Did you know that until the mid-1700s everyone believed dragons were real and that included all kinds of brilliant thinkers and writers and philosophers? Yes, it wasn’t till 1735 that a Swedish botanist named Linnaeus went public with the truth explaining that the Catholic Church had perpetrated the dragon myth since it provided a helpful allegory for Satan.
I learned that interesting fact by reading the book Mobituaries written by Mo Rocca. On our drive to Arizona, this winter Dave and I listened to the first two seasons of the Mobituary Podcasts and each one started with an advertisement for the accompanying book which we were told contained material not heard in the podcasts. I was swayed and ordered the book.
A mobituary is a little different than an obituary. It is a way to express appreciation for and information about ideas, things, people and events that were once famous and no longer are, or were once important but perhaps didn’t receive enough recognition in their time.
I was fascinated to read about Elizabeth Jennings in Mobituaries. In 1854 Elizabeth sued a New York railroad company when a conductor forced her to leave the white car of a train which had empty seats and wait for the Black car which was already crowded. She won her case! This was a hundred years before Rosa Parks made her heroic stand for civil rights on a Montgomery Alabama bus. I also enjoyed learning about Ada Lovelace a British mathematician who in 1843 wrote the very first computer program. She included it in a series of notes she added to an article she was translating into English for an Italian inventor because who would have believed that a woman could create an algorithm?
It was interesting to read about the various medical diagnoses that are now extinct like homosexuality, wandering womb, consumption, left-handedness, red hair and drapetomia a mysterious disease that caused slaves to run away from their masters. The disease was the result of owners treating their slaves too indulgently.
Eight of the chapters in the Mobituaries book contained stories I had already heard on the Mobituary Podcast like the one about the cojoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker who founded a family dynasty in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina or the interesting life story of television musician Lawrence Welk.
What I like about Mobituaries is I can just pick it up and read one of the short chapters at random whenever I have time. I have been looking online to see if there is a Season 3 of the Mobituaries podcast being planned but can’t find any mention of it so, for now, I will just have to be satisfied continuing to sample the interesting stories in the book.