Tag: History

Giant Penguins, As Tall As People, Lived In New Zealand Millions Of Years Ago

Scientists have discovered the fossil remains of an ancient giant penguin with a body length of about 5.8 feet that roamed the waters off New Zealand soon after the dinosaurs’ demise.

Kumimanu biceae, newly described in the journal Nature Communications, is one of the oldest penguin species found yet – and it adds a surprising twist to what researchers thought they knew about penguin evolution.

The K. biceae bones were discovered on a beach in New Zealand many years ago, embedded in rock.

So obscured that at first the scientists thought they had belonged to a turtle, said lead author Gerald Mayr, an ornithologist at Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt in Germany.

They painstakingly cleared rock away from the bones, revealing that the fossil was actually of an enormous penguin — roughly 1½ times the size of the emperor penguin, the largest living species today.




At about 223 pounds and 5 feet, 9 inches in body length, K. biceae was the size of a human man.

I was amazed at how big it actually was,” said Mayr, whose co-authors in New Zealand brought him in to examine the fossil.

K. biceae was dated to 55.5 million to 59.5 million years ago, which puts it in the Paleocene epoch. Back then it was so warm that even Antarctica hosted subtropical waters

In New Zealand, the birds probably dined on fish as they do today, but may have speared them with long beaks.

The strangest thing about these penguins was not just their size, although that is pretty exceptional. What caught researchers’ eye was how old they were — how early they appeared in the penguin family tree.

There have been plenty of other oversized penguins in the fossil record, but those species came tens of millions of years later.

Leading many researchers to figure that it probably took time for penguins to evolve into megafaunal species.

The partly prepared skeleton of the giant penguin. The rectangles emphasize the humerus and a bone from the shoulder girdle, which are shown separated from the original bone cluster (G. Mayr/Senckenberg Research Institute)

This new fossil shows that penguins had grown to enormous proportions very quickly after the dinosaurs were killed off around 66 million years ago.

On top of that, K. biceae seems to have more primitive features than those later large penguins, and it appears to have developed into a large species independently of the others.

That time frame – penguins’ ancestors losing flight and gaining the ability to swim, and then getting very, very big, all in about 5 million years – seems really, really fast, the scientists said.

It could potentially mean that the flying ancestors of penguins coexisted with dinosaurs for a good long while before the asteroid wiped them out, though that’s just a hypothesis for now, Mayr said.

Aside from the speed with which it seems to have happened, this super-sizing is to be expected, the ornithologist said.

After all, once you don’t have to spend the energy to get airborne, you don’t have to watch your weight as closely.

And there are certain advantages to going up a few sizes: you can muscle out the competition for food or territory, and you might be much harder for predators to kill.

So what happened to these feathered heavyweights?

That disappearance may have something to do with the rise of marine mammals such as seals and toothed whales, Mayr said.

As they began to flourish in the fossil record, those big-boned ocean birds started fading out.

It’s unclear whether there’s a causal relationship there, and if so, what one would be, Mayr said. Perhaps marine mammals competed with large penguins for food, or for breeding grounds.

Perhaps they actually hunted the jumbo penguins.

For now, this is just one specimen. Scientists hope to find more of them, especially with their skulls and beaks intact.

There were also plenty of smaller penguins that appear to have coexisted with this giant penguin, and it’s unclear exactly what the relationships were between those species.

We hope there will be future finds,” Mayr said. “There are many questions.”

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The Collision: What Caused The Halifax Explosion?

The Imo came to rest against the Dartmouth shore on the other side of the harbor.

The Halifax Explosion was caused when two ships collided in the narrowest part of Halifax Harbor on the morning of Thursday, December 6, 1917.

The SS Mont Blanc, a French ship was arriving from New York City filled with munitions for World War I in Europe.

In addition to the 2,925 tons of explosives in its hold, it carried barrels of highly flammable benzol and picric acid on the deck.

Unable to travel with its scheduled convoy across the Atlantic, the Mont Blanc went to Halifax so it could travel with a new group.

