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Helle’s Toilet: Three-Person Loo Seat was Unusual Medieval Status Symbol

Helle’s Toilet: Three-Person Loo Seat was Unusual Medieval Status Symbol

Helle’s Toilet is the name given to a Medieval toilet seat that was discovered during an archaeological excavation in London. It is most notable for being a rare example of a triple toilet seat. Apart from that, its state of preservation, in spite of its age, is also noteworthy.

Although made of wood, Helle’s Toilet was able to survive till this day thanks to its fortuitous burial in waterlogged earth, which helps to preserve organic materials. In 2019, Helle’s Toilet was on display as part of the Museum of London Docklands’ Secret Rivers exhibition.

Helle’s Toilet. ( Museum of London )

Discovery of Helle’s Toilet

Helle’s Toilet was discovered in the 1980s, during a series of archaeological excavations near the River Fleet. The triple toilet seat was found buried in waterlogged earth, above a cesspit that drained into the River Fleet. Since waterlogged environments have low levels of oxygen, biological activity is greatly reduced, which results in the preservation of organic remains. Thus, Helle’s Toilet, which was made of a single plank of oak, was preserved. The holes in the seat, incidentally, were roughly hewn with an axe.

This triple toilet seat is not the only organic artifact from London’s past unearthed from a waterlogged environment. In 2017, for instance, a collection of Tudor period shoes was among the artifacts discovered during works on the Crossrail route near Farringdon Station, where the lost Faggeswell Brook was discovered.

Tudor period shoes found during works on the Crossrail route near Farringdon Station, where the lost Faggeswell Brook was discovered. ( MOLA)

The River Fleet is the largest of London’s subterranean rivers and has an interesting story behind it. This river is a tributary of the Thames and was in use as early as the Roman period. The river had two eyots, or small islands. One of these eyots, the southern one, ceased being an island in the 11th century, when the land around it was reclaimed, and the channel was infilled.

In addition, this was the site where a bridge was built over the Fleet River, which connected to an east-west road. The archaeological work during the 1980s revealed a row of buildings that fronted the road. Since Helle’s Toilet was found in this area, it is believed that it may have belonged to one of the tenants of these buildings.

  • Rats, Exploding Toilet Seats and Demons of the Deep: The Hazards of Roman Sewers
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  • Groom of the Stool: Was The King’s Toilet Guy The Worst Job Ever?

“One of the Smelliest and Dirtiest Rivers in London”

As the Middle Ages went on, the River Fleet became increasingly choked and polluted, as a result of the industrial and residential buildings that were built along its banks. In fact, the River Fleet was notorious for centuries as one of the smelliest and dirtiest rivers in London. Ben Jonson, an English playwright and poet who lived between the 16th and 17th centuries, described the river in a satirical poem, On the Famous Voyage , as a place where “Arses were heard to croak, instead of frogs”.

An attempt to ‘rehabilitate’ the river occurred during the second half of the 17th century, following the Great Fire of London. After this disaster, the river received new stone embankments and had four decorative bridges built over it. This project was meant to turn it into London’s version of the Great Canal of Venice.

Unfortunately, the Fleet River failed to attract barges, for whom the project was undertaken in the first place. As it was underused, the River Fleet became polluted once again. Between the 1730s and 1870s, the River Fleet was bricked over in several phases. As a result, it became a subterranean river, and was eventually forgotten. The river was only rediscovered during the latter half of the 20th century.

Bridge over the New Canal at Holborn: illustration from Alexander Pope's ‘Dunciad’ (1728). The bathers are included in satirical allusion to the poor quality of the water. ( Public Domain )

The Story of a Rather Unusual Artifact

The dig that found Helle’s Toilet was the largest archaeological excavation in London at the time. Unfortunately, funding ran out before the work could be completed. Consequently, the findings were never published. As for Helle’s Toilet, it was kept in storage, and never went on display, until the temporary exhibition by the Museum of London Docklands in 2019. As Helle’s Toilet is a rather unusual artifact, it was one of the highlights of the exhibition and received much publicity. Moreover, the curators of this exhibition were able to dig up some interesting information about the artifact.

One of the most intriguing pieces of information about Helle’s Toilet is found in the name given to the artifact. Curators were able to find historical records from the 13th century showing that one of the buildings fronting the east-west road connected to the bridge over the River Fleet (as mentioned earlier) was known as ‘Helle’. It is from this building that the triple toilet seat acquired its current name. The curators also found out that ‘Helle’ was owned at one point of time by a cap-maker by the name of John de Flete and his wife, Cassandra. It has been speculated that the triple toilet seat may have once been owned by the de Flete family.

Regardless of whether Helle’s Toilet belonged to the de Flete family, it was almost certainly a sort of status symbol. This is due to the fact that the toilet would have been a private facility. This is supported by the presence of a common privy, which was used by the general public, nearby. Unfortunately, the structure that enclosed the toilet has not survived. Nevertheless, it has been speculated that this structure would have been built of wattle and daub.

While the structure covering the toilet has not survived, the ‘mechanism’ below it has been preserved, thereby allowing archaeologists to reconstruct the way human waste was disposed in Medieval London. Helle’s Toilet was found over a wicker-lined cesspit. This arrangement would have allowed liquid waste products to drain out, and be filtered by the soil. Solid wastes, on the other hand, would accumulate over time. This meant that every time a cesspit was filled, a new one had to be dug.

Helle’s Toilet only seated three, unlike this public toilet. ( English Heritage )

Why Three Seats?

It is not entirely clear why a triple toilet seat was made in the first place, and it looks as though no one has really bothered to speculate about it yet. Perhaps it was intended to be practical, i.e. three members of the de Flete family (or whichever family who owned it) could use the toilet at any given time? Or perhaps it allowed the toilet’s users to socialize while doing their business? Then again, without further evidence, we may never know for certain why Helle’s Toilet was made with three seats.

Helle’s Toilet was one of the artifacts on display during the Museum of London Docklands’ Secret Rivers exhibition. This temporary exhibition ran from May 24, 2019 till October 27, 2019, and featured not only artifacts, but also photos, films, and artwork pertaining to London’s lost rivers.

Detail of Helle’s Toilet. Source: Museum of London

In preparation for this exhibition, Helle’s Toilet was treated by an archaeological conservator. Apart from the actual artifact, a replica of the full toilet seat was also made for the exhibition. No doubt this would have given visitors some sense of what it was like to use this triple toilet seat during the Middle Ages, though the ‘finer’ details would have (wisely) been left to their own imaginations.

The Lady of Baza and the Battle to Take Her Home

The Lady of Baza, a statue unearthed in Baza, has long been a subject of contention. Discovered in 1971, it was swiftly removed and taken to Madrid where it has been kept at the National Museum of Archaeology ever since. Almost fifty years later, Baza continues to fight for its return, claiming that the Francoist authorities “plundered” the archaeological remains and requesting that the Spanish Ministry of Culture return them to their rightful resting place.

The statue itself depicts a seated female figure and is a well-known example of a sculpture made by the Bastetani, an ancient people who lived in Iberia before the coming of the Romans. Discovered in the province of Granada, Spain, the Lady of Baza statue is believed to have been used as an urn for holding the ashes of a deceased person. It incorporates various elements that demonstrate its connection with the spiritual realm. The Lady of Baza has been compared with other Iberian statues, such as the Lady of Elche and the Lady of Guardamar.

Images showing the funerary artifacts, including the Lady of Baza, which were discovered at the necropolis of the Cerro del Sanctuario in Baza, Granada, back in 1971. (Eva María González Miguel / Universidad de Granada )

The Amethyst Curse

After the 1857 Indian Rebellion was quelled, the British Army sought to teach any future rebels a lesson and they systematically sacked and looted hundreds of shrines, temples, and palaces. British soldiers raided sacred chambers and stole many tons of ancient Indian treasures. One of these ransacked temples was the Temple of Indra in Cawnpore (Kanpur) which was dedicated to Indra, the Hindu god of war and thunderstorms, who rode on a white elephant’s back and carried a lightning bolt.

Indra, the Hindu god of war and thunderstorms. ( Public Domain )

It was during the Siege of Cawnpore that Bengal Cavalryman Colonel W. Ferris lifted the “purple sapphire,” (actually an amethyst) that he believed would secure his family’s future wealth. But no longer had the soldier returned to England when a string of financial misfortunes unfolded, and what’s more, every member of Ferris’ family was struck down with a range of serious illnesses.

This ‘apparent’ pattern of misery, misfortune, and destruction was also passed on to those who inherited the stone, for when Ferris’ son inherited the artifact and gave it to a friend, it is said that “out of the blue” he committed suicide. So began a series of obscure events which together have become known as the Amethyst Curse or the “Curse of the Delhi Purple Sapphire.”

A friend said goodbye to me in my dream right before I found out he died

Dreams are an interesting thing. I was away on a medical “journey”, which is a nice way of putting it. While everything went to hell, my neighbor took care of my animals. My poor dog was so upset I was gone (it happened fast) that he just died. He was probably going to anyway for his breed, ten years is old. He weighed 95 pounds and he was a high anxiety dog.

I got home in early fall, all bedraggled. My daughter stayed with me a month to help me out, and finally when she left I relaxed.

I went out into the yard and found his overgrown grave (some neighbors buried him), and I said hello. That night he came to me and said hello back. He was down the hill a bit from his grave, wagging his tail at me while he was just glad to be outside. He sniffed at the ground indicating to me that he was planning on being outside a while, so don’t try to catch him. It didn’t feel like my normal dreams.

What is weird is I dreamed again of him this past year, a long time after the fact. I can’t think of any other dog that visited me, no matter what the attachment was. This dream Blake was telling me hello and glad you’re back. Maybe huskies are dream runners.


The number of different types of toilets used worldwide is large, [3] [4] but can be grouped by:

  • Having water (which seals in odor) or not (which usually relates to e.g. flush toilet versus dry toilet)
  • Being used in a sitting or squatting position (sitting toilet versus squat toilet)
  • Being located in the private household or in public (toilet room versus public toilet)

Toilets can be designed to be used either in a sitting or in a squatting posture. Each type has its benefits. The "sitting toilet", however, is essential for those who are movement impaired. Sitting toilets are often referred to as "western-style toilets". [5] Sitting toilets are more convenient than squat toilets for people with disabilities and the elderly.

People use different toilet types based on the country that they are in. In developing countries, access to toilets is also related to people's socio-economic status. Poor people in low-income countries often have no toilets at all and resort to open defecation instead. This is part of the sanitation crisis which international initiatives (such as World Toilet Day) draw attention to. [6]

Flush toilet

A typical flush toilet is a ceramic bowl (pan) connected on the "up" side to a cistern (tank) that enables rapid filling with water, and on the "down" side to a drain pipe that removes the effluent. When a toilet is flushed, the sewage should flow into a septic tank or into a system connected to a sewage treatment plant. However, in many developing countries, this treatment step does not take place.

The water in the toilet bowl is connected to a pipe shaped like an upside-down U. One side of the U channel is arranged as a siphon tube longer than the water in the bowl is high. The siphon tube connects to the drain. The bottom of the drain pipe limits the height of the water in the bowl before it flows down the drain. The water in the bowl acts as a barrier to sewer gas entering the building. Sewer gas escapes through a vent pipe attached to the sewer line.

The amount of water used by conventional flush toilets usually makes up a significant portion of personal daily water usage. However, modern low flush toilet designs allow the use of much less water per flush. Dual flush toilets allow the user to select between a flush for urine or feces, saving a significant amount of water over conventional units. The flush handle on these toilets is pushed up for one kind of flush and down for the other. [7] Another design is to have two buttons, one for urination and the other for defecation. In some places, users are encouraged not to flush after urination. Flushing toilets can be plumbed to use greywater (previously used for washing dishes, laundry, and bathing) rather than potable water (drinking water). Some modern toilets pressurize the water in the tank, which initiates flushing action with less water usage.

Another variant is the pour-flush toilet. [3] This type of flush toilet has no cistern but is flushed manually with a few liters of a small bucket. The flushing can use as little as 2–3 litres (0.44–0.66 imp gal 0.53–0.79 US gal). [3] This type of toilet is common in many Asian countries. The toilet can be connected to one or two pits, in which case it is called a "pour flush pit latrine" or a "twin pit pour flush to pit latrine". It can also be connected to a septic tank.

Flush toilets on ships are typically flushed with seawater.

Vacuum toilet

A vacuum toilet is a flush toilet that is connected to a vacuum sewer system, and removes waste by suction. They may use very little water (less than a quarter of a liter per flush) [8] or none, [9] (as in waterless urinals). Some flush with coloured disinfectant solution rather than with water. [8] They may be used to separate blackwater and greywater, and process them separately [10] (for instance, the fairly dry blackwater can be used for biogas production, or in a composting toilet).

Passenger train toilets, aircraft lavatories, bus toilets, and ships with plumbing often use vacuum toilets. The lower water usage saves weight, and avoids water slopping out of the toilet bowl in motion. [11] Aboard vehicles, a portable collection chamber is used if it is filled by positive pressure from an intermediate vacuum chamber, it need not be kept under vacuum. [12]

Floating toilet

A floating toilet is essentially a toilet on a platform built above or floating on the water. Instead of excreta going into the ground they are collected in a tank or barrel. To reduce the amount of excreta that needs to hauled to shore, many use urine diversion. The floating toilet was developed for residents without quick access to land or connection to a sewer systems. [13] It is also used in areas subjected to prolonged flooding. [14] The need for this type of toilet is high in areas like Cambodia. [15]

Many types of toilets without a water seal (also called dry toilets or "non-flush toilets") exist. These types of toilets do not use water as an odor seal or to move excreta along. For example, from simple to more complex: a bucket toilet (honey bucket), a tree bog or arborloo (two simple systems for converting excrement to direct fertiliser for trees), a pit latrine (a deep hole in the ground), a vault toilet (which keeps all the waste underground until it is pumped out), a container-based toilet, a composting toilet (which mixes excreta with carbon-rich materials for faster decomposition), a urine-diverting dry toilet (which keeps urine separate from feces), and incinerating and freezing toilets.

Dry toilets use no water for flushing. They also do not produce wastewater. Some of these devices are high-tech but many are quite basic. [4]

Pit latrine

A simple pit latrine uses no water seal and collects human excreta in a pit or trench. The excreta drop directly into the pit via a drop hole. This type of toilet can range from a simple slit trench to more elaborate systems with seating or squatting pans and ventilation systems. In developed countries, they are associated with camping and wilderness areas. They are common in rural or peri-urban areas in many developing countries. Pit latrines are also used in emergency sanitation situations.

The pit or trench can be dug large enough so that the pit can be used for many years before it fills up. When the pit becomes full, it may be emptied or the hole covered with earth and the pit latrine relocated. Pit latrines have to be located away from drinking water sources (wells, streams, etc.) to minimize the possibility of disease spread via groundwater pollution.

A ventilation improved pit (VIP) latrine adds certain design features to the simple pit latrine which reduces flies from exiting the latrine, thereby reducing the spread of diseases. [3]

Vault toilet

A vault toilet is a non-flush toilet with a sealed container (or vault) buried in the ground to receive the excreta, all of which is contained underground until it is removed by pumping. A vault toilet is distinguished from a pit latrine because the waste accumulates in the vault instead of seeping into the underlying soil.

Urine-diverting toilet

Urine diversion toilets have two compartments, one for urine and one for feces. A urine-diverting dry toilet uses no water for flushing and keeps urine and feces separate. It can be linked to systems which reuse excreta as a fertilizer.

Portable toilet

The portable toilet is used on construction sites, film locations, and large outdoor gatherings where there are no other facilities. They are typically self-contained units that are made to be easily moved. Most portable toilets are unisex single units with privacy ensured by a simple lock on the door. The units are usually lightweight and easily transported by a flatbed truck and loaded and unloaded by a small forklift. Many portable toilets are small molded plastic or fiberglass portable rooms with a lockable door and a receptacle to catch waste in a chemically treated container. If used for an extended period of time, they have to be cleaned out and new chemicals put in the waste receptacle. For servicing multiple portable toilets, tanker trucks (vacuum trucks) are equipped with large vacuums to evacuate the waste and replace the chemicals. Portable toilets can also be urine-diverting dry toilets.

A bucket toilet, also known as a honey bucket, is a very simple type of portable toilet.

Chemical toilet

Chemical toilets collect human excreta in a holding tank and use chemicals to minimize odors. They do not require a connection to a water supply and are used in a variety of situations.

Aircraft lavatories and passenger train toilets were in the past often designed as chemical toilets but are nowadays more likely to be vacuum toilets. [ citation needed ]

Toilet fed to animals

The pig toilet, which consists of a toilet linked to a pigsty by a chute, is still in use to a limited extent. [16] It was common in rural China, and was known in Japan, Korea, and India. The "fish pond toilet" depends on the same principle, of livestock (often carp) eating human excreta directly.

"Flying toilet"

A "flying toilet" is a facetious name for a plastic bag that is used as a container for excrement and are then simply discarded. Associated especially with slums, they are called flying toilets "because when you have filled them, you throw them as far away as you can". [17]

A squat toilet (also called "squatting toilet", "natural position toilet", or by many national names) is a toilet of any technology type (i.e. pit latrine, urine-diverting dry toilet, flush toilet etc.) which is used in a squatting position rather than sitting. This means that the defecation posture used is to place one foot on each side of the toilet drain or hole and to squat over it.

Squatting toilets are the norm in many Asian and African countries, and are common in most Muslim countries. They are also occasionally found in some European and South American countries.

In 1976, squatting toilets were said to be used by the majority of the world's population. [18] However, there is a general trend in many countries to move from squatting toilets to sitting toilets (particularly in urban areas) as the latter are often regarded as more modern. [19]

Porcelain squat toilet with water tank for flushing (Wuhan, China)

Japanese-style squat toilet with automatic sensor


There are cultural differences in socially accepted and preferred voiding positions for urination around the world: in the Middle East and Asia, the squatting position is more prevalent, while in the Western world the standing and sitting position are more common. [20]

Anal cleansing habits

In the Western world, the most common method of cleaning the anal area after defecation is by toilet paper or sometimes by using a bidet. In many Muslim countries, the facilities are designed to enable people to follow Islamic toilet etiquette Qaḍāʼ al-Ḥājah. [21] For example, a bidet shower may be plumbed in. The left hand is used for cleansing, for which reason that hand is considered impolite or polluted in many Asian countries. [22]

There are toilets on the market where the seats have integrated spray mechanisms for anal and genital water sprays (see for example Toilets in Japan). This can be useful for the elderly or people with disabilities.

