Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Roald Amundsen (#103)


Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen was born on July 16th, 1872, the forth son of his father, Jens Amundsen. He came from a Norwegian family of shipowners and captains. Due to the wishes of his mother, Amundsen studied to be a doctor, but chose a life at sea when his mother died when he was 21.

Belgian Antarctic Expedition

 In 1897, Amundsen went on the Belgian Antarctic Expedition. When the expedition's ship, the Belgica, froze in the ice, the crew of the ship became the first people to spend a winter in Antarctica. The crew survived due to the crew's doctor, the American Fredrick Cook,who hunted for fresh meat, thus saving the crew from scurvy. This would be a lesson Amundsen would use in his later expeditions.

Discovering the Northwest Passage

 In 1903, Amundsen set out to traverse the Northwest Passage, through Canada. On this trip, Amundsen learned how to use sled dogs and of the use of animal skin coats. The 45-ton fishing ship, Gjoa, was a perfect ship for the mission because it was small enough to travel through the shallow waters encounter, which sometimes got as low as 3 ft. deep. Amundsen became the first person to pass through the Northwest Passage in 1906, when he reached Nome, Alaska.

The South Pole

Amundsen, in 1909, was setting up to go to the North Pole, but when news reached him that Frederick Cook and Robert Peary had both reached the Pole, he decided to go to the South Pole. He kept his intentions secret from almost everybody, leaving Oslo on June 3rd, 1910. He did, however, send a telegram to his competitor, Englishman Robert F. Scott, that he was heading for Antarctica as well. Amundsen reached Antarctica on January 14th, 1911, where he created his base camp, Framheim. Using his prior learning about expeditions in frozen lands, Amundsen used fur-skin coats instead of wool coats and travelled by dog sled. Amundsen used the dogs he brought for warmth, transportation, and food. On his first attempt, cold weather had forced the team to head back to the base came, but on his second attempt to get to the South Pole, which Amundsen brought four sleds and 52 dogs on, Amundsen made it to the South Pole on December 14th, 1911. The team made it back to Framheim with only 11 of the dogs surviving. 

The Northeast Passage and the North Pole

Amundsen, in 1918, began a trip to find the Northeast Passage, over Russia. His plan was to freeze his ship in ice and have it float over or near the North Pole to the Pacific. This plan did not work, and the only thing that Amundsen came back with was a broken arm and body attacked by polar bears. Amundsen, in 1925, attempted to make it to the North Pole by plane. In 1926, Amundsen and his crew made it to the North Pole. This not only made Amundsen the fourth expedition leader to reach the North Pole, but the first person to fly a plane so far North.

The End

On the 18th of June in 1928, Amundsen was flying a rescue mission to retrieve Rene Guilbaud, a French pilot. It was on that day that Amundsen disappeared, never to be seen again. Most believe that Amundsen crashed, but in the two attempts by the Royal Norwegian Navy to find his plane (2004, 2009), the wreckage was never found. Amundsen is on our list because of several reasons. First, Amundsen was the first sailor to sail the Northwest passage, succeeding where Columbus, Cabot, Cartier, and Hudson had failed. He also was the first person to reach the South Pole even though Robert F. Scott started an English expedition to the South Pole before him. His discovery expanded our knowledge of the Arctic, the Antarctic, and how to survive both.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tokugawa Ieyasu (#104)


Matsudaira Takechiyo was born on January 31, 1543 in Okazaki Castle in Japan. Takechiyo was the son of Matsudaira Hirotada, the daimyo, or territorial ruler, of the Matsudaira clan. Takechiyo's mother was the daughter of Mizuno Tadamasa, a samurai lord. Takechiyo's mother and father later split, and Takechiyo lived with his father. The Matsudaira family split over whether to become a vassal of the Imagawa or Oda clan. Hirotada chose to side with the Imagawa clan, but in 1548, the Oda clan invaded Mikawa, and Hirotada asked the Imagawa clan for help. To get help, Hirotada agreed to send Takechiyo to Imagawa Yoshimoto, the leader of the Imagawa clan, but Oda Nobuhide, the leader of the Oda clan, learned of the agreement and kidnapped Takechiyo when he was only six. Nobuhide threatened to kill Takechiyo if Hirotada remained with the Imagawa clan, but Hirotada left his son in the hands of the Oda Clan. Nobuhide didn't kill Takechiyo and held him in Nagoya for three years instead. In 1549, both Hirotada and Nobuhide died of natural causes. With Oda Nobuhide dead, the Oda clan was weakened, and Imagawa Sessai, the military leader of the Imagawa clan, lay siege to the castle of Oda Nobuhiro, Nobuhide's son. Sessai offered to give up the siege if Nobuhiro handed over Takechiyo to the Imagawa clan.


