Thursday, October 18, 2012

Leif Ericson (#76)

Leif Ericson


Leif Ericson was born sometime in the 1070s in Iceland, where his parents, Erik the Red and Thjodhild, met. Ericson's grandfather, Thorvald Asvaldsson, had been banished from Norway for manslaughter. Following his path, Ericson's father, Erik the Red, had gotten himself banished from Iceland for the same reason. When Erik was banished in 986, Leif went along with him to Greenland, where he grew up in the colony of Tyrker.


In 999, Ericson traveled from Greenland to Norway, but he got blown of course and had to spend several months in the Hebride archipelago. While in the Hebrides, he met noblewoman Thorgunna, with whom Leif had a child, Thorgils, with. When he made it to Norway, he became the hirdman, or armed companion, of King Olaf Tryggvason. While in Norway, Ericson converted to Christianity and was given the mission to bring Christianity to Greenland.

Finding America

From here, two separate stories of Ericson's life start. One story, from the Book of Icelanders, states that while on his way to Greenland as a missionary, he was blown of course towards America. The other story, found in the Saga of the Greenlanders, states that Leif heard the story of Bjarni Herjolfsson, a Norse merchant who claimed to have seen land west of Greenland. Leif, with a boat and crew, went off in search of this land. Either way, Leif went west of Greenland, landing on three different islands. First, he found a rocky, desolate place he called Helluland, which was probably Baffin Island. He then found a forested island he called Markland, which was most likely the island of Labrador. Finally, in 1001, he found Vinland, which was most likely Newfoundland, which he named after the abundance of grapes, which were probably just berries. On Vinland, Ericson founded a settlement called Leifsbudir, which, after a little while, was abandoned, most likely due to strained relations with local Native Americans.

The End

It is unknown how Ericson died, but it was probably around the year 1020 in Greenland. Ericson is on our list because of his claim to the discovery of America. His claim to the throne is about 500 years earlier than Columbus.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sydney Newman (#77)


Sydney C. Newman was born on April 1, 1917 in Toronto, Canada, the son of a shoe shop owner. Though he originally went to Ogden Public School, he dropped out at the age of 13 and later studied art and design at Central Technical School. Newman originally hoped to become a photographer and artist, making money as a creator of film posters, but when this profession did not make much money, he went into the film industry itself. 

Early Work

Newman went to Hollywood in 1938, looking for work. He was offered a job by the Walt Disney Company, but he had to turn down the job because he could not obtain a work permit. Newman obtained his first major film job as an editor for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). When WW2 began, Newman was assigned to produce documentaries and propaganda for Canada, and in 1949, the Canadian government assigned Newman to work with NBC, creating reports on film techniques of Americans. These reports helped Newman to obtain a job with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), where he helped to televise Canadian sports. Newman also oversaw several other television programs for CBC, including General Motor Theatre,  but none of which gained him much esteem. Newman did, however, make films with a fresh perspective. Instead of using normal plots, he tended to experiment with the format of a show. 

Work in England

Several of the plays produced by Newman in General Motor Theatre were purchased by Associated British Corporation, or ABC. Impressed by the production of the plays, ABC decided to hire Newman in 1958. he was soon promoted to the Head of Drama. As the Head of Drama, he helped to produce many of the shows of the time. Again, Newman used original ideas and concepts in his shows, creating everything from Armchair Theatre to The Avengers (a spy television series, not the superhero movie). His success in ABC got him noticed by the BBC, who hired him in 1962 to revive their drama department. As BBC's head of drama, Newman changed how BBC worked. He initiated several new television shows while also hiring new writers and and directors with original and unique ideas.

Doctor Who

By far, Newman's most famous creation was the television show Doctor Who. In 1963, when Newman was told that a slot between two shows on Saturday evenings needed to be filled, he decided to make a science-fiction drama. The resulting show was Doctor Who. The idea was to have a mysterious man, the Doctor, along with companions travel through time and space in a little blue box that was bigger on the inside than the outside. Newman originally hoped that Doctor Who would be a children's television show. The Doctor's two companions were teachers, one of science, the other of history. Children were to learn history when the Doctor traveled into the past and learn science when they traveled into the future. He, himself said that he wanted no "bug-eyed monsters" in the show. This hope all changed when he took on Verity Lambert as the show's producer. Although he sometimes clashed with Newman because she enjoyed putting strange monsters in the show. Newman eventually accepted her aliens when one of her creations, the Daleks, became a major success and saved the program from going off the air.

Later Work

Newman continued to work for BBC until 1967, going to work for the Associated British Picture Corporation and EMI Films. In 1970, Newman moved back to work for the Canadian Radio and Television Commission until 1975. Later on, he would work as the Special Advsor for Film to the Canadian Secretary of State and as the Chief Creative Consultant to the Canadian Film Development Corporation.

The End

On October 30, 1997, Sydney Newman died of a heart attack at the age of 80. Newman is on our list for many reasons. First, many think of him as one of the main influences on modern Canadian drama. He also revived BBC Drama, allowing it to become the success that it is today. Third, he created Doctor Who, one of the most famous television shows in history along with the longest running science fiction television show in history. Finally, he hired Verity Lambert as Doctor Who's producer, making her the first female producer to work for the BBC.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Montezuma I (#78)


Huehuemotecuhzoma, or Montezuma I, was born around the year 1398 BC in the Aztec Empire. He was to son of emperor Huitzilihuil, ruler of the Aztec people. The story goes that Montezuma's mother, Miahuaxihuitl, became pregnant after swallowing the jewel. Montezuma married his mother's niece, Chichimecacihuatzin. 


Montezuma came to the throne in 1440 after his brother, Itzcoatl, died. Starting where his brother left off, Montezuma solidified an alliance between Tenochtitlan, the Aztec home city, and two neighboring people groups from the cities of Texcoco and Tlacopan. This alliance, known as the Triple Alliance, stated that the three cities would fight together and that 4/5 of the land would be divided between Texcoco and Tenochtitlan and the remaining 1/5 would be given to Tlacopan. With this alliance, Montezuma began to expand the empire. When the Triple Alliance conquered the Huastec and Totonac people, the Aztecs gained access to the Gulf Coast. Though most defeated people groups were treated well and were allowed to keep their land, Montezuma could be harsh. In 1458, Montezuma led an attack on the city-state of Coixtlahuaca after several Aztec merchants were mistreated. After defeating Coixtlahuaca and the allies of the city, Montezuma killed the city's ruler and made his family slaves. Montezuma I provided one of the largest periods of expansion in the history of the Aztec Empire, earning him the title of 'Archer in the Sky' from his people.


Under Montezuma I, the Aztec heartland contained about one million people. This included Tenochtitlan and nine provincial centers surrounding the capitol. In 1449, Lake Texcoco, which surrounded Tenochtitlan, flooded the city. That same year, weather damaged the crops and famine struck the Empire. Montezuma and Nezahualcoyotl, the ruler of Texcoco, led the construction of a dike to control water levels and reduce the salt content of the lake. By lowering salt levels, the lake could be used for farming. After ten years, the dike was finished, but Montezuma continued to make improvements. He built a three-mile-long aqueduct to help bring water to Tenochtitlan and also improved irrigation systems throughout the empire. Finally, Montezuma helped to set down rules of conduct. These rules spoke on everything from defining social classes, conduct in battle, and regular rules regarding criminal activity. This helped Montezuma to control his rapidly expanding empire.

The End

Montezuma died under unknown circumstances in the year 1469. Montezuma is in our book because he created one of the two great American Empires, the other being the Inca Empire under Huayna Capac. Montezuma helped to establish Aztec dominance in Mesoamerica and helped to bring stability to the Aztec empire through his improvements to the empire. Please not that this is NOT the Montezuma who was defeated by Hernan Cortes and was killed by his own people.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Asparukh of Bulgaria (#79)

Asparukh of Bulgaria


Asparukh was born around the year AD 640 in what is now Ukraine. He was the second son of Kubrat, who had set up the state of Great Bulgaria on the steppes of modern Ukraine. Asparukh learned leadership and politics from his father, and his father appointed him the leader of the Onogur tribe. When Kubrat died in 665, Asparukh's brother, Bat Bayan, took the throne, but by 668, Great Bulgaria had dissolved due to attacks from Khazars, semi-nomadic Turks. Bat Bayan and Asparukh each led their people to safer lands, each going a different way.

