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“Poetry can break open locked chambers of possibility, restore numbed zones to feeling, recharge desire.”
Life is as dear to a mute creature, as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
Marcus Tullius Cicero
“The good life doesn’t knock on the door. Joy is a job.”
“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”
Roy T. Bennett
It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.
“What I do maintain is that success can only be one ingredient in happiness, and is too dearly purchased if all the other ingredients have been sacrificed to obtain it.”
“For many men, the acquisition of wealth does not end their troubles, it only changes them.”
“One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.”
Rita Mae Brown
“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.”
Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.
Take time to make your soul happy.
1866 – President Andrew Johnson vetoes the Civil Rights Act of 1866. His veto is overridden by Congress and the bill passes into law on April 9.
The Civil Rights Act of 1866, 14 Stat. 27-30, enacted April 9, 1866, was the first United States federal law to define citizenship and affirm that all citizens are equally protected by the law. It was mainly intended to protect the civil rights of persons of African descent born in or brought to America, in the wake of the American Civil War. This legislation was enacted by Congress in 1865 but vetoed by President Andrew Johnson. In April 1866 Congress again passed the bill. Although Johnson again vetoed it, a two-thirds majority in each chamber overcame the veto and the bill therefore became law.
John Bingham and some other congressmen argued that Congress did not yet have sufficient constitutional power to enact this law. Following passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, Congress reenacted the 1866 Act in 1870.
Introduction and amendment
The author of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was Senator Lyman Trumbull, who introduced the bill in the Senate. Congressman James F. Wilson summarized what he considered to be the purpose of the act as follows, when he introduced the bill in the House of Representatives:
It provides for the equality of citizens of the United States in the enjoyment of “civil rights and immunities.” What do these terms mean? Do they mean that in all things civil, social, political, all citizens, without distinction of race or color, shall be equal? By no means can they be so construed. Do they mean that all citizens shall vote in the several States? No; for suffrage is a political right which has been left under the control of the several States, subject to the action of Congress only when it becomes necessary to enforce the guarantee of a republican form of government (protection against a monarchy). Nor do they mean that all citizens shall sit on the juries, or that their children shall attend the same schools. The definition given to the term “civil rights” in Bouvier’s Law Dictionary is very concise, and is supported by the best authority. It is this: “Civil rights are those which have no relation to the establishment, support, or management of government.”
During the subsequent legislative process, the following key provision was deleted: “there shall be no discrimination in civil rights or immunities among the inhabitants of any State or Territory of the United States on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” John Bingham was an influential supporter of this deletion, on the ground that courts might construe the term “civil rights” more broadly than people like Wilson intended. Weeks later, Senator Trumbull described the bill’s intended scope:
This bill in no manner interferes with the municipal regulations of any State which protects all alike in their rights of person and property. It could have no operation in Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, or most of the States of the Union.
The next day, on April 5, 1866, the Senate overrode President Johnson’s veto. This marked the first time that the U.S. Congress ever overrode a president’s veto for a major piece of legislation.
Formally titled “An Act to protect all Persons in the United States in their Civil Rights, and furnish the Means of their vindication”, the Act declared that people born in the United States are not subject to any foreign power are entitled to be citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude. A similar provision (called the Citizenship Clause) was written a few months later into the proposed Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 also said that any citizen has the same right that a white citizen has to make and enforce contracts, sue and be sued, give evidence in court, and inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property. Additionally, the Act guaranteed to all citizens the “full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens, and … like punishment, pains, and penalties…” Persons who denied these rights on account of race or previous enslavement were guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction faced a fine not exceeding $1,000, or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both.
The Act used language very similar to that of the Equal Protection Clause in the newly proposed Fourteenth Amendment. In particular, the Act discussed the need to provide “reasonable protection to all persons in their constitutional rights of equality before the law, without distinction of race or color, or previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted. …”
This statute was a major part of general federal policy during Reconstruction, and was closely related to the Second Freedmen’s Bureau Act of 1866. According to Congressman John Bingham, “the seventh and eighth sections of the Freedmen’s Bureau bill enumerate the same rights and all the rights and privileges that are enumerated in the first section of this [the Civil Rights] bill.”
Parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 are still in effect in the 21st century, according to the United States Code:
All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other.
This section of the United States Code, § 1981, is based on section one of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.
Enactment, constitutionalization, and reenactment
Senator Lyman Trumbull was the Senate sponsor of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and he argued that Congress had power to enact it in order to eliminate a discriminatory “badge of servitude” prohibited by the Thirteenth Amendment. John A. Bingham, principal author of the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, was one of several Republicans who believed (prior to that Amendment) that Congress lacked power to pass the 1866 Act. In the 20th century, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately adopted Trumbull’s Thirteenth Amendment rationale for congressional power to ban racial discrimination by states and by private parties, in view of the fact that the Thirteenth Amendment does not require a state actor.
To the extent that the Civil Rights Act of 1866 may have been intended to go beyond preventing discrimination, by conferring particular rights on all citizens, the constitutional power of Congress to do that was more questionable. For example, Congressman William Lawrence argued that Congress had power to enact the statute because of the Privileges and Immunities Clause in Article IV of the original unamended Constitution, even though courts had suggested otherwise.
In any event, there is currently no consensus that the language of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 actually purports to confer any legal benefits upon white citizens. Congressman Samuel Shellabarger said that it did not.
After the Civil Rights Act of 1866 had been enacted into law over President Andrew Johnson’s veto, some members of Congress voted for the Fourteenth Amendment in order to eliminate doubts about the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, or to ensure that no subsequent Congress could later repeal or alter the main provisions of that Act. Thus, the Citizenship Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment parallels citizenship language in the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and likewise the Equal Protection Clause parallels nondiscrimination language in the 1866 Act; the extent to which other clauses in the Fourteenth Amendment may have incorporated elements of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 is a matter of continuing debate.
Ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment was completed in 1868. Two years later, the 1866 Act was reenacted, as Section 18 of the Enforcement Act of 1870.
Aftermath and consequences
The activities of insurgent groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) undermined the act; and it failed to immediately secure the civil rights of African Americans. Since 1866 it has been illegal in the U.S. to discriminate in jobs and housing on the basis of race. However, federal penalties were not provided for, so that remedies were left to the individuals involved. Because those being discriminated against had limited access to legal help, this left many victims of discrimination without recourse. Since the latter half of the 20th century and passage of related civil rights legislation, there have been an increasing number of remedies provided under this act, including the landmark Jones v. Mayer and Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park, Inc. decisions in 1968.
1975 – Construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System begins.
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) includes the trans-Alaska crude-oil pipeline, 12 pump stations, several hundred miles of feeder pipelines, and the Valdez Marine Terminal. TAPS is one of the world’s largest pipeline systems. It is commonly called the Alaska pipeline, trans-Alaska pipeline, or Alyeska pipeline, (or the pipeline as referred to in Alaska), but those terms technically apply only to the 800 miles (1,287 km) of the pipeline with the diameter of 48 inches (122 cm) that conveys oil from Prudhoe Bay, to Valdez, Alaska. The crude oil pipeline is privately owned by the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.
The pipeline was built between 1974 and 1977 after the 1973 oil crisis caused a sharp rise in oil prices in the United States. This rise made exploration of the Prudhoe Bay oil field economically feasible. Environmental, legal, and political debates followed the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay in 1968, and the pipeline was built only after the oil crisis provoked the passage of legislation designed to remove legal challenges to the project.
In building the pipeline, engineers faced a wide range of difficulties, stemming mainly from the extreme cold and the difficult, isolated terrain. The construction of the pipeline was one of the first large-scale projects to deal with problems caused by permafrost, and special construction techniques had to be developed to cope with the frozen ground. The project attracted tens of thousands of workers to Alaska, causing a boomtown atmosphere in Valdez, Fairbanks, and Anchorage.
The first barrel of oil traveled through the pipeline in 1977, and full-scale production began by the end of the year. Several notable incidents of oil leakage have occurred since, including those caused by sabotage, maintenance failures, and bullet holes. As of 2010, the pipeline had shipped almost 16 billion barrels (2.5×109 m3) of oil.
