Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ninety-Five Theses that Changed the World

Pamphlet to the first memory of the
publication of the theses of Martin Luther in 1517
On the eve of All Saint's Day, October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted the ninety-five theses, which were part of his dissertation criticizing on practices within the Catholic Church regarding baptism and absolution, on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, according to university custom. This event is widely regarded as the initial catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.

We already dedicated an article to Martin Luther, the iconic figure of Protestant Reformation last year. Today is the anniversary of his act of posting the ninety-five theses on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, according to university custom. Just before, he had written to Albert of Mainz, the Archbishop of Mainz in Germany protesting against the sale of indulgences. He enclosed in his letter a copy of his "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences," which came to be known as The Ninety-Five Theses. Indulgences are nothing else but remissions of temporal punishment due for sins which have already been forgiven. The Catholic Church's practice of indulgences being sold was received as that the penance for sin simply represents a financial transaction rather than genuine contrition. No wonder that Luther argued in his Theses that the sale of indulgences was a gross violation of the original intention of confession and penance. Christians were being falsely told that they could find absolution through the purchase of indulgences.

In 1517, Luther was a fellow at the university of Wittenberg, Saxony, in the Holy Roman Empire. Five years before in 1512, he had received his doctorate in theology and was received into the senate of the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg. The All Saints' Church in Wittenberg, where the Ninety-Five Theses famously appeared, held one of Europe's largest collections of holy relics. At that time pious veneration of relics was purported to allow the viewer to receive relief from temporal punishment for sins in purgatory. By 1520 over 19,000 relics had been collected by Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, purportedly "including vials of the milk of the Virgin Mary, straws from the manger [of Jesus], and the body of one of the innocents massacred by King Herod."

As part of a fund-raising campaign commissioned by Pope Leo X to finance the renovation of St Peter's Basilica in Rome, Johann Tetzel, a Dominican priest and papal commissioner for indulgences, began the sale of indulgences in the German lands. With his famous slogan "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory [also attested as 'into heaven'] springs", he rather successfully sold papal indulgences all over Germany. Roman Catholic theology stated that faith alone, whether fiduciary or dogmatic, cannot justify man; justification rather depends only on such faith as is active in charity and good works (fides caritate formata). The benefits of good works could be obtained by donating money to the church.

Albert of Mainz, the Archbishop of Mainz in Germany, had borrowed heavily to pay for his high church rank and was deeply in debt. He agreed to allow the sale of the indulgences in his territory in exchange for a cut of the proceeds. Luther was apparently not aware of this. Even though Luther's prince, Frederick III, and the prince of the neighboring territory, George, Duke of Saxony, forbade the sale thereof in their respective lands, Luther's parishioners traveled to purchase them. When these people came to confession, they presented their plenary indulgences which they had paid good silver money for, claiming they no longer had to repent of their sins, since the document promised to forgive all their sins. Luther was outraged that they had paid money for what was theirs by right as a free gift from God. He felt compelled to expose the fraud that was being sold to the pious people.

Luther Nails up his 95 Theses at Wittenberg,
engraving by Auguste Blanchard,
from Historic scenes in the life of Martin Luther (1862)
This exposure was to take place in the form of a public scholarly debate at the University of Wittenberg. The Ninety-Five Theses outlined the items to be discussed and issued the challenge to any and all comers. In particularly in Thesis 86, Luther asks: "Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?". Luther insisted that, since forgiveness was God's alone to grant, those who claimed that indulgences absolved buyers from all punishments and granted them salvation were in error. Christians, he said, must not slacken in following Christ on account of such false assurances.

While Luther's theses had far-reaching impact leading to the Protestant reformation, the actual story of the posting of the theses on the church door, even though it has settled as one of the pillars of history, has little foundation in truth. The story is based on comments made by Philipp Melanchthon, theological reformer and colleague of Luther, though it is thought that he was not in Wittenberg at the time. It was not until January 1518 that friends of Luther translated the 95 Theses from Latin into German, printed, and widely copied, making the controversy one of the first in history to be aided by the printing press. Within two weeks, copies of the theses had spread throughout Germany; within two months throughout Europe.

At yovisto you can learn more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation movement he had initiated in the lecture of Prof. Thomas W. Laqueur from University of California, Berkeley, on 'Revolutions in Religion 1517 - 1555'.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles at Yovisto Blog:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The "King of Bombs" and the Craze of Cold War Nuclear Armament

Zone of total destruction of the Tsar Bomba on a map of Paris: red circle = total destruction
On October 30, 1961, the Soviet Union detonated the hydrogen bomb Tsar Bomba over Novaya Zemlya, which still is the largest explosive device ever detonated, nuclear or otherwise.

Just to get an idea of the bomb's power, the Tsar Bomba measured ten times the power of all explosives used during World War II. Still, the bomb was known for the very little amount of fallout, produced during the explosion since about 97% of the entire energy produced resulted from fusion only.

