The Witch of Agnesi

May 16

Chirogram from Chirologia, 1644.


Dr. John Bulwer was born in 1606. One of his published works is titled Chirologia, and it is about the language of gesture (not to be confused with sign language).

Mathematician, philosopher, and humanitarian Maria Gaetana Agnesi was born in 1718. As one of 21 children (!), she was a child prodigy who spoke seven languages by the time she was 11. She is the first woman on record to have written a mathematics book, and I have to imagine one of the first woman, if not the very first, to have been renowned in her time for her mathematic abilities. She was the first woman appointed as a mathematics professor at the University of Bologna, though she was unable to serve. There is a curve in mathematics that is named for her, I can’t tell if it’s all together good natured or not. After reading the reasoning, I am on the fence. You can decide for yourself. Also she has a crater on Venus named for her, as well as an asteroid, and a Francis Ford Coppola brandy, so vindicated?

The Witch of Agnesi with labeled points

Elizabeth Palmer Peabody was born in 1718. She founded the first English language kindergarten in the U.S. She had quite an influence of the education of likely hundreds of thousands of westerns. No, I am not talking about all-I-ever-needed-to-know-I-learned-in-kindergarten dogma. I don’t know about you, but I attended Catholic school, and my kindergarten memories all involve being nauseous, terrified, and ignored. Let’s face it, children are jerks. Anyway, Peabody translated the first Buddhist text in English in 1844.


French writer Charles Perrault died today in 1703. He wrote a number of fairytales including Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Ridinghood. Comedian Andy Kaufman died in 1984. Actress Margaret Hamilton, better know to you as the Wicked Witch of the West, died in 1985.

Publicity photo of Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz. Photographer unknown

On this day

Marie Antoinette married Louis-Auguste today in 1770. They were 14 and 15 years old respectively. Louis inherited the throne and became King Louis XVI four years later.

In 1866, Congress established the 5c nickel, enabling industries such as the nickelodeon theaters, five & dime stores, and automats. Before this a nickel was actually a 3 cent coin. There’s a long reasoning for it that has to do with the Civil War. Too long to go into here, but, you know if you’re curious.

The final thing I will note about the 16th of May is that in 1888, Nikola Tesla presented a lecture about alternating currents to transmit electricity long distance, and exactly three years later the International Electrotechnical Exhibition opened, featuring the world’s first transmission long distance three phase electric current.

May 16th seems a bit of mixed energies, both mythical and technical. What could its icon be?Maybe a Minotaur crossed with a robot? Incidentally, Wednesday is named in honor of two very different divinities, the Germanic god Woden, and the Roman god Mercury.

Actually, I am suddenly reminded of one of my daughter’s many cartoon characters. This year she grown very adept at drawing amalgams of different superhero/monster/robots. I have one in mind that can be our icon of May 16th. I am almost positive she won’t mind me sharing.

His name is Meatbelt. He is our new icon on May 16th. See how he has all of his meat snacks wrapped around his chest? His motto is always be prepared. I suggest you do the same, and you will be able to deflect anything this incongruous day might throw at you. Or at least catch and store on your meatbelt.

Published by Guinevere Han Derpants

Writer. Not waving but drowning. Don't worry, help is probably on the way.

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