Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Allies Complete Gallipoli Evacuation

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that shaped our modern world. Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 218th installment in the series.  

January 8, 1916: Allies Complete Gallipoli Evacuation

The New Year brought long-awaited relief to tens of thousands of Allied troops finally evacuated from Gallipoli. After the Allied positions at Suvla Bay and ANZAC cove were abandoned in late December, on January 8 to 9, 1916 the evacuation was completed by the withdrawal of the remaining troops from Cape Hellas, on the tip of the peninsula. 

The few weeks between the first and second evacuations were eventful ones, as low-grade trench warfare continued unabated around Cape Hellas, with the usual routine of sniping and shelling claiming a steady stream of victims on both sides. Owen William Steele, a Canadian officer from Newfoundland, wrote matter-of-factly about these losses in his diary entry on December 30, 1915, describing his unit’s shift on labor fatigue under the enemy guns:

We all got out before dinner but unfortunately the Turks shelled us very heavily. We went out in parties of 20 at five minutes interval, but after a while the Turks saw us with the result the shells were soon falling all about us. We then divided our parties of four at 100 yds interval. One shell, though it landed 30 yds away got the whole of one of my parties of four. My orderly, Thos. Cook, was one of them, he was wounded in the left leg & left arm, – our mess cook was another, he got it in the stomach, – another got a leg wound, and another a splinter in the heel. I went to the Hospital this evening to see them and they were all happy and feeling no pain, except poor Geo. Simms, our mess cook, who died about 3 o.’c. 

For those who managed to survive the final weeks on Gallipoli, January 8, 1916 was a time for celebration—provided, of course, they didn’t get killed on the way out. Having been hoodwinked during the first evacuation, the Turks were waiting vigilantly for the second one to begin, hoping to inflict some parting casualties on the withdrawing British and French troops. Then there was the danger of the Allies’ own “scorched earth” policy, involving the destruction of any supplies that couldn’t be moved in order to deny them to the enemy. Steele recalled the final moments, as timed explosives detonated while the boats prepared to pull away from shore:

… before we had even untied from the wharf, the first magazine went off with a very heavy explosion. A great volume of flame shot hundreds of feet into the air, debris of all kinds went everywhere, and as we were only a hundred yards away from it some came our way. It did no damage beyond breaking one man’s arm in three places... By now there were fires everywhere, and it was really a wonderful sight… The sky was also well lit up by the fires at V. & X. beaches… 

Next the evacuated troops had to survive a long journey through rough seas to the nearby Greek islands of Imbros and Mudros, their first destination. This was a considerable challenge for smaller boats trying to cross the stormy Aegean Sea in mid-winter (in fact heavy winds caused the piers at Cape Hellas to collapse twice on January 8, complicating the effort even further). In his diary entry the next day Steele described the rough conditions: 

Unfortunately for our sight-seeing desires, we were all ordered to get below, for it was very windy indeed, and the sea was beginning to wash over the lighter… This lighter, which was all that its name implies was handled very playfully by the sea all the way over and instead of taking 2 hrs, the time of the normal trip, we took 5 hrs. not reaching there until 9 a.m. 

For those who survived these last travails, the Gallipoli campaign was finally over. The scale of the ill-fated venture to capture the Turkish straits had been enormous, as was its cost. Over half a million Allied troops served on the peninsula over the course of the eight-month campaign, including 79,000 French troops, 20,000 Australians, and 14,000 New Zealanders, who faced off against around 350,000 Turks at various times. 

The Allies suffered a total of around 250,000 casualties, including 44,150 killed, 97,397 wounded, and well over a hundred thousand casualties due to diseases including typhus and cholera, which exacted a terrible toll on both sides. The Ottoman Empire also suffered at least a quarter of a million casualties, including 86,692 killed and 164,617 wounded, and thousands of sick.

The disaster at Gallipoli played a key role in the formation of national identities separate from Britain in Australia and New Zealand, which suffered huge losses in proportional terms, considering their small populations; many soldiers and civilians held incompetent British commanders responsible for these losses, adding to their feelings of separation and difference. Today April 25, the day of the initial landings, is observed as “ANZAC Day” in both countries. 