1416 – Francis of Paola, Italian friar and saint, founded Order of the Minims (d. 1507)
Saint Francis of Paola, O.M. (or: Francesco di Paola or Saint Francis the Fire Handler; 27 March 1416 – 2 April 1507) was an Italian mendicant friar and the founder of the Roman Catholic Order of Minims. Unlike the majority of founders of men’s religious orders, and like his patron saint, Francis was never ordained a priest.
Francis was born in the town of Paola, which lies in the southern Italian Province of Cosenza, Calabria. In his youth he was educated by the Franciscan friars in Paola. His parents were remarkable for the holiness of their lives: having remained childless for some years after their marriage, they had recourse to prayer and especially commended themselves to the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi, after whom they named their first-born son. Two other children were eventually born to them.
When still in the cradle, Francis suffered from a swelling which endangered the sight of one of his eyes. His parents again had recourse to Francis of Assisi and made a vow that their son should pass an entire year wearing the “little habit” of St Francis in one of the friaries of his Order, a not-uncommon practice in the Middle Ages. The child was immediately cured.
From his early years Francis showed signs of extraordinary sanctity, and at the age of 13, being admonished by a vision of a Franciscan friar, he entered a friary of the Franciscan Order to fulfill the vow made by his parents. Here he gave great edification by his love of prayer and mortification, his profound humility, and his prompt obedience. At the completion of the year he went with his parents on a pilgrimage to Assisi, Rome, and other places of devotion. Returning to Paola, he selected a secluded cave on his father’s estate and there lived in solitude; but later on he found an even-more secluded cave on the sea coast. Here he remained alone for about six years, giving himself to prayer and mortification.
In 1435 two companions joined him in his retreat, and to accommodate them Francis caused three cells and a chapel to be built: in this way the new order was begun. By 1436, he and two followers began a movement that would become the foundation of the Hermits of Saint Francis of Assisi, which would later be renamed as the Minim friars. Their name refers to their role as the “least of all the faithful”. Humility was to be the hallmark of the brothers as it had been in Francis’s personal life. Abstinence from meat and other animal products became a “fourth vow” of his religious order, along with the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Francis instituted the continual, year-round observance of this diet in an effort to revive the tradition of fasting during Lent, which many Roman Catholics had ceased to practice by the 15th century. The rule of life adopted by Francis and his religious was one of extraordinary severity. He felt that heroic mortification was necessary as a means for spiritual growth. They were to seek to live unknown and hidden from the world.
The number of his disciples gradually increased, and about 1454, with the permission of Pyrrhus, Archbishop of Cosenza, Francis built a large monastery and church. The building of this monastery was the occasion of a great outburst of enthusiasm and devotion on the part of the people towards Francis: even the nobles carried stones and joined in the work. Their devotion was increased by the many miracles which the saint wrought in answer to their prayers.
In 1474 Pope Sixtus IV gave him permission to write a rule for his community, and to assume the title of Hermits of St. Francis: this rule was formally approved by Pope Alexander VI, who, however, changed their title into that of “Minims”. After the approbation of the order, Francis founded several new monasteries in Calabria and Sicily. He also established monasteries of nuns, and a third order for people living in the world, after the example of St. Francis of Assisi.
He was no respecter of persons based solely on their worldly rank or position. He rebuked the King of Naples for his ill-doing and in consequence suffered persecution. When King Louis XI of France was in his last illness, he sent an embassy to Calabria to beg the saint to visit him. Francis refused to come until the pope ordered him to go. Embarking at Ostia, he landed in France, and cured many sick of the plague in Provence as he passed. He then went to the king at his residence, the Château de Plessis-lez-Tours (now within the village of La Riche), and was with him at his death. Charles VIII, Louis’s successor, was an admirer of the saint and during his reign kept him near the court and frequently consulted him. This king built a monastery for the Minims there near the chateau at Plessis and another at Rome on the Pincian Hill. Francis also forcefully influenced many in the French church, particularly Jan Standonck, who founded the Collège de Montaigu along what he thought were Minimist lines. The regard in which Charles VIII held the saint was shared by Louis XII, who succeeded to the French throne in 1498.
