< Timeline 1550-1599 AD



Interesting Happenings
From Around the World
1550-1599 AD

Linda Haas Davenport
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1550: Beretta family of Italy begins making guns.

1552: Books on Geography and Astronomy burned in England because people thought they contained magic.

1551: Another outbreak of "sweating sickness" occurs in England. (see 1485)

1553: Roman Catholicism is restored in England by Queen Mary I (known as "Bloody Mary")

1554: Jakob Rueff of Zurich publishes his The Expert Midwife. Focusing on importance of anatomy in relation to obstetrics.

1555: Nostradamus, French astrologer and physician, publishes his first collection of prophecies. The first Englishman recorded to have taken slaves from Africa was John Lok, a London trader who brought to England five slaves from Guinea.

1556: The worst earthquake in history in China's Shansi Province kills an estimated 60% of the population. Tobacco seeds reach Europe from the New World, brought by Franciscan friar Andre Thevet. Tobacco imported to Europe from America by French ambassador to Lisbon, Jean Nicot (after whom nicotine is named). A decade later, Sir Walter Raleigh will take tobacco to England and became largely responsible for popularizing smoking among Europeans.

1558: The first European settlers arrive in Newfoundland. Queen Elizabeth I ascends the throne (rules to 1603) and restores Protestantism and establishes the Church of England. Renaissance reaches its height in England.

1559: Spain attempts a settlement at Pensacola Bay Florida. A hurricane and lack of supplies causes it to fail.

1560: The Geneva Bible, first English Bible with numbered verses to each chapter, printed. First instruction manual for playing chess appeared.

1561: Snuff becomes popular when French queen Catherine Medici, upon recommendation by Jean Nicot, starts using snuff believing it will cure her migraine headaches.

1562: John Hawkins hijacked a Portuguese slave ship and traded the 301 slaves in the Caribbean - the first English participation in the growing slave trade. The horse-drawn coach from Holland first used in England. Andrea Amati makes one of the first violins; Stradivari is one of his pupils.

1564: Michelangelo dies. A Huguenot colony, under Rene de Laudonniere, builds a fort near present day Jacksonville (Ft. Caroline). Spanish forces wipe out the Protestant enclave in 1565, ending France's bid to colonize Florida.

1565: St. Augustine, first permanent European colony within the present US boundaries, is established by Spain. English Privateer John Hawkins introduces Florida-grown tobacco and sweet potatoes to England.

1569: Gerard Mercator, Flemish mathematician and cartographer, divides the spherical globe with parallel lines of latitude spaced progressively father apart toward the Poles and lines of longitude converging on the Poles. When projected on flat paper, the lines form a right-angled grid, enabling navigators for the first time to plot direct routes.

1570: Five Finger Lakes and Mohawk Valley Indian nations join together under the name Iroquois.

1573: British cartographer Christopher Saxton publishes the first atlas with maps of 37 countries.

1576: Magnetic dip - variation between true and magnetic north - discovered by English mariner, compass builder and hydrographer Robert Norman.

1577: Swiss clockmaker, maker of astronomical instruments and a mathematician Jost Burgi invents the minute hand. Burgi's invention is part of a clock made for Danish nobleman Tycho Brahe, an astronomer who needed an accurate clock for his stargazing

1578: Sir Walter Raleigh's half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert obtains a charter allowing him to found a colony with his own funds and guaranteeing the prospective colonists all the rights of those born and residing in England, thus setting an important precedent for future colonial charters. His attempts to found a colony in Newfoundland failed, and while pursuing these endeavors he is lost at sea. William Bourne, a British mathematician, draws plans for a submarine.

1580: Sir Frances Drake returns to England after circumnavigating the globe - "his ship groaning with plunder from Spanish America and spices from the East Indies". Galileo discovers the isochronous swing of the pendulums, using his pulse to time the swing of a lamp during an earthquake.

1581: First black slaves are imported to St. Augustine.

1582: Antonio de Espejo sails up the Rio Grande and goes on to explore much of the Southwest. Dutchman Pieter Morice invents a method of pumping water using a water wheel - eliminating the need for London's "water carriers". People lose ten days overnight - In 46 bc Julius Caesar, borrowing from the Egyptian and Jewish calendars, institutes a solar year of a dozen 30 day months, with 5 days left over and a leap year every four years. But Caesar miscalculated, and over time the 11 minute annual discrepancy between his calendar and the solar year became a debit of 10 days. By the 16th century, the Spring Equinox (and Easter) had drifted from its March spot back into winter. In this year, Pope Gregory XIII corrects the error and New Year's Day moves back to January 1 after being celebrated in March for over 1,000 years. To correct the error he deleted 10 days from the current calendar. People went to bed on Oct 4, 1582 and woke up the next morning on Oct 15th (11 days later). For historians (and family researchers) this missing 10 days can cause confusion and dates prior to Oct 15th, 1582 are usually shown as xx/xx (reflecting both the old and new calendar dates).

1583: The first English colony in North America is established in Newfoundland by Sir Humphrey Gilbert who drowned on his return to England. The attempt ends due to sickness and starvation. Italian physician, philosopher and botanist Andrea Cesalpino publishes De Plantis Libri XVI, the first book on botany, providing the first scientific classification of plants.

1584: Ivan the Terrible dies. Sir Walter Raleigh takes over his half-brother's (Sir Humphrey Gilbert) colonial charter and names the new area "Virginia" after the unmarried Queen of England.

1585: Flemish mathematician Simon Stevin introduces the decimal system, replacing the old system based on counting in twelves. A 36 page booklet called De Thiende ('the tenth'), Sir Walter Raleigh establishes Roanoke, a Virginia colony, with 114 men, women and children.

1586: Roanoke Island colonists return to England due to lack of supplies and Indian attacks. Flemish mathematician Simon Stevin demonstrated that two objects of different weight fall down with exactly the same acceleration.

1587: Sir Walter Raleigh establishes a 2nd colony in Roanoke. Virginia Dare is the first child born in the Colonies. The Rose Theatre opens in London, built by Elizabethan theatrical entrepreneur Philip Henslowe. The first works of Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare are performed there.

1588: English astronomer, mathematician, ethnographer, and translator Thomas Harriot, a member of the failed Roanoke colony (1585-86) describes New World Indians, flora, and fauna in his A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia.

1589: William Lee, an English clergyman, invents the stocking frame - the first knitting machine. It will be the only one in use for centuries. (Its principle of operation remains in use today.)

1590: The Roanoke Colony disappears leaving only the word "Croatoan" carved on a deserted palisade. It will be 15 years before colonization is tried again. Dutchmen, Zacharias Janssen invents the compound microscope. William Shakespeare begins his career.

1593: Galileo invents a water thermometer.

1595: Sir Francis Drake and John Hawkins lead their last raid into the Spanish West Indies. Both die.

1596: Flushing Toilet is invented- by Sir John Harrington a British nobleman and godson to Queen Elizabeth I. He has invented a valve that when pulled releases the water from the water closet. Sir John suggested flushing at least twice a day. Described in his famous work The Metamorphosis of Ajax. Rumor has it that this is where the name "the john" originated. But "Flushing Johns" will have to wait until 1761 for adequate sewage systems to handle the water disposal.

1597: Florentine composer Jacopo Peri's Dafne is considered the first opera, music set to the work of poet Ottavio Rinuccini.

1599: Globe Theatre built in London on the south bank of the River Thames.

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