Tag Archives: history

+ Morgan Library in NY Displays Rare Copy of Magna Carta till May 30

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A manuscript version of the Magna Carta was brought to the US on the occasion of a special reunion event for Oxford graduates living in our country.

The original of the Magna Carta was sealed by King John of England in 1215 at Runnymeade.  It put limits on the king’s power and laid the groundwork for legal principles like the writ of habeas corpus.

This version dates to 1217 and is one of 17 surviving originals produced in the 13th century that bear the royal seal.  It is part of the collection in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

The Magna Carta document will remain in the US — and on display at the Morgan Library until May 30 — as a result of the Icelandic volcanic eruption.  

When volcanic ash disrupted air travel, transportation for the document became more perilous, says Richard Ovenden, the Bodleian Library”s associate director and keeper of special collections. 

In addition, the airlines, concerned with getting people home, were reluctant to carry it at this time.

And so if you are lucky enough to be in New York in the next weeks, take advantage of the opportunity to see this document.  Visit  http://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/exhibition.asp?id=40 for more information.   

source: note in the New York Times.  http://www.nytimes.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


+ Boost Academics With Rap?

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In Colorado, a pilot program called “Rap to Roots” has debuted this month, according to Colleen O’Connor in the Denver Post.  It has been successful in cities like Chicago and Cleveland.

These after-school series are sponsored by Swallow Hill Music Association and  (in Colorado) also by Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives.  It teaches kids to use rap’s rhythms, rhymes and even its history to boost their academics.

Math is not 13-year-old Koran Ray’s best subject, but he has figured out a trick to help him master the multiplication tables: he raps them.  He also says “I can rap about social studies, language, even Shakespeare.”

He then launches into a quick one that he learned from a video about Shakespeare being a mellow fellow who wrote “Othello.”

Koran has learned from a music producer how to change a rapper’s voice.  It makes him think of his science lessons involving variables: “when you change the variables of things like speed, voice and tone.”

Rap to Roots is the brainchild of Michael Schenkelberg, Swallow Hill’s music school director.  He created it because public schools, especially those in inner city locations, were losing their arts programs.

He was working in Chicago and Cleveland at the time, so he started there.  When organizers tracked students’ progress over four years, they discovered those in the program “did significantly better in standardized testing, attention spans in the classroom, and some improved their writing skills,” says Schenkelberg.

He moved to Denver, and wanted to duplicate the program.  Reverend Leon Kelly, director of Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives, loved the idea.  He agreed to a pilot program at a school where he runs an after-school program.

Twelve-year-old Khalia Davenport would love to keep going next year.  She likes how teachers in the program — all local musicians — “tell us we should stay in school because school is like a big rap, if you put it all together, like math and accounting and stuff.”

Recently, as many kids were scribbling away at lyrics, a small group of student sat at a laptop learningto produce their first CD.

A local artist, Azma Holiday, worked with the students on expressing their feeling through music.  “They were on fire,” he said.  “I got a kick out of that.  I got to see their juices flowing and hear what they had to say and what was going on upstairs.”

Jontrail Taylor’s rhymes include a statement about school.  “I got to go to college to get my education/ So I can be in a situation/ That’s better than the federation.”

Teachers in Chicago and Cleveland helped design the rap classes to meet their curriculum needs.   So, for example, they covered migrations of African-Americans from the south and learned that rap’s roots go back about 3,000 years — to Afro-Cuban and West African rhythms — which connected to geography lessons.

They increased their technological know-how by using laptops to record their own CDs.

They also work on English skills. Says Schenkelberg,

They learn  about similes, different poetic devices, and then they take a familiar rap song and see how it uses these literary devices.  They learn about different poets through time and learn to rap a Shakespearean piece.

The goal, he says, is to spark kids’ interest in their own education through a passion rooted in their generation. 

So many kids are just trying to make it, to be heard.  If that’s a dream that will continue to motivate kids to learn, then what you need to do is at least give them a chance.

sole source: Colleen O’Connor’s article in the Denver Post on 5/11/09.  www.denverpost.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Free Lectures Until September 4: The Ancient Origins of the Olympic Games

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Until September 4, 2008, The Teaching Company is offering two lectures for download on the Ancient Origins of the Olympic Games.  The lecturer is veteran Teaching Company Professor Jeremy McInerney, Chair of the Graduate Group in Ancient History at the University of Pennsylvania.     http://www.teach12.com/ttcx/August2008Lecture.aspx?ai=30070&WT.mc_id=FLAct20080731

From the Web site:

Although the modern version of the Olympic Games has been around for over 100 years since its revival at the 1896 games in Athens, the Olympics have a rich and exciting history that goes back to ancient Greece.

