4 February 1859

The Codex Sinaiticus is first discovered in Egypt.

On 4 February 1859, the Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in Egypt, in the Monastery of Saint Catherine, by the Leipzig archaeologist Constantin von Tischendorf. The Codex Sinaiticus is an ancient handwritten copy of the Greek Bible, and alongside the Codex Vaticanus, it is the finest Greek text of the New Testament. Also including much of the Old Testament, it is an inestimably important document in the history of Christianity. The Codex was written sometime in the 4th century between 325 and 360 AD, and is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript. The exact circumstances in which it ended up in an Egyptian monastery are still unknown; some think it may actually have been written in Egypt, while others say it was more likely written in Rome.

Constantin von Tischendorf paid his first visit to the Monastery of Saint Catherine in 1844, and discovered some parchments from an important ancient document, the Septuagint, casually discarded in a wastepaper basket. The German archaeologist was allowed to bring them back to his homeland, and deposited them in the Leipzig University Library. He returned for a second time in 1853, and then a third time in 1859—on this occasion under the patronage of the Russian Tsar Alexander II, who was extremely eager to recover any other lost manuscripts from the distant Sinai monastery. Indeed, von Tischendorf went on to discover one of the most important religious documents in existence, on 4 February.

The reason that the Codex Sinaiticus is so important is because it contains the earliest complete copy of the Christian New Testament, hand-written in the old Greek vernacular language of koine. In addition, the Codex also includes the Septuagint, an early translation of the Hebrew Bible that was adopted as the Old Testament by early Greek-speaking Christians. No other early version of the Bible has been so extensively annotated and corrected, and these corrections range from changes made by the original scribes in the 4th century to those made by monks in the 12th century. Thus it provides an invaluable insight into the history of book-making, the history of the Bible, and the reconstruction of the Bible’s original text.

Constantin von Tischendorf certainly provided immense assistance to generations of Christian scholars by bringing the Codex Sinaiticus from the Monastery of Saint Catherine to the Leipzig University Library. However, there is still a great, and unresolved, controversy over exactly how he extracted the Codex from the monks. And, to this day, the monastery still maintains that it was essentially stolen from them by a duplicitous German academic.

24 November 1859

Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species.

On the Origin of Species or more completely, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, published on 24 November 1859, is a work of scientific literature by Charles Darwin which is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Darwin’s book introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. It presented a body of evidence that the diversity of life arose by common descent through a branching pattern of evolution. Darwin included evidence that he had gathered on the Beagle expedition in the 1830s and his subsequent findings from research, correspondence, and experimentation.

Various evolutionary ideas had already been proposed to explain new findings in biology. There was growing support for such ideas among dissident anatomists and the general public, but during the first half of the 19th century the English scientific establishment was closely tied to the Church of England, while science was part of natural theology. Ideas about the transmutation of species were controversial as they conflicted with the beliefs that species were unchanging parts of a designed hierarchy and that humans were unique, unrelated to other animals. The political and theological implications were intensely debated, but transmutation was not accepted by the scientific mainstream.

The book was written for non-specialist readers and attracted widespread interest upon its publication. As Darwin was an eminent scientist, his findings were taken seriously and the evidence he presented generated scientific, philosophical, and religious discussion. The debate over the book contributed to the campaign by T. H. Huxley and his fellow members of the X Club to secularise science by promoting scientific naturalism. Within two decades there was widespread scientific agreement that evolution, with a branching pattern of common descent, had occurred, but scientists were slow to give natural selection the significance that Darwin thought appropriate. During “the eclipse of Darwinism” from the 1880s to the 1930s, various other mechanisms of evolution were given more credit. With the development of the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1930s and 1940s, Darwin’s concept of evolutionary adaptation through natural selection became central to modern evolutionary theory, and it has now become the unifying concept of the life sciences.

22 October 1859

Spain declares war on Morocco.

 

Throughout the 19th century, Morocco suffered military defeats at the hands of the Europeans, notably in the Franco-Moroccan War in 1844. In 1856 the British were able to pressure Morocco into signing the Anglo-Moroccan treaties of Friendship which instated limitations on Moroccan Customs duties and brought an end to Royal monopolies.

The Spaniards saw the Moroccan defeat in 1844 and the 1856 treaties with the British as a sign of weakness. Spurred by a national passion for African conquest, the Spaniards declared war on Morocco.

In the late 1859, Moroccan tribesmen raided a Spanish garrison on the outskirts of Ceuta, provoking a response from the Spaniards who, ignoring Britain’s pleas for a peaceful settlement, invaded Morocco; they quickly defeated the Sultan’s Army near in Ceuta.

The Spaniards reached Tetuán on February 3, 1860. They bombarded the city for the following 2 days which allowed chaos to reign free, Riffian tribesmen poured into the city and pillaged it. The Moroccan historian Ahmad ibn Khalid al-Nasiri described the looting during the bombardment

31 May 1859

The clock tower at the Houses of Parliament in which Big Ben is housed, starts keeping time.

The famous tower clock known as Big Ben, located at the top of the 320-foot-high St. Stephen’s Tower, rings out over the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, for the first time on 31 May 1859.

After a fire destroyed much of the Palace of Westminster–the headquarters of the British Parliament–in October 1834, a standout feature of the design for the new palace was a large clock atop a tower. The royal astronomer, Sir George Airy, wanted the clock to have pinpoint accuracy, including twice-a-day checks with the Royal Greenwich Observatory. While many clockmakers dismissed this goal as impossible, Airy counted on the help of Edmund Beckett Denison, a formidable barrister known for his expertise in horology, or the science of measuring time.

The name “Big Ben” originally just applied to the bell but later came to refer to the clock itself. Two main stories exist about how Big Ben got its name. Many claim it was named after the famously long-winded Sir Benjamin Hall, the London commissioner of works at the time it was built. Another famous story argues that the bell was named for the popular heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt, because it was the largest of its kind.

Even after an incendiary bomb destroyed the chamber of the House of Commons during the Second World War, St. Stephen’s Tower survived, and Big Ben continued to function. Its famously accurate timekeeping is regulated by a stack of coins placed on the clock’s huge pendulum, ensuring a steady movement of the clock hands at all times. At night, all four of the clock’s faces, each one 23 feet across, are illuminated. A light above Big Ben is also lit to let the public know when Parliament is in session.

22 October 1859

Spain declares war on Morocco.

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The Hispano-Moroccan War, also known as the Spanish–Moroccan War, the First Moroccan War, the Tetuán War, or, in Spain, as the African War, was fought from Spain’s declaration of war on Morocco on 22 October 1859 until the Treaty of Wad-Ras on 26 April 1860. It began with a conflict over the borders of the Spanish city of Ceuta and was fought in northern Morocco. Morocco sued for peace after the Spanish victory at the Battle of Tetuán.

Throughout the 19th century, Morocco suffered military defeats at the hands of the Europeans, notably in the Franco-Moroccan War in 1844. In 1856 the British were able to pressure Morocco into signing the Anglo-Moroccan treaties of Friendship which instated limitations on Moroccan Customs duties and brought an end to Royal monopolies.

The Spaniards saw the Moroccan defeat in 1844 and the 1856 treaties with the British as a sign of weakness. Spurred by a national passion for African conquest, the Spaniards declared war on Morocco.

In the late 1859, Moroccan tribesmen raided a Spanish garrison on the outskirts of Ceuta, provoking a response from the Spaniards who, ignoring Britain’s pleas for a peaceful settlement, invaded Morocco; they quickly defeated the Sultan’s Army near in Ceuta.

The Spaniards reached Tetuán on February 3rd, 1860. They bombarded the city for the following 2 days which allowed chaos to reign free, Riffian tribesmen poured into the city and pillaged it. The Moroccan historian Ahmad ibn Khalid al-Nasiri described the looting during the bombardment.

