FYI January 28, 2017



On this day:

1573 – Articles of the Warsaw Confederation are signed, sanctioning freedom of religion in Poland.
The Warsaw Confederation (January 28, 1573), was an important development in the history of Poland and Lithuania that extended religious tolerance to nobility and free persons within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.[1] is considered the formal beginning of religious freedom in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and in fact is the first such document in Europe. While it did not prevent all conflict based on religion, it did make the Commonwealth a much safer and more tolerant place than most of contemporaneous Europe, especially during the subsequent Thirty Years’ War.[2]

Religious tolerance in Poland had had a long tradition (e.g. Statute of Kalisz) and had been de facto policy in the reign of the recently deceased King Sigismund II. However, the articles signed by the Confederation gave official sanction to earlier custom. In that sense, they may be considered either the beginning or the peak of Polish tolerance.

Following the childless death of the last king of the Jagiellon dynasty, Polish and Lithuanian nobles (szlachta) gathered at Warsaw to prevent any separatists from acting and to maintain the existing legal order. For that the citizens had to unconditionally abide the decisions made by the body; and the confederation was a potent declaration that the two former states are still closely linked.

In January the nobles signed a document in which representatives of all the major religions pledged each other mutual support and tolerance. A new political system was arising, aided by the confederation which contributed to its stability. Religious tolerance was an important factor in a multiethnic and multi-religious state, as the territories of the Commonwealth were inhabited by many generations of people from different ethnic backgrounds (Poles, Lithuanians, Ruthenian, Germans and Jews) and of different denominations (Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish and even Moslem). “This country became what Cardinal Hozjusz called “a place of shelter for heretics”. It was a place where the most radical religious sects, trying to escape persecution in other countries of the Christian world, sought refuge.[3]

This act was not imposed by a government or by consequences of war, but rather resulted from the actions of members of Polish-Lithuanian society. It was also influenced by the 1572 French St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which prompted the Polish-Lithuanian nobility to see that no monarch would ever be able to carry out such an act in Poland.

The people most involved in preparing the articles were Mikołaj Sienicki (leader of the “execution movement”), Jan Firlej and Jan Zborowski. Their efforts were opposed by many dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church.

They were opposed by most of the Catholic priests: Franciszek Krasiński was the only bishop who signed them (Szymon Starowolski claimed he did so under the “threat of the sword”), and the future legal acts containing the articles of the Confederation were signed by bishops with the stipulation: “excepto articulo confoederationis.” Another bishop, Wawrzyniec Goślicki, was excommunicated for signing the acts of the Sejm of 1587[citation needed].

The articles of the Warsaw Confederation were later incorporated into the Henrician Articles, and thus became constitutional provisions alongside the Pacta conventa also instituted in 1573.




1754 – Sir Horace Walpole coins the word serendipity in a letter to a friend.
The first noted use of “serendipity” (meaning pleasant surprise) in the English language was by Horace Walpole (1717–1797). In a letter to Horace Mann (dated 28 January 1754) he said he formed it from the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, whose heroes “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of”. The name comes from Serendip, an old name for Sri Lanka (aka Ceylon), from Tamil Ceralamdivu, Sanskrit Simhaladvipa and Persian Sarandīp (سرندیپ). Parts of Sri Lanka were under the rule of Tamil kings for extended periods of time in history. Kings of Kerala, India (Cheranadu), were called Ceran Kings and divu, tivu or dheep, which means island. The island belonging to the Chera King was called Cherandeep, hence Sarandib by Arab traders.[3][4]

Serendipity means a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”.It was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754. In a letter he wrote to a friend, Walpole explained an unexpected discovery he had made by reference to a Persian fairy tale, The Three Princes of Serendip. The princes, he told his correspondent, were “always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of”. The notion of serendipity is a common occurrence throughout the history of scientific innovation such as Alexander Fleming’s accidental discovery of penicillin in 1928, the invention of the microwave oven by Percy Spencer in 1945, and the invention of the Post-it note by Spencer Silver in 1968.

In June 2004, a British translation company voted the word to be one of the ten English words hardest to translate.[1] However, due to its sociological use, the word has since been exported into many other languages.[2]



Born on this day:

1608 – Giovanni Alfonso Borelli, Italian physiologist and physicist (d. 1679)
Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (28 January 1608 – 31 December 1679) was a Renaissance Italian physiologist, physicist, and mathematician. He contributed to the modern principle of scientific investigation by continuing Galileo’s practice of testing hypotheses against observation. Trained in mathematics, Borelli also made extensive studies of Jupiter’s moons, the mechanics of animal locomotion and, in microscopy, of the constituents of blood. He also used microscopy to investigate the stomatal movement of plants, and undertook studies in medicine and geology. During his career, he enjoyed the patronage of Queen Christina of Sweden.

