Weekly Web Links:
- It’s not just for drinking! Uses of beer in Newfoundland during the early 17th Century – let’s be honest though, it’s mostly for drinking…
- Witch Wreaths (otherwise known as by the much more descriptive title of a ‘crown of feathers’) were found inside beds or pillows and were views as symbols of death, bewitchment, or a contrary sign of salvation.
- The Rongorongo glyphs (spell check’s having a conniption right now) were discovered way back in 1868 but so far no one has been able to decipher them although historians and cryptographers now believe that they have determined certain characteristics which may make translation possible in the future.
- What would the continent of Africa have looked like if it had never been colonized? The impressive map takes a look at what that could have looked like if history had played out differently. Seriously, the level of detail that was put into this is amazing.
- I think the discovery of these might be less impressive than the fact that they were ever buried in the first place – seriously, these things are massive – but three Angkorian-era statue heads were unearthed in Cambodia last week.
- The great mail robberies of 1791.
- And last but not least, the history of nail polish.
Historical Book Review for the Week:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Basically, everything you need to know about this book is the following:
It is spectacular and everyone reading this should immediately drop whatever it is that they’re doing, track down a copy, and read it.
Henrietta Lacks was a black American woman who was born and lived in poverty for the entirety of her tragically short life and, for many years after her unfortunately early death, continued to be an unknown figure despite the fact that her genes have become one of the most important tools in the field of medicine. Cells which were removed from her in 1951 during the attempts to remove the cancerous tumors in her body which would shortly after go on to take her life – and which were taken without her knowledge – ended up becoming vital to the development of the polio vaccine, cloning procedures, and gene mapping among other developments. In addition to her cells being bought and sold around the world by the billions they are priceless to the progress of medicine as well as the improvement of health standards worldwide. In glaring contrast to the contribution that her genetics have made to the world, her family still lives in poverty today and is unable to afford health insurance. In this book, Rebecca Skloot does a phenomenal job of describing the progress of medicine since Henrietta’s cells were discovered to have unique properties while combining these important developments with the very human and rather heartbreaking personal story of Ms. Lacks and her family. It provides a glaring contrast in the areas of ethics, race, education, wealth, science, and medicine and nowhere is this more clear than in the areas of the book that are focused around Henrietta’s daughter, a woman who grew up not knowing her mother and who no one ever bothered to explain her family’s contribution to the world of medicine explained to her.