" Long brooding over those lost pleasures exaggerates their charm and sweetness. "
William Makepeace Thackeray

Back in the day


First Manned, Untethered Hot Air Balloon Flight

The pioneering ballooning efforts of the Montgolfier brothers of France made 1783 a noteworthy year in aviation history. That year, the pair developed the first practical hot-air balloon—and demonstrated its safety by sending aloft a sheep, a duck, and a rooster. Months later, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent, Marquis d'Arlandes, made the first manned, untethered flight in a Montgolfier balloon, but they had not been the first choices to pilot the historic flight. Who were?




The subject of many legends, Sappho was a Greek lyric poet who lived more than 2,500 years ago on the island of Lesbos, where she was the leader of a thiasos, an informal female community. Her verse is characterized by her passionate love of nature and women, the latter of which gave rise to the term lesbian, derived from the name of her island home. She wrote in a variety of meters, one of which has come to be known as "Sapphic" in her honor. How many of Sappho's complete poems have survived?

Born on a day like today


René Magritte

Before gaining the support of a Brussels art gallery and taking up painting full-time, Magritte earned a living designing wallpaper and advertisements. His early works were in the Cubist and Futurist styles, but he soon embraced Surrealism. Dislocations of space, time, and scale were common elements in his illogical paintings, and he used certain images—the sea, the female torso, the bourgeois "little man" in a bowler hat—repeatedly. Why did art thieves return a stolen Magritte painting in 2012?

Last updated on Thursday, 21st November 2013

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