Donald MacAlpin, or rather Domnall mac Ailpín in the Gaelic of the time (Modern Gaelic: Dòmhnall mac Ailpein), was a king of the Picts who reigned between 13th February 858 and 13th April 862. The brother of Kenneth MacAlpin, who according to the national myth was the first King of Scotland, he is known in most modern regal lists as Donald I.
The Chronicle of Melrose says of Donald, "…in war he was a vigorous soldier...." and while little is known about his military activity it is probable that he would have had to use some force to consolidate the MacAlpin’s dynasty as kings of the Pics. He is best known for overseeing the introduction of laws known as the laws of Aedh (or Aed). These included the law of tanistry, under which the successor of the king was elected during his lifetime from members of his family. This meant that brothers or cousins of the king could be next in line for succession rather than sons.
The events surrounding Donald’s death are uncertain. According to the Chronicle of Melrose he was murdered, but there are no other sources that support this. The location of his death is also unknown, either being at the palace of Cinnbelachoir, which is thought to have been near Scone, or at Rathinveralmond, the location of which is again unknown, but could in fact be the same place. He was buried on Iona.
Although Donald is generally supposed to have been childless, it has been suggested that Giric, who was king between 878 and 889, was his son. He was succeeded by Constantine, his nephew and son of Kenneth MacAlpine.
This scene was built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on the Kings and Queens of Scotland. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Margaret, Maid of Norway (Norwegian: Margrete or Margareta) was a Norwegian princess who was recognised as Queen of Scots between March 29th 1286 and September 26th 1290. She succeeded at the age of seven and her early death four years later heralded a succession crisis in the Scottish kingdom, eventually leading to the Fist War of Scottish Independence.
Margaret was the granddaughter of Alexander III (Alaxandair mac Alaxandair), who had three children Margaret, Alexander and David. Margaret’s mother, also called Margaret, was Alexander’s daughter and was married to Eric King of Norway. She died during childbirth and by 1284 Alexander’s two sons were also dead, without children of their own. Consequently, Margaret became the king’s only living descendant and so on the February 5th 1281 the thirteen earls and twenty-four barons of Scotland met Alexander to agree to recognise her as heir. Alexander did remarry, to Yolande de Dreux, but he died in an accident on March 19th 1286.
Following Alexander’s death the magnates and clerics of the realm assembled on the 29th March to select the Guardians of Scotland who would keep the kingdom for the rightful heir. At this time it was thought that Queen Yolande was pregnant, so that Margaret was not yet the obvious successor. However the unborn child was lost, probably by miscarriage and so at the age of three, Margaret was recognised as Queen of Scots.
The first sign of future troubles occurred shortly afterwards when Robert Bruce, 5th Lord of Annandale rebelled with the aid of his son the Earl of Carrick. The Bruces captured strongholds in Galloway, as well as bolstering their position in the south-west where their rivals the Balliols also had influence. This may have been a bid for the Crown, but further support was not forthcoming and the rebellion quickly dissipated.
Because Margaret was a princess in a foreign court, the position of Scotland at this point was perilous as Margaret’s father, Eric was able to marry his daughter to whoever he wanted, with the Guardians of Scotland having no say in the negotiations. There was the risk therefore that a match with another royal family could lead to the disappearance of Scotland as an independent kingdom. The not so subtle elephant in the room was of course Edward I of England, whose son Edward, Prince of Wales, was a potential husband, indeed it is clear that Edward had this in mind.
Any such plans would however come to nothing as her voyage to Scotland would end in the Orkney Islands, where she died on September 26th 1290, apparently from the effects of sea sickness. Her remains were taken to Bergen and interred beside her mother in the wall on the north side of the choir in Christ Church, Bergen.
Her death left no obvious heir to the Scottish throne and the matter of succession would be resolved, albeit temporarily, in the Great Cause of 1291–2. John Balliol would be chosen as king, beginning his reign on November 30th 1292. It would not be a popular one and Edward I would use his influence over the new monarch to place himself as Lord paramount of Scotland and so the bitter struggle of the 1st Scottish War of Independence would follow.