When Takechiyo came of age in 1556, he changed his name to Matsudaira Jirosaburo Motonobu, and when he married his first wife a year later, he changed his name to Matsudaira Kurandonosuke Motoyasu. When Motoyasu was returned to Mikawa, the Imagawa ordered him to fight the Oda. In 1560, the Oda clan, led by Oda Nobunaga, defeated the Imagawa at the Battle of Okehazama and killed Yoshitomo. Now Motoyasu (or Takechiyo) decided to ally with the Oda clan. Motoyasu improved the state of the Matsudaira clan and also captured much of Mikawa. In 1567, Motoyasu changed his name (again) to Tokugawa Ieyasu, claiming descent from the Minamoto clan. Ieyasu led a campaign with the Oda, conquering much of Jaan, including Kyoto in 1568. When Oda Nobunga was assassinated by Akechi Mitsuhide, Ieyasu defeated and killed Mitsuhide at the Battle of Yamazaki. Now, in the Matsudaira area, only the Tokugawa and the Hojo clans remained. The other major clan in Japan at the time was the Toyotomi clan, led by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In 1584, the Oda and Tokogawa clans went to war with Hideyoshi, and though the Toyotomi clan was strong, there was no clear winner and peace had to be settled through negotiations. Hideyoshi and Ieyasu, the two most powerful daiymos, then joined forces, administrating from the same city and fighting the Hojo clan together. The two did, however, rule independently, and fought certain wars alone, including the Toyotomi campaign in Korea. When Hideyoshi died, Toyotomi Hideyori took over, and Ieyasu began to make alliances with anti-Toyotomi clans, and eventually, he attacked Osaka castle, Hideyori's residence. Ishida Mitsunari, the most powerful of Hideyori's allies, became the center of the conflict, and most of the daiymos of Japan took one side or the other. On October 21, 1600, Mitsunari, Hideyori, and Ieyasu met in at the Battle of Sekigahara. With the Tokugawa victory, the Toyotomi clan was defeated and Ieyasu became the leader of all of Japan.

Shogunate and Retirement

In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu received the title of shogun from Emperor Go-Yozei. This meant that Ieyasu was now the military leader of Japan. When Ieyasu recieved this title, he began the Edo period under which the Tokugawa shogunate would be in power. When Ieyasu had established the Tokugawa shogunate's power, Ieyasu abdicated, and Ieyasu's son, Tokugawa Hidetada, became shogun in 1605. Now retired, Ieyasu became known as Ogosho Ieyasu, and he still remained powerful after his retirement. He became an ambassador, supervising diplomatic meetings with the Netherlands, Spain, and the Roman Catholic Church. Ieyasu also wrote the Buke Shohatto to establish the future of the shogunate. Ieyasu also was still active militarily, leading the Siege of Osaka, to take the rest of the land owned by Toyotomi Hideyori, who survived the Battle of Sekigahara. 

The End

Ieyasu died in 1616, at the age of 73, probably of cancer or syphilis. After his death, Ieyasu was given the name Tosho Daigongen, or the 'Great Gongen, Light of  the East.' Tokugawa Ieyasu is on our list because he was the man who unified all of Japan and started the most powerful shogunate in Japanese history. He is also on our list because he has more names than any man I have ever heard of.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Huayna Capac (#105)


Tito Husi Hualpa was born between the years of 1464 and 1468 in the  Inca Empire. He was the eleventh Sapa Inca, or Inca Emperor, and was part of the Hanan dynasty. Hualpa was better known as Wayna Qhapaq, or Huayna Capac, which means 'youthful prince.'