Accessible toilets

An accessible toilet is designed to accommodate people with physical disabilities, such as age related limited mobility or inability to walk due to impairments. Additional measures to add toilet accessibility are providing more space and grab bars to ease transfer to and from the toilet seat, including enough room for a caregiver if necessary.

Public toilets

A public toilet is accessible to the general public. It may be municipally owned or managed, entered directly from the street. It may be within a building that, while privately owned, allows public access, such as a department store, or it may be limited to the business's customers, such as a restaurant. If its use requires a fee, it is also called a pay toilet.

Depending on the culture, there may be varying degrees of separation between men and women and different levels of privacy. Typically, the entire room, or a stall or cubicle containing a toilet, is lockable. Urinals, if present in a men's toilet, are typically mounted on a wall with or without a divider between them. In the most basic form, a public toilet may not be much more than an open latrine. Another form is a street urinal known as a pissoir, after the French term.

To this day, 1 billion people in developing countries have no toilets in their homes and are resorting to open defecation instead. [23] Therefore, it is one of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 6 to provide toilets (sanitation services) to everyone by 2030. [2] [24]

Toilets are one important element of a sanitation system, although other elements are also needed: transport, treatment, disposal, or reuse. [3] Diseases, including Cholera, which still affects some 3 million people each year, can be largely prevented when effective sanitation and water treatment prevents fecal matter from contaminating waterways, groundwater, and drinking water supplies.

Ancient history

The 4th millennium BCE would witness the invention of clay pipes, sewers, and toilets, in Mesopotamia, with the city of Uruk today exhibiting the earliest known internal pit toilet, from c.3200 BCE. [25] The Neolithic village of Skara Brae contains examples, c.3000 BCE, of internal small rooms over a communal drain, rather than pit. [26] The Indus Valley Civilisation in northwestern India and Pakistan was home to the world's first known urban sanitation systems. In Mohenjo-Daro (c. 2800 BC), toilets were built into the outer walls of homes. [ citation needed ] These toilets had vertical chutes, via which waste was disposed of into cesspits or street drains. [27] Another typical example is the Indus city of Lothal (c. 2350 BCE). In Lothal all [ citation needed ] houses had their own private toilet which was connected to a covered sewer network [ citation needed ] constructed of brickwork held together with a gypsum-based mortar that emptied either into the surrounding water bodies or alternatively into cesspits, the latter of which were regularly emptied and cleaned. [28] [29]

The Indus Valley Civilization also had water-cleaning toilets that used flowing water in each house that were linked with drains covered with burnt clay bricks. The flowing water removed the human waste. [ citation needed ] The Indus Valley civilisation had a network of sewers built under grid pattern streets. [ citation needed ]

Other very early toilets that used flowing water to remove the waste are found at Skara Brae in Orkney, Scotland, which was occupied from about 3100 BC until 2500 BC. Some of the houses there have a drain running directly beneath them, and some of these had a cubicle over the drain. Around the 18th century BC, toilets started to appear in Minoan Crete, Pharaonic Egypt, and ancient Persia.

In 2012, archaeologists found what is believed to be Southeast Asia's earliest latrine during the excavation of a neolithic village in the Rạch Núi archaeological site, southern Vietnam. The toilet, dating back 1500 BC, yielded important clues about early Southeast Asian society. More than 30 coprolites, containing fish and shattered animal bones, provided information on the diet of humans and dogs, and on the types of parasites each had to contend with. [30] [31] [32]

In Roman civilization, latrines using flowing water were sometimes part of public bath houses. Roman latrines, like the ones pictured here, are commonly thought to have been used in the sitting position. The Roman toilets were probably elevated to raise them above open sewers which were periodically "flushed" with flowing water, rather than elevated for sitting. Romans and Greeks also used chamber pots, which they brought to meals and drinking sessions. [33] Johan J. Mattelaer said, "Plinius has described how there were large receptacles in the streets of cities such as Rome and Pompeii into which chamber pots of urine were emptied. The urine was then collected by fullers." (Fulling was a vital step in textile manufacture.)

The Han dynasty in China two thousand years ago used pig toilets.

Post-classical history

Garderobes were toilets used in the Post-classical history, most commonly found in upper-class dwellings. Essentially, they were flat pieces of wood or stone spanning from one wall to the other, with one or more holes to sit on. These were above chutes or pipes that discharged outside the castle or Manor house. [34] Garderobes would be placed in areas away from bedrooms to shun the smell [35] and also near kitchens or fireplaces to keep the enclosure warm. [34]

View looking down into garderobe seat opening

Exterior view of garderobe at Campen castle

Toilet in Rosenborg Castle Copenhagen

The other main way of handling toilet needs was the chamber pot, a receptacle, usually of ceramic or metal, into which one would excrete waste. This method was used for hundreds of years shapes, sizes, and decorative variations changed throughout the centuries. [36] Chamber pots were in common use in Europe from ancient times, even being taken to the Middle East by medieval pilgrims. [37]

Modern history

By the Early Modern era, chamber pots were frequently made of china or copper and could include elaborate decoration. They were emptied into the gutter of the street nearest to the home.

In pre-modern Denmark, people generally defecated on farmland or other places where the human waste could be collected as fertilizer. [38] The Old Norse language had several terms for referring to outhouses, including garðhús (yard house), náð-/náða-hús (house of rest), and annat hús (the other house). In general, toilets were functionally non-existent in rural Denmark until the 18th century. [38]

By the 16th century, cesspits and cesspools were increasingly dug into the ground near houses in Europe as a means of collecting waste, as urban populations grew and street gutters became blocked with the larger volume of human waste. Rain was no longer sufficient to wash away waste from the gutters. A pipe connected the latrine to the cesspool, and sometimes a small amount of water washed waste through. Cesspools were cleaned out by tradesmen, known in English as gong farmers, who pumped out liquid waste, then shovelled out the solid waste and collected it during the night. This solid waste, euphemistically known as nightsoil, was sold as fertilizer for agricultural production (similarly to the closing-the-loop approach of ecological sanitation).

The garderobe was replaced by the privy midden and pail closet in early industrial Europe. [ citation needed ]

In the early 19th century, public officials and public hygiene experts studied and debated sanitation for several decades. The construction of an underground network of pipes to carry away solid and liquid waste was only begun in the mid 19th-century, gradually replacing the cesspool system, although cesspools were still in use in some parts of Paris into the 20th century. [39] Even London, at that time the world's largest city, did not require indoor toilets in its building codes until after the First World War.

The water closet, with its origins in Tudor times, started to assume its currently known form, with an overhead cistern, s-bends, soil pipes and valves around 1770. This was the work of Alexander Cumming and Joseph Bramah. Water closets only started to be moved from outside to inside of the home around 1850. [40] The integral water closet started to be built into middle-class homes in the 1860s and 1870s, firstly on the principal bedroom floor and in larger houses in the maids' accommodation, and by 1900 a further one in the hallway. A toilet would also be placed outside the back door of the kitchen for use by gardeners and other outside staff such as those working with the horses. The speed of introduction was varied, so that in 1906 the predominantly working class town of Rochdale had 750 water closets for a population of 10,000. [40]

The working-class home had transitioned from the rural cottage, to the urban back-to-back terraces with external rows of privies, to the through terraced houses of the 1880 with their sculleries and individual external WC. It was the Tudor Walters Report of 1918 that recommended that semi-skilled workers should be housed in suburban cottages with kitchens and internal WC. As recommended floor standards waxed and waned in the building standards and codes, the bathroom with a water closet and later the low-level suite, became more prominent in the home. [41]

Before the introduction of indoor toilets, it was common to use the chamber pot under one's bed at night and then to dispose of its contents in the morning. During the Victorian era, British housemaids collected all of the household's chamber pots and carried them to a room known as the housemaids' cupboard. This room contained a "slop sink", made of wood with a lead lining to prevent chipping china chamber pots, for washing the "bedroom ware" or "chamber utensils". Once running water and flush toilets were plumbed into British houses, servants were sometimes given their own lavatory downstairs, separate from the family lavatory. [42] The practice of emptying one's own chamber pot, known as slopping out, continued in British prisons until as recently as 2014 [43] and was still in use in 85 cells in the Republic of Ireland in July 2017. [44]

With rare exceptions, chamber pots are no longer used. Modern related implements are bedpans and commodes, used in hospitals and the homes of invalids.

Development of dry earth closets

Before the widespread adoption of the flush toilet, there were inventors, scientists, and public health officials who supported the use of "dry earth closets" - nowadays known either as dry toilets or composting toilets. [45]

Development of flush toilets

Although a precursor to the flush toilet system which is widely used nowadays was designed in 1596 by John Harington, [ citation needed ] such systems did not come into widespread use until the late nineteenth century. [ citation needed ] With the onset of the industrial revolution and related advances in technology, the flush toilet began to emerge into its modern form. A crucial advance in plumbing, was the S-trap, invented by the Scottish mechanic Alexander Cummings in 1775, and still in use today. This device uses the standing water to seal the outlet of the bowl, preventing the escape of foul air from the sewer. It was only in the mid-19th century, with growing levels of urbanisation and industrial prosperity, that the flush toilet became a widely used and marketed invention. This period coincided with the dramatic growth in the sewage system, especially in London, which made the flush toilet particularly attractive for health and sanitation reasons. [40]

Flush toilets were also known as "water closets", as opposed to the earth closets described above. WCs first appeared in Britain in the 1880s, and soon spread to Continental Europe. In America, the chain-pull indoor toilet was introduced in the homes of the wealthy and in hotels in the 1890s. William Elvis Sloan invented the Flushometer in 1906, which used pressurized water directly from the supply line for faster recycle time between flushes.

High-tech toilet

"High-tech" toilets, which can be found in countries like Japan, include features such as automatic-flushing mechanisms water jets or "bottom washers" blow dryers, or artificial flush sounds to mask noises. Others include medical monitoring features such as urine and stool analysis and the checking of blood pressure, temperature, and blood sugar. Some toilets have automatic lid operation, heated seats, deodorizing fans, or automated replacement of paper toilet-seat-covers. Interactive urinals have been developed in several countries, allowing users to play video games. The "Toylet", produced by Sega, uses pressure sensors to detect the flow of urine and translates that into on-screen action. [46]


Toilet was originally a French loanword (first attested in 1540) that referred to the toilette ("little cloth") draped over one's shoulders during hairdressing. [49] During the late 17th century, [49] the term came to be used by metonymy in both languages for the whole complex of grooming and body care that centered at a dressing table (also covered by a cloth) and for the equipment composing a toilet service, including a mirror, hairbrushes, and containers for powder and makeup. The time spent at such a table also came to be known as one's "toilet" it came to be a period during which close friends or tradesmen were received as "toilet-calls". [49] [52]

The use of "toilet" to describe a special room for grooming came much later (first attested in 1819), following the French cabinet de toilet. Similar to "powder room", "toilet" then came to be used as a euphemism for rooms dedicated to urination and defecation, particularly in the context of signs for public toilets, as on trains. Finally, it came to be used for the plumbing fixtures in such rooms (apparently first in the United States) as these replaced chamber pots, outhouses, and latrines. These two uses, the fixture and the room, completely supplanted the other senses of the word during the 20th century [49] except in the form "toiletries". [n 2]

Contemporary use

The word "toilet" was by etymology a euphemism, but is no longer understood as such. As old euphemisms have become the standard term, they have been progressively replaced by newer ones, an example of the euphemism treadmill at work. [53] The choice of word relies not only on regional variation, but also on social situation and level of formality (register) or social class. American manufacturers show an uneasiness with the word and its class attributes: American Standard, the largest firm, sells them as "toilets", yet the higher priced products of the Kohler Company, often installed in more expensive housing, are sold as commodes or closets, words which also carry other meanings. Confusingly, products imported from Japan such as TOTO are referred to as "toilets", even though they carry the cachet of higher cost and quality. (Toto, an abbreviation of Tōyō Tōki (東洋陶器 Oriental Ceramics), is used in Japanese comics to visually indicate toilets or other things that look like toilets see Toilets in Japan.)

Regional variants

Different dialects use "bathroom" and "restroom" (American English), "bathroom" and "washroom" (Canadian English), and "WC" (an initialism for "water closet"), "lavatory" and its abbreviation "lav" (British English). Euphemisms for the toilet that bear no direct reference to the activities of urination and defecation are ubiquitous in modern Western languages, reflecting a general attitude of unspeakability about such bodily function. [ citation needed ] These euphemistic practices appear to have become pronounced following the emergence of European colonial practices, which frequently denigrated colonial subjects in Africa, Asia and South America as 'unclean'. [54] [55]


"Crapper" was already in use [ citation needed ] as a coarse name for a toilet, but it gained currency from the work of Thomas Crapper, who popularized flush toilets in England.

"The Jacks" is Irish slang for toilet. [56] It perhaps derives from "jacques" and "jakes", an old English term. [57]

"Loo" – The etymology of loo is obscure. The Oxford English Dictionary notes the 1922 appearance of "How much cost? Waterloo. Watercloset." in James Joyce's novel Ulysses and defers to Alan S. C. Ross's arguments that it derived in some fashion from the site of Napoleon's 1815 defeat. [58] [59] In the 1950s the use of the word "loo" was considered one of the markers of British upper-class speech, featuring in a famous essay, "U and non-U English". [60] "Loo" may have derived from a corruption of French l'eau ("water"), gare à l'eau ("mind the water", used in reference to emptying chamber pots into the street from an upper-story window), lieu ("place"), lieu d'aisance ("place of ease", used euphemistically for a toilet), or lieu à l'anglaise ("English place", used from around 1770 to refer to English-style toilets installed for travelers). [58] [61] [62] Other proposed etymologies include a supposed tendency to place toilets in room 100 (hence "loo") in English hotels, [63] a dialectical corruption of the nautical term "lee" in reference to the need to urinate and defecate with the wind prior to the advent of head pumps, [n 3] or the 17th-century preacher Louis Bourdaloue, whose long sermons at Paris's Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis prompted his parishioners to bring along chamber pots. [64]

Chris Catling on… Crusader poo, Dick Whittington’s loo, and dirty graffiti

Spending a crusader penny

To most of us, lavatories are ‘yuck’, but to archaeologists they can be gold – especially if you can get a research grant to study their contents. Biological anthropologist Dr Piers Mitchell of Cambridge University has been doing just that, having a good dig around in the 900-year-old ‘soil’ from a crusader latrine.

This grand 35-seat affair was constructed as one of the 13th-century mod cons at the headquarters of the Knights Hospitallers of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in the city of Acre. Specifically, Dr Mitchell is looking for the microscopic eggs of different types of intestinal parasite as part of his wider study of the spread of disease during the Medieval period.

People from Europe, Africa, and Asia were brought together in some numbers for the first time in several centuries, when hundreds of thousands of Europeans travelled to the eastern Mediterranean in the 12th and 13th centuries as pilgrims, traders, and crusaders. This long-distance travel has been blamed for bringing the plague to Europe. It is quite possible that syphilis also originated in the east, as well as many of the skin conditions that Medieval physicians lumped together as the Biblical ‘leprosy’.

But the spread of disease was not in one direction only. Among the eggs found in the crusader latrines are those of fish tapeworm, which is native to Scandinavia, western Russia, and the Baltics. Dr Mitchell’s study shows that the parasite was not in Asia before the crusades, but spread southwards and eastwards in salted, smoked, or dried fish, and ‘is a great example of how migrations in the past can move diseases around the planet’.

Dr Mitchell now plans to extend his research even further back in time: he is looking for human faeces across the Fertile Crescent, from Jordan to Iran, to see what impact the change from hunter-gatherer lifestyles to urban and agricultural settlements had on human health.

One wonders what the reaction is at dinner parties when, in reply to questions about his work, he says ‘I am trying to find out when intestinal parasites first become common in humans and what impact the invention of the communal toilet had on public health’.

Dick’s privy

Just as some rock stars insist on private facilities for their own exclusive use in return for appearing at such festivals as Glastonbury, where the state of the loos is often far from ideal, so the key to the executive toilet is one of the enduring symbols of power and status, along with the ceremonial robes, the chauffeur-driven transport, the deference, and the titles. It has ever been thus, as MOLA, the London-based archaeological unit, has found out while excavating part of the Medieval Guildhall in the City of London.

Their investigations have led to the discovery of a Medieval toilet in the Phene Neal Room (named after Sir Phene Neal, Lord Mayor in 1930-1931), where Lord Mayors would once don their ceremonial clothes before entering the grand public hall. The removal of the modern concrete floor has revealed the original vaulted drain and cesspit. It appears that the garderobe was built in the early 1400s, during John Croxtone’s renovations of the Guildhall. Since Dick (Richard) Whittington was Lord Mayor of London on no less than four separate occasions between 1397 and 1420, it is almost certain that he would have used it.

Medieval toilets were also used for storing clothes in the belief that the ammonia from the urine in the cesspit would kill or deter lice and fleas. That is why the Medieval word for toilet was ‘garderobe’. It turns out that the American term ‘cloakroom’ is not just a euphemism for lavatory, but is a faint echo of that Medieval belief.

Hitler’s throne

If you were an American soldier serving in the Second World War and your duties took you to the ruins of Hitler’s Berghof residence, set high in the Bavarian Alps, where Hitler entertained some of the Reich’s most notorious war criminals, what would you consider slipping into your knapsack as a memento? If we are to believe Michael Borch, his father chose to ‘liberate’ Hitler’s lavatory seat and send it back home to the USA in the ordinary post. Borch recently publicised his father’s deed because ‘I think it’s time the story of the toilet should be told’.

Tabloid journalists not only enjoyed reporting this story under such punning headlines as ‘The turd Reich… toilet looted from Hitler’s lair’, they also revealed the existence of two more seats once used by Hitler. Another apparently came from the dictator’s private yacht, the Aviso Grille, and is now installed at a car-repair garage in Florence, New Jersey, where people come to take pictures and even sit upon it.

A third was put up for sale in 1969 by Guy Harris, a retired RAF wing commander, who said he removed it from the German leader’s private apartment in the chancellery bunker in Berlin, where Hitler and Eva Braun committed suicide shortly before the city was taken by Russian troops in 1945.

Harris said that the Russians had stripped the apartment of all other souvenirs, including the panelling on the walls. The mahogany seat was all that was left. He installed the seat in his Thames yacht then moved it to his Twickenham home, commissioning a metal plate inscribed with an account of the seat’s history.