Finding a Homeland

Asparukh, with 30,000 to 50,000 Bulgars with him, traveled south and east along the coast of the Black Sea. Eventually, the group reached the Danube, settling down along the Danube delta. This land was claimed by the Byzantine Empire, but the Bulgars were not attacked because Constantinople was currently under siege by Muawiyah I of the Umayyad dynasty. When the siege ended in 678, Emperor Constantine IV attacked the Bulgars and Slavs, forcing most of those attacked into fortified encampments. During his campaign, Constantine IV had to leave his troops to get medicine for an ailment of his. A rumor spread that Constantine had run away, and Constantine's soldiers began to desert. As they did, Asparukh led his followers against the weakened Byzantine army, breaking through the blockade and moving past the Danube at the battle of Ongala in 680. Asparukh quickly took the Balkan area with the Slavic tribes as his allies.
 In 681, Constantine IV made peace with Asparukh and agreed to send money to the Bulgars each year in return for protection from the Khazars. Asparukh settled his people down in the Balkans, creating what many wold call the first true Bulgarian state.

The End

Asparukh died in 701 while fighting Khazars. Asparukh is on our list of people because he was the first person to create a Balkan state. Not only was he the first, he got his state to be formally recognized by the Byzantine Empire and had the Byzantine Empire relying on him for protection. Because of Asparukh's leadership, the Bulgars as well as the Slavic tribes were able to set up their own nations in the Balkans, creating the many states that we see in that region to this day.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Anne Bonny & Mary Read (#81 & #80)

Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny was born on March 8, 1702. She was born in Ireland, but her family moved to the Americas soon after she was born. Her father became successful in the merchant business and she could have gotten a good marriage, though she chose to marry a poor sailor named James Bonny between the years 1714 and 1718. When her father disowned her, Anne and James moved to Nassau, in the Bahamas, where James worked for the governor. In the Bahamas, Anne met John Rackham, or Calico Jack. Anne and Jack became lovers, having a child named Cunningham together. Anne divorced her husband, left Cunningham, and ran off with Rackham to live a pirate's life.
Mary Read

Mary Read

Mary Read was born in England in the late 1600s. She was the illegitimate daughter of the widow of a sea captain. To receive financial support from her paternal grandmother, Anne was dressed as a boy, pretending to be her older, legitimate brother. Read continued to dress as a boy to find work, becoming a footboy, and later, a soldier. Read, still in disguise, fought in the British military during the Nine Years War against the French. During the War, she fell in love with a Flemish soldier. The two got married and bought an inn in the Netherlands. When her husband died, Read again dressed as a man and wen on board a ship to the West Indies. Pirates captured her ship, though she took King's pardon in 1718 to become a privateer. 

Bonny and Read

In 1720, after she joined a mutiny with her crew, Mary Read joined Calico Jack Rackham and Anne Bonny on the pirate ship Revenge. Because she was still dressed as a man, Anne Bonny began to take a liking towards Read, so Read revealed that she was a woman to both Rackham and Bonny. Rackham allowed Read to stay aboard as a woman, and both Bonny and Read were said to have been capable fighters in combat. Though they were women, both Bonny and Read made it on to The Boston News-Letters's Wanted Pirates list. 

The End

In October of 1720, Jonathan Barnet, a privateer from Jamaica, attacked the Revenge. Most of the pirates aboard Rackham's ship were either drunk or asleep, though four pirates, including Rackham, Bonny, and Read, were able to hold off Barnet's men for some time. They were eventually captured and imprisoned. Rackham was executed, but both Read and Bonny had their executions postponed because both were pregnant. In 1721, Mary Read died of a fever in prison, supposedly during childbirth. Anne Bonny has no record of release or execution, because (most likely) her father smuggled her out to South Carolina, where she gave birth to Rackham's second child, remarried, and had ten more children. She died at the age of 80 on April 22, 1782. Bonny and Read are on this list because both were pirates (very good pirates), but both were women, breaking the usual stereotype. Both proved that women were as capable as men at privateering and pirating in a time when women were viewed as inferior.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jerry Nelson (#82)

Jerry Nelson


Jerry L. Nelson was born in Oklahoma on July 10, 1934. Soon afterwards, Nelson moved to Washington, D.C. Nelson got his first puppeteering job from Bil Baird, who is most famous for his puppeteering in the "The Lonely Goatherd" sequence in The Sound of Music. Nelson first began working with the Muppets on The Jimmy Dean Show in 1965, playing Rowlf the Dog's right hand. For the next year, Nelson continued to work with the Muppets in variety shows and commercials, but in 1966, Jim Henson had to reduce the amount of work and Nelson was let go. 

Sesame Street

When help was needed for the second season of Sesame Street, Jerry Nelson was brought back on. On the show, Nelson played such characters as, Sherlock Hemlock, The Amazing Mumford, and Herry Monster, but by far, Nelson's most famous character was Count von Count, the vampire who taught math on the show. He also was the first puppeteer to perform Mr. Snuffleupagus, Big Bird's imaginary friend. After his beginning work on Sesame Street, Nelson was brought back on to the Muppet Show, where he played many minor roles as well as Sgt. Floyd Pepper and Camilla the Chicken. When Richard Hunt was brought on to the Muppets, Nelson acted as his mentor and the two ran several characters together. Hunt would go on to play such characters as Scooter and Beaker. Nelson continued to work with Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, though he worked on several other shows, including Fraggle Rock and Emmet Otter's Jug-Band.

Later Life

Nelson had one daughter, Christine, from his first marriage, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.  When the family found out about her disease, Nelson took a large amount of time off of his work with the Muppets to spend time with her. Christine also had a cameo appearance in The Great Muppet Caper and Jim Henson gave her a speaking part so that she could become a member of the actors' union before she died in 1982. 

The End

In 2004, Nelson stated that he would no longer puppeteer due to health issues. He continued to voice his characters until his death on August 23, 2012 due to emphysema. Jerry Nelson is on our list because (1) he helped to form both Sesame Street and The Muppet Show and (2) he played characters who are famous and known by generations of Americans and people around the world.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Leonidas I (#83)

Leonidas I


Leonidas was born around the year 540 BC in Sparta. Leonidas was the second son of King Anaxandridas II's first wife. Leonidas had two brothers: Dorieus, the eldest son of Anaxandridas's first wife, and Cleomenes, the son of the king's second wife. Because he was not expected to be king, Leonidas went through the harsh Spartan public school system in order to qualify for citizenship.

Rise to Power

When King Anaxandridas II died in 520 BC, Cleomenes became king. Dorieus was outraged by the decision because Cleomenes was the youngest son and Dorieus, the eldest. Dorieus left Sparta and attempted to start a colony in Africa and later in Sicily. Though he found success in Italy, he was killed soon after the colony's foundation. Leonidas remained in Sparta, marrying Cleomenes's daughter, Gorgo, in 490 BC. During Cleomenes's reign, the Greek states were at war with Persia, but before the war ended, Cleomenes was accused of insanity and fled Sparta in 490 BC. Leonidas succeeded Cleomenes as king, and when Persia invaded Greece again in 481 BC, Leonidas was chosen to lead the combined Greek forces. 

Battle of Thermopylae

In August of 480 BC, Leonidas marched to Thermopylae with 300 Spartans. The other city-states of Greece sent additional troops, forming an army of about 14,000. There is some dispute over the reason for sending so few into battle, but most agree that it was because of the Olympic Games being held at the same time. Xerxes I, ruler of Persia, attacked the Greek army after five days of waiting. Leonidas and his men were able to hold of the Persians for the first two days, killing approximately 20,000 Persians while losing only 2,500 Greek soldiers. In the process, two of Xerces' brothers were killed. 