Sapa Inca

As the Sapa Inca, Capac went on many military campaigns to extend the reach of the Inca Empire To the south, he extended the empire to Chile and Argentina, and to the north, he movied into Ecuador and even Colombia. To help keep control, Huayna Capac created two capitols within his empire. Cuzco, the traditional Inca capitol, would manage the south, while the stronghold of Tomebamba would have control in the north. Under Capac, the Inca Empire reached its greatest size, covering much of western and central South America, and the Empire was populated by over 200 distinct ethnic groups. Huayna Capac was also very involved in public works. He helped fund the building of temples as well as food storehouses. He also expanded the Inca road network to allow food and messages to travel quickly through the Empire. The Inca road network was one of the best road systems in the world at its time.

The End

Even though Huayna Capac probably never encountered a European, Spaniards had already been as far as Colombia, bring their diseases with them. Most believe that Capac died of smallpox that he contracted while campaigning in Colombia in the 1520s. Capac was the last great emperor of the Inca, for after he died, a power struggle would leave the Inca weak and were easily conquered by the Francisco Pizarro. Huayna Capac is on our list for ruling the Inca Empire at the height of one of the most power civilizations in America and the entire world.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Zheng He (#106)

Childhood and Background

Ma He was born in China in AD 1371. He was born the second son of a Muslim family in Yunnan. In 1381, Ma He's father was killed during the Ming conquest of Yunnan from the Yuan dynasty. Ma He was captured and was made a eunuch before being sent to Zhu Di, the son of the emperor. Ma He became an advisor for Zhu Di and helped Zhu Di in a revolt against the Jianwen Emperor. For his valor in battle, Ma He received the name Zheng He, or Cheng Ho. Under Zhu Di, or the Yongle Emperor, Zheng He became the Eunuch Grand Director and later became the Chief Envoy.

Chief Envoy

As Chief Envoy, Zheng He carried out naval expeditions for the Ming Government. The purpose of these missions was to establish a Chinese presence and dominance in Indian Ocean trade. Zheng He's first mission started in 1405 with a crew of 28,000 men and 317 ships. This expedition and others brought Zheng He to Arabia, Brunei, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and Thailand. Zheng He traded gold, silver, silk, and porcelain for items such as ivory, ostriches, zebras, camels,and giraffes. Zheng He's mission to establish China as a player in Indian Ocean trade sometimes took military might. Zheng He helped capture Chen Zuyi, a feared pirate, along with waging a land war in Ceylon, or Sri Lanka. He also did not back down when threatened by Arabian and East African merchants. When the Yongle Emperor died in 1424, the new emperor put an end to Zheng He's expeditions.  Zheng He made one last trip under the Yongle Emperor's grandson, the Xuande Emperor.In 1433, during this last voyage, Zheng He died at sea.

The End

Though Zheng He is only known to have sailed in the Indian and Eastern Pacific Ocean, some speculate that Zheng He made it into the Atlantic. Zheng He makes our list of great people because of how well traveled he was. He was able to established Chinese dominance in the Indian Ocean trade and was even able to do this at a point of great isolationism in China. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mansa Musa (#107)

Background and Rise to Power

Musa I was born around AD 1280 in the Malian Empire. Musa I is better known as Mansa Musa, or Musa, the king of kings. In the Malian Empire, when a king went away on a trip, a deputy was chosen to run the country while the king was gone. If the king died while away, the deputy was appointed as ruler. Supposedly, Mansa Musa was chosen as deputy while the Malian king went to explore the limits of the Atlantic Ocean. The king was never heard from again and Mansa Musa was appointed as king.


Mansa Musa was a devout Muslim, and following the teachings of Islam, Mansa Musa went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Mansa Musa left Mali in 1324, reportedly with 60,000 men. Among these men were 12,000 slaves carrying 4-lb gold bars and 80 camels with between 50 and 300 pounds of gold dust. Mansa Musa would have his slaves sprinkle the gold dust wherever he walked, and Musa also used this gold to buy souvenirs from cities he passed through, including Medina and Cairo. Musa was also said to have built a mosque every Friday while on his pilgrimage. Mansa Musa spent so much gold on his pilgrimage that it took the Mediterranean a decade to get the economy back to normal. the amount of gold in circulation devalued the metal, and other goods super inflated in price  to adjust to the new found wealth.

