Scintillating Science – Rigor Mortis

Scintillating ScienceThe state of rigor mortis, or the stiffening of the body is a well known phenomenon, and happens anywhere between 2 to 6 hours after death.

A less well-known stage is the algor mortis, or the ‘death chill’. Through this stage, the body gradually cools to room temperature at the rate of 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit per hour. This allows us an easy method to detect time of death if we can reach a body before it has stabilized to the surrounding temperature.

Quest for History – Zombies

ZombiesThe English word “zombie” is first recorded in 1819, in a history of Brazil by the poet Robert Southey, in the form of “zombi”. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the origin of the word as West African, and compares it to the Kongo words nzambi (god) and zumbi (fetish).

According to Great Discoveries in Archaeology, the history of zombies dates back to 8th century. The word zombie has its roots in Kongo meaning ‘spirit of a dead person.’ The Creole shifted the meaning to someone who dies and was brought back to live without speech or free will. Interestingly, Creole shaman or voodoo priests used a powder which contains tetrodoxin, which is the toxic ingredient in the California newt or orange-bellied newt as discussed in episode 204.

Women’s 19-Century Fashion

Victorian Man's outfitfrom Victoria and Albert Museum.

Women’s Dress
As the 19th century progressed women’s dress gradually revealed the actual form of the body. In the 1820s and 1830s the waistline deepened, returning to its natural position. As the natural waist returned the bodice required a tighter fit and in contrast the skirt became fuller and bell-shaped. There were several different sleeve styles but short puffed sleeves were generally worn for evening and long sleeves for day. Corsets continued to be worn. These were lightly boned and quilted, with a deep busk. Several layers of petticoats with frilled hems, sometimes of horsehair, were worn to support the full skirts. Some petticoats of the 1840s were feather-quilted. Later examples of the 1850s and 1860s were made of ‘crin’ and steel hoops. The term ‘crinoline’ is derived from the French word crin which means horsehair.

Bonnets or hats were worn outdoors and linen caps indoors. During the 1820s hair styles became very elaborate with raised top knots and the crowns of bonnets or hats were designed to accommodate them. By the middle of the century, by contrast, hairstyles had become smooth with a central parting finished with ringlets on either side of the face and a small bun at the back or simply swept back from the face to a chignon (a mass of hair arranged on a pad at the back of the head and held in place with a net or snood). Bonnets and hats continued to be worn until the 1860s when small, elegant styles appeared which simply perched on top of the head. Even smaller hats appeared in the 1870s when hairstyles rose in the form of elaborate chignons. In the 1880s and 1890s hairstyles remained `up’ but did not retain the heights or bulk of the 1870s styles. Small hats decorated with birds and feathers and artificial flowers were fashionable.

In the 1860s the skirt was very full and worn over a cage crinoline, a petticoat supported by a frame of steel hoops that held it away from the legs. A boned corset was worn over a chemise. Large shawls were sometimes worn indoors or outdoors instead of a coat or cloak.

The 1870s to 1880s introduced styles that revealed the natural silhouette. A popular style was the `princess line’ dress, which was made without a waist seam to reveal the figure. Skirts fitted tightly and required streamlined all-in-one underwear combinations. Corsets became longer and were more rigidly boned. The busk, known as the spoon busk because of its shape, extended to the stomach. Sleeves were tight. In the 1880s a bustle pad, or a tier of stiffened horsehair or fabric frills, was introduced. After 1887-1888 the bustle went out of fashion. Hair was curled on top and taken into a bun at the back. Often a ringlet was brought forward over the shoulder as a finishing touch.

By the 1880s an elite group of women began to adopt simpler and easier styles that were known as `artistic’ dress. Artistic dress was cut much more loosely than conventional attire and did not require restrictive corsetry to be worn.

During the last years of the 19th century it was fashionable for women’s hair to be arranged on the top of the head in a bun and puffed out around the face. A large-brimmed hat would be fastened on with hat pins unless a simpler, smaller hat, such as the straw boater, was required for informal dress. The skirt was floor length with a slight train. The waist remained small and a corset which either laced up or fastened with clips was generally worn. A small pad was worn at the back of the waist to support the skirt. In the 1890s the top of the sleeves were sometimes puffed into an enormous leg of mutton’ shape which required lightweight stiffening or padding. The neckline for day wear was very high featuring a stand-up collar in a lightweight fabric which was boned or wired around the edge to hold it up under the chin. Women adopted a simple and rather masculine-looking shirt, jacket and skirt for day wear.

Towards the end of the 19th century the rate at which the fashionable silhouette changed quickened. The increasing popularity of paper patterns and the growth of women’s fashion periodicals encouraged home dress-making during the second half of the 19th century. The withdrawal of the paper tax in the middle of the 19th century had stimulated the growth of publications, especially magazines aimed at women. It was during this period that magazines introduced paper patterns.

