It seems to me that books on history place too much emphasis on the wrong sort of people. One of these is Horatio Nelson, whose only claim to fame is to have given his name to a column in Trafalgar Square. People try to justify his status by saying that he helped Britain to rule the seas, but if it is in the interests of British people for Britain to rule the seas then it must be in the interests of the inhabitants of the other countries for those countries to rule the seas, in which case the only way you can please everybody is to dispense with the services of people like Nelson and set up an international organisation to do it. I think that history books should be dominated by people whose inventions have improved the standard of living and by people who have brought pleasure to others by composing music, producing books and so on.

Here are some interesting facts that I have read on the subject over the years; I could have mentioned many more.


Writing was independently invented in the eastern and western hemispheres.

Alphabetical order is similar across the Roman, Greek, Hebrew and Cyrillic alphabets because they are all based on the Canaanite alphabet.

Weak past-tense forms involve no vowel change such as bend-bent and can be traced to Proto-Germanic about 2000 years ago. Strong forms, such as come-came, can be traced back to Proto-Indo-European about 5500 years ago.

The letter A began as a cow’s head with two horns pointing up. Then it was turned on its side to produce the Greek letter Alpha and finally it was turned upside down to form the letter A.

The question mark is derived from the Latin ‘questio’, which was abbreviated to ‘qo’, the ‘o’ being represented by the dot.

Lower case letters were introduced by Charlemagne in about AD 800.

Italics were introduced in 1501 and were so-named because they came from Italy.

Standardised spelling was introduced in the eighteenth century. Before that time people spelt words any way they liked.


The numbers 1, 2 and 3 are derived from one, two and three parallel horizontal lines that were later joined up.

The number zero was introduced in about AD 600.

Negative numbers were introduced in the seventh century AD.

The + and – symbols were introduced in 1489 (or 1540, according to some sources).

The = sign was introduced by Robert Recorde in 1557

The decimal point was introduced in 1585

The multiplication sign was introduced by William Oughtred in 1631, and the division sign in 1659.

The infinity sign was introduced by John Wallis in 1655.

René Descartes introduced superscript numbers to indicate powers in the seventeenth century.


People generally know about the first visits to the highest point on earth and the southernmost point, but not everybody knows that the first visit to the deepest point in the ocean took place on 23rd January 1960, when Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh descended to the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench in the bathyscaphe ‘Trieste’.


The last seven monarchs of Scotland were all aged 12 or less when they succeeded.

Simeon II, who was the king of Bulgaria from 1943 to 1946, went on to become the prime minister of the country from 2001 to 2005

Here are some more people who deserve to be better known:

Dionysius Exiguus introduced the system of numbering the years A.D. or B.C. in the sixth century.

In 825 A.D. the Persian mathematician Khwarizmi invented Arabic numerals, making calculations much easier than they had been using Roman numerals.

The third Duke of Bridgewater commissioned James Brindley to build the Bridgewater Canal, which opened in 1761. Canals then spread over Britain, and transportation became more efficient. A horse could pull 50 tons along a canal and only 2 tons along a road.

Sergei Korolyov or Korolev designed the first spacecraft (Sputnik) and the spacecraft that enabled Yuri Gagarin to become the first astronaut.

Epping Forest

I used to claim that I liked Hatfield Forest better that Epping Forest, but I enjoy reading James Brimble’s book on Epping Forest more than Oliver Rackham’s book on Hatfield Forest, partly because the former was produced at a time when books were better written. I also think that Epping Forest has more beautiful place names, such as:
  • Honeylane Plain
  • Sunshine Plain
  • Deer Shelter Plain
  • Rushey Plain
  • Sandpit Plain
  • Claypit Hill
  • Magpie Hill
  • Oak Hill
  • Dulsmead Hollow
  • Bellringers Hollow
  • Woodbury Hollow
  • Cuckoo Brook
  • The Clay Road
  • The Old Stump Road

Website photograph

The photograph that opens my website was taken from the summit of Scafell Pike in 1974, looking east. Prominently in view to the right of centre is Pike o’Stickle with Harrison Stickle directly behind it. Directly behind that, on the skyline, is Ill Bell in the High Street range.