A crucial aspect of Greek culture, the ancient Olympics emphasized the ideals of heroism and honor  found in Homer’s epic poetry.  The games were meant to celebrate physical strenth, speed, and manhood.  Most importantly, they embodied the spirit of competition (agon) that defined ancient Greek life.

The games as they were played back then bear a striking contrast to the Olympics as we know them today:

  • Athletes originally represented their families and not their communities.
  • Women were not allowed to compete, and only unmarried women could watch the games.
  • There were no team sports; rather individual athletes competed against each other.
  • The games never moved to different locations; instead, they were always held in the city of Olympia in southern Greece.

Despite their differences, the ancient Olympics were as celebrated as today’s games.  The first Olympics captured what it meant to be a citizen of Greece.  The Olympics of today capture what it means to be a citizen of the world.

The Teaching Company offers University-level lectures by award-winning professors on CD and DVD.  They cover all disciplines: history, English, mathematics, science, music, art, philosophy.  Once a year, most of them are offered on sale.  Find them at www.teach12.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Did Odysseus Arrive Home on April 16, 1178 BC?

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This is John Noble Wilford’s article in the N Y Times:

That Odysseus took his time, 10 years, getting home to Ithaca from the Trojan War is the story Homer engraved in the “Odyssey.” But exactly when did he rejoin his Penelope, who had been patient beyond belief?

Plutarch thought a crucial passage in the 20th book of the “Odyssey” to be a poetic description of a total solar eclipse at the time of Odysseus’ return. A century ago, astronomers calculated that such an eclipse occurred over the Greek islands on April 16, 1178 B.C., the only one in the region around the estimated date of the sack of Troy. But nearly all classics scholars are highly skeptical of any connection.

An analysis of astronomical references in the epic has led two scientists to conclude that the homecoming of Odysseus, usually considered a fictional character set in the context of a real historical event, possibly coincided with the 1178 solar eclipse. If, that is, Homer indeed had in mind an eclipse when he wrote of a seer prophesying the death of Penelope’s waiting suitors and their entrance into Hades.

The new interpretation of the eclipse hypothesis is reported in this week’s issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Constantino Baikouzis and Marcelo O. Magnasco, scientists at the Laboratory of Mathematical Physics at Rockefeller University in New York and at the Astronomical Observatory of La Plata, in Argentina.

They concede that scholars of Homer are still not likely to give much credence to the idea. But it makes for an intriguing story, one that the blind bard, a mystery himself, would have appreciated.

Although an eclipse is not mentioned anywhere in the story, there are omens and what Plutarch inferred was a poetic description of a total solar eclipse. Odysseus has arrived home, disguised in beggar’s rags and in hiding before revealing himself. It happens that, when Penelope’s persistent suitors sit down for a noontime meal, they start laughing uncontrollably and see their food spattered with blood.

At this strange moment, the seer Theoclymenus foretells their death, ending with the sentence, “The Sun has been obliterated from the sky, and an unlucky darkness invades the world.”

There are reasons to think that the darkness of a total eclipse had just fallen on Ithaca. It was close to noon when the 1178 eclipse occurred over the Ionian Sea. It was, as mentioned several times in the story, at the time of a new moon, which the scientists point out is “a necessary condition for a solar eclipse.” And what better atmospherics to accompany a prophecy of doom than a total eclipse, which was considered an ill omen?

Experts on Homer have previously discounted such conjecture. For one thing, the earliest verified eclipse records are in the eighth century B.C., about the time Homer was writing but long after the action in what is known as the Trojan War, around the early 12th century B.C. Scholars say there is no evidence supporting a view at the time, widely quoted, that “a solar eclipse may mark the return of Odysseus.”

In their report, Dr. Baikouzis and Dr. Magnasco acknowledged the speculative nature of their study, several times throwing in their own caveats. “The notion that the passage could refer not just to an allegorical eclipse used by the poet for literary effect but actually to a specific historical one,” they agreed, “seems unlikely because it would entail the transmission through oral tradition of information about an eclipse occurring maybe five centuries before the poem was cast in the form we know today.”

