degli Alighieri (Italian: [duˈrante deʎʎ aliˈɡjɛːri]), simply called Dante (Italian: [ˈdante], UK /ˈdænti/, US /ˈdɑːnteɪ/; c. 1265 – 1321), was a major Italian poet of the Late Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy, originally called Comedìa (modern Italian: Commedia) and later christened Divina by Boccaccio, is widely considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature.
In the late Middle Ages, the overwhelming majority of poetry was written in Latin, and therefore accessible only to affluent and educated audiences. In De vulgari eloquentia (On Eloquence in the Vernacular), however, Dante defended use of the vernacular in literature. He himself would even write in the Tuscan dialect for works such as The New Life (1295) and the aforementioned Divine Comedy; this choice, although highly unorthodox, set a hugely important precedent that later Italian writers such as Petrarch and Boccaccio would follow. As a result, Dante played an instrumental role in establishing the national language of Italy. Dante’s significance also extends past his home country; his depictions of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven have provided inspiration for a large body of Western art, and are cited as an influence on the works of John Milton, Geoffrey Chaucer and Alfred Tennyson, among many others. In addition, the first use of the interlocking three-line rhyme scheme, or the terza rima, is attributed to him.
Dante has been called “the Father of the Italian language” and one of the greatest poets of world literature. In Italy, Dante is often referred to as il Sommo Poeta (“the Supreme Poet”) and il Poeta; he, Petrarch, and Boccaccio are also called “the three fountains” or “the three crowns”.
1593 – The Vatican opens the seven-year trial of scholar Giordano Bruno.
Giordano Bruno (Italian: [dʒorˈdano ˈbruno]; Latin: Iordanus Brunus Nolanus; 1 January 1548 – 17 February 1600), born Filippo Bruno, was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician, poet, and cosmological theorist. He is remembered for his cosmological theories, which conceptually extended the then novel Copernican model. He proposed that the stars were just distant suns surrounded by their own exoplanets and raised the possibility that these planets could even foster life of their own (a philosophical position known as cosmic pluralism). He also insisted that the universe is in fact infinite and could have no celestial body at its “center”.
Beginning in 1593, Bruno was tried for heresy by the Roman Inquisition on charges including denial of several core Catholic doctrines, including eternal damnation, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the virginity of Mary, and transubstantiation. Bruno’s pantheism was also a matter of grave concern. The Inquisition found him guilty, and he was burned at the stake in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori in 1600. After his death, he gained considerable fame, being particularly celebrated by 19th- and early 20th-century commentators who regarded him as a martyr for science, although historians have debated the extent to which his heresy trial was a response to his astronomical views or to other aspects of his philosophy and theology. Bruno’s case is still considered a landmark in the history of free thought and the emerging sciences.
In addition to cosmology, Bruno also wrote extensively on the art of memory, a loosely organized group of mnemonic techniques and principles. Historian Frances Yates argues that Bruno was deeply influenced by Arab astrology (particularly the philosophy of Averroes), Neoplatonism, Renaissance Hermeticism, and legends surrounding the Egyptian god Thoth. Other studies of Bruno have focused on his qualitative approach to mathematics and his application of the spatial concepts of geometry to language.
Imprisonment, trial and execution, 1593–1600
During the seven years of his trial in Rome, Bruno was held in confinement, lastly in the Tower of Nona. Some important documents about the trial are lost, but others have been preserved, among them a summary of the proceedings that was rediscovered in 1940. The numerous charges against Bruno, based on some of his books as well as on witness accounts, included blasphemy, immoral conduct, and heresy in matters of dogmatic theology, and involved some of the basic doctrines of his philosophy and cosmology. Luigi Firpo lists these charges made against Bruno by the Roman Inquisition:
holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith and speaking against it and its ministers;
holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about the Trinity, divinity of Christ, and Incarnation;
holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith pertaining to Jesus as Christ;
holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith regarding the virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus;
holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about both Transubstantiation and Mass;
claiming the existence of a plurality of worlds and their eternity;
believing in metempsychosis and in the transmigration of the human soul into brutes;
dealing in magics and divination.
The trial of Giordano Bruno by the Roman Inquisition. Bronze relief by Ettore Ferrari, Campo de’ Fiori, Rome.