The End

On the seventh day of the Battle of Thermopylae, Ephialtes, a Greek traitor, led a group of Persians through a mountain pass to attack the Greeks from behind, When Leonidas found out, he sent away the entire Greek Army other than his 300 Spartans to keep them from being killed in the battle. 900 Helots and 700 Thespians, though, refused to leave Leonidas's side. Attacked from both the front and the back, Leonidas  and his men held their post, but all were killed, though Spartans were able to recover Leonidas's body before the Persians could. Leonidas is on our list because he was both a tragic hero of the Ancient world, he also had a famous movie made about him.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bartholomew Diaz(#84)

Bartholomew Diaz


Bartolomeu Dias, or Bartholomew Diaz, was born around the year 1451,the son of a Portuguese nobleman. Very little is known about Dias's life, but as an adult, he became a Knight of the royal court, the superintendent of the royal warehouses, and the captain of the ship, Sao Cristovao. Dias was married and had two children: Simao and Antonia Dias.


After Marco Polo came back from the East, Europeans started looking for ways to travel to the East without travelling through any Islamic kingdoms. Europeans wanted to find both spices and precious metals. Also, they wanted to find Prester John. Prester John was a supposed Christian ruler of the East who would serve as a powerful ally against the Muslim nations, something that Europeans desperately needed during the Crusades. On October 10, 1487, Bartholomew Diaz was appointed by King John II of Portugal to sail around the southern tip of Africa, which had not yet been discovered by Europeans, and to search for Prester John. Diaz sailed out of Lisbon that same year, hugging the African coast the entire way down. As he sailed, Diaz completely missed the southern tip of Africa, so he decided to go straight on to India. Diaz, unfortunately, was forced to turn back after his crew refused to go any further. On his way back, Diaz landed at the tip of Africa, naming it the Cape of Storms. King John II later named it the Cape of Good Hope. Diaz later helped in the construction of Sao Gabriel and Sao Rafael, the two ships that held Vasco da Gama, the first European to sail all the way to Asia. Bartholomew also sailed with da Gama on the first leg of his voyage to India, though he did not travel the entire way.

The End

Bartholomew Diaz sailed with Pedro Alvares Cabral on the expedition which discovered Brazil. After the ships turned around and sailed to India via the Cape of Good Hope. On May 29, 1500, at the Cape, a violent storm hit the ships, wrecking Diaz's ship, probably killing him in the process. Diaz is on our list because he discovered that Africa actually had a southern tip. His maps provided the basis for the expeditions led by Vasco da Gama and Pedro Cabral.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Philo Farnsworth (#85)

Philo Farnsworth


Philo Taylor Farnsworth was born on August 19, 1906 to a family living in Beaver, Utah. In 1918, the Farnsworth family moved to a farm in Rigby, Idaho. The house that they moved into was wired for electricity. Philo study the mechanical and electrical technology of the house and was soon able to fix the Delco generator that ran the house's farming equipment. He also was able to fix a discarded electric motor and use it to turn the family's hand-powered washing machine into an electrical washing machine. When he was in high school, Farnsworth came to his science teacher with ideas of an electronic television system, covering several blackboards with his diagrams. In 1922, when the Farnsworths moved to Provo, Utah, Philo stayed behind to work at a railway company so he could pay for classes at Brigham Young University. He came to live with his family again in 1923.

School and Early Career

In 1924, Farnsworth applied for the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was recruited when he got the second highest score in the nation on the academy tests. He left soon afterwards, though, when he learned that the government would own any patents Farnsworth earned. Farnsworth went back to Utah to help care for his family after his father's death. The family moved into a duplex with the family's friends, the Gardners. Cliff Gardner shared Farnsworth's interest in electronics and the two started up a radio repair business. After the business failed, Farnsworth met Leslie Gorrell and George Everson, who helped Farnsworth to fund his experiments on televisions. Farnsworth was able to get a laboratory in Los Angeles, but married Cliff Gardner's sister, Elma Gardner, before he left.

Electric Television

After moving to Los Angeles, Farnsworth applied for a patent on his designs. At the time, almost all television systems used at least some mechanical components. Farnsworth, instead, attempted to create a completely electronic television system. In 1927, Farnsworth finished his image dissector and transmitted a single straight line with it. By 1929, Farnsworth changed the design to not rely on a motor generator. THis made his system the first all-electronic television system.The other major innovator in the field of elctric televison was Vladmir Zworykin. In 1928, Farnsworth had lost two interference claims to Zworykin, but Zworykin was still unable to make it work properly. In 1930, Zworykin was hired by RCA, the leader in television development. In 1931, RCA attempted to buy Farnsworth's patents and hire Farnsworth in the process, but Farnsworth refused and went to work with the Philco company instead. RCA later filed an interference suit against Farnsworth, stating that Zworykin's 1923 patent had priority over Farnsworth's design. Farnsworth won the legal battle and a subsequent appeal by RCA, but a variety of issues led to a delay in RCA's payment of royalties to Farnsworth.  In 1932, Farnsworth met John Baird, who had given the world's first public demonstration of a working television system. Farnsworth and Baird worked together to compete with EMI to create the U.K. standard television system. When BBC chose the EMI system, Farnsworth returned to America. 

Later Work in Television and Science

In 1933, Farnsworth was let go from Philco and returned to his lab. Farnsworth worked with the University of Pennsylvania to create a method of sterilizing milk with radio waves. He also invented a fog-penetrating light beam for boats. In 1938, Farnsworth established the Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation, and a year later, RCA finally agreed to pay Farnsworth one million dollars to license Farnsworth's 1927 Television patent. ITT, or International Telephone and Telegraph, bought Farnsworth Television and Radio in 1951. Farnsworth, at this company, worked to create a defense early warning system, submarine detection devices, radar calibration equipment, and infrared telescopes. Farnsworth also did work on nuclear fusion with ITT, Philo T. Farnsworth Associates (PTFA), and NASA. 

The End

PTFA lost funding for fusion research in 1970. A year later, Farnsworth caught pneumonia, dying on March 11, 1971. Farnsworth is on our list of important people because he invented the television that we know today. He also worked in many areas of science, creating the world we know today. He also predicted and started research on ideas that would later come true, including high-definition television and flat-screen television.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pepin the Short (#86)

Pepin the Short

Rise to Power

Pepin the Younger was born in the year 714 in what is now France. He was the son of Charles Martel, the Mayor of the Palace. As Mayor of the Palace, Martel ruled Francia (the kingdom of the Franks), but served the Merovingian kings. When Martel died in 741, he divided his seat as Mayor into two parts. Carloman, Martel's eldest son, became the Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia, or Eastern Francia. Pepin was crowned as the Mayor of the Palace of Neustria, or Western Francia. Grifo, Pepin and Carloman's half-brother, did not inherit a position, so he demanded that he got a piece of land from his two half-brothers. Pepin and Carloman refused and imprisoned Grifo in a monastery. In 743, Carloman and Pepin officially acknowledged the king, Childeric III, as the king of Francia, but for an unknown reason, Carloman retired as Mayor four years later to become a monk. This left Pepin as the Mayor of the Palace for all of Francia. In 747, the same year that Carloman retired, Grifo escaped his prison and started a revolt against Pepin, which was completely destroyed by 753, when Grifo was killed in battle..

Becoming King

In 752, Pepin asked the Pope to depose of Childeric III, the king of Francia. Childeric was king, though he had no power. All the power rested with Pepin, the Mayor of the Palace. Pope Zachary, needing help to fight against the Lombards, agreed to Pepin's request, and Childeric was deposed. Pepin became the new king of Francia, starting the Carolingian dynasty. In 752, the archbishop of Mainz anointed Pepin, but in 754, Pope Stephen, Pope Zachary's successor, personally went to Paris to anoint Pepin as king. Along with anointing Pepin as the King of Francia, Stephen also gave Pepin the title of patricius Romanorum, or Patrician of Rome. 


In return for anointing him, Pepin helped Stephen to fight of the Lombards. When Pepin defeated them, he forced the Lombard king Aistulf to return the land belonging to the Church. Pepin also expanded Francia, attacking Septimania, a region in southern France, taking it over by 759. When Waifer, the duke of Aquitaine, seized church lands in760, Pepin went to war with Aquitaine as well. This was the harshest war under Pepin's rule and Pepin had to burn everything in his path to inspire fear in Waifer. By 768, a pro-Frankish treaty was accepted by the Aquitanian nobles. 

