Historical Anecdotes Story Of London

Historical Anecdotes: K

Historical Anecdotes: K
by a

This is a series of articles that has grown out of the daily listings of what happened “On This Day”. Many of the events, particularly those related to science, seemed to us to need some more information than is possible in the daily listing format. Still others had amusing or informative anecdotes associated with them that we felt were worth sharing with our readers. The series is designed for browsing and dipping into and we have therefore set up a comprehensive system of links to make this as easy and as enjoyable as possible.
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Historical Anecdotes: K

by Anthony Waldstock

This series of articles will present occasional anecdotal, amusing and factual notes behind the people and events on the This Day in History digests. Entries are determined by the daily posting of events in history with the first entries appearing for March 10th and are arranged alphabetically. With the steady increase of material, each letter of the alphabet now (April 17th 2002) has its own page. People are indexed according to their family or surnames whereas kings, popes, emperors etc. are listed according to their regnal names– e.g. Charles Boycott would be found under B, Pope Gregory under G and Queen Mary Tudor under M. Other items are indexed by the most significant word in the title, for example Artificial Ice will be found under I but Sad Iron will be found under S.

Links back to the monthly digests for “This Day in History” can be found at the bottom of the introductory page but each of the entries on the other pages will have a link to take you back to the specific date with which it is associated. Note that if you have come here from the Background Briefings link on the Home page, you can go back there by clicking on the site Masthead above. When appropriate, there are additional links back to other referring pages on the site such as the People of London page.

Within the series there are two sets of links. At the top of each page there will be a table of links to the other indexing letters to allow browsing by individual pages. At the bottom of each page you will also find a set of links which will allow you to scroll backward (Previous) and forward (next) through the pages. The pages are looped so the “Previous” link from A will be to Z and the “Next” link from Z will be to A. There will also be a central link back to this introduction page whose main content is an alphabetic list of the complete set of entries. From there, you will be able to browse the titles of the individual entries and jump directly to those that interest you. By definition, the number of entries will augment on a daily basis so it is worth checking back there frequently.

Links to Entries by Index Letter

David Keilin

A Russian-British biochemist who discovered cytochromes in plant cells. They are a group of proteins with the iron containing haem group that act as enzymes and are critical to the cell’s use of oxygen. They resemble haemoglobin in the blood of mammals. Return to This Day in History


The first person to employ mathematics as an empirical instrument in seeking the laws of celestial motion was the German Johannes Kepler. He became assistant to the Dane Tycho Brahe and, on the latter’s death, his scientific legatee. Brahe was a patient and accurate observer and he described a planetary system with the earth central to the orbits of the moon, sun and fixed stars. Kepler went on to develop Brahe’s work over the next nine years and in 1609 published his most famous work New Astronomy with Commentaries on the Motions of Mars. It is full of important suggestions on gravity and develops a theory of the tides in relation to attraction by the moon. Above all, however, it sets out the cardinal principles of modern Astronomy.

These principles are embodied in Kepler’s first two Laws of Planetary motion:

  • Planets move around the sun and not in circles but in ellipses with the sun at one of the foci of each ellipse.
  • A planet does not move in a uniform manner but is such a way that a line drawn from it to the sun (the radius vector) sweeps out equal areas of the ellipse in equal times.

Ten years later, Kepler published his Epitome Astronomiae where he set out the third Law of Planetary Motion:

  • The squares of the period of revolution round the sun (sidereal period) are proportional to the cubes of the distances and for all the planets their ratio has a constant value.

After Kepler, cosmology was underpinned by intelligible mathematical relationships rather than the religion-based Aristotelianism of the scholastic period.
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In 1855, Abraham Gesner received the first U.S. patent for a process to obtain oil from bituminous shale and channel coal. He was attempting to produce a fuel for oil lamps and called the new substance kerosene. He extracted it by dry distillation at a controlled temperature in large cast-iron retorts set in furnaces which allowed evaporation. Metal pipes surrounded by water enabled the condensation of the vapour. The light volatile liquid obtained was then re-distilled and treated with acid and peroxide of manganese to precipitate the impurities. Water was removed and the acid neutralised by the addition of freshly calcined lime. Further distillation yielded kerosene. Gesner had previously obtained patents in 1854 for a process of obtaining kerosene by heat distillation.
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Kurt Kofka

Kurt Kofka was a German-American psychologist who co-founded, with Wolfgang Köhler and Max Wertheimer, the Gestalt school of psychology. Koffka became in time their most influential spokesman. He applied it to child development, learning, memory and emotion. The name Gestalt, meaning form or configuration, emphasizes that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Gestalt psychology grew as reaction against the traditional atomistic approach to the human being where behaviour was analyzed into constituent elements called sensations. He made an influential distinction between the behavioural and the geographical environments – the perceived world of common sense and the world studied by scientists.

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