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"As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself"
On this day in 1320 The Declaration of Arbroath was made. The document represented Scotland’s declaration of independence and was sent to Pope John XXII with the purpose of confirming Scotland's status as an independent, sovereign state and defending Scotland's right to use military action when unjustly attacked.
The Declaration made a number of points: that Scotland had always been independent, indeed for longer than England; that Edward I of England had unjustly attacked Scotland and perpetrated atrocities; that Robert the Bruce had delivered the Scottish nation from this peril; and, most controversially, that the independence of Scotland was the prerogative of the Scottish people, rather than the King of Scots. (However this should be taken in the context of the time - ‘Scottish People’ refers to the Scottish nobility, rather than commoners). In fact it stated that the nobility would choose someone else to be king if Bruce proved to be unfit in maintaining Scotland's independence.
It is generally believed that the Declaration was written in Arbroath Abbey by Bernard of Kilwinning, then Chancellor of Scotland and Abbot of Arbroath, and sealed by fifty-one magnates and nobles, the letter is the sole survivor of three created at the time. The others were a letter from the King of Scots, Robert I, also known as Robert the Bruce, and a letter from four Scottish bishops which all made similar points.
The Declaration was part of a broader diplomatic campaign, which sought to assert Scotland's position as an independent kingdom, rather than its being a feudal land controlled by England's Norman kings, as well as lift the excommunication of Robert the Bruce. The pope had recognised Edward I of England's claim to overlordship of Scotland in 1305 and Bruce was excommunicated by the Pope for murdering John Comyn before the altar in Greyfriars Church in Dumfries in 1306.
There are 39 names—eight earls and thirty one barons—at the start of the document, all of whom may have had their seals appended, probably over the space of several weeks or months, with nobles sending in their seals to be used. On the extant copy of the Declaration there are only 19 seals, and of those 19 people only 12 are named within the document. It is thought likely that at least 11 more seals than the original 39 might have been appended. The Declaration was then taken to the papal court at Avignon by Bishop Kininmund, Sir Adam Gordon and Sir Odard de Maubuisson.
The Pope heeded the arguments contained in the Declaration, influenced by the offer of support from the Scots for his long-desired crusade if they no longer had to fear English invasion. He exhorted Edward II in a letter to make peace with the Scots, but the following year was again persuaded by the English to take their side and issued six bulls to that effect. It was not until eight years later, on March 1st 1328, that the new English king, Edward III signed a peace treaty between Scotland and England, the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton. In this treaty, which was in effect for five years until 1333, Edward renounced all English claims to Scotland. Eight months later, in October 1328, the interdict on Scotland and the excommunication of its king were removed by the Pope.
The Declaration has been interpreted in a number of ways, including as an early expression of ‘popular sovereignty’, as evidence of the long-term persistence of the Scots as a distinct national community and as a statement of royal propaganda supporting Bruce's faction.
Later, Scotland would of course join England in an act of Union of 1707. However, the Declaration of Arbroath would continue to have influence further afield. US Senate Resolution 155 of November 10th 1997 states that the the American Declaration of Independence was modeled on the document. However, although this influence is accepted by some historians, it is disputed by others. In 2016 the Declaration of Arbroath was placed on UNESCO's Memory of the World register.
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On Saturday April 1st 1820 members of the Radical Committee for organising a Provisional Government posted a proclamation demanding the reform in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. So began the Radical Rising, also known as the Radical War or Scottish Insurrection of 1820. It would see some 60,000 workers go on strike across central Scotland, but would eventually end in failure and the execution or deportation of its leaders.
In the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, Britain had entered a period of economic depression. Industrialisation had squeezed the earnings of skilled weavers, who between 1800 and 1808 had seen their incomes halved. On top of this, the punitive effects of the Corn Law artificially inflated the price of bread affecting the lives of all workers. Parliamentary reform had failed to keep pace with demographic change and so the desire for reform, or even revolution, was in the air.
