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This week in history: Theodore Roosevelt

October 14, 2019

This week in 1910, former President Theodore Roosevelt became the first U.S. chief executive to fly in an airplane. More than 10,000 people attended the event at Kinloch Field in St. Louis. The pilot, Archibald Hoxsey, flew Roosevelt around the field twice, for a distance of about three miles, in a flight lasting three minutes and twenty seconds. Roosevelt greatly enjoyed the experience and waved to the crowd from the circling airplane. Hoxsey, on the other hand, suffered great anxiety, fearing what might happen if the former President were injured or killed. But the plane landed with both pilot and passenger in great spirits.

This week in history: Sputnik I

October 4, 2019

Photo by Gregory R Todd, provided under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license.

On this day in 1957, Sputnik I became the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth. The beachball-sized Soviet machine circled the planet in a low elliptical orbit for three weeks before its batteries finally died. Then it continued for two more months before finally falling back into the atmosphere. The unexpected success of Sputnik I triggered the great 20th Century space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. Sputnik gave the Soviets a tremendous head start, but arguably the U.S. won the race when it put the first human beings on another astronomical body—on July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon.

This week in history: The Rosetta Stone

September 27, 2019

Photo courtesy of Hans Hillewaert via Wikimedia Commons.

On this day in 1822, Jean-Francois Champollion announced that he had deciphered the Rosetta Stone, 23 years after its discovery. The Rosetta Stone records a 196 BC decree from the reign of King Ptolemy V Epiphanes of Egypt, and it’s written in 3 different languages. That made it the key to translating ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, as well as the Egyptian demotic script. The bottom language was Ancient Greek, which was well-known in the 1800’s, and the demotic and hieroglyphic scripts were inscribed above. So Campollion used the ancient Greek version of the decree to translate the other two, giving historians the key to reading hieroglyphs and demotic script on temple walls, ancient manuscripts, and everywhere else. Much of what we know about the ancient Egyptians—including those from far before 196 BC—comes to us thanks to Campollion’s work.

This week in history: Wright Flyer II

September 23, 2019

This week in 1904, Wilbur Wright achieved humanity’s first “circular flight.” He did this in the 2nd plane he and his brother Orville built. The Wright Flyer II, pictured here, took one minute and sixteen seconds to complete a circle in the air. The plane made a total of 105 flights in 1904, but this one—on September 20—was the first complete circle.

This Week in History: David & Michelangelo

September 13, 2019

David by Michelangelo

Michelangelo’s David, photographed by Jörg Bittner Unna, courtesy of Wikimedia

This week in 1501, Michelangelo began work on his statue of David, one of Renaissance Italy’s most famous works of art. The artist took three years to complete the piece, unveiling it in 1504. David was originally meant to stand on the roof-line of the Florence Cathedral, but it (he) was instead placed at Palazzo Vecchio in the public square. In 1873, David was moved to the Gallery of the Academy of Florence, with a replica standing in the original site.

9/11 and the Failure of Terrorism

September 11, 2019

On this day eighteen years ago, al-Qaeda carried out the most ambitious and deadly terrorist attack in history. The Islamist group hijacked four large commercial jets and crashed three of them into major U.S. targets: the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC. (Courageous passengers stormed the cockpit of the fourth hijacked plane, blocking its planned strike but leading to a crash in rural Pennsylvania, with all aboard lost.) The two towers fell, the Pentagon was partly wrecked, almost 3,000 people died, and Americans were terrified. The attack’s immediate success probably surprised even its planners. So what did 9/11 achieve for al-Qaeda? Nothing. In fact, the attack led to disaster for the Islamist group. That’s because terrorism does not work.

9/11 Didn’t Work

9/11 attacks on NYC Read more…

Magellan: This Week in History

September 10, 2019

this week in history: Magellan's ship Victoria circumnavigated the globeThis week in history, in 1522, the Spanish carrack Victoria returned home with just eighteen crew-members. She had completing the first circumnavigation of the globe. The expedition had begun in 1519 with five fully-crewed ships under the command of Ferdinand Magellan. During the long journey across the Atlantic and Pacific and beyond, most of the initial 260 crew members deserted, died of malnutrition, or were killed in battle. Magellan himself met his end at the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines in 1521. His body was never recovered and so did not complete its journey with the Victoria, but we still credit him with the first circumnavigation of Earth.


© 2019 by David W. Tollen. All rights reserved.

This Week in 30 BC: Augustus in Egypt

August 30, 2019

Caesar Augustus, f.k.a. Octavian

Caesar Augustus, f.k.a. Octavian

During this week in 30 BC, Roman strongman Octavian completed his invasion of Egypt. He ordered the execution of Marcus Antyllus, eldest son of his defeated rival, Marc Anthony, who’d committed suicide. He also executed Caesarion, teenage son of his great uncle and adoptive father, Julius Caesar. Caesarion’s mother was Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt and lover of both Caesar and Antony, who’d also committed suicide a few weeks before. The boy held the Egyptian throne for only a few weeks after the death of his mother, and he wielded no power. But he was the last ruler of Egypt’s Ptolemaic dynasty and the ancient country’s last Pharaoh. His death ended 3,000 years of Egyptian monarchy.

Octavian went on to establish a new form of government for the Roman world, which he ruled as Caesar Augustus, Rome’s first emperor.


© 2019 by David W. Tollen. All rights reserved.

My New Novel, Secrets of Hominea!

July 26, 2019

My new novel just went on sale! Secrets of Hominea is a magical middle grade fantasy novel: a tale of giants, gnomes, queens, and adventurers — and of science and history. It’s for readers age 9 to 14.

middle grade novel

My first novel, The Jericho River, won multiple awards, including wins at the Next Generation Indie awards and the London Book Festival, as well as a bronze medal in the Readers’ Favorite awards. Read more…

Fantastic New Jericho River Review

February 11, 2019

My book, The Jericho River, just got a fantastic new review from William Brown of Ancient History Encyclopedia. Here’s a sample: Read more…

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