Freethought Almanac

Lighting a candle in toxic air.
December 31, 2011
December 31: Andreas Vesalius (1514)

It was on this date, December 31, 1514, that Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius was born Andreas van Wesel in Brussels, Belgium. Vesalius had studied medicine in the tradition of the ancient Roman anatomist Galen (129-211), but in acquiring great skill in dissection – often practiced on the bodies of criminals stolen from the gallows – […]

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December 30, 2011
December 30: The Vatican Recognizes Israel (1993)

It was on this date, December 30, 1993, that the Vatican and Israel agreed to recognize each other. This diplomatic nicety did not, of course, end anti-Semitism anymore than the establishment of the State of Israel did, but it is always gratifying to see two major superstitions agree to play nice with each other on […]

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December 29, 2011
December 29: Murder of Thomas Becket (1170)

It was on this date, December 29, 1170, that four knights of King Henry II burst into Canterbury Cathedral and murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket. The story of the stormy breakup between king and cleric has been the subject of a play by T.S. Eliot (Murder in the Cathedral, 1938) and one by Jean Anouilh (Becket, […]

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December 28, 2011
December 28: Westminster Abbey Consecrated (1065): Apostates at the Abbey

It was on this date, December 28, 1065, that Westminster Abbey, in Westminster, London, was consecrated. The now-traditional place of coronation and burial for English monarchs, located just to the west of Westminster Palace, contains the Collegiate Church of St. Peter as well as the Abbey, or home for monks. According to legend, the church […]

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December 27, 2011
December 27: Louis Pasteur (1822)

It was on this date, December 27, 1822, that French chemist and discoverer of the germ theory of disease, Louis Pasteur was born in Dôle, Jura. Pasteur might have gone into the arts, but early in his education science, especially chemistry, caught his attention. His contributions to the field, not to mention his beloved France, […]

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December 26, 2011
December 26: "The Exorcist" Released (1973) Exorcism

It was on this date, December 26, 1973, that “The Scariest Movie of All Time” – The Exorcist – premiered in the United States. Initially earning an MPAA rating of “X,” it subsequently settled on an “R” for violence, horror effects, rampant blasphemy, and – oh yes – some sexual manipulation of a crucifix. The […]

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December 25, 2011
December 25: Clara Barton (1821)

It was on this date, December 25, 1821, that Clara Barton was born Clarissa Harlowe Barton in North Oxford, Massachusetts. She was the youngest of five children, who took over much of her early education. From age 17, Barton was a schoolteacher, but she hit a glass ceiling at a free school she opened and […]

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December 25, 2011
December 25: Quentin Crisp (1908)

It was on this date, December 25, 1908, that English writer, actor and homosexual rights campaigner Quentin Crisp was born Denis Charles Pratt in the London suburb of Sutton. The self-described “stately old homo of England” relates in his autobiography how, in his early twenties, he decided to devote his life to “making the existence […]

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December 25, 2011
December 25: Christmas Day (4 BCE?)

It was on this date, December 25, 4 BCE, “in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” was born. Or perhaps not. The story is told with minor divergences in the Gospels of Luke (c.85-95) and Matthew (c.80-100) – Matthew, the latest of the Synoptics, and based on Luke, adds the […]

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December 24, 2011
December 24: Matthew Arnold (1822)

It was on this date, December 24, 1822, that British critic and poet Matthew Arnold was born at Laleham on the Thames, the son of the headmaster at Rugby. Arnold was educated at Winchester, Rugby, and Balliol College, Oxford. At Rugby and Oxford he won prizes for his poetry. In 1847 Arnold became private secretary […]

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Ronald Bruce Meyer




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