Yes, King George III really went insane. The English king (1738-1820) probably suffered from an inherited blood disorder called porphyria, which affects the nervous system. In 1788, he became violently insane and had to be put in a straitjacket. He recovered but eventually suffered a relapse. After 1811, his son, the future George IV, served […]
Allan Pinkerton (1819-1884), a Scotsman who moved to Chicago in 1842. He was deputy sheriff of Cook County before resigning in 1850 to open the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, specializing at first in railway theft cases. The agency’s motto was We Never Sleep, printed under an open eye.
Peeping Tom was a tailor who dared to look at Lady Godiva as she rode through Coventry. In 1040, Lady Godiva’s husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry, agreed to rescind a tax on the town if Lady Godiva rode naked through the streets. Godiva asked everyone to observe custody of the eyes, […]
Michel de Notredame, aka Nostradamus (1503-1566), seems to have predicted his own death. On July 1, 1566, his assistant rose to leave him for the evening, saying, “Tomorrow, master,” to which Nostradamus said, “Tomorrow at sunrise, I shall no longer be here.” The next morning he was found dead from an attack of dropsy.
Constantine XI, who ruled from 1448 to 1453, was the last Byzantine emperor. He died fighting the Turks in the battle for Constantinople, which ended in the fall of the nearly 1,100-year-old Byzantine Empire.
The shoguns were the de facto rulers of Japan from 1192 to 1867. Originally military commanders, they exercised real power, while the emperor retained formal sovereignty. The name is an abbreviation of seii-tai-shogun, meaning “barbarian-quelling generalissimo.”
David Ben-Gurion was born in Poland in 1886. He fled Poland in 1905 and settled in Palestine, becoming the first prime minister of Israel in 1948. Golda Meir was born in Russia in 1898 but was raised in the United States, where her parents moved in 1900. She settled in Palestine in 1921, becoming Israel’s […]
The last viceroy of India was not Lord Mountbatten. Louis Mountbatten (1900-1979) was India’s last British viceroy, or governor general, from August 1947 to June 1948. Chakravarti Raj agopalachari (1879-1972) then served as governor-general of India’s interim government from June 1948 to January 1950, when the position was abolished.
Born Malcolm Little, the black activist (1925-1965) took the name El-Hajj Malik El Shabazz when he joined the Black Muslims. He broke with the Black Muslims in 1964 and formed a rival group, the Organization of Afro-American Unity. The Autobiography of Malcolm X, first published in the year of his death, was ghostwritten by Alex […]
Since the ancient Greek mathematician and philosopher (fifth century B.C.) left no writings behind, it is hard to tell if Pythagoras discovered the Pythagorean theorem. His disciples in the Pythagorean school credited him with the theorem concerning the relative lengths of the sides of a right triangle. But it was probably developed later, when mathematical […]
Genghis Khan (c. 1162-1227) was the grandfather of Kublai Khan (1215-1294).
The line is from English writer Alexander Pope’s poem An Essay on Criticism. It actually reads “A little learning is a dangerous thing.”
There has been only one female winner of the U.S. Medal of Honor. It was Mary Walker who served as a surgeon in the 52nd Ohio Regiment during the Civil War. She was awarded the medal in 1865 by President Andrew Johnson.
The Chicago O’Hare airport is named for Edward Henry O’Hare, a U.S. aviator who shot down five Japanese planes on November 27, 1943. He is credited with saving the U.S. aircraft carrier Lexington. He died in the air battle.
Hoover directed the Bureau of Investigation for 48 years, from 1924 until his death in 1972. The Bureau of Investigation was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935. Most know it as the FBI.
Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) said the line. The remark fits.
Gimlet. Sir T. 0. Gimlette, a British naval surgeon who in 1890 developed the drink as a healthful cocktail. Grand Marnier. Named (in jest?) by hotel owner Cesar Ritz for a short businessman named Marnier Lapostolle, the inventor of the liqueur. Mickey Finn. A turn-of-the-century Chicago bartender who served the spiked drink to clients he […]
Henry Morton Stanley, a journalist, was commissioned by the New York Herald in 1871 to find the explorer David Livingstone, who had been missing for two years. Stanley trekked through Africa for six months before meeting Livingstone, the only other white man within 1,000 miles.
The Liberator. Simon Bolivar (1783-1830), leader in the quest for Latin American independence; also, Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), Irish nationalist leader in the British House of Commons. The Hammer. Charles Martel (688-741?), Frankish ruler who stopped the Muslim invasion of Europe. The Upright. Abu Bakr (c. 573-634), the first Muslim caliph and successor to Muhammad. Mr. […]
King Edward VIII of England gave up his throne for the love of Wallis Warfield Simpson on December 10, 1936. His younger brother George VI, who reigned until 1952, took the throne in his place when Elizabeth II became queen.
