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history

Nautical charts reveal coral decline around Florida Keys

Coral reef cover is known to have decreased over the past few decades, but longer term estimates of coral cover have been difficult to reconstruct. In a new study, researchers used high-resolution historical nautical maps from the 18th century to determine changes to reefs in the Florida Keys.

26 Dec 2017

Geologic Column: Giving Konrad Zuse his due

German engineer Konrad Zuse is considered the first inventor of the programmable electronic computer in his home country, but sadly, few students elsewhere learn of his pioneering efforts. 
13 Nov 2017

Benchmarks: September 23, 1806: Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery returns from the West

It’s been called the greatest camping trip of all time. Statues, counties, waterways, mountains, military vessels, and even two colleges bear the names of the journey’s leaders. Their journals are among our greatest national treasures, and their adventures have inspired generations of explorers. Two hundred and eleven years ago this month, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and their 31-man Corps of Discovery returned to St. Louis, the frontier town where they had started their journey 28 months and nearly 13,000 kilometers of wilderness earlier on May 14, 1804.

23 Sep 2017

Geologic Column: Alternative history: Earth in a funhouse mirror

If a particular historical event had turned out differently, how might subsequent history have changed? 
18 Aug 2017

Geologic Column: Proposing a new U.S. Holiday: Explorers' Day

October has two holidays that celebrate two individuals both heralded as the discoverers of the New World: Christopher Columbus and Leif Erikson. Perhaps it’s time for something new.

14 Oct 2016

Benchmarks: October 2, 1574: Dutch unleash the ocean as a weapon of war

In 1574, the city of Leiden in the Netherlands was brought to its knees: By August of that year, about 6,000 of the city’s roughly 15,000 inhabitants had either starved to death, been killed by the Black Plague or had succumbed to dysentery. Plague doctors in their crow-beaked masks roamed the streets amid famished and diseased citizens drinking foul water from canals. No one knew when, if ever, help would come, for beyond Leiden’s walls the Spanish army was laying siege and cutting off all supply routes into the city.

02 Oct 2016

Bad weather hampered Mongol invasion of Europe

In 1241, the armies of the Mongol Empire, continuing their campaign through Asia and Europe, invaded western Hungary. Before long, however, the Mongols withdrew their forces, beating a sudden retreat that has long baffled historians. Now, drawing on high-resolution climate data from tree rings, researchers may have found a clue as to why: It seems wet weather created adverse conditions for the Mongol army, eventually forcing it to retreat from what was to become historically its westernmost advance.

 
25 Sep 2016

Artists draw inspiration from fire and ash

Volcanoes have been shaping human culture and art for millennia — from Roman art to Victorian paintings and literature to modern poetry.
28 Jul 2016

Volcanoes and historical politics

As well as influencing art and faith, volcanoes are often portrayed as the very manifestation of the human condition. Expressions of anger are readily described as “volcanic.” They have become a metaphor for anything of suitable magnitude or wrath. One such painting sees a volcano become the embodiment of the French Revolution.

28 Jul 2016

On the trail of Hannibal's army - and elephants - in the Alps

In the third century B.C., during the Second Punic War between the Romans and Carthaginians, Carthaginian general Hannibal led a massive army over the Alps to invade Italy from the supposedly impenetrable north. It is one of the most famously brazen moves in military history, but the exact route that Hannibal’s army — which included tens of thousands of foot soldiers and cavalrymen, thousands of horses and nearly 40 elephants — took through the mountains has long been a mystery. Now, a team has found microbial evidence that a large number of horses crossed the Alps from France into Italy over the 3,000-meter Col de la Traversette pass around 218 B.C. But not everybody is convinced that the Traversette pass route matches detailed historical accounts of Hannibal’s journey.

24 Jul 2016

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