Monthly Archives: February 2017

DuPont Scientist Wallace Carothers Invents Nylon (1935)

Though his struggles with mental illness made him initially reject a lucrative job with DuPont, chemist Wallace Carothers accepted the offer in the late 1920s and enjoyed much success there. Perhaps his greatest achievement was the invention of nylon, which rapidly gained widespread use in an array of products. First used to make toothbrush bristles, nylon was soon replacing silk in the parachutes and flak vests of American WWII combatants and in women’s stockings. How did nylon get its name? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Mardi Gras (New Orleans)

The most flamboyant of Mardi Gras celebrations in North America culminates in a riot of parades and throngs of laughing, drinking, dancing people in the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana. On the day of Mardi Gras, designated the “Day of Un-Rule,” the traditional parades spotlight Rex, King of Carnival and Monarch of Merriment, in the morning, and Comus, God of Revelry, by torchlight at night. On that same evening the private balls of Rex and Comus are held. At midnight, the madness of Carnival ends, and Lent begins, and a million or so spectators and participants face sobriety. Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Linus Carl Pauling (1901)

An American chemist, Pauling was the first person to win two unshared Nobel Prizes: one for chemistry in 1954 and one for peace in 1962. He was one of the first to study molecular structure using quantum mechanics, and he made discoveries in biochemistry and medicine. In the 1950s, he became concerned about nuclear weapons testing and radioactive fallout and wrote an appeal—signed by thousands of scientists—to halt such tests. What publication called his peace prize “A Weird Insult from Norway”? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Hussars

Hussars originated in 15th-century Hungary as a light-horse corps, but the term now applies to members of various light cavalry regiments in European armies, renowned for their elegant dress. The brilliantly colored Hungarian hussar’s uniform consisted of a high cylindrical cap, a jacket with heavy braiding, and a loose coat worn hanging from the left shoulder. Several hussar regiments of the British army survive today as armored units. What were the original meanings of the word “hussar”? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

The Reichstag Fire (1933)

The 1933 fire at the German Parliament building known as the Reichstag was a pivotal event in the establishment of Nazi Germany. Allegedly set by a Dutch communist, the fire was used by Adolf Hitler to turn public opinion against his opponents, especially the communists. Immediately after the fire, he enacted a decree suspending constitutional protection of personal rights, effectively establishing the Nazi Party dictatorship. Why do some believe the fire was set by the Nazis themselves? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Shrove Monday

Many countries celebrate Shrove Monday as well as Shrove Tuesday, both days marking a time of preparation for Lent. It is often a day for eating pastry, as the butter and eggs in the house must all be used up before Lent. In Greece it is known as Clean Monday and is observed by holding picnics at which Lenten foods are served. In Iceland, the Monday before Lent is known as Bun Day. The significance of the name is twofold: it is a day for striking people on the buttocks with a stick before they get out of bed as well as a day for eating sweet buns with whipped cream. Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Hugo LaFayette Black (1886)

Black was a US Supreme Court Justice for 34 years. A prominent supporter of the New Deal, he was also in the majority that struck down mandatory school prayer and guaranteed the availability of legal counsel to suspected criminals. He was known for an absolutist belief in the Bill of Rights, and his last major opinion supported the right of The New York Times to publish the Pentagon Papers, which revealed improper government conduct. To what secret society did Black once belong? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary