6 Famous Firsts You Learned in History Class (Are Total BS)
Your whole life you've been taught the importance of coming in first. Whether you're the first to make a great discovery, the first to hit the finish line or the first to produce vegetable-based pornography, it's all a big deal. After all, how would you like it if Rumpshaka43 got the credit for commenting on this article first, when it was really Lord_Dildonator all along? Exactly.
So let's take a moment to point out that ...
Lindbergh Didn't Make the First Transatlantic Flight
Very few individual achievements have been as celebrated as Charles Lindbergh's crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. In fact, when he landed in Paris, the French went le apeshit. Lindbergh couldn't even get out of the cockpit before an estimated crowd of over 100,000 Frenchmen stormed his landing site, grabbed him and carried him above their heads like a human umbrella ... for half a goddamn hour.
"The first 10 minutes were celebration. The last 20 were molestation."
It's easy now to forget how exciting the accomplishment really was. Maybe if we could all take a cross-Atlantic trip in the steamy pits of an overcrowded, rat and TB-infested ship, we'd get a better understanding of Lindy fever.
Except That ...
Two British pilots had already crossed the Atlantic. And they did it eight years earlier.
Sometimes upside down!
In 1919, British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown laughed in the face of gravity by flying from Newfoundland to Ireland in an exhausting 16 hours. When they got back to their native England, they were given the royal treatment -- literally. King George V knighted the two men, and they were awarded a nice cash prize by none other than Winston Churchill. Hey, it's no half hour of crowd surfing, but we can't all land in France.
Some of us apparently can't even land in Ireland.
So why do we not know about either of these guys? Well, Alcock and Brown were HUGE celebrities ... in Britain. But in America, they contracted what has later become known as "soccer syndrome," meaning the United States just didn't give a shit. It wasn't until American Charles Lindbergh made the New York to Paris flight (in order to win 25,000 clams) that anyone on this side of the pond cared. And it didn't hurt that Lucky Lindy looked like he was dripping with Handsome Sauce:
This is why Americans are action heroes and British men are disfigured villains.
Just a photo op with Lindy sent the press into orgasmic ecstasy. In fact, when Lindbergh was awarded the Medal of Honor in the U.S., the inscription read that he "demonstrated that travel across the ocean by aircraft was possible," completely ignoring the achievements of those before him. The other guys? Mostly forgotten now, even in Europe.
Even after being encased in cement to be admired by future generations.
Jackie Robinson Wasn't the First Black Professional Baseball Player
When you think of civil rights pioneers, a lot of people come to mind. Most of us immediately think of Martin Luther King Jr. Perhaps you hate mass transit and everything it stands for, so Rosa Parks is your hero. If your thing is people coming to accept each other by swinging bats at baseballs, then Jackie Robinson is your man.
He's sliding to score a run, but also for freedom.
As the first African-American to play professional baseball, Jackie Robinson took a lot of racist shit. But that's what breaking barriers is all about, right?
Except That ...
Moses Fleetwood Walker was an African-American and played major league baseball long before Jackie Robinson. Walker was a catcher for the Toledo Blue Stockings, which was a major league team, and he did it in 1884, over 30 years before Robinson was even born. That's just freaking 19 years after slavery was legal!
We're not certain, but Eddie Murphy may have stolen his mustache.
Walker probably wasn't even the first black guy to appear in a major league game. That distinction goes to William Edward White, a Brown student whose story fans of world play must have loved. But Walker was the first to try and make a career of it, and his story has all the makings of a legend. When Walker first picked up baseball, the sport was so young that mitts hadn't even been invented, and since he was a catcher, he was forced to catch his pitchers' fastballs with his bare hands. This was especially precarious position to be squatting in since Walker had to endure much of the same bullshit that Robinson put up with nearly half a century later, such as racist epithets, letters threatening to lynch him if he played and opposing players refusing to share the field with him because of his skin color.
Like Robinson, some of the dickishness came from Walker's own team. Tony Mullane, one of the star pitchers of the day, told everyone that Walker was the best catcher he'd ever seen, but that whenever he pitched to him, he wouldn't even look at Walker's signals and he'd just throw whatever he damn well pleased. This type of idiocy led to a hell of a lot of balls ending up beyond Walker's reach or smacking into his ribs, since the catcher had no idea where they were going.
Here's Mullane either pitching or falling forward very slowly.
The good news for Walker was that for a brief time in the 1884 season, he was joined by his brother, Welday Walker, as a member of the Blue Stockings. That's right, the same year that saw baseball's first black pro baseball player also saw the second black pro baseball player rise through the ranks.
Wow, this is an awkward photo.
Unfortunately, Moses Walker's professional career was brief. The Blue Stockings folded the year after Walker made his major league debut. At which point the entire world apparently forgot about him.
Gutenberg Didn't Invent the Printing Press
If you don't know the name Johannes Gutenberg, let's put it this way: He's considered by many to be the most influential person of the last thousand years.
It's all because around 1439, Gutenberg whipped up the world's first printing press, putting books into the hands of the common man for the first time ever. That means we all have him to thank for the entire concept of mass distribution of information. So yeah, he's remembered as having utterly changed the world with the invention of a single machine.
Yep, the Gilette Twin-Beard Razor.
Except That ...
Gutenberg wasn't the first guy to do it. Not even a little bit. Movable metal type -- the method his printing press used -- was 200-year-old news by 1439. That's because the Goryeo dynasty of Korea already covered that ground back in the 13th century.
Starcraft manuals, as far as the eye can see.
It was during the 1200s that the Mongols caught world domination fever, and Korea was one of the many nations on their road to recovery. As the Mongols invaded Korea, they destroyed countless religious texts. So the Koreans did what any self-respecting country would do -- they invented a revolutionary way to use metal characters dripping with ink to preserve their sacred heritage as quickly as possible.
And check this out, we've still got one of the books they printed:
We translated the symbol for "First!!!" and didn't read any further.
That bad boy was printed in 1377, over 60 years before Gutenberg got his press up and running. And by the way, Asia had already been printing with wood blocks for hundreds of years by this point, while the West was still hand-writing with quill feathers on pig carcasses. In other words, the transition to metal movable type on paper got a whopping "Meh" from the East and a "HOLY SHIT, IT'S A MIRACLE!" from the West.
Darwin Didn't Invent the Theory of Evolution
Any chucklehead with half a brain knows who came up with evolution: Charles Darwin. Most people even know the background story: Darwin went on a five-year voyage aboard the HMS Beagle to the Galapagos Islands, discovered some mismatched finches, then, bam! We have The Origin of Species and decades of ill-informed debates at IHOP.
Remember everyone, it's just a theory, and God planted dinosaurs in the Earth to fuck with you.
Except That ...
Before Charles was even born, his own grandfather was preaching evolution -- in verse.
Not only was Charles' grandaddy Erasmus a philosopher, a botanist, an inventor and awesome at wearing ringlets ...
... but also he was one of the first intellectuals to speculate that all life came from one origin. But unlike some people, he didn't just go out and write a world-changing treatise. Erasmus instead chose to express his brilliance in the form of poetry. Check it:
Organic life beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs'd in ocean's pearly caves;
First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And breathing realms of fin and feet and wing.
The book that poem came from introduced the three-boobed woman centuries before Total Recall.
BAM, it's evolution, baby! And in 1802, seven years before his grandson was born and 57 years before The Origin of Species. That's like Albert Einstein's great uncle coming up with the theory of relativity, but using the art of shadow puppetry to express it. And Erasmus wasn't done there. He also came up with a little something we like to call natural selection:
"The final course of this contest among males seems to be, that the strongest and most active animal should propagate the species which should thus be improved."
And just to prove that he was the pinnacle of the species, he fathered 14 children.
Not to mention the notion that all life came from a single organism:
Would it be too bold to imagine, that in the great length of time, since the earth began to exist, perhaps millions of ages before the commencement of the history of mankind, would it be too bold to imagine, that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE endued with animality ...
No, Erasmus! It would not be too bold! Unless you don't like science, then yes, it is too bold. The point is that while most grandchildren inherit watches and government bonds from their grandparents, Charles Darwin inherited the beginnings of a paradigm shift.
And one hell of a political cartoon shitstorm.
Copernicus Wasn't the First to Realize the Earth Revolved Around the Sun
If there are two things we know about space, one is that the Earth orbits the sun, and another is that no one can hear you scream when you're attacked by an extended rape metaphor. As we all learned in school, we have Nicolaus Copernicus to thank for that first one.
And maybe the second one, too, if we interpret his wild stare correctly.
He was a 16th-century mathematician, astronomer, physician, translator, artist, cleric, jurist, diplomat, economist, military leader and all-round know-it-all. And in his book De revolutionibus orbium celestium, Copernicus set out to prove not only that was he terrible at catchy titles, but also that the Earth orbited the sun.
A Greek mathematician named Aristarchus came up with the heliocentric model a few years prior to Copernicus. And by "a few" we mean 1,800.
And by "came up with" we mean "put his coffee cup down in a fortuitous place."
The problem is that much like your college roommate's insistence that he totally joined a gang when he was in high school, the evidence is pretty lacking. As in, we don't have Aristarchus' actual theory. What we do have are snippets in his citations, and references to Ari's controversial theory from the other big thinkers of the day, like Plutarch and Archimedes.
And the way in which they mention Aristarchus leaves no doubt that the idea was that of a heliocentric model: "The sun, like the fixed stars, remains unmoved and forms the center of a circular orbit in which the earth revolves around it." Not only was Aristarchus the first guy to put forth the theory, but also there's plenty of evidence that Copernicus was familiar with it, specifically that Big C referenced Aristarchus' work then edited out that name drop in later versions, so as not to detract from the "originality" of his own theory.
If Aristarchus was Tupac, then Copernicus was every rapper in history.
So why does Copernicus get all the glory and Aristarchus get all the nothing? For one thing, Aristarchus' theory was dismissed from the get-go for not putting Earth at the center of the universe, but also for not accounting for the movement of the stars. After all, if the Earth is moving and the stars are standing still, why couldn't we see them sliding across the sky like intergalactic hockey pucks? (We can't see it with the naked eye, is the answer.)
More importantly, Aristarchus gave us a model and Copernicus gave us math. The difference between the two is the difference between a kid concocting a robot unicorn out of Play-Doh and a robocryptozoologist giving us the mathematical proof that it exists.
Aristarchus got this crater named after him, while Copernicus got an even bigger crater and a cool new element.
Pythagoras Didn't Discover the Pythagorean Theorem
For those of you too far past your geometry days to remember, the Pythagorean theorem was that one equation you couldn't get away with not learning. If the SAT's could make hot, passionate love to a mathematical concept, this would be it.
We can almost smell the #2 pencils and Ritalin now.
Why? Only because the Pythagorean theorem is one of if not the most important concept in all of mathematics. And from its name, it's pretty damn easy to figure out who was the first person to realize that it existed, to use it and to prove it, right? It was Pythagoras, of course!
We know our math, but we sure have difficulty with pattern-spotting!
Ancient Indians, Egyptians and Babylonians were using "Pythagorean triplets" (common sides of a right triangle) to construct their buildings since about 2,000 B.C., whereas Pythagoras "discovered" his theorem around 550 B.C. In fact, the Babylonians also seemed to have a bit of a love affair with the right triangle, seeing as how they actually had rules for generating Pythagorean triplets and wrote down hundreds of the suckers.
Don't believe us? Here they are. You read ancient Babylonian, right?
But hey, there's still something special about being the first to write a proof for a theory, right? Well, many mathematicians believe Pythagoras didn't do that, either. It turns out that a Chinese mathematical text called the Chou Pei Suan Ching has a geometric proof of the Pythagorean theorem that may predate the Greek thinker. So, to recap, Pythagoras gets full credit/hate for a theorem that he wasn't the first to use, discover, document or prove. Man, the ancient Babylonians and Chinese just don't get any breaks.
Still, the Chou Pei Suan Ching-ean theorem doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it?
You can visit Eddie's website here.
For more firsts that were here before us, check out 11 Modern Technologies That Are Way Older Than You Think and 6 Depraved Sexual Fetishes That Are Older Than You Think.
And stop by LinkSTORM to check out some B.C.-era Egyptian porno.
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