The End

Pepin died in 768 at the age of 54. Pepin was interred in the church of Saint Denis. Pepin is in our book because he is almost always forgotten. His father, Charles Martel, and his son, Charlemagne, both earned more fame than Pepin even though it was Pepin that acquired the Frankish throne for the Carolingian dynasty. He also has the best description ever: The Short. Anybody who is called "The Short" is automatically awesome.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Aruj (#87)


Oruç, or Aruj, was born around 1474 on Lesbos to the Turkish Sipahi, Yakup Aga. After helping the Ottomans conquer Lesbos from the Genoese, Yakup Aga settled down on Lesbos, where he met and married Katerina, with whom he had four sons: Ishak, Aruj, Hizir, and Ilyas. When he moved to Lesbos, Yakup bought a ship to become a merchant. All four of his sons, including Aruj, helped their father with his trade.

Early Career

 The four brothers all became seamen, trading throughout the Mediterranean, but mainly within the Levant, the oceans between Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. During his career as a merchant, Aruj learned how to speak Italian, Spanish, French, Greek, and Arabic, but later Aruj, Hizir, and Ilyas became privateers to counteract the power of the Knights of St. John, privateers from the island of Rhodes. While on their way back from a trading expedition,  Ilyas and Aruj were attacked by the Knights of St. John. Ilyas was killed and Aruj was imprisoned for almost three years. Aruj's brother Hizir tracked down Aruj and helped him to escape.


On a trip to the Ottoman city of Antalya, the governor of Antalya, Ottoman prince Shehzade Korkud, gave Aruj 18 galleys to fight the Knights of St. John because the Knights were damaging the Ottoman ocean trade network. When Shehzade Korkud became the governor of Manisa, he increased Aruj's fleet size to include 24 galleys. Aruj also helped when Korkud was sending a naval expedition to Italy. Aruj bombarded several coastal cities and captured two ships while there. He also captured four more ships on his way back to see Korkud. Korkud, though, had fled to Egypt after a dispute of succession to the Ottoman throne. Aruj went to Egypt, and with the help of Korkud, gained an audience with the Mamluk Sultan, Qansuh al-Ghawri. The Sultan gave Aruj another ship and charged him with raiding the coasts of Italy and any other Christian powers within the Mediterranean. In 1503, Aruj did as told and moved west from Egypt towards Sicily. He captured three more ships before making a base on the island of Djerba, which is off the coast of Tunisia. Aruj's brother Hizir sooned joined Aruj at Djerba, though a year later, they requested that Tunisian Sultan Abu Abdullah Mohammed Hamis allow them to use the port of La Goulette for their operations. The Sultan agreed as long as Aruj and Hizir gave one third of their booty to him. Aruj and Hizir gained more power within the Mediterranean, capturing the Cavalleria, which had 380 Spanish soldier and 60 knights on board. They also raided th coast of Calabria. These accomplishments gained the two brothers more fame, and their fleet was soon merged with those of other Muslim privateers. In 1509, Aruj's older brother Ishak joined him as well. As Aruj's fame grew, he earned the name Baba Oruç (Father Aruj), or Barbossa to the Europeans. In 1512, Aruj lost his left arm in a battle with a Spanish ruler, which Aruj soon replaced with a silver prosthetic. The three brothers continued to raid the coasts of Italy, France, and Spain, gaining more power as they did. In 1514, the brothers attacked the city of Bougie with 1,000 men. After they took the city, they moved on, taking Jijel and Mahdiya as well. In 1516, the brothers laid seige to the Castle of Elba with the help of privateer Kurtoglu.


In 1516, the brothers took control of the area surrounding Jijel and Algiers. When Emperor Charles V, King of Spain, failed to help the Spaniards of Algiers, Aruj declared himself as the new Sultan of Algiers. With his new power, Aruj took Miliana, Medea, and Tenes. To protect Algiers from falling into Spanish hands, Aruj relinquished his title to the Ottomans in 1517. Aruj was appointed as Bey, or governor, of Algiers, an Beylerbey, or chief governor, of the West Mediterranean.

The End

On orders from Spain, Abu Zayan, ruler of the city of Tlemcen, planned to attack Aruj, but Aruj found out about the plan and took Tlemcen in a surprise atttack in 1517. When Aruj had Abu Zayan executed, Emperor Charles V came to take care of Aruj himself. With 10,000 Spanish soldiers and thousands of Bedouins, Charles marched on Tlemcen in 1518. Aruj and Ishak defended the city with their force of 1,500 Turks and 5,000 Moors, but it was not enough. Though the two brothers held off the Spanish for twenty days, they were eventually killed in battle. Hizir, the last surviving brother of Aruj, inheritted Aruj's title of Beylerbey and continued to attack ships throughout the Mediterranean. Aruj is on our list because nobody ever hears about the pirates of the Mediterranean. Also, Aruj is one of the few pirates so powerful that he became a Sultan himself. Aruj, while he was alive, was one of the most power and famous people in the Mediterranean.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bruce Lee (#88)


Bruce Lee was born on November 27, 1940 in Chinatown, San Francisco, though three months after he was born, Lee's family moved back to Hong Kong. Lee's father, Lee Hoi-chuen, was a Chinese actor and opera star and his mother, Grace Ho, was the daughter of Sir Robert Ho-tung, a businessman of Eurasian dissent. Because of his connection to Sir Robert, Lee grew up in an affluent and privileged environment, but Lee still got involved in Hong Kong street fights.


After several street fights, Lee's parents decided that he would train in martial arts. In 1954, Lee began to learn Wing Chun martial arts from teacher Yip Man. A year into his teaching, the majority of Yip Man's students refused to train with Lee when they learned about his partially Caucasian ancestry. Lee continued to have private training sessions with Yip Man. When Lee got involved in another street fight in 1959, Lee's parents decided to send him to America. Lee arrived in America with $100 dollars in 1959. Though he initially lived with his sister in San Francisco, he soon moved to Seattle to continue his education. In 1961, Lee enrolled at University of Washington, where he majored in drama, though he later claimed to have majored in philosophy. It was at the University where he met Linda Emery, whom he would marry in 1964 and have two children with.

Acting and Martial Arts

Lee had been involved in films since he was a child since his father was an actor, and this did not change when Lee moved to America. His first acting job in America came in 1966, when Lee played as Kato in the The Green Hornet. This show lasted only one season, and Lee was out of work. It was then that Lee opened up the Jan Fan Institute of Gung Fu. Lee believed that traditional martial arts were too slow and formalistic and thought that in practical scenarios, like street fights, people should be faster and be able to adapt to the situation. Bruce Lee would go to the Long Beach International Karate Championships, where he would display some of his techniques, such as the "One-inch punch" and the "Two-finger push-up." Lee also continued to work in movies, choreographing fight scenes in movies like The Wrecking Ball and A Walk in the Spring Rain. In 1971, Lee signed a contract with Golden Harvest to create The Big Boss and Fist of Fury, which elevated Bruce Lee to stardom. He continued to make films, becoming more famous as he did, starring in Way of the Dragon, Game of Death, and Enter the Dragon.

The End

Bruce Lee collapsed on May 10, 1973 while doing dubbing work for Enter the Dragon. Because he was suffering from seizures and headaches, Lee was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with cerebral edema, which is an excess accumulation of water within the brain. Lee died on July 20 of that year after the same symptoms occurred. Lee's wife had him buried in Seattle, and such people as Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Chuck Norris, and George Lazenby came to his funeral. Bruce Lee is on our list of people because he was an icon in American and Chinese film and was one of the only non-white American films stars of his time.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Diocletian (#89)


Diocles was born in Dalmatia around the year 244. Diocles came from a family of low status. Little is known about the first forty years of Diocletian's life, though many suspect he held a military rank of some sort. In January of 284, the brothers Numerian and Carinus took control over the Roman Empire from their father. Unfortunately, Numerian died later in that year. Numerian, at the time of his death, was coming back from combat in Persia. When he died, his army voted on who should be succeed him as Emperor, and Diocles was chosen. After being chosen as Emperor, Diocles changed his name to Diocletianus, making his full name Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus. Toady, we know him as Diocletian.

