This Day in History (3-Feb-1815) – World’s 1st commercial cheese factory established, in Switzerland

On this day in 1815, the world’s first commercial cheese factory began operating in Switzerland, ushering in the mass industrialisation of one our most popular and ancient foods. With the introduction of industrial production, types of cheeses, like so many other foods over the past two centuries, were standardised and rolled out on a global scale—the intricacies of local characteristics often left behind.

Cheese is mentioned in ancient Greek mythology and evidence of cheese making has been found on Egyptian tomb murals dating back over 4000 years. It is interesting to note though, that many of the popular cheeses we eat today (such as Cheddar, Parmesan and Gouda) are relatively new to the cheese story, having only appeared in the last 500 years or so. One legend has it that a merchant crossing the Arabian desert poured milk into a pouch made from a sheep’s stomach. The combination of the strong sun and the rennin from the stomach lining caused the milk to congeal, and as the merchant journeyed the milk separated into curds and whey. That evening, or so the story goes, the hungry merchant was the first human to eat cheese (i.e. the curd).

Cheese is produced from a variety of animals, most commonly cows, ewes and goats, but also water buffalo, yaks, horses and llamas. Beyond the source of the milk, the taste of cheese is altered by a variety of variables, including the treatment and temperature of the milk, along with added ingredients. Over the centuries, especially in the cool climate of Europe, certain regions became well known for their singular tasting cheeses.

Popular European cheeses today—like French Brie, Dutch Gouda, English Cheddar and Italian Parmesan—all originate in the mid to late middle ages, and many, like Parmesan, remain very close to their original form. However, with industrial processing, some of these cheeses were stripped of their defining local traits and delivered to the mass market. As a result, cheeses were standardised and thus introduced to a number of regions in Asia, Africa, and South America where cheese had not been seen before, or were at least not part of the normal diet.

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/events/february/3

http://www.historychannel.com.au/classroom/day-in-history/414/first-commercial-cheese-factory

http://www.nationalhistoriccheesemakingcenter.org/Cheesemaking-History.aspx

This Day in History (3-Jan-1925) – Benito Mussolini announces he will become dictator of Italy

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini, son of Italian blacksmith, moved to Switzerland at the age of 19 due to poverty, where he became involved in socialist politics. He returned to Italy in couple of years, and worked as a journalist in the socialist press, but he abandoned his party to advocate Italian intervention in World War I. Following the war, in which he served as a rifleman, Mussolini decided his destiny was to rule Italy as a modern Caesar and re-create the Roman Empire.  In March 1919, Mussolini formed the Fascist Party, galvanising the support of many unemployed war veterans. He organised them into armed squads known as Black Shirts, who terrorised their political opponents.

By October 1922, Italy seemed to be slipping into political chaos. The Black Shirts marched on Rome and Mussolini presented himself as the only man capable of restoring order. King Victor Emmanuel invited Mussolini to form a government. Mussolini gradually dismantled the institutions of democratic government and in 1925 made himself dictator, taking the title ‘Il Duce’. He set about attempting to re-establish Italy as a great European power. The regime was held together by strong state control and Mussolini’s cult of personality. In 1935, Mussolini invaded Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) and incorporated it into his new Italian Empire. He provided military support to Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Increasing co-operation with Nazi Germany culminated in the 1939 Pact of Steel. Influenced by Hitler, Mussolini began to introduce anti-Jewish legislation in Italy. His declaration of war on Britain and France in June 1940 exposed Italian military weakness and was followed by a series of defeats in North and East Africa and the Balkans.

After the Allied victories of November 1942, Mussolini implored Hitler to make peace with Joseph Stalin and concentrate on defeating the British-American forces. Hitler’s refusal and the Sicilian invasion convinced the king and high command to overthrow Mussolini in July 1943. In September, Italy signed an armistice with the Allies. Mussolini was rescued by German commandos and was installed as the leader of a new government, but had little power. The April 1945 German surrender in Italy forced Mussolini to flee. Insurgents captured and shot him.

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/january-3-1431-joan-of-arc-is-turned-over-to-bishop-pierre-cauchon

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/mussolini_benito.shtml

http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/benito-mussolini

This Day in History (16-Nov-1938) – Hallucinogenic drug LSD is synthesized by Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann

LSD known as LSD-25 or Lysergic Acid Diathylamide is a psychoactive hallucinogenic drug. It was first synthesized on November 16, 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in Sandoz Laboratories in Basle, Switzerland. However, it was a few years before Albert Hofmann realized what he had invented. LSD-25 was the twenty-fifth compound developed during Albert Hofmann’s study of amides of Lysergic acid, hence the name. LSD is considered a semi-synthetic chemical, the natural component of LSD-25 is lysergic acid, a type of ergot alkaloid that is naturally made by the ergot fungus, a synthesizing process is necessary to create the drug. LSD was being developed by Sandoz Laboratories as a possible circulatory and respiratory stimulant.

