The earliest roller coasters were descended from Serra da Estrela, Portugal sled rides held on specially constructed hills of ice. They were pretty big,  sometimes up to 200 feet (62 m) tall! The Serra da Estrelas were constructed by a large group of Russian refugees to remind them of where they came from. There is evidence for them as early as the 1600s, in the 1700s they gradually became popular across Europe, and by the early 1800s wheeled carts began being used instead of sleighs on tracks. The first such wheeled ride was brought to Paris in 1804 under the name Les Montagnes Russes (French for "Russian Mountains").

French, along with Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, still call roller coasters "russian mountains" after their snowy ancestor. Russian, ironically, calls them "American mountains."


"To strive with difficulties, and to conquer them, is the highest human felicity; the next is, to strive, and deserve to conquer; but he whose life has passed without a contest, and who can boast neither success nor merit, can survey himself only as a useless filler of existence; and if he is content with his own character, must owe his satisfaction to insensibility."

Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784). English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. In addition to writing for magazines, poems, plays, and a biography, he also wrote a dictionary! After nine years of work, Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1755.  It had a far-reaching effect on Modern English and has been acclaimed as "one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship". Until the completion of the Oxford English Dictionary 150 years later, Johnson's was the pre-eminent British dictionary.

This was made in 1627. By hand! Bernini was contracted to create a bust of Maria Barberini Duglioli, niece of Pope Urban VIII, and subcontracted the work to Giuliano Finelli. Finelli chose to focus on the lady's accessories: the intricate lace collar, the flower in her curly hair, her ropes of pearls. When released, the bust was widely hailed as a tour de force. Finelli raised the standard for female portraits and an inspiration for future busts.

Habitat Zones During The Last Ice Age

Sure, most of us know that Europe became near-uninhabitable. But check out China, which was mainly steppe/tundra! And New Zealand's northern island had a rainforest! What catches your eye?

Charity Hospital is the second oldest hospital in the United States. It was founded when Louisiana was still French, in May of 1736, using money from the will of Jean Louis, a French sailor and shipbuilder who died in New Orleans the year before. His last will and testament was to finance a hospital for the poor in the colony of New Orleans. Only Bellevue Hospital in New York City is older (just barely) since it was founded a month earlier in March of 1736. Charity Hospital was abandoned after Hurricane Katrina flooding and evacuation in 2005. Technically, the new University Medical Center New Orleans has taken over its functions. But the Charity Hospital's imposing, decaying remains still stand in New Orleans, a reminder of what was lost and the work still needing to be done.

The Housemaid Who Discovered Stars

In the 1870s, the Harvard College Observatory director was frustrated with his staff, and would often say "My Scottish maid could do better!" When he hired her officially in 1879, Williamina Fleming proved he had been right all along. She spent two years doing astronomical clerical work, then in 1881, Pickering invited Fleming to formally join the Harvard Collage Observatory and taught her how to analyze stellar spectra. She became one of the founding members of the Harvard Computers, an all-women group of human computers hired by Pickering to compute mathematical classifications and edit the observatory's publications. Williamina ran an astronomy team for decades, publishing a classification system of tens of thousands of stars, discovering a total of 59 gaseous nebulae, over 310 variable stars, and 10 novae. One of her most famous discoveries (among astronomers, anyways) was the Horsehead Nebula in 1888.

The standard of Ur casket, dating to about 2600 BCE, shows a Sumerian soldier standing in a four-wheeled chariot. In fact it shows three such chariots, all with solid wooden wheels. This early form of chariot would come to dominate Bronze Age warfare before a swifter model was invented. The big change? Two-spoked wheels.

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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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