Gaining Power

After Numerian's army had named Diocletian as emperor, Carinus was not to happy. To Carinus, Diocletian was a usurper opposing Carinus's rule, so Carinus decided to meet Diocletian in battle. Although Carinus had a stronger army and he had control over the Roman Senate, he was unpopular. Carinus and Numerian were the sons of the unpopular Emperor Carus, and neither the sons nor the father were too popular with the people. Diocletian and Carinus met in battle at the Battle of Margus, during which most of Carinus's generals defected to Diocletian. When Diocletian won the battle, both the western and eastern armies accepted Diocletian as the Augustus, or ruler.

Dividing Power

When Diocletian came to power, Rome was filled with problems. In the East, Rome was on the brink of war with Persia and the west faced constant threat from barbarian tribes. On top of that, the entire empire seemed to be on the brink of revolt. Diocletian decided that the job of Emperor was too big for one person, so Diocletian named Maximian as co-ruler of the Roman Empire in 285. Diocletian decided to rule over the East, because that part of the Empire was the more stable of the two. Maximian was assigned the Western Roman Empire. It was this division that divided the empire in two and allowed the Byzantine Empire to survive when the Western Roman Empire fell. Unfortunately, even though the empire divided, Rome's situation worsened.  Persia had declared war on the Roman Empire and the ex-general Carausius had proclaimed himself Augustus and spurred Britain and Northern Gaul into open revolt. Though both Diocletian and Maximian had begun to retake Gaul and were winning the war in Persia, they needed more hands to deal with conflicts, so Maximian took Flavius Constantius as his second in command in 293, and Diocletian did the same with Galerius. Though Constantius and Galerius were below Diocletian and Maximian, all four had their own independent army and were pretty much independent from one another.  

Later Rule

The Tetrarchy with Diocletian, Maximian, Constantius, and Galerius added great benefit to the Empire. While Galerius was fighting battles in Persia, Diocletian was quelling revolts in the Balkans. Though this organization made the job of Diocletian easier, it also gave him time to persecute Christians. Diocletian and Galerius created a lot of persecutionary edicts towards Christians along with killing several of the Christian clergy and razing several Christian churches. Diocletian also issued an arrest for all Christian clergy. The persecutions, luckily, were for the most part unsuccessful. Most Christians escaped punishment, and people of other religions were mainly unsympathetic to the persecution. Also, Maximian and COnstantius did not apply most of the persecutionary edicts, leaving Western Christians unharmed. In 311, Galerius repealed the edicts, stating that they had failed to bring Christians back to traditional religion.

The End

In 304, Diocletian had just finished dedicating the opening of a circus when he collapsed. Diocletian's health was deteriorating, so on May 1, 305, Diocletion brought his generals, officers, and representatives to the hill, five kilometers out of Nicomedia, where he was appointed as Emperor after the death of Numerian. On that hill, he announced that he would be abdicating from his role as Augustus. Diocletian retired to Dalmatia where he created a palace for himself. After Maximian retired, Diocletian watched the political situation turn to chaos. The Tetrarchy collapsed and Maximian was forced to commit suicide after his third attempt to reclaim the throne. Diocletian died on December 3, 311, soon after Maximian. Diocletian made our list because he made the division in the Roman Empire that probably saved it for several hundred years and kept the Byzantine Empire alive after the fall of Rome in the West.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong (#90)


Neil Alden Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio. He was the eldest of the three children of Stephen Armstrong and Viola Engel. Stephen Armstrong served as an auditor for Ohio's government and the family was constantly moving around the state during Neil's childhood. In 1936, when Neil was only 6 years old, he had his first plane ride in a Ford Trimotor. As a child, Neil Armstrong became a Boy Scout, eventually acheiving the rank of Eagle Scout. In 1947, Armstrong studied aeronautical engineering at Purdue University. In 1949, the Navy called up Armstrong and sent him to the Naval Air Station Pensacola. In 1950, Armstrong became a fully qualified Naval Aviator. A year later, Armstrong went into combat in the Korean War, where he earned the Air Medal, a Gold Star, the Korean Service Medal, and the Engagement Star. Armstrong left the Navy in 1952 and went back to Purdue to finish his degree. While at Purdue, Armstrong met Janet Elizabeth Shearon, to whom he would get married to in 1956. The couple would have three children together.


After Armstrong graduated from Purdue in 1955, he became a test pilot in the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory. Armstrong flew several types of planes, and by 1957, he started flying rocket planes. He soon became involved in flying X-15, logging 2,400 flying hours before he retired as a test pilot.  Armstrong became part of the Man in Space Soonest program in 1958. In 1960, he became further involved in space travel when he became a pilot consultant for the X-20 Dyna-Soar military space plane and later became one of the six pilots to fly the plane when finished. In 1962, Armstrong also applied for a position as a potential NASA astronaut and was quickly brought into the program. Armstrong became involved in the Gemini program and was assigned as the Command Pilot of Gemini 8. He also was the backup pilot for Gemini 11.

Apollo 11

In 1968, Armstrong was named as the head of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. He would be flying to the moon with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. The three left for the moon on July 16, 1969, arriving on the moon four days later. Armstrong and Aldrin took the landing ship. Eagle, down to to the moon's surface. Armstrong's step onto the moon made him the first man to walk on the moon. It was here that Armstrong said "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." Armstrong and Aldrin spent about two and a half hours on the moon, during which they tested human capabilities on the moon, planted the American Flag, left memorial items to deceased cosmonauts and astronauts, and had a minute and a half long phone call with Richard Nixon.

After Apollo

After coming beck to Earth, Armstrong announced that he would no longer fly anymore space missions. He took up a teaching position at NASA and later at the University of Cincinnati. He also served during several NASA accident investigations. Armstrong rarely made public appearances, though he did do several television commercials, and he refused to give out autographs. Armstrong had several health problems during his later life, including having the tip of his ring finger ripped off, though he had it surgically reattached. 

The End

Armstrong died after undergoing surgery to relieve blocked coronary arteries. He died on August 25th of that year due to post-surgical complications. Neil Armstrong is on our list because his actions on the moon led the world into a new era and changed the size of the world where humans could go. Armstrong's accomplishment on the moon really was one giant step for mankind.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Tamar the Great (#91)

Young Life

Tamar was born around the year AD 1160, the daughter of George III of Georgia. During her childhood, Georgia was in a state of upheaval. Many of the nobles of Georgia were rebellious and attempted to overthrow the king in 1177, but George quickly crushed the rebellion, and soon afterwards,  George decided to name Tamar as his heir. In 1778, Tamar was crowned as co-ruler of Georgia along with her father.

Ruled by the Nobles

In 1184, George III died, and Tamar became the sole ruler of Georgia. Along with inheriting the kingdom, Tamar inheritted her father's rebellious nobels, and they weren't too happy with having a female ruler. Tamar was the first ever female ruler of Georgia, and this led many nobles to question her legitimacy as queen. Tamar's claim to the throne was solidified only through Tamar's aunt Rusudan and the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, catholicos Michael IV Mirianisdze. Even so, Tamar's early rein was basically run by the nobles. The nobles made Tamar appoint Michael IV as chancellor, putting at the head Georgian politics and religion. The nobles also forced Tamar to dismiss several of her father's political officers, and they even chose Tamar's husband for her. In 1185, Tamar married the noble-chosen Yuri Bogolyubsky, the son of a prince from North Caucasus. 