The two scientists derived a possible chronology from astronomical references in the story, including the stars by which Odysseus navigated, the sighting of Venus just before dawn as he arrives at Ithaca, and the new moon on the night before the massacre of the suitors and the presumed eclipse.

On the basis of their analysis, the scientists said, these three “references ‘cohere,’ in the sense that the astronomical phenomena pinpoint the date of 16 April 1178 B.C.,” adding, “The odds that purely fictional references to these phenomena (so hard to satisfy simultaneously) would coincide by accident with the only eclipse of the century are minute.”


source: this is John Noble Wilford’s article in Science Times, June 26, 2008.   www.nytimes.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Old British Warship Found Intact in Lake Ontario

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this is an Associated Press article:

A 22-gun British warship that sank in Lake Ontario during the American Revolution, has been discovered by two shipwreck enthusiasts. It is the only fully intact British warship ever found in the Great Lakes.

The enthusiasts, Jim Kennard and Dan Scoville, used side-scanning sonar and an unmanned submersible vessel to locate the ship, the Ontario, which was lost with barely a trace during a gale in 1780. The ship had as many as 130 people aboard.

“To have a Revolutionary War vessel that’s practically intact is unbelievable,” said Arthur Britton Smith, a Canadian author who chronicled the history of the Ontario in a 1997 book, “The Legend of the Lake.”

“It’s an archaeological miracle,” Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Scoville and Mr. Kennard announced their discovery on Friday. They said they regarded the wreck as a war grave and had no plans to raise the Ontario or remove any of its artifacts. The ship, they said, was still considered the property of the British Admiralty.

The vessel lies in water up to 500 feet deep and can be reached only by experienced divers. Mr. Kennard and Mr. Scoville declined to give its exact location, saying only that it was found off the lake’s southern shore.

The Ontario, an 80-foot sloop, was described as resting partly on its side, with two masts extending more than 70 feet above the lake bottom.

“Usually when ships go down in big storms, they get beat up quite a bit,” Mr. Scoville said. “They don’t sink nice and square. This went down in a huge storm, and it still managed to stay intact. There are even two windows that aren’t broken. Just going down, the pressure difference, can break the windows. It’s a beautiful ship.”

Mr. Smith, who was shown underwater video of the discovery, said, “If it wasn’t for the zebra mussels, she looks like she only sunk last week.”

The dark, cold water acts as a perfect preservative, Mr. Smith said. At that depth, there is no light and no oxygen to hasten decomposition, and little marine life to feed on the wood.

The Ontario, which sank on Oct. 31, 1780, was used to carry troops and supplies along the frontier of upstate New York. Launched five months earlier, it was the biggest British warship on the lakes at the time but never saw battle, Mr. Smith said.

After the ship disappeared, the British made a sweeping search but tried to keep word of the Ontario’s sinking from Gen. George Washington’s forces because of the blow to the British defenses.

Hatchway gratings, the binnacle, compasses and several hats and blankets drifted ashore the day after the ship sank. A few days later the Ontario’s sails were found adrift in the lake.

In 1781, six bodies from the ship were found near Wilson, N.Y., then, for 200 years, there were no other traces of the vessel.

Explorers had been searching for the Ontario for decades, and there had been many false finds, said Eric Bloomquist, the interpretative programs manager at Old Fort Niagara.

Mr. Kennard, an electrical engineer who has been diving for about 40 years and has found more than 200 wrecks in the Great Lakes, Lake Champlain, the Finger Lakes and in the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, began searching for the Ontario 35 years ago but quit after several frustrating and fruitless years.

Six years ago, he teamed with Mr. Scoville, a diver who developed a remote-controlled submersible vessel with students from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Since then, the men have found seven ships in the lake.

Over the years, Mr. Kennard obtained documents from British and Canadian archives on the Ontario, including the ship’s plans. Mr. Scoville and Mr. Kennard searched more than 200 square miles for three years before finding the ship this month.

After locating the wreck with the sonar, the explorers used the submersible vessel to confirm their discovery and document it with more than 80 minutes of underwater video.