Gallipoli was also a foundational event in the creation of modern Turkey on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire. It demonstrated beyond a doubt that a distinct Turkish national identity had emerged within the medieval empire, with an emotional pull strong enough to convince tens of thousands of young men to fight and die in order to protect the Turkish heartland. Gallipoli also provided the stage for the rise of Mustafa Kemal, who won fame for his bravery and tenacity in the desperate battles of 1915, and after further victories would be honored as Atatürk, or “Father of the Turks.” 

From Peninsula to Pyramids

The troops withdrawn from Gallipoli by the Allies were sent to a wide range of destinations. Many were simply transferred to the new Allied expeditionary force occupying the northern Greek city of Salonika—the legacy of a failed attempt to help Serbia during the final conquest of the country by the Central Powers, which they later maintained to apply pressure to Bulgaria. Others headed to the Western Front, while some were deployed to Mesopotamia, where the British were frantically organizing an effort to relieve the army under Charles Townshend besieged at Kut.

However some lucky soldiers got a (relatively) pleasant assignment – garrisoning Egypt and guarding the Suez Canal (above, Australians in Egypt). While they still faced the inescapable threat of disease, and a new Turkish offensive against the canal was brewing, for the time being this meant access to luxuries which had been distinctly lacking in Gallipoli, including fresh food, abundant water for bathing, sightseeing expeditions to the pyramids, and leave in exotic Alexandria and Cairo, with the associated possibilities of female companionship (below, Maori troops from New Zealand in Egypt).

Egypt’s beauty certainly made a big impression on the Allied troops after the squalor of Gallipoli. One British soldier, William Ewing, recalled sunrise and sunset in the desert west of the Suez Canal:

One could never tire of the arresting beauty of dawn and evening, as the sun rises over and sets behind the desert hills, with never a cloud in all the sky. Peculiarly delicate are the tints of violet, pink, pinkish purple, saffron, and pearl, over which the eye passes to the deep azure above. Suddenly they vanish as the sun leaps into the sky, glorious in his splendor, flooding the world with golden light.

Ewing also left a striking description of their tent encampment not far from the canal, which had a beauty all its own, at least at night:

The canvas city spread around to north, south, east, and west, with wide open spaces that served as parade grounds… When the sun sets, darkness descends swiftly upon us. On moonless nights, a change, as if wrought by enchantment, passes over the camp. The light within transforms each tent into a luminous pyramid, clean cut against the superincumbent gloom. Gathered in groups and squares and thrown out in lines, one could imagine them as gigantic Chinese lamps picking out the borders and pathways in a maze of fairy gardens.

Ewing also left his impressions of the canal itself, including the strange scene of ships passing through the desert (above, Australian troops bathing in the canal):

The world’s great waterway through the desert – a pathway of silver across the brown flats – is always an impressive sight, especially at night. Gigantic ocean liners with flaming search-lights show up picturesquely through the shadows; yet do they seem strangely out of place amid the barren waste, like monsters of the deep strayed from their element.

See the previous installment or all entries.

4 Suspect Historical Theories for Predicting Criminality

When was the last time you looked a stranger in the face and made a snap judgment about how they behave? If you've graduated kindergarten, you know you're not supposed to. But for centuries, scientists and philosophers believed that physical traits corresponded to personality. Even Aristotle thought there was a connection between the book and its cover.

Today, physiognomy—as the study of facial features linked to personality became known—is considered a pseudoscience, but it was the first application of any science at all to criminology. Some argue that it helped pave the way for the development of forensics and tools like psychological profiling; others point out that attempts to link biology to criminal behavior are often deeply problematic, and have been used to justify discrimination against various ethnic and religious groups.

Controversial though they may be, theories linking biology to criminal behavior have not gone away. From skull shape to body types, here are some of the ways we've tried to use what's on the surface to unearth the monsters underneath.


