10 Martyrs to Civil Rights

10 Martyrs to Civil Rights

A Brief History

On June 21, 1964, three civil rights workers were kidnapped and murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi, an event commemorated in the 1988 feature film, Mississippi Burning.  Advocating or campaigning for civil rights of various groups of people has been an historically dangerous business.  Many people engaged in the struggle for civil rights throughout history have been murdered or executed for their efforts.  Here we list 10 such people who have been martyred in the cause of freedom.  Who would you add to the list?

Digging Deeper

10. Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman, 1964.

A 21 year old African-American from Mississippi and 2 Jewish New Yorkers had been conducting voter registration efforts and investigating the burning of a church when Klan members, including a deputy sheriff kidnapped and murdered them.  In 1967 5 suspects were convicted in federal court of depriving the 3 martyrs of their civil rights by killing them, and the last living suspect was convicted of manslaughter X 3 in 2005.  Cracked fact:  Chaney’s brother was radicalized by his brother’s murder and became an anti-white extremist, eventually going to jail for the murder of a man in Florida.  Friends of Chaney were also likewise radicalized and murdered people in South Carolina and Florida.

9.  Paul Guihard, 1962.

A French journalist covering the admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi in Oxford (the first African-American student there), he was shot in the back by a white mob.  His last report on the day of his death included “The Civil War has never ended.”

8.  Malcolm X, 1965.

At first preaching a violent anti-white, anti-integration agenda and a representative of The Nation of Islam (Black Muslims), Malcolm (born Malcolm Little) took a trip to Africa and the middle east that cause him to reassess his platform.  Still advocating for African-American rights, he left the Nation of Islam for more conventional Sunni Muslim faith and moderated his previously radical platform.  He was killed by members of the Nation of Islam that felt betrayed.

7.  Malala Yousafzai, 2009.

Although not actually killed, this girl was only 12 when she was shot in the face by an Islamic militant in her native Pakistan.  Malala had been advocating for the rights of women and girls, especially for girls to be educated.  In the incident that gained international notoriety the severely injured girl was taken to England for treatment, made a miraculous recovery, and continues to advocate for women’s rights despite death threats against herself and her father.

6.  20 Coal Miners, Ludlow Colorado, 1914.

In a massacre known as the bloodiest day in the US labor movement, about 20 coal miners were killed by Colorado state militiamen who were attempting to evict the 1000 or so miners and their families from their camp that they had occupied for about 7 months, on strike for the right to unionize and other workers’ rights.

5.  Medgar Evers, 1963.

An NAACP field secretary, this activist for African-American civil rights was murdered by a member of theWhite Citizen’s Council.  Shot in the back, he was rushed to a hospital that refused him entry because he was black!  Only when the hospital officials realized who he was did they admit him, but it was too late.  His murderer was subjected to trial by all white juries twice that resulted in hung juries both times.  In 1994 Byron De La Beckwith was finally convicted of the murder.

4.  Harvey Milk, 1978.

Milk was originally quiet about his homosexuality until about age 40, at which time he became a vocal advocate of gay rights and moved to San Francisco where he unsuccessfully ran for office.  Appointed as a city supervisor, in the 11 months he was in office he was instrumental in passing gay rights legislation.  He was gunned down along with Mayor Moscone by Dan White, another city supervisor that had resigned and resented what he thought was reverse discrimination against himself.  Cracked fact:  White used the famous “Twinkie” defense, claiming that his diet of junk food affected his thinking.

3.  Rev. Bruce Klunder, 1964.

Protesting the building of a segregated school in Cleveland, Ohio, Klunder and other protesters put themselves in front of construction equipment to block constructions.  Klunder was killed when he was crushed by a bulldozer that backed over him.

2.  Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968.

Probably the most famous person in the civil rights for African-Americans movement, King was gunned down under mysterious circumstances that many, including his family, believe was covered up by the US government.  Cracked fact:  King’s real name was Michael King.  His father changed both of their names to Martin Luther King during a 1934 trip to Nazi Germany and the change was never legally registered.

1.  John Brown, 1859.

A white abolitionist that was attempting to arm American slaves in order to foster abolition of slavery by force of arms, Brown had led a raid on a federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia and was captured, tried, and convicted of murder and treason (against the state of Virginia), sentenced to death and executed.  At his trial, Cleveland, Ohio attorney Hiram Griswold argued that Brown had not personally killed anyone and that he could not commit treason against a state that he did not live in or owe loyalty to.  Brown was and is often portrayed as a crazed radical, perhaps even mentally ill, but people who corresponded with him while awaiting execution found him quite thoughtful and rational.


10 People Who Lived Out Your Childhood Dreams

Let’s face it: most of us have ordinary lives. Even those of us with awesome job titles like astronaut, professional bear wrestler or Internet list writer probably spend more time eating Doritos and watching TV than we do divesting cheerleaders of their underpants

But then there are the handful of people for whom “ordinary life” is simply not enough. For the following folks, doing anything other than living out their childhood dreams counts as a waste of time.

10. The Guy Who Built a Jetpack


Yves Rossy started his career as a revolutionary engineer and daredevil pilot, two things most of us would be content to end our careers as. But Rossy wasn’t satisfied with the thrill of flying a high-tech military fighter jet and inventing endless cool stuff. He wanted to have his own personal jetpack.

So he built one. And it worked. It worked so well that Rossy’s probably now verging on potential superhero/villain territory. Don’t believe us? Here’s a video of him racing three military jet planes high above the Alps. Rossy gets up to these sorts of shenanigans all the time. In the last few years he’s flown over the Grand Canyon, Mt Fiji, across the English Channel and spent uncountable hours buzzing actual planes for kicks. The best part? You can totally get in on that action. Rossy’s jetpack rival, Eric Scott, has opened his own special “jet pack school.” Yes, you too could one day earn the nickname “Rocket Man.”