 Modernizing Mali

Mansa Musa's pilgrimage had been a political statement along with a religious statement. Mansa Musa flaunted his wealth in an attempt to get Mediterranean traders to come to Mali, and soon enough, traders from Venice, Genoa, and Granada were coming to trade in Timbuktu. Along with advertising Mali, Mansa Musa also brought many artisans back with him from all over the Mediterranean, including Egypt, Spain, and Italy. These architects and artists he used to build up the two main cities in Mali, Timbuktu and Gao. Mansa Musa had these artists build Sankore Madrasah, or the University of Sankore, the Great Mosque, and his own personal palace. When Timbuktu was briefly conquered  by the Mossi Kingdom in 1330, Mansa Musa also had these architects design a rampart and stone fort for the city. 

The End

Mansa Musa died around 1332, though some believe he may have lived up until 1337. Mansa Musa makes our list because he was the only man to have been able to sway the entire Mediterranean economy. He is also one of the few men in the running for the richest man to ever live. Mansa Musa changed the Mediterranean world as well as the whole of Africa.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Saint Cyril and Methodius (#109 & #108)


Constantine and Methodius were two Byzantine brothers born in the city of Thessaloniki. Methodius was born between AD 815 and 820, and Constantine was born between AD 827 and 828. Constantine is better known as Cyril, the name he took shortly before his death. After losing their father when Cyril was fourteen, the minister Theoktistos became their guardian. Theoktistos taught the two brothers and even gave Cyril a job at the University of Magnaura.


Cyril, in his education, mastered theology and could speak both Arabic and Hebrew. His knowledge helped him to acquire a mission to the Middle East from the Byzantine Empire. cyril was sent to the Abbasid Caliphate under Caliph Al-Mutawakkil. Cyril was sent to discuss the idea of the Holy Trinity with theologians there and improve Abbasid-Byzantine relations. Cyril played a major role in easing tension between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Cyril also worked in the Khazar Khaganate, in which people of all religions could live in peace.

Cyril and Methodius. 

In 862, Prince Rastislav of Great Moravia asked Emperor Michael III and Patriarch Photius to send missionaries to Great Moravia. Cyril and Methodius were chosen for the mission with the goal of spreading Christianity and Byzantine influence. When Cyril and Methodius arrived, they began to create a written Slavic alphabet, known as the Glagolitic alphabet. This alphabet was the first alphabet used for Slavonic manuscripts, and has become today's Cyrillic alphabet, which is used in Eastern Europe. After developing the alphabt, the brothers were able to quickly translate the New Testament and the Psalms, followed by the Old Testament. In 867, the brothers went to Rome at the request of Pope Nicholas I. There was a dispute over whether the brothers or Theotmar, the Archbishop of Salzburg, had ecclesiastical control of Great Moravia. the dispute was settled when the brothers won the favor of Pope Adrian II. Unfortunately, Cyril died fifty days after this decision on February 14, 869. 


Methodius continued to work with Slavs, though now in the Balaton Principality. Methodius was allowed to work in Great Moravia and the Balaton Principality because he had been named as the archbishop of Sirmium by Pope Adrian II. Later, under Pope John VIII, Methodius was given jurisdiction over Serbia as well. Many people, including King Louis the German, were angered by the archiepiscopal claims of Methodius, and Louis had Methodius imprisoned for two and a half years in Germany. Rome, though, sided with Methodius, and sent an ambassador to reinstate Methodius. Methodius remained archbishop until his death on Abril 8, 885.

The End

Saint Cyril and Methodius are in our list for several reasons. the two were able to be on friendly terms with both the Pope in Rome and the Patriarch in Constantinople. The two were also responsible for the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet, which millions of people use today. These two brothers were involved in the political, religious, and intellectual wolds at their time and that deserves some recognition.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ptolemy (#110)


Claudius Ptolemy was a Roman citizen born around the year AD 90, and he lived in Egypt under Roman rule. Ethnically, Ptolemy was Greek, and all of Ptolemy's works were written in Ancient Greek.