Francis was now eager to return to Italy, but the king would not permit him, not wishing to lose his counsels and direction. Francis spent the last three months of his life in entire solitude, preparing for death. On Holy Thursday of 1507 he gathered his community around him and exhorted them especially to have mutual charity amongst themselves and to maintain the rigour of their life and in particular perpetual abstinence. The next day, Good Friday, he again called them together and gave them his last instructions and appointed a Vicar General. He then received the last rites and asked to have the Passion according to St. John read out to him, and whilst this was being read, he died on 2 April 1507, almost a week after his 91st birthday, in Plessis.
Veganism and compassion towards animals
The two major movements in this order were humility and non-violence. The word “Minim” refers to living as the smallest or least, or embracing humility, simplicity, and plainness. The call to non-violence and absence of cruelty was expressed through veganism, or not doing harm to any creature.
He followed a vegan diet, not only free from animal flesh, but also from all animal-derived foods, such as eggs and dairy products. One of the vows of the order he founded was the abstinence from meat, fish, eggs, butter, cheese and milk.
1344 – The Siege of Algeciras, one of the first European military engagements where gunpowder was used, comes to an end.
The Siege of Algeciras (1342–44) was undertaken during the Reconquest of Spain by the Castillian forces of Alfonso XI assisted by the fleets of the Kingdom of Aragon and the Republic of Genoa. The objective was to capture the Muslim city of Al-Jazeera Al-Khadra, called Algeciras by Christians. The city was the capital and the main port of the European territory of the Marinid Empire.
The siege lasted for twenty one months. The population of the city, about 30,000 people including civilians and Berber soldiers, suffered from a land and sea blockade that prevented the entry of food into the city. The Emirate of Granada sent an army to relieve the city, but it was defeated beside the Río Palmones. Following this, on 26 March 1344 the city surrendered and was incorporated into the Kingdom of Castile. This was one of the first military engagements in Europe where gunpowder was used.
1484 – William Caxton prints his translation of Aesop’s Fables.
William Caxton (c. 1422 – c. 1491) was an English merchant, diplomat, writer and printer. He is thought to be the first Englishman to introduce a printing press into England, in 1476, and was the first English retailer of printed books.
His parentage and date of birth are both not known for certain, but he may have been born between 1415 and 1424, in the Weald or wood land of Kent, perhaps in Hadlow or Tenterden. In 1438 he was apprenticed to Robert Large, a wealthy London silk mercer. Shortly after the death of Large, Caxton moved to Bruges in Belgium.
Caxton was settled in Bruges by 1450. Caxton went onto became a successful in business and governor of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London. At this time Bruges was a wealthy cultured city, this caused Caxton to become interested in reading and good literature. During his business travels, he observed the new printing industry in Cologne which led him to start a printing press in Bruges, in collaboration with Colard Mansion. He also undertook the translation of Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye. At this time Margaret sister of Edward the IV married the Duke of Burgundy, they moved to Bruges. Caxton became friendly with the Duchess. It was her who encouraged Caxton to continue his unfinished translation of the Troy stories. Or Iliad as we now know it. The translation was complete in 1471.
Caxton set up a press at Westminster in 1476 due to the heavy demand in his translation on his return. The first book known to have been produced there was an edition of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. He printed perhaps the earliest verses of the Bible to be printed in English, as well as chivalric romances, classical works and English and Roman histories. He translated into English and edited many of the works himself. He is credited with the first English translation of Aesop’s Fables, in 1484. The rushed publishing schedule and his inadequacies as a translator led both to wholesale transfers of French words into English and to misunderstandings. Caxton is credited with helping to standardise the various dialects of English through his printed works. In 2002, Caxton was named among the 100 Greatest Britons in a BBC poll.
Caxton’s family have been “fairly certainly” found to be his parents, Philip and Dionisia, and a brother, Philip. His date of birth is unknown. Records place it in the region of 1415–1424, based on the fact that his apprenticeship fees were paid in 1438. Caxton would have been 14 at the date of apprenticeship, but masters often paid the fees late. In the preface to his first printed work The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, he claims to have been born and educated in the Weald of Kent. Oral tradition in Tonbridge claims that Caxton was born there; the same with Tenterden. One of the manors of Hadlow was Caustons, owned by the Caxton (De Causton) family. A house in Hadlow reputed to be the birthplace of William Caxton was dismantled in 1936 and incorporated into a larger house rebuilt in Forest Row, East Sussex. Further evidence for Hadlow is that various place names nearby are frequently mentioned by Caxton.
