1st September 1914 (Tuesday)

DIED TODAY:  RIP Martha, who passes away in her cage today in Cincinatti zoo. Martha is the very last member of the species Ectopistes migratorius  (passenger pigeon), once the most abundant bird in North America. As recently as 1866 one large flock of her ancestors in Ohio was estimated to contain 3.5 billion birds [Wikipedia].


“Her body was frozen into a block of ice and sent to the Smithsonian Institution, where it was skinned, dissected, photographed and mounted. Currently, Martha is in the museum’s archived collection and not on display. A memorial statue of Martha stands on the grounds of the Cincinnati Zoo” . [Wikipedia]

QUOTE:  “A poignant example of what happens when the interests of man clash with the interests of nature…When their interests clashed with the interests of man, civilization prevailed”

[Smithsonian Institute].


Meanwhile, the affairs of men twist and turn…

In Russia, the city of St Petersburg is rebranded to Petrograd, ditching its germanic title for a suitably slavic alternative.

In Paris, Kitchener meets the BEF commander at the British Embassy and orders him to bring the British troops in to the line with French forces. The Germans, meanwhile, are within 30 miles of the French capital.



15th July 1914 (Wednesday)

BORN TODAY: in the clachan of Elrig, in Scotland – Gavin Maxwell. A life so “less ordinary” that I cannot summarise it for you, but fortunately Wikipedia is here to help.


Though he passed away in 1969, aged just 55, he is survived and commemorated by the sub-species of Otter: Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli , one of whom he brought back from the marsh arabs of Southern Iraq and raised in Scotland, immortalising it in a novel.

Explorer Wilfred Thesiger later wrote:

“In 1956, Gavin Maxwell, who wished to write a book about the Marshes, came with me to Iraq, and I took him round in my tarada for seven weeks. He had always wanted an otter as a pet, and at last I found him a baby European otter which unfortunately died after a week, towards the end of his visit. He was in Basra preparing to go home when I managed to obtain another, which I sent to him. This, very dark in colour and about six weeks old, proved to be a new species. Gavin took it to England, and the species was named after him.” [Wikipedia]

(a tarada, by the way, is a large canoe used by the marsh arabs. Thanks again, Wikipedia)


27th June 1913 (Friday)

BORN TODAY: In Philadelphia, PA – William Joseph (“Willie”) Mosconi – 15 times World Billiards Champion, 1941-1957.

Society and Labour Relations: In the UK, the newspaper the “Western Gazette” reports how the agricultural workers  of East Chinnock in Somerset, egged on by the local grocer (manager of the local Co-operative Society) are threatening to strike “in a district of dairy farms [and] where the hay harvest has barely commenced”. The men’s demands include: 18 shillings per week cash, plus cider; and 4 pence per hour for overtime after 6.pm and on Sundays. (A total of perhaps a little over one British Pound for a long labouring week  – hence the need for the cider).

Science: Philip Lutley Sclater FRS, FRGS, FZS., FLS dies today, aged 83. Lawyer and famous naturalist who, among many other achivements, managed to have no less than seven of god’s creatures named after him: Sclater’s lemur (Eulemer flavifrons); Sclater’s Monal (Lopophorus sclateri); the erect-crested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri); the Ecuadorian Cacique (Cacicus sclateri); the dusky-billet parrotlet (Psittacula sclateri); the Mexican chickadee (Poecile sclateri); and the Bay-vented cotinga  (Doliornis sclateri).

[A monal – by the way, for the non-ornithologists among us – is apparently a member of the pheasant family, and a cotinga is a bird of the central and south american tropical forest].

Mr Sclater may not make it into the history books but for certain he will make it into the zoology books for many years to come.