The head of construction in the bomb project was Soviet physicist Yulii Borisovich Khariton. Khariton studied under Ernest Rutherford and became head of the Explosion Laboratory at the Institute of Chemical Physics in Cambridge. During the project, Khariton worked with several assistants such as Andrei Sakharov, who spoke openly against nuclear weapons after the bomb was detonated and became a dissident.
Model of the Tsar Bomba
The Tu-95V plane carrying the bomb during the test was specially modified and flown by Major Andrei Durnovtsev and was accompanied by an observer plane and both were painted white to limit heat damages on the air craft. Since the bomb was attached to a parachute, the two planes had enough time to clear the scene, when the bomb was released. On October 30, 1961 at 11:32 am, the Tsar Bomba detonated over the Mityushikha Bay nuclear testing range. The responsible filming crew stated: "Outside, there was a sea of light, an ocean of light suddenly bursting out… Once our plane came out of the clouds, in between them, a huge balloon of bright orange color appeared! It was like Jupiter – powerful, and conceited, and confident, slowly and silently crawling up". The bomb's own shock wave prevented that the fireball impacted on the ground and the famous mushroom cloud was about 64 kilometres high. Every building in a range of 55 km was destroyed or at least lost its roof or windows and radio communication was interrupted for more than one hour. Even at a distance of 270 km, people felt a thermal pulse.

Due to its enormous impact, the bomb proved to be quite impractical. It was too heavy and therefore limited the range and speed of carry it. Also, a great amount of its high-yield destructiveness was radiated into space, which was very inefficient. Later research on bombs focused more on efficiency, accuracy and "safety". Another danger with creating even more powerful bombs was that the explosion went upwards, wherefore radiation would be sent into the atmosphere and affect the country originally launching the bomb.

To get an idea how nuclear bombs work, you may watch Matthew Bunn's lecture at Belfer Center, Harvard. 

References and Further Reading:

Related Articles in the Blog:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Birth of the Internet

On October 29, 1969, the very first message between two distant computer nodes, from the Network Measurement Center at the UCLA's School of Engineering and Applied Science and SRI International (SRI) was sent. This is to be considered the birth of the ARPANET, which should become the Internet.

What was the reason for the development of the Internet? Especially in the 1960s, when computers were absolutely not widespread or ubiquitous as today. Moreover, computers in the 1960s did not follow the same or similar hardware and software architecture. This means that for two computers to communicate, a special translation interface must be constructed either way by hardware and by software. On the other hand, we are in the 1960s. In the late 1940s, Thomas Watson, founder of IBM stated "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." We know that he was wrong. But, there were only a few computers around concentrating on research laboratories, universities, or working for the military. The founding myth of the internet always refers to the so called "Sputnik Shock" as being the initial event. On October 4, 1957, the Soviet launched the very first satellite into orbit. Thus, proving that they were also able to reach the USA with their ballistic missiles. This first strike capability gave them a significant advantage in the times of Cold War. US president Eisenhower in response founded the ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, to catch up the Soviet's military and scientific advantage. One of the many projects being founded by ARPA was also computer network communication. Something exotic, considering the times and the circumstances. But, nevertheless, in times of potential nuclear thread it seemed not to be difficult to come up with an argument to support also the funding of more or less 'esoterical' technologies.

For this reason you might read that the internet was developed as response to he Soviet nuclear threat to enable fault tolerant computer network communication that will also work when parts of the communication network might get destroyed by a nuclear blast (or something else). The internet's fault tolerance really is something extraordinary, compared to the previous switching networks that failed, whenever some relay station went out of service and the network traffic had to be explicitly rerouted. The internet is based on the principle of packet switching. Thus, contrariwise to the way traditional telephone services are working - i.e. a connection between sender and receiver is established and along the switched connection the entire message is transferred, blocking the communication for other parties until the message is received completely - packet switching splits the message in small packets that are sent independently over various routes within the network. This has several advantages: First, a connection is only blocked for the time one small packet needs to travel from sender to receiver. Other users might also send their packets in between the packets from the original sender. Second, if a packet got lost, only the packet has to be retransmitted instead of the entire message. Thus making network communication more efficient. The principle of packet switching was already developed by Paul Baran from RAND Corporation in 1959.

The earliest ideas for a computer network intended to allow general communications among computer users were formulated by J. C. R. Licklider of Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN), in April 1963, in memoranda discussing his concept for an "Intergalactic Computer Network". Those ideas contained almost everything that composes the contemporary Internet. In October 1963, Licklider was appointed head of the Behavioral Sciences and Command and Control programs at the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency — ARPA (the initial ARPANET acronym). He then convinced Ivan Sutherland and Bob Taylor that this computer network concept was very important and merited development, although Licklider left ARPA before any contracts were let that worked on this concept. Ivan Sutherland and Bob Taylor continued their interest in creating such a computer communications network, in part, to allow ARPA-sponsored researchers at various corporate and academic locales to put to use the computers ARPA was providing them, and, in part, to make new software and other computer science results quickly and widely available. In his office, Taylor had three computer terminals, each connected to separate computers, which ARPA was funding: the first, for the System Development Corporation (SDC) Q-32, in Santa Monica; the second, for Project Genie, at the University of California, Berkeley; and the third, for Multics, at MIT. Taylor recalls the circumstance:
"For each of these three terminals, I had three different sets of user commands. So, if I was talking online with someone at S.D.C., and I wanted to talk to someone I knew at Berkeley, or M.I.T., about this, I had to get up from the S.D.C. terminal, go over and log into the other terminal and get in touch with them. I said, "Oh Man!", it's obvious what to do: If you have these three terminals, there ought to be one terminal that goes anywhere you want to go. That idea is the ARPANET".
The problem remains that for connecting a number of computers of various architectures, you need one dedicated interface between each pair of connected computers. Thus, for 4 computers, you will need 6 interfaces, for 5 computers, you will need 10, for 6 computers, you will need 15, for 10 computers you will need 45 and for 100 computers even 4,950 interfaces. The growth of the number of required interfaces would be quadratic. Therefor, Robert Taylor developed the following plan: a network composed of small computers called Interface Message Processors (IMPs: today called routers), that functioned as gateways interconnecting local resources. At each site, the IMPs performed store-and-forward packet switching functions, and were interconnected with modems that were connected to leased lines, initially running at 50kbit/second. The host computers were connected to the IMPs via custom serial communication interfaces. In this way, communication was performed in a subnetway and only for each hardware architecture exactly one interface had to be developed to connect to the subnetway.

