France

The Phantastic Life of Cyrano de Bergerac – Forerunner of Enlightenment

The Phantastic Life of Cyrano de Bergerac – Forerunner of Enlightenment

On March 6, 1619, French novelist, playwright, epistolarian and duelist Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac was born. A bold and innovative author, his work was part of the libertine literature of the first half of the seventeenth century. Today he is best known as the inspiration for Edmond Rostand’s most noted drama Cyrano de Bergerac, which, although it includes elements of his life, also contains invention and myth. Cyrano – as he is…
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Henri Becquerel and Radioactivity

Henri Becquerel and Radioactivity

On March 1, 1896, French physicist Henri Becquerel while experimenting with X-rays and photographic plates discovered radioactivity along with Marie Curie and Pierre Curie, for which all three won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics. “I developed the photographic plates on the 1st of March, expecting to find the images very weak. Instead the silhouettes appeared with great intensity. It is important to observe that it appears this phenomenon must not be attributed…
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La Voisin and the Scandalous Affair of the Poisons

La Voisin and the Scandalous Affair of the Poisons

On February 22, 1680, Catherine Deshayes Monvoisin, aka La Voisin, was sentenced to death for witchcraft and poisoning, and burned at the stake. This Affair of the Poisons (L’affaire des poisons) was a major murder scandal in France which took place in 1677–1682, during the reign of King Louis XIV. During it, a number of prominent members of the aristocracy were implicated and sentenced on charges of poisoning and witchcraft. The scandal…
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The Inglourious Death of Jean-Baptiste Lully, Composer

The Inglourious Death of Jean-Baptiste Lully, Composer

On January 8, 1687, French ballet dancer and composer Jean-Baptiste Lully struck his foot with his long conducting staff during a performance of his Te Deum. Because he refused to treat the wound, it got infected and he died from gangrene soon after. Besides this inglourious way of death, Lully is considered the chief master of the French baroque style, who stripped of all Italian influences from French music of the period and…
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Jean-Pierre Blanchard and the Balloonomania

Jean-Pierre Blanchard and the Balloonomania

On January 7, 1785, French inventor, aviation pioneer and balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard crossed the English channel in a balloon flying from Dover Castle to Guînes for the first time. After the first balloon flights of the Montgolfier brothers a veritable “baloonomania” evolved with all manner of objects decorated with images of balloons or styled au ballon, from ceramics to fans and hats. Balloonomania Just two years before, the two brothers and business partners, Joseph-Michel…
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William of Rubruck and his Adventurous Journey to Karakorum

William of Rubruck and his Adventurous Journey to Karakorum

On January 4, 1254, Flemish Franciscan missionary and explorer William of Rubruck was granted the privilege of an audience at the great Mongol Möngke Khan in his court in Karakorum. Background The Flemish William of Rubruck had joined the Franciscan Friars Minor at an early age, studied in Paris and in 1248 travelled to the Holy Land in the wake of King Louis IX and the seventh crusade, where he stayed for four…
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Henri Matisse in the Rush of Colors

Henri Matisse in the Rush of Colors

On December 31, 1869, Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse, French draughtsman, sculptor, writer and artist, known for his use of colour and his fluid and original draughtsmanship, was born. “What I am after, above all, is expression. Sometimes it has been conceded that I have a certain technical ability but that, my ambition being limited, I am unable to proceed beyond a purely visual satisfaction such as can be procured from the mere sight of…
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The Lumière Brothers invented the Cinema

The Lumière Brothers invented the Cinema

On December 28, 1895, the Lumière Brothers performed 10 movies for their first paying audience at the Grand Cafe in Boulevard des Capucines, marking the debut of the cinema. Family Background and Family Business Louis and Auguste Lumière’s father Claude Antoine Lumière (1840-1911) learnt the profession of a type painter from the painter Auguste Constantin. 1860 he went into business for himself in Besançon. Soon he was attracted by the spreading new technology…
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Louis Pasteur – the Father of Medical Microbiology

Louis Pasteur – the Father of Medical Microbiology

On December 27, 1822, French chemist Louis Pasteurwas born, who is considered one of the most important founders of medical microbiology. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and prevention of diseases. “I am utterly convinced that Science and Peace will triumph over Ignorance and War, that nations will eventually unite not to destroy but to edify, and that the future will belong to those who have done the…
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Charlemagne and the Birth of the European Idea

Charlemagne and the Birth of the European Idea

On December 25, 800 AD, Charlemagne also known as Karl the Great was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by Pope Leo III in Rome. Thereby, he was the very first emperor of western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Prelude Back in the 6th century, the West Germanic Franks had been christianized and Francia, ruled by the Merovingian dynasty, was the most powerful of the kingdoms that succeeded the…
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