Caxton was in London by 1438, when the registers of the Mercers’ Company record his apprenticeship to Robert Large, a wealthy London mercer or dealer in luxury goods, who served as Master of the Mercer’s Company, and Lord Mayor of London in 1439. After Large died in 1441, Caxton was left a small sum of money (£20). As other apprentices were left larger sums, it would seem that he was not a senior apprentice at this time.
Printing and later life
Caxton was making trips to Bruges by 1450 at the latest and had settled there by 1453, when he may have taken his Liberty of the Mercers’ Company. There he was successful in business and became governor of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London. His trade brought him into contact with Burgundy and it was thus that he became a member of the household of Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, the third wife of Charles the Bold and sister of two Kings of England: Edward IV and Richard III. This led to more continental travel, including travel to Cologne, in the course of which he observed the new printing industry and was significantly influenced by German printing. He wasted no time in setting up a printing press in Bruges, in collaboration with a Fleming named Colard Mansion, and the first book to be printed in English was produced in 1473: Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, a translation by Caxton himself. His translation had become popular in the Burgundian court, and requests for copies of it were the stimulus for him to set up a press.
Caxton’s 1477 edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
Bringing the knowledge back to England, he set up the country’s first ever press in the almonry of the Westminster Abbey Church in 1476. The first book known to have been produced there was an edition of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (Blake, 2004–07). Another early title was Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres (Sayings of the Philosophers), first printed on 18 November 1477, translated by Earl Rivers, the king’s brother-in-law. Caxton’s translations of the Golden Legend (1483) and The Book of the Knight in the Tower (1484) contain perhaps the earliest verses of the Bible to be printed in English. He produced the first translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in English.
Caxton produced chivalric romances (such as Fierabras), the most important of which was Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (1485); classical works; and English and Roman histories. These books appealed to the English upper classes in the late fifteenth century. Caxton was supported by (but not dependent on) members of the nobility and gentry.
Death and memorials
Caxton’s precise date of death is uncertain, but estimates from the records of his burial in St. Margaret’s, Westminster, suggest that he died near March 1492. However, George D. Painter makes numerous references to the year 1491 in his book William Caxton: a biography as the year of Caxton’s death, since 24 March was the last day of the year according to the calendar used at the time, so the year-change hadn’t happened yet. Painter writes, “However, Caxton’s own output reveals the approximate time of his death, for none of his books can be later than 1491, and even those which are assignable to that year are hardly enough for a full twelve months’ production; so a date of death towards autumn of 1491 could be deduced even without confirmation of documentary evidence.” (p. 188)
In November 1954, a memorial to Caxton was unveiled in Westminster Abbey by J. J. Astor, chairman of the Press Council. The white stone plaque is on the wall next to the door to Poets’ Corner. The inscription reads:
“Near this place William Caxton set up the first printing press in England.”
Caxton and the English language
Caxton printed 80 percent of his works in the English language. He translated a large number of works into English, performing much of the translation and editing work himself. He is credited with printing as many as 108 books, 87 of which were different titles, including the first English translation of Aesop’s Fables (1484). Caxton also translated 26 of the titles himself. His major guiding principle in translating was an honest desire to provide the most linguistically exact replication of foreign language texts into English, but the hurried publishing schedule and his inadequate skill as a translator often led to wholesale transference of French words into English and numerous misunderstandings.
Caxton showing the first specimen of his printing to King Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth at the Almonry, Westminster (painting by Daniel Maclise)
The English language was changing rapidly in Caxton’s time and the works that he was given to print were in a variety of styles and dialects. Caxton was a technician rather than a writer, and he often faced dilemmas concerning language standardisation in the books that he printed. (He wrote about this subject in the preface to his Eneydos.) His successor Wynkyn de Worde faced similar problems.
