Search This Blog

Friday, 31 March 2017

Marco Polo


Marco Polo was born in 1254 in Venice Republic. His exact date and place of birth are archivally unknown.

His father, Niccolò Polo, a merchant, traded with the Near East, becoming wealthy and achieving great prestige. He was descended from a Dalmatian family which had settled on the Grand Canal in 900.

Niccolò and his brother Maffeo set off on a trading voyage before Marco's birth. They passed through much of Asia, and met with Kublai Khan, a Mongol ruler and founder of the Yuan dynasty.

Almost nothing is known about the childhood of Marco Polo until he was fifteen years old, excepting that he probably spent part of his childhood in Venice and his mother died young, so an aunt and uncle raised him.

Marco received a good education, learning mercantile subjects including foreign currency, appraising, and the handling of cargo ships.

In 1269, Niccolò and Maffeo returned to their families in Venice, meeting young Marco for the first time.

Mosaic of Marco Polo displayed in the Palazzo Doria-Tursi, in Genoa, Italy


Niccolò and Maffeo set off again for China from the town of Layas, near Iskenderum, South East Turkey in 1271, with young Marco. Kublai Khan had been fascinated by what the Venetians had told him about the Christian message 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. However, all the pope gave them was two friars preachers along with the oil.

They planned to make their way overland to Ormuz, then sail to China but due to bad weather and sickness they had to travel by foot and horse all the way via Persia, Mongolia and North West China.

The journey was eased by the short term opening of continent wide trade routes. However they still went through a great deal of physical hardship travelling on horseback among many tribes, through extremes of hot and cold across deserts and mountains unknown to westerners.

While going through Armenia, they fell amid troops of the Mameluke Sultan Bibara the Arbelester, the two friars refused to go further, and the Venetians continued their journey alone.

In 1275 Marco Polo and his father and uncle arrived at the Khan's court in Cambulu without the Christian missionaries he had requested but with gifts including sacred oil from the sepulchre in Jerusalem. Kublai Khan thus had to rely on the limited theological knowledge of Marco and his family. The discouraged Khan turned instead to Buddhism.

Marco was introduced to the Khan by his father as "my son and your servant." The young Venetian readily adopted the Tatar custom and soon learned the four languages as well as the four writings of which they made use (probably Mongolian, Chinese, Persian, and Uighur).

A miniature from The travels of Marco Polo

Kublai took a likening to Marco and sent him on a mission six months' journey from his residence (probably to Annam). The information he brought back with regard to the countries met the ruler's approval.

For three years Marco was governor of the city of Yang-chow (Janguy), on which twenty-seven cities were dependent. Kublai also sent him to on many imperial visits to China's southern and eastern provinces, the far south and Burma.

His travels also brought him farther to the Bay of Bengal, and the island of Sri Lanka where their aim was to seize the tooth of Buddha, one of Buddhism’s most holy relics. Though the expedition was unsuccessful - Sri Lanka was not one to give up its treasures easily - Marco Polo was entranced by the land. He deemed Sri Lanka “the finest island of its size in all the world”.

One of the oddities which strike Marco Polo most forcibly was a marvellous black stone, useless for building with, which the Chinese dug up and burned. (It was one of the earliest references to coal).

The three Venetians returned home by way of SE Asia and South India carrying with them a fortune in gemstones.

Map of Marco Polo's travels. Wikipedia Commons


Marco Polo brought back with him a recipe for making sorbets (fruit flavored water ice) by running a mixture of water and potassium nitrate over containers filled with the substance to be cooled.

Marco Polo observed in China that whilst the poor have to be content with meat steeped in garlic juice, the wealthier people ate meat that had been preserved in several of their spices.

While visiting Java and Nicobar, Marco Polo was the first European to encounter the coconut. He called it "the Pharaoh's nut", describing it as a fruit full of flavor, sweet as sugar, and white as milk.

Marco Polo told of the Asian nomads who boiled mare's milk, skimming the cream from the top, and then expose the milk to the hot sun until it dried. When it was ready to be used, they added water, and while riding their horses, this powdered milk mixture got violently shaken, producing a thick porridge for dinner.


Marco Polo returned to Venice with his father and uncle in 1295 after /25 years of adventures in China. His relatives failed at first to recognize the strangely clad, ragged folk in their tartar crimson satin robes, who told wild tales about numerous jewels and treasures.

Polo wearing a Tatar outfit, date of print unknown

The Polos became a sensation and attracted crowds of listeners, who had difficulties in believing their reports of distant China. Marco Polo was called "Messr Marco Milione" by his contemporaries for his tendency to exaggerate.

The Polos invited some of these doubters to a banquet. They entered dressed in their satin robes, discarded these for damask then for velvet. Finally they slit open their garments and out fell precious Chinese stones, which they presented to their guests.