The first four computers connected to the now called ARPANET were an SDS Sigma 7 from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), an SDS 940 from the Stanford Research Institute's Augmentation Research Center, an IBM 360/75 from University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), and a DEC PDP-10 from University of Utah's Computer Science Department. The first message on the ARPANET was sent by UCLA student programmer Charley Kline, at 10:30 pm on 29 October 1969, from Boelter Hall 3420. Kline transmitted from the university's SDS Sigma 7 Host computer to the Stanford Research Institute's SDS 940 Host computer. The message text was the word login; the l and the o letters were transmitted, but the system then crashed. Hence, the literal first message over the ARPANET was lo. About an hour later, having recovered from the crash, the SDS Sigma 7 computer effected a full login. The first permanent ARPANET link was established on 21 November 1969, between the IMP at UCLA and the IMP at the Stanford Research Institute. By 5 December 1969, the entire four-node network was finally established.

At yovisto you can learn more about the beginnings of the Internet in the historic documentary 'Computer Networks: Heralds of the Resource Sharing', where you will meet some of the early internet pioneers in person, such as J. C. R. Licklider, Larry Roberts or Robert Taylor.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles at Yovisto Blog:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Liberty enlightening the world

Statue of Liberty
On October 28, 1886, U.S. president Grover Cleveland, the former New York governor, presided the dedication ceremony of the Statue of Liberty, a gift to the United States from the people of France.

It is not really clear, what the origins of the Statue of Liberty really were. Sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi once stated that he got inspired while staying at a dinner party with  Édouard René de Laboulaye, who was back then a famous author, politician, professor and anti-slavery activist. He is supposed to have said that "if a monument should rise in the United States, as a memorial to their independence, I should think it only natural if it were built by united effort—a common work of both our nations." Bartholdi immediately started drawing sketches but did not show them to Laboulaye right away. With the ending of the Franco-Prussian War however, Laboulaye and Bartholdi decided to gather some ideas and travel to the U.S. in order to discuss it with the government.

The next step was the design of the statue. The two Frenchmen tried to inspire themselves from earlier symbols of liberty in France and the United States. Both preferred a fully dressed female, since a previous half-clothed Liberty figure stood as a symbol during the french Revolution. It was clear that the statue was supposed to look peaceful and the torch would represent progress. The crown with its seven rays would stand for "sun, the seven seas, and the seven continents". The sculptor planned simple and bold contours, rather classical. In the statue's left hand, Bartholdi decided to place a keystone-shaped tablet to emphasize the the role of law. It was inscribed with "JULY IV MDCCLXXVI" he date of the Declaration of Independence in the U.S.
The statue's head was delivered in 1885

In 1875, the project was officially announced with the title "Liberty Enlightening the World" and in France the project was met with a great support that also became financial. Even schools and 'regular' people started fundraisers instead of just the expected elites. In May 1876, construction work started and Bartholdi began with the arm carrying the torch as well as the head. As soon as the arm was finished, it was transported to the Centennial Exhibition in the United States where it was a popular exhibition object. The arm stayed in the U.S for several years until it came back to France where it joined the rest of the statue. The statue's head was exhibited at the 1878 Paris World's Fair and in 1880, Gustav Eiffel joined the project. With the help of the famous engineer, the statue became one of the earliest curtain wall constructions that is mostly supported by the interior framework. In 1885, the statue was finally ready to be disassembled and made realy to travel across the ocean.

In the U.S. the building of the statue faced some criticism at first. It was not designed by an American and it did not show a realistic heroic symbol from the American history, but later on the people of America turned out to be quite supportive. Once the American fundraisers were finally successful and the pedestal was built, the statue began to rise. On the afternoon of October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland presided the dedication ceremony of the Statue of Liberty. Ironically, during the cerenomy, only two women were allowed since organizers feared, women may be injured in the masses of people.

At yovisto, Professor Joanne Freeman talks about the event that has inspired Bartholdi's design so much, the Declaration of Independence. She sets the document itself in a historical context and explains it importance to the American Revolution.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles in the Blog:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Erasmus of Rotterdam - Prince of the Humanists

Desiderius Erasmus Roterdamus
by Hans Holbein the Younger
On October 27, 1466,  Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, and theologian Desiderius Erasmus Roterdamus, also known as Erasmus of Rotterdam was born. He was the dominant figure of the early-16th-century humanist movement.

Erasmus was given the best education possible during these years. Along with his older brother, he attended Latin schools where he also learned Greek. He became a priest and secretary to the Bishop of Cambrai before enrolling at the University of Paris. The school faced increasing influences of the Renaissance humanism, which also showed impact on Erasmus. In this period, Erasmus was also educated in Leuven, England, and Basel. Even though he liked not many of these places, England influenced him quite a bit. Erasmus was inspired by several Bible teaching classes, especially by those of John Colet. He came back to Paris, motivated to improve his Greek and to work on new Bible translations.  Even though he was offered several academic positions, Erasmus declined all of them to study independent from formal ties. This meant that he lived in poverty for most of his life and wrote letters to friends, asking for studying money. At Leuven, Erasmus received mostly criticism and left for Basel in order to being able to express himself completely free. He was admired from all over Europe for the writings he published in Basel and became friends with notable academics.