It arrived the night before and had to wait outside the anti-submarine net that protected the harbor. At dawn, it began to move into the harbor.




Normally a munitions ship would fly a red flag to warn others of the dangerous cargo, but the Mont Blanc did not raise its warning flag.

Meanwhile, the SS Imo, a Norwegian ship carrying Belgian relief supplies that had been held up in the harbor for several days, began to move down the harbor toward the Atlantic.

The Imo’s captain was angry because he had been delayed and so he put to sea without the harbor master’s permission.

The two ships were maneuvering for position as they met in the Narrows between Halifax on the southern shore and Dartmouth on the northern shore.

Halifax harbor before the explosion.

Initially, the Imo refused to give way. Once it began to turn out of the Mont Blanc’s path, it could not move fast enough to avoid a collision.

Barrels on deck broke loose with the impact, and sparks from the scraping metal ignited the benzol that had spilled across the deck.

The Mont Blanc’s captain recognized the terrible danger of these fires and abandoned ship, rowing with the crew to the Dartmouth shore.

The damaged and burning Mont Blanc drifted to shore in the heavily populated wharf area of Halifax.

Halifax harbor after the explosion.

Crowds gathered on the shore and at windows to watch the burning ship run aground. Barrels of benzol began to shoot into the air like fireworks and explode. More people gathered to watch.

Approximately 20 minutes after the collision—at 9:04 a.m.—the fires ignited the 2,925 tons of munitions on the Mont Blanc and the ship exploded.

The ship was vaporized instantly, a huge area of Halifax was destroyed, and an enormous debris cloud rose over the city.

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Cold War Spy Boat Uncovers Shipwreck From Start Of Alexander The Great Conquest

Archeologists used the spy boat as well as drones to find three shipwrecks on the Mediterranean seabed.

One of the shipwrecks dated back over 2,000 years and suggests there was a vast network of trade during the rise Ancient Greek cities such as Athens.

Ben Ballard, the team leader of the Ocean Exploration Trust (OET), said: “If our dates are correct, this is just as Alexander the Great is beginning his conquest.

Alexander the Great, was a king of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty.

The discovery follows Mr Ballard and his colleagues exploring the Eratosthenes seamount in expeditions backed by the OET in 2010 and 2012.




The technology used to scan the seamount included underwater drones and the OET’s Nautilus vessel which was originally a spy boat built by East Germany in the 1970s.

The team ended up finding two shipwrecks and 70 artifacts in 2010.

Mr Ballard is following in the footsteps of his father, Robert, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic.

News of the discovery has come after archaeologists earlier this year stumbled upon a lost city thought to have been founded by Alexander the Great.

Qalatga Darband in northern Iraq, believed to have been founded in 331 BBC, was discovered by a team of Iraqi and British archaeologists led by experts from the British Museum.

The city was found with the help of drones and declassified satellite photographs taken for military purposes.

John MacGinnis, the archaeologist leading the team in Iraq, told The Times: “It’s early days, but we think it would have been a bustling city on a road from Iraq to Iran.

You can imagine people supplying wine to soldiers passing through.”

The site was first brought to the attention of archaeologists at the British Museum when the declassified CIA satellite photos from the 1960s were released.

The team then used drones equipped with a camera to discover the outlines of buildings hidden beneath fields of wheat and barley.

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Over 200 Pterosaur Eggs And Embryos Has Been Found At A Site In China

An ancient site containing more than 200 fossilised eggs belonging to ancient flying reptiles known as pterosaurs has been found.

The eggs belong to a species called Hamipterus tianshanensis, which soared over what is now north west China about 120 million years ago.

The palaeontologists who made the discovery note both the “extraordinary quantity of eggs”, and the fact some of them contain “the first pterosaur three-dimensional embryos”.

This level of preservation allows researchers to learn more about the behaviour of these prehistoric creatures.

Previous evidence of pterosaur reproduction has been rather lacking, limited to a handful of eggs from Argentina and China identified in 2004.