Caxton is credited with standardising the English language through printing—that is, homogenising regional dialects. This facilitated the expansion of English vocabulary, the regularisation of inflection and syntax, and a widening gap between the spoken and the written word. Richard Pynson started printing in London in 1491 or 1492 and favoured Chancery Standard. Pynson was a more accomplished stylist than Caxton and consequently pushed the English language further toward standardisation.
It is asserted that the spelling of “ghost” with the silent letter h was adopted by Caxton due to the influence of Flemish spelling habits.
Aesop’s Fables or the Aesopica is a collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and storyteller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 564 BCE. Of diverse origins, the stories associated with his name have descended to modern times through a number of sources and continue to be reinterpreted in different verbal registers and in popular as well as artistic media.
The fables originally belonged to the oral tradition and were not collected for some three centuries after Aesop’s death. By that time a variety of other stories, jokes and proverbs were being ascribed to him, although some of that material was from sources earlier than him or came from beyond the Greek cultural sphere. The process of inclusion has continued until the present, with some of the fables unrecorded before the later Middle Ages and others arriving from outside Europe. The process is continuous and new stories are still being added to the Aesop corpus, even when they are demonstrably more recent work and sometimes from known authors.
Manuscripts in Latin and Greek were important avenues of transmission, although poetical treatments in European vernaculars eventually formed another. On the arrival of printing, collections of Aesop’s fables were among the earliest books in a variety of languages. Through the means of later collections, and translations or adaptations of them, Aesop’s reputation as a fabulist was transmitted throughout the world.
Initially the fables were addressed to adults and covered religious, social and political themes. They were also put to use as ethical guides and from the Renaissance onwards were particularly used for the education of children. Their ethical dimension was reinforced in the adult world through depiction in sculpture, painting and other illustrative means, as well as adaptation to drama and song. In addition, there have been reinterpretations of the meaning of fables and changes in emphasis over time.
1516 – Conrad Gessner, Swiss botanist and zoologist (d. 1565)
Conrad Gessner (also Konrad Gesner, Conrad Geßner, Conrad von Gesner, Conradus Gesnerus, Conrad Gesner; 26 March 1516 – 13 December 1565) was a Swiss naturalist and bibliographer. He was well known as a botanist, physician and classical linguist. His five-volume Historia animalium (1551–1558) is considered the beginning of modern zoology, and the flowering plant genus Gesneria and its family Gesneriaceae are named after him. A genus of moths is also named Gesneria after him. He is denoted by the author abbreviation Gesner when citing a botanical name.
Life and education
Gessner was born on March 26, 1516 in Zürich, Switzerland, he was the son of Ursus Gessner, a Zürich furrier. Gessner’s father realized he was clever, and sent him to live with a great uncle, who grew and collected medicinal herbs for a living. Here the boy became familiar with many plants and their medicinal purposes which led to a lifelong interest in natural history.
Gessner first attended the Carolinum in Zürich, then he entered the Fraumünster seminary. There he studied Latin classics. In school, he impressed his teachers so much that a few of them helped sponsor him so he could further his education at universities such as Strassburg and Bourges (1532–1533). One even acted as a foster father to him after the death of his father at the Battle of Kappel (1531). After the death of his father he left Zürich and traveled to Strasbourg. Here he broadened his knowledge of ancient languages by studying Hebrew at the Strasbourg Academy. In 1535, religious unrest drove him back to Zürich, where he made an imprudent marriage. His friends again came to his aid and enabled him to study at Basel (1536).
Throughout his life Gessner was interested in natural history, and collected specimens and descriptions of wildlife through travel and extensive correspondence with other friends and scholars. His approach to research consisted of four main components: observation, dissection, travel to distant lands, and accurate description. This rising observational approach was new to Renaissance scholars because people usually relied completely upon Classical writers for their research. He died of the plague, the year after his ennoblement on December 13, 1565.
In 1537 his sponsors obtained for him the professorship of Greek at the newly founded academy of Lausanne (then belonging to Bern). Here he had leisure to devote himself to scientific studies, especially botany.
After three years of teaching, Gessner was able to travel to the famous medical university of Montpellier, where he received his doctoral degree (1541) from Basel. He then settled down to practice medicine in Zürich, where he obtained the post of lecturer of Aristotelean physics at the Carolinum, the precursor of the University of Zürich.