9. The Dwarf Tossing Saudi Prince

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal is the sort of guy who necessitates the term “rich douche.” He’s one of the 25 richest people on Earth, and has a reputation for harassing his employees and generally being a bit of a dick. He also looks uncannily like a villain from 1970s Doctor Who. Oh, and he’s completely crazy.

Christened the “dwarf throwing billionaire” by Business Insider, Alaweed lives life like the biggest pimp imaginable. His mansion has 371 rooms, each filled weekly with fresh flowers flown in from Holland. He owns his own private zoo, 300 classic cars, a 280 foot yacht and a private jet with a solid gold throne. Oh, and he’s been known to eat roasted camel at some of the gigantic banquets his personal army of chefs prepares for him at every meal time. As for his nickname, well, you get three guesses as to how he earned it. He’s the kind of guy who makes Snoop Dogg look thrifty. He’s a man living an 8-year old kid’s dream of what it’s like to be rich, and he’s loving it.

8. The Shy Man who Lived the Ultimate Male Fantasy

Leif Ueland was a shy photographer who hadn’t had sex in five years. Out of the blue, he managed to pick up a gig travelling on the Playboy Bus as it made its way across America in search of Playboy’s Miss Millennium. His task was to photograph hundreds of beautiful, naked women. It was practically a sitcom premise.

It sounds like the ultimate “bro” fantasy, partially because it is. But what made Ueland’s journey unique was how uptight he was about the whole thing. In his book, he recalls how he was raised in a repressed, religious Midwest family to show absolutely no desire towards girls whatsoever. When he first got the gig he was mortified, but travelling with a group of relaxed, beautiful and flirtatious women ultimately helped him get over his sexual hang-ups. By the end he was unashamedly living the shy nerd’s dream, romancing and sleeping with Playboy girls and getting paid to do it. It sounds like the plot to another Revenge of the Nerds sequel, with the added bonus that it’s true.

7. The Guy Who Befriends Lions


Kevin Richardson may be a secret superhero. Known as the “Lion Whisperer,” he cuddles, plays and even sleeps besides the big, deadly cats. This would be intense enough for most people, as simply standing within a few feet of a lion can be terrifying in an utterly primal way. But Richardson isn’t content with just befriending a couple of captive murder machines. He specifically goes out to befriend them in the wild.

This video shows him on a standard morning’s walk. All alone on the African savannah, he suddenly starts calling out. At this point, two wild lions come over to see what’s going on. Not only do they not eat him, they play with him like he’s their long-lost best friend.

Think that’s impressive? Here’s another video, this time showing him playing with a pack of hyenas. Richardson is essentially living out every young animal lover’s dream, with the added bonus that so far nothing’s gone crazy and decided to eat him.

6. The Rich Geek with Iron Man’s Lab


Elon Musk is already living the dream. He’s practically the god of engineering geeks, a self-made billionaire who runs his own rocket building programme. Then he went one better by building his very own lab straight out of Iron Man.

For those of you who haven’t seen the films, protagonist Tony Stark gets his super futuristic lab work done by manipulating 3D holograms with his hands. Musk evidently liked the look of this, because in 2013 his company made this slice of Hollywood fantasy a bona-fide reality.

Using (mostly) affordable technology, Musk and his team created a 3D screen where parts of his rocket engine designs can be projected and moved about at will. The full video is here and while it’s slow to start, by the end you won’t believe your eyes.

5. The Real Life James Bond

Ask most adolescent males and immature grownups who they’d most like to be and there’s a good chance the answer will be “James Bond.” And they’re not the only ones—in the 1940s an Allied spy known as “White Rabbit” decided he couldn’t be bothered waiting for Ian Fleming to create the character, and became James Bond instead.

Forest “Tommy” Yeo-Thomas was the sort of man they no longer make. A charming womaniser, he spent his life adventuring, drinking, saving the world and (probably) starring in orgies. In 1920 he escaped from a Soviet gulag by killing a guard with his bare hands. During WWII British Intelligence parachuted him into occupied France three times before he was captured and tortured by the Gestapo. The Germans sent him to the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp, only for Tommy to escape again. When he accidentally found himself on a train full of German soldiers he shrugged off any ideas of “hiding” and sat down to eat with the Gestapo butcher Klaus Barbie, who presumably spent the entire meal stroking a white cat and talking about his plans for world domination. Then, just to rub Germany’s face in it, Tommy finished the meal by escaping again.

His biographer claimed he was the inspiration for Bond. With a résumé like that, we’re inclined to believe her.

4. The Bipolar Adventurer



Wealthy businessman Paul Downes has a case of bipolar disorder so intense he swings between dark depressions we can’t even begin to describe and impossible, dizzying highs. He refuses to medicate, claiming that the highs are worth the lows. If this video of one of his manic episodes is anything to go by, we can see his point.

In 2010, Downes went through an incredible manic phase. Renting a gigantic fairy tale castle on a private island in Jamaica, he flew out 12 beautiful Ukrainian supermodels to compete to be his wife. For the next two weeks he lived a playboy lifestyle consisting of sun-drenched beaches, wild parties and rampant sex, one made even more intense by his sudden conviction that he was Allah.

But that wasn’t just a crazy one-off. Downes himself says that he goes through such periods with astonishing frequency, and that looking forward to the next insane adventure more than makes up for his hideous lows. It’s not a lifestyle most of us would want (at the risk of sounding controversial, TopTenz always recommends seeking proper medical help), but it’s impossible to deny that Downes’ bipolar condition has helped him become the wild adventurer he always wanted to be.

3. The (Maybe) Real Life Indiana Jones


British adventurer Frederick Albert Mitchell-Hedges is, by his own account, the closest the world has come to having a real life Indiana Jones.

