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.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Giuseppe Fiorelli (#100)


Giuseppe Fiorelli was born in Naples, Italy in 1823, though not much is known about his childhood.

Finding Pompeii

In the article on Pliny the Elder, Pliny died during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, a mountain along the Bay of Naples. In the eruption, the city of Pompeii was buried along with many of its people. Parts of Pompeii and its neighboring city, Herculaneum were discovered at various points in time. A few frescoes were discovered in 1599, when an underground channel was being dug. In 1738, Herculaneum was discovered while workers were building the King of Naples's summer palace. Karl Weber directed the first real excavations in 1764, but the full excavation did not start until 1860, when Giuseppe Fiorelli took charge. In 1860, King Victor Emmanuel II of Naples came to power and appointed Giuseppe Fiorelli as the head of the excavations in Pompeii. Fiorelli also became a professor of archaeology at Naples University. 

New Methods

As the director of excavations, Fiorelli introduced new excavation techniques. First, he made the excavation site study the site layer by layer. Though this took a long time, much more was could be learned the site. He also created a training school where students could learn how to study particular materials and building techniques used in Pompeii. Fiorelli's most famous excavation technique was that of pouring plaster into cavities left by bodies in the hardened lava and volcanic ash. This process, now known as the Fiorelli process, allowed the archaeologists to recreate the position and look of the body at the time of death. Fiorelli also pushed for the restoration of Pompeii's buildings, though most of the artwork was brought to Naples.

The End

Fiorelli directed the excavation of Pompeii from 1860 to 1875.  Fiorelli was appointed the director of the Naples National Archaeological Museum in 1863, and in 1875, he was appointed as the director general of Italian Antiquities and Fine Arts.  Fiorelli died on January 28th, 1896, though the cause of death is unknown. Pompeii remains one of the most famous archaeological sites of all time, and although little is known about his life, Fiorelli makes our list because the methods of archaeology that he used on Pompeii became the basis of modern archaeology. Though plastering body cavities is not used often, it was a creative and useful way to study the bodies. Also, Fiorelli's layer-by-layer method of archaeology and his study of building methods and materials are still used today. The excavation of Pompeii is now widely accepted as the first modern archaeological dig.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Gore Vidal (#101)


Eugene Louis Vidal, Jr. was born in the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York on October 3, 1925. He was the son Eugene Luther Vidal, an aeronautics instructor at the Academy, and Nina Gore, a socialite and Broadway extra. Vidal's grandfather, Thomas Gore, was a Democratic senator from Oklahoma. Vidal was raised in Washington, D.C., and when World War II broke out, Vidal enlisted in the US Navy. Vidal worked as a warrant officer until he contracted hypothermia and developed rheumatoid arthritis. After that, Vidal became a mess officer. When Vidal realized that he wanted do be a political leader and writer, he changed his name to Gore Vidal because it was a unique and memorable name.

Writer and Actor

Vidal began his writing career at the age of nineteen, when he wrote Williwaw, a novel about World War II. Two years later in 1948, Vidal wrote The City and the Pillar, which focused on the issue of homosexuality. This book received a mix of reactions. Book critic Orville Prescott found the book so objectionable that he did not allow the New York Times to review any of Vidal's next five books, people within the Gay Rights movement see Gore Vidal as an early champion of sexual liberation. Vidal also wrote plays and scripts during his career. He helped to revise the script of Ben Hur, and he also wrote several of his own scripts, including that of The Best Man and Visit to a Small Planet. Vidal continued to write novels as well, most of which fell into two categories: American history and satire. Vidal also wrote many essays and pamphlets, many of which criticized certain parts of the U.S. government, including the military-industrial complex and American expansionism. In 2009, he was given the Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters by the National Book Foundation. Vidal also appeared in several films and television shows, including Gattaca, With Honors, The Simpsons, and Family Guy. 


Gore Vidal had a very active role in American politics as well. In 1960, Vidal ran for Congress under the Democratic party and was supported by many, including Eleanor Roosevelt and Paul Newman, but lost by a margin of 57% to 43%. He was also a chairman of the People's Party from 1970 to 1972, and ran against Jerry Brown for the Democratic primaries for the seat in the United States Senate. Vidal also claimed that Roosevelt had provoked the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor and that Truman dropped the atomic bombs even though the Japanese had already asked to surrender. Vidal was an advisory board member of the World Can't Wait group that advocated the impeachment of George W. Bush for war crimes. 

The End

Vidal died while in his home in California on July 31, 2012 due to complications from pneumonia. Vidal makes our list because he was a major figure in two major fields. He was both a politician and writer, and he was respected in both of those fields. Vidal was involved in many projects spanning from the film industry to the American political arena and worked with such people as Eleanor Roosevelt, Paul Newman, Ralph Nader, and many others. He not only lived in the world we see, he was involved in its formation.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Jean Lafitte (#102)


Jean Lafitte was born around the year 1776 to a French family. Little is known about where he was born though, and theories on where he was born say that he could from St. Malo, Bordeaux, Orduna, or even Westchester, New York. Most agree, though, that Jean Lafitte worked with his brother, Pierre, who was either a privateer or smuggler. By 1806, Pierre's work had brought them to New Orleans, where Jean Lafitte would spend a large chunk of his career.

