The title is mostly true! Back in the day, there were no national or even state-wide requirements for what a doctor had to know. So many were barely literate, learning their profession like apprentices more than students. When, in the 1870s, the new Harvard president wanted to have written exams before MDs were given their degrees, the faculty at Harvard protested!

Professor of Surgery Henry Bigelow, the most powerful faculty member, protested to the Harvard Board of Overseers, “[Eliot] actually proposes to have written examinations for the degree of doctor of medicine. I had to tell him that he knew nothing about the quality of the Harvard medical students. More than half of them can barely write. Of course they can’t pass written examinations… No medical school has thought it proper to risk large existing classes and large receipts by introducing more rigorous standards.”

Ancient Politicians Had To Respond To Public Disasters, Too

In 29 CE, the worst sports disaster in the history of the world took place. In Fidenae, a town 8 miles north of Rome, a cheap, wooden gladiator amphitheater collapsed killing about 20,000 people.

In response the Roman Senate banished the builder of the stadium, and passed building regulations for arenas to prevent future disasters, requiring that new amphitheaters had to be inspected and certified by the state as safe.

Just to make really sure no one would be building cheap, collapsible stadiums, they also banned anyone with a fortune of less than 400,000 sesterces from building amphitheaters. That translates to between 630,000 and 2,400,000 USD today. Yes, it is a really wide margin, I know. Converting ancient commodity currency to modern fiat currency is hard, guys.

Get Pregnant, Get Fired

Before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, American women could get fired from a job for being pregnant. And many were.

What Textiles Tell Us About Ancient Italy and Greece

In the ancient world, textiles were a valuable commodity, because every piece of cloth had to be made by hand. Clothing was important economically. Early Bronze Age Linear B tablets from the Aegean Sea document the careful attention given to managing textile production, and on the other side of the globe, the Incan Empire levied tribute in textiles. Unfortunately, clothing and the cloth they are made form tend not to survive in the archaeological record. They often have to be studied indirectly, by examining the scraps of textile that survive in the extremes of arid or waterlogged conditions, and comparing the scraps to visual or sculptural records of clothing. Recent frozen discoveries from the retreating glaciers of the Alps offer new insight into ancient Greek and ancient Roman textiles.

Iron Age Italians seem to have favored a weave known as a twill. When colors are used, they will create neat diagonal patterns (most notably in the modern tweed). Currently, the earliest known examples of twills are from Hallstatt in Austria. The Italians likely shared textile production preferences with their northern European neighbors, placing the Romans firmly in the European textile tradition.

In Greece, a form of weave known as a tabby was the most popular. It is considered the simplest type of textile available, when in purest form: horizontal and vertical threads repeatedly pass over and under each other. The ancient Greeks favored a particular type of tabby, however, where the horizontal threads were beaten into the weave so hard that the vertical strands become near-invisible. It is perfect for bold blocks of color, and can make more varied designs than just diagonals; such a technique has been used to produce spectacular tapestries and Turkish carpets. Early examples of this tabby have been found in ancient Ur, in Iraq, and in Turkey. Twill weaves have notably not been found in ancient Greece or in the ancient Near East. That situates the Greeks in the Eastern textile tradition, relatively uninfluenced by their northwestern neighbors.

By looking at their textiles, then, we can tell that Iron Age Italy and ancient Greece were culturally in two different spheres. Italy took after its European neighbors, while Greece took after the Near East. They were a small example of the wider break between East and West.

Early Humans May Have Known About Inbreeding?

Researchers sequencing the genomes of four individuals, who were buried together in an Upper Paleolithic site in Sungir, Russia, were surprised to discover the four were not close -- at least genetically. That's particularly surprising because of the remains were children, buried in head-to-head in the same grave. Yet they could not have been closer than second cousins. The humans living in Sungir about 34,000 years ago seem to have known about the dangers of inbreeding. Or suspected. To avoid them, they appear to have sought partners outside their immediate family, using wide social and mating networks.

Texan Founder Was Good At The Subtle Diss

Sam Houston -- the guy they named Houston, Texas, after -- was deposed as governor of Texas by the legislature in 1861. Why? He refused to support the Confederacy, which the legislature wanted to join. Sam Houston said “you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it.”

A slightly less modern-friendly fact: Sam Houston was perfectly happy to have Texas secede from the union, but after they did so, he declared Texas was once again an independent republic. It was merely the joining of the Confederate States of America that he opposed, not secession. He was deposed after refusing to swear allegiance to the Confederacy.

The Austrian Empire was serious about its censorship. It had a very, very long state index of banned books, mostly based on the Vatican's Index librorum prohibitorum. Ironically, the Austrian state index became a defacto list of interesting books, and students would buy it, to find out what they should be reading! In the end, the state index was itself placed on a banned books register in 1777.

The First Female Prime Minister of Pakistan Set More Than One Record

Pakistan was the first Muslim nation to elect a female prime minister. Benazir Bhutto served as the 11th prime minister from 1988 to 1990, and the 13th prime minister from 1993 to 1996. Ideologically a liberal and a secularist, she chaired or co-chaired the center-left Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) from the early 1980s until her assassination by a suicide bomber in 2007.

The Names of the Pharaohs

From the time of the Old Kingdom until famous Cleopatra, pharaohs of Egypt had five names. The first one was his own, given at birth. The other four were bestowed when he ascended the throne.

Two of the names were introduced by titles which stressed the rule of the king over the two lands, upper and lower, which had been united. "He of the Sedge and the Bee" referenced the sedge plant emblem of the southern Nile Valley, and the bee emblem of the northern delta. "He of the Two Ladies" referred to the two goddesses thought to protect the pharaoh, Nekhbet and Wadjet, who just so happened to have principle cult centers in the south and north, respectively.

The last two names were introduced by titles which focused on the divinity of the king: "Horus" and "Golden Horus." Yes, that's the same god twice. No one said they were creative.

Source: Ancient Egypt by Oakes and Gahlin

The Prime Minister and the Geisha

Sasuke Uno was the prime minister of Japan for just over two months -- from early June 1989 to early August 1989. He resigned after it came out that he had kept a geisha as a mistress for a period of five months before becoming prime minister.

The problem was less his extramarital affair, and more how callous and stingy he was with the lady. He offered her money the first night he met her, claimed to have "saved" her with his money, and generally treated her "disdainfully." It was the first time that a Japanese politician's private life was publicized in the media in such a way.

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    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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