“Certainly it is one of the earliest discovered shipwrecks, if not the earliest,” said Carrie Sowden, archaeological director of the Peachman Lake Erie Shipwreck Research Center of the Great Lakes Historical Society in Vermillion, Ohio. “And if it’s in the condition they say, it’s quite significant.”

A rare feature, two crow’s nests on each mast, helped identify the ship. Another feature was the decoratively carved scroll bow stem. The explorers also found two cannons, two anchors and the ship’s bell.

Mr. Kennard said he and Mr. Scoville had gathered enough video that it would not be necessary to return to the site. He added that they hoped to make a documentary about the discovery.

source: Associated Press article in the NY Times on 6/15/08; no byline seen

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email   aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ On Sale: Copernicus Book Dated 1543 and Other Gems

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This is Dennis Overbye’s article in the NY Times:

One thing you can say about the copy of Nicolaus Copernicus’s book “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” (“On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres”), on sale next week at Christie’s auction house, is that it looks and feels old.

Its cover is dented and stained. The pages are warped. You could easily imagine that this book had sat out half a dozen revolutions hidden in various dank basements in Europe.

In fact this book, published in 1543, was the revolution. It was here that the Polish astronomer laid out his theory that the Earth and other planets go around the Sun, contravening a millennium of church dogma that the Earth was the center of the universe and launching a frenzy of free thought and scientific inquiry.

The party, known as the Enlightenment, is still going strong. It was a thrill to hold Copernicus in my hands on a recent visit to the back rooms of Christie’s and flip through its hallowed pages as if it were my personal invitation to the Enlightenment. No serious library should be without one. Just in case you are missing your own copy, you can pick up this one for about the price of a Manhattan apartment next Tuesday, according to the Christie’s catalog, which estimates its value at $900,000 to $1.2 million.

The Copernicus is a cornerstone in the collection of a retired physician and amateur astronomer, Richard Green of Long Island, that constitutes pretty much a history of science and Western thought. Among the others in Dr. Green’s library are works by Galileo, who was tried for heresy in 1633 and sentenced to house arrest for his admiration of Copernicus and for portraying the pope as a fool, as well as by Darwin, Descartes, Newton, Freud, Kepler, Tycho Brahe, Malthus and even Karl Marx.

One lot includes Albert Einstein’s collection of reprints of his scientific papers, including his first one on relativity. Another is a staggeringly beautiful star atlas, Harmonia Macrocosmica, by the 17th-century Dutch-German cartographer Andreas Cellarius, with double-truck hand-colored plates.

Pawing through these jaw droppers, I found my attention being drawn again and again to a small white book, barely more than a pamphlet, a time machine that took me back to a more recent revolution. It was the directory for world’s first commercial phone system, Volume 1, No. 1, published in New Haven by the Connecticut District Telephone Company in November 1878, future issues to be published “from time to time, as the nature of the service requires.”

Two things struck me. As an aging veteran of the current rewiring of the human condition, I wondered whether there might be lessons from that first great rewiring of our collective nervous system.

Another was a shock of recognition — that people were already talking on the phone a year before Einstein was born. In fact, just two years later Einstein’s father went into the nascent business himself. Einstein grew up among the rudiments of phones and other electrical devices like magnets and coils, from which he drew part of the inspiration for relativity. It would not be until 1897, after people had already made fortunes exploiting electricity, that the English scientist J. J. Thomson discovered what it actually was: the flow of tiny negatively charged corpuscles of matter called electrons.

The New Haven switchboard opened in January 1878, only two years after Alexander Graham Bell, in nearby Boston, spoke the immortal words “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” It was the first commercial system that allowed many customers to connect with one another, for $22 a year, payable in advance.

The first directory consisted of a single sheet listing the names of 50 subscribers, according to lore. By November, the network had grown to 391 subscribers, identified by name and address — phone numbers did not yet exist. And the phone book, although skimpy, had already taken the form in which it would become the fat doorstop of today, with advertisements and listings of businesses in the back — 22 physicians and 22 carriage manufacturers, among others.

Customers were limited to three minutes a call and no more than two calls an hour without permission from the central office.

Besides rules, the embryonic phone book also featured pages of tips on placing calls — pick up the receiver and tell the operator whom you want — and how to talk on this gadget. Having a real conversation, for example, required rapidly transferring the telephone between mouth and ear.

“When you are not speaking, you should be listening,” it says at one point.