Borelli’s major scientific achievements are focused around his investigation into biomechanics. This work originated with his studies of animals. His publications, De Motu Animalium I and De Motu Animalium II, borrowing their title from the Aristotelian treatise, relate animals to machines and utilize mathematics to prove his theories. The anatomists of the 17th century were the first to suggest the contractile movement of muscles. Borelli, however, first suggested that ‘muscles do not exercise vital movement otherwise than by contracting.’ He was also the first to deny corpuscular influence on the movements of muscles. This was proven through his scientific experiments demonstrating that living muscle did not release corpuscles into water when cut. Borelli also recognized that forward motion entailed movement of a body’s center of gravity forward, which was then followed by the swinging of its limbs in order to maintain balance. His studies also extended beyond muscle and locomotion. In particular he likened the action of the heart to that of a piston. For this to work properly he derived the idea that the arteries have to be elastic. For these discoveries, Borelli is labeled as the father of modern biomechanics and the American Society of Biomechanics uses the Borelli Award as its highest honour for research in the area.[1]

Along with his work on biomechanics, Borelli also had interests in physics, specifically the orbits of the planets.[2] Borelli believed that the planets were revolving as a result of three forces. The first force involved the planets’ desire to approach the sun. The second force dictated that the planets were propelled to the side by impulses from sunlight, which is corporeal. Finally, the third force impelled the planets outward due to the sun’s revolution. The result of these forces is similar to a stone’s orbit when tied on a string. Borelli’s measurements of the orbits of satellites of Jupiter are mentioned in Volume 3 of Newton’s Principia.
Submarine, by Giovanni Alfonso Borelli, in De Motu Animalium, 1680

Borelli is also considered to be the first man to consider a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus along with his early submarine design.[3][4] The exhaled gas was cooled by sea water after passing through copper tubing. The helmet was brass with a glass window and 0.6 m (2 ft) in diameter. The apparatus was never likely to be used or tested.[5]

Borelli also wrote:

Della cagioni delle febbri maligne (Pisa, 1658)
Euclides Restitutus (Pisa, 1658)
Apollonii Pergaei Conicorum libri v., vi. et vii (Florence, 1661)
Theoricae Mediceorum planetarum ex causis physicis deductae (Florence, 1666)
De vi percussionis (Bologna, 1667)
Meteorologia Aetnea (Reggio, 1669)
De motionibus naturalibus a gravitate pendentibus (Bologna, 1670)



1922 – Anna Gordy Gaye, American songwriter and producer, co-founded Anna Records (d. 2014)
Anna Ruby Gaye (née Gordy; January 28, 1922 – January 31, 2014) was an American businesswoman, composer and songwriter. An elder sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy, she became a record executive in the mid-to-late 1950s distributing records released on Checker and Gone Records before forming the Anna label with Billy Davis and sister Gwen. Gordy later became known as a songwriter for several hits including the Originals’ “Baby, I’m for Real”, and at least two songs on Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On album. The first wife of Gaye, their turbulent marriage later served as inspiration for Gaye’s album, Here, My Dear.[2]

Born Anna Ruby Gordy on January 28, 1922[3] in Oconee, Georgia, she was the third eldest of Berry Gordy Sr. (Berry Gordy II) and Bertha Ida (née Fuller) Gordy’s eight children. Into her first year, Gordy’s family relocated to Detroit. Following graduation from high school in 1940, Gordy relocated to California, which is where Gordy’s younger brother Berry moved to after he dropped out of high school to form a boxing career. Returning to Detroit in the mid-1950s, she and younger sister Gwen became operators of the photo concession at Detroit’s Flame Show Bar.

By the late 1950s, members of the Gordy clan were getting involved with the music business. In 1956, Anna began her career distributing records with Checker Records. Around 1957, she distributed a couple recordings for Gone Records. In 1958, she founded the label, Anna Records, with musician Billy Davis. Gordy’s younger sister Gwen acted as co-partner with the label. The label was formed a year before Berry launched Tamla Records, later a subsidiary for Motown. Anna distributed Tamla’s first national hit, Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want)”. Artists such as David Ruffin and Joe Tex also recorded for the label while Marvin Gaye became a session musician with the company. After the label was absorbed by Motown in 1961, Gordy joined Motown as a songwriter. Some of Gordy’s early compositions were recorded by Gaye and Mary Wells. In 1965, Gordy co-wrote Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means to Me”.

Gordy later co-composed the Originals’ hits, “Baby, I’m for Real” and “The Bells” alongside Marvin Gaye. Gordy’s name was included as a co-songwriter on two songs off Gaye’s 1971 album, What’s Going On, including “Flyin’ High (In the Friendly Sky)” and “God Is Love”. In 1973, Gordy’s name was included in the credits to the song, “Just to Keep You Satisfied”, which was first recorded in 1969 by the Monitors and also recorded by the Originals two years later. Gaye’s version was actually overdubbed from the Originals recording and reversed the song’s romantic lyrics for a more solemn view of the end of a marriage. Gordy eventually left Motown at the end of the 1970s and retired from the music industry.