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Mark Twain Invented a Board Game Called Memory-Builder

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Mark Twain: writer, philosopher, riverboat pilot... board game designer? Indeed.

During the summer of 1883—which also happens to be when he was working on Huckleberry Finn—Twain was trying to create an easy way for his daughters to remember the English monarchs and the dates they ruled. “These little people found it a bitter, hard contract,” he wrote. “It was all dates, they all looked alike, and they wouldn’t stick.” Twain had figured out his own method of remembering things thanks to his tenure on the lecture circuit, and he knew that if he could help his daughters see the reigns, they could conquer the Conquerer and his successors. He measured out 817 feet - each foot represented a year - and then put stakes in the ground where Kings and Queens started their reigns. As you can see by his own drawing, it ended up looking a lot like a life-sized version of Candy Land (pictured).

Slightly more interesting than trying to memorize index cards, right? As his daughters learned the monarchs, they traipsed through the yard. "When you think of Henry III. do you see a great long stretch of straight road? I do; and just at the end where it joins on to Edward I. always I see a small pear-bush with its green fruit hanging down," he once wrote.

When Twain's daughters learned the monarchs in two days (they had been trying all summer), he knew he was on to something. After a couple of years of tinkering, he patented Memory-Builder: A Game for Acquiring and Retaining All Sorts of Facts and Dates—a game board similarly divided by year. The game came with straight pins, and players would stick a pin in the appropriate compartment to show that they knew the date of a certain event. Points were awarded based on the size of the event and how specific players could get on the date. The board could represent a certain century or all centuries.

The rules are rather complicated, and to quote one critic, the game board looks like “a cross between an income tax form and a table of logarithms.” When he made up some sample games and tested them in some toy stores in 1891, it became clear that, this time, Twain did not have a bestseller on his hands.

Mr. Clemens did influence a hit board game, though. In 1889—exactly when Memory-Builder was under way - George Parker of Parker Brothers copyrighted a map board game called The Amusing Game of Innocence Abroad. It was loosely based on Twain’s 1869 book Innocents Abroad, tales of American tourists in Europe. Though the game sold well enough to be reprinted 25 years later under a slightly different title (Good Old Game of Innocence Abroad), Twain apparently didn’t make a penny off of it.

If Memory-Builder sounds fascinating to you, you can play a game about Mark Twain that's loosely based on his failed invention.

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
6 Radiant Facts About Irène Joliot-Curie
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though her accomplishments are often overshadowed by those of her parents, the elder daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie was a brilliant researcher in her own right.


A black and white photo of Irene and Marie Curie in the laboratory in 1925.
Irène and Marie in the laboratory, 1925.
Wellcome Images, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

Irène’s birth in Paris in 1897 launched what would become a world-changing scientific dynasty. A restless Marie rejoined her loving husband in the laboratory shortly after the baby’s arrival. Over the next 10 years, the Curies discovered radium and polonium, founded the science of radioactivity, welcomed a second daughter, Eve, and won a Nobel Prize in Physics. The Curies expected their daughters to excel in their education and their work. And excel they did; by 1925, Irène had a doctorate in chemistry and was working in her mother’s laboratory.


Like her mother, Irène fell in love in the lab—both with her work and with another scientist. Frédéric Joliot joined the Curie team as an assistant. He and Irène quickly bonded over shared interests in sports, the arts, and human rights. The two began collaborating on research and soon married, equitably combining their names and signing their work Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie.


Black and white photo of Irène and Fréderic Joliot-Curie working side by side in their laboratory.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Their passion for exploration drove them ever onward into exciting new territory. A decade of experimentation yielded advances in several disciplines. They learned how the thyroid gland absorbs radioiodine and how the body metabolizes radioactive phosphates. They found ways to coax radioactive isotopes from ordinarily non-radioactive materials—a discovery that would eventually enable both nuclear power and atomic weaponry, and one that earned them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.


The humanist principles that initially drew Irène and Frédéric together only deepened as they grew older. Both were proud members of the Socialist Party and the Comité de Vigilance des Intellectuels Antifascistes (Vigilance Committee of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals). They took great pains to keep atomic research out of Nazi hands, sealing and hiding their research as Germany occupied their country, Irène also served as undersecretary of state for scientific research of the Popular Front government.


Irène eventually scaled back her time in the lab to raise her children Hélène and Pierre. But she never slowed down, nor did she stop fighting for equality and freedom for all. Especially active in women’s rights groups, she became a member of the Comité National de l'Union des Femmes Françaises and the World Peace Council.


Irène’s extraordinary life was a mirror of her mother’s. Tragically, her death was, too. Years of watching radiation poisoning and cancer taking their toll on Marie never dissuaded Irène from her work. In 1956, dying of leukemia, she entered the Curie Hospital, where she followed her mother’s luminous footsteps into the great beyond.

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Live Smarter
You Can Now Order Food Through Facebook
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After a bit of controversy over its way of aggregating news feeds and some questionable content censoring policies, it’s nice to have Facebook roll out a feature everyone can agree on: allowing you to order food without leaving the social media site.

According to a press release, Facebook says that the company decided to begin offering food delivery options after realizing that many of its users come to the social media hub to rate and discuss local eateries. Rather than hop from Facebook to the restaurant or a delivery service, you’ll be able to stay within the app and select from a menu of food choices. Just click “Order Food” from the Explore menu on a desktop interface or under the “More” option on Android or iOS devices. There, you’ll be presented with options that will accept takeout or delivery orders, as well as businesses participating with services like or EatStreet.

If you need to sign up and create an account with or Jimmy John’s, for example, you can do that without leaving Facebook. The feature is expected to be available nationally, effective immediately.

[h/t Forbes]


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