FYI March 23, 2017



On this day:

1775 – American Revolutionary War: Patrick Henry delivers his speech – “Give me liberty, or give me death!” – at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia.
“Give me liberty, or give me death!” is a quotation attributed to Patrick Henry from a speech he made to the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia.

He is credited with having swung the balance in convincing the convention to pass a resolution delivering Virginian troops for the Revolutionary War. Among the delegates to the convention were future U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.

The speech was not published until the Port Folio printed a version of it in 1816.[1] The version of the speech that is known today first appeared in print in Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, a biography of Henry by William Wirt, in 1817.[1] There is debate among historians as to whether, and to what extent, Henry or Wirt should be credited with authorship of the speech and its famous closing words.[1][2]

Whatever the exact words of Henry were, there can be no doubt of their impact. According to Edmund Randolph, the convention sat in silence for several minutes afterwards. Thomas Marshall told his son John Marshall, who later became Chief Justice of the United States, that the speech was “one of the most bold, vehement, and animated pieces of eloquence that had ever been delivered.”[3] Edward Carrington, who was listening outside a window of the church, asked to be buried on that spot. In 1810, he got his wish. And the drafter of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, George Mason, said, “Every word he says not only engages but commands the attention, and your passions are no longer your own when he addresses them.”[3] More immediately, the resolution, declaring the United Colonies to be independent of the Kingdom of Great Britain, passed, and Henry was named chairman of the committee assigned to build a militia. Britain’s royal governor, Lord Dunmore, reacted by seizing the gunpowder in the public magazine at Williamsburg—Virginia’s equivalent of the battles of Lexington and Concord.[3] Whatever the exact words of Henry were, “scholars, understandably, are troubled by the way Wirt brought into print Henry’s classic Liberty or Death speech,” wrote historian Bernard Mayo. “Yet . . . its expressions. . . seemed to have burned themselves into men’s memories. Certainly its spirit is that of the fiery orator who in 1775 so powerfully influenced Virginians and events leading to American independence.” [3]
There have been similar phrases used before Henry’s speech. The play, Cato, a Tragedy, was popular in the Colonies and well known by the Founding Fathers, who would quote from the play. George Washington had this play performed for the Continental Army at Valley Forge.[4] It contains the line, “It is not now time to talk of aught/But chains or conquest, liberty or death” (Act II, Scene 4). The phrase “Liberty or Death” also appears on the Culpeper Minutemen flag of 1775.[5]

“Liberty or death” in other contexts
The phrase appears in other nationalist contexts. The national anthem of Uruguay, Orientales, la Patria o la Tumba, contains the line ¡Libertad o con gloria morir! (Liberty or with glory to die!) The motto of Greece is “Liberty or Death” (Eleftheria i thanatos). A popular (and possibly concocted) story in Brazil relates that in 1822, the emperor Dom Pedro I uttered the famous Cry from [the river] Ipiranga, “Independence or Death” (Independência ou Morte), when Brazil was still a colony of Portugal. In March 1941 the motto of the public demonstrations in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia against signing the treaty with Nazi Germany was “Better grave than slave” (Bolje grob nego rob). More recently, in China, Ren Jianyu, a 25-year-old former college student “village official” was given a two-year re-education through labor sentence for an online anti-CPC speech. A T-shirt of Ren’s saying “Give me liberty or give me death!” (in Chinese) has been taken as evidence of his anti-social guilt.[6][7]








Born on this day:

1699 – John Bartram, American botanist and explorer (d. 1777)
John Bartram (March 23, 1699 – September 22, 1777) was an early American botanist, horticulturist and explorer. Carl Linnaeus said he was the “greatest natural botanist in the world.”[2]

Early life
Bartram was born into a Quaker farm family in colonial Pennsylvania. He considered himself a plain farmer, with no formal education beyond the local school. He had a lifelong interest in medicine and medicinal plants, and read widely. His botanical career started with a small area of his farm devoted to growing plants he found interesting; later he made contact with European botanists and gardeners interested in North American plants, and developed his hobby into a thriving business.

Plant collecting activities
He came to travel extensively in the eastern American colonies collecting plants. In 1743 he visited the shores of Lake Ontario in the north, and wrote Observations on the Inhabitants, Climate, Soil, Rivers, Productions, Animals, and other Matters Worthy of Notice, made by Mr. John Bartram in his Travels from Pennsylvania to Onondaga, Oswego, and the Lake Ontario, in Canada (London, 1751). During the winter of 1765/66 he visited East Florida in the south, and an account of this trip was published with his journal (London, 1766). He also visited the Ohio River in the west. Many of his acquisitions were transported to collectors in Europe. In return, they supplied him with books and apparatus.[3]

Bartram, sometimes called the “father of American Botany”,[4] was one of the first practicing Linnaean botanists in North America. His plant specimens were forwarded to Linnaeus, Dillenius and Gronovius, and he assisted Linnaeus’ student Pehr Kalm during his extended collecting trip to North America in 1748–1750.

