History of Para sch. - History

History of Para sch. - History

Para sch.

Para
(Sch: t. 200; 1. 98'; b. 24'; dph. 9'; dr. 9'; a. 1 13" m., 2 32-pdr.)

Para, a wooden schooner, was purchased from James Bishop dc Co., New York' 9 September 1861 and commissioned 4 February 1862, Actmg Master Edward J. Furber in command.

Assigned first to the Gulf Squadron, Para participated in the bombardment of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, 18 24 April 1862. Later transferred to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, she operated along the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina for the remainder of the war.

On 19 June 1863 she captured blockade running schooner Emma off Mosquito Inlet, S.C. Off Florida the next month she sent boats ashore on the 18th to participate in the attack on New Smyrna during which the Union force captured a sloop loaded with cotton and an unladen schooner, burnt several other vessels, and destroyed all buildings which had been occupied by troops.

Continuing operations off the southeastern seaboard, she escorted troops up the St. Mary's River to Woodstock, Fla. to obtain lumber, engaged Confederate forces along the river banks to cover the transports as they took on the lumber captured steamer Hard T~mei, then covered the retirement of the transports, 16 23 February 1864.

Para decommissioned at Boston 5 August 1865 and was sold at auction to J. C. Osgood, 8 September 1865.


History of the French Foreign Legion

The French Foreign Legion has had a long and unique history amongst the units of the French Army. It was historically formed of expatriate enlisted personnel led by French officers. Founded by a royal ordinance issued by King Louis Philippe of France on March 9, 1831 with aim of bolstering the strength of the French Army while also finding a use for the influx of refugees inundating France at the time. The Foreign Legion subsequently found a permanent home in the ranks of the French military. The Foreign Legion's history spans across Conquest of Algeria, the Franco-Prussian War, numerous colonial exploits, both World Wars, the First Indochina War, and the Algerian War.


David Olusoga rolling out a map.

David Olusoga at Markfield Beam Engine Museum.

Steven Johnson looking at a W.E.B Dubois plaque.

David Olusoga with Dr. Christoph Tang in front of a projector.

Dr. David Ho with colleagues in Ho Lab at the Diamond AIDS Research Center.

Members of Makkah congregation.

Steven Johnson holding up a mask.


An Early History of the Parachute

Floyd Smith, patent 1,462,456 for a parachute pack and harness, 1919 (image: Google Patents)

I recently went skydiving for the first time. It was possibly the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done in my life. A couple days later, once I had time to process everything, my thoughts turned to that backpack that kept me alive. When was it designed? Who was the inventor that made it possible for me to survive a fall of 10,000 feet? Some quick research told that that I owed my life to a Russian actor named Gleb Kotelnikov, who is credited with inventing the first backpack parachute in 1911. Surprisingly little is written about Kotelnikov –at least in English– but assuming Google translate can be trusted, he was compelled to create the parachute after witnessing the death of pilot Leo Matsievich during an air show in St. Petersburg. From that horrible moment, Kotelnikov, a former theater actor, dedicated the rest of his life to preventing the unnecessary deaths of airplane pilots. By the early 20th century, basic parachutes were already widely used to perform jumps from hot-air balloons, and of course the idea of the parachute famously goes back all the way to Leonardo da Vinci, but these early parachutes were elaborate and cumbersome, and the high speed at which planes traveled required a more efficient design.

Actor-turned-inventor Gelb Kotelnikov, wearing his RK-1 knapsack parachute (image: Wikimedia Commons)