In August of the previous year, the Peterloo Massacre saw a crowd of 60-80,000 protesters attacked by members of the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry, resulting in the deaths of 18 with hundreds more injured. The event resulted in demonstrations across Britain. In Scotland, a memorial rally in Paisley on September 11th led to a week of rioting and cavalry were used to control around 5,000 ‘Radicals’. Protest meetings were also held in Stirling, Airdrie, Renfrewshire, Ayrshire and Fife, mainly in weaving areas. Shortly after saw the formation of a 28-man Radical Committee for organising a Provisional Government, which was elected by delegates of local "unions". The Committee decided to arrange military training for its supporters, giving some responsibility for the training programme to a Condorrat weaver with army experience, named John Baird.
The French Revolution was still fresh in the mind of the government who feared that similar events might unfold in Britain. As a consequence the Government sought to suppress calls for reform through spies and agent provocateurs. In Scotland, these agents infiltrated the Radical Committee and so when they met in a Tavern in Glasgow March 21st 1820 they were raided and arrested. It was reported a few days later that those arrested had confessed to a plot to split Scotland from England and restore the Scottish Parliament.
At a meeting on March 22nd the weaver John King addressed a crowd of around 20, which included another weaver called John Craig, the tin-smith Duncan Turner, and "an Englishman" called Lees. There King told them that a rising was imminent and all present should hold themselves in enthusiastic readiness for the call to arms. The next day Turner revealed plans to establish a Provisional Government and sent a draft proclamation to print. Lees, King and Turner went round encouraging supporters to make pikes for the battles and on April 1st the pamphlets were distributed throughout Glasgow.
The Proclamation, which was signed "By order of the Committee of Organisation for forming a Provisional Government. Glasgow April 1st. 1820." Stated:
"Friends and Countrymen! Rouse from that torpid state in which we have sunk for so many years, we are at length compelled from the extremity of our sufferings, and the contempt heaped upon our petitions for redress, to assert our rights at the hazard of our lives." by "taking up arms for the redress of our common grievances". "Equality of rights (not of property)... Liberty or Death is our motto, and we have sworn to return home in triumph - or return no more.... we earnestly request all to desist from their labour from and after this day, the first of April [until] in possession of those rights..." It called for a rising "To show the world that we are not that lawless, sanguinary rabble which our oppressors would persuade the higher circles we are but a brave and generous people determined to be free."
On Monday April 3rd a strike took force across a wide area of Scotland including Stirlingshire, Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, with an estimated total of around 60,000 stopping work.
Reports were made of men carrying out military drill in Glasgow while foundries and forges had been raided, and iron files and dyer's poles taken to make pikes. In Kilbarchan soldiers found men making pikes, in Stewarton around 60 strikers was dispersed, in Balfron around 200 men had assembled for some sort of action. Pikes, gunpowder and weapons called "wasps" (a sort of javelin) and "clegs" (a barbed shuttlecock to throw at horses) were offered for sale.
In Glasgow John Craig led around 30 men to make for the Carron Company ironworks in Falkirk, telling them that weapons would be there for the taking, but the group were scattered when intercepted by a police patrol. Craig was caught, brought before a magistrate and fined, but the magistrate paid his fine for him.
Rumours spread that England was in arms for the cause of reform and that an army was mustering at Campsie commanded by Marshal MacDonald, a Marshal of France and son of a Jacobite refugee family, to join forces with 50,000 French soldiers at Cathkin Braes under Kinloch, the fugitive "Radical laird" from Dundee.
Government troops were ready in Glasgow, including the Rifle Brigade, the 83rd Regiment of Foot, the 7th and 10th Hussars and Samuel Hunter's Glasgow Sharpshooters. In the evening 300 radicals briefly skirmished with a party "of cavalry", but no one came to harm.
The Battle of Bonnymuir
The next day, Tuesday April 4th, Duncan Turner assembled around 60 men to march to Carron, while he carried out organising work elsewhere. Half the group dropped out, however the remaining twenty five, persuaded that they would pick up support along the way, set out under the leadership of Andrew Hardie. They arrived in Condorrat, which was on the way to Carron, at 5am on April 5th. Waiting for them was John Baird who had expected a small army, not this bedraggled and soaking wet group. He was persuaded to continue the March to Carron by John King, who would himself go ahead and gather supporters. King would go to find supporters at Camelon while Baird and Hardie were to leave the road and wait at Bonnymuir.
