History Articles

History of Pandemics: What Can They Teach Us About Coronavirus?

March 20, 2020 /
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Our generation, at least in the U.S., has never seen anything like Coronavirus. But previous generations have.

Throughout most of recorded history, untreatable disease on either a local or global basis has been part of the human condition for every generation. But our generation has been spared from pandemics for the most part. So pandemics are not part of our collective cultural consciousness.

  • If you’re under 65, you’ve not been faced with the curse of polio, because a vaccine became available in the 1950s.
  • If you’re under 50, you would not have seen the devastation of mumps or measles. U.S. cases alone numbered in the hundreds of thousands until vaccines became available in the early 1960s. Rubella, sometimes known as German measles, was particularly dangerous to pregnant women and could cause congenital birth defects or neonatal deaths. Now, mumps, measles, and rubella are treatable with a single vaccination.
  • If you’re under 40, Small Pox is a thing of the past, with vaccination campaigns eliminating it in 1979.



First, let’s start with some general definitions about the Coronavirus:

SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus.

COVID-19 the name of the disease caused by the virus. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified this new disease as a pandemic.

Epidemic: The Greek roots epi+demos refers to “upon” “people” or a disease visited upon a people or population, typically in a region or local community. Informally, it means a disease that quickly and temporarily spreads.

Pandemic: Generally, a pandemic is an epidemic that is prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the globe. Pan+demos means “all” “people” or belonging to all the people. The WHO uses the term more specifically in a public health sense to refer to a disease that has increased and sustained infectious transmission across international borders to multiple continents that may have been carried initially by a traveler from the original community, but now has a secondary wave of infection from person to person in the new communities.

Pandemics come from epidemics, but not all epidemics become pandemics. There are widespread diseases, like Cancer, but it is not considered infectious, so it is not considered either epidemic or pandemic. (more…)

History of The Spring: What is the Vernal Equinox?

March 19, 2020 /
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In Colorado we have a saying, we begin the first day of Spring in the same way we began the Fall: with snow. This symmetry is relevant as both the beginning of Spring and Fall coincide with the Equinox. This word is made up of two Latin root words aequus and nox meaning “equal night” referring to the fact that daylight and night time are equal in duration.


This year, the vernal equinox (Spring) occurs on March 20 at 9:58 pm UTC. This means Temps Universel Coordonne, or Coordinated Universal Time if you don’t speak French, roughly equivalent to Greenwich Mean Time if you’re British, or Zulu Time if you’re a pilot. The Autumnal Equinox occurs 6 months later. Since each equinox occurs at the same time whether in the northern hemisphere as the southern hemisphere, though the seasons are reversed, it is becoming common to call the (northern) vernal equinox the March Equinox and the Autumnal Equinox the September Equinox.


History of St. Patrick: Was he British?

March 17, 2020 /
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Although much of the life of the patron saint and Apostle of Ireland is shrouded in legend, St. Patrick was probably born around the year AD 389. Stories are told of the many contests Patrick had with Druids, pagans, and polytheists, as well as the well known but unlikely story of him driving the snakes from Ireland. More on that later. What we do know about him comes from his memoir, Confessio, which he wrote near the end of his life. It begins,

“I, Patrick, a sinner, most uncultivated and least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, who was of the village of Bannavem Taberniea.”


History of Quarantine

March 16, 2020 /
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Lima, or Yellow Jack

Lima, or Yellow Jack


The word we use for restricting the movement of an individual or group of people to prevent the further spread of a disease is often, though mistakenly, used synonymously with the word isolation. Isolation, particularly medical isolation, is the separation of people who are sick with a contagious illness from those who are healthy. Quarantine, by contrast, separates and restricts the movement of people who have been exposed to a contagious illness but do not have symptoms, to see if they in fact become sick.




History of Faith in a Time of Plague

March 15, 2020 /
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When the Black Death passed through Europe, coming across the Asian steppes and through trading ships in Constantinople, it visited Athens, the ports of Italy, and then north into the heart of Europe. In just one day, the infection could show signs of fever, delirium, speech disorders, and loss of consciousness. A healthy person could die within as little as three to ten days. Mortality statistics range as wide as 30-90% of populations devastated. When it struck, it touched every aspect of one’s life. Whole towns had disappeared. It profoundly impacted the culture of Europe, its art, literature, and folk customs.

Medieval Times

In 1348, people watched helplessly as their family died. Where were they to place their faith? By 1359 the Black Death seemed to have passed. But it hadn’t gone away; it would pass in successive waves for another 400 years. Just 180 years after the initial outbreak, the epidemic came back through Germany and infected the new University town.

Renaissance Times


In August of 1527, the Plague struck Wittenberg powerfully, and many people fled the city in fear of their lives. Friends strongly urged the University professor and his pregnant wife to leave. His prince ordered him to depart immediately to save his own life. Virtually all of his students had left the city. He had suffered for the last year with dizzy spells and buzzing in his ears. That summer, he had a severe attack of cerebral anemia. And then came the bouts of great depression and despair. His wife was carrying their first daughter, and the townspeople called for them to flee. The 44-year-old professor argued that it was not wrong for a person to value their life so that they did not remain, but only so long as the sick had someone of greater faith than they themselves, who would care for them. (more…)

History of the Ides of March: Who should Beware?

March 15, 2020 /
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According to the ancient Roman calendar, the ides fell on the 13th of the month with the exception of the months March, May, July, and October, when it fell on the 15th of the month. Something epochal occurred in 44 B.C.

Et tu, Brute?



It was on March 15, 44 B.C. that the Roman dictator Julius Caesar was assassinated after he had been warned by a seer that harm would befall him before the end of the Ides of March. Contrary to popular belief, including William Shakespeare, Caesar was not assassinated in the Capitol, meaning the Curia Hostilia or Senate House in the Roman Forum at the foot of the Capitoline Hill (pictured at top).


History of Pi Day: 3.14

March 14, 2020 /
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This holiday is often overlooked by those who do not speak Greek or those who do not speak Geek. But for the science major, this is a special celebration. Though it is an irregular constant number, regularly and annually on March 14, or 3/14, or 3.14 — we have the first three digits of “Pi.” If one wanted to be precise, and why not, it would be at 15:92 o’clock, or 4:32 pm… and 65.35 seconds, or slightly after 4:33 pm. You get the idea.

pi dayOrigin of Pi Day

The origin of this geek holiday has been traced to a celebration led by Larry Shaw at the San Francisco Exploratorium in 1988, where he was a physicist. No less than the U.S. House of Representatives boldly stepped out and passed a non-binding resolution recognizing March 14 as Pi Day in 2009. Your tax dollars at work.

History of Starkbier Festival

March 13, 2020 /
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Today, March 13 begins the Starkbierfest. The heart of this festival is in Munich, Germany, specifically at Paulaner am Nockherberg Brewery, where it all began, and lasts about two weeks. It is unlike its more well-known sibling Oktoberfest in a few ways.

Little Known

Outside of Germany and Munich in particular, it’s not widely known, except to German ex-pats or beer lovers. Or historians who have visited Munich in the Spring.

Narrowly Observed

There are perhaps half a dozen locations in Munich that celebrate it.


What is Starkbierfest?

It’s the festival for Starkbier.

What is Starkbier?

It’s German for strong beer.

What is Strong beer?

Starkbierfest Poster

Some assume the name refers to it’s higher alcohol content, but that’s not the case, though it is more alcoholic, about 6.5% to 9% by volume. Instead, the name is due to the higher gravity, or Stammwürze of the beer, with its concentration of solids like proteins, starches, and sugars… the wort. Starkbier contains 180g of solids or the equivalent to a third of a loaf of bread. It was originally dubbed flüssiges Brot, or “liquid bread” by the monks who created it. It’s liquid nourishment. (more…)

History of Daylight Saving Time: Why do we Spring forward?

March 6, 2020 /
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It seems like only yesterday that we discussed the end of Daylight Saving Time, or DST, a brilliant campaign to convince people that we’re getting more daylight each day when in reality, we’ve simply changed our clocks and then forgotten about it within two weeks. Actually, it was only back in November, or four months ago.

Recent Changes

Indeed, the new rules for DST that began in 2007 meant an extra four or five weeks of DST each year. There are now a total of 238 days of DST, compared to a total of 210 days of DST back in 2006 under the previous rules. This means the U. S. remains on DST for about 65% of the year. So if you think about it, DST will be in effect for most of the year, Standard time is no longer the standard. It might be more significant to recognize Daylight Losing Time.