Life and Work

One of Ptolemy's most important surviving works is the Almagest, which is the only surviving comprehensive ancient document on astronomy. Using Babylonian astronomical data and Greek mathematics, Ptolemy created tables to predict the positions of planets in the future and the past. Also, Ptolemy created a star catalog, including forty-eight constellations. One of the key problems in Ptolemy's work was the idea of a geocentric universe, where everything revolved around the Earth. He explained the back-and-forth movement of planets by stating that the planets had sub-orbits within their larger orbit around the Earth. Because it was one of the few astronomical documents to survive into the Middle Ages, it was considered the law on astronomy during that time, and his geocentric ideas were not disproved until Nicolaus Copernicus wrote De revolutionibus in 1543. Ptolemy also wrote Planetary Hypotheses, which used his planetary model to compute the dimensions of the Solar System. Ptolemy also wrote Geographia, a work which mapped out the known world. His maps goes from Cape Verdes in the West to the middle of china in the East, and is fairly accurate considering the time this map was made. Ptolemy knew that his map only covered a quarter of the globe, but his map was still used widely up through the Middle ages. Ptolemy also wrote on astrology, where he predicted the future of people while also taking into account differences in race, country, and upbringing. Ptolemy is also remembered through his works Harmonics, where he argued that musical intervals should be based on mathematical ratios, and Optics, in which Ptolemy wrote on the properties of light, reflection, refraction, and color.

The End

Ptolemy died around the year AD 168. Ptolemy is listed on this list before Copernicus because not only did he work in more fields, but also because Ptolemy's works helped for the scientific basis for Europe in the Middle Ages, where they turned into a legend, calling him Ptolemy, King of Alexandria. Copernicus wasn't called the King of  Krakow. Also, Ptolemy has two craters (one on the Moon and one on Mars) named after him.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Hammurabi (#111)

Life and Stuff

Hammurabi was born somewhere around 1792 BC. Hammurabi was the sixth king of the First Babylonian Dynasty. At the time, Babylon was one of many city-state cultures that lived in the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia. Babylon had gained some prominence due to its culture's literacy and its military power. By the time Hammurabi came to power, Babylon had conquered the city-states of Borsippa, Kish, and Sippar. Babylon, though, still was just one of many city-states in Mesopotamia. At the beginning of his reign, Hammurabi remained peaceful, working on strengthening city walls and expanding the city's temples. Later on, however, Hammurabi formed an alliance with the kingdom of Larsa to defeat the kingdom of Elam, which controlled a major trade route. Larsa did not, however, contribute the amount of military aid promised, so after defeating Elam, Hammurabi attacked and defeated Larsa as well. This gave Babylon control of the entire lower Mesopotamian plain by 1763 BC. Hammurabi soon turned to attack the northern Mesopotamian kingdoms, including some of Babylon's previous allies. Soon, Hammurabi controlled the majority of Mesopotamia, with only two major city-states remaining independent. Like most leaders, Hammurabi established a code of laws. The Code of Hammurabi helped to maintain order and control throughout the Babylonian Kingdom. The Code of Hammurabi is famous due to the fact that it is one of if not the earliest written law code in the world. The 282 laws written on 12 tablets contained some of the most famous laws, including "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." These laws helped to keep everything fair and even within his kingdom.

The End

Hammurabi helped to turn Babylon into one of the most powerful kingdoms in the world. He also created a law code to keep this empire in order. His creation of the written law code has changed the world in a way that I cannot explain. So I won't.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pliny the Elder (#112)


Gaius Plinius Secundus, or Pliny the Elder, was born in the year 23A.D. He was the son of an equestrian born in Como. He came from the Plinii family, but made his own family name, Secundus.