Ruling the Nobles

Soon after the marriage, the chancellor and catholicos Michael IV died. Tamar quickly appointed her supporter, Anton Glonistavisdze, as chancellor. The death of Michael IV allowed Tamar to expand her power bases, taking more power away from the nobles. In 1187, Tamar had her divorce with Yuri approved on the basis of addiction to drunkenness and marital unfaithfulness. She then took David Soslan, an Alan Prince, as her husband. David Soslan was a very capable military commander and was a firm supporter of Tamar's rule. After the divorce, Yuri made two attempts at coup, but both were crushed by David. Tamar and David had two children during their marriage, both of whom would become rulers of Georgia. With her new power, Tamar revived the expansionist foreign policy of Georgia. Under David Soslan, Georgia was able to to take over several of the regional states, reduce Shirvan into a tributary state, and expand into the territory of the Great Seljuq Empire by 1204. In the same year, Tamar turned her attention to the southeast. The Byzantine Empire was very weak, partially due to the attacks by Muslim states in the Middle East, but mainly because of the Fourth Crusade that decided to attack Constantinople. Tamar took advantage of the Byzantines' weakness and helped to turn the Byzantine state of Pontic into the kingdom of Trebizond. Tamar had helped Trebizond because it gave Georgia a friendly neighbor to the south and it helped Georgia to affirm its position as the protector of Christianity in the middle east. Tamar was sending missionaries and supporting churches all the way to Cyprus, Egypt, and Bulgaria. Tamar also supported several monasteries within Jerusalem, and when Ayyubid sultan Saladin took Jerusalem in 1187, Tamar sent envoys to request that the the confiscated possessions of the Georgian monasteries be returned. Tamar created a friendly relationship with Saladin, and even when Western Europeans were not allowed into the holy land, Georgian pilgrims were. 

The End

Tamar died in 1213, shortly after her husband David Soslan had. Tamar is on our list because she was the first female ruler of Georgia. She also was able to take a kingdom on the verge of falling apart and turn it into an expansionist nation stronger than any of those around it. Also, as the Byzantine Empire deteriorated, Tamar turned Georgia into the leading Christian power within the Middle East, and while the Western Europeans continued to attack the Holy Land for the next 300 years, Tamar was able to get her pilgrims peacefully into Jerusalem whenever they wanted. Tamar is on our list because she made a small, obscure nation like Georgia into a thriving, strong power in the Middle East.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Jane Austen (#92)


Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775 into an English family. She was the daughter of George Austen, a rector for Anglican parishes. She had six brothers and one sister, Cassandra. For the most part, Jane and Cassandra were educated together, going to the same schools and receiving the same education. Unlike most families, though, Jane and Cassandra were encouraged to read from her father's library and write their own pieces of writing. As early as 1787, Austen began to write stories for her family's amusement, some of which has been compiled into the book Juvenilia. For the most part, these works were comedic and satirical.


Austen continued to live with her parents in adulthood. She continued to experiment in writing, creating a short play in 1793 and Lady Susan, her first real novel by 1795. After finishing Lady Susan, Austen began to write the novel Elinor and Marianne, whose first draft was finished around the year 1796. When Austen was twenty, she met Tom Lefroy, the nephew of Austen's neighbors. Over the several months that they were together, Austen and Lefroy grew very close, but Lefroy's family intervened in the relationship because neither Lefroy nor Austen had any money. In 1796, Austen began working on her second novel, First Impressions, finishing the initial draft in 1797. Jane's father, George Austen, attempted to have First Impressions published in London, but the novel was rejected. In 1798, Austen began writing the novel Susan, which was a satire on Gothic novels. In 1803, Jane's brother, Henry Austen, was able to sell the copyright for Susan to a London publisher for £10, though the publisher never printed the novel. In December of 1800, the Austens moved to Bath. The period of time while Austen was in Bath is marked by a  lack of writing by Austen. For some reason, Austen did little writing other than revising her previously written novels. In 1802, Austen received an offer of marriage from Harris Bigg-Wither, which Austen initially accepted, but withdrew her acceptance by the following morning. In 1804, Austen began writing The Watsons, which was the only book she wrote in Bath, but abandoned this novel shortly after her father died in 1805, possibly because the family in her book mirrored her actual family too closely. In 1806, Jane Austen moved in with her brother Frank and his wife in Southampton, but soon left to live in Chawton with her mother and sister.


In October 1811, Jane Austen was able to get Elinor and Marianne published under the name Sense and Sensibility. The book received good reviews and the edition sold out in 1813. In January 1813, First Impressions was also published as Pride and Prejudice. This book was an immediate success and by October of that year, a second edition had come out. In 1814, Mansfield Park, a revision of Susan, came out, and though it did not get many great reviews, the public loved the book. The success of her books gave Austen and her mother and sister financial security. Austen continued to write new books, publishing Emma in late-1815 and finishing the first of The Elliots by 1816. 

The End

Unfortunately, Austen became unwell in early 1816, though she ignored her illness. By mid-1816, she had serious symptoms and in July of 1817, Jane Austen had died. In December of 1817, Jane's siblings, Cassandra and Henry, arranged for Persuasion to be published. This book was also a success. Austen is on our list because she made some of the most enduring stories of all time. She was popular when she was alive and she is still popular now. My father has also made sure that movies based on her books take up half the space of our DVD collection, so I had to mention her.

Monday, August 20, 2012

John Harrison (#93)


John Harrison was born on March 24, 1693, the first of five children of an English carpenter. When he was six years old, Harrison contracted smallpox and was given a watch to amuse himself. This watch would help to form Harrison's later career as a clock maker.

Pre-Marine Clock

In 1713,  Harrison made his first longcase clock. He built almost all of his early clocks entirely out of wood, and from 1713 to 1728, John and one of his brothers built several precision pendulum clocks. Harrison is responsible for many innovations that have been used in clocks throughout the ages. Harrison invented the gridiron pendulum, which was made of alternating brass and iron rods. In different weather conditions, one of the metals would contract while the other expanded, canceling each other out and allowing the pendulum to swing at the same pace. Harrison also invented the grasshopper escapement, which allowed the driving power of the clock to be released in small increments. The grasshopper escapement allowed clocks to function without requiring lubrication.

The Marine Clock

As people began to travel over the ocean much more frequently, a need for an accurate time keeping method was needed aboard ships. The Board of Longitude in London offered a £20,000 pound prize to anyone who could come up with an accurate way to tell time aboard a ship. Most proposed ways to calculate the time on a ship revolved around astronomical observations and the current position of the ship. Ships would use their distance from London, along with observations stars and planets, to calculate an estimate of the time in England. Unfortunately, these calculations took quite a bit of time to calculate and even longer to invent. Harrison, instead of creating calculations, decided to actually make a clock that was accurate on board a ship. Most clocks at the time were not reliable at sea because of changes in pressure, temperature, and humidity, and pendulums do not work well when rocking violently at sea. By 1730, Harrison had created a description and drawings for a marine clock that got around these obstacles. The first model, Harrison Number One, or H1, was finished in five years. Harrison's design was tested by the Board of Longitude in 1736, when it sailed to Portugal. The clock performed well, but the Board wanted a transatlantic sea trial. Because Harrison's proposal was the first proposal worthy of a sea trial, the Board gave Harrison £500 to continue his work. By 1741, H2 was finished, but at this time, the British were fighting the Spanish in the War of Austrian Succession. H2 was deemed too important to risk being taken by the Spanish, so the sea trial was canceled. Harrison gave up on H2 when he discovered a major flaw in it, so he began working on H3 while he waited for the war to end. After seventeen years of working on it, H3 did not perform as he had hoped it to, so in 1758, Harrison moved to London to find new ideas. It was in London that he realized that he could turn his marine clock into something as small as a watch. In six years, Harrison had finished H4, which was the first marine watch. Since he was 68 years old at the time, Harrison sent H4 with his son, William, on the sea trial in 1761. When  H4 reached Jamaica, it was off by only 5 seconds, corresponding to an error of only 1.25 minutes of longitude. When H4 returned, the Board of Longitude claimed that the accurate reading was due to luck and demanded another trial. When Harrison demanded the prize, the Board offered only £5000 for the design. Harrison refused, but sent H4 on another trial. On the same voyage, Reverend Nevil Maskelyne tested his Lunar Distances Method of time as well, which used the angle between the sun and the moon to calculate the time. When the Americas were reached, H4 was, in longitude, 10 miles off, while the Lunar Distance Method was 30 miles off. Though H4 had succeeded, Nevil Maskelyne had secured a position on the Board of Longitude, where he gave a negative review of H4. The Board kept H4 indefinitely for 'testing', giving Harrison only £10,000 for his work, so Harrison began to work on H5, finishing three years later.  