The authorities at Kilsyth and Stirling Castle had however been alerted and Sixteen Hussars and sixteen Yeomanry troopers had been ordered on 4 April to leave Perth and go to protect Carron. They left the road at Bonnybridge early on April 5th and made straight for the slopes of Bonnymuir. As the newspapers subsequently reported:
"On observing this force the radicals cheered and advanced to a wall over which they commenced firing at the military. Some shots were then fired by the soldiers in return, and after some time the cavalry got through an opening in the wall and attacked the party who resisted till overpowered by the troops who succeeded in taking nineteen of them prisoners, who are lodged in Stirling Castle. Four of the radicals were wounded".
The Glasgow Herald mocked the small number of radicals encountered, but worried that "the conspiracy appears to be more extensive than almost anyone imagined... radical principles are too widely spread and too deeply rooted to vanish without some explosion and the sooner it takes place the better."
The end of the Rising
On the afternoon of April 5th, before news of the Bonnymuir fighting got out, Lees sent a message asking the radicals of Strathaven to meet up with the "Radical laird" Kinloch's large force at Cathkin. The next morning a small force of 25 men followed the instructions and left at 7 a.m. to march there. Among them was the experienced elderly Radical James Wilson who is claimed to have had a banner reading "Scotland Free or a Desart" [sic]. At East Kilbride they were warned of an army ambush, and Wilson, suspecting treachery, returned to Strathaven. The others bypassed the ambush and reached Cathkin, but as there was no sign of the promised army they dispersed. Ten of them were identified and caught, and by nightfall on April 7th; they were jailed at Hamilton.
Large numbers of those arrested were imprisoned in various jails across central Scotland. On April 8th The Port Glasgow Volunteers, who had served in Paisley during the strike, returned to Glasgow as an escort for five prisoners to be taken on to Greenock jail. They met minor hostility while marching through the town of Crawfurdsdyke, but as they approached the jail the situation escalated.
While handing over the prisoners stones were thrown at them from higher ground to the south of the jail, forcing them to seek shelter A hostile crowd gathered, and shots fired in the air failed to calm the situation. The Volunteers continued to be assaulted as they returned along Cathcart Street, as stones and bottles were thrown at them from an ever increasing crowd. As they approached Rue End Street they fired sporadically into the crowd, killing and wounding several of them. The mob pursued the Volunteers into Crawfurdsdyke, then returned to break open the jail. A magistrate urged the crowd to desist, but with no forces to resist them, agreed to release the prisoners who then escaped. A large group set off to burn down Port Glasgow, but were halted at that town's boundary by armed townsfolk who had barricaded the Devol's Glen Bridge. Greenock magistrates arrived, and dispersed the crowd.
The rising by this point was now over and by the end of April hundreds of Radicals fled to Canada. 88 men were charged with treason. James Wilson, Andrew Hardie and John Baird were convicted and sentenced to death. Wilson was hanged and beheaded on August 30th, watched by some 20,000 people, first remarking to the executioner "Did you ever see such a crowd, Thomas?". Hardie and Baird were executed on September 8th, also by hanging and beheading, which would be the last beheading in the UK. May hundreds more were transported to penal colonies in New South Wales or Tasmania.
The effect of the crushing of Rising was to effectively discourage serious Radical unrest in Scotland for some time. However, the cause of electoral reform continued, and with the Scottish Reform Act 1832 Glasgow was given its own Member of Parliament for the first time.
These scenes were built by Dan Harris as part of a series of models on people and protest. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Sir Joseph William Bazalgette was a 19th-century English civil engineer. As chief engineer of London's Metropolitan Board of Works his major achievement was the creation of a sewer network for central London which was instrumental in relieving the city from cholera epidemics, while beginning the cleansing of the River Thames.
Bazalgette was born on March 28th 1819 at Hill Lodge, Clay Hill, Enfield. He began his career working on railway projects, articled to noted engineer Sir John MacNeill and gaining sufficient experience (some in China) in land drainage and reclamation works for him to set up his own London consulting practice in 1842. In 1845, Bazalgette was deeply involved in the expansion of the railway network, working so hard that he suffered a nervous breakdown two years later.