Mitchell-Hedges supposedly spent most of his time in (then) remote parts of the world, where he alternately uncovered ancient civilisations, became deified by local tribes and battled Nazis to get hold of hidden treasures. He’s even credited with starting a couple of revolutions here and there, including a stint working for Mexico’s notorious Pancho Villa. During his lifetime, he’s said to have lived with Trotsky, fought “sea monsters” (read: sharks) and worked for British Intelligence. His entire existence reads like a mash up of all four Indiana Jones films, including all the nonsense about crystal skulls.

Of course, that’s assuming he’s telling the truth. Mitchell-Hedges sounds like he was a man who lived an amazing life, but several historians have poured cold water on some of his claims. But if nothing else, he was unafraid of adventure and really good at making up stories.

2. The Daredevil Who Jumped From Space


How many of us dream of one day doing something so crazy, so dangerous, so flat-out incredible that the world has no choice but to bow down before us? Felix Baumgartner had that dream, so he went and lived it.

In 2012, Felix caught a balloon into space (as you do), then calmly jumped out. What followed was over four minutes of freefall in a descent that saw him break the sound barrier. His descent speed peaked at over 800 miles per hour, which you may recognise as a speed that human beings aren’t really designed to travel at.

From his insane vantage point, the plummeting Felix could see the entire Earth. Every single scrap of humanity was laid out below him. It was the sort of thing only unfortunate astronauts should experience after some hideous malfunction, and Felix survived without incident. In that moment, he must have felt like the most incredible person who has ever lived. And when it was over he probably wanted to go straight back and do it again.

1. The Kid Who Became Batman

Most stories that open with a five-year old battling leukaemia don’t exactly belong in a light-hearted article. But Miles Scott is the kid who lived the wildest dream that even the other people on this list still have. Miles Scott is the kid who became Batman.

In 2013, the Make-A-Wish Foundation splashed out an insane amount of money and goodwill to transform San Francisco into Gotham City. Early in the morning, a genuine live news report was interrupted by San Fran’s real police chief asking “Batman” for help. Instantly, young Scott was whisked into his Batmobile and driven to a woman who’d been strapped to a bomb he needed to defuse (we assume the bomb was not real). Job done, the world’s luckiest kid was then taken to foil a staged bank robbery in an actual bank, battle the Riddler’s goons in a park and finally receive the key to the city. He was honoured by the mayor and even received a personal congratulation from the President himself, because deep down we all want Batman to be real. Take note, everyone—this is how you make a kid’s wish come true.

Top 10 Largest and Most Astonishing Aquariums in the World

The ocean is a place of ceaseless wonder, and what is just as magical is the replication of such beauty on land. There are amazing aquariums that have been designed to showcase the beauty of the ocean all over the world. Some of them are so impressive that they rival Mother Nature in beauty and detail.

10. The Okinawa Chiraumi Aquarium, Japan


The Japanese are known for their over-the-top projects, and the Okinawa Chiraumi aquarium is no exception. Built in 2002 with one of the largest acrylic viewing panels in the world, the Okinawa Chiraumi Aquarium has come to attract millions of visitors from all over the world. The aquarium has a large number of fish species and different types of aquatic plant life as well. The aquarium also features dives and other fun activities that make anyone’s visit to the aquarium truly magical.

The aquarium has been designed in a descending manner to imitate the deep sea. The Kurosio tank – which is the main attraction – is home to whale sharks, shoals of sardines, sting rays, and other life forms.

9. Ushaka Marine World: South Africa


The Ushaka marine world is a sixteen-acre marvel situated in Durban, South Africa. The marine theme park was built to resemble a shipwreck and is divided into many different sections. The Ushaka sea world comprises of shark dives, dolphin shows, ray feeds, and seal shows. The wet and wild section is a fun place, consisting of fun slides and pools. The park also has a shopping and entertainment area as well as a play area where kids can be kids.

The Ushaka marine world has unique species of marine life — visitors will be amazed by the collection of different species of fish and other animals found in the ocean. The aquarium boasts both common and unique forms of marine animals and acts as a sanctuary for endangered animals. The Ushaka marine world is a spectacular place that will be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

8. Shanghai Ocean Aquarium: China


The Shanghai Ocean Aquarium covers 263,910 square feet of aquatic wonder. This aquarium showcases some of the rarest animals in the world. Visitors will be delighted to see Antarctic penguins, the Yangtze alligator, and the giant salamander, creatures rarely seen in the wild. Some of other interesting marine creatures that have been featured at the shanghai ocean aquarium are the Chinese water dragons, white sharks, and the black and white sting rays. The shanghai ocean aquarium also delights the guests with a spectacular walk through a tunnel that is built inside the aquarium. This walk makes the visitor feel as though he was walking inside the aquarium, and provides a spectacular point of view which will captivate even the most discerning of tourists.

7. Monterey Bay Aquarium: California


Monterey Bay Aquarium is dubbed as the window to the marvels that are found in the ocean. It is one of the most unique attractions of the west coast of America because it features spectacular aquatic life. The aquarium is a conservation initiative that seeks to find endangered species and provide a safe and favorable environment for them to thrive. The aquarium boasts over 35,000 animals and about 620 different species.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a fun and educational spot for people who love aquatic animals and offers a unique experience. Guests can participate in animal feedings, enjoy fantastic animal shows, and go on enjoyable educational tours. The animals featured in the aquarium include seals, whales, sharks, octopi, jelly fish, wolf eels, and sea sardines.

6. L’Oceanografic Aquarium: Spain


This aquarium is an aqua lover’s paradise. L’Oceanografic Aquarium is one of the most beautiful places in Spain and the world in general. Visitors can delight themselves in seeing amazing shoals of fish, from the common goldfish to unique and strange species that can only be found at an aquarium of such caliber. Prepare to be amazed by dancing seals, dolphins, and delightful penguins.