Kotenikov wasn’t alone in his realization that planes required a new type of parachute, but many early designs were actually attached to the plane itself and could get tangled with the crashing vehicle or separated from the pilot. Kotelnikov’s innovation came with the realization that for a parachute to save lives, it had to meet two primary qualifications: it had to always be with the pilot –ideally, it would be attached to him in some way– and it had to open automatically – presumably to protect the pilot if he lost consciousness. He developed several prototypes that met these qualifications, including a parachute helmet, a parachute belt, and a parachute attached to several points of the body via an elaborate harness. Eventually he came up a working model for a stable parachute in a hard knapsack that would be attached to the pilot by a harness. He dubbed the invention the RK-1 (Russian Kotelnikov 1). The RK-1 was attached to the plane by static line that would pull the chute open once the pilot reached the proper distance from the aircraft, but it could also be opened manually by pulling a cord. The race for the parachute patent was competitive and Kotelnikov conducted several tests in secret, including one particularly noteworthy experiment at a race track. He attached his RK-1 to a racing car, drove it up to full speed, and pulled the cord. The pack opened successfully, the resistance stalled the engine, and the car was dragged to a full stop. So not only can Gleb Kotelnikov be credited as the designer the backpack parachute, but also, incidentally, as the inventor of the drag chute (although in 1911 nothing really moved fast enough to actually require a drag chute). Kotelnikov took his field-tested design to the Central Engineering Department of the War Ministry, which promptly –and repeatedly– refused to put his design into production. Kotelnikov’s design had proven that it could save lives, but the Russian military were concerned that if their pilots were given the means to safely evacuate their planes, they would do so at the slightest sign of any danger, and unnecessarily sacrifice the expensive vehicle instead of trying to pilot it to safety.

The story gets a little hazy from there. From what I can discern with the help of automatic translators, an aviation company helped Kotelnikov market his invention in Europe. The RK-1 was met with wide acclaim but the company backed out of their deal with Kotelnikov – conveniently around the same time that one of the two prototype parachutes was stolen from the Russian inventor. In the years leading up to World War I he returned to Russia and found that the government was more receptive to his invention, but by then parachutes inspired by –and sometimes copied from– his original design were appearing throughout Europe.

Leslie Irvin, patent 1,323,983 for a “safety parachute pack,” 1918 (image: Google Patents)

After World War I proved the importance of aviation and the value of the parachute, the U.S. Army assembled a team to perfect the design of this new life-saving device. The key members of this task force were test pilot James Floyd Smith and film stuntman Leslie Irvin, who patented his own static-line parachute in 1918 and would go on to start the Irvin Airchute Company the following year. Smith also had a couple patents under his belt, including “The Smith Aerial Life Pack,” which The Parachute Manual calls the first “modern free type” (re: manually operated) parachute. Whether or not these American designs were at all inspired by Kotelnikov’s, or one of the many other experimental parachutes that were in use during the war, is hard to say. But Smith’s innovation seems to be simplicity: his Life Pack consisted of a single piece of waterproof fabric wrapped over a silk parachute and held together by rubber bands that would be released when the jumper pulled a ripcord. It has the distinction of being the first patented soft-pack parachute (Kotelnikov’s soft-pack design, the RK-2, didn’t go into production until the 1920s.).

The Smith Aerial Life Pack, 1919 (image: The Parachute Manual)

The military team led by Smith and Irvin eventually came up with the Airplane Parachute Type-A. Modeled closely after the Smith Life Pack, the primary components of the Type-A were a 28-foot diameter silk canopy, a soft backpack and harness, a ripcord, and a two-foot diameter pilot chute (a small parachute used to help deploy the main chute). Naturally, Irvin was the first man to test this new design and upon doing so on April 28, 1919, he became the first American to jump from an airplane and open a manually open a parachute in midair. The Type-A was approve and produced for the military by Irvin’s recently formed company.

Floyd Smith, patent 1,340,423 for a parachute, 1918 (image: Google Patents)

The team led by Smith and Irvin was in charge of parachute design through the next World War and into the 1950s. Irvin’s company dominated the market. Not only did they produce the parachutes for the U.S. military, but they eventually also pioneered the development of the civilian and recreational parachute industry. After the Type-A, designs evolved quickly and are too numerous to mention in this post. Although its history is inextricably tied to the history of aviation, it took a complete outsider, an actor moved by tragedy, to create the first successful parachute nearly a century ago. Countless innovations, both large and small, have since refined the design of the parachute so much that it is now safe enough for even a shaky-kneed amateur to defy gravity at 10,000 feet.