Pliny entered the army in 46 A.D. at the age of 23. Pliny, during his army work, helped to defeat the Germanic Chauci tribe, and helped construct the canal between the Maas and the Rhine. While in the army, Pliny began studying missile use on horseback.  By 56 A.D., Pliny's service was up, but did not leave the army.  Pliny lived in Rome soon after the Great Fire, and remembers the building of Nero's great palace. Pliny did not personally know Nero, but in his later career as a soldier, Pliny took orders from emperor Vespasian and rode in the army with future emperor Titus. Pliny continued to study nature, observing a solar eclipse in Campania in 59 A.D. As a senior officer in the army in 69 A.D., Pliny was sent to Africa, where he spent time studying poisonous frogs. While working in Hispania from 70-72 A.D., Pliny learned agricultural techniques and studied gold mining methods. Pliny used this information for his books, which he began to write in 69 A.D., the year that Nero's oppressive reign ended. Pliny was wrote about many different topics, creating works that are closer to encyclopedias than to anything else. Though Pliny wrote on history and conspiracy, his most famous works are those on natural history. Pliny's last book is called Naturalis Historia, which is an encyclopedia of the knowledge Pliny gained over his life. The book covers the subjects of botany, zoology, astronomy, geology, mineralogy, and technology. Much of what Pliny wrote about has been confirmed through archaeological finds, and the book remains one of the most important surviving written works of the Roman Empire.

The End

Much of what we know about Pliny the Elder was recorded by his nephew, Pliny the Younger. Among these facts is an account of Pliny the Elder's death. Pliny, in August of 79 A.D., was stationed in Misenum, across the Bay of Naples from Mount Vesuvius, which loomed over Pompeii and Herculaneum. When Vesuvius erupted, Pliny was preparing to observe the volcano more closely when he received word from a friend asking for rescue from Herculaneum. As Pliny's galley's reached Herculaneum, pumice and cinders began to fall. On the beach of Herculaneum, Pliny's men helped to save quite a few people, though in the process, Pliny became weak and couldn't walk without help. Eventually, Pliny died. Most believe that Pliny died due to the combination of toxic volcanic gases and the asthma that Pliny suffered from. Pliny is on our list because not only was he alive for the reign of several of the most famous empires and witnessed the eruption of Pompeii, but because Pliny the Elder was a brilliant naturalist, scientist, and writer, gaining fame not only in his time period, but in our time period as well.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Romulus Augustus (#113)

Early Life and Rise to Power

Romulus Augustus was born in the Roman Empire around the year 460 A.D. He was the son of Orestes, who served as a diplomat for Attila the Hun and later as a leader in the Western Roman Army. In 475, Orestes was appointed the Magister militum by current Emperor, Julius Nepos. This basically meant that Orestes controlled the army. In August of that year, Orestes started a rebellion, overthrowing Nepos and placing Romulus on the throne on October 31st, 475. Augustus now ruled the Western Roman Empire, but during his time, that wasn't saying much. The Western Empire had shrunken significantly since the Pax Romana, and imperial authority only had influence over Italy and parts of Southern Gaul. The Eastern Roman Empire, who had previously appointed Nepos to the throne, did not even recognize Romulus Augustus as ruler. 

Life as Emperor and the Fall from Power

Though Augustus was emperor and coins were minted with his face and name, the real power still belonged to Romulus's father, Orestes. Orestes soon ran into trouble with barbarians, though. As Roman power had fallen, Western Rome had begun to hire barbarians as mercenaries rather instead of training Romans. When Orestes took power, several tribes serving as mercenaries demanded a third of the land in Italy from Orestes. When Orestes refused, the Heruli, Scirian, and Turcilingi mercenaries revolted under the chieftain Odoacer. Orestes was captured in August of 476 near Piacenza, where he was executed. Odoacer then attacked Ravenna, which was the current capitol of the Western Empire. In September 4th, 476, the city was captured and Romulus was captured. This is widely accepted as the ended of the Western Roman Empire, and is sometimes even accepted as the end of the entire Roman Empire (The Eastern Empire became known as the Byzantine Empire). 

The End

After his abdication, Romulus Augustus all but disappeared. Odoacer became the ruler of Italy until Byzantine Emperor Justinian I reconquered it in the 540s. Until then, the remnants of Western Rome were under Germanic rule. That ends the story, and Augustus disappears. Most sources agree that he survived and lived in the castle of Lucullan Villa in Campania. The castle was, however, converted into a monastery by the year 500, so most historians suspect that he died around the that time. Augustus makes that list not because he did anything, but because he did nothing and stuff happened around him. He was put in the throne by his father. He was thrown out of the throne by Odoacer. He didn't initiate the historical events, but he found himself caught in the middle of it all. He watched the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Erik the Red (#114)


Erik Thorvaldsson was born around 950 A.D. in Norway. Erik was the son of Thorvald Asvaldsson, but is better known as Erik the Red, probably due to his red hair. Thorvald was exiled from Norway for committing manslaughter, so he and his family, including Erik, moved to Iceland.