Slowly, Erasmus started writing about recent topics of literature and religion, while always intending to remain faithful to the Catholic Church. Soon, he became one of the most influential writers of this time and started corresponding with hundreds of intellectuals all over Europe. His interest in the New Testament grew and he began working on the Latin New Testament in 1512. Several editions followed, which kept improving and functioned as foundations for further translations, like Martin Luther's German translation of the Bible. The fourth edition in 1527 even contained parallel columns of Greek and Latin and dedicated it to Pope Leo X.

Shortly after the New Testament was published, Martin Luther's movements began and the disagreements between Protestantism and the Catholic Church increased. Martin Luther then sent a letter to Erasmus titled "Free Will does not exists". In it, the leader of the Protestant movement criticizes the Catholic Church even though he personally admired Erasmus' early works. Still, Erasmus declined to support Luther and a long period of correspondence between them followed in which they discussed the morality and purpose of the church in general. Most crucial was presumably their discussion about free will and Luther even started claiming that Erasmus was not a Christian since Erasmus was convinced that every human has the freedom of choice.

After his death in 1536 Erasmus' works have been translated and interpreted in various ways. He is remembered for his leading role for many years by the Catholic Church while Protestants recognized his works as the foundations of the Reformation.

At yovisto, you mayenjoy a video lecture on Erasmus of Rotterdam by Professor Peter Walter at the University of Freiburg (in German).

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles in the Blog:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

The city of Tombstone in 1881
At about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, the most famous gunfight in the history of the American Old West took place. The gunfight, believed to have lasted only about thirty seconds, was fought between the outlaw Cowboys Billy Claiborne, Ike and Billy Clanton, and Tom and Frank McLaury, and the opposing town Marshal Virgil Earp and his brothers Assistant Town Marshal Morgan and temporary lawman Wyatt, aided by Doc Holliday designated as a temporary marshal by Virgil.

Tombstone is located not far from the Mexican border, it was a very young town that consisted mostly of tents and just a few houses. Still, it was growing rapidly and Virgil Earp was hired as Deputy U.S. Marshal, who was not really liked by the citizens. The origins of the conflicts are not very clear until this day, since newspapers were not very objective. Clear is however, that the Earps invested in a few mining claims and water rights, which was not really favored by everyone else. Therefore, the Cowboys, who counted more as Democrats came into conflict with the Earps, Republicans. Both side's families were very tied and proud, wherefore the conflicts got worse with every incident. In the media, it is often demonstrated how much the people were afraid of the cowboys in general, but not in Tombstone. The citizens liked the family, even though they were known as heavy drinkers.

However, the cowboys indeed kept threatening the Earps and on October 26, 1881, the thread became reality. It is unclear on this day, what the real setting looked like. It is assumed that Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne stood in the middle of the street and wore their revolvers on their belts, which was forbidden in the city. As Virgil Earp did not plan on a fight, he pointed his weapon at the men and shouted: "Throw up your hands, I want your guns!". But the men drew their weapons and the shooting began. It is also unclear, who shot first and the hearing afterwards could not solve this puzzle either. Three men died during the battle and several others were wounded.

The men's funerals were well attended, even though the overall public reaction was mostly favorable to the Earps. Later on, rumors started circulating that some of the cowboys were unarmed, wherefore some people switched to the cowboy side.

The event became one of the most important in American history. It displays the back then common image of the cowboys and was kept in mind as a symbolic act between cowboys and lawmen. Modern media had re-enacted the gunfight numerous times in movies, historical shows and scientific sows attempting to clear off the puzzle.

At yovisto, you may enjoy a video lecture by Ann Kirschner. She talks about Josephine Marcus Earp, who was the common-law wife of Wyatt Earp and explores the life of this frontier femme, a flamboyant Jewish girl with a persistent New York accent whose life is a spirited and colorful tale of ambition, adventure, self-invention, and romance.

References and Further Reading:

Friday, October 25, 2013

Charles Martell and the Battle of Tours and Poitiers

Charles Martel (718-748)
from "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum" (1553)
On October 25, 732 AD, the Battle of Tours and Poitiers between the united Frankish and Burgundian forces under Austrasian Mayor of the Palace Charles Martel, against an army of the Umayyad Caliphate led by Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, Governor-General of al-Andalus, ended the Islamic expansion era in Europe. It is argued among historians that Charles Martel's victory was one of the most important events in European or even world history.

Again, the Fate of Western Civilization was at stake. You might remember our post about the legendary battle in the Catalaunian Plains, where Attila the Hun was defeated by a Western Roman army, preventing the Huns from conquering Europe and thus, changing our entire history. Likewise, the rise of the Islam had become a threat when Islamic armies conquered Northern Africa spreading the new religion westward and finally traversed the Strait of Gibraltar led by Tariq ibn-Ziyad, entering European soil in southern Spain. The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of the four major Islamic caliphates established after the death of Muhammad and for 21 years they continued their conquest of the Visigothic Christian Kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula from 711 AD on until they reached the Frankish territories of Gaul, today's southern France. According to one unidentified Arab chronicler, "That army went through all places like a desolating storm"sacking and capturing the city of Bordeaux, and then defeating the army of Duke Odo of Aquitaine at the Battle of the River Garonne — where the western chroniclers state, 'God alone knows the number of the slain'— and Duke Odo fled to Charles Martel, seeking help."

