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Monday, 30 November 2015

Kublai Khan


Kublai was born on September 23, 1215,  the fourth son of Tolui, and his second son with Sorghaghtani Beki. His grandfather was the legendary Genghis Khan, who passed away when Kublai was 11.

Kublai 's brother, Möngk, was the conqueror of Persia and founder of the Ilkhanate.

Portrait of young Kublai by Anige, a Nepali artist in Kublai's court

Sorghaghtani chose a Buddhist Tangut woman as a result of Genghis Khan advice, as her son's nurse. Kublai later honored her highly.

On his way home after the conquest of the Khwarizmian Empire, Genghis Khan performed a ceremony on his grandsons Möngke and 9-year-old Kublai after their first hunt in 1224 near the Ili River. Kublai and his eldest brother killed a rabbit and an antelope then his grandfather smeared fat from the killed animals onto Kublai's middle finger in accordance with a Mongol tradition.


Kublai succeeded at the age of 44 his older brother, Möngke as the Great Khan of the Mongol empire. He was proclaimed Kublai Great Khan, on April 15, 1260.

Kublai's Empire was the first to have paper money, it was made from the bark of the mulberry tree, stamped with seals to guarantee their authenticity.

He ruled well, promoting economic growth with the rebuilding of the Grand Canal and repairing public buildings. His empire had roads with comfortable inns and stables for resting travelers. Kublai himself was transported in a carriage laid on top of four elephants.

Kublai officially created the Yuan Dynasty on December 18, 1271 and proclaimed the capital to be Dadu (Chinese literally. "Great Capital"), at modern-day Beijing. This marked the start of the Yuan dynasty of Mongolia and China.

Kublai was treated like a god, no noise was permitted within half a mile of where the Khan was.

He was renowned all over the world as he was the first Chinese emperor to be known in the west, due to the visit of Marco Polo.

Kublai conquered the south of China and made the Chinese lower caste citizens, requiring them to scrape and bow to his fellow Mongols The conquered Chinese unsurprisingly hated Kublai Khan who attempted to keep them under control through magic and propaganda.

Kublai Khan also conquered Burma. However, in 1281 a 140,000 strong army failed to conquer Japan. A typhoon destroyed his ships en route and the myth of Mongol invincibility vanished from Asia.

Super Khan's empire stretched from Hungary to Korea. Unlike the bloodthirsty older members of his family, Kublai was willing to negotiate before reaching for his sword. His later years were mainly spent on subduing rebellious factions amongst his fellow Mongols.


Medium height, dark eyed, Kublai had rather fair complexion for a Mongol.

His wives were Qutuqui of the Ikheres clan, Oghul-Khoimish (Oghul Teimish) of the Oirats and Chubei.  His favourite wife was the youngest, Chubei and he was heartbroken when she died in 1259.

There were also a number of concubines who were chosen for Kublai in a sort of biannual Mongol beauty contest.

In his last years the great Khan put on a lot of weight after the death of his favorite wife Chubei.


After having received two Venetian merchants, Nicoló and Maffeo Polo, Kublai Khan was fascinated by what he heard of the good news of Jesus Christ and he gave them a letter asking that the brothers to return to his palace with 100 Christian teachers and oil from a holy lamp in Jerusalem. Despite being guaranteed that within a few years there would be more Christians in Eastern Asia than Europe, the pope did nothing. When Nicoló and Maffeo Polo left Venice for a second journey to China, this time with Nicoló's son, Marco, they were accompanied by just two Friars with Marco Polo and his father and uncle. The two monks were unable to deal with the hard travelling, only getting as far as Armenia before turning back.

The discouraged Kublai turned instead to Buddhism, which he made the religion of his people. He continued to respect other religions observing Moslem, Jewish and Christian feast days as well.


The great Khan had an inexhaustible desire for knowledge and sought men of learning from Europe to educate him and his people.

Kublai was well versed in Chinese poetry, though one of his own works have survived. A Chinese poem written by him is included in the Selection of Yuan Poetry, titled 'Inspiration recorded while enjoying the ascent to Spring Mountain'.

Kublai Khan was partial to a milk called kumiss, which was prepared for him exclusively from his herd of white mares. Musicians played as the Great Khan devoured his Kumiss.

The great Khan became the first head of state to pass laws conserving game animals when he forbade his subjects to hunt during animal breeding sessions.

Painting of Kublai Khan on a hunting expedition, by Chinese court artist Liu Guandao, c. 1280.

Kubali owned 5,000 elephants and used lions on hunting expeditions. The big cats were trained to pursue and drag down huge animals from bulls to bears and to stay with the animal until the hunter arrived.

Kublai Khan owned 5,000 Mastiffs - the most dogs ever owned by one person.


Kublai's summer capital was in Shangdu (Chinese: "Upper Capital"), also called Xanadu, near what today is Dolonnur, about 220 miles (350 kilometres) north of Beijing.

Xanadu was visited by the Venetian traveler Marco Polo and his father and uncle in about 1275, and was destroyed in 1369 by the Ming army under Zhu Yuanzhang.

In 1797 historical accounts of Xanadu inspired the famous poem Kubla Khan by the English Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"In Xanadu did Kublai Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea."

Thanks to the poem by Coleridge, Xanadu became a metaphor for splendor and opulence. It was the name of Charles Foster Kane's estate in the film Citizen Kane and the title of the 1980 film Xanadu is a reference to Coleridge's poem. The title song "Xanadu" was a #1 hit in the UK.


Kublai became increasingly despondent after the death of his favorite wife. The failure of the military campaign in Japan also haunted him. Kublai turned to food and drink for comfort, became grossly overweight, and suffered from gout and diabetes.