Marco claimed to have broken the siege at Xiangyang but it is thought this was a case of "Marco Milione."

Marco Polo bought back the idea of Venetian blinds to Europe. From Venice, they then spread worldwide and hence they are now known by the name of that city.

His account of wild sheep in central Asia with mammoth horns were not believed by many. However when it was proved that these did exist they were named "Ouis Poli " in his honor.

Marco Polo became a commander of a war vessel against the Genoese traders. His galley was captured and Marco was taken to Genoa as a prisoner.


Captured by the Genoese and languishing in a jail, Marco Polo met a writer from Pisa called Rusticiano, who insisted his yarns be written down. So Marco dictated his tales to the Pisa scribe.
His tales of the brilliance at Kublai Khan's court are told in a vivid style. They were originally written in rough French and were published in German in 1477.

A page from the Travels of Marco Polo from a manuscript believed to date between 1298–1299.

There are a number of gaping holes in Marco's account such as failing to mention the Great Wall of China or the cruel Chinese custom of foot binding for women.

Although the Polos were by no means the first Europeans to reach China overland (see for example Giovanni da Pian del Carpini), thanks to Marco's book their trip was the first to be widely known, and the best-documented until then.

The Travels of Marco Polo became the basis of one of the first accurate maps of China.

The Travels of Marco Polo was one of the first works of major journalism though not many editors would wait over 25 years for a piece to be submitted.


By the age of 60 Marco Polo was living in luxury in a Venetian palace with his family.

By 1323, Polo was confined to bed, due to illness. Despite physicians' efforts, he died on January 8, 1324. His last words were " I have not told half of what I saw."

He was buried in the San Lorenzo church in the sestiere of Castello (Venice).

San Lorenzo church.. The photo shows the church as is today, after the 1592 rebuilding. By Didier Descouens

In the 1938 Hollywood movie Adventures of Marco Polo, the title character is played by that typical Italian, Gary Cooper.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

Polo (sport)


The earliest polo was played in Ancient Egypt where the game was practiced on foot. Spreading eastwards, it was adopted by the expert Persian horsemen and thus took on its equestrian form in the 6th century BC. Persia is now generally considered to be the true birthplace of polo.

The Persian authorities encouraged the game as it proved most helpful in teaching horsemanship and developing military qualities. For those reasons, officers of the Persian cavalry were commanded to take it up.

From Persia, the game of "horse-ball" spread both west, reaching Constantinople and Cairo, and east, as far as China and Japan.

Tang Dynasty Chinese courtiers on horseback playing a game of polo, 706 AD

The early Japanese players dribbled the ball and used a stick with an oval-shaped racket attachment at the end, instead of a mallet. At first, polo was reserved for royalty and the court.

A polo stick was presented to Alexander the Great on (or prior to) his conquest of the East. Some say he received it as a tribute; others have suggested that it was meant to be a warning: he should play with it rather than make

Firdusi, the great Persian poet who lived in the eleventh century, recorded the popularity of the game of polo at the court of the famous Sultan Mahmud.

A Persian miniature, 1546 AD

The first fatal polo accident is recalled by a monument still standing in a small side-street in the bazaar of Lahore, Pakistan. The memorial was erected on the grave of a sultan who died in 1210 after having been injured in a game. Qutubuddin Aibak, the Turkic slave from Central Asia who later became the Sultan of Delhi in Northern India, was playing a game of polo on horseback when his horse fell and Aibak was impaled on the pommel of his saddle.

The sixteenth-century Mughal emperor in India, Akbar the Great, has been called "the patron of polo," which was played regularly at his court. It was through his initiative that the first set of rules was drawn up for "horse-ball."

Tradition says that Akbar was an outstanding player who was able both to hit the ball while it was in the air, and before anyone else. However, cynics have suggested that other players deemed it wise to keep out of their ruler's way.

Picture originally from an islamic manuscript showing Akbar playing polo with his courtiers 

The modern game of polo is derived from Manipur, India, where the game was known as ' 'Pulu', a Tibetan word meaning "willow root." This referred to the wooden ball that was used, which was adopted by the sport in its slow spread to the west.

British tea planters in India, who had observed the natives playing what they called "hockey on horseback," were so taken by it that they started playing themselves.

British army officers took the game up and started adding sports features known to them at home, such as goal posts and lines. It became their favorite pastime

In 1862. the first modern polo club, Calcutta Polo Club, was established by two British soldiers, Captain Robert Stewart and (later Major General) Joe Sherer. There is some justification for calling Major Sherer, the father of polo in its modern setting.

British army officers started adding sports features known to them at home, such as goal posts and lines. It became their favorite pastime, and there is some justification for calling one of their number, Major Sherer, the father of polo in its modern setting.

