Tag Archives: New Zealand

Almanac – June 06

1832 – Jeremy Bentham died. British philosopher, jurist, and social reformer. He is regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.

Bentham became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism.

He advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalising of homosexual acts.

He called for the abolition of slavery, the abolition of the death penalty, and the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children. He has also become known in recent years as an early advocate of animal rights.

He had continued to write up to a month before his death, aged 84,  and had made careful preparations for the dissection of his body after death and its preservation as an auto-icon.

After dissection, the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the “Auto-icon”, with the skeleton padded out with hay and dressed in Bentham’s clothes.

Originally kept by his disciple Thomas Southwood Smith, it was acquired by University College London in 1850. It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of the college; however, for the 100th and 150th anniversaries of the college, it was brought to the meeting of the College Council, where it was listed as “present but not voting”.

Bentham had intended the Auto-icon to incorporate his actual head, mummified to resemble its appearance in life. However, Southwood Smith’s experimental efforts at mummification, based on practices of the indigenous people of New Zealand and involving placing the head under an air pump over sulphuric acid and simply drawing off the fluids, although technically successful, left the head looking distastefully macabre, with dried and darkened skin stretched tautly over the skull.

The Auto-icon was therefore given a wax head, fitted with some of Bentham’s own hair. The real head was displayed in the same case as the Auto-icon for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks. It is now locked away securely.

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Almanac – October 22

1797 – One thousand meters above Paris, André-Jacques Garnerin made the first recorded parachute jump (from a hot air balloon).

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1844 – The Great Anticipation:  Millerites, followers of William Miller, anticipated the end of the world in conjunction with the Second Advent of Christ. The following day became known as the Great Disappointment.

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1844 – Sarah Bernhardt born.  French stage and early film actress, who has been referred to as “the most famous actress the world has ever known”.  Bernhardt earned fame on the stages of France in the 1870s, and was soon in demand in Europe and the Americas, and developed a reputation as a serious dramatic actress.

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1887 –  The New Zealand Herald reported that lightning hit a woodpile as farmer Amos Briggs went to chase away cats fighting on it.
The logs were scattered, the cats killed, his left boot burst and his left trouser leg ripped from top to bottom.
His wife fainted when she saw him: ‘Oh Amos, the Devil’s set his mark on you !’  In the mirror he saw the silhouette of a cat etched on his bald head
It faded overnight and by the next noon had disappeared.

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1920 – Timothy Leary born. American psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs. During a time when drugs such as LSD and psilocybin were legal, Leary conducted experiments at Harvard University under the Harvard Psilocybin Project, resulting in the Concord Prison Experiment and the Marsh Chapel Experiment. Both studies produced useful data, but Leary and his associate Richard Alpert were fired from the university.

Leary believed LSD showed therapeutic potential for use in psychiatry. He popularized catchphrases that promoted his philosophy, such as “turn on, tune in, drop out”, “set and setting”, and “think for yourself and question authority”. He also wrote and spoke frequently about transhumanist concepts involving space migration, intelligence increase and life extension (SMI²LE), and he developed the eight-circuit model of consciousness in his book Exo-Psychology (1977).
During the 1960s and 1970s, Leary was arrested regularly and was held captive in 29 different prisons throughout the world. President Richard Nixon once described him as “the most dangerous man in America”.

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1966 – The Supremes become the first all-female music group to attain an American No. 1 selling album (The Supremes A’ Go-Go).

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Almanac – September 19

1882 – Christopher Stone born. The first disc jockey in the United Kingdom, Stone had approached the BBC himself with the idea for a record programme, which the corporation initially dismissed. He managed to convince them, though, and on 7 July 1927 he started playing records on air. His relaxed, conversational style was exceptional at a time when most of the BBC’s presentation was extremely formal, and his programmes became highly popular as a result. He wore a dinner jacket and tie when he presented…but of course.

In 1934 Stone joined the commercial station Radio Luxembourg and was barred by the BBC in consequence. Three years later, as “Uncle Chris”, he presented the first daily children’s programme on commercial radio,  Kiddies Quarter Hour on Radio Lyons. He later rejoined the BBC and caused a major row in 1941, when on 11 November he wished King Victor Emmanuel of Italy a happy birthday on air, adding “I don’t think any of us wish him anything but good, poor soul.” This good wish towards the head of a state Britain was at war with at the time led to the sacking of the BBC’s Senior Controller of Programmes and tighter government control over all broadcasts.

Stone was an avid record collector; in the mid 1930s he already owned over 12,000. When he turned 75 in 1957 the magazine Melody Maker praised his pioneering work: “Everyone who has written, produced or compered a gramophone programme should salute the founder of his trade.”

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1893 – New Zealand became the first country in the World to give women the vote in parliamentary elections.

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1942 – Freda Payne born. American singer and actress best known for her million selling, 1970 hit single, “Band of Gold”. She was also an actress in musicals and film, as well as the host of a TV talk show. Also  the older sister of former Supreme Scherrie Payne.

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1945 – Lord Haw-Haw [William Joyce] sentenced to death. He’d broadcast propaganda programmes against the UK from Nazi Germany in WW2.

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1952 – The United States barred Charlie Chaplin from re-entering the country after a trip to England. During the era of McCarthyism, Chaplin had been accused of “un-American activities” as a suspected communist and J. Edgar Hoover had instructed the FBI to keep extensive secret files on him.
Chaplin decided not to re-enter the United States, writing: “Since the end of the last world war, I have been the object of lies and propaganda by powerful reactionary groups who, by their influence and by the aid of America’s yellow press, have created an unhealthy atmosphere in which liberal-minded individuals can be singled out and persecuted. Under these conditions I find it virtually impossible to continue my motion-picture work, and I have therefore given up my residence in the United States.”

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1961 – Betty and Barney Hill claimed  they saw a mysterious craft in the sky and that it tried to abduct them. The couple’s story  was the first widely-publicized claim of alien abduction, adapted into the best-selling 1966 book The Interrupted Journey and the 1975 television movie The UFO Incident.
Its importance is such that many of Betty Hill’s notes, tapes, and other items have been placed in a permanent collection at the University of New Hampshire. The site of the alleged craft’s first close approach,  just south of Lancaster, New Hampshire, is marked by a state historical marker.

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1970 – The first Glastonbury Festival was held at Michael Eavis’s farm in Glastonbury,  Somerset.  The original headline acts were The Kinks and Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders but these were replaced at short notice by Tyrannosaurus Rex.Tickets were £1. Other billed acts of note were Quintessence, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull fame and Al Stewart.

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