One year ago tonight, history was made. Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States.
There was a program on the History Channel program about the origins of Frankenstein and the inspiration for Mary Shelley, who was only in her teens at the time she wrote her famous book in 1815 (published 1818).
Frankenstein presented a timeless classic of a doctor who creates a person with sewn-together body parts and brings it to life with and electric charge. The show explained that in the late 1700s, a (French?) doctor/scientist published his findings that by inserting an electrically-charged rod in a particular spot in a dead frog, the frog would move its leg like it was alive. After this, other people began to experiment on a variety of animals, and eventually on humans.
A Scottish scientist was said to have acquired the body of a man who had just been executed around the time Mary Shelley wrote her book. With a small crowd of people observing him, he inserted metal rods at various points in the body and made it react and move, as if the dead man were still alive. As it was explained, Mary Shelley came up with her idea for her horror novel against this backdrop; mankind began to engage in the exploration of the “life force” behind living things in an attempt to find its meanings and/or secrets.
The human may have been considered a kind of “machine”, just as those that were beginning to power industries during this age. It was in a time when science began to know just enough to realize that wonders lay within man’s grasp, but not enough to know what kinds of results these might bring.
This post was based on a discussion topic originally posted October 27, 2006.
I came across an article about the lemons and other citrus fruits in the ancient Roman world. According to research done by an Israeli archaeobotanist, the citron was the first citrus fruit to make it to the western Mediterranean around the third or second century B.C. (probably through Persia). The lemon? That had to wait even longer, and was not widely available:
It took another 400 years for the lemon (Citruslimon) to reach the Mediterranean area. Lemons, too, were owned by the elite class. “This means that for more than a millennium, citron and lemon were the only citrus fruits known in the Mediterranean basin,” Langgut said. (The Mediterranean basin would have included the countries around the sea.)
This is interesting considering how much we identify the lemon with Greek culinary recipes today, or with Italian limoncello. It’s surprising to imagine commoner life without kinds of fruits that we take for granted today. However, I think it’s safe to say that they had their fill of other delectable items, such as grapes.
The article goes on to give the arrival dates of some other citrus fruits to the (western) Mediterranean. Here’s a timeline of approximate dates:
- Citron – third/second century B.C.
- Lemon – second century A.D.
- Sour orange – tenth century
- Lime – tenth century
- Pomelo – tenth century
- Sweet orange – fifteenth century
- Mandarin – nineteenth century
The powerful Medici is known for appropriating the image of the orange tree as their family symbol in Florence by the fifteenth century. Would this have been the sour or sweet orange that they chose? I think the novelty of the newly-arrive sweet orange, as well as the taste (which was presumably more palatable than the sour version), means that it was probably the chosen fruit that we see in Medici imagery.