By the 20th century the pace of change in the fashionable silhouette became ever more rapid as the expanding fashion industry, in conjunction with the media, became more effective at stimulating demand for a constant flow of new styles.

Quest for History – Episode 1

Quest for HistoryThe period of time Sage and Savant find themselves in their first adventure is of particular interest as it was a tumultuous period for Eastern Europe. The Treaty of Basel (1795) ended the War of the First Coalition against France. In it, the First French Republic and Prussia had stipulated that the latter would ensure the Holy Roman Empire’s neutrality in all the latter’s territories north of the demarcation line of the river Main, including the British continental dominions of the Electorate of Hanover and the Duchies of Bremen-Verden. To this end, Hanover (including Bremen-Verden) also had to provide troops for the so-called demarcation army maintaining this state of armed neutrality.

In the course of the War of the Second Coalition against France Napoleon encouraged King Frederick William III, King of Prussia, to recapture British Hanover in early 1806. On August 6 of the same year, the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved as a result of Napoléon’s victories over Austria. King William’s title of Kurfürst (Prince-elector) of Brandenburg became meaningless and was dropped. His crest was changed and the stampery making the buttons mentioned in our first episode, were to be changed to reflect the new seal. However, much of army marching with Marshall Gebhard von Blücher were still wearing the buttons on their uniform during the battle of Auerstedt. After the battle, the Prussian army collapsed. The royal family fled to Memel, East Prussia, where they fell on the mercy of Emperor Alexander I of Russia.

Scintillating Science – Dead Bodies

Scintillating ScienceFacts you learn while working closely with cadavers: A dead body is capable of getting goosebumps.

When rigor mortis sets in the muscles contract and this causes the body to stiffen up. Just below the hair follicles lay tiny muscles that also contract. When these muscles contract, or flex, the hairs stand on edge giving the appearance that the dead person has goosebumps.

Men’s 19th-Century Fashion

Victorian Man's outfitfrom Victoria and Albert Museum.

Men’s Dress
By the early 19th century men’s fashions had also undergone a radical change. The coat still finished in long tails at the back but was cut higher in front. The waist-length square-cut waistcoat showed beneath it. The lining of the shoulders and upper chest of the coat was sometimes quilted to improve the fit. In the early 19th century some dandies wore boned corsets to give them a small waist.

Gradually men adopted long trousers rather than knee breeches. Trousers became increasingly fashionable in the first quarter of the 19th century. At first they were only worn for day and informal dress but by the 1820s they were acceptable for evening wear. Breeches continued to be worn at court.

The tall hat from the late 18th century was still worn and developed into the top hat which was worn for day and formal dress throughout the 19th century. Hair was carefully styled into a windswept look or worn short and curled.

During the second half of the 19th century men retained the white waistcoat and black tail-coat and trousers of the early 19th century for evening wear. For day wear they wore a frock coat with straight trousers, a short waistcoat and a shirt with a high stiff collar. The single- or double-breasted frock coat fitted quite closely to the torso and had a waist seam. The skirts were straight and finished at mid-thigh or below. The front of the coat was square cut. Hair was still styled but by the late 19th century it was short and cut close to the head. Many men had beards and moustaches.

Quest for History – Theosophy

Theosophists#‎Theosophists‬

In the 19th century there was a broad expanding of knowledge about the world. Trade routes to the East not only brought back fine silks and exotic spices, but new concepts in thought. These concepts were taking hold in everyday society bringing about an expansion of the Age of Reason (18th Century) and the world of philosophy was exploring a wide variety of new ideas.

While the roots of theosophy can be traced back to ancient Indian and Chinese writings, the Theosophical Society was founded in New York in November 1875. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a world traveler from the Ukraine who settled in New York in July of 1875 and became a founding member of the Theosophical Society. Her book magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine of 1888 are the basis for many of the beliefs, although they are the synthesis of science, religion and philosophy.

The three basic characteristics of theosophy are:

1. Divine/Human/Nature Triangle: The inspired analysis which circles through these three angles. The intradivine within; the origin, death and placement of the human relating to Divinity and Nature; Nature as alive, the external, intellectual and material. All three complex correlations synthesize via the intellect and imaginative processes of Mind.
2. Primacy of the Mythic: The creative Imagination, an external world of symbols, glyphs, myths, synchronicities and the myriad, along with image, all as a universal reality for the interplay conjoined by creative mind.
3. Access to Supreme Worlds: The awakening within, inherently possessing the faculty to directly connect to the Divine world(s). The existence of a special human ability to create this connection. The ability to connect and explore all levels of reality; co-penetrate the human with the divine; to bond to all reality and experience a unique inner awakening.

Theosophy has given rise to, or influenced, the development of other mystical, philosophical, and religious movements up to the present day.