The emperor increasingly suffered with gout and diabetes as a result of overindulging in alcohol and the traditional meat-rich Mongol diet. He tried every medical treatment available, from Korean shamans to Vietnamese doctors, and remedies and medicines, but to no avail.

Kublai weakened steadily, and on February 18, 1294, he died at the age of 78.

Having unified China and brought such prosperity and wealth the great Khan's empire was the talk of Europe for centuries afterward.

Kublai has been portrayed three times by Hollywood, firstly by George Barbier in 1938's Adventures of Marco Polo, secondly by Antony Quinn in 1965 Marco the Magnificent and lastly Zero Mostel played Kublai in the 1973 lumbering musical Marco.

Sunday, 29 November 2015


Kyrgyzstan derives its name from a word in the Kyrgyz language meaning “we are forty.” This is in reference to the forty clans of Manas, which unified to form the country.

Kyrgyzstan is 90% consonants (there is only one vowel).

The sun on Kyrgyzstan's flag has 40 rays in reference to the same tribes.

August 31st is Independence Day in Kyrgyzstan, marking the country’s independence from the Soviet Union on August 31, 1991.

Sooronbay Jeenbekov was elected President of Kyrgyzstan on October 15, 2017 in the first peaceful transfer of power in the country's history.

Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the south west and China to the east. It is farther from an ocean than any other country in the world.

Kyrgyzstan’s capital is Bishkek, with a population of 874,400. The city began as a caravan rest stop called Pishpek on the Silk Road.

Ala-Too Square

Mountains cover over 80% of Kyrgyzstan.

Issyk-Kul Lake is the second largest mountain lake in the world after Titicaca.

Ethnic Kyrgyz make up the majority of the country's 5.7 million people, followed by significant minorities of Uzbeks and Russians.

The majority of the population (64 percent) are nondenominational Muslims.

The official language, Kyrgyz, is closely related to the other Turkic languages, although Russian remains widely spoken, a legacy of a century-long policy of Russification.

The Kyrgyzstan currency is the som, which is divided into 100 tyiyn.

The Kyrgyz for “one” is “bir” pronounced “beer”.

A popular drink in Kyrgyzstan is “kumyz” which is made from fermented horse milk.

Another popular drink in Kyrgyzstan is green tea which is drunk from bowls.

Source Daily Express

Saturday, 28 November 2015

The Kremlin

Kremlin is the Russian word for "fortress", "citadel" or "castle". It refers to a medieval Russian fortress, usually built at a strategic point along a river and separated from the surrounding parts of its adjoining city by a wall with a moat, ramparts, towers, and battlements.

The best known kremlin, the Moscow Kremlin, dates back to 1156. Originally constructed of wood, it was rebuilt in brick in the 14th century but lost its importance as a fortress in the 1620s.

The Kremlin walls as they now appear were built between 1485 and 1495.

The Moscow Kremlin served as the center of Russian government until 1712 and again after 1918.

The Kremlin in Moscow houses four cathedrals and five palaces.

Forty-seven czars are buried within the Kremlin.

The word 'Kremlin' is also used as a metonym to refer to the government of the Russian Federation in a similar sense to how the White House is used to refer to the Executive Office of the President of the United States.

Source Comptons Encyclopedia 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Korean War

After World War II, the Korean peninsular was divided at the 38th parallel, with Soviet forces occupying the north and US forces occupying the south. Negotiations to reunify the two zones failed, and at 4:30 AM on June 25, 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea.

US President Harry Truman ordered troops to assist South Korea, and the United Nations backed the mission. Twenty-one countries belonging to the UN eventually contributed to the defense of South Korea, with the United States providing 88% of the UN's military personnel.

Combat in the streets of Seoul

Racial integration efforts in the US military began during the Korean War, where African Americans fought in integrated units for the first time. Among the 1.8 million American soldiers who fought in the Korean War there were more than 100,000 African Americans.

During the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in 1950, mortar sections under the United States Marine Corps started to run out of mortar rounds. Instead of ordering more rounds, they accidentally ordered hundreds of crates of Tootsie Rolls, having not specified that "tootsie rolls" was a slang term for mortar rounds.

As UN troops advanced across North Korea, the People's Republic of China intervened, pushing them back to the original boundary at the 38th parallel.

Operation Moolah beginning April 27, 1953 offered $50,000 to any North Korean military pilot who defected with a fully mission-capable Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 to South Korea. The first pilot was to receive $100,000. The success of the operation is disputable since no Communist pilot defected before the armistice was signed. However two months after the armistice, North Korean pilot Lieutenant No Kum-Sok flew his MiG-15 to the Kimpo Air Base, South Korea, unaware of Operation Moolah

The last two years of conflict were a war of attrition, with the front line close to the 38th parallel Fighting in the Korean War eventually stopped on July 27, 1953.when the United States, China, and North Korea signed an armistice agreement. Syngman Rhee, President of South Korea, refused to sign but pledged to observe the armistice.

The armistice was designed to "insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved." The signed armistice established the Korean Demilitarized Zone, put into force a cease-fire, and finalized repatriation of prisoners of war.

Delegates sign the Korean Armistice Agreement in P’anmunjŏm

No lasting peace treaty has been signed, and the two Koreas were technically still at war until 2018 when at the inter-Korean summit at the Peace House in Panmunjom, the leaders of North and South Korea agreed to formally end the conflict.

Recent scholarship has put the full battle death toll on all sides at just over 1.2 million.

Over three million Chinese military and civilian personnel served in Korea during the Korean War.