Bruno defended himself as he had in Venice, insisting that he accepted the Church’s dogmatic teachings, but trying to preserve the basis of his philosophy. In particular, he held firm to his belief in the plurality of worlds, although he was admonished to abandon it. His trial was overseen by the Inquisitor Cardinal Bellarmine, who demanded a full recantation, which Bruno eventually refused. On 20 January 1600, Pope Clement VIII declared Bruno a heretic and the Inquisition issued a sentence of death. According to the correspondence of Gaspar Schopp of Breslau, he is said to have made a threatening gesture towards his judges and to have replied: Maiori forsan cum timore sententiam in me fertis quam ego accipiam (“Perhaps you pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it”).
He was turned over to the secular authorities. On 17 February 1600, in the Campo de’ Fiori (a central Roman market square), with his “tongue imprisoned because of his wicked words”, he was burned at the stake. His ashes were thrown into the Tiber river. All of Bruno’s works were placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum in 1603. Inquisition cardinals who judged Giordano Bruno were: Cardinal Bellarmino (Bellarmine), Cardinal Madruzzo (Madruzzi), Cardinal Camillo Borghese (later Pope Paul V), Domenico Cardinal Pinelli, Pompeio Cardinal Arrigoni, Cardinal Sfondrati, Pedro Cardinal De Deza Manuel, Cardinal Santorio (Archbishop of Santa Severina, Cardinal-Bishop of Palestrina).
1996 – Germany first observes International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is an international memorial day on 27 January commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. It commemorates the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 2 million Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 on 1 November 2005 during the 42nd plenary session. The resolution came after a special session was held earlier that year on 24 January 2005 during which the United Nations General Assembly marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust.
On 27 January 1945, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated by the Red Army.
Prior to the 60/7 resolution, there had been national days of commemoration, such as Germany’s Tag des Gedenkens an die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus (The Day of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism), established in a proclamation issued by Federal President Roman Herzog on 3 January 1996; and the Holocaust memorial day observed every 27 January since 2001 in the UK.
The Holocaust Remembrance Day is also a national event in the United Kingdom and in Italy.
Born on this day:
1795 – Eli Whitney Blake, American engineer, invented the Mortise lock (d. 1886)
Eli Whitney Blake, Sr. (January 27, 1795 – August 18, 1886) was an American inventor, best known for his mortise lock and stone-crushing machine, the latter of which earned him a place into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Blake studied at Leicester Academy, and was graduated at Yale in 1816, after which he studied law with Judge Gould in Litchfield, Connecticut. But this he soon abandoned at the request of his uncle, Eli Whitney, who desired his assistance in erecting and organizing the gun factory at Whitneyville. Here he made important improvements in the machinery and in the processes of manufacturing arms.
On the death of Mr. Whitney in 1825, Blake associated with himself his brother Philos, and continued to manage the business. In 1836 they were joined by another brother, John A., and, under the firm name of Blake Brothers, established at Westville a factory for the production of door locks and latches of their own invention. The business was afterward extended so as to include casters, hinges, and other articles of hardware, most of which were covered by patents. In this branch of manufacture, Blake Brothers were among the pioneers, and long held the front rank.
In 1852, Blake was appointed to superintend the macadamizing of the city streets, and his attention was directed to the want of a proper machine for breaking stone. This problem he solved in 1857 by the invention of the Blake stone breaker, which, for originality, simplicity, and effectiveness, was justly regarded by experts as unique.
Blake was one of the founders, and for several years president, of the Connecticut Academy of Science. He contributed valuable papers to the American Journal of Science and other periodicals, the most important of which he published in a single volume as Original Solutions of Several Problems in Aërodynamics (1882).
He was a nephew of Eli Whitney, the inventor of the cotton gin. He was also the father of scientist Eli Whitney Blake, Jr..
1878 – Dorothy Scarborough, American author (d. 1935)
Emily Dorothy Scarborough (January 27, 1878 – November 7, 1935) was an American writer who wrote about Texas, folk culture, cotton farming, ghost stories and women’s life in the Southwest.
Scarborough was born in Mount Carmel, Texas. At the age of four she moved to Sweetwater, Texas for her mother’s health, as her mother needed the drier climate. The family soon left Sweetwater in 1887, so that the Scarborough children could get a good education at Baylor College.
Academics and writing
Even though Scarborough’s writings are identified with Texas, she studied at University of Chicago and Oxford University and beginning in 1916 taught literature at Columbia University.
