Online Isaac Newton manuscripts workshop


India's Zetatrek citizen science initiative is online workshop starting on 19th July, where science and math hobbyists from all over the world are invited to study the original manuscripts of Sir Isaac Newton.

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Migration in America


Peter Biddle recounts the stories of his migrant ancestors and their journey to America, making the point that you can't escape your fate by staying put.

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Draft notices sent to men born in the 1880s

A US Selective Service database merge used two-digit years, and didn't sanity-check its threatening notices to 19th century men who'd apparently failed to sign up for the draft by their 18th birthday.

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Civil War carbine with a "coffee grinder" for corn and wheat


Notwithstanding the rumors of Civil War era carbines with attached coffee-grinders to help soldiers with their bean-juice, the grinder on on this 1859 "Coffee Mill" Sharps Carbine is thought to have been used for corn or wheat.

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Mary Robinette Kowal and Jane Austen: separated at birth by a time-traveller


(Left: Mary Robinette Kowal. Right: Jane Austen, photo by TV West Country/Katie Rowlett)

Mary Robinette Kowal writes regency novels like Shades of Milk and Honey that blend magic with the milieu of Jane Austen.

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Phrenology bust modeled on a human death mask

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The Morbid Anatomy Museum recently acquired a 19th-century phrenological death mask. Liza Young, a museum studies student at St. John's University, tracked down its history.

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Uncle Sam will defend your stake in any unclaimed bird-poop


If you discover an island covered in guano -- old poop -- an 1856 Federal law that's still on the books obliges the US of A to defend your claim to it.

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A history of Down Syndrome

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From their inclusion in 16th-century paintings to their roles in famous families (including, probably, Darwin's), people with Down Syndrome are part of history.

At the Down Wit Dat blog, there's a 8-part (with more on the way) feature that provides some much-needed inclusion to people who are usually just a footnote to somebody else's history. Naturally, the series delves into ideas like eugenics and the institutionalization of differently abled Americans. But, even there, the story is centered on people with Down Syndrome and, as such, it offers a perspective and information that you likely haven't heard before. Great stuff.

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Here's an excerpt about the short life of Charles Waring Darwin, the youngest child of the Charles Darwin you know. Based off historical records and the surviving photograph that you can see here, historians suspect that he had Down Syndrome.

Henrietta, one of his daughters, had this to say about Charles Waring in her book "Emma Darwin, A century of family letters...":

"The poor little baby was born without its full share of intelligence. Both my father and mother were infinitely tender towards him..."

Charles Darwin himself had this to say about his youngest child:

“He was small for his age and backward in walking and talking.... He was of a remarkable sweet, placid and joyful disposition, but had not high spirits.... He often made strange grimaces and shivered, when excited.... He would lie for a long time placidly on my lap looking with a steady and pleased expression at my face... making nice little bubbling noises as I moved his chin.”

Looking at the photograph of the then 45 year old Emma and her newborn son, it is not hard to see what appears to be a "weakened" bridge to the nose and quite possibly be epicanthal folds. However, the photo is extremely grainy and we will never know for sure. Charles Waring Darwin passed away from Scarlet fever at 19 months of age, never having learned to walk or talk. Darwin Sr. recorded in his journal that day: "Poor Dear Baby Died." He was unable to attend the first reading and publication of his theory of Natural Selection due to the illness and death of his youngest son.

Great profile of a black, female World War II vet

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Millie Dunn Veasey traveled to England through U-Boat-infested waters, saw war casualties in bombed-out French towns, went to college on the GI Bill, and sat next to Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March on Washington.

Her life story, some of it centered around her time in England and France working with the first all-female, all-black military unit sent to a war zone, is absolutely fascinating. Kudos to Josh Shaffer of the Raleigh News & Observer for profiling Veasey.

Back in Raleigh, Veasey saw an advertisement looking for female black recruits. Women with work experience were especially prized. At the time, she didn’t think of her role as freeing a man for the front lines. She thought, if a white woman could join up, why shouldn’t I?

Her family didn’t share her optimism. She was small, weighed less than 100 pounds, and she’d been sickly as a child. Her mother doubted she could handle the rigorous training. Her brother, already in the Army, doubted she could pass the test.

But Veasey took a bus to Fort Bragg, where she aced the exam, physical and written; she was one of three selected. Before long, the girl from Bloodworth Street who’d never been out of Raleigh found herself standing at reveille in the rain at Fort Des Moines in Iowa, wearing Army-issued galoshes that didn’t fit her narrow AAA-sized feet.

“I didn’t know how to tie my tie,” she confessed.

Here's a video of Veasey's unit, the 6888th postal battalion, taking part in a parade and drills.

Time-lapse of American seizure of indigenous land, 1776-1887

Rodney writes, "Between 1776 and 1887, the U.S. seized over 1.5 billion acres, an eighth of the world, from America's indigenous people by treaty and executive order. This 1:27 video maps it year by year."

Aerosmith debuted a single on Compuserve 20 years ago

It's been 20 years since the first major label experiment in putting music online: on Jun 27, 1994, Geffen Music put a WAV file of Aerosmith's "Head First" on Compuserve, which waived its hourly fee for people who wanted to download the track over their dial-up modems.

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Gorgeous 18th C sample books from Norwich


In the 18th century, the great textile mills of Norwich produced beautiful sample books that set out their range of wares.

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Thinking about Walt Disney's bench


Grad writes, "According to Walt Disney, the idea for a Disney-themed amusement park came to him while sitting on a park bench."

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Kickstarting a Progress City book of Disney history articles

The excellent Disney history blog Progress City is kickstarting a book of its best articles, including several that are substantially rewritten and polished for the project. $15 gets you a PDF, $30 for a paperback.

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Human skull lyre


19th century, with antelope horn, skin, gut, hair; plucked from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sadly, not on view at present. (via Kelly the Mortal Girl)