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Historical Anecdotes: L
Posted on Jun 09, 2002 - 11:36 AM by Anthony Waldstock

This is a series of articles that has grown out of the daily listings of what happened "On This Day". Many of the events, particularly those related to science, seemed to us to need some more information than is possible in the daily listing format. Still others had amusing or informative anecdotes associated with them that we felt were worth sharing with our Visitors. The series is designed for browsing and dipping into and we have therefore set up a comprehensive system of links to make this as easy and as enjoyable as possible.

This series of articles will present occasional anecdotal, amusing and factual notes behind the people and events in history digests. People are indexed according to their family or surnames whereas kings, popes, emperors etc. are listed according to their regnal names- e.g. Charles Boycott would be found under B, Pope Gregory under G and Queen Mary Tudor under M. Other items are indexed by the most significant word in the title, for example Artificial Ice will be found under I but Sad Iron will be found under S.
Within the series there are two sets of links. At the top of each page there will be a table of links to the other indexing letters to allow browsing by individual pages. That also appears on this page. At the bottom of each page you will also find a set of links which will allow you to scroll backward (Previous) and forward (next) through the pages. The pages are looped so the "Previous" link from A will be to Z and the "Next" link from Z will be to A. There will also be a central link back to the introduction page whose main content is an alphabetic list of the complete set of entries. From here, you will be able to browse the titles of the individual entries and jump directly to those that interest you.

Links to Entries by Index Letter

Abb Nicolas Louis de Lacaille was a French astronomer who named 15 of the 88 constellations in the sky. He spent the year 1750-1754 at the Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost part of Africa, mapping the constellations visible in the Southern Hemisphere. In his years there, he was said to have observed over 10,000 stars using just his half-inch refractor telescope. He established the first southern star catalogue Caelum Australe Stelliferum containing 9776 stars. It was partly published in 1763 and completely in 1847. He also produced a catalogue of 42 nebulae in 1755 which contained 33 true deep sky objects, 26 of them discovered by himself.

Carles Lamoureux (1834-1899) was a French violinist and conductor. He studied at the Paris Conservatory, joined a theatre orchestra and then the orchestra at the Opera. In 1860 he helped to found a chamber music society which was dedicated to the introduction of new works to the Parisian audiences. He conducted works by Bach, Handel and others for the society during the 1870s and was appointed conductor at the Opera. In 1881 he established the Concerts Lamoureux at which he made a great deal of orchestral music by both French and foreign composers known to a wide public.

The Lawnmower was invented by Edwin Budding of Stroud, Gloucestershire, England. In 1830 he commissioned John Ferrabee of the Phoenix Iron Works, Thrupp, near Stroud to manufacture "machinery for the purpose of cropping or shearing the vegetable surface of lawns". Budding worked in a textile factory and his inspiration for the invention is said to have been a machine designed to shear the nap off cloth. His first recorded customer was Mr. Curtis, Head Gardener of Regent's Park Zoo, who bought a Ferrabee machine in 1831, paying 10 guineas (about 650 today) for the large model. A smaller Ferrabee machine, costing 7 guineas (about 450), was also available and was aimed at "country gentlemen" who, Budding claimed, "will find in my machine, an amusing, useful and healthful exercise". Although the machine was heavy and inefficiently geared, but it was clearly an improvement on cutting the lawn with scythes, which could only be done effectively when the grass was wet. The growth of the new industry was slow, and only two firms exhibited machines at the Great Exhibition in 1851. However, the arrival of lawn tennis in the 1870s provided a new impetus and it was not long before lighter and more efficient models began to appear in suburban back gardens and playing fields all over late Victorian England.

Light theory
In 1827, William Rowan Hamilton presented his Theory of Systems of Rays at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. Although he was still an undergraduate, only 21 years old, his work is one of the important works in optics, for it provided a single function that brings together mechanics, optics and mathematics. It led to establishing the wave theory of light, which holds that light is a form of energy that travels in waves.

Thomas Drummond (1797-1840) was a Scottish inventor of limelight, or Drummond light, (the intense white light produced by heating a piece of lime [calcium oxide] in an oxyhydrogen flame) and the heliostatia (an apparatus containing a movable mirror and used to reflect sunlight in a fixed direction). Both were designed to make surveying possible through day or night. Limelight was first used in autumn 1825 during the survey of Ireland. In 1829, he applied his idea for use in lighthouses. The brilliance of the light surpassed the various lights then known. Drummond was still working on reducing the cost of its operation when he became a politician, and by 1835 was the de facto governor of Ireland, although not in an official sense. He died at an early age, of overwork, in Dublin.

Ottmar Mergenthaler (1854-1899) was the German inventor of the Linotype typesetting machine in 1886. It was regarded as the greatest advance in printing since the development of moveable type 400 years earlier. He moved to the U.S. in 1872 and at the age of 32, he designed and built his first linotype machine. With it, the two operations of setting and casting type in lead lines were performed simply by touching the keys of a board similar to the keyboard of a typewriter. It enabled one operator to be machinist, type-setter, justifier and type-founder and was first used in 1886 by the New York Tribune. He subsequently produced many great improvements on the basic design before his early death at the age of 45.

In 1943, the hallucinogenic effect of the drug LSD, lysergic acid diethylamide, was first observed. The Swiss chemist, Albert Hoffman had five years before synthesized the drug but his hopes of using in the treatment of respiratory problems were not fulfilled, and he shelved the samples. On April 16th, he accidentally absorbed some of the drug through his skin as a result of touching its container. It affected his nervous system and produced dizziness with hallucinations. The drug is related to a substance in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. It is now known that LSD acts to block the action of serotonin (the indole amine transmitter of nerve impulses) in brain tissue. No safe clinical use had been found for te drug although its dangerous side effects are well known.

Lumiere Cinemas
In 1895, the first motion picture shown on a screen was presented by Auguste and Louis Lumi re. An invited audience at 44 Rue de Rennes in Paris viewed the film La Sortie des ouvriers de l'usine Lumi re. As the title implies, the film they shot specially for the occasion showed workers leaving the Lumi res' own factory in Lyon. The factory made a variety of photographic products and had a large workforce. The film shows the workers streaming out of the factory gates. Most of them are on foot they were followed by those with bicycles and finally came those with cars. Several more private screenings followed before the first public showing, at the Salon Indien of the Grand Caf , 14 Boulevard des Capucines in Paris on 28th December. The Lumi res soon began opening cinemas in London, Brussels, Berlin and New York.

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