Pompeiian graffiti

Where there are toilets, can graffiti ever be far way? The British Museum exhibition Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum has some prime examples, and reveals that the desire to leave a mark on the walls is one of the oldest forms of human expression. Some of these ancient scribbles are designed to warn fellow visitors what to expect by way of hospitality in the city – a sort of ancient Roman TripAdvisor: Viator Pompeis Panem Gustas Nuceriae Bibes, says one example (‘Traveller: eat bread in Pompeii but drink in Nuceria’ – today’s Nocera, on the inland side of Vesuvius).

In the same vein, another graffito warned that the landlord was a drunkard who over-diluted his wine: ‘he drinks the wine and serves water to his customers’, it says. In another bar, graffiti suggest that the staff might be available for sexual encounters: ‘Acria sold herself for 4 asses’, says one scrawl while Prima Donna (‘First Lady’), despite her name, could only command 1.5 asses. To get an idea of what these figures meant, the price list in a third Pompeiian bar said ‘good wine at 1 ass, better for 2 and Falernian [the best] for 4 asses’.

Cacator beware

Toilet scrawls record the names of people who have made use of the facilities, including one servant whose name – Martha – suggests she might have been a member of Pompeii’s Jewish community, while another graffito in the well-appointed latrine of the House of the Gem records that Apollinaris Medicus Titus Imp Hic Cacavit Bene (‘Apollinaris, Doctor to Emperor Titus, had a good s**t here’). As a medical man, he no doubt appreciated the health benefits of regular and unforced bowel movements.

Elsewhere there is evidence that using the latrine was considered to be fraught with potential danger: a fresco from yet another Pompeiian tavern shows the goddess Fortuna standing guard over a squatting figure and the words Cacator Cave Malu[m] (‘S**tter beware the evil eye’), suggesting that whatever malign forces were out to get you, they will probably attack when you are at your most vulnerable.

Some graffiti record the completion of work tasks: Balneus Lavatur, says one (‘Bath cleaned’), and Exem[p]ta Stercora A[ssibus] XI says another (‘S**t from cesspit emptied for 11 asses’), while a third says ‘house gone through’, which is taken to be a sign that someone had salvaged (or looted) the house contents. For it is a myth that Pompeii remained untouched after the eruption: people returned to sift through the volcanic debris from Vesuvius once it had cooled, and anything portable and valuable was taken.

Frescoes, however, remained in situ, and the city’s most endearing example of ancient graffiti consists of a series of animals, probably made by children, gouged with a sharp point into the painted plaster in the House of the Cryptoporticus. Anyone whose child has ever used the walls of the house as a canvas for their juvenile artistic experiments can imagine what the parents must have felt when they discovered what their offspring had done to the new and expensive fresco in the best guest dining-room.

This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 59. Click here to subscribe

The Privy Counsel (A Bog Blog)

We have a lot of photos of toilets to get through, so we'd better get started before the leaves fall from the trees and the bears (those mythical creatures who, according to a popular idiom, crap in the woods) go to hibernate, the lucky fuckers, while the rest of us have to continue getting the bus to work in darkness while trying not to freeze our toes or other extremities off, spend the day under fluorescent lights engaged in meetings with people who can't form coherent sentences, then go home in the dark only to find that the cheese has gone mouldy and women STILL don't count as humans.

Let us keep the darkness, metaphorical as well as literal, at bay, however, by focusing on metaphorical (and, in the case of the northern latitudes, unremittingly literal at this time of year, actually) sunlight: We have a special treat for you today! Regular readers will remember with fondness and admiration past posts by Intellectual Friend. Well, hold on to your hats and make sure your toilet roll is turned the right way around - here is a new contribution from that worthy intellectual! From Greenland, no less!

It is I believe the cosiest loo I have encountered so far in such a context (the context being the lack of running water, no sewage system (the skybound pipe behind the seat merely serving as a mildly efficient vent and stench suppressor) and the undiggability of the frozen ground).

Black plastic bag in the toilet bowl/barrel.
Suspicious yellow-tinted meltwater in the washbasin.

Helpful inscription on the wall above, "Uunga errorit", which can be interpreted as meaning "Wash here" (an injunction which I did not feel inclined to obey, especially as I had my hand sanitizer to hand), where -it is the imperative 2nd pers. sing. ending.
There was no toilet paper but if there had been any, I'd assume by analogy with other lavatories in the country that the roll would be lying on a mouldy windowsill or on the actual and clammy floor at the very foot of the toilet. Note however the ingeniously placed wooden soapholder (what passed for soap in there looked however very unattractive) and also the purple hook and festive handknitted towel.

I should add that I failed to obtain prior permission to take this sneaky photo, partly because our host, a venerable lady and oldest dweller in said settlement, could only speak Greenlandic (and some thick dialect of it at that), so that technically it might be a case of rape and abuse of one's privacy and private property, such as it is, although I'm no expert.

But the brave old lady had cooked us lunch, bless her, and she sat and watched us eat it with great interest.
[Name omitted], the only fluent speaker of Greenlandic among us, mostly declined to engage in conversation with the host, leaving the hyggelig/lagom atmosphere to thicken up to its natural slightly awkward density.

It was a more or less planned stop we had on a little sailing trip which we took out of Ilulissat, a town to the north where we spent Easter. And here for the sake of variation are a few other pics from that Oqaatsut settlement and around: the [. ] house of our host [omitted due to privacy concerns], a bleak view of the village, the worthy old vessel in which we were sailed thereto, and an icefell or two.

We've seen a lot of primitive toilets in our day (for instance, this one or why not ponder this one or indeed this one), and Intellectual Friend's bog description does not scare us being situated, as it is, in a context of rugged wilderness and base survival. Continuing the theme of rugged wilderness, but in a location which offers no excuse not to offer hygiene and comfort, let's have a look at the toilets at Tugg, a hipster burger place in Lund, Sweden, where we went one sunny day with Australian Friend.

You'd think that Lund, this eminent university town, would produce nothing but civilised functionality, but you'd be wrong. Our main critique of Tugg has heretofore centred on the fact that whoever designed this eatery decided to put metal chairs on a cement floor. Why people choose to make the surroundings in which people are supposed to eat actively unpleasant and potentially damaging to one's hearing is beyond us. Then we went to check out the loos and are subsequently also wondering why anyone would choose to make a toilet unnecessarily difficult to use, due to an inexplicable urge to pander to the 19th-century farmyard aesthetic. Let's show you what we mean.

Here is the toilet. Note the bare walls (nothing wrong with bare walls as such), the minimalist loo (again, nothing wrong with this for now), the weird and flimsy curtain stopping people outside from being able to look in, and the toilet rolls which, albeit plentiful, have worryingly been put into a rustic wooden box. It's not necessarily unhygienic but it's not exactly indicative of cleanliness either.

There are no paper towels instead, brown (why brown? Why? Does anybody actually like the colour brown?) cloth towels have been placed in another rustic wooden box, this time placed reassuringly high up on the wall.

There are two bins one for the brown (whyyyy?) towels, another for other waste. This is all fine.

Now it's starting to get scary. The cistern for the toilet is an old-timey one on the wall, with a metal wire that needs to be pulled for flushing. Burlington is a Swedish brand with a nice-looking website that offers no information whatsoever about why one should use this type of cistern, whether it's in any way water-saving, or whether it's considered disability-friendly.

The tap offers so many different types of horror that the breadth and width of the sum total of the horror is hard for the human intellect to comprehend. It's situated over a cattle-trough-like sink (why, in God's name, do hipsters keep insisting on sinks that look like they might be full of cow drool and half-chewed clumps of grass?) and is literally composed of a water-valve lever handle. It is very much not disability friendly, or indeed friendly to anyone who didn't grow up on a farm in the 19th century and has strong, calloused hands the size of dustbin lids, being very hard to turn. Also, the pipe offers only cold water. Not sure how this conforms to health and safety regulations, if at all. Note the toilet roll placed by the sink, on a wooden surface that is extremely likely to absorb water and breed bacteria, helpfully supplied by the hands touching the toilet roll.

In the manner of people who insist on serving you coffee in a glass, as if they are so far above material things that burn injuries are inconsequential (mugs have handles for a reason?), the architect behind this horror ensemble says, "I DON'T CARE ABOUT WHETHER YOU CAN WASH YOUR HANDS YOU DIRTY PEASANT ALSO STOP STARING AT ME AND GO CLEAN OUT THE OUTDOOR PRIVY NO I DON'T CARE THAT YOU ARE DYING FROM CHOLERA YOU SCURVY MALINGERER".

The door has an old-timey handle and no coat-hook.

The water pipe has a pressure gauge. Personally, we'd have preferred a sane and hygienic tap.

We're grateful that we were in such charming company, or bad things might have happened to our mental state. Swiftly moving on before anyone develops tuberculosis or gangrene of the soul, let's contemplate these interesting pictures from New York, described in Shewee Fiend Friend's characteristically terse staccato style.

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As if bodily odour was not bad enough, there was also the whiff of rotting teeth. A sugar-rich diet led to frequent tooth-decay in the upper classes.

Cleansing tooth-powders had started to emerge but most of these featured "spirit of vitriol", known to us as sulphuric acid, and stripped teeth of their enamel. Often the best remedy for smelling teeth and bad breath was to chew herbs such as parsley.

Where a tooth was past hope of redemption, it would be pulled with pliers or a tooth key, a claw that would fix to the teeth so it could be loosened in the jaw.

To avoid a gummy smile, ladies of fashion sought false teeth made from ivory or porcelain but, where possible, they preferred to have "live" teeth in their dentures. Poor people were encouraged to sell healthy teeth for this purpose.

While such a practice was unethical, it was better than the other method of sourcing human teeth: pillaging them battlefields and graveyards.

Beautiful on the outside - but Georgian women used perfumes to mask the stench of unwashed dresses


Georgian women were renowned for their snowy faces and dark eyebrows but achieving the fashionable skin tone could be extremely dangerous.

White face powders were lead-based and some also featured vinegar and horse manure.

Years of coating the entire face, shoulders and neck with such a mixture could lead to catastrophic consequences. Society beauty Maria Gunning died at the age of just 27, having spent her life addicted to cosmetics.

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Helle’s Toilet: Three-Person Loo Seat was Unusual Medieval Status Symbol - History

But Caesar miscalculated, and over time the 11-minute annual discrepancy between his calendar and the solar year had accumulated a debit of 10 days. By the 16th century, the spring equinox--and Easter, a centerpiece of the Christian religion, which was linked to it--had begun to drift backward from its March mooring into winter. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII assembled a committee, including the influential Jesuit mathematician Christopher Clavius, and issued a Papal Bull, creating our present-day Christian calendar. New Year's Day was restored to January 1 after more than 1,000 years of being celebrated in late March. There would be no leap years in centesimal years, except those divisible by 400. And, in his most extraordinary move, to anchor Easter, Gregory scissored 10 days off the Julian calendar.

On the night of October 4, 1582, people went to bed as usual they awoke to find it was October 15--11 days later. While Roman Catholic countries adopted the modifications at once, Protestant England and the Colonies only came around in 1752. A footnote: The Gregorian calendar, one of 40 active calendars in the world, is still not entirely accurate. It runs 26 seconds fast a year, leaving a margin of error of six days every 10,000 years. So don't look back--the next millennium is gaining on us.

99 The World Rocks 1954
THE INGREDIENTS had been added to the melting pot of American pop: base of blues, hint of jazz, some c&w, dash of gospel, pinch of swing. Cleveland deejay Alan Freed named the stew "rock'n'roll." Sam Phillips, owner of Memphis's tiny Sun Records, sighed his soon-to-be-famous sigh: "If I could find a white man with the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars." Heaven-sent, Elvis Presley came knockin' on Phillips's door, and on July 5, 1954, the shy but swaggering truckdriver covered Big Boy Crudup's "That's All Right Mama." "History should record that Elvis was unquestionably the first rock'n'roll performer," says Phillips.

Elvis conquered the world. Along with him went Bill Haley, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry in their wake came the Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, the Boss, Beck. Today, rock'n'roll is a gazillion-dollar industry with a hall of fame and a global video network pushing what was already a massive cultural colonization. Rock has initiated countless trends in fashion. It has ruptured our notions of proper social behavior, promoting new attitudes toward drug use and--as Elvis-haters once warned--sex. It has given Great Britain its first r'n'r knight (Sir Paul McCartney) and the United States its first r'n'r President (Mr. Bill Clinton). Rock rules. Roll over, E.P., and tell Bill Haley the news.

98 Stone Code 1799
ONE OF HISTORY'S GREAT intellectual adventures began on a summer day in 1799 when, near the Egyptian city of Rosetta, soldiers in Napoleon's ranks found a slab of black basalt engraved in three languages. The stone's scripts--Greek, demotic (a simplified Egyptian script) and hieroglyphics--seemed to render the same message. If linguists could match the hieroglyphs to the Greek, all of Egyptian literature would be theirs.

It took until 1822 for Jean-Francois Champollion to discover that hieroglyphics mixed phonetic and symbolic meanings that some texts should be read right to left, others left to right or top to bottom and that some symbols had two different meanings. This breakthrough, and the translations it produced, led to revelations both humbling and exhilarating: The Egyptians knew medicine, astronomy, geometry. They used weights and measures and had an organized system of government. They were passionate, too: "Your voice is like pomegranate wine," ran one poem.

The Rosetta Stone, along with discoveries at Herculaneum and Lascaux, taught us that each age, including our own, occupies but a small space in the continuum of time.

97 Reigniting the Eternal Flame 1896
THE ANCIENT Greek Olympics were a tribute to the gods, a show of humanity's capacity for grace, speed and strength. They lasted from at least 776 B.C. to 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius banned the games, which had devolved into a crude carnival rife with pro athletes, betting, bribery, all manner of cheating.

Determined to rekindle the original ethic, a Parisian aristocrat named Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the modern Olympic movement in 1896. His tournament has since grown into a mammoth quadrennial exhibition of money, power and sport that stands as the world's most grandiose entertainment spectacle. Even as one of de Coubertin's most wild-eyed ideals has been realized--that of uniting the world's countries, if only briefly--the Olympics' growing importance has made it a target of abuse. Hitler sought to portray the 1936 Games as proof of Aryan superiority terrorists used the '72 Munich Games as their stage in the massacre of Israeli athletes President Carter called a boycott of the '80 Moscow Olympics after the U.S.S.R. invaded Afghanistan, and Moscow replied in kind four years later when L.A. hosted. Just last year a murderous pipe-bomber, motive unclear, terrorized Atlanta. Great leaders and craven criminals realize that nothing focuses world attention like the Olympics.

Why? Because sometimes we glimpse the transcendent. Kerri Strug, Michael Johnson, Oksana Baiul (just to name a few from recent Games): You see them in their glory, and you smile. Little kids smile. De Coubertin smiles. The gods themselves smile (Nike, not least).

96 Man of La Mancha 1605
MIGUEL DE CERVANTES Saavedra's comic-romantic tale Don Quixote de la Mancha is said to have been translated into more languages than any book other than the Bible. Considered by many to be the first modern novel and the prototype for much of the world's fiction, the story of the deranged Don Quixote acting out the literary ideals of chivalry and romance has captured the imaginations of readers since it was published in 1605. Cervantes, born in 1547, the son of a poor doctor, received a limited education and served as a soldier in Italy. He was wounded in the battle of Lepanto, captured on his way back to Spain in 1575, enslaved in Algiers and finally ransomed in 1580. Over the next 20 years he wrote a number of plays and a novel--all unsuccessful. But in 1605, the first part of Don Quixote was published, gaining an immediate popularity that has never waned. Like Malory, Chaucer, even Milton, Cervantes captured the essence of his time but his language and his vision need little interpretation to be understood by modern readers.

95 The Good, The Bad, The Beautiful 1683
In the 16th and 17th centuries, European collectors of art and artifacts housed their exhibits--a picture made of feathers, the head of an ape, the "hand of a mermaid"--in "cabinets of curiosities" or "wonder rooms." But the museum as we know it got its start in England, in 1659, when John Tradescant, a gardener to royalty, deeded his family's treasures--fish, weapons, birds, even a stuffed dodo--to fellow collector Elias Ashmole. When Ashmole donated the collection to Oxford University, he stipulated that a separate building be constructed for it. Oxford complied, and the Ashmolean, the first public museum founded to present the feats and phenomena of man and nature, opened in 1683.

94 Rule Britannia 1588
AS THE SPANISH ARMADA cruised into the English Channel, it looked like a fearsome city under sail. The mission of the most heavily armed fleet the world's greatest naval power had ever put to sea was simple: meet the British navy and crush it. Then King Philip II's ally, the Duke of Parma, would sail north from Dunkirk and invade England. His troops, Philip assumed, would be embraced by English Catholics, who would rise in rebellion and hurl the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I from her throne.

But on July 29, 1588, an English fleet of substantially smaller ships began destroying the armada. Many of these ships were of a radical new design: low, streamlined, nimble. To exploit their advantage, the English unveiled a completely new method of naval combat, making no attempt to board the enemy ships, relying instead on their long-range cannon. Only half of the Spanish ships made it home.

The armada's defeat was a portent of much to come. True, the Spanish empire declined gradually, and it would be a century before Britannia ruled the waves. But the British Lion had roared.

93 Surgery Without Pain 1846
STRAPPED INTO A CHAIR, a pale young man with a tumor in his jaw awaited his fate without showing a twinge of fear he said he even felt "confident." Surprising remark, considering he was about to undergo surgery at a time when screams accompanied incisions and whisky was often the best way to dull the pain. But on October 16, 1846, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, dentist William Morton administered ether before the surgery, and the patient felt no pain. Morton did not discover ether. Valerius Cordus did, in the 16th century. Nor was he the first to use it during a surgical procedure. Georgia physician C.W. Long excised a tumor from a patient using ether in 1842--for a $2 fee. As for coming up with the word anesthesia, Oliver Wendell Holmes gets the credit. But because Morton was the first to spread the news to the scientific community--an account of the operation appeared in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal--he is remembered as the man who opened a new era for surgeons around the globe.

92 The Rise of the Ottoman Empire 1453
MEHMED II KHAN Gazi was only 21 when he captured Constantinople from the Christians in 1453. The battle marked the collapse of the Byzantine Empire and the ascendancy of the Ottoman Empire, which would thrive through half the millennium, spreading its influence across much of Europe and the Arab world.

"Inspiring of fear rather than reverence," as one Venetian visitor said of Mehmed, he nonetheless transformed Constantinople from a decrepit city into a whirling hub of trade and creativity. It became a magnet for Islam's most ambitious and talented scholars, poets, artists and architects, who wrote some of the era's finest literature and built spectacular mosques.

But the Ottoman influence was not all benign. Straddling the Bosporus between Asia and Europe, Constantinople was a perfect springboard for the empire's military conquests as far west as Morocco, north into Hungary and east to Damascus, Baghdad and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. The occupation of Constantinople also forced Christian Europe to look for new trade routes to East Asia by circumnavigating Africa. The empire eventually collapsed after World War I, when Mustafa Kemal Atatuerk founded the modern republic of Turkey and renamed the old imperial capital Istanbul.

91 Haiti Gets Its Freedom 1804
THEY HAD SIMPLY had enough. By 1791, half a million black men and women toiled in the coffee, indigo and sugarcane fields on this French colonial island. When Boukman Dutty, a Jamaican-born voodoo priest, charged a gathering that August to "throw away the thoughts of the Whitegod who thirsts for our tears," the masses listened. Armed with machetes and vengeance, they torched plantations and took lives by the thousands as they fought for their freedom. A self-educated former slave named Franççois-Dominique Toussaint-L'Ouverture organized an army that stood down France's attempts to reestablish control until 1802, when he surrendered to Napolééon Bonaparte's troops. But the insurrection so impeded Bonaparte that he sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States the next year, ending France's quest for domination in the Western Hemisphere. Toussaint didn't live to see his dream realized, but on New Year's Day, 1804, the rebels finally got their wish: Haiti became the world's first free black republic. The ripple effects were felt as far away as England and America, where news of the revolt cheered abolitionists.

90 As If On Cue: Plastics 1907
NOBODY WAS HAPPIER to learn of the invention of plastic than the world's elephants. For centuries, ivory had been the standard for everything from knife handles to billiard balls. In the 1880s, a dwindling supply of tusks and a billiard boom conjoined to create a crisis. The country's largest maker of balls, Phelan and Collender, anxiously offered $10,000 in gold--"a handsome fortune"--to any "inventive genius" who came up with a synthetic substitute for ivory. Pachyderms everywhere held their breath.

And held it and held it, for it wasn't until 1907 that Leo Baekeland, a Belgian-born inventor who'd made a bundle on quick-action photo paper, hit upon the right combo of phenols and formaldehyde. This first entirely synthetic plastic, Bakelite, was impervious to heat, electricity and acid. It was therefore a plus for pool, but also for the nascent auto and electronics industries. One great asset of plastic was versatility, and it came to be used in everything from telephones to toilets, ashtrays to airplane parts. By 1968 a young graduate looking for a surefire field was being urged to listen to "just one word--plastics" 30 years later the miracle material has turned into a $260 billion industry that employs 1,381,000 worldwide. It's a plastic world we live in, and that's not always bad.

89 Across the Sahara 1324
Fourteenth century Africans would be astonished to discover that Mali is now one of the world's poorest countries. In its day, Mali's empire was one of the largest in the world, ruled by an emperor whose lavish adventure helped spread Islam across West Africa and literally put sub-Saharan Africa on the map in Europe and the Middle East.

Mansa Musa embarked on a holy pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 with such opulent flourish that awestruck Egyptian writers were still recounting it 200 years later. Legend has it that Musa traveled across the Sahara with about 60,000 men, including 12,000 slaves. He brought 80 camels loaded with 300 pounds of gold each, which he gave away so freely in Cairo that it took years for the price of gold to recover. Architects and poets he brought back with him from Arabia built distinctive mosques, some of which survived for centuries, and helped establish Timbuktu as a center of Islamic schooling. But Musa's brazen advertisement of riches made Africa's interior a more desirable target for European exploration and conquest.

88 Japan Opens Its Doors 1868
FOR 250 YEARS the shoguns, Japan's military rulers, had kept their country closed to the world. Then, in 1853, U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Tokyo Bay with four gunships, demanding that Japan open its ports to trade. Some of the country's leaders realized they had no choice. By 1868, power had shifted back from the shoguns to the emperor--the 15-year-old Mutsuhito--and the imperial seat moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. Known as the Meiji Restoration (Meiji, or "Enlightened Rule," was the reign name of Mutsuhito), this period saw the transformation of Japan from an inward-looking, agrarian, feudal kingdom to a world power. Mutsuhito's chief counselor, Prince Ito Hirobumi, sent emissaries to Europe and the United States and brought back technology, medical and scientific knowledge, constitutional models and military and naval expertise.

Sufficiently confident to challenge larger players on the world stage, Japan went to war with China in 1894 and won Taiwan, the Pescadores, southern Manchuria and free access to Korea. It went on to sink the Russian navy in 1905, annex Korea in 1910 and join the Allies against Germany in 1914. The country's successes inspired nationalist uprisings in India, Iran and Turkey during and after World War I but stirred resentment and fear in the 1930s when Japan waged bloody campaigns in China. Its military expansionism, which peaked during World War II, was stopped only by two atomic bombs.

A prolonged period of recovery, increasing productivity, prosperity and steady economic expansion have made Japan the only Asian nation counted among the world's richest industrialized powers--just 130 years after the boy emperor ascended the throne.

87 A New Way Of Seeing 1880
IN THE SHADOW of a pile of limestone in the south of France called Mont Sainte-Victoire, art turned and faced the 20th century. There, Paul Céézanne painstakingly replaced conventional systems of light, shade, line and perspective with a new visual vocabulary. The mountain was his favorite subject, and he painted it more than 60 times. In works from 1880 on, the near and the far merge, transforming spatial voids into animate planes, transforming static reality into a network of visual energy. Céézanne substituted the perspective created by line with a backward-forward pulsation of color that made the two-dimensional canvas vibrate with the three-dimensional fullness of nature. The surface of a painting would henceforth no longer be merely a window through which reality could be observed. Céézanne would make it a reality unto itself, one he saw as both classic and transcendent. Artists would now be free to develop new modes of expression. As Pablo Picasso later observed, he was "the father of us all."

86 The End Of The Raj 1947
"THE JEWEL in the crown," the British called their most prized possession, to which they first traveled for spices and silks 300 years ago. And once it was no longer theirs, in 1947, the world's most powerful empire began to unravel.

Colonial rule of the vast South Asian subcontinent didn't officially begin until 1857, after Indian soldiers led an unsuccessful revolt against the British East India Company, which had effectively controlled the country. But India's Western-style schools only fired the nationalist movement, creating a middle class that questioned its dependent, "racially inferior" status. In 1930, Mohandas Gandhi, who preached nonviolent resistance, led thousands of followers on a 200-mile march to the sea, where they made salt in defiance of British tax laws. By the mid-1940s, Britain's resources had been sapped by World War II, and the country's slogan, "The sun never sets on the British Empire," had lost its moral certainty. After India gained its independence, there was little to stop the dominoes from toppling: Palestine in 1948 Ghana, the first of Britain's African colonies to go, in 1957 and in 1997, its last significant outpost, Hong Kong.

Fifty years after winning their independence, more than 900 million Indians--many still mired in poverty--make up the world's largest parliamentary democracy.

85 Saving Aristotle 1169
IBN-RUSHD, Muslim philosopher and scientist, was a translator not only of books but also of civilizations. Cordoba was his laboratory, the works of Aristotle the materials he used for his experiments. The result: a 12th century European renaissance.

Since the 6th century, the Catholic Church had neglected, ignored or locked up classical scholarship behind the bars of Holy Writ. Centers of Islamic learning, however, preserved the works of philosophers of antiquity, giving pride of place to Aristotle. In 1169, Ibn-Rushd, a polymath also known as Averroes, began translating and commenting on Aristotle's works. His surroundings were perfect for the task. For several centuries, Spain had been controlled by Muslims, whose literary and artistic culture far surpassed that of medieval Europe. Cordoba's library contained over 400,000 volumes--more, it is said, than all the other libraries of Europe combined.

For 26 years, Ibn-Rushd put his mind to bringing Aristotle back to life, translating from Greek to Arabic to Latin, then into the bloodstream of European intellectual life. Philosophy was transformed, East to West, from arid dogmatism to a robust new synthesis of reason and faith.

84 Checking Accounts 1407
COINS AS CURRENCY have been traced back to the 7th century B.C. Paper money was printed in China as early as the 11th century. But no economic institution has shaped the world like the bank. (The word stems from the Italian banco, or bench, from which money changers did business at medieval fairs.) Before the first public banks appeared--Casa di San Giorgio, founded in Genoa in 1407, was the most prominent--merchants conducted business using bills of exchange that functioned as IOUs banks, operated by wealthy families, often went bankrupt when distant kings reneged on loans. Casa di San Giorgio lasted only 37 years, but its innovations led all the way to the credit card. The bank served as the model for public banks that "cleared," or transferred, balances between accounts. And it established an unprecedented trust because the government had an incentive to repay its debts so as to have a continuing source of funds. These developments gave rise to the modern clearing bank--Amsterdam's Wisselbank was the first, in 1609--which made it possible to use bills of exchange like money. Today we can move millions across continents with the touch of a keyboard.

83 The First Novel 1008
THE TALE OF GENJI, one of the masterpieces of Japanese literature, is the world's first extended fictional narrative. Its author, Murasaki Shikibu, lived much of her life in the royal court in Kyoto, where she was the center of a group of bril- liant women who competed for status through their literary skills. Her novel, finished sometime around 1008, concerns the colorful life of the court, with its many political and romantic intrigues. Hundreds of characters fill the book, but at its center is an elegant prince known as "the shining Genji." The novel's powerful feminine vision, its sympathy with the plight of women at court, its subtlety of language and penetrating psychological insights--all were unprecedented. The Tale of Genji remains a surprisingly modern work it has recently been translated and recognized outside Japan as one of the great contributions to world literature. Its influence has been broad, not just in Japan, where it remains a principal source of stories for Noh drama, the Kabuki stage and contemporary cinema, but throughout the Western world. Any serious discussion of the structures, forms and intentions of the novel--the most significant new literary genre of the millennium--must take into account Murasaki's stunning achievement.

82 Selling The World A Coke 1886
TWO THIRDS of the earth is covered by water the rest is covered by Coke. If the French are known for wine and the Germans for beer, America achieved Global Beverage Dominance with fizzy water and caramel color. But Coca-Cola's success has less to do with ingredients than promotion. The coca leaf and kola nut blend cooked up by Atlanta druggist John Pemberton in 1886 was released into a market saturated with self-medications. He positioned his nonalcoholic tonic as the Great National Temperance Drink, and soon folks were buying Coke just for the taste of it.

Asa Candler bought the company for $2,300 and retooled the drink's secret formula. He spent lavishly on advertising--as much as a quarter of the company's revenue. When Robert Woodruff took the helm, he vowed to put a Coke "within an arm's reach of desire." Feeling that he'd like to buy the world a Coke, he established a foreign department in 1926. After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. military footed much of the bill for Coke's bottling plants at the front lines. (At home, Pepsi was subject to sugar rationing.) Not coincidentally, millions of people in nearly 200 countries have been introduced to the pause that refreshes.

Today, 606 million Cokes (including diet, caffeine-free and other versions) are consumed daily. A rich man can buy a better wine or beer than a peasant, but not a better Coke. The fact that they both want to is a testament to the power of advertising, and perhaps that secret formula.

81 Heigh-Ho, Silver! 1545
LONG BEFORE California's gold rush, the discovery of silver in the Andes mountains in 1545 sparked an explosion of wealth for Spain. Entrepreneurs flooded Potosi, then part of Peru, drafting Indians to unearth the precious ore. (To numb themselves against hunger and fatigue, they chewed on as many as 95,000 baskets of coca leaves in one year alone.) Between 1550 and 1650, Potosi's mines provided up to 60 percent of the world's silver, opening up trade between Latin America, Europe and Asia, particularly China, where silver was worth twice its value elsewhere. By 1640 silver's value in China had bottomed out--hastening the demise of the Ming dynasty and the decline of the Spanish empire. Potosíí's mountain is now mined primarily for tin.

79 The Rise of the Welfare State 1601
Before England adopted a formal antipoverty program, the destitute relied on begging, thievery and the Catholic Church's ample coffers for survival. But by the late 16th century, the Church, stripped of its holdings by Henry VIII, was no longer in a position to help. The rising demand for wool, then England's leading export, further inflated poverty rolls as greedy landlords forced tenants off their property in favor of more profitable sheep. It was left to the government to lend a hand. As codified in the Poor Law of 1601, though, it was not to be a handout. In exchange for financial assistance, the able-bodied were obligated to labor in workhouses. Children were assigned to apprenticeships. Even the sick and infirm, in almshouses, had to do piecework. Those who did not work were whipped, imprisoned and, in some cases, put to death. The meager earnings these institutional safety nets provided were not enough to pull people out of despair. But the premise behind the law--that a government has a responsibility to its poor--and the resulting public policies affected the future of social welfare. Bismarck's national insurance against illness and old age in the early 1880s, Britain's public-housing policies of the early 1900s and America's Social Security Act of 1935 were all descendants of the Poor Law. Yet, as recent reforms of the American welfare system illustrate, the public's ambivalence toward the poor continues to this day.

78 A Coffepot Percolates in Yemen c.1450
ALTHOUGH LEGEND has it that an Ethiopian goatherd, whose animals became hyper from eating the berries, first noticed coffee's stimulating effects, 15th century Sufis in Yemen were the first to drink it. The Muslim mystics valued coffee's ability to keep them alert during nighttime worship. From their communal services, coffee drinking evolved as a group activity, a trait that carried over to the general Muslim population, which shunned alcohol. Where coffee brewed, so did radical thought. Presaging the Beat caféés of the 1950s, early coffeehouses were magnets for artists and writers and served as hubs of information. Eventually, the political nature of coffee klatches made Muslim clerics nervous, leading them to ban coffee in Mecca in 1511. But the bean survived and, in the next century, caught on in Europe. By 1700 there were 2,000 cafes in London, one of which, Lloyd's, became the giant insurance brokerage. Later, in Paris, Marat and Robespierre saw the first stirrings of the French Revolution over a couple of cups of joe. Between 1880 and 1980--before Starbucks was on every corner--coffee was second only to oil as the world's most traded commodity.

77 Going Up 1854
IN A TOP hat and with a beard trimmed level as a ruler, an unsuccessful 42-year-old mechanic stood on a platform that, by means of a rope coiling around a power-driven drum, was hoisted high above a mass of on-lookers at an 1854 New York City fair. Suddenly, Elisha Graves Otis ordered the rope slashed. The crowd gasped. The platform fell a few inches, then stopped. Otis doffed his hat and cried: "All safe, gentlemen, all safe!" And the city as we know it was born.
Elevators had existed before Otis. But by designing a spring that set two iron teeth into notches in the guide rails when tension in the rope failed, Otis created the world's first safe elevator. A pity he died seven years later, $3,000 in debt, before seeing his invention alter the urban landscape. Its ultimate symbol: the Empire State Building, which, with 10 million bricks, 6,400 windows and 102 stories, can be seen 50 miles out to sea--and ascended in just a few minutes.

76 Unraveling the Double Helix 1953
THE OUTER EDGE of a vast, largely unmapped frontier looks a lot like a field in Scotland. The frontier is the human genome, and browsing in that field is a sheep who, for all she can tell, is like any other. The truth is she's exactly like another sheep--the one who provided the mammary cells from which she was cloned--and that's what makes Dolly different. She was created in a lab supported by a biotechnology company that plans to manufacture animals able to secrete drugs in their milk. Is this what James Watson and Francis Crick had in mind?

Before even a rough topography existed, the presence of deoxyribonucleic acid in the nucleus of every living cell had been confirmed in 1869 by Swiss physician Friedrich Miescher. But science believed protein, not DNA, controlled heredity until Martha Chase and Alfred Hershey proved otherwise in 1952, setting off a race to say how DNA functions, to know what makes us who we are.

Crick and Watson, who never experimented with DNA themselves, began building models of what they thought was the acid's molecular structure. On February 21, 1953, Watson, then 24, noticed the similar shape of the two complementary pairs of basic molecules that make up DNA, requiring two helices to wrap around its core, a revelation that also suggested how DNA might replicate itself. Knowing DNA's design would eventually lead to the identification of specific genes and their functions.

75 Raising the Roofs At Chartres 1260
AMONG THE GREAT cathedrals of Europe, none more purely set the tone for High Gothic architectural style than the Cathedral at Chartres. And while its competitors--Amiens, Reims, Notre-Dame--take the breath away, none is more beautiful. Chartres was the quintessential expression of the idea of a cathedral during the 12th and 13th centuries, a time in Europe when faith and money came together to erect structures such as the world had never seen. More stone was quarried in France alone, between 1050 and 1350, it is said, than in all of ancient Egypt.
The very location of Chartres is holy, an early center for the cult of Mary and the site of at least four other churches. But this cathedral, dedicated in 1260, is transcendent, a soaring feat of architecture in which church builders literally raised the roof: The vaults are 116 feet high. Chartres's stained glass windows are considered the most magnificent in Europe, and the play of sapphire light across the sacred spaces and towering walls of stone makes the cathedral preeminent among those places on earth where, as T.S. Eliot put it, "prayer has been valid."

74 El Libertador 1821
LIKE MANY A WEALTHY KID before and after him, Venezuelan coffee scion Simóón Bolíívar took a trip to Europe. There, in 1799, inspired by Voltaire, Locke and Rousseau, the young idealist determined to liberate his homeland from 300 years of Spanish rule. His dream? A "society of brother nations . . . powerful to resist the aggressions of the foreigner." Spurred by Napolééon's invasion of Spain in 1810, Bolíívar--who would soon become known as the liberator of northern South America--embarked on a series of bloody campaigns. In 1821 he freed Venezuela and over the next four years banished the Spaniards from Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Bolivia. Though his united "Gran Colombia" did not last--civil war erupted and Venezuela seceded in 1829--El Libertador left an indelible mark on the region and set a precedent (albeit sporadically followed) for modern Latin American democracies.

73 Fashion Comes Forward c.1350
BEFORE THE Middle Ages, attire was a matter of national costume, consisting of creatively draped, baglike garments. Fashion--which links clothing more closely to time than to place--began reinventing itself annually by 1350. "To be a good tailor yesterday is of no use today," lamented a craftsman in 1380. "Cut and fashions alter too quickly."

The change was the result of several factors. One was the return of Crusading soldiers with a novel item: the button, which they had seen used by Turks and Mongols. Court tailors used buttons to fasten clothes tightly, accentuating the differences in men's and women's bodies. (Fashion's first scandal followed, as the Catholic Church raised an eyebrow. One gown, wrote a naysayer, was "nothing other than the devil's snare.") For knights, plate armor imitating (however optimistically) the musculature of the wearer replaced droopy chain mail. Another factor--the rise of mercantile capitalism--allowed a new moneyed class to dress like nobility. The rate at which styles became obsolete was a measure of royalty's desire to stay ahead of the bourgeoisie.
But no trend or invention explains the wild enthusiasm for early fads like severely pointed shoes, sleeves that grazed the floor or tunics that failed to cover a gentleman's private parts. Dressing moved from a form of group identification to one of self-expression clothing wasn't simply functional or ritually significant--it was fun. Today, people alter their appearances with Wonderbras and shoulder pads. Now, Armani is our armor.

72 Solidarity Forever 1838
LABOR UNIONS are almost as old as factories. One of the first, organized by craft workers, was the London Working Men's Association, which held its first national convention in August 1838. The rank and file passed a People's Charter, promoting voting rights for unlanded workers. Though the British Parliament rejected the Charter, it eventually acted on some of its ideas, sparing England the violent class warfare that gripped Paris, Rome, Vienna and Berlin in 1848. In time the Chartists were weakened by arrests and internal power struggles, but not before they had influenced a generation of immigrant English workers. Children from Chartist homes later became important players in the U.S. labor movement, most notably cigarmaker Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor.

The changes unions have brought--the eight-hour workday, reforms in occupational safety, the minimum wage, child labor laws--have not come without pain, violence and dissent. But cries of "Solidarity" are still heard around the world.

71 Heaven On Earth c.1150
Almost 900 years ago a man named Suryavarman II tried to construct heaven on earth. He did not succeed. But the temple-mountain that his people built in what is now Cambodia is nothing short of miraculous. It would be an architectural feat even today to erect a seamless edifice with stones weighing as much as 8,000 pounds apiece. Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, completed around 1150, was built without the use of mortar it is held together by weight and friction. The complex is a sculpture of roughly a square mile. Its sandstone relief carvings--of Hindu legends and Khmer battle scenes--are among the world's finest. Perhaps its artistic influence would have been greater had the Khmer Empire, which once controlled much of Southeast Asia, not been weakened by its building frenzy and invaded by Thai forces in 1431. But Angkor Wat, now a Buddhist temple, still has as much power to transfix as a landing on Mars.

70 Saving the Planet 1962
RACHEL CARSON'S 1962 best-seller, Silent Spring, which jump-started the modern environmental movement, almost didn't happen. The self-effacing marine biologist wanted someone else to write about the dangers of pesticides. No one would, so Carson began the four-year project that Vice President Al Gore has said "changed the course of history."
The success of DDT during World War II prompted an American love affair with the pesticide. But its application killed fish and birds and put humans at risk of illness. "Every human being," Carson warned, "is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death." Her book, a passionate, meticulously researched argument for pesticide control, enlightened the public and toppled America's blind faith in science and industry. Change came quickly: 1970--the EPA, Earth Day, the Clean Air Act 1972--the Clean Water Act, a ban on DDT 1987--the first global environmental agreement to stop producing ozone-depleting chemicals. In 1992 the U.S. joined a U.N.-sponsored alliance to slow global warming. If not for Carson's descriptions of springs "without voices," we might still be ignoring the fact that "man, too, is part of this balance."

69 The Anatomy Lesson 1543
As a boy, Andreas Vesalius dissected cadavers of stray dogs and cats he found on the streets of Brussels. Eventually, his passion for anatomy became a compulsion to dissect the human body in order to present exact descriptions of all its parts. At the University of Padua, where he taught surgery, he realized that many prevalent theories about anatomy--most of them handed down from the Greek physician Galen--were wrong. As he sliced muscle from bone, Vesalius learned that the jaw is one bone, not two that the thigh bone is not curved like a canine's that men and women possess the same number of ribs. The 29-year-old doctor, in collaboration with artist Jan Calcar, created an astonishingly detailed, seven-volume work called On the Structure of the Human Body, published in 1543. It marked the beginning of the modern science of anatomy. But it also created a furor. His views came under attack by the Catholic Church, his colleagues and society at large. Stung by the criticism, Vesalius burned his notes. He went to work as court physician to Emperor Charles V and didn't perform any dissections for 20 years. After he resumed cutting open bodies--including, as one legend has it, the body of a nobleman whose heart was still beating--the emperor sent him on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Shipwrecked, he starved to death on the island of Zante.

68 Pentacostalism Catches Fire 1906
THE FLAME of Pentecostalism was first lighted when Charles Fox Parham declared in 1901 that speaking in tongues was a sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit. It might have sputtered if not for William Joseph Seymour, a black preacher who listened to Parham through an open door in his Houston Bible school. Soon, Seymour set out for Los Angeles, where his own baptism in the Spirit in 1906 brought him an enthusiastic following. Within two years of founding a mission in an abandoned church on Azusa Street, his multicultural ministry sent missionaries to 25 countries.
Pentecostalism is a religion of the heart. Since a personal experience of God is as important as doctrine, it is an adaptable faith by the end of the 1960s, Protestants and Catholics had both begun to embrace the gifts of the Spirit in Charismatic renewal movements. Worship services may feature speaking in tongues, shouting and swaying, and spiritual healing. Today about a half billion people call themselves Pentecostal or Charismatic, and Pentecostals alone outnumber Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans and Presbyterians combined. The Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, is now, at 700,000 strong, the largest Christian congregation on earth.

67 A Stitch in Half the Time 1851
THE SEWING MACHINE suited up the armies of the U.S. Civil War in record time and stitched the wings on the Wright brothers' plane. But in 1830, when French tailor Barthéélemy Thimonnier patented the first one, few of his colleagues foresaw any benefit. Rather, they felt they would be rendered obsolete: This new device made 200 stitches per minute, while a man made only 30. In 1841 they ransacked Thimonnier's Paris shop. The credit for automating the garment industry would instead go to the son of a German immigrant to America, Isaac Merritt Singer, who in 1851 improved on an earlier design by Elias Howe. Then, in 1856, Singer made sewing machines affordable by offering the first layaway plan. For five bucks down, one could take home a $125 machine and pay off the rest in monthly installments with interest.

The "iron seamstress" also led to ready-made clothing: A woman could walk down Fifth Avenue and--horrors!--run into someone wearing an identical garment. But even as ready-to-wear liberated those with spending power, it enslaved immigrant women and children in sweatshops. Despite the formation in 1900 of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, clothing today is available thanks not only to Singer but to the people around the world operating his machines for little pay.

66 Splendor of Tenochtitláán 1325
THE MOST SOPHISTICATED city in the pre-Conquest Western Hemisphere was founded in 1325 by a warlike people who had nowhere left to go. The Aztecs had wandered for generations, skirmishing with neighbors, until they found themselves marooned on a marshy island in Mexico's Lake Texcoco. Within little more than a century, Tenochtitláán, population 250,000, rivaled any capital of its time. Built without the help of beasts of burden or the wheel, it boasted palaces, pyramids, grand plazas and a superb network of canals, dikes and bridges. While Europe's city streets were meandering cow paths, Tenochtitláán's were a rational grid and--because of efficient drainage, garbage barges and an army of sweepers--far cleaner than their counterparts. When the conquistadors arrived in 1519, they were astounded, as Hernáán Cortéés wrote, by "the strange and marvelous things of this great city." But the Spaniards regarded the Aztecs, whose religion involved human sacrifice, as heathens. After slaughtering Tenochtitláán's inhabitants, pillaging its riches and razing its buildings, they erected their own capital on the ruins. Today it is called Mexico City--the second-largest metropolis in the world.

65 A Fresh Point of View 1413
ALL HE DID was invent infinity. Or at least the illusion of infinity that exists in a painting. Before Filippo Brunelleschi's 1413 painting of the Baptistery in Florence, artists placed their subjects in a world of theoretical space on the surface of a wall or a canvas. Buildings and figures and trees and saints danced laterally on a flat plane, free of the laws of physics or optics. But by harnessing his relentless powers of observation to a precise set of mathematical calculations, the Florentine architect-sculptor-engineer codified the way objects appear smaller as they recede in space. Brunelleschi's ideas transformed the contrivance of a painting into a window onto the wondrous world of the Renaissance. At the same time, his work focused attention on the religious and intellectual issues of the time. The notion that all reality converges at some focused end point in space may be as much an expression of the belief in an omnipotent Creator as it is an exercise in optical mathematics. The rules of perspective also made the viewer of the scene--in his case, Renaissance man--a participant in the process of perception. The eye of the beholder becomes the center of the visible world, a world that exists to be experienced by people just discovering their power to experience it.

64 The Long March 1934
IN 1934, MAO ZEDONG fled the Kuomintang's forces in southern China with 100,000 soldiers and headed north. For 12 months they marched across 18 mountain ranges and 24 rivers, turning a 6,000-mile trek into the longest political workshop on record. In remote villages they drew lessons in the dirt with twigs, exhorting peasants to organize against landlords. When he got to Shaanxi province, Mao had 8,000 soldiers left, but the march was a badge of honor for its survivors. They helped lead Mao to victory in 1949, when the People's Republic of China brought one fifth of mankind under communism. Mao touched millions across Asia, Africa and Latin America who had seen peasants extinguish centuries of imperial rule.

63 Ka-Boom! 1863
IT MIGHT HAVE TAKEN CENTURIES to dig the 92 miles of tunnels feeding water to Los Angeles had Alfred Nobel not invented dynamite in 1867. It took just seven years. With dynamite, dams, railways and roads were built, the Panama Canal was dug, and the earth cracked open to yield mineral riches. Nobel's invention--mixing nitroglycerine, an explosive liquid, with an absorbent sand and molding that into sticks--made it possible to ship the explosive safely to war fronts and building sites everywhere. Suddenly man could remap his environment, then obliterate his handiwork. The ironies were not lost on Nobel, whose brother died in an accidental blast at their Swedish factory. Called by some "the merchant of death," Nobel left his fortune to establish the prizes that bear his name. Too late for comfort: He died sad and alone, taking nitroglycerine for an ailing heart.

62 A Blast Of Oxygen 1854
CIVILIZATIONS CAN be traced through steel--those who made it won the wars. The Arabs had their legendary Damascus swords, tempered in blacksmiths' forges. The Swedes had been making small amounts of steel since the 13th century by melting iron ore in crucibles. But it was not until 1854, when English inventor Henry Bessemer set out to build a better cannon for French Emperor Napolééon III, that anyone figured out how to produce steel strong enough to withstand an explosion or hold up a bridge. The problem was impurities. Bessemer's method used a blast of oxygen to burn off excess carbon in molten iron ore, and from that moment the Steel Age was in gear. (An American, William Kelly, made the same discovery at roughly the same time but didn't hurry fast enough to the patent office.)

Soon steel framed tall buildings and stenciled skylines. It supported bridges over rivers, laid railroad tracks around the world and put America on wheels. And steel built fortunes as well as cities. By the turn of the century, American mills were rolling out 8.5 million tons of steel a year. Space-age alloys have tarnished steel's luster, and cars are now made of plastic. But the demand for steel remains enormous--a billion tons worldwide last year--even if it is delivered on aluminum trucks.

61 Shadows Inside Us 1895
AS WITH so many scientific breakthroughs, the discovery of X rays happened by accident. A German physicist named Wilhelm Rööentgen was investigating the properties of electricity. On November 8, 1895, he learned more than he bargained for. He placed a vacuum tube with a wire attached to either end inside a black box, switched off the lights in his lab and turned on the electrical current. A mysterious fluorescence began emanating--not from the tube in the box but from a cardboard screen nearby that had been treated with barium. Rööentgen could see that the screen was glowing in response to something coming from the tube. It was not cathode rays or any other emissions he knew of. Experimenting further, he discovered that these rays of unknown origin--"X rays"--could penetrate thick books and blocks of wood. Holding up his hand before a screen, he became the first person to see the shadow of bones.

Rööentgen announcement of his discovery two months later caused an immediate sensation. Magazines published poems about X rays. Stores in Victorian London advertised X-ray-proof clothing. Within months physicians were using the new technology to look at broken bones and bullets in wounded soldiers. Eventually, improved technology lessened side effects--burns to the skin and hair loss. By the 1970s xeroradiography reduced exposure time and cancer risk. And related technologies, from CAT scans to MRIs, have opened a window into the structure of matter and the workings of the body.

60 A Royal Flush 1596
WE'RE NOT EAGER TO TALK about toilets--our euphemisms are many, including the throne, thunder box, privy and head--but as the title of one surprisingly popular children's book puts it, Everyone Poops. Which is why it's not at all surprising that rudimentary toilets date back to 2000 B.C., in the Minoan palace at Knossos on Crete. But until 1596, when British nobleman John Harington invented the first prac- tical "water closet"--a wooden seat with a cistern and a valve for flushing--waste disposal hadn't begun to move into the modern age. Before the WC, the most common place to go was the nearest tree, hole or river. (In outhouses in America, still in use among 10 percent of the population, at least one gets a seat.) Indoors, the top choice was the chamber pot, which city folk emptied out their windows onto the street. The French warning that accompanied the dumping--"Gare l'eau" ("Watch out for the water")--may have inspired another favorite euphemism, "the loo."

Though Harington's WC was installed in Richmond Palace, inadequate sewage systems prevented its widespread use, and 265 years passed before British plumber Thomas Crapper made his name marketing an advanced watersaving flush system. By the 1920s the toilet had become a standard fixture in most newly built homes--though in developing nations, a staggering 2.9 billion people still don't have access to one.

59 Getting The News 1609
AMONG THE ITEMS appearing in Issue 47 of Relation, the first regularly printed newspaper in history, was this understated news flash: "Signor Gallileo [sic] . . . found a rule and visual measure, by which one can . . . look at places 30 miles away, as if they were close by." That year's papers would also include reports of a ne'er-do-well lieutenant general and two men prohibited from playing ninepins, demonstrating the mix of groundbreaking and trivial that still defines a newspaper. The weekly, four-page Relation, first published in Strassburg, Germany, in 1609, wasn't much to look at--no headlines, no ads, no catchy graphics. It attracted a readership consisting mostly of the wealthy, powerful and well educated. But by the mid-17th century, the first print daily was being published in Leipzig and the "penny press," debuting in the U.S. in 1833, would later transport news to the general public. Then as now, the free press filled an important role: campaigning for reform, focusing public attention on political and social problems, and stirring up trouble when trouble was needed.

58 The Accidental Vulcan 1839
Who can examine it," asked Charles Goodyear of rubber, his lifelong obsession, "without glorifying God?" Whether or not we share the 19th century inventor's fanaticism, the object of his passion--the basis for some 40,000 products, including electrical casings, tennis balls, condoms, erasers and, most of all, tires--is indispensable in our modern lives. Made from latex, a gum originally found in South American trees, the substance had been around at least since Columbus watched natives bounce rubber balls in Hispaniola. But by the early 1800s, when a small industry developed, consisting mostly of boots and life preservers, it became clear the stuff did not hold up: In the winter it would harden like rock and in heat ooze into a sticky mess.

A Connecticut native not known for his financial prowess, Goodyear was determined to make rubber commercially viable. While incarcerated in debtors' prison, he began mixing raw rubber with everything from witch hazel to cream cheese. In 1839 he accidentally spilled a drop of rubber and sulfur on his burning stove. He had discovered the process of vulcanization, named for the Roman god of fire, and set the stage for the business boom spurred by the advent of cars. But Goodyear failed to secure the rights to his discovery. When he died, he left behind scores of suggestions for rubber's applications--the inflatable tire, alas, not one of them--and a $200,000 debt.

57 A Woman's Choice 1914
BIRTH CONTROL was a taboo subject in the early 20th century. But that didn't stop Margaret Sanger. As a nurse, and as the sixth of 11 children, she had seen the strains childbearing put on women, particularly the poor. So in March 1914 she defiantly published The Woman Rebel, an exhortation for women to challenge the pro-conception climate. Facing an obscenity charge (later dropped) for her audacious act, Sanger fled to Europe. Upon her return in 1916, she was more determined than ever to spread the gospel of voluntary motherhood. Her first effort, a Brooklyn-based birth control clinic, was raided by the police after only nine days. Undeterred, she founded the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau in 1923, the first doctor-staffed birth control clinic in America, where contraceptives and advice were disseminated. By the time of her death in 1966, the birth control pill--one of whose developers, Dr. Gregory Pincus, dedicated his research to her "pioneering resoluteness"--had become an accepted (and openly discussed) method of contraception.

56 Four-Star Dining 1120
LONG AGO, inns sold food and drink to travelers far from their home kitchens. Cookshops offered take-out food, and banquets were showy affairs for special occasions. But nowhere before 1120 is there evidence of what we think of as restaurants, places to purchase a sit-down meal primarily for social and gustatory pleasure.

The journal of 12th century Chinese bureaucrat Meng Yuanlao--arguably the first restaurant reviewer--offers a meticulous account of an emerging restaurant culture in Kaifeng, the capital during the Northern Song dynasty (960-1126). The city of one million had plenty of adventurous eaters. Laborers slurped noodles in humble shops, shopkeepers frequented dumpling houses, and according to Meng's journal, begun around 1120, night markets served tripe with blood pasta, fried liver and goose pears to people on the late shift. In Small Sweetwater Alley many establishments specialized in southern Chinese foods, one of the first regional cuisines. The people of Kaifeng also demanded attentive service. "Even the slightest mistake," noted Meng, "was reported to the head of the restaurant, who would curse the waiter or dock his salary or, in extreme cases, drive him from the place."

55 The Invention of Childhood 1633
You know more than you think you do." With these eight words, Benjamin Spock opened his Baby and Child Care--and turned attitudes toward parenting upside down. But Spock has to take a revolutionary backseat to Moravian bishop Johan Amos Comenius, who lived 300 years earlier. When he advised in The School of Infancy that babies should have their spirits stirred up "by kisses and embraces," Comenius was moving into new territory (at least for Europe), a place where affectionate behavior was seen as important to a child's well-being. And when he wrote that kids need to play to learn, he was giving voice to the unimaginable.

Picture the Europe of 1633. The Thirty Years' War was devastating villages food was scarce Protestants like Comenius were running for their lives. It was a difficult world, and children worked hard and died young. But Comenius was a utopian who believed the pathway to an earthly Eden was education. If children were not loved, not educated early and well, their souls could be lost.

After Comenius's death much of his work was forgotten. Then, 100 years later, Jean-Jacques Rousseau advised parents to let children savor nature. Soon Swiss reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi was running the first infants' school. By 1837, Friedrich Froebel had opened a kindergarten in Germany. Attitudes toward childrearing swing through history like a drunken pendulum, but these days we hope children are treated as children.

54 Tobacco Catches Fire 1535
When French explorer Jacques Cartier first partook of the mysterious weed he had observed the Iroquoians smoking along the St. Lawrence River, he could not have anticipated the impact tobacco would have in centuries to come. "When we tried to use the smoke," Cartier wrote in 1535, "we found it bit our tongues like pepper." Cartier's description is the most definitive early account of a European experimenting with tobacco in the New World. For thousands of years the native people of the Americas had used tobacco for medicinal and spiritual purposes. Explorers brought the plant back to Europe, where it was promoted as a panacea for everything from gonorrhea to flatulence. It was even used as a dentifrice to whiten teeth. By the beginning of the 17th century, rising demand enabled England's struggling settlement in Jamestown to grow the Colonies' first successful crop. Tobacco use spread across the globe, becoming an important part of every culture it touched. But only after cigarettes became popular in the mid-1800s and rolling machines enabled mass production in the 1880s were health concerns raised. In 1964 the U.S. Surgeon General established that cigarette smoking is a cause of cancer and other diseases. Today, about three million people a year die of tobacco-related illnesses.

53 The Coolest Invention 1834
HUMANS HAVE BEEN KEEPING themselves and their food cool for eons. The Chinese placed ice in cellars as early as 1000 B.C. An 8th century Baghdad caliph packed imported snow between the walls of his summer home. But it wasn't until Jacob Perkins, a 68-year-old Massachusetts inventor living in London, received a patent for a compressor in 1834 that anyone figured out how to make ice artificially. Perkins's machine used the same principles found in household refrigerators today: A compressed fluid--ether in his case, later ammonia and Freon--was evaporated to produce a cooling effect, then condensed again.

It was 17 years before the first commercial refrigerators were installed in an Australian brewery. By the end of the century they were being used to ship beef around the world, chill wine in Paris restaurants and build skating rinks. In 1902, Willis Carrier installed the first air conditioner in a Brooklyn printing plant--it not only cooled but also controlled humidity--and before long his machines were showing up in department stores and movie theaters. The first household refrigerators appeared in the early 1920s. Less than 1 percent of the homes in America are now without one, and most contain frozen foods--thanks to a process developed by Clarence Birdseye--another marvel of the Cool Age.

52 Tick, Tock 1656
FOR CENTURIES, sundials and water clocks--none too accurate--told us all we needed to know about time. Mechanical clocks, using deadweight-powered gears, started appearing on towers in Italy in the 14th century, but their timekeeping was less impressive than their looks, wandering up to 15 minutes a day. By the 17th century a who's who of geniuses, including Galileo and Pascal, had theorized about, but failed to build, better timepieces. Then, in 1656, Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens constructed the first pendulum clock, revolutionizing timekeeping. The precision of Huygens's clock allowed scientists to use it for their physics experiments, shopkeepers to open and close at fixed hours and workers to be paid by the hour. Time discipline permeated private life, too: Punctuality became a virtue. In 1761, Englishman John Harrison perfected a clock that worked at sea and put accurate time--and thus longitude--in a navigator's pocket. At last man knew where he was.

51 Liberty For All 1865
THE U.S. CIVIL WAR, which ended in 1865, not only transformed the lives of millions of black Americans, it also fixed the nation on a new course. The wealthiest and most powerful slaveholding class in the world was destroyed, and an agricultural slave society was crushed by a rising industrial and capitalist North. But the crucial moment in the four-year struggle that claimed 600,000 lives had really come two years earlier, when President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, officially turning a war for the restoration of the Union into a war of liberation.
Abolitionists had encouraged Lincoln to issue such a document from the start of the war. In fact, ever since a handful of English Quakers launched a public campaign against the slave trade in 1787, abolitionists there had kept the slavery question in public view. Women boycotted sugar produced by slave labor, thousands signed petitions to Parliament, and in the United States such well-known figures as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and William Lloyd Garrison vigorously insisted that the conscience of the nation could find rest only with the abolition of slavery.

While slaves would celebrate January 1, 1863, as the Day of Jubilee, their actions had long been instrumental in advancing emancipation. They worked as spies and laborers and volunteered their lives to fight in the Union Army. By the end of the war, 179,000 African American men had served in the U.S. military, constituting almost 10 percent of the Northern armed forces. For the nation's 3.5 million slaves, for its abolitionists and for some of its politicians, the crucible of civil war would allow the U.S. to live up to its best traditions, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, as a land of liberty and equality for all. The foundation was laid for the emergence of the United States as a great world power.

50 A University Education 1088
THE MODERN university is a sanctuary for the learned, a place where the wise can pass on knowledge to the next generation. It is also a zoo, full of loudmouths and know-it-alls. And it was ever thus: The first university was founded not only for students but also by them.
There have always been centers of learning--schools of philosophy in Greece, medicine in India, literature and art in China. But the university as we know it today--a secular degree-granting institution with at least one professional school attached--began in Bologna, Italy, in 1088. First came the law school: Scholars pored over Roman law, adapting it to contemporary needs--a vital contribution to the organization of European society. Next came recognition of the institution itself: When Bolognese landlords threatened to raise scholars' rents, student protests led Emperor Frederick Barbarossa to award them protection from exploitation in 1158. Students also made professors sign contracts to deliver lectures on particular subjects--and promise to remain at the school until the end of the term. Soon professors needed a license to teach (the earliest academic degree), and a real university was born.

Those 12th century campus hotheads could never have imagined what they were building. By the end of that century, the University of Paris had taken root, and not long after, Oxford was up and running. Today, throughout the world, universities are places where each generation can dis- cover their callings, and themselves.

49 The Circulation of Blood 1628
IT TOOK ROUGHLY 2,000 years of medical sleuthing to unlock the secrets of the circulatory system. Aristotle started the search, hypothesizing that the liver was the source of blood. But it wasn't until the 16th century that physicians began uncovering enough clues about arteries, veins and the heart to propose new theories and to challenge professional doctrine. Ignoring the threat of ostracism, British physician William Harvey spent 20 years researching the circulatory system and writing An Anatomical Study of the Motion of the Heart and of the Blood in Animals, published in 1628. For the first time, he demonstrated that the heart controls circulation. His conclusions were met with scorn. But his description of how blood flows away from the heart in arteries, then back through veins--still valid nearly 400 years later--remains one of the most significant medical discoveries of the millennium, a testament to observation, accurate description and mathematical proof.

48 Store Food? Yes, we can 1812
THE FIRST canned foods appeared in 1812, the first can opener in 1885. Hard as cans were to open initially, they were culinary time capsules providing the bounty of summer in the dead of winter. Napolééon reportedly offered a reward to anyone who could supply his troops with food that would keep. In 1795, French brewer Nicolas Appert, without understanding the principle of sterilization, preserved foods in jars by heating them to kill bacteria, then sealing them airtight. By 1809 his factory was supplying the ports of France. The London company of Donkin, Hall and Gamble applied his methods to tin cans, which became the preferred method of storage.

47 Striking Oil 1859
THE STORY OF oil has always been one of high-risk wildcatting, boom-or-bust land deals, robber barons and international intrigue. People had known of the combustible properties of surface oil for centuries, but it wasn't until 1859 that a band of American entrepreneurs, led by retired railroad conductor Edwin Drake, stumbled on a way to pump it from a shallow well in Titusville, Pa. They didn't even want oil--it was a derivative, kerosene, they were after. By the end of the Civil War, 3.6 million barrels a year were being pumped from around Titusville, and derricks were going up all over the U.S. Then the bottom fell out of the market. Enter John D. Rockefeller. Starting with one kerosene refinery, he gobbled up his competitors and integrated his company, Standard Oil, with storage facilities and a transportation network. Oil fueled Rockefeller's fortune and--with the invention of gasoline-powered internal combustion engines--the machines that made the world run.

46 Water Purification 1829
A PERSON consumes 16,000 gallons of water in a lifetime. But before 1829, when the Chelsea Water Works of London installed its landmark slow-sand filter on the Thames River, no one had effectively cleaned it. Even after 1829, most drinking water remained unfiltered and epidemics of cholera and typhoid made sanitation an urgent issue. Finally, in 1854, physician John Snow, though ignorant of bacteria carried in water, traced an outbreak of cholera to a pump near a sewer. The filtration of drinking water (plus the use of chlorine) is probably the most significant public health advance of the millennium.

45 Red Star Over Russia 1917
THE FIRST COUNTRY to pursue Karl Marx's dream of a workers' state was a poor land where peasants vastly outnumbered proletarians. Battered by the military disasters and food shortages of World War I, Russia exploded in February 1917. Rebels seized the capital, St. Petersburg, and the Duma (the Senate) deposed the inept and repressive Czar Nicholas II. But the new government, headed by socialist Aleksandr Kerensky, refused to pull Russia out of the war. In October it was overthrown by the militant Bolsheviks. Their leader, Vladimir Lenin, quickly made peace with Germany. He moved the capital to Moscow, abolished private property, suppressed the Church. His forces murdered Nicholas and his family. By 1920, after three years of civil war, the communist monopoly on power was complete.

The Soviet Union (as the new nation was known) modernized with terrific speed. The masses got free education and medical care. But the price was staggering: millions dead in botched economic experiments and purges gulags full of political prisoners a culture shackled by totalitarian ideology. The country's rivalry with the United States dominated global politics, triggered countless hot wars and threatened nuclear Armageddon. It ended in 1989, when the Soviet bloc collapsed--done in, as Marx had predicted capitalism would be, by its own "internal contradictions."

44 A New World in a Drop of Water 1674
IT WAS ONLY A TINY LENS, smaller than a postage stamp. It was not the first microscope, nor the most powerful. Its creator, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch linen merchant, had heard that by grinding a lens out of clear glass, one could see things bigger than with the naked eye. First he used it to peer at the stinger of a honeybee, the leg of a louse, the brain of a fly. Soon he was grinding more-powerful lenses, using diamond dust scooped from the floors of local spectacles makers. With these he became the first person to see bacteria and spermatozoa. In August 1674, while examining a drop of lake water, Leeuwenhoek saw "animalcules" with tiny heads, limbs and fins, one-celled animals later called protozoa. On that day the science of microbiology was born. Leeuwenhoek's work unlocked doors for Pasteur, Fleming, Darwin and others. Today, microscopes, which can magnify to the millionth power, are essential not only to medicine but also to fields as diverse as criminology, metallurgy and archaeology--all because of a curious shopkeeper.

43 Bach's Well-Tempered Scale 1722
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH wrote in every known musical genre except opera. But it was a collection of keyboard pieces, written when the German composer was 37, that marked a watershed in Western music. By publishing Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier, with a prelude and fugue in each of the 12 major and 12 minor keys, Bach threw the weight of his genius behind what eventually became equal temperament, the dividing up of the scale into 12 equal semitones. Bach's system enabled musicians to explore the full harmonic range of the keyboard. Until then they had been restricted to a limited number of keys in order that important intervals, such as the third and the fifth, could stay perfectly in tune.

Bach was not the first to rework the keyboard's possibilities, but he did it best: His music is gorgeous. And even though he never wrote for the piano, he opened the door to the rich tapestry of sound we associate with that instrument. By the 19th century it was a dominant force in Western music and an essential element of evening entertainment in living rooms across Europe and America. The stage was set for the pyrotechnics of Chopin and Liszt, for the crashing fortissimos and feather-soft pianissimos of Tchaikovsky--and for millions of humbler piano recitals.

42 The Laws of Heredity 1866
GREGOR MENDEL, an Austrian monk who spent a decade crossbreeding pea plants in his monastery garden, aired his discovery of the basic laws of heredity in 1866. He gave up his research two years later when he became abbot, and his work, though published, was largely ignored. Rediscovered in 1900, it helped propel America's interest in agricultural reform.
Mendel's thesis--that traits handed down from parent plants to offspring were mathematically predictable--led to the "hybrid vigor" theory, which transformed commercial agriculture. By crossing two inbred seeds, farmers could produce progeny that outperformed either parent, resulting in healthier and fuller crops. Corn, now bred entirely this way, has been called the greatest success story of modern genetics. In the 1960s, agronomist Norman Borlaug saved millions of lives in famine-stricken India and Pakistan by introducing a shortened, high-yielding dwarf wheat--a green revolution that had its roots in Mendel's garden.

41 The Telegraph Goes Online 1844
NO OTHER INVENTION has shrunk the world so dramatically as the electric telegraph, capable of moving messages across land and sea at 16,000 miles per second. No wonder that when Samuel F.B. Morse inaugurated his first telegraph line (between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore), on May 24, 1844, he tapped out an exclamation from the Bible: "What hath God wrought!"

Morse's telegraph, unveiled in 1838, was not the first such device--Englishmen William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone beat him by a year with a model that used needles to spell out words--but it was by far the most practical. The sender simply pressed a key in a pattern of dots and dashes, which were automatically marked on paper at the other end. Morse's machine and code became the international standard.

The telegraph spurred the growth of multinational corporations and transcontinental railways. It helped change the pace and scope of warfare. And it gave a boost to the news media. In 1848, six newspapers formed what would become the Associated Press to collect and distribute reports by telegraph. Soon news from anywhere could reach people everywhere the very day it happened.

39 The Crop That Grew Europe 1537
CULTIVATED BY PERUVIANS since 8000 B.C., potatoes were encountered by Spanish explorer Gonzalo Jiméénez de Quesada in 1537. Easy to grow (no tools required), they became, in one historian's estimation, "the difference between having one child and having five." And a lower infant mortality rate meant some children could leave the farm to work in factories. First, however, grain-fed Europe had to develop a taste for the potato. Confusing it with deadly nightshade, some thought it poisonous or, at least, the cause of flatulence or leprosy. But at the urging of scientists, leaders promoted the tuber Marie Antoinette wore potato flowers in her hair in 1785. The Irish immediately welcomed the addition to their diet, consuming eight pounds per person per day by the 19th century. The country's population doubled but was ravaged by a potato blight beginning in 1845. As many as one million died another 1.25 million emigrated to the U.S., eventually giving rise to the Kennedy dynasty and all that came with it. The potato's uses are legion: Potato-based alcohol powered German planes in WWII, potato acids are found in detergents, and potato starch is used as an adhesive in stamps and as an absorbing agent in disposable diapers.

38 Marx Meets Engles 1844
INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM unleashed unprecedented productivity but plunged millions into misery. The socialist movement offered visions of a workers' paradise, ranging from anarchism to state-centered communism, but no one could explain how to get there. Then, in 1844, Karl Marx teamed up with Friedrich Engels. Marx, 26, was in Paris, hashing out his own communist philosophy Engels, 24, was a theorist he admired. When Engels passed through town on a business trip--he ran the British branch of his family's textile firm--the two Germans spent 10 days talking. And a 39-year partnership had begun.

Their first great collaboration, the Communist Manifesto (1848), opened with the words, "A specter is haunting Europe." The specter was communism--and the authors made its victory seem inevitable. All history, they declared, was driven by class struggle. The bourgeoisie had superseded the nobility and called the proletariat into existence. Since capitalists exploited workers with ever-increasing ferocity, proletarians would one day realize they had "nothing to lose but their chains" and overthrow the bourgeoisie. The revolution would communalize property and production, eliminating classes. When that was done, the state--along with oppression and want--would disappear.

Within a hundred years or so, a third of humanity was living under governments that called themselves communist. But oppression and want persisted a few decades later revolutions drove most of those regimes from power. Today, Marxism is a theory relegated mainly to intellectual debate.

37 Fixing An Image 1826
SURELY THERE HAVE been windows more legendary. Rapunzel's. Juliet's. Hitchcock's rear one. But in 1826 a window swung open wider than any before, revealing a new way of seeing. The window was an attic perch on an estate in Burgundy. And it was from this pastoral vantage point that Joseph-Nicééphore Niéépce took the world's first photograph--a ghostly picture of a courtyard and a granary, framed by a pigeon house and a bread oven's chimney. Niéépce, who would soon join forces with brilliant promoter Louis Jacques Mandéé Daguerre, was the first man to fix an image, subtly rendering its essential light and shadow in permanent form. Using a primitive camera, a pewter plate and light-sensitive chemicals, he took a daylong exposure of the view, creating what he called a heliograph. From these humble beginnings, photography changed our perspective on the world: It helped elect Lincoln (Mathew Brady's campaign portrait), offered tangible proof of the horrors of war (journalists began carrying cameras into battle) and brought us to the nuclear brink (spy planes). Most important, Niéépce's invention has allowed us to fix our own images of faraway places and familiar faces--and share them with friends, strangers and future generations.

36 E=MC 2 1905
IT MIGHT have been easy to dismiss Albert Einstein's September 1905 paper as an afterthought, a minor coda to an extraordinary year. After all, in 12 months, Einstein had produced five revolutionary physics tracts, covering the special theory of relativity, the quantum theory of light, and more. Any one of the young patent clerk's after-hours efforts would have been enough to promote him to the highest levels of achievement in physics.

But the September paper, a three-page examination of one consequence of special relativity, had the power to change the world. Einstein's "thought experiment" delved into the underlying connection between matter and energy, the two basic components of the universe.
Within the principles of special relativity--nothing in the universe can travel faster than light in a vacuum, and the speed of light remains constant to all observers regardless of their own motion--Einstein found that he had imagined a strange universe where objects changed size and mass depending on how fast they traveled. These effects, unimaginably small at ordinary speeds, would become evident only as velocities neared that of light. However, if the energy of motion could change mass, Einstein concluded, mass itself could become energy. He published his famous equation E=MC 2 (Energy = mass x speed of light squared) and noted, almost in passing, "It is not impossible that . . . the theory may be successfully put to the test."

Within 40 years, research in radioactivity and physics, fueled by the desperation of a ghastly world conflict, led to the development of nuclear energy and the atomic bomb--dramatic realizations of Einstein's straightforward assertion. Einstein, a lifelong pacifist, deplored the destructive use of his ideas and regretted encouraging President Franklin D. Roosevelt to push development of nuclear weapons. Einstein was disappointed, and the world was changed inalterably.

35 To Be, Or Not 1603
ALEXANDRE DUMAS said Shakespeare was the poet who, after God, created the most. By the time he was 37 he had already written 21 plays and created a sonnet form. He was a prosperous landowner and part owner of the Globe Theatre. His works were regularly performed for Queen Elizabeth I. But in The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, first published in 1603, Shakespeare surpassed himself, taking an ancient Scandinavian story of fratricide and revenge and turning it into a dark tale about the human condition that has been translated nearly a thousand times and rarely been out of production. Sarah Bernhardt, John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, John Barrymore and Kenneth Branagh have all sought to understand the melancholy Dane.
In the conflicted prince, Shakespeare created an intellectual hero whose impulse for revenge is paralyzed by indecision, a bitterly disillusioned observer of political and moral corruption, a consummate wordsmith. The play is full of questions, but it is through the poetry of its language that Hamlet captured the conscience of the world.

34 Off With Their Heads 1789
THE FRENCH Revolution was the world's first social revolution, forging not only a new government but a new society. Ordinary Frenchmen had long chafed under high-living, heavy-handed kings. Philosophes--Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu--called for a social order based on law and reason rather than royal privilege. The revolt began in 1789 when middle-class delegates broke from a legislature rigged to favor the nobility and clergy, forming their own National Assembly. Then thousands stormed Paris's Bastille prison. In the ensuing civil war, the guillotine claimed 17,000 heads--including those of Louis XVI his queen, Marie Antoinette and countless revolutionaries whose factions lost out in power struggles.

In 1814 the monarchy was temporarily restored. But the Revolution's legacy endured. Peasants and women gained equality before the law. The nobility lost power. The ideas of socialism and nationalism were among the insurrection's exports, as were its egalitarian legal system and its Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. Even its tricolor flag became a model--hoisted, in various hues, by new republics throughout the world.

33 One Small Step for Man 1969
ARE WE ALONE? Earthlings have asked this question ever since we first weighed the riddle of the stars, and a giant leap was taken toward realizing an answer when Neil Armstrong hopped from a flimsy lunar module onto the surface of the moon. It was July 20, 1969, only a century after Jules Verne wrote a novel about going there, From the Earth to the Moon.

The Space Age began in earnest on October 4, 1957, with the Soviet launch of Sputnik I, the world's first artificial satellite to achieve orbit. The U.S. followed a few months later with Explorer I, and the race was on. An ardent commitment to exploration by President Kennedy and an equally zealous Soviet program led to a high-wire one-upmanship in the 1960s that spawned stunning technological advances, culminating in the Apollo 11 moon walk. Televisions carried the fuzzy images, the history in the making, and a global community basked in this wondrous human conquest. Fittingly, it was satellites themselves that made the broadcast possible, and the world a little smaller. Since that first trip to the moon, there have been deeper probes--Discovery, Endeavour, Galileo--into our solar system. But as space engineer Wernher von Braun observed, the journeys to the moon were like steps in human evolution, akin to the moment life emerged from the sea to establish itself on land.

32 The First Picture Show 1895
IN THE BEGINNING there was nonfiction ("I was chased by a pterodactyl . . .") and fiction (". . . and killed it in one blow"). People told stories, wrote them in words or pictures or acted them out. From cavemen until 1895, that was about it. Then 33 people met in a cafe for the only new storytelling form of this millennium: They watched a movie.

George Eastman introduced roll film in 1889, which Thomas Edison used to show movies to one person at a time with his Kinetoscope. In France two brothers, Auguste and Louis Lumiere, worked on projecting moving pictures to a group. On December 28, 1895, they premiered 10 films. At a later showing of The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, startled viewers ducked from the locomotive.

With the technology in place, the grammar of movies rapidly developed. Audiences kept up, though many found closeups of intimate acts like kissing to be unnerving. Edison replaced an actor with a dummy to simulate the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots, and sci-fi pioneer Georges Méélièès made film magic in A Trip to the Moon (1902). Not so many years later, German expressionists would use weather to convey a character's mood and Orson Welles would sum up Charles Foster Kane's disintegrating marriage by elongating a breakfast table before the viewer's eyes. In the U.S., movies became a giant industry never before had so few people influenced the culture of so many. The nature of film, as opposed to, say, theater, means that the same images are banked in the consciousness of generations past, future and worldwide--people who would otherwise have little culture in common. After seeing Jurassic Park, kids from Beverly Hills to Bombay could suffer the same nightmare that they, too, were being chased by a pterodactyl.

31 The Interpretations of Dreams 1900
FIVE YEARS AFTER the discovery of X rays let us see inside our bodies, Viennese neurologist Sigmund Freud opened up our minds. The Interpretation of Dreams, published in 1900, changed the psychological and cultural landscape of the modern world.

In it and later works, Freud claimed that dreams were ordered clues to our unconscious self--the part of our mind containing repressed wishes, traumas and desires too frightening to acknowledge. Though Nietzsche and others had hypothesized about the unconscious, Freud pioneered a systematic way to access it. He saw the human psyche as a battleground for the primitive, aggressive, sexually driven beast and the socialized adult self within us. (Children were complicated beings with urges--including sexual ones--at predictable stages.) Through a "talking cure," a patient could gain insight into and control over his unconscious drives.

Today, those practicing quicker therapies and psychopharmacology outnumber psychoanalysts, but Dr. Freud is indisputably with us, informing the very way we think about being human.

30 The Transistor Age Begins 1947
NO CABLE TELEVISION. No space travel. No CD players or faxes. Computers as big as refrigerators. Without the transistor, the past 50 years take on a decidedly retro look.

The triode vacuum tube, the original electronic amplifier, powered the development of radio, TV and early digital computers. But tubes were bulky and power-hungry, a drag on the development of complicated electronic machines engineers needed a reliable, small, cheap device. The likely building blocks? Semiconductors, crystals of nearly pure germanium or silicon that could selectively allow or deny the transmission of electricity. A team of scientists at Bell Labs in New Jersey demonstrated the first semiconductor amplifier, a primitive transistor, on December 23, 1947. First used in telephone equipment and hearing aids, the devices found their way into everything with a plug or battery. Integrated circuits--a silicon chip etched with microscopic transistors--were developed in the late 1950s chip-based computers invaded the kitchen, the car, the office, the den. Today, most Americans are usually within a few feet of one.

29 Genghis Khan Builds an Empire 1211
THE GREATEST JOY is to conquer one's enemies," proclaimed Genghis Khan, "to pursue them, to seize their property, to see their families in tears, to ride their horses and to possess their daughters and wives." Unfortunately for most of Asia and much of eastern Europe, Genghis Khan had a thoroughly enjoyable life.

In 1175, at the age of 13, he became chief of a small tribe of Mongol herdsmen. He used his position to unite a constellation of tribes under his rule, then converted those tribesmen into an army so formidable none could stand against it. The Mongols rode in hordes, sweeping away everything in their path. In 1211 they began their conquest of China. Later, they overran Persia and the Arab civilization of present-day Iraq to the west, and parts of Korea, Burma and Vietnam to the east and south. Nearly all of Russia fell before them too. Everywhere they rode, the Mongols left devastation, sometimes slaughtering entire cities. After Genghis's death in 1227, his successor, Ogadai, stormed through Poland and Hungary, reaching the banks of the Danube River.

The Mongols subdued more territory than anyone in history. Their influence on human development was overwhelmingly destructive, though as a result of their depredations, East met West. Mongols--in particular, Genghis's grandson Kublai Khan, who completed the conquest of China in 1279--brought foreigners into their realm to serve as administrators over vanquished masses. An Italian named Marco Polo later astounded Europe with news of such Asian innovations as money made of paper and a stone called "coal" that could be used for fuel.
The size of the empire was ultimately its undoing, and within a few decades it began to fragment. In China the finishing blow came in 1368, delivered by Zhu Yuanzhang, a peasant whose talents for military and political organization rivaled those of Genghis Khan himself.

28 The Drink That Launched a Thousand Ships 1610
EVER SINCE 1610, when the Dutch East India Company first brought tea to Europe from the island of Hirado, off the coast of Japan, tea has had few rivals as a catalyst for world events.
By the middle of the 18th century, tea had become Great Britain's signature quaff. Tea-drinking stimulated workers, leading to increased productivity, accelerating the industrial revolution. But the English were importing so much tea by the end of the century that they decided to sell opium to China to correct the trade imbalance. In 1839 the Qing government, concerned about China's social and economic disintegration, destroyed opium stored in Canton, provoking the first of two Opium Wars. Chinese junks proved no match for British Congreve rockets at the war's end, China ceded control of Hong Kong.

On the other side of the world, American colonists refused to pay a threepence-a-pound tax on tea imports "without representation." They seized control of three British tea-bearing vessels docked at Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773, and hurled the contents of 342 chests overboard. Similar protests in Charleston, S.C., Philadelphia and other cities fomented the American Revolution.

27 The Wright Stuff 1903
ON DECEMBER 17, 1903, on a stretch of sand near Kitty Hawk, N.C., two bicycle mechanics achieved one of humanity's maddest dreams: For 12 seconds they were possessed of true flight. Before the sun had set, Orville and Wilbur Wright would keep their wood-wire-and-cloth Flyer aloft for 59 seconds. Few newspapers deigned to comment on the event because the notion that human beings would take to the air, like some contemporary Daedalus and Icarus, was deemed absurd by most sober citizens. Now, of course, some of our greatest heroes--Lindbergh, Earhart, Yeager--have been fashioned out of the wild blue yonder. While it had taken almost forever to get airborne, once there, the advances came fast and furious. Indeed, a mere 15 years later nearly all the elements of the modern airplane had been imagined, if not realized.

26 The War to End All Wars 1914
IT IS EASY to record how the Great War began: The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, set off a disastrous chain reaction of demands and counterdemands among the great powers of Europe. But it is almost impossible to comprehend why, for the scale of the slaughter was out of all proportion to the grievances of either side.
Nearly nine million soldiers were killed between 1914 and 1918--an average of 5,600 each day. And yet, it wasn't just the number killed that made the war a historical watershed, it was also the way they died. World War I was the first modern war, the first to make wide use of some of the ghastly weapons of destruction we know today. "I saw trees as large round as a man's thigh literally cut down by the stream of lead," gasped one witness, describing the effects of a machine gun, which could fire 500 bullets per minute. The HMS Pathfinder became the first warship ever torpedoed by a submarine. The world's first tanks rumbled across a French battlefield. And, it was discovered, havoc and death could be wreaked from the air. But for millions, the war was defined by trenches--wide enough for two men to walk abreast, filled with mud, rats, lice and suffering. Clouds of mustard and chlorine gas drifted into them, bringing excruciating deaths.

The war's ill effects resonated for decades: Russia's sufferings led to the triumph of communism, Germany's helped produce Nazism. In two decades the embers of conflict would ignite a second world war that--incomprehensible as it seems--would prove more horrible still.

25 The Wireless 1901
AT THE START of the 20th century, few people imagined that an electromagnetic wave could travel without wires or cables over any significant distance. How could a radio signal possibly bend along the curvature of the earth? Surely it would shoot right off the horizon in a straight line. But Guglielmo Marconi believed that radio waves, if given the chance, would follow the earth's contours. In 1895, in his native Italy, he transmitted a radio signal about a mile and a half six years later, on December 12, 1901, Marconi raised the stakes. Affixing antennas to high-flying kites, Marconi, only 27, arranged for one signal--the Morse code letter S--to cross the Atlantic, some 2,000 miles. The signal was sent from the town of Poldhu, in Cornwall, England in a fraction of a second, at a receiving station in St. John's, Newfoundland, Marconi heard three faint clicks. It was the sound of the communications industry being hatched, the first wave of an electronic age that would include radio broadcasts, television and cellular telephones--a discovery that would open up our imaginations.

24 The Iron Racehorse 1830
FOR MOST OF human history, all land transport depended on a single mode of propulsion--feet. Whether the traveler relied on his own extremities or those of another creature, the drawbacks were the same: low cruising speed, vulnerability to weather, the need to stop for food and rest. But on September 15, 1830, foot power began its long slide toward obsolescence. As brass bands played, a million Britons gathered between Liverpool and Manchester to witness the inauguration of the world's first fully steam-driven railway.

Other rail lines existed at the time, but all used horse-drawn cars along parts of their routes. And none could sustain the 30-mph clip of the Liverpool & Manchester's engines. Those machines, and the roadway they ran on, were designed by George Stephenson--a former coal-mine mechanic who hadn't learned to read until he was 18--and his university-educated son, Robert. The older man was already known for innovations that had transformed the locomotive (introduced by Englishman Richard Trevithick in 1804) from a balky contraption into a long-distance workhorse. Now, with Robert's help, he had created an iron racehorse.

Despite the death of a member of Parliament who was run down at the opening ceremony, the Liverpool & Manchester inspired a rash of track-laying around the world. The railroads sent the industrial revolution into overdrive, stimulated trade, built cities from Chicago to Nairobi. In the U.S. they ferried settlers westward, uprooted Native Americans and attracted thousands of Chinese and Irish laborers who stayed on after the spikes were driven. Wherever the engines ran, they brought their lonesome whistle, the distillation in sound of that most modern of blessings and curses--mobility.

23 Heavy Thinking 1666
ISAAC NEWTON, one of the brainiest men who ever lived, was also one of the quirkiest. He used his power as president of London's Royal Society to harass rival scientists. He labored over equations up to 22 hours a day. And, most curious in a man exalted as the father of modern science, he had a mania for alchemy.

But his eccentricities pale next to the grandeur of his great discovery, the law of gravitation. For decades, Europe's best minds had been trying to explain the force that held celestial bodies in orbit. In 1666 inspiration struck the 23-year-old Newton when he saw an apple fall from a tree in his mother's yard. The same force pulling the apple earthward, he realized, was also tugging steadily at the moon.

Newton figured out the mathematical formula defining the gravitational pull between two objects. But there were other discoveries as well that would have secured his undying fame. His three basic laws of motion created a foundation for modern physics. He was the first to prove that white light is a mixture of all colors. And calculus, an advanced form of mathematics Newton invented to make calculations of change, is now an essential tool in fields as diverse as economics and space exploration.

22 The Mold That Saved Millions 1928
FROM ORDINARY MOLD! proclaimed the ad in the August 14, 1944, issue of LIFE. The Greatest Healing Agent of This War! As infection fighters, molds had been used for 2,500 years, although their effects were unpredictable, puzzling and sometimes toxic. Until 1928, that is, when Scottish physician Alexander Fleming noticed that a small amount of mold growing on a staphylococcus culture had destroyed the bacteria. He later named an extract of the mold penicillin. It wasn't until the early 1940s, after other scientists had refined the potent antibiotic, that drug companies began mass-producing it. Fleming's chance discovery revolutionized the treatment of infections previously considered incurable--pneumonia, rheumatic and scarlet fevers, syphilis, tetanus, gangrene. But penicillin's "miracle" status led to overuse. Recently, invulnerable classes of "superbugs" have sprung up--a phenomenon Fleming warned of in 1945.

21 The Black Plague 1348
PERHAPS IT'S preposterous to suggest that man would not have stepped on the moon had it not been for the Black Plague. But the disease, which killed a third of Europe's inhabitants in the middle of the 14th century, took the world down many intricate pathways. Also called the bubonic plague--for the buboes, or boils, that form on the neck, underarm and groin areas--the disease was transmitted by fleas carried by rodents on ships from Asia. Europe's labor force was crippled, half the clergy in England and Germany perished, and scholars were left wondering how anyone survived. Those who did not come in contact with the plague or who developed immunities began to see the world differently. Men who had lived in virtual slavery left their lords to work the land of the highest bidder, and many even came to rent their own plots. Because people had no idea where the disease came from, it was seen as God's punishment for sinners. But when priests took sick, the Catholic Church's grip was weakened. The door to Protestantism was opened. Doctors discarded dogma and began dissecting human bodies, leading to the rise of the scientific method. This new spirit of adventure emboldened Gutenberg to develop the printing press it would push Columbus across the Atlantic in the next century. And it would touch all that came after.

20 Talking Down a Two-Way Street 1876
THE FIRST TELEPHONE transmission, on March 10, 1876, was a one-way message--"Mr. Watson! Come here! I want you!" But Alexander Graham Bell's invention would change two-way communication forever. A professor of vocal physiology at Boston University, the Scottish-born Bell, 29, had dreamed for a decade of sending speech through wires. He was trying to invent an improved telegraph when he discovered the phenomenon that would make the telephone possible: Sound vibrations caught in a drumlike membrane could be translated into electromagnetic waves. Aided by technical assistant Thomas Watson, Bell found a way to transmit those waves to a receiver and turn them back into sound. The company he cofounded, Bell Telephone, morphed into AT&T, one of the largest corporations anywhere.

For businesses, governments and ordinary people, the telephone represented a quantum leap in efficiency. Instead of composing a letter or telegram and waiting for a reply, one had only to get on the horn. But the phone altered human relations on a deeper level, too. Millions isolated by circumstance could reach out and touch someone, if only figuratively. No longer requiring physical proximity, intimacy became both easier and less intimate.

Today, there are some 750 million telephone subscribers worldwide. Computers, including 10.7 million Internet hosts, share the circuits. And letter-writing is staging a surprise comeback--this time over the phone lines, via E-mail.

19 Seeds of Democracy 1215
KING JOHN OF ENGLAND was a knave. He waged costly wars, sold legal judgments, imposed crushing taxes, seized hostages from his barons' households. Then in 1215 the barons rose against him, forcing John to sign the Magna Carta--and securing the unsavory king a place in the annals of human freedom.

Most of the document simply held the monarch to his feudal obligations. But it also contained seeds of democracy. No free man was to be imprisoned without "the lawful judgment of his peers." Justice was not to be sold or impeded. No property was to be seized without compensation. Should the king renege on the charter, the barons had the right to revolt. John reneged, and died fighting in 1216. The Magna Carta lived on. Its promise of due process came to cover all social classes. Its requirement that the king consult the barons on decisions was used to justify parliamentary limits on the monarchy. It influenced Locke and Rousseau, who preached that governments must protect citizens' rights or perish--a notion central to the American and French revolutions. Its echoes persist in many constitutions. And when the U.N. adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, coauthor Eleanor Roosevelt called it the "Magna Carta of all mankind."

18 The Crusaders Were Here 1095
THE 200-YEAR Christian campaign to reclaim Jerusalem from Muslim rule brought Europe's greatest military and commercial expansion since the fall of Rome. It inspired a wealth of art and literature--most notably Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. It was also a bloody episode, a portent of ethnic strife to come.

Purported relics from the era of Jesus, unearthed in Jerusalem (the Holy Lance, John the Baptist's remains), proved to Western Christians that the city belonged to them. Almost from the moment Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade in 1095, zealots plundered their way toward Palestine, slaughtering unbelievers--including thousands of European Jews.

In 1099 the Christians took Jerusalem. But battles continued there and throughout the Middle East, and in 1244 the Muslims regained the city. Still, Europe won much from the Crusades. They helped revive mining and manufacturing. New trade routes opened, conduits for Eastern imports that enriched the West: silk, spices, gunpowder, algebra. A less popular novelty was the income tax--instituted to help pay for the holy wars.