The L’Oceanografic Aquarium is the largest aquarium in Europe and features twelve buildings, which have been created to emulate the different marine ecosystems. When visitors come to the aquarium, they are sure to experience all that marine life has to offer. It’s not only fish that are found there, but also birds that are found in the wetlands. The 500 different species of animals found at the aquarium ensure a unique marine experience for all visitors.

5. Sydney Aquarium: Australia


Marine beauty has been redefined by the Sydney Aquarium. Located at the Darling harbor, Sydney Aquarium is known to be the home of over 650 different species of animals and a total of 6000 animals since 1988. It is well known that the Australian continent is home to some of the world’s most unique marine animals, and the Sydney aquarium has best represented this with their unique marine life. The Sydney aquarium features a unique acrylic panel tunnel where visitors can walk through as they see fish swimming all around them.

The aquarium also has a recreation of the world’s greatest barrier reef, which is indigenous to the Australian coast. There, visitors can delight themselves with penguin and seal displays inside and out of water. There are also different types of sharks, sardines, octopuses, crocodiles, and sting rays that will impress even the most discerning of people.

4. New England Aquarium: Boston, Massachusetts


The New England Aquarium offers the closest thing to a natural habitat for marine wildlife. The aquarium was built in 1969 and has become a sanctuary for endangered species to this day. The aquarium has revolutionized marine displays because it features a cylindrical coral reef that is built to replicate the Caribbean coral reef. The reef has most of the wildlife that you will find in the wilderness, such as great white sharks, beautiful and multicolored tropical fish, sea turtles, and octopi.

The aquarium also features a South American river display, with legendary animals such as the anaconda, piranha, electric eels, and many more. There are seal and penguin exhibits at the aquarium too, featuring rare and unique species of the animals that have found refuge and a home at the New England aquarium.

3. Two Oceans Aquarium: South Africa


The cape in South Africa is located where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean. At this point, warm and cold currents meet, and this creates a very favorable condition for marine life to thrive. But there is no need to go scuba diving to see the amazing marine life, because Two Oceans Aquarium has brought the spectacular marine life to land. The aquarium has six themed exhibits that host over 3,000 animals. The exhibits include animals that are found in the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the river of Sappi, and the Kelp forest. Thrill seekers have the opportunity to dive with sharks, feed the animals and walk through the kelp forest.

2. National Aquarium: Baltimore, Maryland


The National Aquarium in Baltimore is one of the most comprehensive aquariums in the world. It has been in existence since 1981 and has become a home to over 660 different species and over 16500 animals. The aquarium boasts a representation of a tropical rain forest that is filled with different types of tropical birds on the first floor. It also features amazing shark tanks over 30 feet high, featuring species such as the hammerhead and the deadly great white. Another unique feature here is the frog tank, featuring the largest display of frogs in the world.

1. Georgia Aquarium: Atlanta, Georgia


The Georgia Aquarium is the world’s greatest aquarium, home to some of the rarest species of marine life on the planet. The aquarium has been organized into five different galleries: the Ocean voyager, Georgia explorer, tropical diver, river scout and the cold water quest. In these galleries, visitors have the chance to see a wide range of animals in their habitats. The ocean voyager is home to the manta rays and sharks — it has 6.3 million gallons of water and the largest viewing acrylic panels in Northern America. The Georgia explorer has animals that are unique to Georgia, such as the rare loggerhead sea turtle and lionfish. The river scout hosts animals that can only be found in the rivers of Africa and South America, and the aquarium also has amazing displays of penguins, dolphins and other spectacular marine animals.

10 Capital Cities That Were Changed

10 Capital Cities That Were Changed

A Brief History

On June 20, 1991, the German Bundestag moved the capital of the newly reunified Germany back to Berlin from Bonn.  For a variety of reasons, countries occasionally change their capital cities.  Here we list 10 of those incidents.  There is no significance to the order listed.  Can you think of other notable capital changes?  (There are a lot!)

10.  Bonn-Berlin, Germany, 1991.

When Germany was split after World War II into East and West Germany, each had their own capital, Bonn in the West and East Berlin in the East.  Upon reunification after the fall of the communist Soviet bloc, the government was moved into the traditional German capital city of Berlin.

9.  Rio de Janeiro-Brasilia, Brazil, 1960.

Rio had been the capital of Brazil in all its forms from when the Portuguese first colonized Brazil.  Brazilians decided to create a new capital, centrally located in their vast country and without any of the historical baggage of an established city.

8.  Chillicothe-Columbus, Ohio, 1816.

Columbus is now the most populous city in Ohio, but only the 3rd most populous metropolitan area (Cincinnati and Cleveland).  Chillicothe was the first capital, then Zanesville, then Chillicothe again before finally Columbus.  Chillicothe has the distinction of having been the capital of Ohio twice.  Columbus is the largest city in the world named after Christopher Columbus.

7.  Calcutta-Delhi-New Delhi. India, 1912 and 1931.

India is on pace to equal or surpass China as the most populous country in the world and they have nuclear weapons.  Although still backward in much of the country, they are becoming more important industrially and economically.  New Delhi is actually a new city built within the borders of Delhi, which is more of a region or district (“capital territory”).

6.  Paris-Vichy-Paris, France, 1940 and 1944.

When Germany conquered France in 1940 the puppet government of occupied France was moved to Vichy.  In 1944 when the Allies liberated Paris, Paris once again resumed its role as capital of France.

5.  Kingston-Montreal-Ottawa, Canada, 1844 and 1857.

Queen Victoria herself made the decision to move the Canadian capital to Ottawa when Canada was still a “province” of the United Kingdom.  When Canada gained their independence in 1867 the capital remained in Ottawa, a city with a metropolitan population of over 1.2 million.

4.  Kyoto-Tokyo, Japan, 1869.

Kyoto had been the capital of Japan for over 1000 years when the 17 year old emperor (Meiji) decided to make Edo the capital and renamed it Tokyo.  Tokyo now has a metropolitan population of about 35 million people.  Cracked fact:  Kyoto was spared being a nuclear target in 1945 due to its historical significance.

3.  Moscow-St. Petersburg-Moscow, Russia, 1713 and 1918.

Czar Peter the Great moved the Imperial Russian capital from Moscow to his new city and it remained the national capital for all but 4 years until the communist takeover moved the capital of the Soviet Union back to Moscow.  In the meantime, St. Petersburg was renamed Petrograd in 1918 and then Leningrad in 1924 and back to St. Petersburg in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved.

2.  Constantinople-Ankara, Turkey, 1923.

After World War I upon the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the founding of modern Turkey, the Turks moved the national capital to Ankara, a city that today has a metropolitan area population of about 4.5 million.  Cracked fact:  The former capital, Constantinople is now known as Istanbul, a city with a metropolitan area of over 14 million people.  Prior to Constantinople the city was known as Byzantium.

1.  New York-Washington, D.C., USA 1790.

New York served as the nation’s capital while under the Articles of Confederation, and then as the first capital under the Constitution in 1789-1790 until Washington, D.C. was established.  Cracked fact: York, Pennsylvania claims to have been the first capital of the US since the Articles of Confederation were drafted there and it was the defacto center of the revolutionary government.  Cracked fact:  The first capital of New York State was Kingston.

<a href=”//www.bluehost.com/track/smitaghera/” target=”_blank”>
<img border=”0″ src=”//bluehost-cdn.com/media/partner/images/smitaghera/430×288/bh-430×288-01-dy.png”>

Top 10 Female Aviators Who Weren’t Amelia Earhart

In May 1932 Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. This feat, along with her mysterious disappearance over the Pacific Ocean in 1937, made her one of the most famous names in aviation history. But there are other, less well known, pioneering female aviators who also led colourful, dangerous, and often short lives.


10) Sophie Blanchard

Nationality – French


Sophie and her husband, Jean-Pierre, were early pioneers of hot air ballooning in the days when it was still a novel enough pursuit to draw huge crowds. In 1809 their partnership ending in dramatic fashion when Jean-Pierre suffered a heart attack and plummeted from the balloon to his death.

Undeterred, Sophie continued to fly and even came to the attention of Napoleon who asked her to draft plans for a possible aerial invasion of England, an idea which she finally concluded to be unworkable.

Said to be a timid character with her feet on solid ground, Sophie became utterly fearless once in the air. She often slept in her balloon, and even used it to launch fireworks for the entertainment of the crowds below. Unfortunately, lighting fireworks whilst suspended in the air by a bag of highly combustible gas proved to be every bit as dangerous as it sounds. Sophie died aged forty-one when her balloon caught fire during a display.

9) Blanche Stuart Scott

Nationality – American


In August of 1910, Blanche Stuart Scott became the first woman to pilot an aircraft in the US, a feat which she quite possibly accomplished by accident. Her aircraft had been fitted with a limiter intended to enable her to practice taxiing without reaching the speed required for take-off. A gust of wind caught the craft and she soared to a height of forty feet before landing safely.

She went on to become a skilled pilot, famed for performing ‘death dives’ whereby she would hurtle towards the ground from high altitudes only to pull up at the last moment.

Despite her love of stunt flying she retired in 1916 citing her dislike of the public’s ghoulish fascination with the crashes which so often accompanied early air shows.

8) Aida de Acosta

Nationality – American


Nine months before the Wright brothers made history with their famous flight, Aida de Acosta was making history of her own. Aged just nineteen she became the first woman to pilot a dirigible, a type of lighter-than-air aircraft. The dirigible flew at around fifteen miles an hour and had seating only for the pilot.  The owner of the craft, Santos-Dumont, cycled along beneath her shouting up instructions.

When asked how she had enjoyed her record breaking flight her response was that it had been ‘very nice.’ Her parents were appalled believing that no respectable young man would show a romantic interest in a woman who had done such an outrageous thing.

Aida seems not to have maintained an interest in flying, having lost the sight in one eye, and went on to help establish the Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute at John Hopkins University

7) Florence ‘Pancho’ Barnes

Nationality – American


Born into a life of relative privilege, Florence Barnes was possessed of an adventurous spirit that a life of domestic drudgery couldn’t satisfy. In 1927, shortly after inheriting a large sum of money following the death of her mother, Pancho left her husband and travelled to Mexico where she adopted the nickname ‘Pancho’ which she would use for the rest of her life.

On her return to America, Pancho turned her thoughts to the sky. She made her first solo flight after only six hours of instruction. In 1929 she took part in a transcontinental air race from Santa Monica to Cleveland. Her race ended in Texas where she collided with a truck on the runway, a result of the less than stringent safety procedures of the times.

Pancho went on to become a top stunt pilot and appeared in several Hollywood films. In 1935 she purchased a ranch in Southern California which she converted into a club for fliers named ‘The Happy Bottom Riding Club.’

6) Bessie Coleman

Nationality – American


Unable to obtain a place in any American flight schools due to her African heritage, Bessie Coleman travelled to France where she earned her pilot’s license in 1922. In doing so she became the first qualified black female pilot anywhere in the world.

Returning to the United States she became a popular stunt flyer, even landing a part in a movie before walking away due to the stereotypical nature of the role. She was killed in April 1926 when she was thrown from an aircraft piloted by a mechanic whilst planning stunts for her next show. Around ten-thousand mourners turned out to pay their respects at Bessie’s funeral in Chicago.