The first official game of Polo in Argentina was played on September 3, 1875 after being introduced by British Ranchers.

Argentine Polo Open Championship. By Roger Schultz - Wikipedia

In 1876 James Gordon Bennett, a wealthy American publisher and sportsman, imported polo balls and mallets from England, where he had first seen polo played. He also had ponies brought to New York from Texas and sold them at $20 each to friends whom he had interested in the game. Bennett then staged the first polo match played on North American soil at Dickel's Riding Academy, on Fifth Avenue, New York on May 6, 1876.

The next year polo was transferred out of doors to a racing track north of New York, and soon the game was adopted all over the country.

Auto polo, described by a British car magazine as "a lunatic game", was popular in the USA in the 1910s.

Polo was an Olympic sport from 1900 to 1939.


A game of polo is divided into periods of seven minutes, each called chukkas.

The size of a polo field is 300 by 160 yards (270 by 150 m), the largest playing field in sports.

You cannot play polo left-handed. Only right-handed players can play polo according to the U.S. Polo Association.

Thursday, 30 March 2017


Dr Thomas Midgley was the man responsible for adding lead to fuel and for the creation of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in refrigerators. He is credited for doing more damage to the atmosphere than any other living organism ever.

Indoor pollution is 10 times more toxic than outdoor pollution.

Lake Karachay is a lake in Russia that was used as a radioactive waste dump, and has been described as the most polluted place on Earth. Standing on the shore for an hour would give you a lethal dose of radiation.

The men of the heavily polluted Russian city of Dzerzhinsk have a life expectancy of just 42 years.

China's factories dump 60,000,000 tons of waste into the ocean every day — 90% of China's water is polluted.

One container ship cruising along the coast of China emits as much diesel pollution as 500,000 new trucks in a single day.

In 2009, the largest 15 container ships emitted as much greenhouse gases as 760 million cars--or about two cars for every American.

One gallon of used motor oil can ruin approximately one million gallons of fresh water.

The five worst cities in the U.S. for air pollution are all in California.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

James K. Polk


James Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina on November 2, 1795.

November 2 is the only date that was the birthday of two US presidents: Warren Harding (born 1865) and James Polk (1795).

James k Polk By Minor K. Kellogg -

James' father, Samuel Polk, was a slaveholder, successful farmer and surveyor of Scots-Irish descent.

His mother, Jane Polk (née Knox), was a descendant of a brother of John Knox, the man who brought the Protestant Reformation to Scotland. She named her firstborn after her father James Knox.

Polk went to the University of North Carolina.


On January 1, 1824, James Polk married Sarah Childress at the plantation home of the bride's parents near Murfreesboro. Polk was then 28, and Sarah was 20 years old They had no children, but raised a nephew as if it were their own child.

Sarah assisted her husband with his speeches, gave him advice on policy matters and played an active role in his campaigns.

James K. Polk and Sarah Childress Polk.
Polk devoted his life to politics. His only recreation appears to have been horse riding as he had one as a pet. It is reported that Polk made his own leather riding saddle.


After graduating, Polk traveled to Nashville to study law under renowned Nashville trial attorney Felix Grundy.

Polk was licensed to practice law in June 1820. His first case was to defend his father against a public fighting charge. Polk secured his client's release for a one-dollar fine.

After building a successful law practice, Polk was elected to the Tennessee legislature and then to the United States House of Representatives in 1825.

The house where Polk spent his adult life before his presidency, in Columbia, Tennessee, is his only private residence still standing. It is now known as the James K. Polk Ancestral Home. The James K. Polk House is located just west of the commercial central downtown area of Columbia, at the southwest corner of West 7th and South High Streets.  James lived in the house until 1819, when he left to read law in Nashville, and for a time after his return to Columbia, where he opened his law practice. The house remained in the Polk family for many years.
The James K. Polk National Historic Site, By ProhibitOnions at the English language Wikipedia, 
A leading Democrat, Polk served as the 13th Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1835 to 1839, making him the only president to have also served as Speaker.

Polk left Congress to serve as Governor of Tennessee from 1839 to 1841.

Polk won the presidential nomination as a compromise candidate among the various party factions in 1844. In the general election, he defeated Henry Clay of the rival Whig Party in large part due to his promise to annex the Republic of Texas.


James K. Polk's inauguration was the first to be covered by telegraph. The picture below appeared in the Illustrated London News, which was the first newspaper known to feature an illustration of the inauguration.

The inauguration of James K. Polk, as shown in the Illustrated London News.

James K. Polk was the first US president to have his photograph taken, when on February 14, 1849, he had his picture taken by photographer, Matthew Brady.

After becoming president Polk gave his full attention to all the promises and missions he had set out to do.

