" All idealization makes life poorer. To beautify it is to take away its character of complexity—it is to destroy it. "
Joseph Conrad

Back in the day


The Fashoda Incident

Toward the end of the 19th century, France and Britain were brought to the brink of war by territorial disputes in Africa. Tensions came to a head at a strategically located fort at Fashoda, Sudan, occupied by the French mere months before a British force arrived with its own designs on the area. A standoff ensued, but the French, fearing an outbreak of hostilities, eventually withdrew. The diplomatic solution to this political crisis is widely seen as a precursor to what Anglo-French agreement?



The Fra Mauro Map

Commissioned by King Alfonso V of Portugal, Venetian monk and cartographer Fra Mauro and his assistant Andrea Bianco completed a world map in 1459. Strange by today's standards, the map is oriented with the south at the top, as was Arab tradition. Fra Mauro used Marco Polo's travelogues for information about Asia and was one of the first Western cartographers to represent Japan. The map also features a detailed description of Africa, which encouraged Portuguese exploration. Where is the map now?

Born on a day like today


Jean Bernard Léon Foucault

Foucault, a French physicist, invented the Foucault pendulum and used it to provide experimental proof that the Earth rotates on its axis. He improved astronomical instruments, especially the telescope, and with Armand Fizeau took the first clear photograph of the Sun. Foucault is also known for determining the speed of light with extreme accuracy and showing that light travels slower in water than in air. He had originally studied medicine but abandoned it for physics due to a fear of what?

Last updated on Wednesday, 18th September 2013

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