After 1554 he became the city physician and it is there, apart from a few journeys to foreign countries, and annual summer botanical journeys in his native land, he passed the remainder of his life. He devoted himself to preparing works on many subjects of different sorts. Not content with such vast works, Gessner was also active as a linguist, putting forth in 1555 his book entitled Mithridates de differentis linguis, an account of about 130 known languages, with the Lord’s Prayer in twenty-two languages.
Gesner’s great zoological work, Historiae animalium, is a 4,500-page encyclopedia of animals that appeared in Zürich in 4 volumes between 1551 and 1558: quadrupeds, amphibians, birds, and fishes. A fifth folio on snakes was issued in 1587. A German translation of the first 4 volumes titled Thierbuch was published in Zürich in 1563. This book was considered to be the first modern zoological work. It built a bridge between ancient, medieval and modern science.
In Historiae animalium Gessner combines data from old sources, such as the Old Testament, Aristotle, Pliny, folklore, and medieval bestiaries, adding his own observations. He created a new, comprehensive description of the Animal Kingdom. This was the first attempt by anyone to describe many animals accurately. The book unlike many works of its time was illustrated with hand-colored woodcuts drawn from personal observations by Gessner and his colleagues. Gessner was the first to describe the brown rat and the guinea pig in Europe.
Even though he sought to distinguish observed facts from myths and popular errors and was known for his accurate depiction of many animals in Historiae animalium, he also included many fictional animals such as the Unicorn and the Basilisk, which he had only heard about from medieval bestiaries. But when Gessner doubted the accuracy of the opinions he relayed in his own writings, or the validity of the illustrations he included, he clearly said so. Besides any plant or animal’s potential advantage to people, Gessner was interested in learning about them because of the moral lessons they could teach and the divine truths they might tell. He went into as much detail about some unreal animals as he did about real ones. Later in 1556 he also combined real and fictional creatures in his edition of the works of Claudius Aelianus.
Historiae animalium includes sketches for many well-known animals, and some fictional ones, including unicorns and mermaids. He accomplished many of his works in a large part due to the web of acquaintances he established with leading naturalists throughout Europe, who included John Caius, English court physician to the Tudors and second founder of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Not only did they send him their ideas, but also sent him plants, animals and gems. He returned the favor — and kept helpful specimens coming — by naming plants after correspondents and friends.
There was extreme religious tension at the time Historiae animalium came out. Under Pope Paul IV it was felt that the religious convictions of an author contaminated all his writings. Since Gessner was Protestant his works were included into the Roman Catholic Church’s list of prohibited books. Even though religious tensions were high, Gesner maintained friendships on both sides of the Catholic-Protestant divide. In fact, Catholic booksellers in Venice protested the Inquisition’s blanket ban on Gesner’s books, and some of his work was eventually allowed after it had been “cleaned” of its doctrinal errors.
Fragaria vesca in Historia plantarum
To his contemporaries he was best known as a botanist. Gessner wrote a similarly comprehensive survey to Historiae animalium about plant life, but his notes and about 1,500 wood engravings of plants and their important flowers and seeds were used by other authors for two centuries after his death. Although his botanical manuscripts were not published (in Nuremberg, 1751–1771, 2 vols. folio) until long after his death, he himself issuing only the Enchiridion historiae plantarum (1541) and the Catalogus plantarum (1542) in four languages. In 1545 he published his remarkable Bibliotheca universalis (ed. by J. Simler, 1574), supposedly a catalogue (in Latin, Greek and Hebrew) of all writers who had ever lived, with the titles of their works, etc. A second part, Pandectarum sive partitionum universalium libri xxi, appeared in 1548; only nineteen books being then concluded. The last, a theological encyclopaedia, was published in 1549, but the last one, intended to include his medical work, was never finished.
Gessner in 1551 was the first to describe brown adipose tissue; and in 1565 the first to document the pencil.