During his presidency, the U.S. gained a lot of land. When Mexico rejected the annexation of Texas by the United States, Polk declared war on the country and led the U.S. through the Mexican-American War. He achieved a sweeping victory, which resulted in the cession by Mexico of nearly the whole of what is now the American Southwest.

Gas lighting was installed in the White House, replacing candles and oil lamps during Polk's presidency. Polk turned on the White House's first gas light on December 29, 1848.

True to his campaign pledge to serve only one term as President, Polk left office after four years. and returned to Tennessee.

Polk is respected by historians because he made four promises during his presidential campaign and accomplished all of them.


When James K. Polk's presidential term ended on March 4, 1849, a Sunday, his successor, Zachary Taylor, an Episcopalian, refused to take the presidential oath of office on the Sabbath. This led to a curious situation in which the United States was "without" a president for a day.

Polk is believed to have contracted cholera in New Orleans, Louisiana, on a goodwill tour of the South after leaving the White House. He died of cholera at his new home, Polk Place, in Nashville, Tennessee, at 3:15 pm on June 15, 1849.

Polk died 103 days after leaving office and has the shortest retirement of any president.

Polk was the youngest former president to die in retirement at the age of 53 (only James A. Garfield and John F. Kennedy, who were assassinated in office, died at a younger age).

Polk was laid to rest in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the only president buried on the grounds of a state capital.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017


Politics is the process of making decisions applying to all members of a group of people whether it be a village, city or country. The word comes from the Greek politiká meaning "affairs of the cities," which was originally the title of a book by Aristotle.

The 4th century BC Greek philosopher Aristotle's book Politics condensed and brought together Greek theory about a Utopian State. He wrote that humans are a political animal and that ethics and politics are closely linked. The origins of today’s political thinking lie in this work.

The Greek origin of the word "idiot" was used to mean someone who did not participate in politics and public affairs.

Niccolo Machiavelli's early 16th century book  Il Principe (The Prince) is one of the first works of modern political philosophy, in which the effective truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal.

Machiavelli regarded the state as the supreme end and all means to preserve it as justified with morality having nothing to do with the matter. He wrote that that politics was firstly about having and keeping power. The word "Machiavellian" has come to mean "unscrupulous" when applied to politics.

Cover page of 1550 edition of Machiavelli's Il Principe 

Thomas Hobbes published Leviathan, a book about politics, in 1651. Influenced by the anarchic society of the day Hobbes wrote that people living in groups often give up some of their rights in exchange for some protections from a government. The work promoted an absolutist government, where everybody was to give 100% obedience, as the only means of ensuing order. Hobbes claimed life without the state would be "nasty, brutish and short."

The terms 'left', 'centre' and 'right' to describe political alignment are derived from the seating arrangements of the French National Assembly during the French Revolution. The nobles took the position of honor on the President's right, and the Third Estate, representing the people, took the position on the left.

In the mid 1800s, John Stuart Mill developed the "liberal" idea of politics. Mill said that democracy is the most important political development of his time there should be more protection for individual rights against the government.

The number of representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives was established at 435 on August 8, 1911. at that time that computed as one member of Congress for every 211,877 residents.

US Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina set a filibuster record in the U.S. Senate on August 19, 1957. He spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes. Thurmond took steam baths daily to dehydrate his body so he would not have to stop speaking to use the bathroom.

Strom Thurmond, c. 1961

The first European political party organization, the European Greens, was established in Rome in 2004.

Bolivia probably has the highest rate of political turnover with over 190 governments since 1825.

Here is a list of songs with political statements


In ancient Greek, the word "idiot" meant anyone who wasn't a politician.

In 1870 Hiram Revels was elected by a vote of 81 to 15 in the Mississippi State Senate.  He completed the term of Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis, who had resigned to become president of the Confederacy. Revels was the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate, and first to serve in the U.S. Congress.

On December 12, 1870, Representative Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina was sworn in as the first African American congressman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Jefferson F. Long of Georgia was the second African American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He was elected as a Republican to the Forty-first Congress to fill the vacancy caused when the U.S. House declared Samuel F. Gove not entitled to the seat and served from January 16, 1871 to March 3, 1871. The term of less than three months was the shortest  of any African–American Member, but nevertheless became the first black Member to speak on the House Floor.

Jefferson F. Long. Library of Congress description: "Hon. Jefferson Franklin Long of GA."

In 1879 James Shields, who had previously served Illinois and Minnesota, began a term as a U.S. Senator from Missouri. He was the first Senator to serve three states.

Vida Goldstein became the first woman in the British Empire to run for a national office in 1902. She ran for the Australian Senate when women there got the right to vote in all federal elections.

Europe's first women members of parliament were Fins. 19 female candidates won their seats in Finland in 1907 during the first continental election to include women candidates and voters.

