10 Things You Might Not Know About Nelson Mandela

Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images
Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images

Nelson Mandela, who passed away in 2013, would have been almost 100 years old today. Most of us are familiar with his imprisonment and anti-Apartheid work, but here are a few things you might not know about this inspiring leader.

1. MANDELA’S PRISON NUMBER WAS 46664.

The number indicates that he was the 466th prisoner of 1964. He embraced the number, making it the name of his HIV/AIDS awareness campaign and the name of a series of charity concerts.

2. HE RAN AWAY FROM HOME.

Mandela and his cousin Justice ran away from home in 1941 to avoid arranged marriages.

3. HE OVERCAME MANY PERSONAL TRAGEDIES.

He finally did get to marry for love in 1944, to Evelyn Mase, but their relationship was soon marred by tragedy. Their second child, Makaziwe, died at just nine months old. They had two other children: Madiba Thembekile (Thembi), who died in a car crash while Mandela was in prison in 1969, and Makgatho Lewanika, who died of AIDS in 2005. Mandela had two other children with his second wife Winnie, 20 grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren.

4. HE HAD HIS OWN HOLIDAY.

In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared July 18, his birthday, "Mandela Day." It's a national celebration and recognition of Mandela's contributions to freedom.

5. HIS ELECTION AS SOUTH AFRICA’S PRESIDENT BROKE NEW GROUND.

Mandela's inauguration as president in 1994 was historic for at least four reasons (and probably many more). He was South Africa’s first democratically elected president. He was also the country’s first black president, and the oldest person elected to the office. His inauguration united the largest number of heads of state since U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s funeral in 1963.

6. HIS FIRST NAME WASN’T ACTUALLY NELSON.

Mandela's given name was Rolihlahla, which his schoolteachers were unable to pronounce. One of them started calling him Nelson after British admiral Horatio Nelson, and the name obviously stuck. Rolihlahla, by the way, means "pulling the branch of a tree."

7. HIS FELLOW CITIZENS GAVE HIM AN AFFECTIONATE NICKNAME.

South Africans commonly called Mandela "mkhulu" (grandfather), or Madiba, the Mandela family name for a respected elder.

8. HE HAS BEEN MISQUOTED.

One of Mandela's most famous quotations isn't really his. You may have heard it—it's often cited as coming from his 1994 inaugural speech:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure ... As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

This is actually a quote by author and spiritual activist Marianne Williamson in her book A Return to Love. Not only did Mandela not coin the phrase himself, he probably never even said it. "As far as I know, he has never used the quote in any of his speeches,” said Razia Saleh, an archivist at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, "and we have catalogued about 1000 thus far."

9. HIS WORK HAS BEEN RECOGNIZED FAR AND WIDE.

During his lifetime, Mandela received more than 695 awards, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.

10. HIS NAME LIVES ON.

People loved to honor Mandela’s work for freedom and human rights. As if those 695 awards weren’t enough, more than 25 schools, universities, and educational institutions have been named after him. At least 19 scholarships and foundations bear the name Nelson Mandela, and more than 95 sculptures, statues, or pieces of art have been made of him or dedicated to him.

This article originally appeared in 2010.

Celebrate the Encyclopedia Britannica's 250th Birthday by Checking Out Its First Edition Online

Encyclopedia Britannica volumes on display at the New York Public Library
Encyclopedia Britannica volumes on display at the New York Public Library
Mario Tama/Getty Images

While those gold-embossed, multi-volume sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica were a feature of many an American childhood, the origins of the venerable reference work actually lie in Scotland. Two hundred and fifty years ago—on December 10, 1768—the first pages of the Britannica were published in Edinburgh. To celebrate the anniversary, the National Library of Scotland has put a rare first edition of the encyclopedia online.

The first edition was the brainchild of printer Colin Macfarquhar, engraver Andrew Bell, and the editor William Smellie. It was published in 100 weekly sections over three volumes (completed in 1771), but explicit engravings of midwifery scandalized some subscribers, and were ripped out on the orders of the Crown. The entries of the first edition—some of which ran to hundreds of pages—reflect the biases and preoccupations of their time: woman is defined as "the female of a man," while there are 39 pages devoted to horse diseases. Nevertheless, the work was a significant accomplishment that drew on at least 150 sources, from essays by famous philosophers to newspaper articles. It also featured 160 copperplate engravings by Bell.

The title page on the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica
The title page on the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica

In a statement from the National Library of Scotland, Rare Books Curator Robert Betteridge said, "By the 20th century Britannica was a household name throughout the English-speaking world, and what is especially interesting about this publication was that it had a distinctly Scottish viewpoint. The first edition emphasized two themes—modern science and Scottish identity, including ground-breaking and controversial articles on anatomy and Scots Law."

The first edition (which includes those ripped-out midwifery pages) will appear as part of an exhibit on the Scottish Enlightenment at the National Library of Scotland this summer. For now, you can view all three volumes of the first edition, from "A—the name of several rivers" to Zygophyllum, a genus in botany—online here.

[h/t American Libraries]

The Time German and Russian WWI Soldiers Banded Together to Fight Wolves

iStock.com/567185
iStock.com/567185

During the winter of 1917, Russian and German soldiers fighting in the dreary trenches of the Great War’s Eastern Front had a lot to fear: enemy bullets, trench foot, frostbite, countless diseases, shrapnel, bayonets, tanks, sniper fire. Oh, and wolves.

In February of that year, a dispatch from Berlin noted that large packs of wolves were creeping from the forests of Lithuania and Volhynia into the interior of the German Empire, not far from the front lines. Like so many living creatures, the animals had been driven from their homes by the war and were now simply looking for something to eat. “As the beasts are very hungry, they penetrate into the villages and kill calves, sheep, goats, and other livestock,” the report, which appeared in the El Paso Herald, says. “In two cases children have been attacked by them.”

According to another dispatch out of St. Petersburg, the wolves were such a nuisance on the battlefield that they were one of the few things that could bring soldiers from both sides together. “Parties of Russian and German scouts met recently and were hotly engaged in a skirmish when a large pack of wolves dashed on the scene and attacked the wounded,” the report says, according to the Oklahoma City Times. “Hostilities were at once suspended and Germans and Russians instinctively attacked the pack, killing about 50 wolves.” It was an unspoken agreement among snipers that, if the Russians and Germans decided to engage in a collective wolf-hunt, all firing would cease.

Take this July 1917 New York Times report describing how soldiers in the Kovno-Wilna Minsk district (near modern Vilnius, Lithuania) decided to cease hostilities to fight this furry common enemy:

"Poison, rifle fire, hand grenades, and even machine guns were successively tried in attempts to eradicate the nuisance. But all to no avail. The wolves—nowhere to be found quite so large and powerful as in Russia—were desperate in their hunger and regardless of danger. Fresh packs would appear in place of those that were killed by the Russian and German troops.

"As a last resort, the two adversaries, with the consent of their commanders, entered into negotiations for an armistice and joined forces to overcome the wolf plague. For a short time there was peace. And in no haphazard fashion was the task of vanquishing the mutual foe undertaken. The wolves were gradually rounded up, and eventually several hundred of them were killed. The others fled in all directions, making their escape from carnage the like of which they had never encountered."

Afterward, the soldiers presumably returned to their posts and resumed pointing their rifles at a more violent and dangerous enemy—each other.

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