5) Sabiha Gökçen

Nationality – Turkish




An adopted child of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey’s first President, Sabiha is better known to history as the world’s first female combat pilot. She learnt to fly at Turk Kusu, a civilian aviation school, and continued her training in Russia. In 1936 she flew combat missions during the Dersim rebellion. She continued to take to the skies until 1964 by which time she had logged more than eight-thousand hours of flying time.

Her name is still remembered in Turkey where she has an international airport named after her.

4) Lidiya Vladimirovna LitvyakThe White Rose of Stalingrad

Nationality – Russian


When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Lidiya Vladimirovna Litvyak was already an excellent pilot. Unlike other major combatants, the Soviet Union regularly used women in combat roles, and Lidiya volunteered to use her skills in defense of her nation, in spite of the fact that her father had been killed during Stalin’s purges of 1937.

Despite her ‘White Rose’ nickname, she actually flew with a white lily painted on the side of her aircraft. She first saw combat in the skies above Stalingrad and within a month she had shot down five Luftwaffe aircraft to become the first ever female fighter ace.

Lidya was just a few days shy of her twenty-third birthday when she failed to return from a mission. She was officially classified as ‘missing in action’ until her remains were discovered in 1979. With twelve recorded kills (although the true total may have been much higher), she remains the highest scoring female fighter ace in history.

3) Melitta Schiller

Nationality – German


Melitta was one of only thirty-nine women awarded the Iron Cross by Germany during the course of the Second World War, an achievement made all the more astonishing when we learn that Melitta was Jewish.

Not just a first rate pilot, Melitta also qualified as an engineer and it would be these skills which kept her, and her family, out of the concentration camps. Her work as a test pilot made her important to the Nazi war effort, and she assisted in the development of the infamous JU87 Stuka Dive Bomber.

We don’t know what Melitta may have thought about National Socialism, but given her background she is unlikely to have been an enthusiastic adherent. In 1944 she was arrested when her brother-in-law Claus Von Stauffenberg attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Her importance to the war effort saw her set free, only to be shot down by American P-51 Mustangs while piloting a trainer aircraft in April 1945. She died of her injuries a short time afterwards.

2) Hanna Reitsch

Nationality – German


Another German pilot who, had she not been tainted by an infatuation with National Socialism, may have gone down in history as one of the finest fliers of all time.

Like many of the great pilots of her time, Hanna started her career flying gliders. Over the course of her life she set more than forty records in both powered and unpowered craft, some of which still stand today.

Her exceptional abilities led to her recruitment in 1937 as a test pilot, a position which allowed her to fly numerous experimental aircraft. She was one of the few pilots with the requisite skill to fly the Focke-Achgelis Fa 61, the world’s first fully controllable helicopter. She also flew M262 jets, a V1 rocket adapted with a cockpit, and the ludicrously dangerous rocket powered Me-163 Komet.

With Germany losing the war, Hanna pitched the idea of creating suicide squadrons to slow the Allied advance. The plan failed to gain traction, possibly because Hitler didn’t believe it would be an efficient use of resources.

In 1945 Hanna piloted a light aircraft into the encircled city of Berlin and spent two days in the Fuhrerbunker where she begged to be allowed to end her life alongside Hitler. Hitler refused and ordered her to leave the city, which she managed to do under a hail of fire.

She survived the war and continued to fly until her death in 1979.

1) Jacqueline Cochran

Nationality – American


Born in 1910, Jacqueline lived the early years of her life in grinding poverty. As a child she toiled for up to twelve hours a day in a Georgia cotton mill. Aged eight years old, and with her paycheck in hand, she bought the first pair of shoes she had ever owned. In 1914 she landed a job in a beauty salon, the first step in a journey which would see her become a successful business woman owning her own cosmetics company.

In 1932 she became fascinated in aviation and enrolled in a flight school. She proved to be a natural behind the controls of an aircraft, but worried that her lack of education would count against her in the written test she persuaded the examiners to let her take it orally. Jackie earned her pilot’s license in just three weeks.

Flying became her obsession and she may have set as many as two-hundred records in the course of her remarkable career; a record un-matched by any other pilot, male or female.

In the early stages of the Second World War she became the first female pilot to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean as part of the ‘Wings for Britain’ program. In 1953 she became the first woman to break the speed of sound, and in 1964 she bettered even that by flying at more than twice the speed of sound.

She passed away in 1980 at her home in California.

Albert Einstein Was Basically Like a Hobo Santa

Albert Einstein is mostly known for his many contributions to science and his gloriously trimmed moustache, sadly it seems that few people are aware of the fact that Einstein was also a huge supporter of civil rights and that he never used to wear socks.

In regards to the latter, because we know that’s the part you’re actually more curious about, it’s noted that after his second wife, Elsa passed away, Einstein basically stopped giving a shit about how he dressed. Though in his youth he’d been known as an incredibly snappy dresser, often pictured wearing fitted suits so sharp paper cuts could learn a thing or two from them.

"Size is relative, ladies."

It’s believed that Elsa is the primary reason Einstein took such good care of his appearance as she was apparently very conscious of how the two of them looked when they were pictured together. Which was often because Einstein was one of the most famous men on the face of the planet, he was pretty much a rock star.

A dapper rock star.

However, after Elsa passed and Einstein was awarded a position as a professor emeritus (essentially a retired professor who was still allowed to hang around university property) at Princeton, he began dressing comfortably instead of stylishly and it apparently wasn’t uncommon to see the ageing professor walking around without any socks on in a sweatshirt and sandles.

Einstein didn’t really have time to register what people thought of him though because it’s was at this point in his life that Einstein decided he wanted to personally strangle racism to death. Though he was a staunch supporter of civil rights his entire life, it was during his later years that Einstein became particularly motivated.