The Frankish realm under Charles Martel was the foremost military power of Western Europe. Charles was the illegitimate son of Pepin, the powerful mayor of the palace of Austrasia and effective ruler of the Frankish kingdom. During most of his tenure in office as commander-in-chief of the Franks, the kingdom consisted of what is the north and the east of France, most of Western Germany, and the Low Countries (Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands). The Frankish realm had begun to progress towards becoming the first real imperial power in Western Europe since the fall of Rome. Meanwhile the Umayyad army utterly devastated southern Gaul. Their own histories saying they "faithful pierced through the mountains, trampled over rough and level ground, plundered far into the country of the Franks, and smote all with the sword, insomuch that when Eudo (Duke Udo of Aquitaine) came to battle with them at the River Garonne, he fled."

The Umayyad advance force was proceeding north towards the River Loire having outpaced their supply train and a large part of their army. Essentially, having easily destroyed all resistance in that part of Gaul, the invading army had split off into several raiding parties, while the main body advanced more slowly. The invading force went on to devastate southern Gaul with a possible motive to plunder the riches of the Abbey of Saint Martin of Tours, the most prestigious and holiest shrine in Western Europe at the time. Upon hearing this, Austrasia's Mayor of the Palace, Charles Martel, collected his army and marched south, avoiding the old Roman roads and hoping to take the Umayyad forces by surprise. Because he intended to use a phalanx formation of heavy infantry, it was essential for him to choose the battlefield. His plan — to find a high wooded plain, form his men and force the Umayyad army to come to him — depended on the element of surprise.

The invading Muslims rushed forward, relying on the slashing tactics and overwhelming number of horsemen that had brought them victories in the past. However, the Frank army of foot soldiers armed only with swords, shields, axes, javelins, and daggers, was very well trained. Despite the effectiveness of the Umayyad army in previous battles, the terrain caused them a disadvantage. Their strength lay within their cavalry, armed with large swords and lances. But along with their baggage mules, they were limited in their mobility. The Frank army displayed great ardency and held its ground against a mounted attack. Actually, the length of the decisive battle near the city of Tours is undetermined. While Arab sources claim that it was two days, Christian sources hold that the fighting lasted for even seven days. In the end, the battle was decided when the Franks captured and killed the Umayyad leader Abd-er Rahman, which caused the muslim army to withdraw peacefully overnight, never to return again.

This event looms much larger in Western history than Muslim. Of course history is always written by the winning party - leading to a famous passage of prose by historian Edward Gibbon about minarets rather than spires in Oxford if the Muslims had won. However, Charles's victory is widely believed to have stopped the northward advance of Umayyad forces from the Iberian peninsula, and to have preserved Christianity in Europe during a period when Muslim rule was overrunning the remains of the old Roman and Persian Empires. Victory at Tours ensured the ruling dynasty of Charles Martel's family, the Carolingians. His son Pepin became the first Carolingian king of the Franks, and his grandson Charlemagne carved out a vast empire that stretched across entire Europe.

At yovisto you can learn more about the times of the Carolingians from Charles Martel to Charlemagne in the lecture of Yale Prof Paul Freedman on The Early Middle Ages, 284–1000 AD about 'Charlemagne'.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles at Yovisto Blog:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Peace of Westphalia and the End of the Thirty Year's War

The Ratification of the Treaty of Munster, Painting by Gerard Ter Borch (1648)
On October 24, 1648, the signing of the Peace of Westphalia treaty in Osnabrück and Münster put an end to Europe's Thirty Years' War (1618 - 1648) in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years' War (1568 - 1648) between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the independence of the Dutch Republic.
"In the name of the most holy and individual Trinity: Be it known to all, and every one whom it may concern, or to whom in any manner it may belong, That for many Years past, Discords and Civil Divisions being stir'd up in the Roman Empire, which increas'd to such a degree, that not only all Germany, but also the neighbouring Kingdoms, and France particularly, have been involv'd in the Disorders of a long and cruel War." (Preface of the Treaty of Westphalia, 1648)
The Thirty Years War was ended by the Peace of Westphalia which was referred to as the "Peace of Exhaustion" by contemporaries. The Peace of Westphalia was not one specific treaty but rather a collection of treaties commonly linked by the fact that they brought the Thirty Years War to an end. The peace was negotiated, from 1644, in the Westphalian towns of Münster and Osnabrück. The Spanish-Dutch treaty was signed on Jan. 30, 1648. The treaty of Oct. 24, 1648, comprehended the Holy Roman emperor Ferdinand III, the other German princes, France, and Sweden. England, Poland, Muscovy, and Turkey were the only European powers that were not represented at the two assemblies.

The Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) was a series of wars principally fought in Central Europe, involving most of the countries of Europe, when the Austrian Habsburgs tried to impose Roman Catholicism on their Protestant subjects in Bohemia. There were numerous opponent fractions, such as Protestant against Catholic, the Holy Roman Empire against France, the German princes and princelings against the emperor and each other, and France against the Habsburgs of Spain. The Swedes, the Danes, the Poles, the Russians, the Dutch and the Swiss were all dragged in one after another. But, it wasn't only a war of religion, also commercial interests and rivalries played a major part as well as power politics.