It took the New York World’s Fair and imminent war in Europe to bring British royalty across the Atlantic. On June 7, 1939, King George VI and the future Queen Elizabeth II crossed the border from Canada to Niagara Falls, then traveled to Washington, D.C., for lunch with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Later they went […]
The term chauvinism originally referred to Nicolas Chauvin, a French soldier of the Napoleonic era whose devotion to Napoleon was considered excessive and unreasonable. He later appeared in a number of plays and literary works, including Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel (1905), always representing an exaggerated patriotism. The term has since taken on a more general […]
Robert Pershing Wadlow (1919-1940) was the tallest person in the world. Born in Alton, Illinois, Wadlow was 8 feet, 11.1 inches tall when he died.
As the subject of the first children’s book of the same name, the character Goody Two-Shoes helped to usher in the children’s book industry. Goody Two-Shoes was a poor girl, who, when given a pair of shoes, became so happy that she told everyone she met about them. The tale was written by Oliver Goldsmith […]
Pontius Pilate killed himself after he ordered the crucifixion. In A.D. 36, Caligula ordered Pilate to Rome to answer charges of cruelty in the massacre of a group of Samaritans. Shortly thereafter, Pilate committed suicide, possibly by order of Caligula or in anticipation of harsh treatment.
Haile Selassie (1891-1975), emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974, was known as the Conquering Lion. His tenacity against his enemies earned him his nickname, a variation of one of his official titles, the Lion of Judah.
The earl ranks higher, but is by no means at the top. From highest to lowest, the line of peerage runs as follows: Duke and Duchess Marquess (or Marquis) and Marchioness Earl and Countess Viscount and Viscountess Baron and Baroness
Fleeing from Holland in the early 1900s, a Dutch officer’s wife named Margaretha Geertruida Zelle changed her name to Mata Hari. At first she became a licentious dancer and later the most notorious spy of World War I. Arrested in her Paris hotel in February 1917, she was shot by a firing squad on October […]
The one-time foreign minister and war minister of the Soviet Union Leon Trotsky was expelled from Russia by Joseph Stalin in 1929. He made his way to Mexico, where he was murdered, probably at Stalin’s command, in 1940.
Matthew A. Henson (1866-1955), who had worked with Peary since an 1887 expedition in Nicaragua. Henson and Peary were the only two of a team of six explorers to reach what Peary claimed was the North Pole on April 7, 1909.
Tamburlaine the Great was an Islamic Turkic conqueror born in what is now Soviet Uzbekistan in 1336. By 1400, he and his nomad warriors had conquered the whole area from Mongolia to the Mediterranean. He died in 1405 while on his way to conquer China. Known to historians as Timur Lenk, he is best known […]
Lady Bird Johnson’s real name was Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson (b. 1912). The wife of President Lyndon Johnson got her nickname after the family cook called her “purty as a lady bird.”
Henri Philippe Main (1856-1951) was a military hero in World War I and premier of France in 1940. In June of that year, he called for an armistice with Germany and became the “chief of state” of the puppet government at Vichy. After the war, he was sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted […]
Yes, Typhoid Mary’s name was Mary Mallon (1870-1938). She was an institutional and household cook who spread the disease from house to house in the New York City area in the early twentieth century.
With their periods of reign, they are: 1. Pepi II, king of Egypt. 90 years (c. 2566-2476 B.C.) 2. Louis XIV, king of France. 72 years (1643-1715) 3. John II, prince of Liechtenstein. 71 years (1858-1929) 4. Franz Joseph, emperor of Austria. 68 years (1848-1916) 5. Victoria, queen of England. 64 years (1837-1901)
Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901, was the grand daughter of the King George III, who lost the American colonies. This makes Elizabeth II, Queen of England since 1952, George’s great-great-great-great grand daughter.