The popular television show M*A*S*H (see below) was about American medical personnel serving in the Korean War. The series ran from 1972 to 1983 on CBS and was one of the most popular American television shows ever.

M*A*S*H's final episode which aired on February 28, 1983 was one of the most watched shows in television history. It was viewed by 125 million people.



According to Korean legend, Dangun, the "grandson of heaven", established Gojoseon, the first Korean kingdom on October 3, 2333 BC.

Korea emerged as a singular political entity in the tenth centuries after centuries of conflict among the Three Kingdoms of Korea. The Goryeo Korean dynasty was established in 918 by King Taejo. It united the Later Three Kingdoms in 936 and ruled most of the Korean Peninsula until the dynasty was removed by the founder of the Joseon in 1392.

Goryeo's name was an homage to the earlier Goguryeo or Koguryo (37 BC – AD 668), the northernmost of the Samguk (the Three Kingdoms of Korea), which was officially known by the shortened form Goryeo after the 5th-century reign of King Jangsu. From Goryeo came the modern exonym "Korea."

The Koreans built a printing machine in 1232, which used metal letters. This was long before Johannes Gutenberg developed the printing press in Europe.

Hangul, the Korean alphabet for the written language was devised by Sejong the Great in 1443. Hangul has 19 consonants and 21 vowels and was said to be a scientific language patterned on the vocal organs. Hangul replaced the Hanja, or Chinese characters, which were used before and are still occasionally used.

In 1905 Japan began to treat Korea as a protectorate. Five years later, on August 22, 1910 it annexed the peninsular with the signing of the Japan–Korea Annexation Treaty, beginning a period of Japanese rule of Korea that lasted until the end of World War II.

Japan–Korea Annexation Treaty of 1910 signed and sealed by en:Sunjong 

After Japan lost World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed on leaving Korea partitioned along the 38th parallel, with the North under Soviet occupation and the south under U.S. occupation.

The Communist-inspired government in the North received backing from the Soviet Union in opposition to the pro-Western government in the South, leading in 1948 to Korea's division into two separate countries, North Korea and South Korea.

In 1950 North Korea, seeking unification of the Korean peninsular, launched a large scale invasion of South Korea. US President Harry Truman ordered troops to assist South Korea and after three years fighting the Korean War ended in stalemate with no land lost or gained.

Now there are two countries: North Korea (also called the DPRK or Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and South Korea (also called the Republic of Korea).

In the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships North and South Korea participated as a unified team under the name "Korea" to beat the "unbeatable" Chinese team.


In the days before Confucius, the Koreans used to worship a god called Hananim. When the Protestant missionaries arrived in the 1840s, they decided to tell the Koreans the gospel using the word "Hananim" for "Yahweh". The Koreans were impressed as one of their Tan'gun traditions stated that Hananim had a son who desired to live among men. The Koreans became more interested and could relate to this "Yahweh".

                                                                      Korean Bible

At the beginning of the First World War there were under 200,000 in the whole of Korea. The numbers increased dramatically helped by the efforts of American missionaries to around 15 million by the end of the century. This was  in spite of the partitioning of Korea after the war in 1953 whereby the communist North Korea has become arguably the most atheistic country in the world. In South Korea, Christianity has now been flourishing for decades.


South Korea has over 48 million people, and North Korea has more than 23 million.

In South Korea, Korea as a whole is referred to as Hanguk, (literally. "country of the Han").

In North Korea, Korea as a whole is referred to as Chosŏn, (literally "[land of the] Morning Calm").

In 1953 North and South Korea created a demilitarized zone between their two countries to discourage fighting. Today the 150 mile long strip of land is home to 1,600 rare plants and houses some of the most endangered animals in the world.

The Korean language has seven  speech levels, each with different verb endings and vocabulary reflecting formality/politeness.The highest, used for talking to royalty, is archaic but still used in historical dramas.The hagache level is now rarer, mostly used in novels. Middle management/bureaucrats sometimes use haoche.

The Korean version of "LOL" is "KKK."

Korea is famous for its traditional food kimchi (see below), which is spicy pickled Chinese cabbage.

Traditionally, Koreans eat seaweed soup on their birthdays. People believe the soup is also good for pregnant women.

Virtually all Koreans don't produce body odor due to large scale dominance of the gene ABCC11. As a consequence, deodorant is a rare commodity.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Olga Korbut

Olga Korbut was born on May 16, 1955, in Grodno, Belorussian S.S.R. (now Belarus). Her father worked as an industrial engineer and her mother as a cook.

Wax sculpture of Olga Korbut on a balance beam at Madame Tussauds, London, England.
In 1966 Korbut began attending a school that had a special government program to encourage athletes. A year later she entered a Belarusian sports school headed by coach Renald Knysh, who had coached many successful gymnasts. Korbut's first trainer there was Elena Volchetskaya, an Olympic gold medalist, but she was moved to Knysh's group a year later.

With Kynsh's help, Korbut learned a difficult backward somersault on the balance beam. She debuted this at a competition in the USSR in 1969. In the same year, Korbut completed a backflip-to-catch on the uneven bars; this was the first backward release move ever performed by a woman on bars.

In the next year she began winning Soviet and international competitions, and by 1972, at 17, Korbut was the youngest member of the Soviet gymnastics team.

Olga Korbut receiving her Olympic silver medal in 1972 after tying Erika Zuchold in the uneven bars

Korbut captivated the world at the 1972 Olympics at Munich with her lithe grace and charm. She showed emotion while competing, crying when she made a mistake or smiling happily when she did well., Korbut was also successful, winning a gold medal as a member of the winning Soviet team, as well as individual golds in the beam and floor exercises and silver for the parallel bars.