The names of the commanders involved have become legend. There were the Bohemian nobleman Albrecht von Wallenstein for the Empire and the Count of Tilly for the Catholic League, Marshal Turenne and the Prince de Condé for France, and there was an able Bavarian general curiously named Franz von Mercy. Others to play a part ranged from the Winter King of Bohemia to the emperors Ferdinand II and Ferdinand III, Christian IV of Denmark, Gustavus II Adolphus and Queen Christina of Sweden, the Great Elector of Brandenburg, Philip IV of Spain and his brother the Cardinal-Infante, Louis XIII of France, Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin and several popes. The Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus was shot in the head and killed at the battle of Lützen in 1632. The increasingly crazed Wallenstein, who grew so sensitive to noise that he had all the dogs, cats and cockerels killed in every town he came to, was murdered by an English captain in 1634. And there seemed to be no end to fighting.
Les Grandes Misères de la guerre (The Great Miseries of War) by Jacques Callot, 1632
The war was largely fought on German soil and reduced the country to desolation as hordes of mercenaries, left unpaid by their masters, lived off the land. Rapine, pillage and famine stalked the countryside as armies marched about, plundering towns, villages and farms as they went. So great was the devastation brought about by the war that estimates put the reduction of population in the German states at about 25% to 40%. According to chroniclers the starvation reached such a point in the German Rhineland that there were cases of cannibalism. The horror became a way of life and when the war finally ended, the mercenaries and their womenfolk complained that their livelihood was gone.

Entire, more than entire we have been devastated!
The maddened clarion, the bold invaders' horde
The mortar thunder-voiced, the blood-annointed sword
Have all men's sweat and work and store annihilated.
The towers stand in flames, the church is violated
The strong are massacred, a ruin our council board
Our maidens are raped, and where my eyes have scarce explored
Fire, pestilence and death my heart have dominated.
(Poem by Andreas Gryphius, "Tears of the Fatherland, Anno Domini 1636")

Over a four-year period, the parties (Holy Roman Emperor, France and Sweden) were actively negotiating at Osnabrück and Münster in Westphalia. Finally, the treaties of Westphalia 1648  resulted from this first modern diplomatic congress, thereby initiating a new political order in central Europe, based upon the concept of a sovereign state governed by a sovereign. In the event, the treaties’ regulations became integral to the constitutional law of the Holy Roman Empire.

At yovisto you can get a brief summary about the events of the Thirty Years' War in the following AP European History Video.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles at Yovisto Blog:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Last Lecture of Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch
(1960 - 2008)
On October 23, 1960, professor of computer science and human-computer interaction Randy Pausch was born. He is best known for a lecture titled "The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" he gave after he had learned that he had pancreatic cancer, which became rather popular on youtube.

Randy Pausch studied at Brown University and received his Ph.D. in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in the 1980's. He fulfilled a childhood's dream while completing sabbaticals at Walt Disney Imagineering and became Associate Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction and Design, at Carnegie Mellon University in 1997. Pausch started teaching a course, in which the students coming from all departments built virtual worlds and presented them at the end of the semester. With this course that lasted for 10 years, Pausch became one of the most appreciated and liked teachers at CMU. During his time at the Carnegie Mellon University, Randy Pausch also started a software project called Alice. The 3D programming environment was designed to enable children to learn how to program Java, C, and C++ in the most enjoyable way possible. The free software allows students to learn fundamental programming concepts in the context of creating animated movies and simple video games and is still availabe on this day.

In August 2007, Randy Pausch was told to expect three to six months of good health living after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. On September 18, 2007, Pausch gave his famous last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University called 'The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams' and it was dedicated to his three children and wife. Originally, Pausch was invited to give the talk in the series 'the last lecture' independent from his illness, just like several other scientists at CMU. After receiving the terminal diagnose however, Pausch and his family decided this to be a good event for sharing his real last thoughts and inspirations to the world.

The auditorium was filled with 450 students, staff members and friends, who greeted the lecturer with a standing ovation. Starting his talk, Pausch explained that he would not talk about his wife, children, his terminal cancer or religion and spirituality at this point. Next, Pausch described his childhood dreams like becoming a Disney Imagineer, being in zero gravity, playing in the NFL or being the author of a World Book Encyclopedia article. As the lecture continued, he explained how he got to achieve his goals, how to overcome "brick walls" and why it is important to fail at things once in a while. In the following, Pausch started talking about the importance of enabling childhood dreams of others and described that becoming a professor was the best decision in order to do so. After the quite emotional ending of the lecture in which Pausch also explained that everyone has to decide whether he/she is "a Tigger or an Eeyore", Pausch again received a standing ovation and was honored by several former professors and colleagues.

The lecture received an incredible media attention and soon, Randy Pausch was nominated ABC's "Person of the Week". He appeared at Oprah Winfrey, joined the Pittsburgh Steelers for one practice day and was even invited to shoot a role in the latest Star Trek movie.

Randy Pausch passed away on July 25, 2008 at his family's home.

At yovisto, you may watch the famous last lecture from 2007.