It was not until 1943 that Albert Hofmann discovered the hallucinogenic properties of LSD. LSD has a chemical structure that is very similar to the neurotransmitter called serotonin. However, it is still not clear what produces all the effects of LSD.  Albert Hoffman deliberately dosed himself [after a milder accidental dose] with just 25 mg, an amount he didn’t imagine would produce any effect. Hoffman got on his bicycle and rode home from the Lab and arrived in a state of panic. He felt he was losing his grip on sanity. Albert Hoffman wrote this about his LSD experience, “I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away..”

The United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances requires its parties to prohibit LSD. Hence, it is illegal in all parties to the convention, which includes the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and most of Europe. Medical and scientific research with LSD in humans is permitted under the 1971 UN Convention.

 

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/november-16-1532-ce-francisco-pizarro-captures-the-inca-emperor-atahualpa

http://inventors.about.com/od/lstartinventions/a/LSD.htm

http://www.psychedelic-library.org/child1.htm

This Day in History (31-Oct-1517) – Martin Luther Inadvertently Launches the Protestant Reformation with The Ninety-Five Theses

Fifteen centuries after the death of Christ, the Catholic Church had grown to become the most influential organization in Western Europe. A theology professor and Augustinian monk at the University of Wittenberg, Martin Luther, was disillusionised with the abuses of the 16th century Roman Catholic Church. In Luther’s era, indulgences were being sold by the Church to raise money for refurbishing the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. However Luther firmly believed that salvation is by faith alone. He shifted the course of Christianity with a letter, “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” in Latin, to Archbishop Albert of Mainz on October 31, 1517. The accompanying questions would go on to be known as The Ninety-Five Theses, the seminal document in the Protestant Reformation that fractured the continent along religious lines. Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses brought to light serious issues regarding the nature of belief in Christ. Much of his writing amounts to theological questions about specific practices that seemed to ignore or even counteract the Bible. Fueled by the printing press and a translation into common German by his friends early in 1518, Luther’s ideas had soon made it to towns all over Europe. At the same time, Ulrich Zwingli began attacking the rituals associated with mass from his pulpit in Switzerland.

In early January 1521, Luther was officially excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. Condemned as a heretic and declared a criminal on May 25th, the court decided to ban Luther’s writings and officially absolved anyone who might kill him of any guilt. Frederick III of Saxony, a friendly leader of the province near the center of the Holy Roman Empire provided protection to Luther. Hiding the monk away in Wartburg Castle, Frederick allowed Luther to continue writing — and the wanted man produced a series of forceful attacks on the practices of the Catholic Church and translated the Bible’s New Testament from its original Greek into German. When he returned to Wittenberg in March 1522, Luther was at the head of a rebellion — alongside John Calvin and Zwingli — that would take centuries to solve and cost countless lives in civil wars and persecution throughout the continent.

 

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/october-31-1517-ce-martin-luther-inadvertently-launches-the-protestant-reformation-with-the-ninety-five-theses

http://www.crivoice.org/creed95theses.html

This Day in History (1-Sep-1939) – Switzerland proclaims neutrality

The advice of Switzerland’s popular saint, Nicholas of Flüe (1417-87), “Don’t get involved in other people’s affairs” has been the hallmark of Swiss policy for nearly 500 years. The country has in effect been neutral since 1515, a status formally recognised and guaranteed by the great powers of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. Neutrality is defined as non-participation in a war between other states. The rights and duties of neutral countries in time of war were laid down by the international community in 1907. In times of peace neutral states define their own rules, but take it for granted that they should stay outside military blocs, like NATO. The status of neutrality has not only protected Switzerland from war, but has helped prevent the country from being torn apart when its different language communities might have been tempted to side with different belligerents in cases of conflict.

Switzerland industrialized rapidly during the 19th century and by 1850 had become the second most industrialized country in Europe after Great Britain. During World War I serious tension developed between the German, French, and Italian-speaking parts of the country, and Switzerland came close to violating its neutrality but managed to stay out of hostilities. During World War II, Switzerland came under heavy pressure from the fascist powers, which after the fall of France in 1940 completely surrounded the country. Some political and economic leaders displayed a mood of appeasement, but a combination of tactical accommodation and demonstrative readiness to defend the country helped Switzerland survive unscathed.

Switzerland’s neutrality allows the country to act as a mediator. Its diplomats often represent the interests of countries which have no relations with each other. Thus for example it looks after US interests in Cuba and Iran, and Cuba’s interests in the US.  Switzerland offers a neutral ground to host sensitive conferences and meetings. For example, the first meeting between Gorbachev and Reagan (1985) or between Clinton and Syria’s President Assad (2000) took place in Geneva. Switzerland has also been the venue for peace talks between various governments and rebel groups – for example from Indonesia, Spain and Sri Lanka – and for talks on a settlement for the divided island of Cyprus.

 

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/september/1?p=2

http://www.swissworld.org/en/politics/foreign_policy/neutrality_and_isolationism/

http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/History/Switzerland-history.htm

http://www.expatica.com/ch/insider-views/Swissworld-Switzerland-and-neutrality_107842.html