The 17-year-old stood out in Munich not only for her exciting routines and unusual moves, but also for her youth and small stature. She stood 4 feet 11 inches (1.5 meters) and weighed 85 pounds (38 kilograms) when most of the reigning champions were mature adults in their late 20s.

Korbut's Olympic achievement earned her ABC's Wide World of Sports title of Athlete of the Year and the Associated Press awarded her the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Trophy, which had not been given to a competitor from the Soviet Union or its satellite countries since 1931.

The 1976 Summer Olympics at Montreal were not so successful; Korbut was injured and her performances in the games were sub-par. She was overshadowed not only by the Romanian prodigy Nadia Comăneci, but also by her own teammate Nellie Kim. She did help the Soviets win a team gold medal, and collected an individual silver medal for the balance beam.

Korbut graduated from the Grodno Pedagogical Institute in 1977, and retired from competition. She returned home, where she became a coach for the Belorussian State Sport Committee.

Olga Korbut during 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich on 1996 Azerbaijani stamp

She married Leonid Bortkevich, a Russian folk-rock singer, and in 1979 gave birth to a son, Richard.

Korbut and her family immigrated to the United States in 1991 and settled in Atlanta, Georgia., where she became a gymnastics coach.

Source Comptons Encyclopedia

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


The powdered fruit drink was born of an experiment by Edwin Perkins in 1927, when he was looking for ways to reduce shipping costs for a liquid-concentrate fruit drink.

Koll-Aid's mascot, a liquid-filled, smiley-faced pitcher with arms and legs (see below), started to give the product legs of its own in the 1950s. His catchphrase of "Oh Yeah!" is now embedded in American pop culture.

The Kool-Aid Man would crack his pitcher and lose a third of his Kool-Aid from bursting through just one wall.

Kool-Aid can be turned into Gatorade by adding some salt.

Source Associated Press

Monday, 23 November 2015



The history of Kolkata begun in 1690 when Job Charnock of the East India Company established a trading post, an event formerly considered the founding of the city.

The anglicized form Calcutta was the official name until 2001, when it was changed to Kolkata in order to match Bengali pronunciation.

Calcutta was the seat of government of British India between 1773–1912.

During the British East India Company rule, Calcutta was known as the second city of the British Empire, after London.

When regular fights with French forces started, the British began to upgrade their fortifications. When this was protested, the Nawab of Bengal Siraj-Ud-Daulah attacked and captured Fort William in Calcutta. This led to the infamous Black Hole incident on June 20, 1756 where 146 British and Anglo-Indian soldiers and civilians were held overnight in conditions so cramped that 123 of them died from suffocation, heat exhaustion and crush injuries.

The University of Calcutta was formally founded on January 24, 1857 as the first fully fledged university in South Asia. When the university was first established it had a catchment area covering the area from Lahore to Rangoon (now in Myanmar), and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), the largest of any Indian university.

Calcutta Medical College in 1910

For the first time since the dissolution of Akbar's 16th and 17th century empire, polo was played in public at Calcutta in 1862. It was then taken up enthusiastically all over India.

Kolkata has been hit by several devastating cyclones; the city was almost destroyed by one on October 5, 1864 when an estimated 60,000 died.

On the death of Queen Victoria, George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston and Viceroy of India, suggested the creation of a fitting memorial. The princes and people of India responded generously to Curzon's appeal for funds and the total cost of construction of this monument was entirely derived from their voluntary subscriptions. The building (see below) was formally opened to the public in 1921.

"Jana Gana Mana", the national anthem of India, was first sung in the Calcutta Session of the Indian National Congress in 1911.

A day of widespread riot and manslaughter between Hindus and Muslims took place in Calcutta on 'Direct Action Day,' August 16, 1946, as a result of the Muslim League's call for an independent Pakistan.  More than 4,000 people lost their lives and 100,000 residents were left homeless in Calcutta within 72 hours.

In 2006 a tortoise called Addwaitya died of liver failure in Calcutta Zoo. He was 255 years old and a former pet of Robert Clive, making him the oldest living creature in the world.


Traffic congestion is a major problem in Kolkata caused largely by concentration on the few crossings of the Hooghly. The opening of a subway system in 1986 helped to relieve this congestion.

A citizen of Kolkata grew the fingernails on his left hand to a length of 76 inches.

The region's rainy season lasts between June and September, supplying it with most of its annual rainfall of 62 inches.

As of 2011, the city had 4.5 million residents; the urban agglomeration, which comprises the city and its suburbs, was home to approximately 14.1 million, making Kolkata the third-most populous metropolitan area in India and the world's eighth largest metropolitan area as defined by the United Nations.

Sunday, 22 November 2015


George Eastman (1854-1932) (see below) was an American industrialist, inventor, and philanthropist. Interested in photographic processes from an early age, he started the the Eastman Dry plate company with Henry A. Strong in 1881. They set up their headquarters in Rochester, New York and made photographic plates for photographers.

Eastman and Strong's company changed from a partnership to a corporation in 1884 when Eastman invented roll film. The Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company was formed with 14 share owners.

On April 6, 1888 the company released their first hand-held camera that uses roll film, which Eastman called the Kodak. The following year Eastman changed the name to the Eastman Company, then three years later to the Eastman Kodak Company.

Eastman began to mass produce his inventions, transforming photography from an expensive hobby of the few to a relatively inexpensive, popular pastime.

Eastman Kodak's slogan was "you press the button, we do the rest". For $24 the camera came already loaded with film capable of taking 100 pictures. The camera was sent back to the factory where for $10 the film was developed into pictures.