Jeannette Pickering Rankin (June 11, 1880 – May 18, 1973) was the first woman to hold federal office in the United States when, in 1916, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives by the state of Montana. A lifelong pacifist, she was the only legislator to vote against American involvement in both World War I and World War II.

Rankin's portrait, by Sharon Sprung, in the House of Representatives Collection

John Buchan, the writer of The 39 Steps, was the Conservative MP for Scottish Universities between 1927-1935.

Born in Kansas Territory to a mother of the Kaw Nation, Charles Curtis was elected to the US Senate first by the Kansas Legislature in 1906 and then by popular vote in 1914, 1920 and 1926. He resigned in March of 1929 to become President Herbert Hoover's Vice President. Curtis was the first person with significant Native American ancestry and the first person with acknowledged non-European ancestry to reach either of the highest offices in the United States government's executive branch.

Charles Curtis

Constance Markievicz became the first woman elected to parliament in 1918. She won a Dublin seat but was unable to accept as she was in prison.

Viscountess Nancy Astor (1879-1964) succeeded her husband, the 2nd Viscount Astor as Conservative MP for Plymouth in 1919, becoming the first woman to sit in the House of Commons. She was known for her interest in social problems, especially temperance and women's rights.

Rebecca L. Felton of Georgia was the first woman U.S. senator. Felton was the most prominent woman in Georgia in the Progressive Era, and was honored by appointment to the Senate. She was sworn in November 21, 1922, and served just 24 hours. At 87 years, nine months, and 22 days old, Felton was the oldest freshman senator to enter the Senate.

In 1932 Hattie Caraway, a Democrat from Arkansas, became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

When Frances Perkins became United States Secretary of Labor in 1933, under Franklin Roosevelt, she became the first woman to serve as a cabinet member.

Margaret Chase Smith of Maine became the first woman elected to the US Senate without completing another senator's term, when she defeated Democratic opponent Adrian Scolten in 1948. Smith was also the first woman to serve in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the United States Senate.

On July 21, 1960 Sirimavo Bandaraneike becomes the first woman to be elected the head of state when she became the prime minister of Sri Lanka. She served in office until March 25, 1965.

Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranayaka (1916-2000). Anuradha Dullewe Wijeyeratne at en.Wikipedia

Bandaraneike was followed by Indira Gandhi of India in 1966 and Golda Meir of Israel in 1969.

In 1966 Robert C. Weaver became the first African American Cabinet member when he was appointed United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Former Massachusetts Attorney General Edward Brooke became the first African American elected to the United States Senate since Reconstruction on November 8, 1966.

Edward Brooke, United States Senator from Massachusetts.

Mahathir Mohamad was Malaysia's 4th Prime Minister; his 22 years in office, ending with retirement on October 31, 2003, made him Asia's longest-serving political leader.

Diane Abbot becomes the first black woman member of the House of Commons when elected as MP for Hackney South and Stoke Newington in 1987.

Carol Elizabeth Moseley Braun represented Illinois in the United States Senate from 1993 to 1999. She was the first female African-American Senator, the first African-American U.S. Senator for the Democratic Party and the first woman to defeat an incumbent U.S. Senator in an election.

In 1994 the singer and producer Sonny Bono was elected to the US House of Representatives. Bono became interested in politics rather late in life, when he decided he wanted a bigger sign for the restaurant he'd opened in Palm Springs (California) and ran straight into red tape dealing with the city government. Bono had never voted or registered before, but resolved to change things by running for mayor. He won the election, served a successful four-year term and wound up pursuing a whole new career as a politician.

When Tammy Baldwin defeated her Republican opponent, former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson, in the 2012 U.S. Senate election, she became the first openly gay U.S. Senator in history.

Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui (born 1993/94) is an Emirati politician. She was appointed by Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum as Minister of State for Youth Affairs in February 2016 at age 22, making her the youngest government minister in the world.

Here is a list of songs about political figures.

Monday, 27 March 2017


Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis, has existed for thousands of years, with depictions of the disease in ancient art.

An Egyptian stele thought to represent a polio victim, 18th Dynasty (1403–1365 BC). By Fixi

The disease was first recognized as a distinct condition by the English physician Michael Underwood in 1789, where he referred to polio as "a debility of the lower extremities."

The young Sir Walter Scott survived a childhood bout of polio that would leave him lame in his right leg for the rest of his life.

The virus that causes polio was first identified in 1908 by Karl Landsteiner.

On August 10, 1921, the 39-year-old Franklin D. Roosevelt went for a swim in the cold Bay of Fundy. Returning home he sat down in his wet swimming suit to read his mail and retired to bed with what he thought was a bad cold only to find polio gripping him. Soon his legs were paralyzed and from then on he couldn't stand up without the help of leg braces or walk more than a few steps.