While he was recovering, London's Metropolitan Commission of Sewers ordered that all cesspits should be closed and that house drains should connect to sewers and empty into the Thames. As a result, a cholera epidemic (1848–49) killed 14,137 Londoners.
Bazalgette was appointed assistant surveyor to the Commission in 1849, taking over as Engineer in 1852. Soon after, another cholera epidemic struck, in 1853, killing 10,738. Medical opinion at the time held that cholera was caused by foul air: a so-called miasma. Physician Dr John Snow had earlier advanced a different explanation, which is now known to be correct: cholera was spread by contaminated water. His view was not then generally accepted.
Championed by fellow engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Bazalgette was appointed chief engineer of the Commission's successor, the Metropolitan Board of Works, in 1856. In 1858, the year of the Great Stink, Parliament passed an enabling act, in spite of the colossal expense of the project, and Bazalgette's proposals to revolutionise London's sewerage system began to be implemented. The expectation was that enclosed sewers would eliminate the stink ('miasma'), and that this would then reduce the incidence of cholera.
Bazalgette's solution was to construct a network of 82 miles of enclosed underground brick main sewers to intercept sewage outflows, and 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of street sewers, to intercept the raw sewage which up until then flowed freely through the streets and thoroughfares of London. The plan included major pumping stations at Deptford (1864) and at Crossness (1865) on the Erith marshes, both on the south side of the Thames, and at Abbey Mills (in the River Lea valley, 1868) and on the Chelsea Embankment (close to Grosvenor Bridge; 1875), north of the river. The outflows were diverted downstream where they were collected in two large sewage outfall systems on the north and south sides of the Thames called the Northern and Southern Outfall sewers. The sewage from the Northern Outfall sewer and that from the Southern Outfall were originally collected in balancing tanks in Beckton and Crossness respectively before being dumped, untreated, into the Thames at high tide.
The system was opened by Edward, Prince of Wales in 1865, although the whole project was not actually completed for another ten years.
The unintended consequence of the new sewer system was to eliminate cholera everywhere in the water system, whether or not it stank. The basic premise of this expensive project, that miasma spread cholera infection, was wrong. However, instead of causing the project to fail, the new sewers succeeded in virtually eliminating the disease by removing the contamination. Bazalgette's sewers also decreased the incidence of typhus and typhoid epidemics.
Bazalgette's work had a longer term impact in that he designed the diameter of the sewage pipes to be far in excess of what was needed at the time, stating, “…we're only going to do this once and there's always the unforeseen”. His foresight allowed for the unforeseen rapid increase in London’s populations and the sewers are still in use today,
Bazalgette died on March 15th 1891, and was buried in the nearby churchyard at St Mary's Church.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on British important events and people in British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
On this day in 1556, former Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer was burnt at the stake for heresy.
Cranmer had been a leading figure in the English Reformation and during his time as Archbishop, had been responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England. Under Henry VIII's rule, Cranmer did not make many radical changes in the Church, due to power struggles between religious conservatives and reformers. However, when Edward VI came to the throne, Cranmer was able to promote major reforms.
After the accession of the Roman Catholic Mary I, Cranmer was put on trial for treason and heresy. He was imprisoned for over two years and under pressure from Church authorities, he made several recantations and apparently reconciled himself with the Roman Catholic Church. However, on the day of his execution, he withdrew his recantations, and instead spoke "...and as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ's enemy, and Antichrist with all his false doctrine." Cranmer was pulled from the pulpit and taken straight to the place of burning in Oxford where he would die a heretic to Roman Catholics and a martyr for the principles of the English Reformation.
Cranmer's death was immortalised in Foxe's Book of Martyrs and his legacy lives on within the Church of England through the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles, an Anglican statement of faith derived from his work.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Ring-a-ring o' roses,
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down
So we're locked down self-isolating and yesterday heard the neighbour's children singing Ring-a-ring o' roses making us laugh out loud. According to one theory the nursery rhyme has its origins in the Great Plague which happened in England in 1665, but this is far from certain. Anyway, since its pandemics are somewhat topical and we have some time on our hands we thought we might as well knock out a quick blog about it.
