4 Strange Historical Facts You Probably Didn't Know About

1. Isaac Newton was looking for the Philosopher’s Stone

Portrait of Newton by Godfrey Kneller, 1689 Image: Wikimedia Commons

Usually we associate the name of Newton with serious science and fundamental discoveries in physics. Well, with an apple that allegedly fell on his head and led to the discovery of the law of universal gravitation (in fact, it did not fall ).

But Sir Isaac Isaakovich was engaged not only in gravity, calculations of the speed of sound, refraction of light and other boring experiments, but also much more fascinating things – such as the occult and alchemy.

It is estimated that out of 10 million words in the papers of the English physicist, about a million are dedicated to alchemy. Naturally, he was most interested in the philosopher’s stone – an element capable of transmuting base metals into gold.

Newton’s notes are full of codes, incomprehensible symbols for non-existent chemicals, and cryptic phrases like “Green Lion”, “Neptune’s Trident” and “Jupiter’s Scepter”.

Towards the end of his life, the scientist became very eccentric and mentally unstable – modern studies of the scientist’s surviving hair showed that the reason was mercury poisoning . Experimented.

In addition to the philosopher’s stone, Isaac was also looking for a vaccine against the plague. As a result, he came to the conclusion that “the best medicine is a toad, hung by the legs and left in the chimney for three days. After this time, she will die and vomit up the earth with various insects in it, which substance should be placed on a dish of yellow wax. The toad must be powdered, mixed with its secretions and serum, and the resulting mixture, applied to plague buboes, will drive out the infection and draw out the poison.

Something like this.

2. The bone of the first discovered dinosaur was mistaken for a fossilized scrotum

Cover of Robert Plot’s A Natural History of Oxfordshire, 1677, and illustration of a femur, called Scrotum humanum. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 1677, a fragment of a Megalosaurus femur was found in a limestone quarry near Oxford. It was the first recorded dinosaur fossil in history. True, then they considered that the bone belongs to a giant sinner who drowned in the Great Flood, they put it in the Oxford collection and forgot about it.

Some time later, in 1763, the fossil fell into the hands of the English physician and naturalist Richard Brooks. And he gave her the name Scrotum humanum, which means “human testicles.”

It is still unclear what made Brooks give such a name to the bones of the very first known dinosaur in history. Perhaps he thought that the giant sinner was a giant in every way. Or the name was given by an illustrator of the doctor’s writings, and he did not consider this thing to be anyone’s remains at all.

And the fact that a stone looks either like a bone, or like a scrotum – well, this demonstrates the desire inherent in nature by the Lord to complicate the visible forms of all things, such things.

In 1824, the English paleontologist Richard Owen found a significant part of the Megalosaurus skeleton and finally guessed that this was not a biblical giant sinner, but some kind of hefty reptile. And he dubbed the ward a megalosaurus (Megalosaurus bucklandii, literally – “a huge lizard”).

Much later, in 1970, when dinosaurs were discovered and described long ago, paleontologist Lambert Beverly Halsted again stumbled upon the ill-fated scrotum-like bone in the Oxford collection and determined that it belonged to Megalosaurus . And then a problem arose: the name Scrotum humanum was assigned to this species before the name Megalosaurus bucklandii.

And therefore, according to the rules of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, Megalosaurus should have been renamed “human scrotum.” Can you imagine what it would be like for the unfortunate lizard if it came to this? But he was a dominant predator in his era.

Fortunately, paleontologists changed their minds in time and made a small exception for the rule so that they did not have to change the name of the first dinosaur discovered in history to “scrotum”.

3. A lady was only found dead 110 years after she was embalmed.

premature burial. Painting by Antoine Wirtz, 1854 Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the British town of Failsworth there lived a wealthy lady named Hannah Bezwick , born in 1688. During the funeral of one of her brothers, John, people noticed that the dead man’s eyelids trembled. A doctor was called, and the deceased suddenly came to his senses, recovered and lived for many more years.

What happened made an indelible impression on Hannah, and she became terrified of being buried alive . Therefore, I decided to exclude such a possibility in advance.

Bezwick made a will , according to which £25,000 would be paid to her doctor Charles White, on the condition that he keep her body unburied for as long as possible, periodically checking it for signs of life.

Hannah would not allow the doctor to bury her remains “until it was undeniably clear that she was dead.”

In general, the good Dr. White granted the patient’s wish and after her death in February 1758 placed her in the museum of the Manchester Natural History Society. There, Hannah lay until she began to smell unpleasant, and then White injected vermilion turpentine into the blood vessels and embalmed the body in alcohol and tar.

In this state, Hanna was in the museum until 1867. It was only when the management of the Manchester Collection decided that their ward was “irrevocably and undoubtedly dead ”, the woman was buried in an unmarked grave in Harperhey cemetery on the north-eastern outskirts of Manchester. It happened on July 22, 1868.

4. Constantinople was destroyed by a cannon that its ruler refused to buy.

Mehmed II and the Ottoman army approaching Constantinople with a giant bombard. Painting by Fausto Zonaro, 1903 Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the 15th century, the Hungarian engineer Urban lived in Transylvania, who was very fond of cannons – cast, bronze, with huge stone cannonballs.

And so, in 1452, he went to the capital Byzantine city of Constantinople, then ruled by Emperor Constantine XI, and suggested that the sovereign cast a tool that would make everyone gasp. Like, no one will have such a gun, Your Majesty. And let’s call it beautifully – Basil, that is, “king.”

But the emperor killed the idea in the bud: funding is limited, the state budget is not enough, there is little own bronze in Byzantium, and there is nothing to replace imports with. Urban was upset, waved his hand and went to the Turkish Sultan Mehmed II, who was just at war with Byzantium.

He briefly asked: “Will you be able to blow up the walls of Constantinople?” Urban answered bravely: “My weapons can blow up the walls of Babylon itself!” Mehmed II summed up: “Do it.”

Urban received from the Sultan unlimited funding and all the necessary materials and created such a cannon that it had to be dragged to Constantinople by a team of 60 oxen and 400 people. Stone cannonballs, which she could throw for one and a half kilometers, weighed more than half a ton.

True, due to the monstrous overheating, Basil could only shoot three times a day. Its barrel had to be constantly treated with warm oil so as not to crack, and during operation, the gun periodically accidentally killed its own gunners.

But the cannon fulfilled its task and punched a hole in the walls of Constantinople, through which the troops of Mehmed II entered the city. And everyone there was safely destroyed, including Constantine XI. This is what happens when you ignore the development of promising technologies.

As for Urban, he did not have time to feast on the Sultan’s award. His offspring exploded and killed its creator, as well as the entire artillery crew.

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