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.
Antoine Lavoisier explained how combustion uses oxygen with a very clever experiment. Later, he lost his head.
Two men were tried and one was executed for bestiality in early New Haven. The evidence: the birth of piglets that looked suspiciously like the accused.
1000 metres in a kilometre, 1000 grams in a kilogram, and 1000 minutes in a day?
Early modern England had some creative property taxes: window, chimney, brick, and wallpaper tax. Early modern England also had some creative methods of tax avoidance: sealed windows, stolen chimneys, larger bricks, and plainer wallpaper.