35 Lesser-Known Inventions of Famous Inventors

Some of these inventions were ahead of their time. And some were just weird - like Tesla's 4-foot radio-controlled toy boat

Emperor Napoleon's Abdication in 1814

Napoleon Bonaparte, at the beginning of April 1814, found himself the head of a crumbling empire, his capital of Paris occupied by troops of the Sixth Coalition (Russia, Austria, Prussia, Britain, and various others). Napoleon and his remaining army were at Fontainebleu south of the city. Midday of April 3rd, Napoleon defiantly told the Imperial Guard that they would shortly march on Paris, and retake the capital. The men shouted "Long live the emperor" and "to Paris!"

Napoleon's high command was less enthused. A delegation, led by formerly-loyal Marshal Ney, came to see the emperor. The latest news was that the senate in Paris had turned against Napoleon, he said. It was pointless to keep fighting: "the army will not march on Paris." Napoleon disagreed. "The army will obey me!" "Sire," Ney firmly replied, "the army will obey its generals."

Napoleon paused, then asked his marshals to let him speak to his foreign minister. That request said everything. Napoleon had given up, and three days later, he officially abdicated. The many wars, the First French Republic, all over. Waterloo was just a year away.

Want to See the Oldest Surviving Video of a Total Solar Eclipse?

It was done in -- wait for it -- 1900! The first total solar eclipse to be filmed has recently been restored. The film was done by Nevil Maskelyne, an illusionist turned astronomic videographer for the British Royal Astronomical Society. This 1900 film is actually Maskelyne's second attempt at filming a total solar eclipse. His first attempt was in 1898, when he traveled all the way to India to be at the right place to view a predicted total eclipse. Maskelyne got there in time, but sadly, his film was stolen, and the crime remains unsolved and the film unrecovered.

The major Incan god, Inti, was the god of the sun. You can see his sun on the flag of Argentina (above), the coat of arms of Bolivia, the coat of arms of Ecuador, and on the historical flag of Peru.

The Great Diamond Hoax

Inspired by the 1870 diamond rush in South Africa, the Kentucky-born cousins Philip Arnold and John Slack came up with a plot to "find" a diamond mine in the United States. They settled on the frontier territory of Colorado. So later in 1870s, Philip and John tried to deposit a bag of uncut diamonds at a San Francisco bank. But upon questioning, they quickly left.

The director of the bank, William Ralston, heard about this. And he got exactly the idea the cousins wanted him to get: Ralston decided to buy the "diamond mine" that must have produced those uncut diamonds. To help convince Ralston, the cousins salted (placed diamonds inside) a Colorado mine, then pretended to dig the diamonds up.

Convinced by their trickery, Ralston founded the New York Mining and Commercial Company and invested $600,000 in the cousins. This company was comprised of prominent individuals such as the founder of Tiffany & Co., a former commander of the Union Army, and a US Representative. In total, New York Mining Commercial Company ended up selling stock totaling $10 million. And diamond fever spread, too. Convinced that the American West must have many other major deposits of diamonds, at least 25 other diamond exploration companies formed in the subsequent months.

In 1872, things fell apart. A new-to-the-scene geologist Clarence King began to investigate, first finding the secret mine, then going through its deposits. King noticed that the seemingly random layout of diamonds and rubies was too neat to be natural. Plus, the jewels were only found in areas where the ground had previously been dug. No diamonds or rubies were found in untouched parts of the mine. Those two factors, put together, were enough to convince King that he had uncovered a hoax.

Apparently the cousins could not buy King off, because on November 26, 1872, The San Francisco Chronicle published a letter from King, explaining his findings. King became the first director of the United States Geological Survey thanks to his part in uncovering the hoax, so things turned out well for him.

But Ralston was only able to return $80,000 to each investor in the company, and the cousins disappeared with the $600,000 down payment the company had paid for the mine. Arnold lived out the few remaining years of his life in luxury in Kentucky before dying of pneumonia in 1878. Slack apparently squandered his share of the money, for he was last reported working as a coffin maker in New Mexico.

Is Afghanistan the Graveyard of Empires?

This video reviews three major empires that "died" trying to take Afghanistan: the nascent empire of Alexander the Great, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union.

A Massive Nomenclature Coincidence

Denmark has a "Louisiana Museum of Modern Art" which has no connection to the US state of the same name. It just so happened that the property's former owner, Alexander Brun, named his villa after his wives. He had three, and they were all named "Louise."

Today, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is quite important in Denmark, and is the most-visited art museum in the country!

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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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