It's unknown what the earliest version of the rhyme was or when it began, but it first appeared in print in 1881, while it is reported that a version was already being sung to the current tune in the 1790s. Many incarnations of the rhyme are accompanied by a game where a group of children form a ring, dance in a circle around a person, and stoop or curtsy with the final line. The slowest child to do so is faced with a penalty or becomes the "rosie" and takes their place in the center of the ring.
In 1898, A Dictionary of British Folklore contained the belief that the rhyme and game were of pagan origin. This theory states that it's in reference to Pagan myths and cites a passage in Jacob Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie which states, "Gifted children of fortune have the power to laugh roses, as Freyja wept gold." It claimed the first instance to be indicative of pagan beings of light.
The plague theory, which associates the rhyme with the the Great Plague of 1665, or with earlier outbreaks of the Black Death going back to the 14th century, came to fore in the mid-twentieth century. According to the folklorists Peter and Iona Opie:
"The invariable sneezing and falling down in modern English versions have given would-be origin finders the opportunity to say that the rhyme dates back to the Great Plague. A rosy rash, they allege, was a symptom of the plague, and posies of herbs were carried as protection and to ward off the smell of the disease. Sneezing or coughing was a final fatal symptom, and "all fall down" was exactly what happened."
However, there are a number of good reasons why this theory lacks strength, notably that the theory did not appear until the mid-twentieth century, that the symptoms described do not fit especially well with the Great Plague and that European and 19th-century versions of the rhyme suggest that this "fall" was not a literal falling down, but a curtsy or other form of bending movement that was common in other dramatic singing games.
Nevertheless the interpretation has entered into popular culture and it gives us an excuse to shoehorn a topical blog into our schedule!
These scenes were created by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
John Snow was an English physician, who was a leader in the adoption of anesthesia and is considered one of the fathers of modern epidemiology. His success in tracing the source of a cholera outbreak in Soho, London, in 1854 inspired fundamental changes in the city’s water and waste systems which led to similar changes in other cities, and a significant improvement in general public health around the world.
Snow was born on March 15th 1813 in York, England. From a young age, he demonstrated an aptitude for mathematics and in 1827, when he was 14, he obtained a medical apprenticeship with William Hardcastle in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He encountered a cholera epidemic for the first time in Killingworth, a coal-mining village, in 1832. Snow treated many victims of the disease and gained a lot of experience.
He was admitted as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1838, graduated from the University of London in December 1844 and was admitted to the Royal College of Physicians in 1850. In 1850 he was also one of the founding members of the Epidemiological Society of London, formed in response to the cholera outbreak of 1849.
Snow was a skeptic of the then-dominant miasma theory that stated that diseases such as cholera were caused by pollution or a noxious form of "bad air". The germ theory of disease had not yet been developed, so Snow did not understand the mechanism by which the disease was transmitted. He first publicised his theory in an 1849 essay, On the Mode of Communication of Cholera, followed by a more detailed treatise in 1855 incorporating the results of his investigation of the role of the water supply in the Soho epidemic of 1854.
By talking to local residents, he identified the source of the outbreak as the public water pump on Broad Street (now Broadwick Street). Although Snow's chemical and microscope examination of a water sample from the pump did not conclusively prove its danger, his studies of the pattern of the disease were convincing enough to persuade the local council to disable the well pump by removing its handle. This action has been commonly credited as ending the outbreak, but Snow observed that the epidemic may have already been in rapid decline.
Snow later used a dot map to illustrate the cluster of cholera cases around the pump. He also used statistics to illustrate the connection between the quality of the water source and cholera cases. He showed that the Southwark and Vauxhall Waterworks Company was taking water from sewage-polluted sections of the Thames and delivering the water to homes, leading to an increased incidence of cholera. Snow's study was a major event in the history of public health and geography. It is regarded as the founding event of the science of epidemiology.
Snow was one of the first physicians to study and calculate dosages for the use of ether and chloroform as surgical anaesthetics, allowing patients to undergo surgical and obstetric procedures without the distress and pain they would otherwise experience. He designed the apparatus to safely administer ether to the patients and also designed a mask to administer chloroform. He even personally administered chloroform to Queen Victoria when she gave birth to the last two of her nine children, Leopold in 1853 and Beatrice in 1857.
