The empire which had the largest percentage of the world's population living within its imperial borders was....the Achaemenid Empire! Better known as the Persian Empire, it had roughly 49.4 million of the world’s 112.4 million people in around 480 BCE. That's 44% of the world's people!

How Extremism Crippled A University

Although now obscure, Göttingen had been the place for mathematical research all throughout the 1800s. Those working at the university were premier mathematicians (and physicists): Gauss, Riemann, Klein, Dirichlet, Noether, Von Neumann, Oppenheimer, Hilbert. (For us non-mathematicians, that’s apparently a very impressive list of names.) The importance of Göttingen and German mathematicians generally is most clearly shown by German becoming an international language for science. Dissertations published in the US and UK often had German titles.

With the Nazi rise to power in the early 1930s many prominent Jews left Germany. Göttingen was still prominent, however. Then came the “great purge.” Academics including Max Born, Victor Goldschmidt, James Franck, Eugene Wigner, Leó Szilárd, Edward Teller, Edmund Landau, Emmy Noether, and Richard Courant were expelled or fled from the university. Göttingen became the showpiece for the Nazi crackdown on “Jewish physics.” Only approved Germans were now allowed to teach there.

One of the few remaining faculty from before the purge, David Hilbert, was asked in 1934 “How is mathematics at Göttingen, now that it is free from the Jewish influence?” He replied, “There is no mathematics in Göttingen, anymore.” The center of academic progress moved, virtually overnight, to the United States.

Buddhism's Sacred Trees

Trees are a re-occurring motif in the life of Siddhartha Gautama, according to the beliefs of the religion he founded. His mother, Maya, went into labor while traveling through Lumbini and held a branch of a sal tree for support while giving birth. A fig tree (bodhi) shaded Siddhartha while he achieved enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. And as the end of his life approached, the Buddha lay down between two sal trees in Kushinagar, as he passed from this world. Tree shrines exist at most major Buddhist sites. At Lumbini, for instance, a living descendent of the sacred bodhi tree grows alongside the temple at Bodh Gaya.

The Bizarre Life of Spanish Sportsman Josep Iborra

Following the Spanish Civil War, Barcelona's football team (soccer to Americans) made a tour of Mexico in order to raise funds for the club, which had been devastated by the Civil War. When the tour finished, Rossend Calvet, the Club's secretary, gave four choices to everyone on the trip. First, return to Barcelona and the Republican zone, second, stay in exile in Mexico, third, go into exile in France, or fourth, return to Spain and cross into the Nationalist zone. Nine players opted to stay in Mexico. Among them was goalkeeper Josep Iborra. He quickly signed with a Mexican team and continued to play professionally. His life after traveling to Mexico had two interesting historical happenings.

First, Iborra befriended a fellow Catalan exile, Ramón Marcader. Name sound familiar? One day during lunch together, Mercader abruptly announced that he had go do an errand. Police showed up the next afternoon and took Iborra to see a bloody body: Mercader had killed another exile, Leon Trotsky, with an ice axe. Mercader served twenty years in a Mexican prison and Stalin presented him with the Order of Lenin in absentia.

Iborra continued on his life in Mexico after that little incident...and kept living for a really long time ... until his death in 2002 at age 94. Which made him the last Spanish player who had fled the 1936 Spanish revolution to die.

Before Newton and his laws of physis, the English word "gravity" denoted a serious or solemn mood. It also meant the quality of having lightness or heaviness.

Pushkin was Mixed Race and Proud of It

Alexander Pushkin, Russia's great father of literature, was the great-grandson of an enslaved African. Ibrahim Petrovich Gannibal was likely born in what is now Cameroon in 1696. He was kidnapped as a child and brought to Constantinople to be sold, where Tolstoy's ancestor "rescued" him (per Pushkin). Gannibal's rescuers then brought him to St. Petersburg and presented him as a gift to Peter the Great. Gannibal was made a court page, godson to the emperor, and general pet of the court. His free status was rather ambiguous. Gannibal eventually received a military education in France, and when he returned to Russia, rose to the nobility and died a general-in-chief owning hundreds of serfs.

Pushkin was proud of his ancestor. He started an uncompleted historical novel in 1827, "The Moor of Peter the Great." Pushkin himself was aware of how his appearance made other treat him, and how it influenced his view of himself. For instance, he wrote of "my Africa" in Onegin, and called American slaves "his brothers." He also owned serfs. And was labeled as having "African blood" by gossips after a famous duel.

Medieval Soap Factory Found in Israel

A 1,200-year-old soap factory has been unearthed in the Negev Desert by a team of Israel Antiquities Authority researchers, with the assistance of local high school students. The pillared building was in use during the time when the Abbasids controlled the area. Based on the archaeological remains, it appears that hard cakes of soap was made from olive oil and saltwort, using a rather complicated process. First, the liquid mixture was cooked for about seven days, and was then transferred to a shallow pool, where the soap hardened for another ten days, until it could be cut into bars, which dried for another two months. So much soap could have been produced at the site that it was probably exported to Egypt and other parts of the Arab world.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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