15+ Timeline Tidbits We Realized In 2021 That Completely Change How We See Time

List Rules
Vote up the facts that have you rethinking the concept of time.

Time is something that is truly incredible. It can go by so quickly sometimes, but at other times, it feels like it just drags and drags. Looking at history through the lens of time is just as mind-bending - if not more so.

In 2021, we looked at geologic time, identified fascinating gaps in time, and made some surprising timeline comparisons. We also took a look at what Twitter had to say about it.

The end result? We generally reshaped our own view of what time is over and over. Take a look at the most interesting time-centric facts we learned in 2021 and vote up the ones that bend your brains, too.


  • Samuel J. Seymour was only 5 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. 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.

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

    457 votes
  • Germany Paid Its Last World War I Reparation Installment In 2010
    Photo: New York World / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    As part of the Treaty of Versailles signed in 1919 after World War I, Germany accepted responsibility for the conflict. It also agreed to pay reparations totaling 132 billion gold marks (about $63 billion at the time) to certain countries.

    Despite establishing a framework for payments, Germany was unable to meet its obligations. Inflation, financial struggles, World War II, and general resentment all contributed to how long it took the country to pay up.

    Even with reductions in the amount owed and assistance through foreign-backed bonds, Germany needed 92 years to eliminate its debt. On October 3, 2010, it made the final reparation payment. 

    308 votes
  • Harriet Tubman's birth date is unknown, but she was born into slavery in Maryland between 1820 and 1825. Initially named Araminta Ross, she took the surname of her free husband, John, after the two married in 1844. Five years later, Tubman escaped servitude via the Underground Railroad, a network of connections she used to rescue as many as 70 slaves.

    Regardless of exactly when Tubman was born, she overlapped with the final years of John Adams's life. The former vice president and 2nd President of the United States lived until July 4, 1826, when he died on his Massachusetts farm the same day as Thomas Jefferson, who passed on his estate at Monticello. It was also the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

    Just as Tubman lived through the last of Adams's life, a young Ronald Reagan (40th President of the United States) was born before Tubman passed. A native of Tampico, IL, Reagan's birth in 1911 preceded Tubman's passing by two years.

    238 votes
  • 4
    277 VOTES

    In Less Than 60 Years, Man Went From The First Motorized Flight To The First Manned Spaceflight

    On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully carried out the first controlled, sustained flight of a motorized aircraft. Their machine reached a speed of 34 miles per hour, traveled 120 feet, and was in the air for 12 seconds. 

    Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space on April 12, 1961. He climbed aboard a Soviet Vostok spacecraft and spent 108 minutes circling the Earth. 

    277 votes
  • Woolly Mammoths Were Roaming The Earth When The Pyramids Were Built
    Photo: Membeth / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
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    324 VOTES

    Woolly Mammoths Were Roaming The Earth When The Pyramids Were Built

    Species of woolly mammoths lived in North America, Europe, and Asia as far back as 300,000 years ago (if not before). By about 11,000 years ago, the number of mammoths on Earth had declined significantly, with only a few remaining in areas like Alaska, continental Siberia, and Wrangel Island in the Arctic.

    Most of the tusked giants died off about 10,000 years ago, but the Arctic group lived into the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, c. 2040-1786 BC. It was during the Old Kingdom, c. 2686-2181 BC, that the grandest of the pyramids were built. These include noteworthy structures like the Great Pyramid at Giza, constructed for Khufu (r. 2559-2566 BC).

    324 votes
  • 6
    241 VOTES

    It Took Nearly 150 Years For All 50 US States To Ratify The 13th Amendment

    The 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the US was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and sent to the states for ratification. On December 6, 1865, when Georgia ratified the amendment, it became law - officially abolishing slavery in the US.

    At the time, Mississippi rejected the amendment but finally passed it in 1995. Miscommunication with federal officials, however, kept it from becoming official until 2013. 

    The realization that Mississippi had yet to officially ratify the amendment was the result of two colleagues watching Lincoln. Ranjan Batra and Ken Sullivan saw the movie, got curious about the history of the amendment, and discovered the oversight. From there, according to Batra, "[Ken] had the connections and his father knew someone who had actually written the bill for ratification in Mississippi and he knew exactly where to find it." Soon after, Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman sent the paperwork to the appropriate federal officials. 

    241 votes