BENJAMIN DISRAELI 1804-1881
Earl of Beaconfield
Known as a dandy, a novelist, a brilliant debator and England's
first and only Jewish prime minister, Disraeli is best remembered for
bringing India and the Suez Canal under control of the crown.
A Conservative, he was elected to Parliament in 1837 after failing
to win election in four earlier elections. After Robert Peel formed a
government in 1841, Disraeli was on the outs until 1846. He wrote a trilogy
"Coningsby", "Sybil" and "Tancred" expounding his ideas and formed
the Young England group as watchdogs over Peel's brand of conservatism.
When Peel's government feel, Disraeli gradually became known
as the leader of the Conservatives in the Commons.
Disraeli served as chancellor of the Exchequer under
Lord Derby as prime minister in Conservative governments
of 1852, 1858-59 and 1866-68. The 1858-59 Parliament made the
admission of Jews to Parliament legal, clearing the way for a
Disraeli's prime ministership following Lord Derby's retirement in
1868. Defeated in a general election by William Gladstone that same year,
Disraeli faced another six years of opposition which produced another novel
entitled "Lothair" in 1870. He also established the Conservative Central
Office, considered by some as the forerunner of modern party organization.
Disraeli became prime minister for the second time in 1874
at the age of 70. Acting on his own, he purchased a controlling
interest in the Suez Canal conferring the title of Empress of India upon
the Queen and in so doing earning himself the title of Earl of Beaconfield
in 1876. During the next two years, Disraeli and liberal Leader William
Gladstone, clashed over issues surrounding the Bulgarian revolt and
the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78). Disraeli represented British interests
in the Congress of Berlin, 1878, which brought peace as well as
Cyprus under British flag. His government was defeated in 1880.
Disraeli died the following year.
CHARLES DARWIN 1809-1882
When Darwin was nine years old his father sent him to
Samuel Butler's school in Shrewsbury. It was a boys boarding school,
but for Darwin it had the great advantage of being just across the
river from his father's house, so he was able to visit home many times a week.
At this school Darwin learned the classics, ancient history, and Greek, all of which
he found entirely boring. He had a particularly hard time learning Greek
and struggled along by memorizing bits of phrases and stringing them
together to form sentences (of course, he entirely forgot these memorized bits
within a few days). It is safe to say that Darwin was a slow learner in his youth.
He was not inspired much by his schooling, and found his only pleasures there
in reading Shakespeare's historical plays, the poems of Byron, Scott,
Thomson, and the Odes of Horace. His increased interest in natural science
was spurred on by events outside his formal education. These events were:
(1) the many hikes he went on in Northern Wales, (2) a book he read many
times during this period, and (3) helping his brother, Erasmus,
in his chemistry lab in the backyard.
When Darwin was thirteen years old (in 1822) his brother,
Erasmus, built a small chemistry lab in the garden
shed in back of the house. Darwin acted as assistant to his older brother,
and they often worked into the late hours of the night experimenting
with chemical reactions and producing various gases.
It seems no one approved of Darwin's foray into chemistry.
His classmates poked fun at his new hobby by calling him
"Gas Darwin", the headmaster of the school scolded him
for wasted his time with such non-sense, and his sisters feared his
would blow-up the house! Darwin learned many things in his brother's lab,
the most important of which were the proper methods of scientific
experimentation - a set of skills that would greatly benefit him in
his future career as a naturalist.
When Darwin was sixteen
years old (in 1825) his father, Robert, took him out of Revd. Butler's school due to
him not paying attention to his studies, getting poor grades, and
his excessive laziness. It is ironic to think that his father declared to him that he
"cared for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace
to yourself and all your family." Darwin left Butler's school as an
entirely unremarkable student, and none of his instructors marked him out
as possessing any noteworthy abilities.
What did Darwin accomplish while at medical school in Scotland?
Poor young Darwin had no particular focus in his life at this time,
so his father decided he would follow in the long line of doctors
in the family and study medicine. Darwin was to be admitted into
Edinburgh University, in Scotland - known as having one of Europe's most
distinguished medical schools. During the summer Darwin acted as assistant
in his father's medical practice, treating poor people, children and women.
Much to his father's surprise, young Darwin seemed to
enjoy medicine a great deal.
In October of 1825
Darwin started medical school at the University of Edinburgh.
His brother joined him there to study for his exams, having
completed most of his medical studies at Cambridge.
They took lodgings together across the street from the university
on Lothian Street. As it was at Revd. Butler's school,
his studies at Edinburgh were for the most part a waste of
time for Darwin. The only lectures that interested him were those of
Professor Thomas Hope's chemistry class. He attended the geology
lectures of Professor Jameson but, ironic as it may seem, the
subject bored him, and he vowed never to read or study the subject again.
It is common knowledge that Darwin loathed the sight of blood,
and this is said to have prevented him from pursuing a
medical career. While this is true to a certain extent, what mostly stopped
him was that he found medical studies an extreme bore - he
wondered what his father ever saw in him that led
him to think he would make a good doctor.