Dan Poynter, The Parachute Manual: A Technical Treatise on Aerodynamic Decelerators (Santa Barbara, CA: Para Publishing, 1991) “Parachute Russian, Kotelnikov,” http://www.yazib.org/yb030604.html “Leslie Irvin, Parchutist,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Irvin_(parachutist) “James Flloyd Smith,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Floyd_Smith Google Patents, http://google.com/patents

I recently went skydiving for the first time. It was possibly the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done in my life. A couple days later, once I had time to process everything, my thoughts turned to that backpack that kept me alive. When was it designed? Who was the inventor that made it possible for me to survive a fall of 10,000 feet? Some quick research told that that I owed my life to a Russian actor named Gleb Kotelnikov, who is credited with inventing the first backpack parachute in 1911. Surprisingly little is written about Kotelnikov –at least in English– but assuming Google translate can be trusted, he was compelled to create the parachute after witnessing the death of pilot Leo Matsievich during an air show in St. Petersburg. From that horrible moment, Kotelnikov, a former theater actor, dedicated the rest of his life to preventing the unnecessary deaths of airplane pilots. By the early 20th century, basic parachutes were already widely used to perform jumps from hot-air balloons, and of course the idea of the parachute famously goes back all the way to Leonardo da Vinci, but these early parachutes were elaborate and cumbersome, and the high speed at which planes traveled required a more efficient design.

Actor-turned-inventor Gelb Kotelnikov, wearing his RK-1 knapsack parachute (image: Wikimedia Commons)

Kotenikov wasn’t alone in his realization that planes required a new type of parachute, but many early designs were actually attached to the plane itself and could get tangled with the crashing vehicle or separated from the pilot. Kotelnikov’s innovation came with the realization that for a parachute to save lives, it had to meet two primary qualifications: it had to always be with the pilot –ideally, it would be attached to him in some way– and it had to open automatically – presumably to protect the pilot if he lost consciousness. He developed several prototypes that met these qualifications, including a parachute helmet, a parachute belt, and a parachute attached to several points of the body via an elaborate harness. Eventually he came up a working model for a stable parachute in a hard knapsack that would be attached to the pilot by a harness. He dubbed the invention the RK-1 (Russian Kotelnikov 1). The RK-1 was attached to the plane by static line that would pull the chute open once the pilot reached the proper distance from the aircraft, but it could also be opened manually by pulling a cord. The race for the parachute patent was competitive and Kotelnikov conducted several tests in secret, including one particularly noteworthy experiment at a race track. He attached his RK-1 to a racing car, drove it up to full speed, and pulled the cord. The pack opened successfully, the resistance stalled the engine, and the car was dragged to a full stop. So not only can Gleb Kotelnikov be credited as the designer the backpack parachute, but also, incidentally, as the inventor of the drag chute (although in 1911 nothing really moved fast enough to actually require a drag chute). Kotelnikov took his field-tested design to the Central Engineering Department of the War Ministry, which promptly –and repeatedly– refused to put his design into production. Kotelnikov’s design had proven that it could save lives, but the Russian military were concerned that if their pilots were given the means to safely evacuate their planes, they would do so at the slightest sign of any danger, and unnecessarily sacrifice the expensive vehicle instead of trying to pilot it to safety.

The story gets a little hazy from there. From what I can discern with the help of automatic translators, an aviation company helped Kotelnikov market his invention in Europe. The RK-1 was met with wide acclaim but the company backed out of their deal with Kotelnikov – conveniently around the same time that one of the two prototype parachutes was stolen from the Russian inventor. In the years leading up to World War I he returned to Russia and found that the government was more receptive to his invention, but by then parachutes inspired by –and sometimes copied from– his original design were appearing throughout Europe.

