" The very essence of an instinct is that it is followed independently of reason. "
Charles Darwin

Back in the day


The Big Burn

The Great Fire of 1910 was a wildfire that burned approximately three million acres (12,000 sq km) in Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Spurred by hurricane-force winds, it destroyed parts of several national forests. Since known as the Big Burn, the firestorm burned over two days and killed more than 80 people, including 78 firefighters. It is believed to be the largest, although not the deadliest, fire in US history. How did the Great Fire of 1910 shape future US Forest Service policy?




Coronation is the ceremony of crowning and anointing a sovereign on his or her accession to the throne. In Europe, the addition of Christian rites to coronations helped alter the concept of kingship and endow rulers with a degree of priestly and possibly even divine character. In 1804, Napoleon I brought Pope Pius VII to Paris to crown him in Notre Dame cathedral, but, in a famous episode, he seized the crown from the pope's hands and crowned himself. What other monarchs have crowned themselves?

Born on a day like today


J├Âns Jakob Berzelius

Regarded as one of the founders of modern chemistry, Berzelius was a Swedish professor who achieved an immensely important series of innovations and discoveries. He developed chemistry's modern system of symbols and formulas, prepared a remarkably precise table of atomic weights, analyzed numerous chemical compounds, and discovered the elements selenium, thorium, and cerium. He also introduced basic laboratory equipment that remains in use today. What common scientific terms did Berzelius coin?

Last updated on Saturday, 20th August 2011

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