Erik, after marrying a woman named Thjodhild, moved to the island of Oxney. After finishing his house, he went back to a man named Thorgest to retrieve some, setstokkr, or items of mystical importance that he had given Thorgest to keep safe. When Erik wasn't given his setstokkr, he took some from Thorgest's house, though it is unknown whether they were Thorgest's or Erik's. When Thorgest followed Erik, two of Thorgest's sons were killed by Erik along with several others. Erik was thus exiled from Iceland for three years. Erik then moved west, and is one person credited with discovering Greenland, though he was definitely the first person to settle there. Greenland got its name from Erik. The whole name was part of an advertisement scheme to draw people to Greenland even though it was very cold and icy there. Erik created the settlement of Eystribyggo in Greenland where the settlement grew to the size of 5,000 with Erik as their leader.

The End

Erik the Red died  around the year 1003 A.D. He is important for discovering Greenland, creating one of the largest advertisement lies in history, and for having the son, Leif Erikson, who would later be one of the many discoverers of America.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nicolaus Copernicus (#115)

Young Life and College

Nicolaus Copernicus was born on February 19, 1473 in Poland from two merchant families. He was the youngest of four children. At first, while being supported by his uncle, Copernicus studied at the University of Krakow in 1491, where he attained the mathematical and astronomical skill for his later achievements. He also was able to study the natural-science writings of Aristotle and Averroes while studying in Krakow.  In 1495, Copernicus left Krakow because of his uncle Watzenrode wanted him to study law in Italy, hoping for Copernicus to join the Warmia canonry, which Watzenrode was the Prince-Bishop of. In 1497, Copernicus registered in the Bologna University of Jurists. In Bologna, Copernicus studied law, the humanities, and astronomy. He became the assistant of astronomer Domenci Maria Novara da Ferrara. Under Ferrara, he began to find peculiarities in Ptolemy's geocentric universe theory based on observations of the star Aldebaran. Copernicus moved to Rome in 1500, where he continued his astronomical studies. Copernicus also went to the University of Padua, where he studied medicine, which include astrology. Over his education, Copernicus learned Latin, Greek, German, and Italian along with his native Polish.


Copernicus, after his studies, became his uncle's secretary and physician in Heilsberg. He took part in almost all of his uncles political, administrative, and economic activities. This is where Copernicus began work on his heliocentric theory. Copernicus also made trips on business from his uncle. In 1510, Copernicus ended work for his uncle, and worked as a translator of Greek and Latin texts. In 1514, the first outline of the heliocentric world was written. Throughout his life, Copernicus worked as a assistant to politicians and religious leaders while continuing to study astronomy. By 1532, his manuscript on heliocentrism was basically complete, but he resisted publishing due to fears of scorn. His book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, was published under Georg Rheticus, who had published other works of Copernicus. Along with Andreas Osiander, Rheticus worked to have the book published in 1542.

The End

Legend has it that the first copy of De revolutionibus ever printed was placed in Copernicus's hand on May 24, 1543, the day that Copernicus died. Copernicus makes our list for being one of the few people in the world who changed the world's mind. Before him, the common theory was that everything orbited the Earth. Copernicus proved them all wrong. He changed the way people looked at the world, and not many people can do that.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sir Francis Drake (#116)

Early Life

Sir Francis Drake was an Englishman born, supposedly, in 1544. He was the eldest of twelve sons born to a Protestant farmer, Edmund Drake. His family fled from Devonshire to Kent during religious persecution during the Prayer Book Rebellion. In Kent, Edmund Drake found a job ministering to men in the King's navy. Because of this job, Francis Drake became an apprentice on a  coastal merchant ship.