The Brownie box camera (see below) was introduced by Eastman Kodak on February 1, 1900 selling for just $1.00. The camera's 6-exposure film sold for 15 cents. It created a new mass market for photography.

In his final two years, Eastman was in intense pain caused by a disorder affecting his spine. Eastman grew increasingly depressed due to his pain and reduced ability to function. On March 14, 1932, Eastman committed suicide with a single gunshot through the heart, leaving a note which read, "To my friends, my work is done – Why wait? GE."

As late as 1976, Kodak commanded 90% of film sales and 85% of camera sales in the U.S. However, their financial struggles began when Fujifilm, the Japanese photography company, began selling inexpensive film in the United States in the 1980s. Since their film cost much less than Kodak's, by 1999 they had a large share of the film market and Kodak was forced to lay off many workers.

Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975 but hid the invention because they feared it would jeopardize photographic film sales.

When Digital cameras became popular, Kodak soon joined the market. By 1999 they were the second largest maker of digital cameras. But they lost $60 on each one they sold.

Kodak made so many marketing mistakes that its stock dropped from $76 a share in 1999 to $25 in 2004.  In 2012 the 131-year-company filed for bankruptcy protection. After selling off many of its products to other companies, Kodak came out of bankruptcy a much smaller company.

 Kodak had weapons grade uranium in their Rochester Labs until 2007.

Kodak developed a type of infrared film called 'Aerochrome' for government surveillance. It could detect camouflage from the air by making real foliage appear red when photographed.

In December 2014, Kodak announced to release its first Android smartphone which is made by Bullitt.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Robert Koch

In 1876 a country doctor in the small east German town of Wollstein, called Robert Koch (1843-1910) identified the bacterium that causes anthrax. He became interested in the deadly disease and worked on it in a room in his house, using a microscope given to him by his wife as a 28th birthday present.

Koch's discovery was a huge breakthrough as it was the first time it had been proved that infectious diseases are caused by micro-organisms such as bacteria. He developed methods to purify the bacillus from blood samples and grow pure cultures and his first successful treatment was a milkmaid who was dying from anthrax.

In 1881 Robert Koch developed the heat sterilization of surgical instruments. He showed that steam kills bacteria on dressings and instruments more effectively than dry heat.

The lung disease tuberculosis was the scourge of the 18th and 19th centuries in the West wiping out thousands every year. By the middle of the 19th century it was responsible for one in seven of all European deaths. The cause was unknown until on March 24, 1882 Robert Koch discovered the bacterium causing it.

Eight years later Koch prematurely announced he had developed tuberculin, a cure for tuberculosis. Though it proved ineffective as a vaccine against the disease it did work as a way of finding out whether a patient had experienced tuberculosis.

Koch won the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, for his groundbreaking research on tuberculosis.

In 1883 Koch traveled to India to investigate the cause of cholera, which was reaching epidemic levels there. He succeeded in isolating Vibrio cholerae, the cholera microbe that caused the disease and found that the bacillus was transmitted to human beings primarily through water.

Koch improved greatly techniques in the new science of bacteriology. He used dyes to stain bacteria and so make them more visible under the microscope and developed agar plates and the flat glass Petri dish as convenient and efficient ways of growing them.

Although many medical traditionalists mocked bacteriology, late nineteenth century pioneers in it such as Koch and Louis Pasteur took substantial steps forward in the treatment of illnesses.

The Royal Prussian Institute for Infectious Disease which started in 1891, is now called the Robert Koch Institute.

Friday, 20 November 2015



The  koala is not a bear. It is in fact a marsupial, related to the kangaroo and the wombat. Marsupials are characterized by a pouch in which females carry their young through early infancy.

The name koala originates from an Aboriginal word meaning "no water," which is fitting since koalas get their water from eucalyptus leaves, and don’t actually drink it.

The name koala bear became popular when English speakers and people unfamiliar with the species found the koala to be similar in appearance to a Teddy bear.


The koala has a body length of 60–85 cm (24–33 in) and weighs 4–15 kg (9–33 lb). Pelage color ranges from silver grey to chocolate brown.

The fingerprints of koala bears are virtually indistinguishable from those of humans.

Their fur is very coarse and repels water, helping koalas to stay dry in the rain.

Koalas are well suited to sit on trees, as they have extra thick fur on their bottoms, a cartilaginous pad at the base of their spines and a curved skeletal structure.

A koala's brain is only 0.2% of its body weight. It is among the smallest (in proportion to body weight) of any mammal.


Koalas typically inhabit open Eucalyptus woodlands, and the leaves of these trees make up most of their diet. Because this eucalypt diet provides them with only low nutrition and energy, koalas are largely sedentary and sleep for up 18-22 hours a day.

Though their diet is mainly eucalyptus leaves, they will only eat fewer than 50 of the 700 species of eucalyptus.

Koalas spend about three fifths of their active hours eating, usually in the evenings.

Koalas have the ability to sense when eucalyptus becomes toxic by smelling it.

Koalas often store leaves in their cheek pouches for later consumption.

The aren't big drinkers. Koalas get all the moisture they need from the Eucalyptus leaves that they ingest.

Koalas mark their territory with a scent gland on their chest, so they hug trees really tight to leave their mark.

They are asocial animals, and bonding only exists between mothers and dependent offspring.

They are endemic to Australia, specifically the eucalypt forests in the east of the country.


About 80 per cent of koalas have the venereal disease of chlamydia. A side effect is it makes them incontinent, and the leaking urine can make them pretty smelly.

The boy band One Direction were once worried they'd caught chlamydia after a koala urinated on them.

Koalas live for ten years on average, though they can live longer than that. Female koalas usually give birth to one koala a year.