You should begin by saying, “Hulloa,” and when done talking, the book says, you should say, “That is all.”

The other person should respond, “O.K.”

Because anybody could be on the line at any time, customers should not pick up the telephone unless they want to make a call, and they should be careful about what others might hear.

“Any person using profane or otherwise improper language should be reported at this office immediately,” the company said.

If only they could hear us now. On second thought, maybe it’s better they can’t. Today we are all on a party line, and your most virulent thoughts are just a forward button away from being broadcast to the universe. Would it have killed the founders of the Internet to give us a little warning here?

Near the back of the book is an essay on another promising new wonder that “has attracted renewed attention both in this country and in Europe.”

Many of the streets and shops of Paris, it is reported, are now illuminated by electric lights, placed on posts. “People seated before the cafes read their papers by the aid of lights on the opposite side of the way, and yet the most delicate complexions and softest tints in fabrics do not suffer in the white glare of the lamps. Every stone in the road is plainly visible, and the horses move swiftly along as if confident of their footing,” the book says.

It makes you wonder what could come next. Oh yes, those horses. No revolution is ever done.

That is all.

source: this is Dennis Overbye’s article in the NY Times on 6/10/08.  www.nytimes.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com  

+ Some of the Pulitzer Prizes for 2008

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HISTORY  Daniel Walker Howe, “What Hath God Wrought: the Transformation of America, 1815-1848”   Howe is emeritus professor of history at Oxford and UCLA.  In 900 pages, he creates a panoramic tale of a formative period in American history, as the country expanded and innovations in communication and transportation were created.

Other finalists were Robert Dallek, “Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power,” and David Halberstam, “The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War.”


John Matteson, “Eden’s Outcasts: “The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father.”  Matteson is an associate professor of English at John Jay College in NYC.  The book focuses on Bronson Alcott as well as Louisa; he was a friend of Emerson and Thoreau and a seeker of a utopian community.  Says Matteson, “I found him very inspirational; he was almost completely self-taught.”

Other finalists were Martin Duberman, “The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein,” and Zachary Leader, “The Life of Kingsley Amis.”


Junot Diaz, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”  An emigre from the Dominican Republic in 1974, Diaz arrived not speaking or reading English.  The “riotous” novel tells of Dominican immigrants in the present in New Jersey and in the past in the Dominican Republic.  Diaz “kicked around” the idea for his first novel for about four years, then wrote it for seven.  “In some ways,” he says, “I think that this book waited for me to become a better person before it wrote itself.”

Other finalists were Denis Johnson, “Tree of Smoke,” and Lore Segal, “Shakespeare’s Kitchen.”


Saul Friedlander, “The Years of Extermination:Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945.”  Friedlander’s second volume of his history of the Holocaust interweaves segments from contemporary journals and letters into the more general description of the atrocities.  “Usually the history of the Holocaust is written from the viewpoint of German documents and archives,” says Mr. Friedlander.  He was born in Prague, escaped to France in 1939 and emigrated to Israel in1948; he teaches at UCLA.

Other finalists were Allan Brandt, “The Cigarette Century,” and Alex Ross, “Listening to the Twentieth Century.”


Tracy Letts, “August: Osage County.”  The play was an enormous critical success in New York this year.

Other finalists were David Henry Hwang, “Yellow Face,” and Christopher Shinn, “Dying City.”


Robert Hass, “Time and Materials,” and Philip Schultz, “Failure.”  Hass’s sixth book of poetry is about large subjects of international import, as well as more personal verse; he is a former poet laureate and also won the National Book Award last year.  Schultz’s book, his fifth, discusses the death of his father when the poet was 18 and the family business fell apart — “a hole that I was digging myself out of the rest of my life.”   He runs the Writers Studio in New York.

Another finalist was Ellen Bryant Voigt, “Messenger: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006.”


David lang, “The Little Match Girl Passion.”  Lang is co-founder of Bang on a Can, the boundary-crossing new music collective; this work is for a quartet of singers, and is an eerie, poignant and tragic melding of the Hans Christian Andersen tale of a poor child who freezes to death and the text of Bach’s “St Matthew Passion.”

Other finalists were Stephen Hartke, “Meanwhile,” and Roberto Sierra, “Concerto for Viola.”


Bob Dylan. 

sole source: article in the NY Times on 4/9/08.  www.nytimes.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com