" What they do in heaven we are ignorant of; what they do not do we are told expressly. "
Jonathan Swift

Back in the day


Russian State Library Founded

The Russian State Library in Moscow is the largest library in Europe and the second largest in the world, behind the Library of Congress. Its collection of more than 43 million items in 248 languages includes more than 17 million books, brochures, and serials; 13 million journals; and 650,000 newspapers. Its specialized collections feature maps, art publications, printed music, and manuscripts. The library was named after what Russian revolutionary before being given its current name in 1992?




Heshen was an 18th-century Manchu official who has come to symbolize the corruption of China's Qing dynasty. A favorite of the emperor, he rose from bodyguard to grand councilor and minister of the imperial household in just two years, at which point he took to extorting and embezzling on a grand scale. His associates, whom he had given political appointments, followed his example, thus beginning a century of corruption that led to the dynasty's downfall. Why did he enjoy the emperor's favor?

Born on a day like today


Ignaz Philipp Semmelweiss

Semmelweiss was a Hungarian physician who pioneered the use of antiseptics in obstetrical clinics. While working at a Vienna hospital, he became convinced that physicians were transmitting puerperal fever, also called childbed fever, to patients and began insisting that doctors thoroughly cleanse their hands. Though this greatly reduced the mortality rate from infection in childbirth, he was widely ridiculed by his colleagues and left Vienna. When was the value of his work finally recognized?

Last updated on Saturday, 2nd July 2011

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