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50 Historic Facts About the 1600s (17th Century)

26Sleeping Hermaphroditus

The marble masterpiece "Sleeping Hermaphroditus” was unearthed approximately in 1608 after being buried for centuries. In 1620, 22-year-old Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini carved the marble mattress on which s/he lies today that’s so strikingly realistic visitors are compelled to give it a testing prod. - Source

27. Several years before the publishing of the renowned 1611 bible which was named after him, King James published a demonology describing the types of ghosts, spirits, vampires, fairies, witches, and even werewolves that haunt the land, which inspired Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

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28. 3 slaves were hanged for the 1660 murder of their master William Harrison in the year 1661. In 1662, William Harrison returned on a ship after escaping slavery, having been kidnapped by pirates. This lead to the "no body, no murder" rule. - Source

29. Miyamoto Musashi was a 17th century Japanese swordsman, who twice arrived late to duels and defeated both opponents. Upon his next duel, he arrived early, and ambushed the force that was assembling to ambush him. - Source

30. In 1602, the Dutch East India Company undertook the world's first Initial public offering and, therefore, became the first public company to issue stock. - Source

31Galileo Galilei

On January 7th, 1610 Galileo Galilei improved the telescope's design and used it to study Jupiter. He discovered 4 of Jupiter's moons and helped disprove the Ptolemaic world system (Earth-centric universe) theory. - Source

32. In the 17th century, the Finnish used a unit of measurement called Poronkusema, which was the distance a reindeer could walk before needing to urinate. - Source

33. 2012 wasn’t the first time a Mayan calendar ended. In fact, it has happened on September 18, 1618, after which a new calendar began. - Source

34. In the 17th century, standard English Army field rations consisted of an entire week's worth of biscuits and cheese. - Source

35. Kit Kat was a political club in the 17th century London and a Kit-Kat portrait is a particular type of portrait used for members of the club.

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36Highland Charge

The "Highland Charge" was a 17th century Scottish tactic of sprinting into musket lines and hacking at the enemy with broadswords as they struggled to fix their bayonets. - Source

37. The "Philosophers tree" experiment was a previously well kept secret by alchemists from the 17th century. The experiment which was recently recreated resulted in the formation of a "golden" tree. - Source

38. Uriel Acosta was a 17th century Jewish philosopher. After being found guilty of heresy, he was given 39 lashes and was forced to lie in the doorway to his synagogue while the congregation stepped on him as they entered. He was so humiliated that he then grabbed a pistol and shot himself. - Source

39. An essay by 17th century philosopher Leo Allatius claims that the circumcised foreskin of Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven at the same time as him and became the rings of Saturn. - Source

40. Isaac Newton was like a Dirty Harry of 17th century London. He chased counterfeiters of the Royal Mint, bribed crooks for info, threatened criminals and their families, eventually focusing on his nemesis and finally he burned all his notes to cover his dirty ways of catching crooks.

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41Powdered Wigs

Wearing wigs became popular in the 17th century because they covered up the scarring and baldness that was caused by Syphilis. - Source

42. There was an explosion in 1626 in China which killed 20,000 people. The cause of the explosion has not been conclusively determined. - Source

43. A guy named Thiess in 1692 talked his way out of death in front of a werewolf tribunal by admitting that he was a werewolf in the service of God, in a longstanding war with the witches of the underworld. - Source

44. In 1623, the German polymath Wilhelm Schickard designed what was probably the first mechanical digital computer. Schickard died of bubonic plague soon, but his machine was replicated later and is likely to have worked in spite of some imperfections. - Source

45. Carbon nanotubes have been found in a Damascus steel sword from the 17th century. It is thought that the nanotubes along with the nanowires is what gives the legendary Damascus steel its strength. - Source


During the 17th century, women's fashions with exposed breasts were common in society, from queens to common prostitutes, and it emulated by all classes. An exposed ankle however was considered to be more risqué. - Source

47. While not strictly legal, starting in the 1690s, British husbands used to sell their wives to end bad marriages. It was usually an auction announced by a newspaper advertisement, to which the wife was led by a rope around her neck. Often the buyer was pre-arranged and the sale was a form of symbolic separation. - Source

48. The largest cavalry charge in history occurred during the 1684 Turkish siege of Vienna. 18,000 Holy league Polish and German knights charged the Ottoman line, completely routing them. The battle marked the end of Turkish expansion into Europe. - Source

49. The 17th century Europeans used to glue patches to their faces (velvet for the rich, mouse skin for the poor) in order to conceal blemishes or make a fashion statement. - Source

50. The Sultan of Morocco and Queen Elizabeth I drew up a plan to conquer the Spanish Americas and partition them between Morocco and England in 1603. Historians speculate that had the Sultan and the Queen not die the next year, Morocco might have colonized much of the New World. - Source

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