The End

To try to get the prize money from the Board, Harrison obtained a petition with King George III. King George, who was already annoyed with the board, force the Board to test H5, and in 1772, the clock was found accurate within a third of a second per day on a land-based test. In 1773, when Harrison was 80, he received £8,750 from the Board. If the grants and the £10,000 payment are included in the prize money, Harrison received a total of £23,065 for his work, which, adjusting for inflation, would have made him a multimillionaire in today's world. He died three years after he received his prize money. John Harrison is on our list because he was not only the best at what he did. He also dedicated his life to his work and created an accomplishment that has helped sailors around the world know when to eat lunch.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Saint Dionysius Exiguus (#94)


Dionysius Exiguus, later known as Dennis the Humble, was born in in the Roman empire around the year A.D. 470. Little is known about his life, but most believe he was born in the section of the Roman Empire known as Scythia Minor. He was amember of the Scythian monks from the city of Tomis. Dionysius was a Catholic and was fluent in both Latin and Greek.


The main work of  Dionysius  was a Scythian monk was to translate religious documents from Greek to Latin. His translated works include The Life of St. Pachomius and Instruction of St. Proclus of Constantinople. He also translated a history of the discovery of the head of St. John the Baptist. In total,  Dionysius  is said to have translated 401 ecclesiastical canons which were collected into the book Collectio Dionysiana. At the request of Pope John I in 525,  Dionysius  also created a table listing out all the future dates of Easter and a set of arguments justifying the calculations.  Dionysius  ignored the Easter Tables used by the Church of Rome that were prepared in 457 by Victorius of Aquitaine. He stated that they did not obey Alexandrian principles. His tables were not, however, used to calculate Easter, using, instead, the tables created by Cyril of Alexandria. By far, though,  Dionysius 's most famous work is as the inventor of the Anno Domini era. Using different references and documents,  Dionysius  calculated the year in which Jesus was born, stating that the year that he made this calculation was 525 years "since the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ." This year system was then applied to both the Julian and the Gregorian calender as a way of referencing the year. Before the birth of Jesus, the years are noted as B.C., or the years Before Christ. The years after the birth of Jesus are noted with A.D., or Anno Domini, or "In the Year of Our Lord. The Anno Domini era became dominant in Western Europe after it was used in 731 by the Venerable Bede to date events in his book, Ecclesiastical History of the English People. The Anno Domini year system is now the most used system of noting the year.

The End

Not much is known about the death of Dionysius Exiguus except that it was around the year A.D. 544. Dionysius is on our list because without him, we would really have a way of telling what year he did die in. Even though some people now use the notation C.E. and B.C.E. (Current Era and Before Current Era), they still are based on Dionysius's calculation of the birth of Jesus, and even though Dionysius's calculation are off by about three years, his system was still accepted and is used to this day. Without him, we wouldn't have any cool doomsday names like "Y2K" or "Twenty-Twelve."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Edwin A. Abbott (#95)

Background and Education

Edwin Abbott Abbott was born on December 20, 1838. His mother, Jane Abbott, as a first cousin of his father, Marylebone Abbott, which explains the two Abbotts in his name. He was educated at the City of London School and later, at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he took highest honors in classics, mathematics, and theology. In 1861, he was Smith's prize, a prize given to Cambridge students in the fields of theoretical Physics or mathematics. 

Teacher and Writer

In 1863, Abbott married Mary Elizabeth Rangeley, with whom he would have two children. After getting his master's degree at King Edward's School, he became the headmaster of the City of London School in 1865. As headmaster, he oversaw the education of H.H. Asquith, who would one day become the Prime Minister. As headmaster, Abbott began to write, and he continued to do so even after he retired in 1889. Abbott's works, including Shakespearian Grammar, Silanus the Christian, and The Kernel and the Husk covered a wide range of topics from the English language to theological discussion. He also wrote an article, "The Gospels", for the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica and a textbook on the Latin language.. He also wrote biographies on several people, including Francis Bacon and St. Thomas of Canterbury. His most famous work, however, is Flatland (1884), which he wrote under the name 'A. Square.' In Flatland, Abbott writes about a two-dimensional world which is populated by shapes. In this book, Abbott discuss how life would function in a two-dimensional world and what it would take to get shapes to understand other dimensions.

The End

Abbott died of influenza on October 12, 1926. Abbott is on our list because he thought outside of the box. He looked into the matter of how a population would function in a two-dimensional world, and he made fun of the fact that people believe there was no fourth dimension simply because they could not imagine how a fourth dimension would look. He also wrote a whole book on how Shakespeare's grammar worked, which is a feat of its own.

Monday, August 13, 2012

William Wallace (#96)


Sir William Wallace was born around the year AD 1272 as a minor member of the Scottish nobility. In 1286, King Alexander III of Scotland died after falling off his horse. Margaret, Maid of Norway, was the heir to the throne, but she became sick while on the voyage from Norway and died in Orkney. The lack of an heir led to "the Great Cause", a period of time in which several families claimed to be heir to the throne. With the threat of civil war, the Scottish nobility invited King Edward of England to arbitrate, though he insisted on being called Lord Paramount of Scotland. In November of 1292, John Balliol as found to have the strongest claim to the throne. King Edward reversed the rulings and summoned King John Balliol to stand before the English court as a common plaintiff. When Balliol refused, Edward stormed Berwick-upon-Tweed, a Scottish border town, defeating the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar in 1296. Edward forced Balliol to abdicate and instructed the almost 2,000 Scottish nobles to pay homage to the King of England. This attack by Edward began the First War of Scottish Independence.

Uprising and War

Wallace's first known act of revolt was in 1297, when he assassinated William de Heselrig, an English Sheriff. With the help of William the Hardy, Wallace raided Scone as well. Uprisings had taken place throughout Scotland, but most nobles were forced to submit at Irvine in July of 1297. Wallace and the noble, Andrew Moray, continued to rebel, joining forces in September of 1297 around the time of the siege of Dundee. Wallace and Moray, to put the odds in their favor, abandoned the ideas of chivalric warfare, strength in arms, and knightly combat. Instead, they used opportunistic tactics and strategic use of terrain. Moray and Wallace's first major victory was at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in September of 1297. In this battle, an English army, under the command of John de Warenne, tried to cross to the northern side of the Stirling bridge. The Scottish, waiting on the other side, were easily able to defend the northern side of the bridge from the English infantry. When the cavalry was sent in to aid the infantry, it was unable to get across the bridge due to all the retreating infantry men. When the battle was won,Moray and Wallace took the title of Guardians of the Kingdom of Scotland on behalf of King John Balliol, though Moray died later in 1297. The English attempted to draw Wallace out in the open by invading Edinburgh as well as several strategic castles. Wallace, using hit and run and scorched earth tactics, continued to elude the English until April of 1298 at the Battle of Falkirk. Wallace arranged his men into schiltrons, where they used spears, sharpened stakes,and shields to create a protective shell around them, but Welsh long bowman broke these schiltrons and English cavalry was able to break up groups of Scottish archers. The Scottish had a devastating defeat at the Battle of Falkrik, and even though Wallace survived, he gave up the title of Guardian of Scotland to Robert the Bruce and John Comyn of Badenoch. Wallace continued to play an essential role in the war, attempting to get support from King Philip IV of France as well as from Rome and Norway. 

The End

Wallace as able to elude the English until August of 1305, when John de Menteith, a Scottish knight loyal to Edward, turned Wallace over the English soldiers. Wallace was brought to London, where he was tired for treason. Wallace, in response to the charges, said, "I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject," implying that John Balliol was still Wallace's king. On August 1305, Wallace was stripped naked, dragged through London by a horse, then was hanged, drawn and quartered, and beheaded. His head as put on a pike on London Bridge. In 1328, the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton was signed, which ended the First Scottish War for Independence, established Scotland as a fully independent nation, and put Robert the Bruce on the throne of Scotland. William Wallace is on our list of important people because he was the victor, but not the victor. Like Joan of Arc, Wallace did not get to see the fruit of his labor and was even killed for his cause, but he stood up for his cause when nobody else could and played an essential role in the War of Scottish Independence.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Joan of Arc (#97)


Joan of Arc was born in eastern France to a small French family in AD 1412. She was born in the height of the Hundred Years' War. The Hundred Years' War was a war mainly between England and France. Burgundy had sided with the British in the war, and together, England and Burgundy had taken over about half of France. At the time, the city of Orleans was the only thing   that was keeping England from invading the French heartland. Charles VII, the future king of France, known as Dauphin, was destined for the throne, and was to be crowned in Reims, but Reims was currently controlled by the English. In 1424, when Joan was about 12 years old, she said she saw visions of Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret, who told her to drive out the English and bring Dauphin to Reims. 

