Saturday, March 4, 2023



The first modern flushable toilet was invented in 1596 by Sir John Harrington, who installed one for his godmother, Elizabeth 1. The flush toilet may have been invented in 1596 but it didn’t become known until 1851. Before that, the “toilet” were chamber pots and holes in the ground.

Occasionally some brave knights would conduct sneak attacks by entering the shaft connected to the toilet. 

Early bathrooms, known as “garderobes”, were little more than continuous niches that ran vertically down to the ground, but they soon evolved into small rooms projected from castle walls.

Sir John Harrington
Although he was a godson of Queen Elizabeth I, he had been banished from court for telling risqué stories, and exiled to Kelston, near Bath.

A Roman public latrine found in the excavations of Ostia Antica.

By the way . . .

Thomas Crapper (1836 - 1910) was an English plumber and businessman. He founded Thomas Crapper & Co in London, a plumbing equipment company. Crapper held nine patents, three of them for water closet improvements, and popularised the flush toilet.

Thomas Crapper

It has often been claimed that slang term “crap” for human bodily waste originated with Thomas Crapper because of his association with lavatories. A common version of this story is that American servicemen stationed in England during World War I saw his name on cisterns and used it as army slang, i.e., "I'm going to the crapper".

The word crap is actually of Middle English origin and predates its application to bodily waste. Its most likely origin is a combination of two older words: the Dutch krappen (to pluck off, cut off, or separate) and the Old French crappe (siftings, waste or rejected matter, from the medieval Latin crappa). In English, it was used to refer to chaff and also to weeds or other rubbish. Its first recorded application to bodily waste, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, appeared in 1846, 10 years after Crapper was born, under a reference to a crapping ken, or a privy, where ken means a house.

In 2011 the UK’s tallest tree was felled after being damaged in a storm. Located in Wales in an area known as The Giants of Vyrnwy, it had stood at 63.7m (209ft), taller than a 20-storey building, but

a 15.2m (50ft) stump was the only part left standing after the 124-year-old Douglas Fir the tree was felled by the Forestry Commission after being dmaged by lightning. It was feared that it could have been a risk to visitors.

Artist Simon O'Rourke, 33, from Wrexham, used a chainsaw to carve the top of the stump, and modelled the sculpture on his own hand. The Forestry Commission had decided that it would be a good idea to have a memorial to the tree and left a 50ft stem when they felled it. The sculptor has called his work the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy.

"The Forestry Commission, who are looking after the area, decided that it would be a good idea to have a memorial to the tree and left a 50ft stem when they felled it," said Mr O'Rourke, who has called his work the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy. According to him, "It's a last attempt by the tree to reach the sky."


Zbigniew Religa (1938 – 2009) was a prominent Polish cardiac surgeon and politician.

A pioneer in human heart transplantation in Poland, he led the team that performed the first successful heart transplantation in the country, and in June 1995 he was the first surgeon to graft an artificial valve created from materials taken from human corpses.

The first successful heart transplant in Poland was performed on 5 November 1985. The famous heart transplant (photographed by James Stanfield) was in 1987. The patient was Tadeusz Żytkiewicz, who died in 2017 – 30 years after the operation, outliving the surgeon who gave him a new heart. The surgery lasted for 23 hours. After the surgery, an American photographer, James Stanfield from National Geographic, captured the famous, gripping photograph of Religa monitoring his patient's vitals on medical equipment with one of his colleagues, who assisted him during the surgery, asleep in the corner.

Tadeusz Zitkevits, the patient who received the heart transplant, 25 years after the surgery

In 1864, 14-year-old Robert McGee and his family decided to migrate west, as was the custom of many emigrants of the day, to seek a better life on the American Frontier. The family joined a wagon train heading to Leavenworth, Kansas. Somewhere on the trail, Robert’s parents died, and he became an orphan.  That year he became part of a freight wagon train which made camp at present-day Great Bend, Kansas. With a fort so close, the teamsters and their escort became lax about security, and they ended up camping about a mile from their army escort.

At about 5 in the afternoon, the camp was attacked by 150 Sioux allegedly under the command of the chief Little Turtle. The Indian warriors rode in, shooting arrows and firearms, and mowed down the teamsters, 8-14 in number, within minutes, and the group was slaughtered.

McGee claimed he was scalped personally by Little Turtle. While face down in the dirt, McGee suffered multiple arrow wounds, a pistol shot to the back, and a tomahawk wound. McGee recalled that he was conscious when the Indian war leader cut off sixty-four square inches of scalp and hair from his head, starting just behind the ears. It is said that Sioux warriors took much larger pieces of scalp from the head than other tribes.

When the soldiers finally caught up with the wagon train they found a horrible massacre, with everyone scalped. But as the soldiers picked through the bodies they found that McGee and another boy had survived. He was taken to Fort Larned, where the post surgeon treated his injuries.

McGee recovered from his wounds and he lived, even though he no longer had a scalp. 

In 1890, photographer E.E. Henry took this rare photograph of Robert McGee displaying his scalping scars, 25 years after the scalping.

The press helped McGee (the “man with 14 lives”) use his disfigurement to establish a career in public appearances. Eminent surgeons experimented on McGee, failing to restore any hair. The legend promoted the fiction that McGee was the only person to ever survive a scalping.

That, however, is not correct.

Josiah Wilbarger was set upon by Comanche Indians about four miles east of modern Austin, Texas. He was shot with arrows and scalped and left for dead, but the man survived.

Another survivor was William Thompson. During an ambush, he was shot in the shoulder and he was scalped. During the attack, Thompson fainted, but the summer heat stopped the bleeding. Curiously, the Native Americans left Thompson’s scalp next to the knocked-out Englishman. After he came to, he picked it up and went back to Omaha, where he asked Dr. Richard Moore to reattach it to his skull. Unable to get his scalp fixed back onto his head, Thompson did the next best thing: he went back to England and put his scalp on display for money.

William Thompson showing his scalped head.

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