There were four King Herods. Herod the Great was the tetrarch, or subordinate ruler, of the Roman province of Judaea from 41 B.C. to 4 B.C. He was probably in power when Jesus Christ was born. Between 4 B.C. and A.D. 34, three sons of Herod the Great, Herod Archelaus, Herod Antipas, and Philip, ruled […]
Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79) was an encyclopedist of the Roman Empire whose reputation as an expert on scientific matters endured until the Middle Ages. Pliny was also known as Gaius Plinius Secundus. His adopted son, Pliny the Younger (c. A.D. 61–c. A.D. 113), was a lawyer and administrator known mainly for the large collection […]
She was Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, a beautiful young woman who had been seduced at age fifteen by architect Stanford White. At the time of the seduction, she was single and a showgirl in the “Floradora” company. She met White in a room with a red velvet swing. After she married, her husband Harry Thaw grew […]
The Apache leader Geronimo (1829-1908) was known to his tribe as Goyathlay, meaning “One Who Yawns.” The nickname Geronimo is probably a corruption of the Spanish name Jeronimo.
Mongkut of Siam, the king in The King and I, had 9,000 wives and concubines. King Solomon, by contrast, had only 700.
Silent screen siren Clara Bow (1905-1965) picked up the nickname It Girl after starring as a flapper in It in 1927. Gary Cooper was briefly called by this moniker It Boy when he began dating Ms. Bow. He is said to have ended the relationship in order to get rid of the nickname.
The post of Prince of Wales created in 1301, when the future Edward II became the first English Prince of Wales. Since then, with some exceptions, the heir apparent to the throne of Great Britain has held the title Prince of Wales.
Genghis Khan was born circa 1162 and died in 1227. His real name was Temiijin; the title Genghis Khan meant “universal ruler.” He ruled Mongolia, conquered China, devastated the Muslim empire of Khwarizm (now part of Soviet Uzbekistan), and raided Persia and Russia.
The head of the British Secret Service called C or CSS. He is not called M, his name in the James Bond stories, although the head of the SOE (Special Operations Executive) in World War II was called M for a while.
The Taj Mahal was built between 1632 and 1650 in Agra, India, by Shah Jahan as a tomb for his wife. The marble structure is considered a superb representation of the Mogul style.
The men who were found innocent of inciting riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention were: Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, John Froines, Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Lee Weiner. They were known as the Chicago Seven.
Pius IX, who led the Catholic Church for nearly 32 years, from 1846 to 1878, was the longest-reigning pope. It was during his reign that the First Vatican Council, in 1870, promulgated the dogma of papal infallibility. That doctrine states that the pope cannot err on matters of faith or morals when speaking ex cathedra, […]
Yes. John Bardeen (b. 1908) won two Nobel Prizes in physics. In 1956, he and W.B.S. Shockley and W. H. Brattain were awarded the prize for the invention of the transistor. In 1972, he and L. N. Cooper and J. R. Schrieffer were awarded the prize for developing the BCS theory, which uses physics to […]
Tokyo Rose was a Japanese American named Iva d’Aquino (b. 1916) known for her World War II radio broadcasts aimed at weakening the morale of U.S. servicemen. Convicted of treason after the war, she received a presidential pardon in 1977. She had several counterparts, all known as Axis Sally and all broadcasting to GIs in […]
The rich and thin Duchess of Windsor, the former Wallis Warfield Simpson (1896-1986) said you can never be too rich or too thin.
At least three leaders have died while having sex: Attila the Hun (c. 406-453), French president Felix Faure (1841-1899), and Pope Leo VIII (d. 965). Catherine the Great did not.
Acute appendicitis overcame the former Erich Weiss known as Harry Houdini on October 31, 1926, Halloween. He was 52 years old.
King Solomon, the son of and successor to David is said to have ruled during the mid-tenth century B.C.
William Holmes McGuffey (1800-1873) wrote his first readers in 1836, following with more in the next two decades. McGuffey was an American college teacher and political conservative. The schoolbooks have sold 122 million copies.
Which was insured for the most money, Fred Astaire’s feet, Betty Grable’s legs, or Jimmy Durante’s nose?
Astaire’s feet, insured for $650,000, were at the top of this list. Grable’s legs were insured for only $250,000, Durante’s nose for $140,000.
A Hobson’s choice is a situation that forces a person to accept whatever is offered or go without. The phrase was inspired by sixteenth-century entrepreneur Thomas Hobson, who hired out horses in strict rotation at Cambridge University. There was no choosing by the customer, it was strictly Hobson’s choice.
The two men who laid the Mason-Dixon line gave it its name. Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon laid the line sometime between 1763 and 1767 at 39°43’26” north latitude. Originally it was the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania. Later it marked the line between slave states and free states.
Buckingham Palace was built by the Duke of Buckingham in 1703. It became the London residence of British royalty in 1837.
Thomas Paine, the eighteenth-century American pamphleteer who wrote Common Sense, was called filthy little atheist. Paine was actually 5 feet, 10 inches tall, neat in appearance, and believed in God.