Monthly Archives: May 2014

Marcel Breuer – Master of Modernism

Marcel Breuer – Master of Modernism

On May 21, 1905, Hungarian-born modernist, architect and furniture designer of Jewish descent Marcel Breuer was born. Being one of the masters of Modernism, Breuer extended the sculptural vocabulary he had developed in the carpentry shop at the Bauhaus into a personal architecture that made him one of the world’s most popular architects at the peak of 20th-Century design. Marcel Breuer was one of the first students at the Bauhaus arts and craft…
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Abraham Ortelius and the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

Abraham Ortelius and the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

On May 20, 1570, Belgian cartographer and geographer Abraham Ortelius published the first modern atlas, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, in Antwerp. It consisted of a collection of uniform map sheets and sustaining text bound to form a book for which copper printing plates were specifically engraved. Abraham Ortelius was born in Antwerp, but grew up with his uncle after his father passed away at young age. In 1575, he was appointed geographer…
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Alcuin of York and the Carolingian Renaissance

Alcuin of York and the Carolingian Renaissance

On May 19, 804 AD, English scholar, ecclesiastic, poet and teacher Alcuin of York passed away. At the invitation of Charlemagne, he became a leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian court. He wrote many theological and dogmatic treatises, as well as a few grammatical works and a number of poems. According to Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne, Alcuin was “the most learned man anywhere to be found“. “And those people should not…
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Pierre Beaumarchais and Figaro’s Wedding

Pierre Beaumarchais and Figaro’s Wedding

On May 18, 1799, French playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais passed away. Bonmarchais, who also was a watchmaker, inventor, musician, diplomat, fugitive, spy, publisher, horticulturalist, arms dealer, satirist, financier, and revolutionary (both French and American), is best known for his theatrical works, most notably the three Figaro plays. “Drinking when not thirsty and making love all the time, madam, is all that distinguishes us from other animals.” — Pierre Beaumarchais, The Marriage of Figaro…
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The Antikythera Mechanism – an Ancient Analog Computer

The Antikythera Mechanism – an Ancient Analog Computer

On May 17, 1902, Greek archaeologist Valerios Stais discovers the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient mechanical analog computer, designed to predict astronomical positions and eclipses. The famous mechanism was discovered in a shipwreck near the Greekisland of Antikythera. In October 1900, a group of sponge divers discovered the wreck and retrieved a great number of artifacts dating back to the end of the second century BC, which included bronze and marble statues, pottery,…
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The Secrets of the mysterious Voynich Manuscript

The Secrets of the mysterious Voynich Manuscript

In 1912, Polish-born antiquarian and bibliophile Wilfrid Voynich bought a mysterious illustrated codex hand-written in an unknown writing system that may have been composed in Northern Italy during the Italian Renaissance. The eponymous Voynich manuscript has been studied by many professional and amateur cryptographers, but no one has yet succeeded in deciphering the text. Therefore, it has become a famous case in the history of cryptography. The manuscript counts about 240 pages in…
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Francis Baily and the Baily Beads

Francis Baily and the Baily Beads

On May 15, 1836, English astronomer Francis Baily for the first time observed the so-called ‘Baily’s beads‘ during an eclipse of the Sun. For sure you know the effect, although you might not have seen it with your own eyes in nature. But, numerous photographs, pictures, and videos have been published, where the phenomenon can be watched. So what are Beailey’s beads? The Baily’s beads effect is a feature of total solar eclipses. As the moon…
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The Seaplanes of Claude Dornier

The Seaplanes of Claude Dornier

On May 14, 1884, German airplane builder and entrepreneur Claudius Dornier was born. His legacy remains in the few aircraft named after him, including the Dornier Do 18 and the 12-engine Dornier Do X flying boat, for decades the world’s largest and most powerful airplane. Dornier studied engineering at the Technical University of Munich and began his career in Karlsruhe in 1907. Unfortunately, his father fell very ill and could not take care of his…
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Igor Sikorsky and the Perfection of the Helicopter Design

Igor Sikorsky and the Perfection of the Helicopter Design

On May 13, 1940, Russian American aviation pioneer Igor Ivanovitsch Sikorsky made the maidenflight with his newly developed helicopter VS-300, which led to the R-4, the world’s first mass-produced helicopter in 1942. Sure we all know helicopters today. They have become an everyday object, although not everybody of us already had the chance to fly with a helicopter. Actually, I had the pleasure to fly as helicopter passenger during my time of…
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Florence Nightingale – The Lady with the Lamp

Florence Nightingale – The Lady with the Lamp

On May 12, 1820, celebrated British social reformer and statistician Florence Nightingale was born. She is best known for being the founder of modern nursing. She came to prominence while serving as a nurse during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was known as “The Lady with the Lamp” after her habit of making rounds at night. It is known that Florence Nightingale was a very well educated…
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