Leslie Irvin, patent 1,323,983 for a “safety parachute pack,” 1918 (image: Google Patents)

After World War I proved the importance of aviation and the value of the parachute, the U.S. Army assembled a team to perfect the design of this new life-saving device. The key members of this task force were test pilot James Floyd Smith and film stuntman Leslie Irvin, who patented his own static-line parachute in 1918 and would go on to start the Irvin Airchute Company the following year. Smith also had a couple patents under his belt, including “The Smith Aerial Life Pack,” which The Parachute Manual calls the first “modern free type” (re: manually operated) parachute. Whether or not these American designs were at all inspired by Kotelnikov’s, or one of the many other experimental parachutes that were in use during the war, is hard to say. But Smith’s innovation seems to be simplicity: his Life Pack consisted of a single piece of waterproof fabric wrapped over a silk parachute and held together by rubber bands that would be released when the jumper pulled a ripcord. It has the distinction of being the first patented soft-pack parachute (Kotelnikov’s soft-pack design, the RK-2, didn’t go into production until the 1920s.).

The Smith Aerial Life Pack, 1919 (image: The Parachute Manual)

The military team led by Smith and Irvin eventually came up with the Airplane Parachute Type-A. Modeled closely after the Smith Life Pack, the primary components of the Type-A were a 28-foot diameter silk canopy, a soft backpack and harness, a ripcord, and a two-foot diameter pilot chute (a small parachute used to help deploy the main chute). Naturally, Irvin was the first man to test this new design and upon doing so on April 28, 1919, he became the first American to jump from an airplane and open a manually open a parachute in midair. The Type-A was approve and produced for the military by Irvin’s recently formed company.

Floyd Smith, patent 1,340,423 for a parachute, 1918 (image: Google Patents)


The History

Powerlifting is one of the Paralympic Movement’s fastest growing sports in terms of participants and is now practiced in nearly 100 countries.

The sport represents the ultimate test of upper body strength with athletes competing in the bench press discipline.

Competitors must lower the bar to their chest, hold it motionless on the chest and then press it upwards to arms-length with locked elbows. Athletes are given three attempts and the winner is the athlete who lifts the highest number of kilograms.

Such is the strength of athletes competing in this sport, that it is not uncommon to see a competitor lift more than three times their own body weight.

World Para Powerlifting, under the governance of the International Paralympic Committee, acts as the international federation for the sport and is based in Bonn, Germany.

Open to male and female athletes with eight eligible physical impairments, athletes compete in one sport class across 10 different weight categories per gender.

Major competitions include the Paralympic Games which take place every four years, biennial World Championships, triennial regional Championships and annual World Cup and Grand Prix events.

Competition description

• Men compete in the 49kg, 54kg, 59kg, 65kg, 72kg, 80kg, 88kg, 97kg, 107kg and +107kg divisions.

• Women compete in the 41kg, 45kg, 50kg, 55kg, 61kg, 67kg, 73kg, 79kg, 86kg and +86kg divisions.

In powerlifting, male and female athletes assume a supine position on a specially designed bench, and after taking or receiving the bar at arms-length, the lifter shall wait with locked elbows and the bar under control for the Chief Referee’s signal.

After receiving the signal “start”, the lifter must lower the bar to the chest, hold it motionless (visible) on the chest and then press it upwards evenly, with an even equal extension of both the arms with locked elbows.

When held motionless and controlled in this position, the audible signal “rack” shall be given and the bar is returned to the rack.

Then an immediate decision shall be given by the three nominated international referees through a system of white and red lights. Two or more white lights signify a good lift and two or more red lifts reflect a no lift.

Each athlete has three attempts, and upon discretion of the jury a fourth attempt may be allowed to achieve a new world record, but this attempt does not count towards the final competition result.

Sport Equipment

Athletes compete lying on an official World Para Powerlifting approved bench which is 2.1m long. The width of the bench is 61cm wide and narrows to 30cm where the head is placed.

The height of the bench varies between 48 and 50cm from the ground. World Para Powerlifting approved discs must conform to several standards outlined in the sport’s rules and regulations.