Koalas aren’t an endangered species, but the Australian government declared them “vulnerable” in 2012. The Australian Koala Foundation estimates there are around 60,000 koalas left in the wild.


Thursday, 19 November 2015

John Knox

John Knox was born c 1513 in or near Haddington, the county town of East Lothian in Scotland. His father, William Knox, was a merchant and his mother died when John was a child.

In the sixteenth century, the priesthood was the only path for those whose inclinations were academic rather than mercantile or agricultural. Knox studied for the priesthood under John Major, one of the greatest scholars of the time, most likely at the University of St Andrews.

Knox first appears in public records as a priest and a notary in 1540.

Knox did not record when or how he was converted to the Protestant faith, but by 1546 he'd  joined the movement to reform the Scottish church.

In June 1547, 21 French galleys besieged St Andrews Castle and forced the surrender of the garrison a month later on July 31. Knox was among the Protestant nobles who was captured. He spent a year and a half as a galley slave on a French ship, before being released.

After being freed Knox took refuge in England where the Protestant Edward VI was on the throne and he was licensed to work in the Church of England. Towards the end of 1550, he was appointed a preacher of St Nicholas' Church in Newcastle upon Tyne. The following year he was appointed one of the six royal chaplains serving the King.

Following the death of England's Protestant king, Edward VI on July 6, 1553, his successor, Mary Tudor, re-established Roman Catholicism and restored the Mass in all the churches. With the country no longer safe for Protestant preachers, Knox left for the Continent the following January.

Knox moved to the Protestant city of Geneva where he met John Calvin, from whom he gained experience and knowledge of Reformed theology and Presbyterian policy. He left Geneva to head the English refugee church in Frankfurt but he was forced to leave over differences concerning the liturgy, thus ending his association with the Church of England and returned to the Swiss city.

Knox led a busy life in Geneva. He preached three sermons a week, each lasting well over two hours.

Queen Mary I of England died in November 1558, and was succeeded by Elizabeth Tudor. Knox decided with the new more protestant-leaning queen on the throne to return to Scotland arriving on May 2, 1559.

John Knox was appointed minister of St Giles in Edinburgh on July 7, 1559. Convinced he was personally directed by God, Knox's powerful preaching and writing was a significant influence on the austere, moral Protestant movement in Scotland.

In 1560, the Scottish Parliament. influenced by the incendiary fiery sermons of John Knox, overthrew the pope's authority and forbade the saying of Mass, thus giving birth to the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

John Knox clashed with Mary Queen of Scots as he toured around the country preaching. She feared the prayers of John Knox "more than an army of 10,000 men" and described him as "the most dangerous man in the realm." The Scottish queen tried to stop him, but she was unable to prevent the revival which God was working in the land. "God did so multiply our number that it appeared as men rained from the clouds," John Knox later recalled. As a result, Mary Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate in 1567.

John Knox statue on the former John Knox Memorial Institute, Haddington. By Kim Traynor -Wikipedia Commons

The distinctive checked patterns worn by various Highland clans evolved in the 16th century. Different clans adopted varying colored designs mainly due to the varying availability of different dyes in separate locations. However John Knox frowned upon God fearing folk wearing such bright colored attire and the clergy were banned from wearing them.

By the summer of 1572, Knox was exceedingly feeble and his voice faint, but he continued to preach at St Giles. After inducting his successor as minister of St Giles' on November 9th, Knox returned to his home for the last time. He spent his last fortnight there surrounded by friends and asked for the Bible to be read aloud. John Knox passed away on November 24, 1572 after his young wife had read from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015



Although weaving dates back to prehistory, the earliest known example of knitting is a pair of cotton socks made in Egypt in 1100 AD

                                          Photo by Johntex Commonswiki

It is thought that knitting was introduced to the Middle East and Europe by soldiers, sailors, and traders from the East. The earliest known knitted items in Europe were made by Muslim knitters employed by Spanish Christian royal families. By the 15th century knitted clothing was common throughout Western Europe.

The first knitting guilds, or manufacturing groups, were set up in Paris in the mid-16th century. The original guilds were dominated by men. Women spun the yarn, and men did the weaving and knitting.

All knitting was done by hand until 1589. when the knitting machine was developed in Nottingham by an English clergyman William Lee (1550-1610) to knit stockings – it revolutionized the knitting industry. and his machine remained unchanged for 250 years.

William Lee presented a pair of knitted wool stockings to Queen Elizabeth I and asked for a patent on his machine. She refused, perhaps because she was afraid that the new machine would take work from her many subjects who made a living by hand knitting woolen clothing. Lee then moved to France with his brother James, taking nine workmen and nine frames. He found better support from the French king Henry IV, who granted him a patent.

Knitting became a major cottage industry in Britain, with up to two million pairs of stockings being exported to Europe a year towards the end of the 17th century. Silk stockings and woolen caps were the most desired garments.

In early America the hand knitting of garments was part of the domestic duties of every colonial woman and female child. Many pioneer and farm families depended upon women in the household for knitted clothing.

The knitting industry in North America was started in the 17th century with a machine that had been smuggled out of England. (English law forbade the exporting of machinery to the colonies to prevent the start of colonial manufacturing, which would create competition for English industries.)

By the mid-18th century, as the Industrial Revolution spread from Britain to the American colonies, most knitting was done by machines.

The first significant modification of the knitting machine was made by Jebediah Strutt in 1758, when he introduced rib knitting. The general principles of knitting embodied in Lee's original machine remain incorporated into most modern knitting technology.


Men are banned from knitting on the island of Jersey during the fishing season months of August and September.

The hook which holds the yarn at the end of a needle in a knitting machine is called a beard.

