Capsule Summary

On May 17, 1817, Samuel Jessup died. That was bad news for his apothecary, who had been suing him over an unpaid bill — over the course of 21 years, Jessup had taken 226,934 pills, an average of 10,806 a year. Between 1812 and 1816 he took 78 pills a day, 51,590 in 1814 alone. With the addition of 40,000 bottles of mixture, juleps, and electuaries, the druggist’s bill filled 55 closely written columns.

Despite all this — or perhaps because of it — Jessup lived to age 65.

The Three Cards Problem

I show you three cards. One is white on both sides, one is black on both sides, and one is white on one side and black on the other. I shake them in a hat, remove one at random, and place it on a table. The side that’s face up is black. What’s the probability that the other side is also black?

Hint: It’s not 1/2.

Click for Answer

Animal Lover

Paleontologist William Buckland (1784-1856) proposed to eat his way through the animal kingdom — he served panther, crocodile, and mouse to his dinner guests, and he claimed that the most unpleasant dishes he had tried were mole and bluebottle.

Raconteur Augustus Hare recalled that at Nuneham Buckland was presented with the heart of a French king in a silver casket: “Whilst looking at it he exclaimed, ‘I have eaten many strange things, but have never eaten the heart of a king,’ and before any one could hinder him he had gobbled it up, and the precious relic was lost for ever.”

Fair Enough

A man of the name of Desjardins was tried on his own confession, for having admitted that he was an accomplice of Louvel, the assassin of the Duke de Berri. The case was clearly proved. Desjardins set up, as his defence, that he was so notorious for his falsehood, that nobody could give credit to a word he said, and produced a whole host of witnesses, his friends and relatives, who all swore to the fact with such effect, that he was declared Not Guilty.

Annual Register, 1822

An Inadvertent Effigy

In 1813 Samuel Coleridge received the news of his own death. A gentleman in black had hanged himself from a tree in Hyde Park; authorities had found no money or papers in his pockets, but his shirt was marked “S. T. Coleridge.”

According to Charles Robert Leslie in Autobiographical Recollections, “Coleridge was at no loss to understand how this might have happened, since he seldom travelled without losing a shirt or two.”

Indian Winter

Convinced that other newspapers were stealing his news items, the publisher of the Kennett Square (Pa.) Kennett News and Advertiser invented a story about two Indians named Yrotss Ihte Lotsi and Ffutsse Lpoepre Htognil Aets.

Sure enough, the West Chester Daily Local News rewrote the piece for its Jan. 27, 1940, issue. Read the names backward.

“If the Indians Hadn’t Spent the $24”

In 1626 Peter Minuit, first governor of New Netherland, purchased Manhattan Island from the Indians for about $24. … Assume for simplicity a uniform rate of 7% from 1626 to the present, and suppose that the Indians had put their $24 at interest at that rate … and had added the interest to the principal yearly. What would be the amount now, after 280 years? 24 × (1.07)280 = more than 4,042,000,000. [The current value of Manhattan is] a little more than $4,898,400,000. … The Indians could have bought back most of the property now, with improvements; from which one might point the moral of saving money and putting it at interest!

— W.F. White, A Scrap-Book of Elementary Mathematics, 1908

Screen King

Humphrey Bogart was an expert chess player. Here’s a 1951 game he played with Lauren Bacall — she had black:

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. d3 d5 5. exd5 Qxd5 6. c4 Bb4+ 7. Nc3 Bxc3+ 8. bxc3 Qd6 9. a4 Bd7 10. Ba3 Qf6 11. Qe2 Nge7 12. Bxe7 Qxe7 13. Bxc6 Bxc6 14. Nxe5 Bxg2 15. Rg1 Bh3 16. Rg3 Be6 17. d4 c6 18. d5 cxd5 19. cxd5 Bxd5 20. c4 Be6 21. Re3 f6 22. Nd3 Kf7 23. Nf4 Rae8 24. Nxe6 Qb4+ 25. Kf1 Re7 26. Re1 Rhe8

bogart chess

27. Nd8+ Kf8 28. Rxe7 Rxe7 29. Qxe7+ Qxe7 30. Rxe7 Kxe7 31. Nxb7 1-0

There’s no record of her reaction.