Prior to this, there was no evidence at all these reptiles laid eggs.

But the new discovery, which consists not only of eggs but the bones of adults as well, paints a vivid picture of a nesting colony.




The findings were published in a paper led by Dr Xiaolin Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the journal Science.

Dr Wang and his collaborators outline how they used CT scans to look inside the eggs, 16 of which contained embryos that were somewhat intact.

From these embryos, the scientists could see that the structures supporting the pectoral muscles – crucial for flight – were noticeably underdeveloped.

This allowed the scientists to infer that when these animals hatched, they were unable to fly. The newly hatched pterosaurs would therefore have required care and attention from their parents if they were to survive.

The fossils also reveal more secrets about pterosaur lifestyles.

“The find reinforces the view that pterosaur eggs were soft-shelled and needed to be buried,” said Dr Charles Deeming, a biologist at the University of Lincoln who was not involved in the study.

This draws comparison with modern day lizard eggs, and suggests that while the pterosaurs may have cared for their offspring, they didn’t incubate them like birds. Instead, they relied on the earth to keep their eggs warm.

The rarity of such a fossilisation event makes this discovery, and the knowledge gained from it, all the more precious.

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The Big Bang: What Really Happened At Our Universe’s Birth?

It took quite a bit more than seven days to create the universe as we know it today.

Our universe was born about 13.7 billion years ago in a massive expansion that blew space up like a gigantic balloon.

That, in a nutshell, is the Big Bang theory, which virtually all cosmologists and theoretical physicists endorse. The evidence supporting the idea is extensive and convincing.

We know, for example, that the universe is still expanding even now, at an ever-accelerating rate.

Scientists have also discovered a predicted thermal imprint of the Big Bang, the universe-pervading cosmic microwave background radiation.




And we don’t see any objects obviously older than 13.7 billion years, suggesting that our universe came into being around that time.

All of these things put the Big Bang on an extremely solid foundation,” said astrophysicist Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley. “The Big Bang is an enormously successful theory.

So what does this theory teach us? What really happened at the birth of our universe, and how did it take the shape we observe today?

The beginning

Traditional Big Bang theory posits that our universe began with a singularity — a point of infinite density and temperature whose nature is difficult for our minds to grasp.

However, this may not accurately reflect reality, researchers say, because the singularity idea is based on Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

The problem is, there’s no reason whatsoever to believe general relativity in that regime,” said Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech.

It’s going to be wrong, because it doesn’t take into account quantum mechanics. And quantum mechanics is certainly going to be important once you get to that place in the history of the universe.

So the very beginning of the universe remains pretty murky. Scientists think they can pick the story up at about 10 to the minus 36 seconds one trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.

Inflation was the ‘bang’ of the Big Bang,” Filippenko said. “Before inflation, there was just a little bit of stuff, quite possibly, expanding just a little bit. We needed something like inflation to make the universe big.

During inflation, dark energy made the universe smooth out and accelerate. But it didn’t stick around for long.

Scientists don’t know what might have spurred inflation. That remains one of the key questions in Big Bang cosmology, Filippenko said.

Cosmologists and physicists are working hard to refine their theories and bring the universe’s earliest moments into sharper and sharper focus.

But will they ever truly know what happened at the Big Bang?

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Dinosaur May Have Looked Like A Raccoon

About 130 million years ago, a small feathered dinosaur danced across the open plains in what is now northeastern China, hiding in plain sight thanks to its striped tail and a “mask” of dark feathers.

Scientists discovered this stealthy color pattern after studying remarkably well-preserved fossils of Sinosauropteryx, a small carnivorous dinosaur that lived during the early Cretaceous.

It may now be one of the few known examples of countershading in dinosaurs, a mix of dark and light body coloring modern animals still use as a method of camouflage.

Great white sharks, for example, are dark on top to blend in with murky waters when seen from above, but are lighter on their bellies so that they match the sky when viewed from below.

Countershading also makes an animal appear narrower from the side, which can make it seem like a smaller, less attractive meal for predators.




Great white sharks, for example, are dark on top to blend in with murky waters when seen from above, but are lighter on their bellies so that they match the sky when viewed from below.

Countershading also makes an animal appear narrower from the side, which can make it seem like a smaller, less attractive meal for predators.

In their study, published this week in Current Biology, study coauthors Jakob Vinther and Fiann Smithwick of the University of Bristol present their evidence that Sinosauropteryx was countershaded.

Based on preserved pigments found in the fossils, they say that the animal would have had a coat of rusty brown feathers on its back.

From the side, the feathers would have starkly shifted from dark to light, with paler plumes running across its chest.

The dinosaur looked like “something between a roadrunner and a rock wallaby,” Vinther says.

The result not only offers clues to how Sinosauropteryx looked, but also to how it might have hunted and evaded predators in an open, sunny landscape.

We now can perhaps paint a better picture of which dinosaurs in this environment were interacting with each other,” Vinther says. (This massive armored dinosaur may have used camouflage to hide from predators.)

In recent years, scientists have been able to isolate and study melanosomes, which create the pigment melanin, preserved in fossilized feathers. These chemicals offer clues to what ancient animals looked like in life.

When feathers are preserved, that’s because there’s melanin in there,” Vinther says. “If there’s no pigment there, the keratin just decays away and we have nothing left behind.

For Sinosauropteryx, the team examined three fossil specimens preserved in China, took photographs, and then mapped out their color patterns based on the images.

The researchers also created 3-D models of the dinosaur and made different images in varying lighting conditions.

Because Sinosauropteryx’s color contrast is more defined and higher up on its body, it likely lived in an open habitat in direct sunlight, they argue.

[The] dark-to-light pattern on the body needs to balance out the shadows,” Smithwick says. He adds that the research gives a more “holistic approach” to looking at the Sinosauropteryx specimen by analyzing its color patterns and behaviors.

Fossils are preserved in different ways, which can make defining characteristics in multimillion-year-old specimens tricky.

Sinosauropteryx was a feathered species, and Schweitzer says the bandit-like mask could have been the result of feathers falling around its face during degradation.

The three fossils are also different sizes, likely indicating different ages at their time of death, and Schweitzer says it’s possible the tail banding is a juvenile trait that was lost in adults.

The fossils also do not have feathers in the abdominal region, which could mean, as the authors say, that the feathers were light in life and were not preserved due to lack of melanin.

Or it could mean that they didn’t exist at all. If the animal had gases in its stomach when it died, that part of its body may have exploded and left behind a uncolored area in the fossil impression.

By contrast, Vinther is much more confident in his team’s conclusions: “Those color patterns that we see stand for themselves.

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Marie Curie Helped Win The World War I

Marie Curie was a Polish-born physicist and chemist and one of the most famous scientists of her time. Together with her husband Pierre, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903, and she went on to win another in 1911.

Marie Sklodowska was born in Warsaw on 7 November 1867, the daughter of a teacher. In 1891, she went to Paris to study physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne where she met Pierre Curie, professor of the School of Physics.

They were married in 1895.

The Curies worked together investigating radioactivity, building on the work of the German physicist Roentgen and the French physicist Becquerel. In July 1898, the Curies announced the discovery of a new chemical element, polonium.

At the end of the year, they announced the discovery of another, radium. The Curies, along with Becquerel, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903.




Pierre’s life was cut short in 1906 when he was knocked down and killed by a carriage. Marie took over his teaching post, becoming the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne, and devoted herself to continuing the work that they had begun together.

She received a second Nobel Prize, for Chemistry, in 1911.

The Curie’s research was crucial in the development of x-rays in surgery. During World War One Curie helped to equip ambulances with x-ray equipment, which she herself drove to the front lines.

The International Red Cross made her head of its radiological service and she held training courses for medical orderlies and doctors in the new techniques.

Despite her success, Marie continued to face great opposition from male scientists in France, and she never received significant financial benefits from her work. By the late 1920s her health was beginning to deteriorate.She died on 4 July 1934 from

She died on 4 July 1934 from leukaemia, caused by exposure to high-energy radiation from her research.The Curies’ eldest daughter Irene was herself a scientist and winner of the Nobel Prize

The Curies’ eldest daughter Irene was herself a scientist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

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Dirty Birds Show Just How Catastrophic Air Pollution Used To Be

Soot on birds’ bellies tell a story of air pollution more than a century in the making.

Two graduate students at the University of Chicago measured black carbon that clung to birds kept in Rust Belt museum collections and found a striking record of filthy air.

Over the course of 135 years, the dirtiness of the birds’ plumage rose and fell in line with coal legislation and followed social changes such as the switch in residential heating from coal to natural gas.

The soiled bird specimens also suggest that the air above Chicago, Pittsburgh and Detroit in the 1880s was even sootier than historians realized.

It was clear to museum curators in the industrial Midwest that some bird specimens in their collection drawers were dirtier than others.

Although carbon soot does not easily rub off, the birds left oily black smudges when handled with white gloves, similar to the way newspaper ink stains fingers.




But until this study, no one thought to analyze the soot. (Museum records indicate that a few curators attempted to scrub dead birds clean, to limited success. Cleaned birds were excluded from this research.)

This approach is new and old in the same way,” DuBay said.

Tracking environmental pollutants via natural history museum collections has precedent.

Researchers have measured the thinness of eagle eggshells, DuBay said, as a proxy for exposure to poisons such as DDT.

But what made this study different was that evidence of pollution was not secondhand — the soot itself collected on feathers, as though the songbirds were feather dusters floating above smokestacks.

DuBay and Fuldner studied five species: horned larks, red-headed woodpeckers, field sparrows, grasshopper sparrows and Eastern towhees.

All were housed at the Field Museum in Chicago, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology in Ann Arbor.

Records back to 1880 indicated the time and place the birds were collected.

These birds molt each year, replacing their feathers with a fresh set. That molt essentially wiped out the soot that had accumulated in their plumage.

The dirt on the birds at the time of their death was a snapshot of that year in industrial history, the researchers said.

The researchers met at an exhibition about early wildlife photography that Fuldner curated. They hit it off and began to brainstorm ways to use museum collections.

When it came to the blackened birds, they at first had to rule out whether, perhaps, some of the birds’ pigmentation had darkened in response to industrialization.

In an oft-cited case of evolutionary selection at work, naturalists observed that peppered moths in Britain adapted to have black wings rather than their typical gray, to blend in with soot-darkened trees of the early 1800s.

But birds were not mutants, just dirty. Microscope images revealed globs of carbon stuck to their feathers.

Using a photographic technique, the graduate students measured how poorly the birds’ feathers reflected light — the less relative light a bird reflected, the dirtier it was.

The birds were dirtiest from 1880 until 1929, when the Great Depression hit. Coal consumption plummeted, only to rise again during World War II.

The mid-1940s birds darkened in response. As power plants became more efficient and natural gas supplanted coal in homes, the birds lightened.

A period of legislation — 1955’s Air Pollution Control Act, 1963’s Clean Air Act and 1970’s Clean Air Act extension — held the birds to their cleanest levels.

The birds from the 1980s onward are the least sooty in recent decades.

Relative dirtiness followed trends Bond and her colleagues modeled in a 2007 paper that traced black carbon emissions from 1850 to 2000 using historical records.

One of the shocking findings that we found was what we recover is very similar to these predictive models,” DuBay said. With one exception: The birds were far dirtier from 1880 to the early 1900s than Bond’s carbon emission study would have suggested.

Despite the recently collected birds’ low soot and the blue skies above cities such as Chicago today, the researchers said we’re not in the clear yet.

Although coal is declining in the United States, globally humans are burning more coal than ever.Cities in Asia have particle pollution that the researchers likened to old Rust Belt hubs. DuBay said he has seen birds in Beijing darkened by air pollution.

Cities in Asia have particle pollution that the researchers likened to old Rust Belt hubs. DuBay said he has seen birds in Beijing darkened by air pollution.

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Humans Have Been Polluting The Environment For At Least 4000 Years

The first review of the global impact of humans on tropical forests in the ancient past shows that humans have been altering these environments for at least 45,000 years.

This counters the view that tropical forests were pristine natural environments prior to modern agriculture and industrialization.

The study, published today in Nature Plants, found that humans have in fact been having a dramatic impact on such forest ecologies for tens of thousands of years, through techniques ranging from controlled burning of sections of forest to plant and animal management to clear-cutting.

Although previous studies had looked at human impacts on specific tropical forest locations and ecosystems, this is the first to synthesize data from all over the world.




The paper, by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Liverpool John Moores University, University College London, and École française d’Extrême-Orient, covered three distinct phases of human impact on tropical forests, roughly correlating to hunting and gathering activities, small-scale agricultural activities, and large-scale urban settlements.

In the deep past, groups of hunter-gatherers appear to have burned areas of tropical forests, in particular in Southeast Asia as early as 45,000 years ago, when modern humans first arrived there.

There is evidence of similar forest burning activities in Australia and New Guinea.

By clearing parts of the forest, humans were able to create more of the “forest-edge” environments that encouraged the presence of animals and plants that they liked to eat.

There is also evidence, though still debated, that these human activities contributed to the extinction of forest megafauna in the Late Pleistocene (approximately 125,000 to 12,000 years ago), such as the giant ground sloth, forest mastodons, and now-extinct large marsupials.

These extinctions had significant impacts on forest density, plant species distributions, plant reproductive mechanisms, and life-cycles of forest stand, that have persisted to the present day.

In general, when groups employed indigenous tropical forest agricultural strategies based on local plants and animals, these did not result in significant or lasting damage to the environment.

Indeed, most communities entering these habitats were initially at low population densities and appear to have developed subsistence systems that were tuned to their particular environments,” states Dr. Chris Hunt of Liverpool John Moores University, a co-author of the study.

However, as agricultural intensity increased, particularly when external farming practices were introduced into tropical forests and island environments, the effects became less benign.

When agriculturalists bringing pearl millet and cattle moved to the area of tropical forests in western and central Africa about 2,400 years ago, significant soil erosion and forest burning occurred.

Similarly, in Southeast Asia, large areas of the tropical forests were burned and cleared from c. 4,000 years ago following the arrival of rice and millet farming.

For example, the increase in demand for palm oil has led to clear-cutting of tropical forests to make room for palm plantations.

These practices, which induce rampant clearance, reduce biodiversity, provoke soil erosion, and render landscapes more susceptible to the outbreak of wild fires, represent some of the greatest dangers facing tropical forests,” notes Hunt.

The global data compiled for this paper shows that a pristine, untouched tropical forest ecosystem does not exist — and has not existed for tens of thousands of years.

There is no ideal forest environment that modern conservationists can look to when setting goals and developing a strategy for forest conservation efforts.

Rather, an understanding of the archaeological history of tropical forests and their past manipulation by humans is crucial in informing modern conservation efforts.

The researchers recommend an approach that values the knowledge and cooperation of the native populations that live in tropical forests.

Indigenous and traditional peoples – whose ancestors’ systems of production and knowledge are slowly being decoded by archaeologists – should be seen as part of the solution and not one of the problems of sustainable tropical forest development,” states Roberts.

The researchers also emphasize the importance of disseminating the information learned from archaeology to other disciplines.

By working together, these groups can help to establish a better understanding of the tropical forest environments and how best to protect them.

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He’s Gambling Obsession Spurred Him To Invent Two Of The Most Important Theories In Math

Girolamo or Hieronimo Cardano‘s name was Hieronymus Cardanus in Latin and he is sometimes known by the English version of his name Jerome Cardan.

Girolamo Cardano was the illegitimate child of Fazio Cardano and Chiara Micheria. His father was a lawyer in Milan but his expertise in mathematics was such that he was consulted by Leonardo da Vinci on questions of geometry.