While receiving her PhD from Columbia, she wrote a dissertation, “The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction (1917)”. Sylvia Ann Grider writes in a critical introduction  the dissertation “was so widely acclaimed by her professors and colleagues that it was published and it has become a basic reference work.”
Dorothy Scarborough came in contact with many writers in New York, including Edna Ferber and Vachel Lindsay. She taught creative writing classes at Columbia. Among her creative writing students were Eric Walrond, and Carson McCullers, who took her first college writing class from Scarborough.
Her most critically acclaimed book, The Wind (first published anonymously in 1925), was later made into a film of the same name starring Lillian Gish.
1912 – Francis Rogallo, American engineer, invented the Rogallo wing (d. 2009)
Francis Melvin Rogallo (January 27, 1912 – September 1, 2009) was an American aeronautical engineer inventor born in Sanger, California, U.S.; he is credited with the invention of the Rogallo wing, or “flexible wing”, a precursor to the modern hang glider and paraglider. His patents were ranged over mechanical utility patents and ornamental design patents for wing controls, airfoils, target kite, flexible wing, and advanced configurations for flexible wing vehicles.
The Rogallo wing is one of the simplest airfoils ever created. In 1948, Gertrude Rogallo, and her husband Francis Rogallo, a NASA engineer, invented a self-inflating flexible wing they called the Parawing, also known after them as the “Rogallo Wing” and flexible wing. NASA considered Rogallo’s flexible wing as an alternative recovery system for the Mercury and Gemini space capsules, and for possible use in other spacecraft landings, but the idea was dropped from Gemini in 1964 in favor of conventional parachutes.
Francis Rogallo earned an aeronautical engineering degree at Stanford University in 1935. Since 1936, Rogallo worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) as an aeronautics project engineer at the wind tunnels. During 1948, he and his wife Gertrude Rogallo, invented and patented a self-inflating flexible kite. They called this kite the “flexible wing”. Rogallo had originally invented the wing with the idea to create an aircraft which would be simple enough and inexpensive enough that anyone could have one. The wing was flown by Rogallo as a model glider with small payloads hung beneath the wing (thus model hang glider) and as a kite.
On October 4, 1957, the Russian Sputnik began beeping its message from orbit, and everything changed. The space race caught the imagination of the newly formed NASA and Rogallo was in position to seize the opportunity. The Rogallos released their patent to the government, and with Rogallo’s help at the wind tunnels, NASA began a series of experiments testing the Parawing (NASA renamed the Rogallo wing the Parawing, and modern hang glider pilots often refer to it as the flexible Rogallo wing) at altitudes up to 200,000 feet and as fast as Mach 3  in order to evaluate them as alternative recovery system for the Gemini space capsules and used rocket stages. By 1960, NASA had made test flights of a framed Parawing powered aircraft, called the “flying Jeep” or Fleep, and of a weight shift Parawing glider, called Paresev, in a series of several shapes and sizes, manned and unmanned. A key wing configuration applying Francis Rogallo’s leadership that gave base to kited gliders with hung pilots using weight-shift control was designed by Charles Richards and constructed by the Richards team in 1961-2; such wing became a template for recreational use or Rogallo’s inventions, ending up mechanically and ornamentally in Skiplane, ski-kites, and hang gliders of the 1960-1975.
In 1967, projects focused on the Parasev were stopped by NASA in favor of round parachutes. NASA was not in the business of applying Rogallo’s family of airfoils to personal aircraft such as kites, hang gliders, and powered light aircraft; however what was already in the Paresev series of aircraft provided all the fundamental mechanics that could be simplified to lighter personal aircraft. That task of lightening and tweaking what the Paresev team had done with the Rogallo wing was taken up by independent designers around the world: Barry Palmer in 1961, Richard Miller, Thomas Purcell, and Australian Mike Burns were among the first to tap the technology for manned personal-craft glider/kite use.
As of 2003, Rogallo had new designs for kites. Gertrude died on January 28, 2008. Members of the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, are called “Rogallo” members. Tens of thousands of people have taken hang gliding lessons in Rogallo wing type hang gliders at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, an enormous sand dune which is located five miles from the site of the first powered aircraft flight. Mr. Rogallo was frequently seen at the park flying his own hang glider in the 1970s and 1980s. Francis Rogallo died at home on September 1, 2009, in Southern Shores, North Carolina, near Kitty Hawk, the birthplace of aviation.