To non-scientific readers, Gessner is best known for his love of mountains (below the snow-line) and for his many excursions among them, undertaken partly as a botanist, but also for the sake of exercise and enjoyment of the beauties of nature. In 1541 he prefixed to his Libellus de lacte et operibus lactariis a letter addressed to his friend Jacob Vogel of Glarus on the wonders to be found among the mountains, declaring his love for them, and his firm resolve to climb at least one mountain every year, not only to collect flowers, but in order to exercise his body. In 1555 he issued his narrative (Descriptio Montis Fracti sive Montis Pilati) of his excursion to the Gnepfstein (1920 m), the lowest point in the Pilatus chain.
Despite his traveling ways and the job of maintaining his own gardens, Gesner probably spent most of his time inside his own library. He listed among his History of Animals sources more than 80 Greek authors and at least 175 Latin authors, as well as works by German, French, and Italian authors. He even attempted to establish a “universal library” of all books in existence. The project might sound strange to the modern mind, but Gessner invested tremendous energy in the project. He sniffed through remote libraries along with the collections of the Vatican Library and catalogs of printers and booksellers. By assembling this universal library of information, Gessner put together a database centuries before computers would ease such work. He cut relevant passages out of books, grouped the cuttings by general theme, subdivided the groups into more specific categories, and boxed them. He could then retrieve and arrange the cuttings as needed. In the words of science writer Anna Pavord, “He was a one-man search engine, a 16th-century Google with the added bonus of critical evaluation.”
To his contemporaries, Gessner was known as “the Swiss Pliny.” According to legend, when he knew his time was near, he asked to be taken to his library where he had spent so much of his life, to die among his favorite books. At the time of his death, Gesner had published 72 books, and written 18 more unpublished manuscripts. His work on plants was not published until centuries after his death.
Gessner was posthumously partly responsible for Insectorum, sive, Minimorum animalium theatrum or Theatre of Insects, written jointly by him with Edward Wotton, Thomas Muffet and Thomas Penny.
In 1576 George Baker published a translation of the Evonymus of Conrad Gessner under the title of The Newe Jewell of Health, wherein is contained the most excellent Secretes of Physicke and Philosophie divided into fower bookes.
Gessner was featured on the 50 Swiss francs banknotes issued between 1978 and 1994.
The Gessner herbal garden at the Old Botanical Garden, Zürich, is named after Conrad Gessner, and
the cloister in the Carolinum, Zürich in the Grossmünster church, where Gessner is buried, also houses a herbal garden dedicated to Conrad Gessner.
On 16 March 2016 the State Museum in Zürich, in close collaboration with Zurich’s Central Library(Zentralbibliothek Zürich), dedicated a special exhibition to Gessner in celebration of the 500th anniversary of his birth. 
1873 – Dorothea Bleek, South African-German anthropologist and philogist (d. 1948)
Dorothea Frances Bleek (later Dorothy F. Bleek; born 26 March 1873, Mowbray, Cape Town – died 27 June 1948, Newlands, Cape Town) was a South African-born German anthropologist and philologist known for her research on the Bushmen (the San people) of southern Africa.
She was born into her profession as the fifth daughter of Wilhelm Bleek, a pioneering philologist studying the languages and cultures of southern Africa in the late 1800s. Much of his work was done in partnership with his sister-in-law (Dorothy Bleek’s aunt, Lucy Lloyd). The work of Dorothy Bleek was largely a continuation of her father and aunt’s research, but she also made numerous notable contributions of her own to the field. Her culminating work, published after death, was the book A Bushman Dictionary, still referenced today.
Laurens van der Post, who liked to think of himself as “a white Bushman”, credited her book Mantis and His Hunter (along with Specimens of Bushman Folklore by her father and aunt) as “a sort of Stone Age Bible”. This is in the introduction to The Heart of the Hunter (1961), a follow-up to The Lost World of the Kalahari, the book based on the BBC series that brought the Bushmen to international attention.
Bleek’s research and findings are often overshadowed by the work of her father, and she has been criticised for lacking the empathy and intuition of him and her aunt. This has led to a misperception of her as a racist.
Despite this, Bleek’s research on the language, customs, and especially rock art of southern Africa (present-day South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, and Namibia) stands as a vital contribution to scholarship on the region. Her photographs and audio recordings were especially important to later researchers.