QUEEN VICTORIA 1819-1901
Victoria was born in 1819 in Kensington Palace in London.
Her name was Alexandrina Victoria.
Queen Victoria was only 18 when she came to the throne and needed a lot of
help from her Prime Minister Lord Melbourne. She went on to be the
longest reigning monarch in British history.
Queen Victoria reigned from 1837-1901. She married Prince Albert in 1840 and
she had nine children. Prince Albert died in 1861, he was only 41. Queen
Victoria was so upset that for many years after she dressed all in black.
Queen Victoria died in January 1901 and her son Edward VII became king.
CHARLES DICKENS 1812-1870
Charles Dickens is probably England's most popular author.
He was born in Portsmouth, England on 7th February
1812, but he spent most of his childhood in London
and Kent where he based many of his novels.
When he was 9 he went to school but had to leave when he
was 12 because his dad had been careless
with his money and was put in prison for
being in debt. While his dad was in prison Charles lived apart
from his family in a lodging house and worked
in a shoe polish factory to earn
money to feed and clothe himself. This was the most
miserable time of Charles`s life and he feared he
might never see his family again. Luckily,
later that year his dad was let out of prison because
of an inheritance and Charles was able to return home to
live with his parents and go back to school.
When he was 15 he left school and went to work as a legal clerk
in a solicitor's office. There he learnt short-hand and
was phenomenally fast and because of this he got a job as a reporter,
reporting dull court cases and boring parliamentary debates.
In 1836 he then decided to write his own stories under the
name of Boz. They were called the "Pickwick Papers" which were
like comics for adults. Charles would write the words
and a man would draw pictures for them.
They were published in cheap monthly instalments. For the
first one they published only 400 copies but
by the 4th they had to print 40,000!
The main character Mr Pickwick served time in a debtors prison
like Charle's Father. Within four months of publishing his first
story Charles was internationally famous.
With the money he earned he was able to get married to a lady
called Catherine Hogarth. He became editor of a monthly magazine
called Bentley's Miscellany which he made instantly successful
by his serialisation of Oliver Twist, which is probably his most
famous novel. Oliver was born in a Workhouse, and Dickens used this novel to
show how bad these places were and how they were often run by
corrupt and cruel people.
Workhouses had existed since at least 1776. They were places where
poor homeless people worked and in return they were fed and housed.
In 1834 The Poor Law Amendment Act was introduced which
wanted to make the workhouses more of a deterrent to idleness as it was
believed that people were poor because they were idle and needed
to be punished. So people in workhouses were deliberately
treated harshly and the workhouses were more like prisons.
Dickens and other important people that thought like him gradually
got conditions in the workhouses improved. Workhouses existed
until the early 1900s.
Today homeless people live on
the streets in cardboard boxes and I wonder
what Dickens would have said about that?
In 1842 Dickens went to America and lectured in favour of
international copyright, which meant that authors would get paid when
their books were published in another country . He also campaigned
for the abolition of slavery, (slavery had been banned
in British Colonies in 1834). He returned home and continued
his writing, he published many more
novels in instalments:
Oliver Twist 1837-39
Nicholas Nickelby 1838-39
Old Curiosity Shop 1840-41
Barnaby Rudge 1841
Martin Chuzzlewit 1843-44
A Christmas Carol 1843
The Chimes 1845
The Cricket on the Hearth 1845
Dombey And Son 1846-48
David Copperfield 1849-50
Bleak House 1852-53
Hard Times 1854
Little Dorrit 1855-57
A Tale of Two Cities 1859
Great Expectations 1860-61
Our Mutual Friend 1864-65
Mystery of Edwin Drood (incomplete)1870
Charles continued to use his books to tell about the bad conditions
that the working classes and poor people had to live under.
He hoped that by doing this that things would change for the good but
they just seemed to
As well as writing he took an interest in the theatre and in 1847
became manager of a touring theatre company. The company
must have been good because they were asked to perform in front of
Queen Victoria in 1851. There had been problems with his marriage
and after an affair with a young actress Ellen Ternan he
separated from his wife and 10 children in 1858. That same
year he began giving his extremely popular public readings from his own works.
The audiences would both laugh and cry.
Dickens is probably most remembered at Christmas time because
of his novel A Christmas Carol which tells the story of a selfish,
miserly old man called Scrooge who cares about no one.