In June 1858 Snow suffered a stroke while working in his London office. He never recovered, dying on June 16th. He was buried in Brompton Cemetery.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum and Steve Snasdell as part of a series of models on British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
Woop woop! We have our first save the date of 2020 for you! We will be at Edinbrick at the Potterrow Dome in Edinburgh on Saturday 16th May!
The event will run from 10.30am to 4pm and there are a limited number of Quiet Time spaces between 10 and 10.30am.
Entry is just £3 and under fives go free! A great deal all round!
Find out more and buy your tickets here:
The event will raise money for the good folks at Fairybricks who donate LEGO to sick and disadvantaged children in hospital. We look forward to seeing you there!
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On this day in 1781, astronomer Sir William Herchel discovered Uranus. Of course Uranus had been observed before, indeed Hipparchos took great interest in Uranus way back in 128 BC. However, previous observers had assumed it was a star and it would not be until Herschel was able to take a really good look at it that Uranus was identified as what it truly is – a planet.
William Herschel was born November 15th 1738 in Hanover, which was then part of the Holy Roman Empire. At the time the crowns of Great Britain and Hanover were united under King George II and the Herschel family were employed in the two nation's joint army. William and his brother Jakob joined as oboists in the regimental band of a Hanoverian Guards regiment and were deployed when the Seven Years’ War broke out in 1756. A year later France invaded Hannover and the brothers were present at the Battle of Hastenbeck where a British and German army was defeated. Soon after the brothers’ father sent them both to seek refuge in England. Although Jakob had received his dismissal from the Hanoverian Guards, Wilhelm was accused of desertion.
In England, William quickly learnt English and became an accomplished musician and composer, adding the violin, harpsichord and organ to his repertoire and composing a number of symphonies. He would eventually settle in Bath where his intellectual curiosity and interest in music eventually led him to astronomy. After reading Robert Smith's Harmonics, or the Philosophy of Musical Sounds (1749), he took up Smith's A Compleat System of Opticks (1738), which described techniques of telescope construction. He took lessons from a local mirror-builder and having obtained both tools and a level of expertise, started building his own reflecting telescopes. He relied on the assistance of other family members, particularly his sister Caroline and his brother Alexander, a skilled mechanical craftsperson.
He "began to look at the planets and the stars" in May 1773 and on March 1st 1774 began an astronomical journal by noting his observations of Saturn's rings and the Great Orion Nebula (M42). By 1779, Herschel made the acquaintance of Sir William Watson, who invited him to join the Bath Philosophical Society. Herschel became an active member and through Watson would greatly enlarge his circle of contacts.
Herschel observed Uranus on March 13th 1781 from the garden of his house at 19 New King Street in Bath and initially reported it as a comet. This is how he presented his discovery to the Royal Society, though he also implicitly compared it to a planet.
Although Herschel continued to describe his new object as a comet, other astronomers had already begun to suspect otherwise. The object was soon universally accepted as a new planet and by 1783, Herschel too acknowledged this to Royal Society president Joseph Banks:
"By the observation of the most eminent Astronomers in Europe it appears that the new star, which I had the honour of pointing out to them in March 1781, is a Primary Planet of our Solar System."
In recognition of his achievement, King George III gave Herschel an annual stipend of £200 on condition that he move to Windsor so that the Royal Family could look through his telescopes (equivalent to £24,000 in 2019). As a bonus, George also pardoned him of his apparent desertion.
Despite only becoming a professional astronomer at the age of 43, Herschel made other valuable contributions to the field, building increasingly powerful telescopes to make observations of nebulae and form theories on their formation and evolution. He made numerous other discoveries, including two moons of Saturn, Mimas and Enceladus; as well as two moons of Uranus, Titania and Oberon.
He died on August 25th 1822 with the epitaph:
Coelorum perrupit claustra
(He broke through the barriers of the heavens)
His house at 19 New King Street in Bath, Somerset, where he made many telescopes and first observed Uranus, is now home to the Herschel Museum of Astronomy.
This scene was created by Colin Parry as part of a series of models on British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
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