For example, when Einstein heard that African American Opera legend, Marian Anderson had been denied entry to a local hotel, Einstein immediately offered her a place to stay. Anderson accepted this kind offer and the two became life-long friends, with Anderson often staying with Einstein whenever an asshole hotel owner decided that they didn’t want a world-famous opera singer staying in their hotel.

This is a picture of one of Anderson's concerts.

When Einstein heard that Lincoln university had become the first university in the country to offer degree courses to black students, he travelled there to give a speech on how “Racism was a disease of the white man“, before being awarded an honorary degree, because that was what happened to Einstein wherever he went anyway.

Around the area in which Princeton itself was located, Einstein became a staple of the local community, often being observed walking around the poorest black neighbourhoods in his baggy-ass sweatshirt handing out candy to the local children. Which would be creepy if anyone but Einstein did it.

Einstein even once paid for the tuition of a young black man he’d never met, we don’t actually known this man’s name or what he studied because almost nothing Einstein did in support of civil rights was recorded by the mainstream media. Einstein literally paid for some kids tuition because he felt like it and then never told anyone about it because for him it was just the right thing to do. The only reason we know that it happened is because decades after his death, someone went to the areas Einstein would visit and heard from the people that lived directly there that a crazy looking guy with a shock of frizzy white hair would hand out presents to the children on a weekly basis.

Einstein was a total boss is what we’re trying to say.

Best Podcasts To Download Today

21 Essential Podcasts To Download Today

1 | Sodajerker On Songwriting

One thing you learn from podcasts is that, freed from a cramped radio slot and faced with someone who actually knows a bit about their subject, almost everyone has a fascinating story to tell. Scouse songwriting duo Simon Barber and Brian O’Connor set up Sodajerker just as an excuse to talk to their heroes about what it’s like to put songs together. But their natural inquisitiveness brings out the best in legends including Andy Partridge of XTC, Mike Stoller and Johnny Marr, making Sodajerker one of the most unusual and rewarding music podcasts.

2 | Stuff You Should Know

There is, let’s face it, a hell of a lot of stuff that we should know about but don’t. Who has the time to Google everything? Far better to absorb it while exercising, commuting or cooking the tea from this conversational and highly entertaining podcast by howstuffworks.com. On SYSK, a rotating pro-am panel discusses everything from How Bitcoin Works to How Crack Works in what feels like the world’s most well-informed pub conversation. A “holy shit!” revelation is guaranteed every 10 minutes or so. Did you know that Woody Harrelson’s dad was a Mafia hitman? Us neither.

3 | Real Time With Bill Maher

This one, meanwhile, is Have I Got News For You with a metric shitload more swearing plus a little more bite and viciousness than “Gosh, isn’t Ed Miliband’s voice funny?” It’s an audio version of red-meat liberal Bill Maher’s HBO show, giving us a top-of-the-line comic – plus guests from politics, stand-up and the media – tearing into the rotten state of American government and its even worse Republican opposition. British TV and radio keep failing to replicate this format chiefly because we have no-one like Maher, the left-wing PJ O’Rourke.

4 | Little Atoms

Pamper your brain with books, ideas, the arts, politics and whatever else comes up in an engaging, irreverent and unashamedly intellectual podcast that makes Radio 4’s Front Row sound like the E! Channel. The lo-fi production values – check those creaky armchairs – compound the impression of rubbing leather-padded jacket elbows with a splendidly down-at-heel slice of the intelligentsia.

5 | Le Show With Harry Shearer

Some voices were just born for radio. So it is with the bound-leather tones of Harry Shearer, Spinal Tap’s Derek Smalls and the voice of The Simpsons’ Principal Skinner, who has been presenting this witty mix of liberal political snark, comic observation and weird news from around the world since 1983 – long before the dawn of podcasting.

6 | The Pod Delusion

This cheerfully sceptical “podcast about interesting things” looks at the world from a fiercely rationalist perspective. It’s a partner of the British Humanist Association and the name, of course, is a hat-tip to Richard Dawkins’ atheist bible The God Delusion. Each episode takes a leisurely but eye-opening look at issues as varied as the iffy history of Assassin’s Creed, Greece’s Golden Dawn and the non-human civil rights of captive killer whales. It’ll give you hope that the world isn’t really vanishing down a wormhole of superstition, and make you feel about 50 per cent smarter.

7 | The Bugle With John Oliver And Andy Zaltzman

John Oliver – British comedy’s heroic cultural attaché to The Daily Show – and mate Zaltzman deadpan their way through current affairs in this brilliantly rambling “newspaper for the ears”. It’s two of our lot doing the kind of sharp topical comedy that the Yanks do so well, and if you enjoy Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert then your commute is pretty much sorted here.

8 | The Nerdist

Your average radio interview can end up boringly formulaic, with three predictable questions wrapped up by a plug for the guest’s latest “project”. Being open-ended, podcasts can ramble on for as long as they like and – horror! – develop into actual conversations. Geeky interlocutor Chris Hardwick takes full advantage of this, coming up with entertaining and properly insightful sit-downs with characters as diverse as Harrison Ford, Vince Breaking Bad Gilligan, Dave Grohl and porn star turned actress Sasha Grey.

9 | Pop Culture Happy Hour From NPR

America’s state-funded National Public Radio can be a little brown-rice-and-world-music sometimes but they’ve got a grip on movies, music and the Internet that’s beyond most British broadcasters. In this weekly roundtable its pundits dig into the thinking person’s entertainment story of the week, be it Mad Men, Downton Abbey or the shambolic VMAs. In one episode they explained why a key swearword in Firefly translates as “Holy Testicle Tuesday!” in Mandarin.