References and Further Reading:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

André-Jacques Garnerin and the First Parachutes

Garnerin releases the balloon &
descends with the help of a parachute, 1797.
Illustration from the late 19th century.
On October 22, 1797, French balloonist and inventor André Garnerin, made the first safe descent with a silk parachute from a ballon at Parc Monceau, Paris.
Bold Garnerin went up 
Which increased his Repute 
And came safe to earth 
In his Grand Parachute.
André Garnerin was a student of Jaques Charles. Charles was a well known ballooning pioneer and launched along with the Robert brothers the very first unmanned hydrogen filled balloon in 1783. He also started experimenting with manned flights, just like Garnering later, who was then announced Official Aeronaut of France.

As Charles' student, Garnering got to perform several experiments and demonstrations of his designs and constructions. He got quite a lot of attention, especially when he announced that on the next flight, his passenger would be a woman. By governmental officials, Garnering was then questioned about this project and it was highly doubted that a woman should be on his flight due to the concerns that reduced air pressure might effect her inner organs. However, after the Minister of Interior and the Minister of the Police discussed this topic, it was found that it should no longer be a scandal when two people of different sexes ascend in a balloon together, also the chosen woman was completely aware of the possible health risks. The chosen one was Citoyenne Henri and she became known as the first woman "who ever had the courage to trust herself in the regions of air". This is interesting since she was not even the first woman to fly in a balloon. There are three known women, who achieved this before in Paris. Garnerin and his first female passenger ascended into the sky towards the north of Paris and landed shortly after without any incident.
Citoyenne Henri accompanies Garnerin
on a highly publicised and
controversial flight

With his experience in ballooning and his fame, Garnerin started experimenting with umbrella-shaped parachutes. Already Leonardo da Vinci wrote in detail about his ideas of a parachute device. However, it was André Garnerin, who performed the first parachute descent with a device made of silk on October 22, 1797 in Paris. His construction was basically a closed umbrella with a pole running down in the middle. He attached a basket to it and at an altitude of about 900m, he severed the rope that connected his parachute to the balloon. His balloon continued its journey into the skies while he fell with his parachute downwards. Even though the landing was very rough, Garnerin was not injured and his first silk parachute flight was a success.

In the following years, Garnerin toured across Europe, but mainly England to demonstrate his abilities and designs in spectacular jumps at higher and higher altitudes. In 1803, the pioneer managed to cover a distance of 395 km between Paris and Germany with a balloon.

At yovisto, you may enjoy video footage of Felix Baumgartner. On October 14, 2012 he broke several world records like achieving the parachute jump from the highest altitude and greatest free fall velocity.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles in the Blog:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Quo usque tandem, Calilina - Cicero and the Catilinarian Conspiracy

Cicero Denouncing Catiline by Cesare Maccari
On October 21, 63 BC, Roman philosopher, politician, and orator Marcus Tullius Cicero presented evidence to the members of the Roman senate as proof that Lucius Sergius Catilina was preparing a conspiracy to overthrow the Roman Republic, and in particular the power of the aristocratic Senate. Actually, the Catilinarian Conspiracy is one of the best-documented episodes of ancient history. It was the attempted seizure of power at Rome by the disaffected aristocrat Catiline. Marcus Tullius Cicero, acting Roman consul during this time was able to suppress the conspiracy, but caused vehement controversies, because he had executed the ringleaders. Cicero's speeches to the senate and people during the crisis have become rather popular. In fact, having had Latin as a subject in high school, we have had translated large parts of his famous first speech to the Roman senate, of which the opening remarks are still widely remembered and used after 2,000 years:
Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra? Quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet? Quem ad finem sese effrenata iactabit audacia? (How long, O Catiline, will you abuse our patience? And for how long will that madness of yours mock us? To what end will your unbridled audacity hurl itself?)
Lucius Sergius Catilina, in English known as Catiline, was born in 108 BC to one of the oldest patrician families in Rome, the gens Sergia. Although his family was of consular heritage, they were then declining in both social and financial fortunes, which should dramatically shape Catiline's ambitions and goals as he would desire above all else to restore the political heritage of his family along with its financial power.
“He had a powerful intellect and great physical strength, but a vicious a depraved." (Sallust, The Conspiracy of Catiline)
nature . According to the existing sources and references, Catilina must have beed a man of questionable character. An able commander, he had a distinguished military career. During the Roman Civil War in the times of the late Roman Republic he supported Lucius Cornelius Sulla. During Sulla's proscriptions he allegedly tortured, maimed and then killed and beheaded his brother-in-law, Marcus Marius Gratidianus. Then, carrying this man’s severed head through the streets of Rome and having Sulla add him to the proscription later to make the murder legal. Furthermore, he is also accused of murdering his first wife and son so that he could marry the wealthy and beautiful Aurelia Orestilla, daughter of the Consul of 71 BC, Gnaeus Aufidius Orestes. In 73 BC, he was brought to trial for adultery with the Vestal Virgin, Fabia, who was a half-sister of Cicero's wife, Terentia, but Quintus Lutatius Catulus, the principal leader of the Optimates, testified in his favor, and eventually Catiline was acquitted.