New Orleans

New Orleans had become part of the United States in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. New Orleans was a major trading port in the Caribbean, but their foothold in Caribbean trade was weakened by the Embargo Act of 1807. This Act said that American ships were no longer allowed to go into any foreign ports. This was a major problems with merchants who got their goods and supplies from European colonies in the Caribbean. This Act, though, opened up the door for smugglers, two of which were the Lafitte brothers. Jean Lafitte set up a smuggling business on the island of Barataria, which was located outside Barataria Bay, the home of New Orleans. Barataria was far from the United States naval base, which allowed Lafitte to smuggle in goods. Jean Lafitte, would receive and buy goods from smugglers, which he would then transport into New Orleans, where Jean's brother, Pierre, would put the goods on the legal market. Soon, though, the Lafitte brothers decided to become smugglers themselves, so they bought a schooner and hired Captain Trey cook. Soon, the Lafitte brothers had captured two more ships, the Dorada and the Petit Milan. With their small fleet, the Lafitte brothers were able to acquire goods and sell them at Barataria. Their smuggling did not sit well with the government, and the Lafitte brothers were captured and charged, but they posted bail and never showed up for the trial. Jean Lafitte acquired a letter of marque from Cartagena, which Lafitte used mainly as a reason to continue attacking ships. Louisiana's Governor Claiborne became fed up with Lafitte and offered a $500 dollar reward for him. He also attempted to raid Lafitte's camp at Barataria several times. 

War of 1812

When the United States declared war on Great Britain, Lafitte was approached by the British, offering him British citizenship and land in return for help in the war. Lafitte, however, refused, and decided to stay neutral as the war played out. In 1814, United States commodore Daniel Patterson attacked and took Barataria. Along with 80 captives, Patterson took eight of Lafitte's ships, though Lafitte escaped the raid alive. Lafitte reappeared when Andrew Jackson was preparing to defend New Orleans from the British in December of 1814. New Orleans had weak defenses and few soldiers, so Jackson met with Lafitte, offering to pardon Lafitte and his men if they helped to defend the city. Lafitte agreed, and suggested several of the battle strategies used in the fight. When British ships began firing on American lines in on the 28th of December, two of Lafitte's lieutenants led the artillery crews that repulsed the ships. After defeating the British, the United States government granted Jean, Pierre, and Lafitte's crew full pardon.


Pierre and Jean Lafitte, in 1815 and 1816, acted as spies for the Spanish during the Mexican War of Independence. Pierre would inform the Spanish from New Orleans, while Jean went to Galveston Island in Spanish Texas to capture it. In 1817, Lafitte captured the island and the Spanish allowed Lafitte to stay there if he gave weekly reports of the events that took place. Lafitte turned Galveston, like Barataria, into a smuggling base. Lafitte avoided conflict by continuing to report to the Spanish, but sailing under the Mexican flag. When the United States banned the slave trade, Lafitte found a loophole. Lafitte would capture slave ships from other countries. If Lafitte turned these slaves that he captured to the customs office, he could get half the profits from the sale of the slaves. After one of Lafitte's ships attacked an American merchant ship in 1821, the USS Enterprise came to remove Lafitte from the island. Lafitte agreed to leave Galveston without a fight, though he took an immense amount of treasure with him.

Cuba and Colombia

Lafitte continued to smuggle, but when the United States increased its patrols in the Caribbean, Lafitte was captured after he attacked an American ship. He escaped prison four months later. Lafitte moved his operation to Cuba, where he bribed local officials with a portion of the spoils. When Lafitte continued to attack Cuban ships, Cuba decided to ban sea raiding in 1822. Lafitte left Cuba and went to Colombia, who was hiring former privateers to be part of its navy. Lafitte was given a ship, the General Santander, and was authorized to attack Spanish ships. He raided Spanish shipping lanes for another year. 

The End

In February of 1823, Lafitte attacked two Spanish ships off the coast of the Honduras. The ships appeared to be merchant vessels in the cover of night, but they turned out to be two heavily armed warships. In the resulting battle, Lafitte is said to have been killed. He was buried at sea, receiving obituaries in newspapers both in Cartagena and Colombia, but not in the United States. Lafitte is on our list because he was one of the most infamous pirates ever to sail. Also, Lafitte and his men helped the United States to win one of its most important battles: the Battle of New Orleans. Without him, Jackson may not have succeeded in defeating the British. He was also on our list because he was the last great Caribbean pirate. By 1825, piracy in the Caribbean was all but completely eradicated. Lafitte succeeded in a world where the pirates were dying out. He was able to survive in a world when Spain, Britain, and the United States wanted him dead.