Saving France

When she was 16, Joan through a series of personal connections, was able to get a private conference with Dauphin, predicting a military reversal during the Siege of Orleans. When her prediction came true, Dauphin sent her with reinforcements to Orleans, where Joan traveled with the army, dressed as a knight. After a background check to see if Joan of Arc was not a sorceress or whatnot, Dauphin tested her by sending her out into the thick of the Siege of Orleans. Though she was excluded from the war councils, Joan of Arc engaged the enemy in battle and is said to have worked during the Siege as a tactician and strategist. Soon, Orleans was free from the English siege, and Joan led troops upwards, capturing three fortresses in four days, taking an arrow wound to the neck in the process. This sudden victory led Dauphin to give Joan co-command of the army with Duke John II of Alencon. Joan made a series of victories, heading in a general direction towards Paris. The English put reinforcements in Paris to stop an attack, but instead, Joan attacked Reims, capturing it on June 29, 1429. Her series of victories had won her favor with much of the nobility, and her success in bringing Dauphin to his coronation in Reims led to Dauphin granting nobility to Joan's family.

The End

In May of 1430, Joan was helping out at a Burgundian siege of the French city of Compiegne. While her forces were attacking a Burgundian camp, she was captured and sold to the English. The English brought Joan to Rouen, the center of the English occupation government, where she was tried for heresy. She was found guilty of the charges, though some court functionaries later testified that the transcripts of the trial were altered in her disfavor and that several clerics at the trial were forced to serve, some even receiving death threats from the English. She was executed by burning on May 30, 1431. The Hundred Years' war came to an end in 1453, and in 1452, a nullification trial was authorized by Pope Callixtus to see if Joan was truly guilty of heresy. In 1456, she was declared innocent. Later, in 1920, she was canonized by Pope Benedict XV. Joan of Arc is on our list because she was one of the first women to lead a country militarily and is also one of the most famous religious and war heroes of Europe and the world.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Steve Irwin (#98)


Stephen Robert Irwin was born on February 22, 1962 in Australia. In 1970, Irwin moved to Queensland with his parents. His father was a herpetologist and wildlife expert, and his mother was a wildlife rehabilitator. Both of Irwin's parents worked in the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park. Steve would help to do feeding and maintenance jobs around the park. He began handling crocodiles at the age of 9, and he wrestled his first crocodile that year. Irwin volunteered for Queensland's East coast Crocodile Management program, and captured over 100 crocodiles. In 1991, Irwin took over as the manager of the Reptile and Fauna Park and renamed it Australia Zoo the following year.

The Crocodile Hunter

In 1991, Terri Raines, a naturalist from Eugene, Oregon, was visiting wildlife rehabilitation facilitis in Australia, and met Irwin while visiting the zoo. Four months later, the couple was engaged, getting married in June on 1992. The Irwins' honeymoon consisted of trapping crocodiles together. Film footage of their honeymoon was taken by John Stainton. This footage became the first episode of the Crocodile Hunter, which came out in Australia in 1996, and into North American television by 1997. The Crocodile Hunter was a massive success, reaching 130 countries and 500 million people. As the show progressed, the cast included Steve, Terri, their dog Sui, and their children: Bindi Sue and Bob Irwin. The show continued until 2006, though Irwin continued to appear in other shows, including Croc Files and The Crocodile Hunter Diaries. 

Later Roles

Irwin continued to appear on television. He was in several episodes of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He also had cameos in Dr. Dolittle 2, Happy Feet, and The Wiggles. In 2002, he starred in the movie The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course. He also was part of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service's media campaign to promote Australian customs requirements. Irwin also remained active in conservation, founding the Steve Irwin Conservation Foundation, an independent charity that was renamed Wildlife Warriors Worldwide. He also helped to found the International Crocodile Rescue, the Lyn Irwin Memorial fund, and the Iron Bark Station Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility. In November of 2003, Irwin was in Baja California filming a documentary when two scuba divers were reported missing. Irwin suspended the filming and helped in the search for the missing people, saving one person and finding the body of the other.  

The End

While filming a documentary on ocean creatures, Irwin was snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef when a ray turned and attacked Steve, stabbing Steve with the spine of its tail. Irwin died shortly afterwards. Steve Irwin makes our list because of his personality. He was able to capture the attention of the entire world with his show and was able to put that attention to good use. Irwin is also probably one of the most important conservationists in the history of the world. Also, Irwin had two species of animals and a gorilla named after him. Steve Irwin changed the world we live in and is remembered for his contributions to it.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Chandragupta Maurya (#99)


Chandragupta Maurya was born around the year 340 BC in India. He is said to have come from the Moriya (or Maurya) section of the Khattya clan. Chandragupta was a prince of the Maurya family. Chandragupta was known by Greeks and Romans as Sandracottos, and Plutarch even said that in 326 BC, Chandragupta met Alexander the Great during Alexander's invasion of India.

Chanakya and Empire Formation

Chanakya was an advisor in the Nanda court. The Nanda kingdom was one of the larger clans in India at the time. For one reason or another, Chanakya was thrown out of the court by the king. Chanakya went to Magadha, the hometown of Chandragupta. When he met Chandragupta, Chanakya saw the potential Gupta had as a leader. Chanakya took the role as Chandragupta's teacher, hoping that Chandragupta would help him to one day get his revenge on the Nanda king. Chanakya helped Maurya to defeat the Magadha kings and the Chandravanshi clan. These areas became the foundation of the empire Chandragupta would create. At the same time, Alexander the Great and his generals were conquering western India. Several of the kings of India had signed peace treaties with Alexanders, while others, like the king of Punjab, were defeated in battle. Chanakya believed the only way to defeat the foreign invaders was to unite the kingdoms in an alliance and fight, but when none of the kings agreed to the alliance, Chandragupta decided that he needed to build an empire to protect the Indian territories. The first major kingdom for Chandragupta to conquer was the Nanda Empire. Nanda was so large and powerful that Alexander the Great's men simply refused to fight them. Chandragupta made an alliance with king Parvatka, who ruled a kingdom in the Himalayas. Though Bhadrasala, the commander of the Nanda army, originally had the upper hand in the war, Chandragupta pulled through and in 321 BC, he had captured Pataliputra, the capital of the Nanda Empire. The conquest of the Nanda Empire turned the Maurya kingdom into the Maurya Empire.


When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, Chandragupta turned to Northwestern India, now in the hands of Greek generals left in charge by Alexander. By 316 BC, Chandragupta had conquered everything East of the Indus River. Chandragupta continued his expansion into Seleucid Persia, the most powerful of the territories left by Alexander. Seleucus I Nicator entered confrontation with Chandragupta in 305 BC, eventually going to war with him. Seleucus did not do too well in battle, and Seleucus had to cede a large amount of territory east of the Indus to Chandragupta. This stretched the Mauryan Empire into Pakistan and Afghanistan. Chandragupta is said to have married Seleucus's daughter to formalize the alliance, which would explain the 500 war-elephants that Chandragupta sent to Seleucus. These elephants helped Sleucus to win the Battle of Ipsus in 302 BC against other generals of Alexander. After expanding in the Northwest, Chandragupta moved to the South, on the Deccan Plateau, where he conquered most of the kingdoms there as well. 

The End

In 298 BC, Chandragupta gave up his throne to become an ascetic. Chandragupta migrated to southern India to what is now Karnataka. A temple marks the Bhadrabahu cave, the place where Chandragupta is said to have died while fasting. After he left, Chandragupta's son, Bindusara, took over the throne of the Mauryan empire. Chandragupta's grandson, Ashoka the Great, is said to have been one of the most influential kings in the history of India and the world. Chandragupta Maurya is on our list for founding on of the greatest empires in Indian history and in the world. Maurya tried to build an empire at the same time and place as Alexander the Great, and succeeded.