In 2008, the U.K.’s Susie Hewer knitted a scarf while running a marathon. It was five feet, two inches long.

The record for most people knitting at the same location is 3,083 at a Women’s Institute event at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 2012.

David Babcock, a professor of graphic design in Missouri, set a record of 3hr 56min for running a marathon while knitting in New York in 2014.

The world record for knitting with the largest needles is held by Julia Hopson of Penzance, Cornwall, who created a tension square of ten inches and ten rows in stocking stitch using needles of 2.5in in diameter and more than 11ft long.

Sources Daily Mail, Daily Express, Comptons, Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


King Edward III (1312 – 1377) founded an order of knighthood, the Order of the Garter, on April 23, 1344. The story goes that at a royal dance, Edward noticed the courtiers mocking the lovely princess Joan of Kent who had dropped an item of intimate apparel (possibly a sanitary belt). Gallantly picking it up to assuage her embarrassment, Edward tied it around his own leg, and remarked "Shame on him who thinks evil of it", which became the motto of the Order of the Garter.

Symbol of the Order of the Garter embroidered onto the left shoulder of the blue velvet mantle of a Knight

Descended from medieval chivalry, knights today today are named by the English monarch. Knighthood carries the title Sir; the female equivalent Dame.

The scientist Michael Faraday refused a knighthood, saying "I must remain Michael Faraday to the last."

Sir Henry Rowley Bishop (1786 – 1855) an English composer most famous for the songs "Home! Sweet Home!" and "Lo! Here the Gentle Lark” was knighted in 1842. It was the first knighthood conferred upon a musician.

When Henry Irving was knighted in 1895, it was the first time an actor had received such an honor. The act marked the beginning of the social assimilation of the acting profession.

David Bowie declined the CBE in 2000 and a knighthood in 2003.

When Sir Terry Pratchett was knighted, he forged his own sword from iron and meteorites just for the occasion.


The feudal knight of northern Europe, wearing armor of chain mail on a sturdy horse was the fighting machine of the Middle Ages.

During the reign of King Richard I in the late twelfth century race meetings became a favorite pastime of knights. It is known that one Whitsuntide, knights held a contest (the first formal race for a money prize) over a three-mile (4.80 km) course for a purse of £40 in "ready gold."

The Order of Knights Templars was founded by the French Knight Hugh of Payes in 1192 to provide protection for Christian pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem. They were given a residence near the Temple of Solomon.

Knights during the Feudal Period mostly wore chain mail until the Middle Ages were almost over. The suits of full body armor such as one sees in museums were usually created very much later than they are portrayed in films. Even then, full body armour was prohibitively expensive. Much of the armor was for ceremonial use only, reserved for a king or other high ranking personage, and never actually worn in combat.

The gauntlet was a metal glove worn by knights that was thrown down to anyone who had offended them as a sign that they were to fight to the death. The recipient picked it up to accept the challenge - thus the phrase "Throw down the gauntlet."

Knights in the Middle Ages did not carry cash - they would wear rings to stamp bills which people took to their castle to get paid.

Depictions of knights fighting snails were common in medieval texts. And no one really knows why.

The French knight Pierre Terrail, generally known as the Chevalier de Bayard, single-handedly defended a bridge against 200 Spaniards during the December 29, 1503 Battle of Garigliano. The exploit brought Terrail such renown that Pope Julius II tried unsuccessfully to entice him into his service.

Chevalier de Bayard at the bridge of Garigliano

The era of the knights ended in the sixteenth century as national armies replaced feudal armies.

When the Knight's Templar was dissolved the Portugal branch just changed its name to the Order of Christ – and is still around today.

Source Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999.

Monday, 16 November 2015


The term "Swiss Army Knife" was coined and popularized by United States soldiers around World War II. The soldiers had trouble pronouncing the original name of "Schweizer Offiziersmesser" (Swiss Officer's Knife) and thus began calling the multi-tool a "Swiss Army Knife".

Victorinox, the manufacturer of the Swiss Army Knife, lost 40% of its business as a result of the 9/11 attacks.

Glenn Close framed the knife that her character used to try to kill Michael Douglas in Fatal Attraction, and it’s hanging in her kitchen.

It's legal to carry a switchblade in Missouri if you only have one arm.

Russian special forces use a knife that fires a bullet out of the bottom of the hilt—the user must hold the blade to shoot it.

As a part of the "Five Articles of Faith", the Sikh is required to carry a curved dagger at all times. This is specifically for the defense of the innocent and those in peril.

The dagger found in Tutankhamun's tomb was made from iron from a meteorite.

Sunday, 15 November 2015


The earliest recorded knickers (panties in American English) were created by a Babylonian girl  who knotted some cloth between her legs. The Egyptians were so impressed they immortalized her in a statue.

Working class women only begun to wear knickers in the 1880s. Up to then they had relied on layers of petticoats to keep warm. These knickers were enormous knee-length shorts that tied together at the waist.

Wikipedia Commons

The Parisian Can-Can dancers of the 1930s were the first to stitch up their seams and chop their bloomers to reveal their high-kicking legs thus creating modern, shorter knickers.

In 1959, Glen Raven Mills of North Carolina introduced pantyhose -- underpants and stockings all in one garment. With the addition of an opaque nylon top, panthose eliminated the need for multiple "foundation" garments.

In the early 1970s two out of every three British women wore Marks & Spencer's knickers.

The average American woman owns approximately 21 pairs of underwear.

Saturday, 14 November 2015


Babies are born without knee caps. They don't appear until the child reaches 2-6 years of age.

The kneecaps of children are made of cartilage until the age of three years when it ultimately starts to turn into bones.