10 | Mark Kermode And Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews

Scandalously, Britain’s single best source of quality movie commentary goes out on Radio 5Live on Friday afternoons when normal people are hard at work. But! It’s a podcast too, so you can sit ringside as bequiffed cineaste Mark “the Good Doctor” Kermode and voice of the common man Simon Mayo pass judgment in the week’s releases – and talk to the odd film star too. Bliss it is when Kermode really gets his teeth into a stinker like Keith Lemon: The Film.

11 | Radio Lab – From WNYC

Like an audio edition of Horizon remixed by Boards Of Canada and Chris The Day Today Morris, the oblique documentary series Radiolab, from New York’s public station WNYC, riffs on a big, big subject like colour, time or numbers until it become a sound experience in its own right. Hard facts collide with a playful sonic approach and the effect is like a dream where you learn stuff. In the episode on colour they used the harmonics of a choir to illustrate how dogs see the spectrum. Amazing, right?

12 | The Comedian’s Comedian With Stuart Goldsmith

Stand-up comics talking about the foundation and technique of comedy ought to be about as interesting as golfers talking about their swing – great for insiders, not so much for the rest of us. But in these free-ranging hour-long conversations with noted joke-architects like Al Murray, Greg Proops and Richard Herring, interviewer Stuart Goldsmith steers the chat towards entertaining revelation and deftly stomps on any preciousness or “tears of a clown” clichés. Listen and you’ll never heckle a stand-up again.

13 | The Slate Political Gabfest

Take the bewilderment out of American politics with this insightful and very funny weekly roundup from high-end webzine Slate. Freed from the stultifying need to create an artificial sense of balance, presenters John Dickerson, Emily Bazelon and David Plotz can tell it like it is on Obamacare, the Tea Party and more. It’s like The Today Programme with jokes (and occasional swearing).

14 | The Football Ramble

You know what would be nice? If every sports radio station on earth didn’t dump all its shows into iTunes as well, making it harder to find worthwhile independent shows like the excellent Football Ramble. Here a handful of actual fans – civilians who buy their own tickets, not self-congratulatory pundits or shiny-suited ex-players up in the Green Room – talk over the week’s footballing issues. It’s the antithesis of so-called banter on so-called soccer sofas, and ideal if you love our national sport but cringe when you hear the words “the beautiful game”.

15 | The Thrilling Adventure Hour

It’s a brilliantly original idea — a spot-on recreation of old-time US radio drama from the Thirties and Forties that both sends up these corny, wholesome wireless serials and shows real affection for a homespun era before irony ruined everything. Fake serials including Sparks Nevada, Marshal On Mars, Amelia Earheart, Fearless Flier and Down in Moonshine Holler are rendered with songs, wisecracks and handmade sound effects before a live audience in Hollywood. You’ll laugh like a space coyote.

16 | WTF With Marc Maron

This high-intensity twice-weekly interview podcast is about as far as you can imagine from a chummy little chat between showbusiness insiders. Having paid his dues both in performance and his personal life – addiction, booze, bitter divorce – LA-based stand-up comic Marc Maron persuades a stellar line-up to come round to his garage (yes, his garage) and open up in ways that conventional media seldom sees. Robin Williams, Edgar Wright, Josh Homme and Thom Yorke are among the guests in an interview series unlike any other.

17 | Tune Me What? – The South African Music Podcast

Even post Sugarman, this remains pretty much the world’s last undiscovered music, kept secret for decades in censored, apartheid-ridden South Africa. Isolation produced some brilliantly insane and fearless sounds, though, and expatriates Brett Locke and Leon Lazarus spread the word on old and new English and Afrikaans rock, pop and traditional music with great humour, infectious enthusiasm and pure uncut SA accents. Their recent Nelson Mandela tribute edition in particular was a genuine tearjerker.

18 | 99% Invisible

You know that an item of design is good if you barely notice it – hence the name of this reliably mind-boggling exploration of product design, architecture, fashion technology and any and everything designed for KALW in San Francisco. If you think a podcast about design makes about as much sense as ventriloquism on the radio, Roman Mars’s bite-sized show (15-30 minutes) is as vivid as you could wish, exploring everything from DIY spacesuits to the roots of the I ♥ NY logo to the aesthetic of Looney Tunes cartoons.

19 | The Memory Palace

You don’t always have 90 minutes to spare, but this unique history podcast – which turns historical disasters, turning points or just weird happenings into evocative spoke-word vignettes plus music – comes in 3-10 minute episodes perfect for a ciggie break or walk round the block. Covering everything from spy cats to the advent of the Sony Walkman, The Memory Palace is part short story, part audio poem and part oral history time capsule. We could do with more episodes, though. Just eight in all of 2013? Really?

20 | Oxford Biography

The thing with history is they keep making more of it. Fill in the blanks with this admirably straightforward series of capsule life stories from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Each episode gives without judgment or bias an account of one Briton’s life, researched by professional historians. There are 180 available and their span is boggling, taking in everyone from Lord Haw-Haw to Freddie Mercury to Mo Mowlam to Piltdown Man. Though they concentrate on a single life these podcasts evoke a powerful sense of other times and places.

21 | Monocle 24: The Menu

The international fancypants restaurant lifestyle is now within all of our grasps, but to its credit this food and drink podcast from unashamedly elitist news and culture network Monocle is open-minded and enthusiastic rather than snobby. Presenter Markus Hippi creates a suitably pan-European vibe for this thoroughly inspiring podcast. When you really, really need the restaurant news from Toronto, Mumbai and São Paolo, or you simply must know about the cronut before everyone else does, this is the place for you.

This article first appeared in Esquire Weekly, our new iPad-only edition. Containing 100 per cent new and original content, it’s published every Thursday on the Apple Newsstand. Get your copy today by downloading the Esquire UK app to your iPad and either buying an individual copy for 99p or taking out a three-month, six-month or year’s subscription (all of which include digital copies of the monthly magazine)