In addition to his law practice, Fazio lectured on geometry, both at the University of Pavia and, for a longer spell, at the Piatti foundation in Milan.

When he was in his fifties, Fazio met Chiara Micheria, who was a young widow in her thirties, struggling to raise three children.

Chiara became pregnant but, before she was due to give birth, the plague hit Milan and she was persuaded to leave the city for the relative safety of nearby Pavia to stay with wealthy friends of Fazio.

Thus Cardan was born in Pavia but his mother’s joy was short lived when she received news that her first three children had died of the plague in Milan.

Chiara lived apart from Fazio for many years but, later in life, they did marry.




Cardan at first became his father’s assistant but he was a sickly child and Fazio had to get help from two nephews when the work became too much for Cardan.

However, Cardan began to wish for greater things than an assistant to his father. Fazio had taught his son mathematics and Cardan began to think of an academic career.

After an argument, Fazio allowed Cardan to go university and he entered Pavia University, where his father had studied, to read medicine despite his father’s wish that he should study law.

When war broke out, the university was forced to close and Cardan moved to the University of Padua to complete his studies.

Shortly after this move, his father died but by this time Cardan was in the middle of a campaign to become rector of the university. He was a brilliant student but, outspoken and highly critical, Cardan was not well liked.

However, his campaign for rector was successful since he beat his rival by a single vote.

Cardan squandered the small bequest from his father and turned to gambling to boost his finances. Card games, dice and chess were the methods he used to make a living.

Cardan’s understanding of probability meant he had an advantage over his opponents and, in general, he won more than he lost. He had to keep dubious company for his gambling.

Once, when he thought he was being cheated at cards, Cardan, who always carried a knife, slashed the face of his opponent.

Gambling became an addiction that was to last many years and rob Cardan of valuable time, money and reputation.

Cardan was awarded his doctorate in medicine in 1525 and applied to join the College of Physicians in Milan, where his mother still lived.

The College did not wish to admit him for, despite the respect he had gained as an exceptional student, he had a reputation as a difficult man, whose unconventional, uncompromising opinions were aggressively put forward with little tact or thought for the consequences.

The discovery of Cardan’s illegitimate birth gave the College a reason to reject his application.

Cardan, on the advice of a friend, went to Sacco, a small village 15km from Padua. He set up a small, and not very successful, medical practice.

In late 1531 Cardan married Lucia, the daughter of a neighbour Aldobello Bandarini, a captain of the local militia.

ardan’s practice in Sacco did not provide enough income for him to support a wife so, in April 1532, he moved to Gallarate, near Milan.

He applied again to the College of Physicians in Milan but again was not allowed membership.

Unable to practise medicine, Cardan reverted, in 1533, to gambling to pay his way, but things went so badly that he was forced to pawn his wife’s jewellery and even some of his furniture.

Desperately seeking a change of fortune, the Cardans moved to Milan, but here they fared even worse and they had to ignominiously enter the poorhouse.

Cardan was fortunate to obtain Fazio’s former post of lecturer in mathematics at the Piatti Foundation in Milan which gave him plenty of free time and he used some of this to treat a few patients, despite not being a member of the College of Physicians.

Cardan achieved some near miraculous cures and his growing reputation as a doctor led to his being consulted by members of the College.

His grateful patients and their relatives became whole hearted supporters and in this way, Cardan was able to build up a base of influential backers.

Cardan was still furious at his continuing exclusion from the College and, in 1536, he rashly published a book attacking not only the College’s medical ability but their character.

This was not the way to gain entry to the College and not surprisingly Cardan’s application to join in 1537 was again rejected.

However, two years later, after much pressure from his admirers, the College modified the clause regarding legitimate birth and admitted Cardan.

In the same year, Cardan’s first two mathematical books were published, the second The Practice of Arithmetic and Simple Mensuration was a sign of greater things to come.

This was the beginning of Cardan’s prolific literary career writing on a diversity of topics medicine, philosophy, astronomy and theology in addition to mathematics.

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