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Twisted History

1 August 2000

Today's birthday bio is of a man whose two claims to fame are a wrong theory of evolution and the exalted status of "professor of insects and worms" through the French Revolution. He is generally referred to "Lamarck," although you will see that his name is somewhat longer than that. His evolutionary concept basically asserted that if an animal acquired attributes that those could be passed on to its offspring, it was swept aside by Darwin and shattered by Mendel, although Darwin's grandfather Erasmus held similar opinions.

To those who think that the most important birthday today, if not of all time, is the 1942 natal event featuring Jerry Garcia: Please note that although it's a little too recent for Twisted History, and we don't often feature entertainers, I did have a bowl of Cherry Garcia and Touch of Grey is playing in the background as I finish this up.

The last Stuart monarch gave way to the present House of Hanover, the British abolished slavery, the federal music program that kept thousands of musicians employeed but missed Woody Guthrie was started, and the first woman rabbi was appointed to lead an American Jewish congregation. All that and a most unusual holiday.

Talk about your ancient history! I spent the weekend at the scene of my many early crimes, Port Angeles, Washington, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of my high school graduation. Guys who were far too cool to be seen with me wanted to know the details of my career, and seemed interested to hear them. Good looking ladies who would have done anything (and apparently did) to avoid a date with me back then were dragging me onto the dance floor. I don't think I've talked so much in one weekend in my life. The only problem was that after preparing a CD full of things so I could mail Twisted History from the road I found I had forgotten two files and couldn't publish, so those days will have to remain untwisted until next year.

  On this day in history:

8 - The first August first, the Roman Emperor Augustus (Gaius Octavius) changed the name of the eighth month of the Julian calendar in his own honor, having been Sextilis since Julius established the calendar in 44 BC.

1714 - Queen Anne, the last monarch of the House of Stuart, dies. Georg Ludwig, Elector of Hanover, takes the throne as George I. The House of Hanover continues to hold the throne of Great Britain, although they lost Hanover in 1837.

1834 - Following an act of parliament on 23 August 1833, all slaves in the British Empire were freed. Children under age six are freed immediately, older children and adults became apprentices for three years in England. The transition was elective in the colonies, up to six years in some colonies but freed immediately in others such as Antigua and Bermuda. Slave holders were granted 120 million pounds in compensation.

1935 - With two thirds of American professional musicians out of work from the combined effects of electronic recording and the distressed economy, the Federal Music Project was organized under Nikolai Sokoloff, director of the Cleveland Orchestra, to hire musicians and provide free concerts and instruction. At its peak in 1936 15,000 musicians were employed, including 6,000 as teachers, and 10,000 were still employed at the start of World War II. The FMP also preserved folk music and provided copying, research, and other services to composers and performers.

1979 - Following her graduation from Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, Linda Joy Holtzman was appointed spiritual leader of the Conservative Beth Israel congregation in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, making her the first female rabbi to head a Jewish congregation in America.

  Holidays around the world today include:

Lammas, Christian "loaf-mass day," festival of the first wheat harvest of the year at which families traditionally presented a loaf from the new harvest at mass, including a blessing of new fruits for that harvest season. Adopted from Saxon traditions, which in turn were based on Celtic traditions involving more romantic matters. Young couples were "hand fasted" at The Tailltenn Fair after negotiations between parents, a marriage for a year and a day that could be ended at the following fair by the couple standing back to back and one leaving to the north and the other to the south.

Confederation Day, Switzerland - Marks the original confederation of three cantons (Uri, Schwyz, and Nidwalden) that formed the basis for the current government. There are now 26 cantons, the last three added in 1815 when Tsar Alexander I helped write a new confederation after the Swiss ejected Napoleon.

  Birthdays on this day include:

1744 - Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck, French naturalist - Born at Bazentin-le-Petit, Picardy to a military family, entered Jesuit seminary 1756, joined French army 1761, distinguished himself under fire and was commissioned in the field, left army five years after peace was secured due to injury in 1768. Clerked at a Paris bank, studied medicine and botany, published Flore Franšaise (The Plants of France) to wide acclaim 1778. Ill paid as assistant botanist at royal gardens, fought to hold job through French Revolution, proposed 1793 reorganization that brought him the status of professor of insects and worms. Knowing nothing of this specialty he coined the word "invertebrates" and championed study of same for their great diversity - he had to, "professor of insects and worms" was not the most prestigious among the twelve supposed equal professorships. Published several important works on invertebrates, added to the classification, first to argue that life depeded upon cellular activity, but proposed a theory of evolution involving "inheritance of acquired traits" that was widely opposed but was crucial to Darwin's later work. Lost his sight starting in 1818 and was cared for by his daughters, died at Paris 28 December 1829. Never wealthy, he was buried in a rented grave, after five years his body was exhumed and lost.

  Quotes that may (or may not) relate to the events above:

Englishmen will never be slaves; they are free to do whatever the government and public opinion allow them to do.
     - George Bernard Shaw

The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.
     - Eric Fromm

We are all of us, more or less, the slaves of opinion.
     - William Hazlitt

Tyrants are seldom free; the cares and the instruments of their tyranny enslave them.
     - George Santayana

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Copyright 2000 G. Armour Van Horn, all rights reserved. This document may be distributed freely. Please forward the complete message including this copyright notice.