Once again Darwin's increased interest in natural science
was nurtured from outside his formal studies.
This was accomplished in many ways: (1) Darwin learned how to stuff animals,
(2) he read a very interesting book on natural history,
(3) he spent much of his time at the natural history museum in Edinburgh,
(4) he joined the Plinian Society, and
(5) he became a good friend of Professor Robert Grant.
THOMAS EDISON (1847-1931)
Edison was the inventor of over a thousand ideas which
transformed life in the late 19 th century. He invented his own
phonograph, and developed with Swan the electirc carbon filament
lamp, which eventually became the modern light bulb.
Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880)
She wrote a number of books under the pen name
"George Eliot". Her well known books include
Silas Marner and Middlemarch.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel1806-1859
Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born in Portsmouth,
9th April 1806. He was the son of Sir Marc Isambard Brunel
who fled to America from the French Revolution before coming
to England in 1799. Like his father Isambard was an engineer,
designer and builder of bridges, tunnels, railways and steamships.
Brunel started his working life with a tidy and clean appearence.
He was olive skinned in colour (which was from his father and the french.)
but was only just over 5 feet tall. He was quite nimble
and not clumsy. He would wear smart clothes
and top hats to help him look taller.
After the problems with the Great Eastern near the end
of his career, which was having a lot of trouble and
made Brunel worry a lot, he stopped being so neat and tidy
and started to wear shabby clothes that were smothered in
cigar ash (he is shown in different pictures with a cigar in his mouth)
.He would wear huge , top hats as well.
During the good part of his life he could come up with
designs in a rush such as a gun turret or a portable
hospital for the army in Crimea but he is best
remembered for his work in railways and ships.
Until Victorian Times travelling anywhere was uncomfortable,
and very slow. The vehicles were horse drawn,
the carriages travelled on rough, uneven and
muddy roads. The roads had to follow the lie of the land so
if a steep hill was in the way the road went round it, which made the
journey longer. The arrival of the railway was to change land
travel dramatically as the table on the next page shows.
On the 7th March 1833 Brunel joined the G.W.R
(the Great Western Railway ) at Bristol to bring
the railway in from London . He was not at all a
stranger to Bristol. His plans to build the Clifton Suspension Bridge
and harbour improvements had been accepted but there was not
enough money in the city to start building.
By August 1833 he had produced his plans for the railway
and the estimated cost was £2,805,330.It took
2 years of a long hard argument in parliament, but at last
on the 31st August 1835 the Bill for “the line laid down by
Mr. Brunel” from Bristol to London with stations at Bath,
Chippenham , Swindon, Maidenhead and Reading with branch lines
to Trowbridge and Bradford on Avon it received the Royal Assent.
The railway is 118 miles long and it took 6 years to lay.
The hardest part was the 2 mile long tunnel at Box between
Bath and Chippenham. It took 5 years to dig ,1 year longer
than had been planned and when the 2 tunnels from
each side of the hill met, they were only 1 and a quarter
inches out from each other even though the tunnel was built with
a deliberate bend in it. The tunnel was another first
for Brunel because it was the longest tunnel in the country
when it was finished. On the 30th June 1841 the directors of the
Great Western Railway left London and made the first train journey to Bristol in 4 hours.
During the next 20 years the Great Western Railway expanded
so quickly that it covered almost the same area as it did
100 years later. It reached Weymouth in the south, most
of Devon and Cornwall, South Wales and reached into Birmingham and
the Midlands through, Cheltenham and Gloucester from Swindon.
During his career Brunel built 3 ships that were very important in
the history of ocean travelling as each one was a first of its kind.
In 1838 he built a paddle steamer called the Great Western
which was the first transatlantic passenger steamship in regular
service. It made the Bristol- New York crossing in an amazing 15 days.
In 1845 he built the SS Great Britain which was the first
propellor driven oceangoing steamship. This ship was rescued from
the Falkland Islands near Argentina in the 1960s and has been
restored in the very same dry dock in Bristol that it was built in.
It is now a museum and I have been to see it.
In 1858 Brunel built the Great Eastern and it took 5 years
to build. It had a displacement* of 22, 500 tons, a length of 693 FT,
a width of 120 FT, and a depth of hull 58 FT. It was designed to
make a round trip to Australia, going past the Cape of Good Hope
without being recoaled. It was designed like this because
5 years before in 1853 directors concluded that, because of the
cost of maintaning coaling stations on the way, such a route would
not pay unless the ships could carry enough coal for the voyage out and home.
The Great Eastern is best remembered as the ship that laid
the first successful telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean as
well as several other cables which greatly improved communications
with the United States. The ship was eventually scrapped in 1889.
All of Isambard’s ships had a mix of sails and engines.
That was so that on days when there was no wind
they had an engine to power them and on windy days they
could turn the engine off to save the amount of fuel used.
They could also use them both at the same time
so they could go faster.
This Midi music is used with permission
From (c) Margi Harell.if you want to use her music
please visit her website for permission
CDs are available from Margi Harrell.
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