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National Geographic HistoryNational Geographic History

National Geographic History January/February 2018

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from the editor

The Congress of Vienna, a meeting of diplomats and rulers in late 1814, had one goal: to put Europe back together after Napoleon tore it apart. The four major players—Austria, Prussia, Russia, and the United Kingdom—bickered for months over how to achieve it. But then something happened in 1815 that smashed through the bureaucracy: Napoleon’s return. When word of Napoleon’s escape from Elba reached Vienna, the delegates wasted no time. Before he reached Paris, Napoleon was declared an outlaw. Just 15 days later, the four major powers each pledged 150,000 men to fight “until Bonaparte shall have been rendered absolutely unable to create disturbance, and to renew his attempts for possessing himself of the Supreme Power in France.” Their speed paid off: A few months later, they would defeat Napoleon at…

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saving america’s oldest chronicles

They saw the Europeans arriving and drew them: men on horseback and figures in Spanish dress. Long before then—as early as 4,700 years ago—the hunter-gatherers of the Southwest had been painting scenes from their lives on the canyons where the Pecos River meets the Rio Grande. Filling the walls with pictures of people and animals, these ancient inhabitants of southwestern Texas inscribed the stories of early America. Dammed and Saved Since the 1930s, when documentation of these mysterious sites was first made, there have been huge strides in deciphering the vivid narratives within the murals. But this unique chronicle of thousands of years of human history, which holds the key to the worldview of ancient American societies, is increasingly under threat. Many sites were lost when the Rio Grande was dammed in…

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connecting the dots

ARTIST, ARCHAEOLOGIST, and Shumla founder, Carolyn Boyd (right) first encountered the rock art of the lower Pecos in the late 1980s. She was particularly struck by a mural known as the White Shaman, a white figure surrounded by multicolored forms, which she is observing in the image. When a civilization disappears, the meaning behind its art is lost, and scholars must piece the meanings together. Some archaeologists theorize that the array of images are unrelated, but Boyd was convinced they all played a role in a unified story—if only she could crack the code. She started spotting patterns at other sites in the lower Pecos region, including antlered humanlike figures. Boyd later studied a modern painting of antlered figures and deer antlers decorated with mysterious dots, the work of an…

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going beyond galen

Circa 216 Galen, Greek scholar and physician, dies. His studies of human anatomy will dominate European medicine for centuries. 1578 William Harvey is born in Folkestone, England. He will study medicine at the leading colleges and universities of Europe. 1618 Harvey becomes physician to King James I of England and will also serve his successor, Charles I. 1628 Harvey’s groundbreaking book is published and contains new science about how the blood circulates. 1657 William Harvey dies of a stroke. At the time of his death, his description of blood circulation has become widely accepted.…

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william harvey’s bloody revolution

Until 1628 few Europeans disputed the teachings of Galen, an accomplished Greek physician and scholar. Galen lived in the second century A.D., and his teachings would come to dominate European medicine and scholarship for centuries. Published in 1628, Harvey’s small volume—about 70 pages long—became a gigantic milestone. Galen’s massive contributions to medicine cannot be denied. He was the first to identify the physiological difference between veins and arteries. He also disproved a 400-year-old theory that arteries conveyed not blood but air throughout the body (the name artery comes from this original idea: The Greek arteria means “that which conveys air”). By the 16th and 17th centuries scientific methods had evolved, making it easier for new scientists to challenge the old ones. Galen’s theories were sitting ducks, waiting for a physician like Englishman…

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science takes on superstition

HARVEY’S FAME paved the way for becoming the royal physician from 1618. He treated James I during the king’s serious illness in 1625 and would serve his son and heir, Charles I. It was at court that Harvey became involved in the witch hunts of the 17th century. The king appointed him as an expert witness in several trials, and Harvey’s scientific approach saved the lives of at least four women accused of being witches. On one occasion, a toad was alleged to be a demon in disguise: To test the theory, Harvey dissected the toad with a scalpel and proved that it was just an ordinary (dead) amphibian.…