Bartram was aided in his collecting efforts by colonists. In Bartram’s Diary of a Journey through the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida, a trip taken from July 1, 1765, to April 10, 1766, Bartram wrote of specimens he had collected. In the colony of British East Florida he was helped by Dr. David Yeats, secretary of the colony.[5]

His 8-acre (32,000 m2) botanic garden, Bartram’s Garden in Kingsessing on the west bank of the Schuylkill, about 3 miles (5 km) from the center of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is frequently cited as the first true botanic collection in North America. He was one of the co-founders, with Benjamin Franklin, of the American Philosophical Society in 1743.[6]

Contact with other botanists
Bartram was particularly instrumental in sending seeds from the New World to European gardeners: many North American trees and flowers were first introduced into cultivation in Europe by this route. Beginning ca. 1733, Bartram’s work was assisted by his association with the English merchant Peter Collinson. Collinson, himself a lover of plants, was a fellow Quaker and a member of the Royal Society, with a familiar relationship with its president, Sir Hans Sloane. Collinson shared Bartram’s new plants with friends and fellow gardeners. Early Bartram collections went to Lord Petre, Philip Miller at the Chelsea Physic Garden, Mark Catesby, the Duke of Richmond, and the Duke of Norfolk. In the 1730s, Robert James Petre, 8th Baron Petre of Thorndon Hall, Essex, was the foremost collector of North American trees and shrubs in Europe. Earl Petre’s untimely death in 1743 led to his American tree collection being auctioned off to Woburn, Goodwood and other large English country estates; thereafter Collinson became Bartram’s chief London agent.

Bartram’s Boxes, as they then became known, were regularly sent to Peter Collinson every fall for distribution in England to a wide list of clients, including the Duke of Argyll, James Gordon, James Lee and John Busch, progenitor of the exotic Loddiges nursery in London. The boxes generally contained 100 or more varieities of seeds, and sometimes included dried plant specimens and natural history curiosities as well. Live plants were more difficult and expensive to send and were reserved for Collinson and a few special correspondents.

In 1765 after lobbying by Collinson and Benjamin Franklin in London, George III rewarded Bartram a pension of £50 per year as King’s Botanist for North America, a post he held until his death. With this position, Bartram’s seeds and plants also went to the royal collection at Kew Gardens. Bartram also contributed seeds to the Oxford and Edinburgh botanic gardens. He was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm in 1769.

Most of Bartram’s many plant discoveries were named by botanists in Europe. He is best known today for the discovery and introduction of a wide range of North American flowering trees and shrubs, including kalmia, rhododendron and magnolia species; for introducing the Dionaea muscipulia or Venus flytrap to cultivation; and the discovery of the Franklin Tree, Franklinia alatamaha in southeastern Georgia in 1765, later named by his son William Bartram. Bartram’s name is remembered in the genera of mosses, Bartramia, and in plants such the North American serviceberry, Amelanchier bartramiana, and the subtropical tree Commersonia bartramia (Christmas Kurrajong) growing from the Bellinger River in coastal eastern Australia to Cape York, Vanuatu and Malaysia.

Bartram was married twice, first in 1723 to Mary Maris (d. 1727), who bore him two sons, Richard and Isaac. After her death, he married Ann Mendenhall (1703–1789) in 1729, who gave birth to five boys and four girls. His third son, William Bartram (1739–1823) was to become a famous botanist, natural history artist and ornithologist in his own right, and was the author of Travels Through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida,…. Philadelphia, James & Johnson, 1791.

The family business in North American plants was continued by Bartram’s sons John Bartram, Jr. and William Bartram after the American Revolution, and the botanic garden grew through three generations of the Bartram family. Bartram’s Garden remained the major botanic garden in Philadelphia until the last Bartram heirs sold out in 1850. The Darby Friends Cemetery in Darby, Pennsylvania contains his grave.[7]

John Bartram High School in Philadelphia is named after him.

1842 – Susan Jane Cunningham, American mathematician (d. 1921)
Susan Jane Cunningham (March 23, 1842 – January 24, 1921) was an American mathematician instrumental in the founding and development of Swarthmore College.[1] She was born in Virginia, and studied mathematics and astronomy with Maria Mitchell at Vassar College as a special student during 1866–67.[1] She also studied those subjects during several summers at Harvard University, Princeton University, Newnham College at Cambridge, the Greenwich Observatory in England, and Williams College.[1]

In 1869 she became one of the founders of the mathematics and astronomy departments at Swarthmore, and she headed both those divisions until her retirement in 1906.[2] She was Swarthmore’s first professor of astronomy, and was professor of mathematics at the college beginning in 1871.[1][3] By 1888 she was Mathematics Department Chair, and that year she was given permission to plan and equip the first observatory in Swarthmore, which housed the astronomy department, and in which she lived in until her retirement; it was known as Cunningham Observatory.[1][3][4] The building still exists on the campus although it is no longer used as an observatory, and is now simply known as the Cunningham Building.[1][3] In 1888 Cunningham was given the first honorary doctorate of science ever given by Swarthmore.[2] In 1891 she became one of the first six women to join the New York Mathematical Society, which later became the American Mathematical Society.[5] The very first was Charlotte Angas Scott, and the other four were Mary E. Byrd of Smith College, Mary Watson Whitney of Vassar, Ellen Hayes of Wellesley, and Amy Rayson, who taught mathematics and physics at a private school in New York City.[5] Cunningham was also a member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific as early as 1891.[6] She was also a founder member of the British Astronomical Association in 1890, resigned 1908 September.

Cunningham died on January 24, 1921 from heart failure. Her funeral service was held on-campus in the Swarthmore College Meeting House, and was attended by many notable figures such as then-Pennsylvania governor William C. Sproul and Pennsylvania State Commissioner of Health Edward Martin.[7]


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