Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Lycurgus Cup

The Lycurgus Cup, made from glass, appears red in transmitted light and green in reflected light. The glass contains 70nm particles as seen in an electron microscopic image. The cup itself is dated to 4th century AD, but the metallic holder is a later addition.

It is now in the British Museum and is made of "dichroic" glass. It is also a rare example of a complete Roman cage cup- where the glass has been ground and cut to leave only a decorative cage at the surface level. It is the only cage cup, unlike others with abstract geometric designs, which has composite figures. It shows the mythical king Lycurgus trying to kill Ambrosia, a follower of the god Dionysus. 

Photographed with Flash

Photographed under normal lighting

The dichroic effect is achieved by making the glass with tiny proportions of minutely ground gold and silver dust. Since it is impossible that the Roman artisans managed to add these incredibly low levels of silver and gold to the volume of the glass used to make the vessel deliberately, the levels were probably added at higher levels to a larger volume of glass-melt, and increasingly diluted by adding more glass.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Pocahontas (c. 1595 – March 1617), later known as Rebecca Rolfe, was an Indian chief's daughter notable for having assisted colonial settlers at Jamestown. She converted to Christianity and married the English settler John Rolfe. After they traveled to London, she became famous in England in the last year of her life. She was a daughter of Wahunsunacawh, better known as Chief or Emperor Powhatan.
For hundreds of years after her death, Pocahontas was considered in popular culture, and even today, by many academics, to be a princess.
Pocahontas is most famously linked to the English colonist Captain John Smith, who arrived in Virginia with just more than a hundred other settlers in April 1607. 

During her stay in Henricus, Pocahontas met John Rolfe. They were married on April 5, 1614, and lived for two years on Rolfe's plantation, Varina Farms, which was located across the James River from the new community of Henricus. They had a child, Thomas Rolfe.

 In March 1617, Rolfe and Pocahontas boarded a ship to return to Virginia; the ship had only gone as far as Gravesend on the River Thames when Pocahontas became gravely ill. She was taken ashore and died in John Rolfe's arms at the age of twenty-two. It is unknown what caused her death, but theories range from smallpox, pneumonia, or tuberculosis, to her having been poisoned.
After her death, increasingly fanciful and romanticized representations of Pocahontas were produced. The myths that arose around Pocahontas' story portrayed her as one who demonstrated the potential of Native Americans to be assimilated into European society. In another development, Pocahontas' story was romanticized. Some writers preferred accounts of a love story between her and John Smith.
Many movies have been made on the Legend of Pocahontas, including a Walt Disney movie.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Livingstone and Lutyens

David Livingstone, a Scottish explorer, known best for the discovery of Victoria Falls, was immortalized by the phrase "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"

He was one of the first whites to explore the wild terrains of Africa, was in contact with tribals, and subsequently succumbed to dysentery and malaria-common diseases in the tropical regions.

 Sir Edward Lutyens, is often known as "Britain's Greatest architect" for his outstanding contribution in the field of Architechture. Delhi's Rashtrapathi Bhavan and India Gate are examples of his architechture.He constructed noteworthy monuments in India, Britain, Spain and Irelan.

Subbarao and Sarabhai

Yellapragada Subbarao was an Indian biochemist who discovered the function of ATP (Adenosine Tri Phosphate) as an energy source in the cell. He also made important contributions in the field of cancer. He had a traumatic childhood due to the death of close relations and his education progressed slowly until he met a His discoveries went unnoticed partly due to racial discrimination and also because he did not promote or publicize his papers. He also was denied permanent American citizenship despite his contribution during the second World War.
Writing in the April 1950 issue of Argosy (a magazine), Doron K. Antrim observed, "You've probably never heard of Dr. Yellapragada SubbaRao. Yet because he lived you may be alive and are well today. Because he lived you may live longer."

Vikram Sarabhai was born in Ahmedabad to an affluent family. He studied in Cambridge and received a Doctor of Philosophy from the same institute. He is best known for setting up the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). He convinced the Government about the need for a space programme in a developing country like India. 
He set up several other institutions including:
  • Physical Research Laboratory
  • Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre
  • Centre for Environment Planning and Technology
  • Indian Institute of Management (IIM) -Ahmedabad

Buck and Batuta (Ibn E Batuta? :P )

Pearl S Buck (also known by her Chinese name, Sai Zhenzhu) was an American author who lived most of her life in China, until 1934. She won the Pulitzer Prize for 'The Good Earth' and was the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (1938).
She is known for her depiction of Chinese peasant life.

 Ibn Battuta was a Moroccan Islamic traveler known for his interesting travel accounts. He traveled most of the Islamic World and then set out to explore West Africa, North Africa. Horn of Africa, Southern and Eastern Europe. He is regarded as the greatest traveler of all times and the distance he he traveled (121,000 km) was unrivaled until the coming of the Steam Age. His travel accounts are described in 'Rihla'

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chaucer and Cleopatra

Considered as the Father of English Literature, Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) was the first poet to be buried in 'Poet's Corner', Westminster Abbey. This author, philosopher, alchemist and astronomer was also a bureaucrat, diplomat and courtier. He developed the legitimacy of English, as it is spoken today, at a time when French and Latin were more popular.
He is best known for "Canterbury Tales", a collection of short stories.

Cleopatra was the last Pharaoh of ancient Egypt. She belonged to the Ptolemaic dynasty. She represented herself as a reincarnation of the Egyptian god, Isis. She initially was involved with Caesar and after his death, aligned with Marc Anthony and subsequently gave birth to twins. She committed suicide soon after Marc Anthony by using an asp.To this day, Cleopatra remains a popular figure in Western culture. Her legacy survives in numerous works of art and the many dramatizations of her story in literature and other media, including William Shakespeare's tragedy Antony and Cleopatra, Jules Massenet's opera Cléopâtre and the 1963 film Cleopatra

Monday, November 14, 2011

Carnegie & Rockfeller

Andrew Carnegie and John Rockfeller are 2 of the richest men in the history of USA and are also known for their philanthropy.

John Rockfeller was born in a middle class household to a vagabond father and a mother who strived hard to make ends meet. He initially worked as a bookkeeper and moved on to start several businesses, the biggest of which was the Standard Oil Company.
He also initiated the founding of 2 prominent universities. The Rockfeller University and University of Chicago.

Andrew Carnegie was born in Scotland and migrated to USA. Here, he began working as a factory worker and then as a messenger boy and over time, developed a steel empire: Carnegie Steel Company. He later turned to philanthropy and is best known for setting up several public libraries in many English speaking countries. He built the Carnegie Hall, one of the most prestigious concert venues in the world. He also founded the Carnegie Mellon University.

Wondering how to pronounce Carnegie? It's  kar-nay-gee  :)