Although the paralysis resulting from polio had no cure Roosevelt refused to believe that he was permanently paralyzed. He tried a wide range of therapies, but none had any effect. Nevertheless he became convinced of the benefits of hydrotherapy, and in 1926 he bought a resort at Warm Springs, Georgia, where he founded a hydrotherapy center for the treatment of polio patients, and spent a lot of time there in the 1920s. This was in part to escape from his mother, who tried to resume control of his life following his illness.

Roosevelt convinced many people that he was improving, which he believed to be essential to running for public office. By the time Franklin Roosevelt died in 1945, he had been President of the United States for 12 years. Roosevelt managed to conceal his disability so successfully many people did not realize the extent of it. His polio was the biggest deception in the history of presidential illnesses.

Roosevelt's deception was pulled off with the full co-operation of the press, newsreels never showed him being wheeled or carried and of the 35,000 photos taken of Roosevelt only two show him in a wheelchair.

Rare photograph of FDR in a wheelchair, taken February 1941. By FDR Presidential Library & Museum

Radio personality Eddie Cantor invented the name "March of Dimes" for the donation campaigns of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (polio), a play on the "March of Time" newsreels. He began the first campaign on his own radio show in January 1938, asking people to mail a dime to the nation's most famous polio victim, President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Other entertainers joined in the appeal via their own shows, and the White House mailroom was deluged with 2,680,000 dimes.

Josef Goebbels, champion of the Nazi creed of selective breeding, was called the ‘poison dwarf’ due to his slight frame and club foot caused by childhood polio.

The 1952 U.S. polio epidemic was the worst outbreak in the nation's history. Of nearly 58,000 cases reported that year, 3,145 people died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis, with most of its victims being children.

In the 1950s, many victims of Polio had to use iron lungs. They had to click to signal a nurse when they couldn't breathe after power went out. Then a nurse would come and manually operate the machine.

Dr. Jonas Salk, the associate professor of bacteriology and head of the Virus Research Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine began working on the polio vaccine in 1948.

After several years of research, which involved controversially injecting children with test versions, Dr. Jonas Salk announced on a national radio show on March 26, 1953, that he had successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis.

Dr Jonas Salk
In 1954, clinical trials using the Salk vaccine and a placebo began on nearly two million American schoolchildren. On April 12, 1955, it was announced that the vaccine was effective and safe.

Soon, Dr Jonas Salk's polio vaccine was being distributed nationally in the United States. It proved so successful that by 1961 the incidence of polio had decreased by 95 per cent. It was one of the first successful attempts to produce an immunization against a virus.

Jonas Salk declined to patent his polio vaccine. "There is no patent," he said. "Could you patent the sun?"

Jonas Salk later married Francoise Gilot, the former wife of Pablo Picasso.

Most of the time, polio has no symptoms unless the polio virus gets into the blood. In about 0.5 of cases the virus enters the brain or spinal cord, which can cause muscles to become paralyzed. In those with muscle weakness about 2% to 5% of children and 15% to 30% of adults die.

A man's right leg, affected by polio

Worldwide, polio has become much less common in the past few decades. In 1988, there were about 350,000 cases of polio in the world. By 2007, the number of cases of polio in the world had decreased by over 99.9%, to just 1,652 cases.

Sunday, 26 March 2017


The word 'criminal' has been in the language since around 1400 but 'policeman' arrived only in 1788.

Eugene Vidocq (July 24, 1775 – May 11, 1857) was an 18th century French crook-turned-policeman. As a fugitive from French justice, he first offered his services as a police informer.

Later Vidcoq became so successful at catching criminals that he was named the first chief of police at the Surete in 1811.

Vidocq eventually directed a force of 28 detectives, all of whom were former criminals.

Eugène François Vidocq. Portrait by Achille Devéria.

Vidcoq is considered to be the father of modern criminal investigation. He introduced record keeping and the science of ballistics into police work.

Vidcoq was also noted as a master of disguise and held patents on indelible ink and unalterable bond paper.

PC Joseph Grantham became the first British police officer to be killed on duty in 1830, when he intervened in a fight between two drunks and was beaten to death. At his inquest, the jury returned a verdict of "justifiable homicide", possibly due to public dislike of the new police force, which had been set up by Robert Peel the previous year.

The first female police officer in the US was Canadian Marie Connolly Owens, who joined the Chicago Police Department in 1891 with full arrest powers.

Alice Stebbins Wells was the first American-born female police officer in the United States. She was hired by the Los Angeles Police Department and sworn in on September 12, 1910.

When she first put on her uniform, Alice was accused of misusing her husband's badge to ride the streetcar free, until L.A. finally issued her "Policewoman's Badge #1."

Wells was allowed to design her own uniform and was active in propagating the need for policewomen elsewhere. As a result of her efforts seventeen departments in American were employing policewomen by 1916.

