Napoleon Bonaparte

The Conversational Eloquence of Madame de Staël

The Conversational Eloquence of Madame de Staël

On July 14, 1817, French woman of letters of Swiss origin Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, commonly known as Madame de Staël, passed away. She was one of Napoleon’s principal opponents. Celebrated for her conversational eloquence, she participated actively in the political and intellectual life of her times. Her works, both critical and fictional, made their mark on the history of European Romanticism. She was a remarkable woman, and not all men…
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Sir William Jenner and the Distinction of Typhus and Typhoid

Sir William Jenner and the Distinction of Typhus and Typhoid

On January 30, 1815, English physician Sir William Jenner was born. Jenner is primarily known for having discovered the distinction between typhus and typhoid. While “typhoid” means “typhus-like”, typhus and typhoid fever are distinct diseases caused by different genera of bacteria. “How often have I seen in past days, in the single narrow chamber of the day-labourer’s cottage, the father in the coffin, the mother in the sick-bed in muttering delirium, and…
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Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and his Work on Gases

Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and his Work on Gases

On December 6, 1778, French chemist and physicist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac was born. He is known mostly for two laws related to gases, and for his work on alcohol-water mixtures, which led to the degrees Gay-Lussac used to measure alcoholic beverages in many countries. “I have not chosen a career that will lead me to a great fortune, but not my principal ambition. In fact, later in life he enjoyed comfortable income…
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Ferdinand de Lesseps and the Suez Canal

Ferdinand de Lesseps and the Suez Canal

On November 19, 1805, French diplomat and later developer of the Suez Canal Ferdinand Marie, Vicomte de Lesseps was born. The Suez Canal that was constructed under de Lessep’s supervision in 1869 joined the Mediterranean and Red Seas, substantially reducing sailing distances and times between the West and the East. “Since 1849 I have studied incessantly, under all its aspects, a question which was already in my mind [since 1832. I confess that my scheme is still…
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Jacques-Louis David’s History Paintings

Jacques-Louis David’s History Paintings

On August 30, 1748, influential French painter in the Neoclassical style Jacques-Louis David was born. He is considered to be the preeminent painter of the era. In the 1780s his cerebral brand of history painting marked a change in taste away from Rococo frivolity toward a classical austerity and severity. “I want my works to bear the character of antiquity, so much so that, if it were possible for an Athenian to…
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The Last Victim of the Spanish Inquisition

The Last Victim of the Spanish Inquisition

On July 26, 1826, Cayetano Ripoll, a schoolmaster in Valencia, Spain, teaching deist principles should become the last victim executed by the Spanish inquisition. Ripoll has the dubious honor of being the last of the many people known to have been executed under sentence from a Church authority for having committed the act of heresy. For almost 350 years the Spanish inquisition tried to secure the primacy of the Catholic Church in…
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Eugene Vidocq – The Father of Criminology

Eugene Vidocq – The Father of Criminology

During the night of 23 to 24 July 1775, French criminal and criminalist Eugène Vidocq was born. Vidocq is considered the world’s first private detective and father of modern criminology. His life story inspired several writers, including Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac. “I thought I could have remained an informer forever, so far from the thought of suspecting that I was a police agent. Even the door closers and the guards had…
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Niccoló Paganini – the Devil’s Violinist

Niccoló Paganini – the Devil’s Violinist

On May 27, 1840, Italian violinist and composer Niccolo Paganini passed away. He was the most celebrated violin virtuoso of his time, and left his mark as one of the pillars of modern violin technique. “Some creatures are completely demonic, in some parts of it are effective. […] Among artists it is found more in musicians, less in painters. In Paganini it shows itself to a high degree, which is why he produces such…
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Nicolas Leblanc and the Leblanc Process

Nicolas Leblanc and the Leblanc Process

On December 6, 1742, French chemist and surgeon Nicolas Leblanc was born, who discovered how to manufacture soda from common salt. The eponymous Leblanc process became one of the most important industrial processes of the 19th century. Nicolas Leblanc – Early Life Nicolas Leblanc was born in Ivoy le Pré, Cher department, in the Central-Val du Loire in France. Due to his early death of his father, a minor official at an…
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Pierre Mechain and the Meridian Survey Expedition

Pierre Mechain and the Meridian Survey Expedition

On August 16, 1744, French astronomer and surveyor Pierre François André Méchain was born. Together with Charles Messier, was a major contributor to the early study of deep sky objects and comets. He participated in the Meridian survey expedition in 1792 that produced measurements, which have served as the fundament of the metric system. Pierre Méchain – Civil Engineering and Astronomy Pierre Méchain was born in Laon, a medieval town in the Picardy…
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