“Lizard in an Egg”

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“In July 1822, the wife of the man who superintends the decoy ponds in the parish of Great Oakley, near Harwich, took an egg from a hen’s nest, in which was a remarkable discolouration. She kept it about a week, and, upon breaking it, observed something within alive, which so alarmed her, that she let it fall, and ran for her husband who was close by, and immediately came, and found lying on the ground, surrounded with the contents of the egg, an animal of the lizard species alive, but incapable, from weakness, of getting away. The contents of the egg were fœtid, contained a very small portion of yolk, and with the albumen, not more than sufficient to half fill the shell. The animal proved to be a land swift, speckled belly, about four inches in length, nothing remarkable in its form, except its hind legs being longer than usual. It died shortly after being out of the egg. The man has it dried for the inspection of the curious.”

Colchester Gazette, cited in The Cabinet of Curiosities, 1824

Infinite Composition

In Tristram Shandy, the title character laments that he’ll never be able to finish his autobiography, as he seems to need a year to record each day’s events. “It must follow, an’ please your worships, that the more I write, the more I shall have to write.”

But Bertrand Russell noted that if Shandy’s eventful life had lasted forever, no part of his biography would have remained unwritten — for the hundredth day would be recorded in the hundredth year, the thousandth in the thousandth, and so on. “This paradoxical but perfectly true proposition depends upon the fact that the number of days in all time is no greater than the number of years.”

Gifted

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German prodigy Jean-Philippe Baratier squeezed a lifetime’s work into less than two decades. Born in 1721 to a Huguenot minister near Nuremberg, he was polyglot from birth — his father spoke to him only in Latin, his mother in French, and the servants in High Dutch. By age 5 he was reading the Old and New Testaments in Greek and translating them into Latin and Hebrew. He matriculated at Altorf at 10, and three years later he was introduced to the king of Prussia and received into the Royal Academy. His interests expanded into navigation, astronomy, and history, including the Thirty Years’ War, the succession of bishops of Rome, and an inquiry into Egyptian antiquities. When he died at age 19, he left behind 11 published works and 26 manuscripts.

The New World Prophecy

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There’s a passage in Seneca’s Medea that seems to have foretold the discovery of America 1400 years before the event:

Venient annis secula seris,
Quibus Oceanus vincula rerum.
Laxet, et ingens pateat tellus
Tethysque novos detegat orbes
Nec sit terris ultima Thule.

“The times will come in later years when ocean may relax the chain of things, and a vast continent may open; the sea may uncover new worlds, and Thule cease to be the last of lands.”

“An ‘Angry Tree'”

The ‘angry tree,’ a woody plant which grows from ten to twenty-five feet high, and was formerly supposed to exist only in Nevada, has recently been found both in eastern California, and in Arizona, says the Omaha Bee. If disturbed, this peculiar tree shows signs of vexation, even to ruffling up of its leaves like the hair on an angry cat, and giving forth an unpleasant, and sickening odor.

Miscellaneous Notes and Queries, 1892