There are four major bones in the knee: the femur, tibia, fibula and patella (kneecap).

On September 30, 1987, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 32-year-old Susan Lazarchick had the world’s first successful transplant of the human body’s most complex joint — the knee.

The complex operation was done to save the leg of Ms Lazarchick who had developed a potentially malignant tumor on her knee. The donor was an 18-year-old man who had died in a motorcycle accident a week before the transplant operation.

Four-legged animals like dogs and horses don't have backwards knees. Those joints are actually their ankles, which bend in the same direction as our ankles do.

Bees do have knees but not kneecaps. Originally, in the 18th century, the phrase "bee’s knees" was used to refer to something very small. It came to signify excellence around 1920.

The knobbles on our knees are all different and it has been suggested they could replace fingerprints.

About half of knee dislocations spontaneously relocate before the person arrives at hospital.

Source Daily Express

Friday, 13 November 2015

Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein was born to an immigrant Jewish family in The Bronx, New York on November 19, 1942. He is one of several design leaders raised in the Jewish immigrant community in the Bronx, along with Robert Denning and Ralph Lauren.

Klein matriculated at, but never graduated from, from New York's Fashion Institute of Technology in 1962. He gained experience designing at other New York shops before launching the company that would later become Calvin Klein Inc. in 1968 with a childhood friend Barry K. Schwartz.

Calvin Klein By David Shankbone - Wikipedia Commons

At first Calvin Klein specialized in designing coats and suits, before expanding into sportswear in the mid-1970s.

Inn the late '70s Calvin Klein launched a designer jeans line, which broke down price barriers by offering a lower-priced line and became a status symbol. They spawned some racy commercials featuring teenage model Brooke Shields which were just the first in a line of controversial ads for their products.

Klein has left his mark with some industry firsts, including making utilitarian men's underwear sexy and the first unisex fragrance, CK One. He was also the first designer to make women’s underwear resembling men’s jockey shorts.

Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men is used by researchers to attract big cats to cameras in the wilderness. Tigers, jaguars and leopards in particular love the smell of the fragrance.

Clavin Klein sold his company in 2003 to Phillips Van Heusen, but he remains active in design direction.


Thursday, 12 November 2015

Kiwi (Bird)

The kiwi is a flightless bird that is native to New Zealand.

The association is so strong with New Zealand that the term Kiwi is used internationally as the colloquial demonym for New Zealanders

The kiwi is the only bird that has nostrils at the end of its bill.

The kiwi's muscular legs make up around a third of its total body weight, which is why the little birds can outrun people.

Kiwis are generally large-brained by bird standards. Hemisphere proportions are even similar to those of parrots and songbirds, though there is no evidence of similarly complex behaviour.

A male kiwi on Maungatautari mountain.

A kiwi's egg may account for a quarter of its total body weight.

Kiwi chicks have a 95 percent mortality rate, but if they make it to adulthood, they'll typically live 25 to 50 years.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


In 1952 a 17-year-old Bonham, Texas, cat named Dusty set a Guinness record by giving birth to her 420th kitten.

A 4-year-old Burmese cat named Tarawood in Church Westcote, England, gave birth to 19 kittens in 1970, history's largest kitty litter. Fifteen survived.

All kittens are born with blue eyes.

Kittens meow to let their mother know they're cold or hungry, but once they get a bit older, cats no longer meow to other cats.

Sucking kittens prefer not to share treats and "nametag" their preferred supply source with their own scent. But when not suckling, mums use other cats as babysitters.

Kittens spend most of their waking hours interacting with available animals and playing on their own.

In just seven years, a single pair of cats and their offspring could produce a total of 420,000 kittens.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


A kitchen started is appearing as a separate room in the house in some Middle East and European villages during the Sixth Millennium BC. It was originally associated with not only cooking but also religious practices. The hearth where meat and vegetables was cooked was also the altar for worshiping the household gods.

Wealthy Romans who lived in the country in great residences had well equipped kitchens with a sink and water tank. In the cities most Romans did not have their own kitchens. They bought food from small shops in the street.

A variety of kitchen equipment was available to the serious cook in Roman Britain. The frying pan or fretale, made of bronze, round or oval in shape, with a lip for pouring, was well known, as were rectangular iron trays with handles for roasting or frying. 'Oven to table ware' in the form of shallow pans and earthenware dishes were common. These were referred to as patellae and patinae.

The difficulty in cleaning these utensils is understandable. Metal ware could be cleaned with sand, but earthenware dishes and pots would soon become unfit for use and would need constant replacement which could account for the considerable quantity of broken items revealed by excavations. Fortunately local potteries would have been able to turn out cheap dishes for ordinary use.

Ladles, dippers, strainers and choppers all found a place in the Roman kitchen. Mortaria were stout pottery bowls used for grinding and pounding, made with a sprinkling of grit baked into the clay to form a rough surface. Stone or wooden pestles were used with them.

English iron-founder George Bodley patented a cast-iron enclosed kitchen range in 1802. It contained a central fire-grate burning coal, coke, peat, or wood, which heated hot plates, a side oven, and a hot-water tank. He hoped it would replace the open fire for cooking purposes.

The first recognizably "modern" kitchen was probably what has become known as the "Frankfurt kitchen", designed by Grete Schutte-Likotzky, a Viennese architect. Between 1926 and 1930, it was installed in some 10,000 German housing-project flats. The kitchen's galley shape, fitted cupboards, ventilator hood above the cooker and color-co-ordination make it look surprisingly contemporary.

The colors yellow and orange are not recommended for use in kitchens as they are known to be appetite stimulators.

Source BBC History Magazine