April 2 – Chuck the Great

Today’s Factismal: Charlemagne was born 1,272 years ago today.

The one thing that every kid hates is being forced to go to school every day. Which is funny, because if they go to school and pay attention during their history classes, then they’ll find out that the person responsible for it was born more than twelve hundred years ago.

Charlemagne, also known as “Karl der Große” and “Karolus Magnus”, was the son of King Pepin the Short. Not content with having his father’s kingdom of France, Chuck the Great went on a forty year long shopping and chopping spree that added Italy, Germany, Spain, and even part of Africa to his empire. Before he was done, Charlemagne had united most of Western Europe under his rule, re-establishing the long defunct Roman Empire; for this feat, he was given the title of Holy Roman Emperor.

The empire of Charlemagne(Image courtesy  Sémhur)

The empire of Charlemagne
(Image courtesy Sémhur)

But Charlemagne wasn’t just good in battle. He was also pretty smart when it came to understanding what a strong empire needed. First among those needs was an educated populace. So in 787 CE, Charlemagne ordered that all monasteries and churches his realm begin the free education of the young men, who were to be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, using a standardized curriculum.

This was an unprecedented move; even the Romans had only offered education to the upper classes and that was done without a standard curriculum. But the move paid off, spurring a growth of trade, art and culture that has come to be known as the Carolingian Renaissance. One minor benefit of this revolution in education that we still enjoy today was the development of lower case letters. Until Charlemagne’s reforms, most writing had been done using large and small capital letters; by substituting letters with slightly different shapes to distinguish the start of words, his scholars made texts much easier to read.

Today, we are faced with another revolution in science and art that is no less wide-reaching; the growth of the internet. If you’d like to use the internet to help make physics concepts accessible, or to see what other people have done, then head on over to Physics Songs where the wonders of the universe are yours for a song!
http://www.haverford.edu/astronomy/songs/

Or you could just Sing About Science … And Math!
http://singaboutscience.org/wp/homepage/

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