17 Ford Rolls Out the Model T 1908
THE AUTOMOTIVE AGE BEGAN in 1908 when Henry Ford unveiled his "car for the great multitude." At $850, the tough and homely Model T was the first car that could fit a farmer's budget. Prices fell still further after Ford introduced a revolutionary system of manufacture--the moving assembly line, which eventually spewed out a Tin Lizzie every 24 seconds. As other automakers adopted Ford's methods, cars altered the face of the planet. Industries arose to serve a flood of travelers. The economics of petroleum decided the fate of nations. Traffic deaths mounted (43,700 fatalities last year in the U.S. alone). Smog spread inexorably. And so did another by-product of the assembly line: the culture of mass consumption.

16 The Day That Time Stood Still 1945
IT TOOK A BLITZKRIEG to start World War II, but only two bombs to end it. The first, on August 6, 1945, leveled most of Hiroshima, annihilating some 80,000 people in a blinding flash. The second hit Nagasaki three days later, killing 40,000. After three years of top-secret work, the Manhattan Project had translated Einstein's theory of relativity into devastating reality: a weapon that harnessed the energy released by the splitting of the atom. The A-bombs' effects were as eerie as they were deadly. Those closest to the blasts were vaporized, leaving bright silhouettes on blackened ground. Others perished slowly, radiation flaying them and devouring their organs. Cancer added to the toll, which eventually approached 200,000 in Hiroshima. Whether or not the atomic attacks were militarily necessary (a question that still stirs debate), one thing was clear from the moment the Enola Gay released its payload: Human beings now had the means to exterminate humanity. The mushroom cloud would shadow politics and culture--and the nightmares of millions--forever after.

15 How Did We Get Here 1859
HE WAS THE first scientist to come up with a compelling alternative to the biblical account of creation. Observing plants and animals during a five-year voyage around the world, Charles Darwin concluded that evolution explains the diversity of living things. In Origin of Species (1859), the English naturalist posited that random mutations may help an organism--a Galáápagos finch, say--adapt to its environment. Better equipped for survival, it would also be more likely to pass advantages on to its offspring. Over generations, this process of "natural selection" might give rise to whole new species. Indeed, all life might be descended from a few primitive organisms. Darwin was denounced as a heretic, especially for hinting at an ancestral link between humans and apes. But his theory's elegance--its ability to explain so many phenomena that had seemed whims of nature--prevailed. Today evolution is as basic to most people's world view as the idea that the earth circles the sun.

14 Live From Schenectady 1928
AS A TELEVISION show, it had a somewhat limited appeal. Live from General Electric's radio laboratories in Schenectady, New York, it's . . . a guy removing his glasses. And then putting them on again. Then blowing a smoke ring. So went the world's first television broadcast--into three homes. And yet on that January afternoon in 1928, GE's brilliant Swedish-born engineer, Ernst F.W. Alexanderson, laid the crude foundation of one of the most powerful, influential media in history.

Ever since the launch of radio broadcasting in the early 1920s, the race had been on to combine and transmit sound with moving images. Two years before Alexanderson's demonstration, Scotsman John Logie Baird used a mechanical scanner to transmit a flickering image of a human head. But GE surpassed Baird's efforts. Four months after Alexanderson's transmission, the company was broadcasting images three times a week, and the basic elements of television were in place. Then in 1937 an electronic system employing the more sophisticated cathode-ray tube was adopted by the BBC in England. The broadcast of the 1947 World Series clinched television's growing importance. By the end of the 1950s, nearly 90 percent of U.S. homes could boast at least one TV set. The world no longer needed to be imagined--now it could be seen and heard. America had a new communal fireplace.

13 A Shot in the Arm 1796
THE ERADICATION OF one of the worst plagues ever can be traced to a cow. Smallpox caused scarring and blindness and at its peak in the 18th century killed 60 million Europeans, most of them children. Variolation, a 2,000-year-old practice of inoculating patients using strains of a disease, was often so bizarre--and deadly--as to be worse than the disease itself. In China doctors crumpled smallpox scabs and blew them up the nostrils of otherwise healthy patients, leaving them vulnerable to the risk of other infections.

Enter Edward Jenner, a general practitioner from rural England. Trusting in the popular belief that cowpox built one's immunity to smallpox, Jenner extracted cowpox-infected lymph from pustules on a Gloucestershire milkmaid on May 14, 1796, and inserted a small amount into an 8-year-old boy. Seven weeks later, Jenner injected the boy with smallpox. His immune system held its ground the science of immunology had become a possibility. Vaccinations for hepatitis, diphtheria, polio and measles revolutionized public health--and created one of the first battle wounds of childhood, a word derived from the Latin vaccinus, meaning "of the cow," a nod to an anonymous English animal to whose stature Mrs. O'Leary's can only aspire.

12 Of Human Bondage 1509
SLAVERY WAS WITH US long before the second millennium began. Ancient, medieval, Asian, European, African--almost every society practiced it in some form. But from the 16th through the 19th centuries, the transatlantic slave trade transformed four continents, as Europeans shipped 10 to 15 million African slaves across an ocean and into the horrors of perpetual servitude.
The largest forced migration in world history started slowly and followed the expansion of European trade and conquest. The earliest African slaves arrived in the New World in 1509, but their numbers remained small until 1530 when Portugal, the first European nation to trade with the kingdoms of West Africa, began sending slaves to work on sugar plantations in Brazil, then in the West Indies. The suffering during the Middle Passage was enormous. Uprooted from family, shackled and marched to Africa's coast to be placed in pens before shipping, the slaves knew no end of degradation. For weeks or months, they stayed chained together in hulls of ships, packed in rows, shoulder-to-shoulder, next to the sick and dying, not knowing their destination or their fate.

11 The Wizard of Menlo Park 1876
HE TAMED both lightning and thunder in a tiny lab in New Jersey. Born in small-town Ohio in 1847, Thomas Alva Edison parlayed an early fascination with chemistry and telegraphy into a string of business successes that enabled him in 1876 to build a boxy, two-story building in Menlo Park. It was the first factory in the world designed to produce nothing but inventions. The next year he and a colleague created a machine that translated recorded vibrations into a representation of sound--the phonograph. Then, in November 1879, the Menlo Park team tested a carbonized cardboard filament that could glow for days on end. After more than 1,000 trials, Edison had done it: He had given birth to a useful incandescent lamp. His goal had not been to invent electric light--that had been done decades earlier--but to create a lightbulb that would be long-lasting and inexpensive, along with a system, from power station to screw-in socket, that would render it viable on a large scale. Before Edison, the artificial light that people had to live in was harsh, flickering, ephemeral and dangerous.

In 1903 Edison produced an important early motion picture, The Great Train Robbery, to accompany his many other advances, such as his telephone transmitter, stock ticker, fluoroscope, storage battery and the "Edison effect" lamp (it would lead to the tubes used in radio and television). In all, he held more than 2,000 patents, many of them from Menlo Park. It is difficult to overestimate their significance. The can-do intelligence in that little lab let us see and let us hear.

10 The Compass Goes to Sea 1117
IT WAS LITTLE MORE than a magnet floating in a bowl of water, but without the nautical compass the millennium's great voyages of discovery could never have occurred. First used in feng shui (the Taoist system of environmental design), compasses appeared in China in the 4th century B.C. Lodestone pointers were replaced by flat slivers of iron, and then by needles, which arrived in the 6th century A.D. But the first account of seagoing compasses doesn't come until 1117, from Zhu Yu's P'ingchow Table Talk: "In dark weather, sailors look at the south-pointing needle." The compass reached Europe around 1190, almost certainly from China. (Its powers were so little understood that captains forbade their crews to eat onions, which were thought to destroy magnetism.) For Mediterranean sailors, used to long periods when overcast skies made navigation difficult, the device meant liberation. By the 15th century, they were ready to venture be- yond familiar seas.

9 Hitler Comes to Power 1933
IN ANY ACCOUNTING of the millennium's monsters, first place must go to the ruler who made genocide a multinational industry--Adolf Hitler. The scale of the enterprise boggles the mind: freight trains carrying Jews to human stockyards from across Nazi-occupied Europe victims worked to death, shot or gassed corpses incinerated or processed into soap gold teeth harvested for the coffers of the Reich. Hitler's megalomania sparked the Holocaust and history's most destructive war. The preparation for both began the moment he became Germany's chancellor in January 1933.

Promising salvation from the chaos of the Depression, Hitler swept aside German democracy. A hypnotic orator, he preached a sort of crank Darwinism: At evolution's pinnacle were the so-called Aryans (Germans and other Nordic peoples), destined to subdue or destroy all "inferior" races--particularly the Jews, whom Hitler blamed for most of humanity's ills. Linking ancient prejudice to wild dreams of glory, this mad ideology galvanized the nation. Herded into lockstep by the propaganda and police forces of a totalitarian state, Germans prepared to conquer the earth.

World War II began in 1939. Six years later, the Axis countries were vanquished some 17 million combatants and 60 million civilians were dead. And within that horror lay a new benchmark of evil: six million Jews and nearly as many other "undesirables" (Gypsies, homosexuals, leftists, Slavs) systematically slaughtered.

8 A Declaration to the World 1776
WE HOLD these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. . . ." Today most governments at least pay lip service to those truths. But before July 4, 1776, when the Continental Congress adopted "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America," no nation had been founded on such principles.

Penned by 33-year-old Virginia delegate Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration was meant to explain, after a year of war, the American colonies' break with Britain. The document listed the offenses of King George III, ranging from restriction of trade to the use of foreign mercenaries. (A passage denouncing the king's promotion of slavery was cut to placate some delegates.) More important, it laid out the concept of natural rights--borrowed largely from British philosopher John Locke--that would form, in the words of Congress president John Hancock (one of 56 signatories), "the Ground & Foundation" of the U.S. government.

The Declaration was more than just one country's manifesto. It spurred Latin Americans to sever ties with Spain and the French to overthrow a king. Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh paraphrased it when he defied France. And its avowal that all men are born equal moved more than males: When the U.S. women's suffrage movement was launched in 1848, its founders modeled their declaration on Jefferson's.

7 China Develops Gunpowder Weapons c.1100
CHINESE ALCHEMISTS discovered the recipe for gunpowder--saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal--in the 9th century. But the great development of gunpowder weapons began in the early 1100s when the Song dynasty was besieged by the Jurchen Jin Tatars. Over the next 200 years, as the Jin conquered northern China and were in turn overrun by the Mongols, an arms race raged between defenders and invaders. Bamboo flamethrowers evolved into metal-barreled guns. Paper incendiary grenades gave way to iron bombs that shattered stone walls. When gunpowder technology reached Europe--it was first used at the siege of Metz, now in France, in 1324--the effect was explosive. Since only kings could afford large numbers of muskets and cannons, the nobility's power declined. Centralized states, backed by standing armies, replaced feudal fiefdoms. Guns gave colonizers a big advantage over native peoples. But the spread of such weapons eventually leveled the field--making possible an age of revolutions, world wars, guerrilla conflicts and terrorist bombings.

6 The Germ Theory of Disease 1882
DISEASE WAS ONCE thought to be caused by evil spirits. The connection between sickness and germs remained a mystery until the mid-19th century when experiments revealed that infectious agents can multiply within the human body. By 1864, French scientist Louis Pasteur had concluded that microorganisms were also present in the air. He isolated microbes responsible for fermentation and silkworm diseases, but it wasn't until 1876 that Robert Koch, a German scientist, showed that a specific bacillus caused a specific disease. Koch's work with anthrax and tuberculosis established the germ theory of disease and had immediate implications for diagnosis and treatment. The 1882 report of his discovery of the microbe that causes TB proved the disease's infectiousness and also outlined his famous postulates, still used today, that link a given organism to a specific illness. The work of Pasteur and Koch ushered in the science of microbiology and led to advances in immunology, sanitation and hygiene that have done more to increase the life span of humans than any other scientific advance of the past 1,000 years.

5 Galileo Sees the Moons of Jupiter and The Earth Moves 1610
THE TENSION between religion and science can be symbolized by one man: Galileo Galilei. He did not originate the theory that the earth revolved around the sun. Nor did he invent the telescope. But Galileo's skill as a mechanic enabled him to improve the telescope so that he saw the moons of Jupiter in 1610. He used the sightings to support the idea that Jupiter and Earth revolve around the sun. And at least when he published his arguments, he possessed a spine stiff enough to stand up to the Catholic Church, which saw the earth as the center of the universe.
The textbook version of Galileo's life calls him the father of modern mechanics because of his work on the laws of motion. Born in Pisa in 1564, he became a math professor and developed the law of falling bodies--that falling objects accelerate at the same rate regardless of their mass.
The breathing, pulsing Galileo was a complicated character whose sense of self-importance knew few bounds. He abandoned his mistress and stashed his two daughters in convents. He used political connections to impede competing inventors. His arrogance ultimately helped cause the quake within the Church that a more diplomatic scientist might have avoided.

With its armies facing Protestant forces to the north, the Catholic Church was in no mood to accept any questioning of its authority. Pope Urban VIII, convinced that Galileo had mocked him, felt compelled to call the astronomer before the Inquisition. Under threat of torture, at the age of 69, Galileo recanted and was placed under house arrest until his death nine years later. To this day, the world remembers him for an exchange that may in fact be fiction. After recant- ing, Galileo is said to have muttered, "And yet it [the earth] does move." Whether true or not, it took more than 300 years for the Church, under Pope John Paul II, to do its own recanting.

4 The Machine Age Gears Up 1796
A COLUMN OF black smoke splits the millennium. People who lived before the Industrial Revolution could not have imagined what the world would someday look like, just as those living in its wake can scarcely envision a time without its conveniences and ills.

A mathematical instrument maker at Glasgow University triggered the change by tinkering with a model of the Newcomen steam engine, built in 1712 to pump water out of mines. James Watt patented a version in 1769 that saved 75 percent in fuel costs. Soon his superior engines powered coal mines and textile mills, plus the railroads and ships that carried the new technologies to the Continent and the New World. Before, Britons had been agrarian by 1870, 70 percent of them had moved to cities, living mostly in slums, where overcrowding, poor sanitation and outbreaks of typhus, cholera and dysentery were common. Factories producing iron belched smoke. Mines and quarries scarred the earth.

The landscape of the postrevolution family also changed. Women and children as young as six were exploited by factory bosses. For the upper classes, the result was an elevated quality of life. Rapidly expanding prosperity, combined with the new cost-efficiency of machines, gave bankers, entrepreneurs and merchants wealth on an unprecedented scale. A middle class of managers grew more educated, enjoying better health, more leisure time and greater mobility. Even the lower class could afford better, cheaper products. Despite Luddite attacks on machinery, the revolution kept gathering steam.

3 Luther Knocks Down the Door 1517
MARTIN LUTHER was tortured by anxiety about his own sinfulness. How, he wondered, could the Vatican promise forgiveness of sins in exchange for donations? Didn't the powers of mercy and redemption belong to God? Finally, on October 31, 1517, unable to contain his skepticism, Luther nailed "Ninety-Five Theses" to the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. A criticism of papal policy, particularly the selling of "indulgences," the document stressed the inward, spiritual character of the Christian faith. It denounced those who would pay fees to avoid having to embrace the cross and share privately in the suffering of Christ, and it rejected the notion that Church doctrine and canon law have authority approaching that of Scripture. The Vatican quickly moved against Luther for heresy in 1521 it formally excommunicated him. "Here I stand," Luther said. "I can do no other." Unless convinced of his error through Scripture or evident reason, he would not contradict his own conscience, which was bound by the word of God.

When the Edict of Worms declared Luther a political outlaw, his anticlerical message was taken up by others. As the laity moved against monasteries and their landholdings as priests began to marry as princes and other powers allied against the Holy Roman Empire and as bishops came to be appointed by secular authorities, the Reformation was begun in earnest. Political authority would never again be fully subject to the dictates of a distant clergy, and the map of Europe would be determined by the nationalism that still dominates world politics today.

2 A Global Civilization 1492
CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS died a magnificent failure. Four times he tried to find a route to Asia by sailing west across the Atlantic. When his quest ran aground against another continent, he simply insisted Cuba was part of China.

Columbus lifted sail in August 1492--and got lost. Only shouts of "Tierra,tierra!" on October 12 ended threats of mutiny. The island the natives called Guanahani, and renamed San Salvador by Columbus, is believed to have been his first landfall. He thought the native people simple and naturally good, "easy to conquer," until they resisted. Then things got ugly. His governorship of Hispaniola was the low point, an outburst of gold fever accompanied by the enslavement and slaughter of the native people. In December 1500, Columbus was arrested for his mismanagement and sent home in chains. Ideas, goods, deadly microbes and African slaves followed in the wake of his crossing. He may have stumbled on a "new world," but his adventurous spirit played no small role in creating a new, global, civilization.

1 Gutenberg Prints the Bible 1455
OF ALL THE millennium's technological revolutions, the most far-reaching started just before the era's midpoint. Throughout history, the ability to read and write had been confined mostly to tiny elites of nobles, priests and scribes. But in the 15th century a literate middle class arose in Europe. Its hunger for knowledge led inventors to seek a way to mass-produce the written word. And when German goldsmith Johann Gutenberg succeeded--creating his masterpiece, a run of 200 gorgeously typeset Bibles, in 1455--he unleashed an information epidemic that rages to this day.

To appreciate Gutenberg's achievement, it is necessary to understand what he did not do. He didn't invent printing: The craft emerged in 8th century China, using multiple characters carved on a single woodblock. He didn't invent movable type (letters rearranged for each new page): Chinese printer Pi Sheng did, around 1040. Gutenberg didn't even invent movable metal type: The Koreans did, in the 14th century. But wood-block printing of text reached Europe only in the early 1400s, and it appears that no one on the continent knew of Asia's more advanced techniques. Movable type had not, in fact, caught on widely in China or Korea, where writing involved 10,000 characters. In Europe, however, such technology seemed full of promise. What Gutenberg devised was the first Western movable-type system that worked--so well that it remained virtually unchanged for 350 years.

Gutenberg designed a new kind of press, based on those used to squeeze olives. He came up with an alloy of lead, tin and antimony, and a precisely calibrated type-mold to pour it into. He concocted a smudge-resistant ink of lampblack, turpentine and linseed oil. Each page of his Bible probably took a worker a day to set, but once the type was in place, the rest was relatively easy.
Gutenberg's methods spread with stunning rapidity. By 1500, an estimated half a million printed books were in circulation: religious works, Greek and Roman classics, scientific texts, Columbus's report from the New World. An acceleration of the Renaissance was only the first by-product of the Gutenberg press. Without it, the Protestant movement might have been stillborn, as well as the industrial and political revolutions of the succeeding centuries. Gutenberg, however, got none of the glory. His brainchild bankrupted him in 1455 a creditor took over his business. Little more is known of the inventor--in part because he never put his own name into print.

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