On February 5th the Spanish entered the city, ending both the battle and the war.

25 April 1859

British and French engineers start work on the Suez Canal.

On 25th April, 1859, work started on the construction of the Suez Canal in Port Said, Egypt. Officially opened in November 1869, the 101 mile long canal is a vital trade route connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf of Suez in the Red Sea.

When the canal opened some ten years later, its construction had cost $100 million. The creation of the canal triggered the growth of settlements around the area of Suez. Previous to the commencement of the project, the arid territory had been largely uninhabited, but following the start of the construction more than 70,000 acres of land were brought under cultivation.

The Suez Canal was not the first attempt in history to connect the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. Canals had been constructed in the area in the thirteenth century BCE. During the Ptolemaic period of Ancient Egypt, a series of canals were used to facilitate trade through Egypt, however, over the course of the next thousand years they gradually fell into disrepair or were destroyed in military conflicts.The Suez Canal had a dramatic impact on world trade, allowing goods to be shipped across the globe in record time. In 1888, an international convention made the canal available for use by ships from any country.

2 March 1859

The Great Slave Auction, the largest such auction in United States history, starts.

The Great Slave Auction in March 1859 is regarded as the largest sale of enslaved people before the American Civil War. To satisfy significant debts, absentee owner and Philadelphian Pierce Mease Butler, authorized the sale of approximately 436 men, women, children, and infants to be sold over the course of two days at the Ten Broeck Race Course, two miles outside of Savannah, Georgia.

he Butlers of South Carolina and Philadelphia were owners of slave plantations located on the Sea Islands of Georgia. The patriarch of the family, Major Pierce Butler, owned hundreds of slaves who labored over rice and cotton crops, thus amassing him the family’s wealth. Butler was one of the wealthiest and most powerful slave owners in the United States. Upon his death, his biggest dilemma was which heir to leave his wealth. Estranged from his son, Major Butler left his estate to his two grandsons, Pierce M. Butler and John A. Butler.

Pierce M. Butler was everything his grandfather detested in men. Pierce was devoid of business sense and degenerate in his personal habits. Butler frequently engaged in risky business speculations, which resulted in financial loss in the Crash of 1857, and his elaborate spending. However, it would be his incorrigible gambling that landed him in the most trouble. Butler had accrued a considerable amount of gambling debt over the years. To satisfy his financial obligations, the management of Butler’s estate was transferred to trustees. At first, the trustees sold Butler’s Philadelphia mansion for $30,000 as well as other properties; unfortunately, it was not enough to satisfy creditors. The only commodities of value that remained were the slaves he owned on his Georgia plantations.

4 February 1859

The Codex Sinaiticus is discovered in Egypt.

On this day in 1859, the Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in Egypt, in the Monastery of Saint Catherine, by the Leipzig archaeologist Constantin von Tischendorf. The Codex Sinaiticus is an ancient handwritten copy of the Greek Bible, and alongside the Codex Vaticanus, it is the finest Greek text of the New Testament. Also including much of the Old Testament, it is an inestimably important document in the history of Christianity. The Codex was written sometime in the 4th century (between 325 and 360 AD), and is an Alexandrian text-type manuscript. The exact circumstances in which it ended up in an Egyptian monastery are still unknown; some think it may actually have been written in Egypt, while others say it was more likely written in Rome.

Constantin von Tischendorf paid his first visit to the Monastery of Saint Catherine in 1844, and discovered some parchments from an important ancient document, the Septuagint, casually discarded in a wastepaper basket. The German archaeologist was allowed to bring them back to his homeland, and deposited them in the Leipzig University Library. He returned for a second time in 1853, and then a third time in 1859—on this occasion under the patronage of the Russian Tsar Alexander II, who was extremely eager to recover any other lost manuscripts from the distant Sinai monastery. Indeed, von Tischendorf went on to discover one of the most important religious documents in existence, on 4 February.