First and foremost, there is no ranking here. By Top I am simply suggesting a matrix of interesting historical facts. And I do not use the term fact lightly. Yet, keep in mind that matrix implies a connective tissue to the content. What constitutes said tissue I'll leave to the reader to decipher. I'll hint only this much: human interactions are a type of cause and effect.
#10: The Corpse of Cromwell.
For those who don't know, Oliver Cromwell overthrew the English monarchy in the mid 1600s. This led to the execution of Charles I. (This is a bit of an oversimplification, but it'll work for the time being.) However, the republican commonwealth Cromwell helped establish did not last. It collapsed shortly after his death in 1658.
That being said, in 1661 his opponents had his body exhumed in order to execute him on the 12th anniversary of Charles I's death. I'll say that again. Cromwell's corpse was exhumed for a posthumous execution.
#9: Human Zoos.
Throughout history science has played a tragic part in the dehumanizing of other races. No way is this more bizarre than the practice of human zoos. A human zoo is essentially an exhibition of different races for amusement as well as proof of biological distinction. And the practice goes back centuries. During the Renaissance Cardinal Hippolytus Medici (of the famed Medici family) kept a menagerie of different races in the Vatican; In 1877 Jardin d'Acclimation de Paris doubled its visitors, reaching a million, by including Africans in ethnological displays; Madison Grant, a socialite and amateur anthropologist, who happened to be the head of the New York Zoological Society, put the famous Congolese pygmy Ota Benga on display in the Bronx Zoo... alongside other apes.
#8: Versailles n'a aucun toilettes.
The Palace of Versailles, a château belonging to the French royal family, was constructed without toilets. None. Zero. Relieve yourself in this bucket and pitch it out the window.
#7: Murder Act 1751.
In order to further deter murder, Britain's Parliament established the Murder Act 1751. As such, Section II instructs that the bodies of executed murderers are to be delivered to surgeons for public dissection. In no way is the executed individual to be buried. If, for whatever reason, dissection is not an option, then the cadaver is to be hung from chains where it can be viewed till it is no more.
Furthermore, any attempt to rescue such a corpse from either fate, as well as preventing an execution, would result in forced labor on His Majesty's plantations for no less than seven years in the most vile place the English aristocracy could imagine. The Americas.
#6: Booth Saves Lincoln.
Although he could not recall the year, Robert Lincoln never forgot the event. In either 1863 or '64, Robert, son of President Abraham Lincoln, was trying to maneuver through a thick crowd at a train station in Jersey City. At one point he lost his footing and fell, plunging towards the gap between the platform and a departing train. The outcome of such a fall could only be grim. However, a man behind Robert caught him by the coat collar and pulled him back to safety. The man? Edwin Booth, a famed actor at the time, on his way to visit a friend in Richmond, Virginia, a theater owner named John Ford. (And if you're wondering: yes, the owner of Ford's Theater; no, it's not a coincidence, Edwin is John Wilkes' brother.)
#5: The Bellamy Salute
Prior to 1942 most America's, particularly school children, pledged allegiance to the flag using a gesture known as the Bellamy Salute. Developed by Francis Bellamy, the salute was meant to accompany the pledge. Directed at the flag, it consisted of a raised right hand with a flat outstretched palm facing down. (See for yourself: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Students_pledging_allegiance_to_the_American_flag_with_the_Bellamy_salute.jpg) The gesture was so inspirational Italian fascists and the Nazis adopted similar salutes of their own. This obviously led to a bit of a controversy. So on December 22nd, 1942, Congress amended the Flag Code, changing the salute to the hand over the heart people are familiar with today.
#4: The Suicidal ACE
Alan Turing is a person most people don't know, but who we're all grateful existed. His cryptography work during World War II more than justifies his place in history; Turing conceived the Bombe, a device utilized to break messages encoded by the German Enigma Machine, the most complex coding mechanism at the time. More importantly Turing designed the ACE computer. The ACE is the first stored-program computer. Without it the personal computers most people take for granted would not exist.
Perhaps the reason not many know about Alan Turing is the fact he died tragically. In 1952 Alan Turing spent a weekend with a man he'd been meeting romantically. The man, Arnold Murray, subsequently used the weekend as a means to case Turing's house which he later robbed. Reporting the crime resulted in Turing admitting the nature of his relationship with Murray. As a result, the two were convicted of gross indecency in accord with Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. Turing opted for probation rather than imprisonment. This meant chemical castration. Two years later Alan Turing committed suicide with cyanide.
#3: Mad as a Hatter
Mercury used to be a part of the production process for hats, particularly ones made with felt. However, mercury poisoning leads to dementia. Consequently, many hat makers tended to go, quite literally, mad making hats. Hence the phrase mad as a hatter.
#2: Prehistoric Phallus Preening
According to the an article published in the December issue of The Journal of Urology, phallic decoration became a part of the Magdalenian culture of France and Spain. Based on art from the era, roughly 12,000 years ago, researchers now believe prehistoric men may have augmented their genitals by adorning them with piercings, scars, and tattoos. This conclusion is derived from the way penises are depicted in hand-held art.
#1: You Can Trust me, I'm a Doctor.
World War II. Nazis occupied France. People desperate to flee the country, especially Jews, seek any means to escape. According to rumors a man called Dr. Eugene has ties to the Resistance. Furthermore, he can get you papers and safe passage to South America. Almost 150 people went to him for help. They were never heard from again.
Dr. Eugene was, in reality, Marcel Petiot. He was an actual doctor, however, he had no ties to the French Resistance, let alone any means of escaping Vischy France. At a charge of 25,000 francs he would take people to a secret location. There he administer an inoculation all entrants to Argentina required. But instead of inoculating against disease, he injected people with cyanide.
For awhile he dumped the bodies in the Seine, but he soon moved on to using quicklime or fire. Incineration would be his downfall. Smelling a foul odor coming from his chimney, his neighbors called the authorities. Firemen entered the house. In the fire and around the building they found human remains.