As a young man in late 18th-century Vienna, physician Franz Josef Gall wondered why his classmates were so good at memorization while he struggled. And why did he surpass them in other areas? After noticing that those who were particularly skilled at memorization had prominent eyes, he spent years searching for a biological explanation for differences in mental characteristics. Eventually, he landed on a theory that aimed to explain all human behavior.

Gall based his theory, soon to be known as phrenology, on the notion that the brain was composed of 27 separate “faculties,” or organs, each responsible for a behavioral trait—benevolence, covetousness, arrogance, and wit, just to name a few. He believed that the size of an organ was correlated to its power and that the skull took its shape from the brain. As such, by examining the shape of the skull one could determine personality. Eventually, Gall's followers introduced the idea that people were born with their faculties in balance and were essentially good, but under- or over- development, diseases of, or damage to any of these faculties could cause an imbalance that would lead to a particular behavior.

Phrenology soon took off in Europe and then in North America. It wasn't long until Gall's acolytes were applying his principles to the study of criminality, examining the skulls of criminals for clues about their personality and publishing books and treatises that showed others how to do the same. For phrenologists, crime was a result of an overgrowth or other anomaly in a particular faculty—say, destructiveness.

By attributing behavior to a brain defect, phrenology broke with existing notions of deviant behavior. Pre-Enlightenment theory had held that such behavior was the result of “evil” or supernatural forces. During the Enlightenment, free will reigned supreme, and criminality was seen as an exercise of that will, the only deterrent for which was severe punishment. Phrenology removed free will from the equation. While those with “normal” faculties could commit crimes based on free will and should be punished accordingly, the habitually criminal were not necessarily responsible for their actions—they behaved the way they did because of mental disorder, one which could be addressed and treated. It's no coincidence that phrenologists were among the most vocal opponents of capital and corporal punishment and major proponents of rehabilitation in the middle of the 19th century.

Phrenology declined in popularity in the second half of the 19th century, although it persisted into the 20th century in some areas. For a brief moment, it was the first and most comprehensive scientific approach we had to criminology.


A page from Cesare Lombroso's book l'Uomo Delinquente, 1889
A page from Cesare Lombroso's book l'Uomo Delinquente, 1889

Sometimes called the “father of criminology,” Italian physician Cesare Lombroso spent much of his career examining the bodies (both dead and alive) of convicted criminals and the mentally ill. The army doctor and professor of psychiatry was struck by both Darwin's theories and the work of Italian evolutionists during the 1860s, and evolution greatly influenced his later work.

Like Gall, Lombroso experienced a “eureka” moment while making a minute examination of a human head—only in his case, it was the skull of the recently deceased thief and arsonist Giuseppe Villella. Villella had a small indentation at the back of his skull; unusual for a human, but common in some primates. Lombroso noticed the trait in a few other crooks, and theorized that criminals were in fact some evolutionary throwback to primitive humans. He began to argue that deviance was inherited in many of these “born delinquents,” and they could be differentiated from the masses by physical characteristics that he claimed resembled our primate ancestors: large jaws, jug ears, high cheekbones, bloodshot eyes, to name a few attributes. Behavioral traits like idleness and non-biological features like tattoos could also be a sign.

Lombroso ran experiments on prisoners, the insane, and even low-lifes he wrangled from Italian alleyways. He took measurements of their bodies and features and tested their blood pressure, pain resistance, and reaction to other stimuli. Over the years, he established a set of features associated with different types of crime. His theory, known as degeneration, laid the foundation for a systematic approach to crime and even punishment. Like the phrenologists, Lombroso and his acolytes argued against capital punishment for those whose degeneration was not particularly advanced but triggered by an environmental factor—they were to be treated rather than locked up.

While wildly popular during his lifetime (he even argued the merits of his theory with Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy while visiting the writer's home), Lombroso's ideas faded from prominence as sociological theories of crime became more popular at the turn of the 20th century. Besides his emphasis on a scientific approach to criminology, his legacy consists of a museum in Turin stocked with the skulls and other ephemera he collected throughout his career ... along with the good doctor's own head, preserved in a jar.


