A Scottish woman named Maggie Dickson was sentenced to death by hanging circa 1721. She was hanged and declared dead, put in a wooden coffin, and carried away. Amazingly, though, Maggie woke up on the way to the churchyard, shocking everyone. The law stated her sentence has been carried out, deeming this unusual circumstance an act of God and pardoning her crimes. Maggie went on to live for another 40 years and came to be known as 'Half-hangit Maggie'.
2. The Danish Protest Pig
In the 20th century, the Danish people living under Prussian rule were forbidden to raise their nation's flag. As a mark of protest, Danish farmers created a new breed of pig that resembled the red and white color pattern of their country’s flag. This new breed was named "the Danish Protest Pig." The animal became a symbol of Danish cultural independence.
3. The Nicaraguan Sign Language – a completely new form of communication
Linguists consider the Nicaraguan Sign Language as the only spontaneously-created language we know of. Nicaraguan Sign Language is unrelated to any other language in the world. It was developed by deaf children in Nicaragua, in Central America, in the 1980s. Before the government opened a school for the deaf in 1977, deaf children in Nicaragua were socially-isolated.
Since the students had little exposure to written language and the school did not teach sign language, they developed their own sophisticated system of hand signals to communicate. Remarkably, the following generations of children introduced new features to the language, which continues to astound linguists.
4. Diego, the 100-year-old tortoise who fathered 800 little ones
Diego is a giant Galapagos tortoise who has almost single-handedly helped save his species. There were only 15 members of this species left on the Galapagos Islands by the 1970s, most of them female. As part of a program to help save the species from extinction, Diego was flown in from the San Diego Zoo in 1976.
Diego went on to father more than 800 offspring in the years to follow. His effort helped increase the population of this species, known scientifically as Chelonoidis hoodensis, which was restored to a healthy number of 2,000 specimens. After 80 years in captivity, Diego is now retired in the Galápagos.
5. The unique chemical that firefighters use
Firefighters use "wetting agents" to make water wetter. These chemicals make it easier for the outer surface, or “skin,” of the water to break, thus allowing it to penetrate objects more smoothly. Water enriched with this wetting agent is also described as “wet water” because of its enhanced ability to wet surfaces. Moreover, these wetting agents are biodegradable and pose no risk to the environment and living things.
6. Viktor Korchnoi, the first Russian chess grandmaster to defect from the Soviet Union
During a chess tournament in Amsterdam in 1976, Viktor Korchnoi, a Russian chess grandmaster, quietly asked an English competitor how to spell the words “political asylum.” Upon learning how to spell the words, he went straight to a police station and declared that he wished to defect from the Soviet Union. Korchnoi applied for political asylum in the Netherlands and moved to Switzerland in the 1980s.
7. How an intense brawl involving 50 congressmen had ended…
A heated brawl broke out between 50 congressmen on the US House floor in 1858. The scuffle came to a halt under the most unusual of circumstances. During the fight, someone accidentally had knocked off a man's wig, and the poor man accidentally put it back on backward. The scene was so absurd that both sides broke out in laughter, and the fight was forgotten.
8. Kangaroos drown their attackers!
Kangaroos are curious animals. They aren’t that perturbed about being pursued by predators. When they are being chased, an adult kangaroo often leads its pursuer into the water as a defensive tactic. Here, while standing submerged to the chest, the kangaroo will hold their attacker underwater and attempt to drown them.
9. Charles Dickens, the real-life hero
In the year 1865, the famed author Charles Dickens was traveling home from France when his train derailed while crossing a bridge. To make matters worse, the carriage that Dickens was on was left dangling from the tracks while seven others dropped into the river below.
The author sprung into action, and after taking the keys to the other bogies of the train from the conductor, he helped save the stranded passengers in the wrecked cars below. Tired and exhausted, Dickens returned to his carriage and retrieved the just-completed installment of ''Our Mutual Friend" from the pocket of his coat. He was on his way to deliver the manuscript to his publishers.
10. This man invented the first successful automatic refrigeration system for trucks
Frederick McKinley Jones was a self-taught African American engineer who designed and patented a portable air-cooling device for trucks transporting food in the 1930s. A few years later, the U.S. Thermo Control Company modified his portable air-cooling device to fit trains and aquatic vehicles. This invention helped transport perishable food around the world. This is how “mobile refrigeration” was born. Jones also went on to invent an air conditioning unit for military field hospitals, as well as a refrigerator for military field kitchens.
11. The oldest known domesticated dog remains
The oldest known domesticated dog remains are over 14,000 years old. The fossil jaw and teeth of the dog were found in a cave in Iraq, and historians believe that this is the oldest known evidence of a human taming a wild animal. Scientists who studied the remains of the fossil say that the animal served either as a hunting dog or as a guard dog. Interestingly, the dog was buried in an elaborate grave alongside two humans.
12. The first telephones confused people
When telephones first started making their way into homes in the 1870s, people found it a little hard to adjust to them. For starters, they would often scream into the wrong part. And upon getting the phone, they didn’t know how to start a conversation. It was a whole new world for them, after all. Alexander Graham Bell’s preferred greeting was “Ahoy.”
Also, people weren’t comfortable dialing a number themselves well into the 20th century. Instead, they preferred to speak to switchboard operators and let them direct their call.
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