Tom's Book of Days
      November 11-20  

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November 11


The name is Fuentes. Carlos Fuentes

1493: Paracelsus, one of the greatest of the alchemists, is born. He offered chemical alternatives to herbal ones (what Dale Pendell calls the mineral work), denied that mental illness is caused by demons, and urged a medicine of observation rather than abstract theorizing. He would die September 24, 1541.

1920: James Bond is born in Wattenscheid, Germany.

1928: Carlos Fuentes is born, in Panama City of all places. He is shown here in the guise of 007, who shares his birthday.

1948: Twenty-four-year-old James Baldwin leaves for Europe.


November 12


Barbie. Isn't she lovely?

1866: Sun Yatsen, the first president of the Chinese Republic, is born.

1926: Jack Ryan, who would become a Pentagon engineer designing Sparrow and Hawk missiles, is born. He would also patent the Barbie doll, having invented the joints that enable her to bend her waist and knees.

1935: The first lobotomy is performed by Egas Moniz at Santa Marta Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal. Moniz injected absolute alcohol into the brain of a patient through holes drilled in the skull. He would receive a Nobel Prize in 1949.

1970: Tanya Harding is born.

1974: The first salmon is caught in the Thames in 130 years.


November 13


"On Mt. Rainier" (detail)

1797: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, while on a walking tour of the West Country, pass through the Valley of Stones near Lynmouth. They discuss collaborating on a a sea-voyage poem. It will become "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

1843: Mount Rainer erupts. (The image shown is a detail of "On Mount Rainier" by Imogen Cunningham.)

1895: The first canned pineapple is sent from Hawaii to the continental U.S.

1927: The Holland Tunnel opens.

1969: Vice President Spiro Agnew complains of "nattering nabobs of negativism" in a speech at Des Moines. The phrase was written for him by Pat Buchanan.


November 14



1666: Samuel Pepys describes the first documented blood transfusion.

Dr. Croone told me ... there was a pretty experiment of the blood of one dog let out, till he had died, into the body of another on one side, while all his own run out on the other side. The first died upon the place, and the other very well and likely to do well. This did give occasion to many pretty wishes, as of the blood of a Quaker to be let into an Archbishop and such like; but, as Dr. Croon says, may, if it takes, be of mighty use to man's health, for the amending of bad blood by borrowing from a better body.

1851: Moby-Dick is published.

1922: BBC One! The first BBA radio broadcast is aired.

1985: What the buck is a fullerene? It’s a spherical cluster of carbon atoms. Robert F. Curl, Jr., Richard E. Smalley, and Harold W. Kroto announced the first discovery of a fullerene on this date in the journal Nature, effectively opening a new branch of chemistry. The name is short for buckminsterfullerene, and the molecule is known as a “buckyball.” Buckyball was named "Molecule of the Year" for 1991 by Science magazine. The three scientists would receive the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996. Shown at left are the original C60 buckyball and below that its more recently discovered big brother, C70.


November 15


Albert Aligator


Feast Day of Saint Albert the Great, bishop, confessor, doctor.

1492: Christopher Columbus first smells tobacco, the New World's revenge.

1597: William Shakespeare defaults on his taxes.

1763: Surveying is completed on the Mason-Dixon Line.


November 16


Fyodor Dostoevsky

1532: Pizarro seizes the Incan emperor Atahuallpa after his victory at Cajamarca. He will later have him executed. Carol and I wrote in our book The Discovery of America and Other Myths (title courtesy Chronicle Books):

One of the most infamous incidents in the conquest of the Americas was Pizarro's assassination of Atahuallpa, "the last of the Incas."
      In Peru, as in Mexico, the conquerors were able to take advantage of existing struggles for power. At its peak, the Incan empire included the greater part of western South America, extending from Ecuador to chile. but in 1525, on the death of the Inca Huayna Capac, the empire was divided. Atahuallpa ruled the northern half of the empire from Quito, Ecuador; his half brother, Huascar, ruled the south from Cuzco, Peru. Atahuallpa had defeated Huascar in civil war just prior to the arrival of Pizarro.
      Pizarro invited Atahuallpa to a peace parlay, then seized and imprisoned him. He demanded the fabulous ransom of a room filled with gold and silver. This, incredibly, the Incas delivered. Still Atahuallpa was not released. Instead, he was brought to trial on charges of murder, sedition, and idolatry, and condemned to death by fire, over the protest of Pizarro's most influential advisors.
      William H. Prescott, the great American historian ... [wrote] ... "The persecution of Atahuallpa is regarded with justice as having left a stain, never to be effaced, on the Spanish arms in the New World."

1849: Fyodor Dostoevsky (pictured) is sentenced to death as a socialist agitator; the sentence will be commuted to four years' hard labor in Siberia.


November 17


Sylvia Beach at Shakespeare & Co.


1558: Elizabeth I ascends the English throne upon the death of Queen Mary.

1790: August Ferdinand Möbius is born. In 1858 he would discover The Mobius Strip, which would be a good name for a club on Broadway.

escher, ants on a moebius strip

1853: Street signs are authorized at San Francisco intersections.

1869: The Suez Canal opens.

1919: Sylvia Beach opens Shakespeare and Company.

1973: Richard Nixon assures the world, "I am not a crook." But he was. (You will sometimes see the date of Nov. 11 for this, but I believe Nov. 17 is correct based on a Washington Post article from the following day.)



November 18


Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

1247: Robin Hood dies (according to Bulfinch).

1477: William Caxton publishes the first book printed in English by movable type, Dictes and Sayenges of the Phylosophers. A sample of his type:

Detail of Caxton's type


1883: Standard time goes into effect in the U.S. It was promoted by the American Railway Association as a means of synchronizing railway schedules. The division of the U.S. into four time zones, each averaging 15 degrees in longitude, had been proposed by Charles Dowd, a New York school principal. The system, dividing the 360 degrees of the globe into 24 segments so that together they equal one day, was later adopted worldwide.

1909: The US invades Nicaragua (it does this rather often).


November 19


1850: Tennyson is named Poet Laureate, succeeding Wordsworth.

1875: Hiram Bingham is born. In 1911 he would “discover” Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes. How would he do it? He would pay a Peruvian guide to take him to a ruin, and the guide would lead him straight up the 2,000-foot precipice to the great Inca city. Bigham’s work would lead to an increase in archaeological research in South America.

1999: Webmonkey writes: "Look at today's date. 19 November 1999. Do you feel the horrible significance? Aside from it being Meg Ryan's birthday, I mean. Look: 11/19/99. All odd numbers. ALL ODD NUMBERS. You think that sort of thing happens every day? Well, sure, it happened on Wednesday, but it's not going to happen again until New Year's Day 3111. That's pretty heavy. I don't know about you, but I'm going to RAGE." (More date stuff here.)


November 20


Enos in his spacesuit

1497: Vasco da Gama rounds the Cape of Good Hope on his way to India.

1864: U.S. soldiers massacre Cheyenne and Arapaho who are waiting for terms of surrender; the attrocity is known as the Sand Creek Massacre.

1866: James L. Haven and Charles Hittrick patent a yoyo.

1918: Madelaine L’Engle is born.

1961: Enos the Chimp orbits the earth twice before landing off Puerto Rico.

1969: American Indian Movement activists occupy Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, offering to purchase the island from the federal government for $24 worth of beads.

1976: Jerry Lee Lewis shoots his bass player twice in the chest while aiming at a soda bottle; he is charged with shooting a firearm within city limits.

continue to November 21


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