Isaac Newton, giant of math and physics, undercover agent for the Royal Mint, faced off against William Chaloner, the notorious forger, tongue-padder, and dildo-merchant. [2 of 2]
Precious metals could be stolen from coins by clipping, plugging, or sweating them. It’s a good thing Isaac Newton was on the case. [1 of 2]
Sudden bouts of contagious dancing plagued pre-modern Europe – afflicting up to a thousand people at a time.
Île des Faisans is part of France from February to July only. Isla de los Faisanes is part of Spain from August to January only. They’re the same island.
Between 1746 and 1792, seventeen students of Carl Linnaeus set out across the globe to collect plant and animal samples for his new taxonomy. Seven of these apostles died on the trip, and one would betray Linnaeus.
The phrase “Here Be Dragons” actually appears only once on a historical map, on the early 16th century Hunt-Lenox Globe. And actual dragons live there.
Wall Street in New York City is named after one of two things: the Walloons, early Dutch settlers… or a literal wall to defend against the Algonquian peoples angry over the slaughter of 120 local Weckquaesgeek.
Who keeps the metric system down? In the United States, pirates do.
Christianity was banned in Japan in 1614. For the next 250 years, the Kakure Kirishitan (hidden Christians) worshipped in secret.
The kilt was banned in 1746, forcing the Scots to wear “the unmanly dress of the Lowlander.”
In 1648 a Dutch water board issued a bond that paid 5% interest annually, with no maturity date. That water board still pays interest on the bond today.
Need to hide your smallpox or syphilis scars? Try fake beauty marks made of velvet, silk, or mouse fur.
The inventor of the pie chart and the bar chart was also a secret agent who helped collapse the French revolutionary government’s economy through an elaborate counterfeiting operation.
The Red Hand is the symbol of the province of Ulster, but its origins are lost in time. Possible sources include three different clans, pagans, fairies, and a soldier who chopped off his own hand.
In 1725 Professor Beringer of the University of Würzburg dug up some extraordinary fossils: they contained the name of God written in Hebrew. A book, a court case, and the ruining of several careers ensued.