" An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all. "
Oscar Wilde

Back in the day


Burning of the USS Philadelphia

The USS Philadelphia was a 36-gun frigate that ran aground in October 1803 while blockading the coast of Tripoli. After some consideration, the Americans decided that the ship was too powerful a weapon to remain in enemy hands and sent a party of soldiers to recapture the ship and burn it. In carrying out "the most bold and daring act of the age," the assaulting party used what ruse to sail up to the ship without arousing the suspicion of its Tripolitan guards?




The Kirishitan were Japanese converts to Catholicism in the 16th and 17th centuries. Missionary activity began in Japan soon after Portuguese shipping arrived in 1543. By the end of the century, the Japanese Christian community had grown to about 300,000—the largest non-European Christian community in the world. In 1614, Christianity was banned. Despite the threat of execution, some Kirishitan maintained their religion in secret. What tactic did the government use to expose suspected Christians?

Born on a day like today


Hugo Marie de Vries

De Vries was a Dutch botanist whose theory of biological mutation and rediscovery of Mendel's laws of heredity made possible the active investigation and universal acceptance of Darwin's theory of evolution. He held that new species are formed chiefly through mutations—sudden, unpredictable, inheritable changes in an individual organism. Teaching at the University of Amsterdam, he introduced the experimental study of evolution. What important evolution-related term did he introduce to science?

Last updated on Thursday, 16th February 2012

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