Weird History

14 Historical Date Comparisons To Ruin Your Perception Of Time

List Rules
Vote up the historical timeline facts that make time itself kind of meaningless.

Time is tricky. Sometimes an hour goes by before you know it. Other times, it feels like the clock might actually be ticking backwards. When it comes to timeline comparisons, the same phenomenon might occur. Events from centuries ago might not seem too far off, while people who lived within our lifetimes may seem out of reach from anything resembling familiarity and understanding. 

Contextualizing historical peoples and happenings is a bit of a mind-bending exercise. As lives overlap, some incredibly bizarre friendships are made. Historical date comparisons make it clear that major events actually took place simultaneously on opposite sides of the world. As a result, one's perception of time becomes skewed - so much so that it might just be ruined forever. 

  • Known for his theory of evolution, scientist Charles Darwin traveled the world aboard his ship, the HMS Beagle, during the 1830s. His arrival at the Galapagos Islands was especially informative to the naturalist, as he observed flora and fauna alike. It was in the Galapagos Islands that Darwin is said to have acquired three tortoises for his expanding collection of plants and animals.

    While scholars continue to debate the origins of the tortoises, one of them, Harriet, was taken to Australia in 1842. Initially cared for by the captain of the Beagle, John Whickham, Harriet fell under the watchful eye of naturalist David Fleay during the 1850s. She was moved to the Australia Zoo in Queensland by the 1980s, where she died in 2006. While at the zoo, Harriet was cared for by Steve Irwin, the "Crocodile Hunter."

    It's estimated Harriet was 175 years old when she passed away from a heart attack. 

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    America's Founding Fathers Never Knew About Dinosaurs Because, Scientifically Speaking, They Didn't Exist Yet

    The Founding Fathers - traditionally a term applied to the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and numerous others - lived during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Arguably, the deaths of James Monroe (d. 1831) and John Marshall (d. 1835) were the last of the Founding Fathers - both of which took place before scientists "discovered" dinosaurs in 1841.

    Especially popular during the early 19th century, scientists from around the world unearthed fossils, largely thought to be those of "terrible lizards." It wasn't until British paleontologist Richard Owen realized that unique features of many of these fossils and lumped them into one category - Dinosauria.

    Building on a lecture he gave in 1841, Owen inaugurated the term in a report published in 1842, establishing it as a word. Dinosaurs were, from then forward, the subjects of a new branch of science.  

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    The Last Surviving Witness To Abraham Lincoln's Assassination Appeared On Television In 1956

    Samuel J. Seymour was only five years old when he attended the play Our American Cousin on April 14, 1865. He was accompanying his father on a trip to Washington, DC, and his chaperones, a nurse and his godmother, took him to the theater. 

    Seymour recalled that he sat in a balcony box across from Abraham Lincoln, witnessing as the President fell over upon being shot. He also saw John Wilkes Booth jump to the floor below, events he referenced when he appeared on I've Got A Secret in 1956.

    I've Got A Secret was a game show where panelists tried to guess contestants' secrets. When Seymour appeared on the program, he was 96 years old and told the panel his secret had historical and political significance, was unpleasant, and scared him to death. The panelists, to their credit, guessed his secret accurately.

    Seymour's clearest memory of the event was concern for Booth - who broke his leg after jumping from the balcony - but wasn't aware of everything that had taken place. 

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    Sharks Have Been Around Longer Than Trees

    Fossil evidence indicates the earliest sharks existed 450 million years ago. While these animals date from the Late Ordovician period, Emma Bernard from the National History Museum indicates, "Shark-like scales...but no teeth. If these were from sharks it would suggest that the earliest forms could have been toothless. Scientists are still debating if these were true sharks or shark-like animals."

    It's not until the Late Devonian period that resembling what we call trees appeared on the surface of the Earth, however. Sometime between 345 and 360 million years ago, the Archaeopteris - with its "big roots...bud[s]...[and]attachment of branches" grew and "made the world almost a modern world in terms of ecosystems that surround us now."

    The longevity of sharks also makes them older than Mount Everest and the dinosaurs.