FYI February 10, 2019

On This Day

1355 – The St Scholastica Day riot breaks out in Oxford, England, leaving 63 scholars and perhaps 30 locals dead in two days.[1]
The St Scholastica Day riot of 10 February 1355 is one of the more notorious events in the history of Oxford, England.[1] Sparked off by a tavern dispute between two students and a taverner, the riot lasted two days and resulted in a large number of deaths among local citizens and students. The ensuing pacification led to a reinforcement and enlargement of the privileges and liberties of the academic institutions over the town.

Background and dispute
The seed of the riot was an altercation in the Swindlestock Tavern in Oxford (now the site of the Santander Bank building at Carfax, on the corner of St Aldate’s and Queen Street) between two students of the University of Oxford, Walter Spryngeheuse and Roger de Chesterfield, and the taverner, John Croidon. They complained about the quality of drinks, which led to an exchange of rude words that ended with the students throwing their drinks in the taverner’s face and assaulting him.[2] Retaliation for the incident led to armed clashes between locals and students.

The mayor of Oxford, John de Bereford, asked the Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Humphrey de Cherlton, to arrest the two students, to no avail. Instead, 200 students supported Spryngeheuse and Chesterfield, allegedly assaulting the mayor and others.[2] As the situation escalated, locals from the surrounding countryside poured in, crying: “Havac! Havoc! Smyt fast, give gode knocks!”[3]

A riot broke out and lasted two days, which left 63 students and perhaps 30 locals dead.[2][4] The students were eventually routed.

The dispute was eventually settled in favour of the University, when a special charter was created. Annually thereafter, on 10 February the saint’s day of St Scholastica, the mayor and councillors had to march bareheaded through the streets, attend Mass, and pay to the university a fine of one penny for every scholar killed, a total of 5s, 3d. The penance ended 470 years later in 1825, when the mayor refused to take part.[5][6]

In an act of conciliation on 10 February 1955, the Mayor was given an honorary degree and the Vice-Chancellor was made an Honorary Freeman, at a commemoration of the events of 1355.[2]

The riot was a culmination of other riots in Oxford, which resulted in over 90 deaths.[7] In the 1850s novel The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green by Cuthbert Bede, students still saw St Scholastica’s Day as an opportunity for a confrontation.[citation needed]


Born On This Day

1842 – Agnes Mary Clerke, Irish astronomer and author (d. 1907)
Agnes Mary Clerke (10 February 1842 – 20 January 1907) was an Irish astronomer and writer, mainly in the field of astronomy. She was born in Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland, and died in London.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

Agnes Clerke was the daughter of John William Clerke (c. 1814–1890) who was, at the time, a bank manager in Skibbereen,[8] and his wife Catherine Mary Deasy (b. c. 1819) whose father was a judge’s registrar.[9][10] She had two siblings; her older sister, Ellen Mary, was born in 1840, and her younger brother, Aubrey St. John, was born in 1843.[11] All of the Clerke children were entirely home schooled.[11]

Life and work
Following in her father’s footsteps—while studying classics, he had also taken courses in astronomy—she developed an interest in astronomy from an early age, using her father’s 4 inch telescope in her observations and had begun to write a history of astronomy at the age of 15.[8] In 1861, aged 19, her family moved to Dublin, and in 1863 to Queenstown. At the age of 25, partly for health reasons[12] together with her elder sister Ellen, she went to Italy where she stayed until 1877, chiefly at Florence, studying science, languages, and other subjects that would be useful in their later lives. In 1877 she settled in London.[8]

Upon her return, she was able to get two articles, “Brigandage in Sicily” and “Copernicus in Italy”, written while she had been in Italy, published in the Edinburgh Review of October 1877. This led to her being asked by Adam and Charles Black, publishers of the Review, who also published the Encyclopædia Britannica, to write biographies of a number of famous scientists for the ninth edition of the encyclopedia.[13] This work let to a number of other commissions, including the publication of the article on astronomy for the Catholic Encyclopedia.[8] During her career she wrote reviews of many books, including some written in French, German, Greek, or Italian.[14]

In 1885, she published her best known work A Popular History of Astronomy during the Nineteenth Century, which has received recognition beyond the time it was written.[8]

Clerke was not a practical astronomer, instead collating, interpreting and summarising the results of astronomical research. In 1888 she spent three months at the Cape Observatory as the guest of the director, Sir David Gill, and his wife, and there became sufficiently familiar with spectroscopic work to be able to write about this newer branch of the science with increased clearness and confidence.[citation needed]

In 1892 she was awarded the Actonian Prize of 100 guineas by the Royal Institution. As a member of the British Astronomical Association she attended its meetings regularly, as well as those of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1903, with Lady Huggins, she was elected an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society, a rank previously held only by three other women, Caroline Herschel and Mary Somerville in 1835, and Anne Sheepshanks in 1862.[15]

Her sister, Ellen Mary Clerke (1840–1906), also wrote about astronomy.[16]

The lunar crater Clerke is named after her.[17]

In 2002, the retired astronomy lecturer Mary Brück wrote a book on her, Agnes Mary Clerke and the Rise of Astrophysics.[18]

In 2017, the Royal Astronomical Society established the Agnes Clerke Medal for the History of Astronomy or Geophysics, which is awarded to individuals who have achieved outstanding research into the history of astronomy or geophysics.[19] The first person to receive the medal was Clive Ruggles.[20]

Selected writings
A Popular History of Astronomy during the Nineteenth Century. Edinburgh, 1885 (4th rev. ed. London, 1902)
The System of the Stars. London, 1890 (2nd ed. London, 1905)
The Herschels and Modern Astronomy. London, 1895
The Concise Knowledge Astronomy (co-authored with John Ellard Gore and Alfred Fowler). London, 1898
Problems in Astrophysics. London, 1903[21]

She also wrote 55 articles for the Edinburgh Review, mainly on subjects connected with astrophysics, and articles for the Dictionary of National Biography, the Encyclopædia Britannica and the Catholic Encyclopedia, and several other periodicals. Her articles in the ninth edition (1875–89) of the Britannica included Galileo Galilei, Alexander von Humboldt, Johannes Kepler, Antoine Lavoisier and the zodiac.[13]


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