Body type is blamed for a lot these days—a propensity for obesity, jeans that don't fit quite right. But in the early 20th century, an American psychologist named William Sheldon looked a little deeper.

Sheldon examined some 4000 photographs of college students and distilled their bodies into three categories, or somatotypes: endomorphs, mesomorphs, and ectomorphs. Endomorphs were soft, round, and put on fat easily; they were also amiable, relaxed, and extroverted. Mesomorphs were hard, muscular, and broad-chested; they were also assertive, aggressive, and insensitive. Finally, ectomorphs were long, narrow, and fragile-looking; they were also more introverted and anxious. Bodies fell into a spectrum defined by the degree to which they exhibited each of these three traits.

In a study of 200 delinquent youths, Sheldon concluded that mesomorphs had the greatest predisposition for impulsive (and thus perhaps criminal) behavior. While his work was criticized for its methodology, Sheldon did attract more than a few students, some of whom modified his theory to include social pressures; for example, it was possible that society treated people with certain physical characteristics a certain way, thereby encouraging delinquency.


XYY syndrome karyotype
An XYY syndrome karyotype

In 1961, a 44-year-old man underwent genetic testing after discovering his child had Down syndrome. The test results surprised his doctor—the man had an extra Y chromosome. Over the following decades, further testing revealed that XYY syndrome, as it became known, was rather common, appearing in men at a rate of 1 in 1000.

In 1965, when a study from a Scottish institution for people with dangerous, violent, or criminal propensities reported a high frequency of XYY syndrome among its population, scientists and the media alike began to wonder if that extra chromosome somehow caused violence and aggression in men. XYY was used as a defense in the trial of a French murderer, and has been brought up in regard to the case of Richard Speck, the student nurse killer of Chicago, though he turned out not to have the extra Y. Books and TV shows featured XYY killers even into the 1990s.

But what does the science say? While men with XYY syndrome tend to be taller, more active, and have a greater chance of having learning or behavioral problems, there's been no evidence showing a decrease in intelligence or a higher propensity for violence or aggression. In fact, most XYY men are unaware of their genetic quirk and blend perfectly well into the rest of the population. While two Dutch studies did show an increase in criminal convictions among XYY men, researchers have posited that this could be explained away based on socioeconomic variables that have also been linked to the chromosome aberrations.

For now, the XYY theory remains just a theory—as well as a convenient plot device.

Astronauts on the ISS to Teach Christa McAuliffe's Lost Science Lessons

Christa McAuliffe was set to become the first private citizen to travel to space when she boarded the Challenger space shuttle on January 28, 1986. That dream was cut tragically short when the shuttle exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all seven passengers onboard. Now, 32 years later, part of McAuliffe's mission will finally be realized. As SFGate reports, two NASA astronauts are teaching her lost science lessons in space.

Before she was selected to join the Challenger crew, McAuliffe taught social studies at a Concord, New Hampshire high school. Her astronaut status was awarded as part of NASA's Teacher in Space Project, a program designed to inspire student interest in math, science, and space exploration. McAuliffe was chosen out of an applicant pool of more than 11,000.

Once in orbit, McAuliffe had planned to conduct live and taped lessons in microgravity for her students and the world to see. Though that never happened, she left behind enough notes and practice videos for astronauts to carry through with her legacy 32 years later. On Friday, January 19, astronaut Joe Acaba announced that he and his colleague Ricky Arnold will be sharing her lessons from the International Space Station over the upcoming months. The news was shared during a TV linkup with students at Framingham State University where McAuliffe studied.

McAuliffe's lost lesson plan includes experiments with Newton's laws of motion, bubbles, chromatography, and liquids in space, all of which will be recorded by Acaba and Arnold and shared online through the Challenger Center, a nonprofit promoting space science education.

It will be the first time students will get to see the lessons performed in space, but it won't be the only footage of the lessons available on the internet. Before the doomed Challenger flight, McAuliffe was able to practice her experiments in NASA's famous Vomit Comet. You can watch one of her demonstrations below.

[h/t SFGate]


More from mental floss studios