Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The French Connection

It’s Fall. And as reliably as a swallow to returning to Capistrano, I can count on this time of year making me want to learn stuff. It must be the contact high from new backpacks and three-ring binders.

So here are the answers I found to some of my own frequently asked questions. By frequently asked, I mean things I ponder as I am either waiting for a traffic light to change or trying to fall asleep at night. And by pondering, I mean having a fleeting thought before the lyrics to a Depeche Mode song overtake my inner monologue.

When was roller skating invented? M. Petitbled of France patented his version of a modern-day roller skate in 1819.  This first prototype was bulky and hard to control, and it resembled an inline skate. But many people liked the idea of strapping some wheels to their shoes, and many different versions of the roller skate were created.

James Leonard Pimpton, from New York City, was the first inventor to come up with the quad skate in 1863. This more maneuverable skate launched the popularity of roller skating in the US and the first skating rink was opened in Rhode Island in 1866.

When was MS discovered? In 1868, a French neurologist named Jean-Martin Charcot had a patient that came to him with slurred speech and abnormal eye movements. When she eventually died (probably from being a woman in the 1800s), he performed an autopsy and found what have now become the telltale scars of MS. Vive la France!

Dr. Charcot toasting his discovery (as I imagine it)
How did Roller Derby come about? What is more American than taking a pleasant leisure activity and making it into a competition.  In the late 1800s, organized endurance races were held where skaters covered 100 miles in a day. Also in the grand tradition of American sport, these races escalated in intensity, culminating in 1865 with a six-day skating marathon to win $500. The winner pocketed his victory purse and died two days later. But as Darwin correctly theorized, the survival of the fittest skaters took to the rink and started making only left turns. Let's hear it for Freedom Fries!

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