Paralympic History

Although weightlifting made its Paralympic debut at Tokyo 1964, it was not until the 1984 Games that powerlifting was first included as a Paralympic sport.

Initially the sport of weightlifting only catered for male athletes with a spinal cord injury, but in the years that followed the sport began to include other impairment groups too.


A complete history of the camera phone

Cameras in phones are ubiquitous. Few of us see the need to carry a dedicated device for taking photos or videos anymore, and digital camera sales have slumped. But how did we get here? Let’s take a look at the history of the camera phone.

Samsung Sharp built the first camera phone

The first cell phone with a built-in camera was manufactured by Samsung and released in South Korea in June of 2000. The SCH-V200 flipped open to reveal a 1.5-inch TFT-LCD, and the built-in digital camera was capable of taking 20 photos at 350,000-pixel resolution, which is 0.35-megapixels, but you had to hook it up to a computer to get your photos. The camera and the phone components were essentially separate devices housed in the same body.

/>There’s a strong argument that the first real camera phone was produced by Sharp and released in Japan by J-Phone (now SoftBank Mobile) in November of 2000. The J-SH04 could take photos, like the one on the right (from Japanese site Showcase) at 110,000-pixel resolution or 0.11-megapixels. The real difference between it and the Samsung SCH-V200 was the fact that the J-SH04 allowed you to send your photos electronically. Here’s how the BBC reported on it back in 2001, the comments are priceless.

First U.S. camera phone – Sanyo SCP-5300

/>It was November 2002 before the U.S. adopted the crazy Japanese trend with the Sanyo SCP-5300 on Sprint. It cost $400 and it featured a chunky clamshell design. With a 0.3-megapixel capability, it could capture shots at 640 x 480 pixels. The one pictured on the left comes from this IGN review. The Sanyo SCP-5300 also had a basic flash, white balance control, self-timer, digital zoom, and various filter effects like sepia, black and white, and negative colors.

By the end of 2003, camera phones were really taking off in the U.S. and over 80 million had already been sold worldwide. We even covered the trend by reporting that camera phones rival DVD players sales back in November 2003. The good news for consumers was that quality was rising and prices were dropping.

1.3MP arrives with Audiovox PM8920

/>Continuing to push the camera phone trend, Sprint released the PM8920 in July of 2004. It was the first phone in the U.S. to feature a 1.3-megapixel camera capable of capturing 1280 x 960 pixel resolution shots. Not only could you share these pictures wirelessly, they were good enough to print as well. It had a dedicated camera button and a decent variety of settings, including a multi-shot option for taking eight quick photos in a row, and the ability to record your own shutter sound. It was available for $150 after rebates ($299 RRP).

By the end of 2004 the camera phone was riding high. Canalys reported that over half of the phones sold worldwide in the first 9 months of 2004 had cameras in them, and two-thirds of all the phones shipped in the third quarter were camera phones. Leading the way was Finnish manufacturer, Nokia.

2MP in the Nokia N90

In 2005 the Nokia N90 landed to take the camera phone to new heights. Not only did it boast a 2MP camera, it also had Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, and an LED flash. It will probably be best remembered for that rotating screen, which gave it a camcorder feel. Here’s our Nokia N90 review from back in the day.

Sony steps it up

The main competitor for Nokia in the camera arms race was Sony Ericsson. Carrying Sony’s Cyber-shot digital camera branding there were quite a few decent releases intended to steal Nokia’s camera phone crown, not least the Sony Ericsson K800i released in 2006. It had a 3.2MP camera with auto-focus, image stabilization, and a Xenon flash. The photo on the right was taken with the Sony Ericsson K790i variant which had the same camera.

Nokia naturally retaliated with models like the 3.2MP N73, but in 2007 the feature phone reached its pinnacle.

