1859 – Charles Blondin walks a tightrope over Niagara Falls

One of the most celebrated tightrope walkers of his era, Charles Blondin was an extreme sports legend more than a century before extreme sports was invented by bored rich people. Blondin’s most famous exploit was walking a tightrope that had been stretched across Niagara Gorge not far downstream of the falls (near the current location of Rainbow Bridge).

The tightrope was 340m in length, 8.3cm in diameter and hung 49m above the river below. Blondin first performed this feat on June 30, 1859, and repeated it several times thereafter, always adding some variation to increase the challenge. Recorded variations include blindfolded, in a sack, trundling a wheelbarrow, on stilts, carrying a man (his manager, Harry Colcord) on his back, standing on a chair with only one chair leg on the rope, and sitting down midway while he cooked and ate an omelet – he pushed a wheelbarrow containing the necessaries out onto the rope to do this, and also lowered parts of the cooked omelet to passengers on a boat below him.

Beat that, extreme sports fans.

Referenced in:
Blondin Makes an Omelette — Gareth Liddiard

1859 — “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin is first published

One of the most controversial books in the world, On the Origin of Species (often called Origin of the Species is one of the foundational texts of modern science. Not only is almost the entirety of modern biology built on its foundation, but it remains an excellent (if imperfect) example of the scientific method.

Charles Darwin had spent many years developing this theory, beginning with initial observations in 1835 during his voyage on the Beagle, and working on it in earnest for more than 15 years prior to publication. Darwin was entirely unprepared for the controversy he kicked off, although one suspects that he’d merely be saddened and confused by the low esteem in which a majority of Americans currently hold his theory.

Referenced in:

Soldiers of Christ — Jill Sobule