Alice Wells was the first female officer in the LAPD

Starsky & Hutch was based on two real-life New York City cops, Lou Telano and John Sepe, who went undercover as Hasidic Jews, gay lovers, and female nurses in the 1960s and 1970s.

In February 1976, Elvis Presley — who had a vast collection of police badges — was made a reserve Memphis policeman.

Penny Harrington became the first woman police chief of a major city in 1985. She assumed the duties as head of the Portland, Oregon force of 940 officers and staff.

While working the beat on his bicycle, ‘Robocop’ Constable Diederik Coetzee had made 309 arrests by October 2005 in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, to set the UK record made by one officer in a single year. He retired from the force after being seriously injured on his bike in a hit-and-run accident in 2011.

Police officers are referred to as "cops" because of the copper badges they used to wear.

Source Daily Mail

Police force


Most Romans were too scared to go out after dark. The army, rather than a dedicated police organization, attempted to provide security but muggings were commonplace.

In medieval Spain, Santa Hermandad, literally "holy brotherhood", was a type of peacekeeping association of armed individuals, which became characteristic of municipal life in medieval Spain, especially in Castile.

The Santa Hermandades of medieval Spain 

Jean-Baptiste Colbert, minister to the King, inaugurated the new office of Lieutenant General of Police of Paris in 1667. Nicolas de la Reynie (1625 –June 14, 1709) was the first Lieutenant General of the Paris police, an office which he held from March 1667 to January 1697. His views on law enforcement were advanced, and form the basis for modern police forces today. He is considered to be the founder of the first uniformed police force in the world.

Gabriel Nicolas de la Reynie, founder of the first uniformed police force in the world.

The first use of the word police ("Polles") in English comes from the book The Second Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England published in 1642. For a long time it applied only to French and continental European police forces. The concept of police itself was disliked by the British for several cities as a symbol of foreign oppression.

In 1748 the writer Henry Fielding was appointed magistrate at the Bow Street Police Court in London. The following year, Fielding organised with his half-brother John what was virtually the first English police force. The small group of six constables became known as the "Bow Street Runners".

Robert Peel was an English statesman who first established the Irish constabulary. The people commonly called this police organisation 'Peelers' after Mr. Peel.

By the late 1820s, London's populace had grown to the point that it needed an organised police force to patrol the city's streets. When Robert Peel became Home Secretary of England in 1829, he set out to reorganize the English capital's police. Peel organised a paid and trained force for day and night duty called the Metropolitan Police of London. They were given powers to question travelers after dark, hold all suspicious persons and quell any disturbances.

This first modern police force in Britain was once again nicknamed after Robert aka Bobbie Peel. This time the people called them 'Bobbies'.

A Peeler of the Metropolitan Police Service in the 1850s.

The Metropolitan Police was originally headquartered in Great Scotland Yard, Westminster.

The London police force system was introduced to the rest of the UK in 1856.

The Hong Kong Police Force, the world's second modern police force and Asia's first, was established in 1844.

A brawny black lady called Maria Lee kept a lodging house in Boston in the 1840s and helped bundle arrested people into the horse drawn carriage used to take them to the cells. Thus a police vehicle for transporting prisoners became known as a "Black Maria".

The Canadian Parliament established the North-West Mounted Police, the forerunner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on May 23, 1873. They were formed to bring law to its untamed north-west.

Canadian leader John A. Macdonald first announced the force as the North West Mounted Rifles, but changed the name because of U.S. fears of a military build-up.

North-West Mounted Police officers, 1898
The North-West Mounted Police merged with the Dominion Police, the main police force for all points east of Manitoba, in 1920 and was renamed as the "Royal Canadian Mounted Police".

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police – dubbed the Mounties - was charged with federal law enforcement in all the provinces and territories, and immediately established its modern role as protector of Canadian national security.

Dogs, usually German shepherds, were first trained for police work in Ghent, Belgium, in about 1900.

Police patrolled London on motorcycles for the first time on April 26, 1921.

By jjron - Own work, Wikipedia

In the early 1920s, so many policemen were wearing walrus mustaches that they were reminding people of Bruce Bairnsfather's cartoon character "Old Bill". As a result, they started being nicknamed "Old Bill."


American police police officers wear blue because it makes them harder to see at night and the color evokes feelings of comfort amongst most people.

In 1844, policemen in New York City staged a strike against their proposed blue uniforms. The reason for their opposition was that they considered uniforms to be symbols of servitude, as maids and butlers wore them in the old country.

The navy blue uniforms adopted by many police departments in this early period were simply surplus United States Army uniforms from the Civil War.


On average worldwide, there are 303.3 police officers per 100,000 people.

The New York Police Department has more employees than the FBI.