Drake made his first trip to the New World when he was 23. In 1572, Drake went on his first major independent expedition, in which he planned to attack the Isthmus of Panama, where he succeeded in capturing the city of Nombre de Dios along with silver and gold on its way to Spain from Peru. Drake stayed in the area for over a year, working with pirates and the French to get out of Panama with the gold. His success in Panama brought him fame, and in 1577, Queen Elizabeth I sent Drake to start an expedition against Spain in the Pacific. He left England with six ships, though three were deserted before they reached the Pacific. Drake   was able to make it to Cape Horn, and his route is now known as Drake Passage. When he reached the Pacific, Drake had only one ship remaining. Drake sailed up the Pacific coast of America, taking 37,000 ducats worth of money from Spanish Peru. Drake made it as far north as California, somewhere north of Point Loma. He crossed the Pacific, reaching Indonesia, the Cape of Good Hope, and in 1580, Sierra Leone. Upon returning to England in the same year, the amount of spices and Spanish treasure brought home was so large that the half-share given to the Queen surpassed the rest of the crown's income for the entire year. This made Drake the second person to lead an expedition around the world. Drake was knighted, though he was sworn to secrecy about the expedition. After a slight political career, Drake began sailing again when war broke out between Spain and England in 1585. He sacked Santo Domingo and Cartagena along with the fort of San Augustine. When Drake found out about a Spanish invasion of England, he captured the Spanish ports of Cadiz and Corunna, which delayed the invasion by another year. When the Spanish Armada finally came, Drake led an invasion and relied mainly on fire-ships (Ships set on fire) to break the formation of the Spanish Fleet and make them flee into open see, where Drake led the British fleet into battle. The victory of the English established Britain as the dominant naval power in the Atlantic/

The End

At an age of about 55, Drake died of dysentery, leaving no sons, though he had two wives. His estate went to his nephew, Francis. Drake wasn't very important, but it is a known fact that nobody cares about second place. They only care about who's in first. Drake is on this list because even though he was the second person to circumnavigate the world, he still acquired fame. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lewis Carroll (#117)

Childhood to College

Lewis Carroll was born in England on January 27, 1832 as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. He was born into a family of army officers and Church of England clergymen. Carroll suffered from a stammer, but was very smart for his age, supposedly reading The Pilgrim's Progress wwhen he was only seven. After an unhappy three years at Rugby School (from 1846 to 1849), Carroll went to Christ Church college in Oxford, where he earned considerably honors in the field of mathematics.

Life and Work


In 1856, Dodgson began learning photography under his uncle, Skeffington Lutwidge, and continued on to become a famous 'gentleman photographer'. This job allowed Dodgson to enter higher society by making portraits of many notable people, including Michael Faraday and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Dodgson stopped his photography in 1880, after taking over 3,000 images, though only about 1,000 survive. Dodgson later said he stopped because of the difficulty of keeping a working photography studio.


Carroll invented many games, including an early form of scrabble and the Word Ladder, where one word changes into another through a series of one-letter changes. He also invented the nyctograph, a writing device for note-taking in the dark. He also invented a steering device for a velociam tricycle, a new parliamentary system, and a rule for finding the day of the week for any date.


Lewis Carroll is best known for his two books, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1871). In these books, a young girl named Alice finds herself in the strange and random world of Wonderland, where she meets man strange characters, including a talking Dodo, Humpty-Dumpty, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, a hookah-smoking caterpillar, a smiling cat, and the Mad Hatter. Many suspect that Alice is based on the daughter of Henry Liddell, the Dean of Christ Church, but Carroll denied these theories. These two books have given us such works of literature as Jabberwocky and The Walrus and the Carpenter. The same nonsense style found in these books is found again in Carroll's last great work, The Hunting of the Snark (1876).


Dodgson, due to his continued teaching of mathematics at Christ Church, wrote almost a dozen books on geometry, matrix algebra, and mathematical logic. Dodgson also used mathematics to create his own voting system, now known as Dodgson's Method. His mathematical work is what gave Dodgson the financial security to pursue other interests.

The End

After publishing The Hunting of the Snark, Carroll became less popular as an author, though he was now able to live on money from his previous books. He continued to teach at Christ Church until 1881. Carroll died on January 14, 1898 from pneumonia following influenza. Carroll is on our list for being successful due to the complete sense of random in his books. He is also on here for being a Renaissance Man of sorts, covering many subject areas over the course of his life.