After an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government already in 65 BC, when Catiline and his fellow conspirators tried to assassinate the Consuls, a second plot was devised by Catiline with the help of a group of aristocrats and disaffected veterans, to overthrow the Roman Republic in 63 BC. Catiline, who was running for the consulship a second time after having lost the first time around, tried to ensure his victory by resorting to outlandish, blatant bribery. Cicero as one of the two elected current consuls in indignation, issued a law prohibiting machinations of this kind. It was obvious to all that the law was directed specifically at Catiline. Catiline, in turn, conspired with some of his minions to murder Cicero and the key men of the Senate on the day of the election. Cicero discovered the plan and postponed the election to give the Senate time to discuss the attempted coup d'état. Cicero procured a Senatus Consultum Ultimum (a declaration of martial law) and drove Catiline from the city with four vehement speeches - later referred to as the Catiline Orations -, which to this day remain outstanding examples of his rhetorical style. There, he listed Catiline's and his followers' debaucheries, and denounced Catiline's senatorial sympathizers as roguish and dissolute debtors clinging to Catiline as a final and desperate hope. Cicero demanded that Catiline and his followers leave the city. Incensed at these accusations, Catiline exhorted the Senate to recall the history of his family and how it had served the republic, instructing them not to believe false rumors and to trust the name of his family. He finally accused them of placing their faith in a "homo novus", Cicero, over a "nobilis", himself. Immediately afterward, Catiline rushed home and the same night ostensibly complied with Cicero's demand and fled Rome.
"O tempora o mores! (Oh the times, oh the customs!) (Cicero in his first speech against Catilina, deploring the viciousness and corruption of his age.
Next day, Cicero awoke the terror of the Roman people by a second oration delivered in the forum, in consequence of which Catiline and Manlius were declared public enemies, and the consular colleague Antonius Hybrida was despatched with an army against them. Meanwhile the imprudence of the conspirators in Rome brought about their own destruction. Some deputies from the Gaulish tribe of the Allobroges, who had been sent to Rome to obtain redress for certain grievances, were approached by P. Lentulus Sura, the chief of the conspirators, who endeavored to induce them to join him. After considerable hesitation, the deputies decided to turn informants. The plot was betrayed to Cicero, at whose instigation documentary evidence was obtained, implicating Lentulus and others. They were arrested, proved guilty, and on the 5th of December condemned to death and strangled in the underground dungeon on the slope of the Capitol. After the executions, Cicero announced to a crowd gathering in the Forum what had occurred. Thus, an end was made to the conspiracy in Rome. This act, which was opposed by Julius Caesar and advocated by Cato Titicensis, was afterwards vigorously attacked as a violation of the constitution, on the ground that the senate had no power of life and death over a Roman citizen. The historian Sallust describes the death of the Catiline in a final battle further pursuing the course of his futile conspiracy engaging the army of Antonius Hybrida near Pistoria:
"But Catiline was found far in advance of his men amid a heap of slain foemen, still breathing slightly, and showing in his face the indomitable spirit which had animated him when alive." (Sallust, The Conspiracy of Catiline)
At yovisto you can learn more about Cicero, his political life and his philosophy in the talk of Mary An Gledon on 'Politics as Vocation in Cicero and Burke'.

References and Further Reading:
Related Articles at yovisto Blog:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Legend of Klaus Störtebeker, Privateer

Possible reconstruction of Störtebeker's head
Image: Sebastian Sonntag
On October 20, 1401, Klaus Störtebeker, representative of a companionship of privateers known as the Victual Brothers, was executed by order of the senate of Hamburg. His life has become legend and he often is compared to other historic freedom fighters such as Che Guevara or Robin Hood, because he fought the rich in the name of the poor.

The exact roots of Klaus Störtebeker are unknown, but several rumors and myths circulate about the man's origins. However, it was found out that in 1380 two men were thrown out of the city of Wismar after a bar fight and one of these men was recorded with the name Nicolao Stortebeker. It is also said that his name (Störtebeker = down the beaker) evolved after nights of heavy drinking and that he was able to drink 4 liters of beer or wine at once.

The Victual Brothers robbed numerous ships in the Baltic and North Sea before selling their prey legally at the markets of Wismar. Representatives of the city of Hamburg made it to their personal goals to fight piracy and therefore to fight against Störtebeker, but it was no help. Again and again the brothers robbed merchant ships until they got arrested. In 1401 a traitor on board the 72 crew ship is supposed to have poured liquid lead into the steering system and caused the ship to be unable to maneuver. In October of the same year, Störtebeker along with every single member of the crew was executed. The chopped off heads were displayed along the Elbe River as a warning to the citizens. It is also said that a great amount of the collected treasures was hidden in the ship's masts and it was only found when a shipbuilder was about to take it apart.

The legend of Klaus Störtebeker may only be a legend. Several historians researched for him and most found a man called Johan Störtebeker from Danzig. He was appointed to secure English merchant ships and was known to be no pirate, criminal or what so ever. Still, the legends exist and until this day it is unknown which story is true or fictional. In the 16th century, several art works were made showing Klaus Störtebeker and mixed with actual historical findings. It is unclear what the pirate may have looked like but there are several assumptions. A skull of a pirate was found and thought to have belonged to Störtebeker. On this day it is displayed at a museum in Hamburg, Germany. Canadian forensic experts made several tests on the skull but were not able to clearly identify it to be the head of Klaus Störtebeker. Still the skull was reconstructed and the resulting image is today known as a probable look of the pirate.

Numerous tales tell the story of further hidden treasures on the Island of Rügen at the Baltic Sea. The region is visited by hundreds of tourists every year, who enjoy theater shows of Klaus Störtebeker as well as the many breweries and tourist ships named after him.

At yovisto, you may enjoy a video lecture by Roger Rouse on the meaning of the Pirates of the Caribbean. In this lecture, the Associate Teaching Professor in the Department of History, presents his argument that the films actually hijack complex histories of rebel piracy to incite conformity to corporate visions of life, labor and the world at large.

References and Further Reading: