The First Blood Transfusion

Millions of blood transfusions are performed in hospitals across the world every year. However, the origins of this now familiar and vital life saving procedure were, as with other medical developments through history, controversial.

Experimentation in blood exchange began in both England and France 350 years ago, but such was the outcry at the ‘ungodly’ acts taking place that the French parliament banned the research, and all medical exploration in the subject ground to a halt. It wasn’t until 25th September 1818 that English surgeon and obstetrician James Blundell, after years of working on dogs, was finally able to conduct the first human to human blood transfusion, at St Guy’s Hospital in London. This was a radical procedure at a time when the majority of medical professionals still tried to cure most complaints by draining blood from a patient rather than replacing it. That same year, Blundell published Experiments on the Transfusion of Blood by the Syringe in the journal Medico-Chirurgical Transactions. This paper discussed his experiences conducting whole blood transfusions in dogs and humans using a syringe. It opened his work to scrutiny and further experimentation across the medical world.

Blundell’s choice of career was influenced by his uncle, John Haighton, a leading medic at Guy’s Hospital. Blundell studied with his uncle in the field of obstetrics. While they studied all aspects of childbirth, he and his uncle designed many of the instruments we associate with delivering babies today. As he was working with women in labour, he saw a large number of birth time related blood haemorrhages. It was so common in fact, that Blundell, desperate to save more women during the childbirth procedure, took to transfusing four ounces of blood extracted from the woman’s husband, and injecting it into her with a syringe in the hope it would cleanse her blood should she be losing the battle to live during labour. The Science Museum reports that Blundell “… performed a further ten transfusions between 1825 and 1830 and published details of them. Half were successful. Blundell limited the use of his transfusion apparatus to women on the verge of death due to uterine haemorrhage, the heavy bleeding that can result from a difficult labour. Blundell believed blood had a nutritive property and was infused with vitalism – a living force.”

Blundell’s work was a major breakthrough in medical science, but it still wasn’t until 1900, when Karl Landsteiner discovered blood groups, and worked out why certain bloods were incompatible with each other, that transfusions could start to become the successful cure they are today.

Blundell and the many scientists that followed in his wake continuing to develop transfusion techniques, are unlikely to have imagined what a massive impact their work has had on the modern world. Thanks to their dedication, by the twentieth century scientists in New York were developing the first blood banks. They were to become vital in keeping many injured soldiers alive during the two world wars, as well as other conflicts.

Even though it is two hundred years since James Blundell first ran blood from one human to another, the equipment he designed is still recognisable in operating theatres and transfusion kits used across the world today.

Edgar Allan Poe is credited with being the very first author to try and make a living from his writing alone.

Born on 19th January, 1809 in Boston, USA, Edgar was the son of two actors. They both died before he was three years old, so he was raised by his godfather, John Allan. Poe was taken from Richmond in America to Scotland and England (1815–20) to receive a classical education. This education continued back in America, where he attended the University of Virginia. Unfortunately, once there Poe became a gambler and an alcoholic. His godfather was furious with him for running up huge debts, and refused to continue to fund his gambling losses at the university. Poe returned to Richmond and began to write the poetry for which he has become famous.

The Academy of American Poets states that “Poe’s work as an editor, a poet, and a critic had a profound impact on American and international literature…. Many anthologies credit him as the “architect” of the modern short story.”

In 1827, like so many modern authors, Poe self-published his first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems, but Poe’s life remained troubled, and he was struggling with poverty. His dire circumstances forced him to join the army, under the name Edgar A. Perry. He stayed in the army until his foster mother died. Then, in an attempt to improve Poe’s prospects, John Allan purchased his release from the army and helped him get an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

During his time in the services Poe continued to write. In 1829 he published Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. He hated military service and deliberately got himself expelled before taking a job. His drinking and ill health meant he didn’t hold this down for long.

Poe’s only driving force was his need to write. Although his work didn’t bring him wealth in his lifetime, his legacy has been to provide us with some of the most influential pieces of literature ever produced. Influenced by the tragedies of his own life, including his poor health and the death of his wife, much of Poe’s best work is concerned with terror and sadness. A spokesman for the Poe Museum in Richmond, UA said “Most famously, Poe completely transformed the genre of the horror story with his masterful tales of psychological depth and insight not envisioned in the genre before his time and scarcely seen in it since.”

As well as his more recognised tales of horror, such as The Raven, in 1841 Poe wrote The Murders in the Rue Morgue. This was the very first published detective story; a literary innovation which earned him the nickname “Father of the Detective Story.” His concept of deductive reasoning and ratiocination inspired countless authors, most famous among them Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In 1843 Poe expanded his genre even further, when he wrote The Gold Bug, a suspense full of secret codes and hunting treasure. This won him a literary prize. Edgar Allan Poe died penniless after a lifetime of ill health on 7th October, 1849 in Maryland, USA. His gift to modern literature comes not only in the form of the excellence of his poetry and prose, but in how he highlighted the importance of stylistic focus and literary structure. His work marked the first time style and plot layout were publicly considered as much as the plot-line itself. By putting his work before his income, Poe became a forerunner of the French Symbolist movement, claiming that there should be an “art for art’s sake” movement and inspiring men such as Mallarmé and Rimbaud.

Today, Poe is remembered as one of world literature’s major historical figures. The Raven, amongst other works, is consistently cited as amongst the best of its genre, and he continues to influence modern day writers, television producers and film directors such as Stephen King and Neil Gaimen.

Born on 15th September 1890 in Torquay, Devon, Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie (later to become Lady Mallowan, and a Dame) wrote a number of romance novels under the name Mary Westmacott, but it is her murder mysteries, particularly involving Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, for which she will always be remembered.

As The Independent newspaper once reported, Christie’s work is “…synonymous with the country house mystery, the landed gentry and Jazz Age good-time boys and girls whose ordered, privileged world is suddenly thrown into disarray by the fly in the ointment of a rather awkward corpse found in the library, or on the croquet lawn.”

If you ask her legions of fans why her work remains as popular today (famously including the long running theatre production of The Mousetrap in London, pictured above) as it was when first written between the 1920’s and 1960’s, you’ll get a variety of answers. For some it is the nostalgia of the work. Mark Aldridge, author of Agatha Christie on Screen, explains, “There’s a part of us that likes to see village greens and country houses, ships steaming up the Nile. Christie was a very visual writer and she was very well travelled and used a lot of exotic locations she had actually visited.” Though they depict a very British outlook and way of life, Christie’s novels have a cosmopolitan feel, probably inspired by her own life, which involved a great deal of travelling with her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan.

For others, the enjoyment comes from reading books for simple, pure entertainment. They are easy reads that provide a satisfying tale at the end of a busy day, with the guarantee of not being disappointed by the ending. For most, however, it’s about trying to solve the mysteries yourself, before the featured detective does. All the clues necessary are provided throughout the story, but very rarely are the solutions obvious. The crime genre dedicated website, CrimeReads.com, says of the writer, “… Agatha Christie was not interested in murder. She was interested in “English murder,” which is a different thing, relating to the human dynamic rather than the act of violence.”

This viewpoint is echoed throughout Christie’s work. She is often criticised for her murders being unrealistic and lacking in the blood and visceral imagery such acts often feature in more modern literature. However, she never actually claimed her work was believable herself, so it could be argued that renders such an opinion a mute point. They were written to provide fictional escapism. As CrimeReads.com states, “Why would anyone imagine that she intended these plots to be seen as credible events? They were “animated algebra,” a puzzle to be solved.”

While many esteemed writers have also objected (PD James, for one) to her “cardboard cut-out characters”, it can’t be denied that her work is loved, and will continue to be so. Almost every story she has written is now either a play, television show or film – and often all three. The 2017 film, Murder on the Orient Express, successfully delivered her work to a brand new audience, while even repeats of Poirot and Miss Marple on the television continue to rack up ratings almost as highly as when they were first aired ten to twenty years ago.

Today the novels of Agatha Christie are widely accepted to have been the original works that spawned the literary sub-genre “cosy crime.” They have inspired modern fiction, from Midsomer Murders to Death In Paradise and more. More than 4 million copies of her 66 detective novels, as well as her 14 short story collections, are purchased around the world every year. Agatha Christie’s legacy lives on.

The year 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the first worldwide influenza pandemic. Known as Spanish Flu, this major outbreak claimed the lives of between 50 and 100 million people across the globe in 1918. The Guardian newspaper records that, “By the time the pandemic finally ended, it had killed around 25 times more people than any other flu outbreak in history. It killed possibly more people than the first and second world wars put together.”

Unlike the flu strains we recognise today, Spanish Flu was not claiming the lives of young children and the elderly as we’d expect, but was at its most virulent in healthy young adults. At a time when the First World War was  already claiming millions of men’s lives, it must have felt like the end of the world, and at its height, panic was rife.

Many myths and misconceptions have grown up around Spanish Flu. The biggest of all being that it had begun in Spain. This was not the case. As the epidemic raged against the backdrop of the First World War, the countries involved, Germany, Austria, France, the United Kingdom and the U.S, did not want morale worsened by either side believing that their own nation was the source of the flu. Consequently, and much to its annoyance, the neutral country of Spain was chosen to have the virus named after it and create the false impression they were bearing the brunt of the disease. In reality, the geographical starting point of the pandemic is still debated, with both East Asia and other parts of Europe more likely hosts.

As the virus spread very quickly, killing 25 million people in the first six months, it is understandable that many came to believe that Spanish Flu was a uniquely lethal strain. However, recent studies have suggested that it was only so virulent because of the conditions of the time. War meant that there was severe overcrowding and poor sanitation in many environments such as military camps. Poor living conditions led to bacterial pneumonia in the lungs being a relatively common condition amongst soldiers during the war years; once this has been contracted, the flu could get hold much faster. If the flu hadn’t had each an easy path to contagion, then it may have caused no more deaths than other epidemics.

As Richard Gunderman, the Chancellor’s Professor of Medicine, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy at Indiana University, explained to The Conversation newsletter, “During the first half of 1918, new studies reveal that the death rate was relatively low. It was in late October and November of 1918 and early 1919 that higher death rates occurred, when people with flu symptoms began to crowd into hospitals in panic, and thus spread the disease further.”

In 2008, researchers announced that they had successfully determined the gene sequence of Spanish Flu. This was possible because one of the flu’s original victims, British diplomat Mark Sykes, was disinterred from his lead-lined coffin so that researchers could study his remains. The Guardian reports that, “The purpose was to enable researchers to take samples, from his remains, of the H1N1 virus strain that caused the Spanish flu. Such samples, now under high-security lock and key in Atlanta, have been examined for clues as to why this strain was so potent and how a future pandemic might be contained.”

Every few decades a new flu epidemic occurs. Scientists believe that the next pandemic will happen sooner rather than later, and that the more we can learn from the 1918 outbreak, the more prepared we will be.

We understand that waiting to find out your exam results can be an extremely nerve-wracking experience. It is important to know that feeling some kind of stress is a completely natural reaction. But, if it becomes persistent, if it never gives you a moment’s peace, it is important to take action to stop those nerves from affecting your health and well-being.

Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at Priory Group has looked at ways you can reduce your stress to prevent it from affecting your physical and mental health. Some of her suggestions are as below.

It’s Good to Talk

There will always be someone you can talk to when you feel worried about your exam results or your future. Whether it is a parent, carer or friend, you should discuss your thoughts and emotions with them when you feel troubled. A parent might be able to help you challenge your worries by providing you with evidence that your thoughts are not a balanced view. For example, they will be able to reassure you about how much revision you did and how well you have performed in past exams.

You may want someone to lend an ear or distract you with a quick chat or offer of advice. By taking the time to access this emotional support, you have the opportunity to let off steam and is so doing prevent your feelings from boiling over. There are also supportive charities like Child Line and the Samaritans who can be contacted anonymously over the phone or through web chat.

Breathe Deeply

When you get anxious, your “fight or flight” response kicks in, where your body releases adrenaline and increases your heart rate. Breathing deeply can help your body to settle down to a more natural state. Imagine, then, blowing into a balloon: As you take a deep breath in, notice your stomach rising as you allow your lungs to take in the maximum amount of air. Then slowly breathe out imagining you are filling the balloon with air. Try and do this three times.

Keep Yourself Busy

Try and ensure you have structure and activities each day. For example, give yourself a project to complete over the summer, look at voluntary or part-time work, organise social activities with your friends and help out at home. If you keep yourself busy, you have less time to sit and dwell on your thoughts. You will also feel better about yourself as you have been able to achieve something.

Getting Good Quality Sleep

We understand that getting a good night’s sleep may seem impossible because of your nerves, but it is important to try your hardest to get into a good routine. Go to bed and wake up at similar times every day, and make your bedroom a relaxing space, with any screens turned off at least an hour before bedtime. Avoid caffeinated drinks in the hours before bedtime and try to fit in at least twenty minutes of exercise each day – but again, not too close to bedtime.

Form a Plan for Results Day

Think about all the possible outcomes on results day, and jot them down. Then, write a potential plan for each one. For example, if you were to get your expected grades, what happens; If you get lower than expected, what would your next steps be?

This can help you to recognise that there are options and a future for you, regardless of what happens. It can stop yourself from worrying about the unknown, because it means you have a plan for every scenario.

Tackle Your Negative Thoughts

It is easy to gravitate towards the worst case scenario when you’re feeling anxious. Do you believe you failed your exam spectacularly? Do you think you’re going to get terrible grades across the board? There are steps you can take to question and alter these thoughts:

  • At the end of each day, jot down any moments when you felt like this. Write down what you thought at the time.
  • Next, write down the evidence you have contradicting that negative thought. What goes against it? For example, if you thought, “I’m going to fail everything,” think about the hours of revision and preparation you put in for your exams.

Then, write down a healthier way of thinking about the situation. For example, instead of thinking that you’ve failed an exam, you may want to think, “I know it was tough, but I worked so hard that I know I tried it my best. I’m proud of the work I put in.”

Completing this activity at the end of every day will stop you from focusing on potential negative outcomes during this stressful time.

Getting Support

If your stress levels don’t seem to be getting any better, you should visit your GP. They will be able to provide you with the right support you may need at this time.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation a heatwave is a “marked unusual hot weather over a region persisting at least two consecutive days”.

Usually, such a definition would not be something we may be interested in knowing, but perhaps times are changing in this country. For the UK, this summer is shaping up to be one of the hottest of all time. Forecasters at the Met Office have been reading out temperatures of 34C over the last few days (24-27th July), and even with the onset of storms in some regions, it looks like it will be remaining warm for a while yet.

The Met Office reports that “the temperatures so far this summer have been remarkable… between 1 June to 16 July, the average daily maximum temperature across the country was 20.9 °C.” This average has increased over the past two weeks, with many parts of Britain experiencing heat in excess of 28C. Porthmadog, in Wales, now holds the record for the hottest day of June, when it reached 33C on the 28th. This was beaten in Suffolk, though, when on 22nd July temperatures soared to 33.3C.

The UK’s heatwave has been caused by a jet stream looping to the north of the UK, creating an area of ‘home grown’ high pressure. Met Office forecaster Mark Foster explains, “Long days, very still conditions and clear skies helped June temperatures to get very intense… The sun in June is relatively the highest it gets in the sky and heat can build up over successive days.”

The build of heat Foster refers to leads to extreme levels of pollen and UV, meaning hay fever sufferers have been having a particularly bad year. As the sunshine continues to blaze in our skies, experts have warned The Telegraph “…  the heatwave risks bringing on a faux autumn with prematurely ripening fruits and browning leaves.” If hedgerow fruits mature two months ahead of their usual growth pattern in some parts of the country, that will cause disaster in the autumn for the animals that rely on them for food.

There is no way of accurately predicting how much longer this sunshine will last. The Met Office explains high pressure systems are “slow moving and can persist over an area for a prolonged period of time such as days or weeks”. The longer this weather lasts, the higher the risk of thunderstorms and flash floods resulting from heavy rain fall hitting dry ground. Rain-soaked days are traditionally associated with a British summer, but between 1st June and 16th July the UK received just 47 mm of rain. This makes it the driest start to summer since 1961. The summer of 1976, which is currently the hottest summer on record, had an average temperature of 21.0 °C. In 1976 there were 69 days of sunshine in total. The Met Office has confirmed that if the “rest of the summer is average, 2018 will certainly rank in the top 10 warmest summers on record and if we continue to see above average temperatures, it could well be record breaking.”

While humans are suffering from heat-related exhaustion, the threat of water restrictions and coping with searingly hot commutes to work, there are many other, more far reaching implications to the heatwave. Farmers are struggling to keep their livestock fit and healthy. Speaking to Sky News, Gloucestershire farmer Luke Wilson said after his “250 sheep were sheared in June [and] they have been relatively happy, but a lack of grass is the biggest problem… It’s their food which is a concern, I only feed my sheep on grass and we’re about to run out due to a lack of rain.”

Crop growers are also worried. Hot temperatures mean more people are eating salad foods like lettuce. However, many types of lettuce won’t grow if it’s too hot, and there are fears that supplies will run low soon. Broccoli also refuses to grow if too hot, and so prices will rise as supply diminishes. Insects such as dragonflies are in danger as their water supplies dry up. Bees, however, are enjoying the dry conditions, and are experiencing a much needed boost; which has lead to a bumper year of flowers.

One occupation, however, is enjoying a bumper year of discovery thanks to the effects of the scorching temperatures. Archaeologists across the UK are making a great many discoveries, just as they did in 1976. Dry ground highlights the hidden features of the earth, especially when observed from above. For example, the drought in Ireland has lead to failing crops, and so has exposed as long forgotten henge at Brú na Bóinne. The Express explains that, “The circular design was spotted by photographer and author Anthony Murphy who was flying his drone nearby above the site when he stumbled upon it. The pattern is 150 metres (492 ft) in diameter, but experts are unsure what its purpose is.”

The all-time July heat record is 36.7C , set at Heathrow airport on 1st July 2015. Whether or not that record breaks this year isn’t entirely clear now, but if the temperature trends of recent times continue to rise as they have been, it may be that sometime in the next few years it will be.

A Blood Moon occurs when the Moon, during a total lunar eclipse, appears to take on a reddish colour. This ‘blood red’ appearance happens because the Moon is illuminated by sunlight that has been filtered and refracted by the Earth’s atmosphere.

On the 27th July 2018, we will experience the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century. NASA lunar scientist Noah Petro of the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, USA, says that the phenomena should last between 1 hour and 43 minutes and four hours. This ‘Blood Moon’ will be visible almost everywhere in the world (with the exception of North America.) Speaking to The Independent newspaper, Dr Morgan Hollis from the Royal Astronomical Society said that the eclipse will be visible from “anywhere in the UK, weather permitting.”

Observing a lunar eclipse is much safer than viewing a solar eclipse as no special equipment is required to protect your eyes. As the Moon passes into Earth’s shadow, it will be safe to view the event with the naked eye, telescopes or binoculars.

When asked what determines how long a lunar eclipse lasted, Petro told Space.com, “What controls the duration of the lunar eclipse is the position of the Moon as it passes through the Earth’s shadow. The darkest part of Earth’s shadow is called the umbra. You can picture the umbra as a cone extending from Earth in the opposite direction to the sun. The Moon can either graze through the cone, or go right through the middle….” The nearer to the middle of the cone the Moon grazes, the longer-duration eclipse.
The Royal Astronomical Society are predicting that in the UK on 27th July, moonrise will occur at 8.49pm in London, while further north, in Glasgow, it will take place at 9.26pm. According to EarthSky.org, there will be a period of time either side of the eclipse when the Moon is travelling through the lighter part of Earth’s shadow. This transition is called the penumbra. Including that penumbral time, the eclipse will last for 3 hours and 55 minutes.

During the lunar eclipse the Moon will appear at its most ‘red’ when it lies directly in the shadow of the Earth. This brightness of colour is caused because some of the sunlight going through Earth’s atmosphere bends around the edge of Earth and falls onto the Moon’s surface.

The Blood Moon will be seen at its clearest away from cities and well lit areas. You can find a list of the very best observation spots in the UK here- https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/lunar-eclipse-best-places-to-watch-uk-blood-moon-mars-explained-when-a8459956.html

If you miss this lunar eclipse, you’ll have to wait until 21st January 2019 for the next one.

Getting-and staying-organised is certainly easier said than done. Many struggle to stick to their deadlines and maintain a structure to daily life, be it at work and studies or in general tasks. As a student, it’s a real hassle to have to attend school, study, and find an organisation system that works for you. Most students have no idea where to start from when it comes to keeping everything in order. There are, however, a few general tips to help you get started:

  • Make a to-do list for the day and prioritise

You should pay particular attention to the second part of this point: prioritise. Making a to-do list is the easiest thing when trying to be organised. You will most likely include both trivial and important tasks on it. The most important ones may also be the most time-consuming. Make sure that you tackle the significant tasks first as it is when you start with your list that you have more energy to pursue what is on it. If you deal with the minor items on your list first, in the hope of crossing them out and feeling good about yourself, I would suggest that you think long-term; the most important tasks will be there haunting you.

Have a study schedule. As a student, this should be your priority. A study schedule can help you prioritise and keep up with your homework and assignments. Make sure to include an estimate of the time each subject will take as well as its deadline. If you are unsure or simply want a second opinions, you can always consult your teacher.

  • Create deadlines

Speaking of a study schedule, there is nothing more counterproductive than missing out on deadlines. Doing so may result in you not being able to keep up with the old and new material. Additionally, this will probably affect your grade and the whole point of a deadline is to prevent that from happening. So, make sure that you have all the deadlines for your assignments and try to prepare beforehand. Try not to leave anything for last minute.

  • Begin projects as soon as you get the assignment

This will greatly help you when you are considering how you want to divide your time. Beginning when you get the assignment leaves you room for more meticulous research and, once again, you won’t have to deal with stress or struggle with the idea that you could have done a better job.

  • Create an organising playlist

Here comes the fun part! Spend some time creating a playlist that gets you motivated. Music is a great influence, so try to find the one that gets you psyched. Beware though, you should not spend more time creating a playlist than you would on your actual assignments.

  • Tell someone about it

Telling someone about your plans, your assignments, and how you are thinking of staying organised can help keep you accountable. Try telling that to a person who you know will be checking on you and is interested in your process.

  • Reward yourself

What screams ‘job well done’ for you? Do that! Once you are done with all the items on your list, reward yourself with something that relaxes you and makes you happy. It could be an hour of video games, going out with your friends, or simply listening to your favourite music. Whatever it is, do not abuse it. Try to reward yourself only when you feel that you are truly done with your list. If, for example, you cross out one insignificant item and reward yourself, you will probably not fully enjoy it as there will be something weighing heavily on you. Make sure that you deserve that reward and work really hard for it.

 

How do you stay organised? Do you have any tips? If so, please share them with us!

On 1st July 1838 British scientist Charles Darwin, biologist and explorer, presented a paper to the esteemed Linnean Society in London, on his theory of the evolution of both mankind and animal life. He followed this in 1859, after years of controversy from fellow scientists and the Church, with his book, On the Origin of Species. The fact that Darwin was claiming, with fossil and bone evidence to back him up, that life had evolved rather than been created by God, was highly controversial in the nineteenth century. Even with the catalogue of physical material supporting his theory of evolution and natural selection (often known as the survival of the fittest), it was still refuted by many. Today it is accepted as fact by most of us, but there do still remain those who will debate the truth of evolution and the way it challenges the story of creation found in the Bible.

For such religious reasons, despite the majority of the population believing that Darwin’s theory is fact, the subject of whether or not evolution should be taught in schools remains an emotive one for some. The struggle to teach evolution is at its most desperate in the USA, where in places even Biology teachers can be afraid to teach it. Indeed, A Penn State news report from 2014 even stated that, “despite 40 years of court cases ruling against teaching creationism in American public schools, the majority of high school Biology teachers are not strong classroom advocates of evolutionary Biology.”

In Science (2011), political scientist M. Berkman said, “Considerable research suggests that supporters of evolution, scientific methods, and reason itself are losing battles in America’s classrooms… Only 28 percent of those teachers consistently introduce evidence that evolution occurred, and 13 percent explicitly advocate creationism.”

The situation in America in 2018 is no more enlightened. Some states of America, such as Texas, Louisiana, and Tennessee, have passed laws that permit public school teachers to teach alternatives to evolution. Yet this desire to teach Creationism rather than Evolution comes just as scientists are concreting Darwin’s theory more solidly year after year. An article in Live Science for example, says that, “Evolution by natural selection is one of the best substantiated theories in the history of science, supported by evidence from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including palaeontology, geology, genetics and developmental biology.” Preeminent scientist Theodosius Dobzhansky goes further: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

While evolution is facing a lack of teaching in parts of the USA, it is taught in the vast majority of schools across the UK. In fact, in 2008, the Church of England issued an unexpected apology to Darwin himself. Reverend Dr. Malcolm Brown wrote, “Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still… But the struggle for your reputation is not over yet…”

The answer to this debate, which is clearly unlikely to be one hundred per cent agreed on in the near future, would surely be to teach both the theory of evolution and the story of creation to all school children across the world, no matter their religion or background. Only by laying out the evidence can people make up their own minds, rather than have their minds made up for them by the educational, religious or political situation in which they live.

It was on 4th July 1862 that a river outing on a sunny day in Oxford gave Charles L. Dodgson – better known as Lewis Carroll – the inspiration to write Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Travelling downriver with the Liddell family, from Folly Bridge to Godstow, Dodgson (Dean of Christ Church, Oxford and lecturer in Mathematics), made up a story along the way about a bored little girl called Alice (after Alice Liddell), who goes looking for an adventure. At Alice’s request, Dodgson agreed to write the story down. Although he began to work on it the very next day, it took him two and a half years to complete.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was eventually published in 1865. It was instantly loved by both children and adults; consequently the first print run of books ran out very quickly. So what was it that appealed to readers and made Alice such an instant and enduring hit? There is no question that the story is quirky, almost sinister, and it could be this quality that holds the greatest appeal. It is, after all, the story of a girl trapped in a dream world where people are executed simply for planting the wrong coloured roses for the Queen of Hearts, where food and drink can alter your body size and everyone seems just a little bit mad.

Both Queen Victoria and the young Oscar Wilde can be counted amongst the books’ earliest readers, it has never been out of print in 153 years, and has been translated into over 178 languages. Perhaps its initial popularity can be put down to it being the first children’s book published which wasn’t written to teach a lesson. There is no moral tale here. It was just written with the enjoyment of the story itself in mind.

Along with the reading of the book itself, there are many film adaptations of Alice’s story. The most regularly viewed are the Walt Disney film, with its distinctive bright colours and accompanying music, and the contrasting darker version by Tim Burton, which gives more tense take on Alice.

Not only has Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and its sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, been made into a number of movies and television shows, it has also, since its copyright expired in 1907, come to life in comics, computer games, appeared on t-shirts, numerous illustrated works, and spawned a whole host of accompanying merchandise that increases in popularity year on year.
Something about Alice appeals to part of everyone’s imagination. It is silly yet serious, joyous yet disturbing, and ridiculous enough for you never to forget that, deep down, it’s all a dream.

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