Different countries have different names for their police. In Ireland, they are called the Garda, in Italy Carabinieri, in Spain Guardia Civil. In Russia, they were called the Militsiyer until 2012; now, they are called the Politsiyer.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Polar bear


In 1252, King Haakon IV of Norway sent a polar bear to London as a present to King Henry III. It was the first polar bear seen in Britain.

King Henry kept the polar bear at the Tower of London. The sheriffs of London provided twopence a day for the bear's upkeep and when this ran out, it was allowed to catch fish in the River Thames.

The King commanded that the sheriffs provide a muzzle, chain and strong cord to hold the bear as it swam in the Thames.

Haakon IV gave polar bears to other monarchs including Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.

The first polar bear in America was exhibited in Boston on January 18, 1733. When asked what polar bears ate, the handler said "drunk Irishmen."

Polar bears were originally known as white bears. The term polar bear was first recorded in 1781.

A starving polar bear in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard attacked a party of British school children on August 5, 2011. The team was camping near the Von Post glacier, some 25 miles (40 km) from the settlement of Longyearbyen when they encountered the emaciated bear. 17-year-old Horatio Chapple, a pupil of Eton College, died of injuries sustained and four others were hurt, two seriously, The bear was shot dead by one of the expedition's leaders, Spike Reid, who himself suffered severe facial injuries.


Gus was a 700-pound (320 kg) polar bear and icon of the Central Park Zoo in New York City. He died aged 27 on August 27, 2013 after being visited by over 20 million people during his lifetime.

Gus came to public notice in the 1990s, when he began swimming obsessively in his pool for up to 12 hours a day. Reporters dubbed him "neurotic", "depressed", "flaky", and "bipolar," turning him into a "symbol of the stress of living in New York City". As part of his therapy and treatment, Gus was the first zoo animal in history to be treated with Prozac.

Gus in November 2011. By Marie-Lan Nguyen -  Wikipedia Commons

On December 13, 2017, Philadelphia Zoo celebrated their polar bear Coldilocks' 37th birthday—she's now the oldest polar bear in America.


Because of expected habitat loss caused by climate change, the polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species.

The latest estimate of the worldwide polar bear population by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature is 28,500. Around 70 per cent are found in Canada.

Polar bears have a very slow reproductive rate, females typically having only five litters (usually of two cubs) in a lifetime.

For polar bears, a single mating session may last up to 65 minutes, with a male mating with the same female for as long as 10 days.


The polar bear is the most carnivorous of all bears. Their main diet consists of seals and fish.

AWeith Wikipedia 

Polar bears can smell seals 40 miles away.

Polar bears will eat almost anything they come across, however toxic - hence the need to keep them away from rubbish dumps.

When it comes to hunting, the polar bear is at a disadvantage. Most Arctic land animals can outrun it, and most marine animals can outswim it. They catch prey mostly by waiting patiently at seal breathing holes.

Polar bears often hunt walruses by simply charging at a group of them and eating the ones that were crushed or wounded in the mass panic to escape. Direct attacks are rare.

There is no evidence for the common belief that polar bears camouflage themselves by covering their black noses when hunting on the ice.

When polar bears are in a good mood they like to float on the surface of the water.

Unlike brown and black bears, polar bears do not hibernate.


Polar bears fur is made up of a layer of dense underfur and an outer layer of guard hairs, which appear white but are in fact transparent. They reflect light, so they appear white.

Polar bears have so much blubber and fur for insulation that they are almost invisible when photographed with infrared film, which detects heat. The only part that can be seen is a spot in front of the bear's mouth made by its warm breath.

Polar bears have stiff fur on the soles of their feet which stops them from slipping on snow and ice as well as letting them move around silently.

The fur of bears kept in captivity can turn pale green, owing to algae forming inside the guard hairs.

The skin of a polar bear is black, which helps it to absorb more of the heat from the sun.

An adult male polar bear typically weighs around 351kg (775lb) or the weight of about five men. Females weigh half as much.

When born, the cubs weigh only about 500g, or 1lb.

The largest polar bear ever recorded was a male weighing in at 2,209lb - that's very nearly a ton.

Polar bears have 42 teeth.

Polar bears can run at 25 miles an hour and jump more than six feet in the air.

Polar bears don't slip because they have hairs on the soles of their feet that grip the ice

Polar bears are left handed.


The scientific name for the polar bear is Thalarctos maritimus from the Greek arktos, “bear”, and thalassa, “sea”.

Thalassarctine means of or pertaining to the polar bear.

One pound of polar bear liver contains enough vitamin A to fulfill a human's needs for 20 years.

In the 19th century a team of Arctic explorers all died from a vitamin A overdose caused by eating a polar bear’s liver.

It is customary for the residents of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada to leave their car doors unlocked in case someone needs to take shelter from a Polar Bear.

Source Daily Express