By Russell Miller
For those of us who enjoy the pleasure of central heating, we can thank an ingenious Roman by the name of Gaius Sergius Orata. Approximately 80 B.C., Gaius was developing a series of ceramic flues that would pipe warmed water and warmed air into air pockets under Roman floors and later on, even through tiled walls. His furnaces were used to heat the water for public baths and warm the homes of private well-to-do villas.
ODDLY ENOUGH … Gaius wasn’t seeking to invent human comfort when he began his hypocaust systems. He was attempting to produce a year-round source of warmed sea water in hopes of harvesting farm-raised oysters.
During the Middle Ages, most types of textiles from wool to linen were produced, spun, and woven by women. Women were so connected to this craft that some bits of clothing were given by women to women exclusively as charms for those who were pregnant, or were facing a difficult labor.
ODDLY ENOUGH … According to a bulletin produced in 1010, churchmen were warned that some clothing produced by women who uttered incantations while they worked — had the ability to bewitch or even kill its owner. Hence, to be sure the apparel was rendered “safe,” counter-incantations were often performed before the clothing was worn.
Russell Miller is an illustrator, cartoonist, writer, bagpiper, motorcycle enthusiast, and reference librarian. Currently, he illustrates books for Cody Lundin and Bart King.