He is visted by three ghosts: the first takes him back to his past to
remind him that as a young man he had been kind and happy;
the second showed him life as it was now and
how mean he was being especially to his clerk; the third showed
him what the future would be like if he did not change. Scrooge felt
guilty and frightened and because he was given a second chance
he said he would from that day change and he would
celebrate Christmas properly. He ordered a turkey for his clerk and raised
his wages and did what he could to help the poor, and became
a good man.
He died on 9th June 1870 of a fatal stroke.
FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE 1820-1910
Florence Nightingale was born on 12 May 1820 in Florence,
Italy the year after Queen Victoria was born. She was raised
in Derbyshire, England. She was not educated at a school but at home
by her father where she was given a classical education
which was unusual for a girl.
When Florence was
young she was very interested in nursing and in
1849 she started studying hospital systems in England and in
Europe. In 1850 she began training as a nurse at the Institute
of St Vincent de Paul in Alexandria, Egypt. It was a Roman
Catholic hospital. After that she went to Paris, France and then she finished
her studies at the Institute for Protestant Deaconesses at Kaiserwerth, Germany.
Florence was so well trained that she became superintendent
of the Hospital for Invalid Gentlewomen in London in 1853.
In 1854 the Crimean war broke out. When Florence read
about the appalling conditions at the British Hospital barracks
she immediately wrote to the British Secretary of War volunteering
her services to work in the hospitals. Unaware of this the Minister
of War was proposing that she should take charge
of all nursing operations at the War front.
Florence set off with 38 British nurses for Scutari (now part
of Istanbul, Turkey) and found the following shocking conditions.
1. The men can lie in filth for 2 weeks before being seen by a doctor.
2. The men are lying on unwashed floors.
3. The floors are covered in virmin and lice.
4. Few men have blankets or pillows.
5. They rest their heads on boots and use overcoats for blankets.
6. Operations are carried out in full view of everyone. The
screams of people having limbs cut off is terrible.
7. There are 1000 men in the hospital, many with diarrhoea, a
serious problem when there are only 20 chamber pots!
8. The toilets overflow onto the floor and men without shoes or
slippers have to paddle through this.
9. Amputated limbs are dumped outside to be eaten by dogs.
10. Men are surviving the battles and being killed by the
Florence and her nurses then began to set up efficient
nursing departments both there and at Balaklava on
the Crimean Peninsula. She imposed strict sanitary and nursing
standards. As a result of this and by her hard work the number
of soldiers that died from their wounds or from illnesses such as typhus,
cholera and dysentery was greatly reduced from 42% to just 2%.
Her patients called her the "Lady with the Lamp"
because of her nightly rounds.
Florence Nightingale had revolutionised Army medical care.
After the war ended in 1856 Florence went on to obtain improved
living conditions for soldiers. Florence's work during the war had been
reported in the newspapers and a fund was set up which
raised £50,000. In 1860 with this money she was able to found the
Nightingale School and Home for Nurses at St. Thomas's Hospital in
London where nurses could receive a professional education for the first time.
Before this nurses were untrained and nursing was considered a menial
chore but after Florence Nightingale nursing became
a respectable and responsible career.
Between 1858 and 1861 Florence wrote and got published
the first definitive textbooks on nursing, hospitals and Army
medical care. These books were published in many different languages.
She received many honours from foreign governments and in
1907 she was the first female to receive the British Order of Merit.
For 30 years she worked to establish nursing schools all
over England but she was no longer able to take part in nursing tasks
herself since her own health had been ruined during her service in the
Crimean War. Florence Nightingale died on 13 August 1910
at the age of 90, having lived through the whole of the Victorian Age.
ALEXANDER BELL 1847-1922
Bell's willingness to search out the path less taken resulted
in some of the world's most important inventions. It has been said that
Bell invented the telephone by searching for it in places where other inventors
would never think to look. Bell's ability to believe in the impossible
has served the world well.
Sunday, June 25, 1876, was the day of the Battle of the Little
Big Horn, or Custer's Last Stand. Far away, in Philadephia, it was also the
day when Bell demonstrated his new invention at the Centennial Exhibition.
The Exhibition was organized to celebrate the 100th anniversary of
the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The telephone was its star attraction.
Having entered at the last moment, Bell failed to obtain
a booth in the electrical section. Instead, he was located far away,
in a corner of the educational exhibit. It was a hot day and the judges did
not relish the long trip down the corridor and up a flight of stairs.
Their fatigue vanished with the first words that came crackling
over the telephone wire. Pandemonium broke out as these distinguished
scientists raced to see if Bell's voice in another room had
indeed produced the sounds. Kings and ordinary citizens alike
sat transfixed before this new wonder.
Bell himself had no doubts about the importance of his new
discovery. Shortly after the telephone's invention, he had written
to his father,
"The day is coming when telegraph wires will be laid
on to houses just like water or gas -- and friends will converse
with each other without leaving home."
For Alexander Graham Bell, it was the first of many glimpses
into the world of the future.
In retrospect, every step on the path of Bell's early
life seemed a step closer to the telephone. Young Aleck Bell was born
into a family of learning and scholastic achievement. The whole
family was enthralled with the idea of sound and its possibilities.
Aleck's grandfather, Alexander Bell, was an eminent elocutionist. His
father Melville developed the first international phonetic alphabet.
Not surprisingly, young Aleck's first memory was of sitting in a wheatfield,
trying to hear the wheat grow.
Aleck's mother, Eliza Bell, was almost totally deaf. Aleck
soon discovered that by pressing his lips against his mother's forehead,
he could make the bones resonate to his voice. His mother became the
first person to have her world expanded by the genius
of Alexander Graham Bell.
Aleck was a gifted pianist, who learned early to
descriminate pitch. As a teenager, he noticed that a chord struck on
one piano would be echoed by a piano in another room. He realized that whole
chords could be transmitted through the air, vibrating at the other end
at exactly the same pitch. In the years to come, this simple observation would
eventually lead him to the telephone.
Aleck also benefitted from his father's special qualities
as a teacher . Melville Bell encouraged his sons Melly and
Aleck to build a speaking machine. Thereafter, visitors to the Bell home
were surprised to hear the sound "ma ma" emanating from the upper floors.
There were no babies in the Bell household.
Alexander Graham Bell never set out to invent the telephone.
Initially, he wanted to develop a multiple telegraph. Only later did he realize
that a far greater prize lay at the end of the road.
In telegraphy, a current is interrupted in the pattern known
as Morse Code. Bell hoped to convey several messages
simultaneously, each at a different pitch. However, he could not see a
way to make-and-break the current at the precise pitch required.
"How," he wondered, "could pitch be conveyed along a wire?
Bell knew that speech was composed of many complex
sound vibrations. While on vacation in Brantford, Ontario, in 1874,
he constructed an "ear phonoautograph" from a stalk of hay
and a dead man's ear. When Bell spoke into the ear, the hay traced
the sound waves on a piece of smoked glass.
Bell began to wonder whether this wave could be converted
into an electrical transmission. Suddenly, all his work with pitch,
electricity and speaking machines "fused" in one sudden flash of inspiration.
The sound waves, he realized, could be reproduced in a
continuous, but undulating, current. This current was the missing link to
At this early point, Bell conceived the instrument
as a series of reeds arranged over a long magnet. As each reed responded
to the voice, it would vibrate alternately toward and away from the magnet,
creating the undulating current.
This "harp apparatus" (as Bell called it) was not the telephone.
He did not yet realize that a single reed could convey all the
elements of human speech. The breakthrough came one day in June,
in 1875. Bell asked Thomas Watson to pluck a steel receiver reed with
his finger to make sure it was not stuck. When Watson vibrated the reed,
the receiver in Bell's room also vibrated, even though the current was
turned off. Bell realized that the vibration had generated an undulating
current, solely on the strength of a slight magnetic field. In that moment,
the telephone was born.
The telephone patent was one of the most valuable ever issued.
Bell received it on March 7, 1876, four days after his 29th
birthday. Speech, however, had not yet been transmitted. That would
occur five days later, on March 12, when Watson heard the famous words,
"Mr. Watson -- Come here -- I want to see you."
THOMAS HARDY (1840-1928)
An English novelist and poet, born in Dorset.
He wrote many stories based in the fictitious county of Wessex.
These included Tess of the Durbervilles
and The Mayor of Casterbridge.
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