5MP in the Nokia N95

Samsung produced the first 5-megapixel camera phone, but the first one to prove really popular was Nokia’s N95. It was a chunky slider packed with features, but none were as impressive as that 5-megapixel camera with the Carl Zeiss lens. It took beautiful photos and it could record video at 30 frames-per-second. In fact, 5MP remained as a high-end standard for several years. Sadly for Nokia the smartphone revolution was just around the corner, and our Nokia N95 review bemoaned the lack of a touchscreen. A good camera would not be enough to keep Nokia on the rise.

To put it in perspective, the original iPhone hit the market a few months after the N95, in June 2007, and it had a 2MP camera with no flash or auto-focus and no video recording capability.

8MP from Samsung

In 2008 the Samsung i8510, also known as the INNOV8, held the first 8MP camera to hit the market, but in design terms Samsung was copying the wrong company. This release looked like part of Nokia’s N range, but these designs were growing steadily less popular. Nokia followed suit with the N86, but it was LG that released the first touchscreen camera phone with an 8MP camera. It was called the LG Renoir.

The race for megapixels continued and Samsung hit 12MP first with the M8910 Pixon12 in 2009. It was soon bested by Nokia’s N8 in 2010 and the 16MP Sony Ericsson S006 at the end of the year.

Smartphones stall the camera’s progress

The race to improve the cameras in phones stalled a bit as smartphones took off. The iPhone proved that there were more important features than the camera. It was also vital for manufacturers to produce slim, attractive devices, and the really powerful camera phones up to that point had all been seriously chunky. Some exasperated commentators also tried to point out that the quality of a camera is about more than just the number of megapixels. This series of photos by Lisa Bettany compares different iPhone models.

3D flop

Both HTC and LG tried to jump on the 3D bandwagon in 2011 and released phones with dual 5MP cameras capable of taking photos or capturing video in stereographic 3D. As it turned out, there was no real demand.

Most manufacturers seemed to be getting the message. The focus was shifting to software features that would offer extra value for people interested in photography.

The rise of software features for cameras

We’ve had Photo Sphere from Google and Panorama mode from Apple. BlackBerry came up with Time Shift and there was the oddly-named Zoe from HTC. We’ve also seen more filters and effects baked into the various mobile platforms, but these are largely things that apps have offered for a long time now. They’re great for people who want to spend the time getting into them, but most of us forget those kinds of novelties pretty quickly. What we really want is good point-and-shoot functionality to capture life in all its spontaneous glory.

Bigger and better

As HTC tries to convince us that a 4-megapixel camera is enough in its HTC One, Nokia is re-igniting the battle with a typically ferocious assault. High-end smartphones, like Sony’s Xperia Z are maxing out at 13-megapixels. Even Samsung’s camera focused S4 variant, the Zoom, only has a 16-megapixel sensor (although the optical zoom is its key feature). The Nokia Lumia 1020 has a 41-megapixel camera in it. This is how it compares to the iPhone 5 (the photo on the left is mislabeled as iPhone 4).

Whether we actually need the cameras in our phones to be too much better than they are now is debatable, but you could say that about a lot of tech. The Chicago Sun-Times publicly sacked photographers and expects iPhone-toting reporters to take their own photos. That may not be the wisest decision, but the fuss it generated was more focused on the skills of the photographer than the equipment. It’s not unusual for a professional photographer to use an iPhone, and it’s far from the most powerful camera phone on the market.

The future for camera phones

The Lumia 1020 looks set to be the best camera phone on the market for some time to come. It’s worth mentioning that Nokia’s first 41-megapixel camera phone was the PureView 808 in early 2012, but because it was stuck on Nokia’s old Symbian smartphone OS (the same one as the N95), sales were nothing special. Windows Phone is a lot better, but it remains to be seen how many people will be tempted in. In any case, you can be certain that the camera phone war is far from over. Things are just heating up, in fact. Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Zoom is coming and the Sony i1 could be a contender later this year.


Para cycling: A brief history of the sport

Para cycling has come a long way since its debut at the 1984 Paralympic Games.

At that time, the Paralympic Games were not held in the same city as the Olympic Games, and in 1984, they were divided between New York (USA) and Stoke Mandeville (Great Britain) rather than the Olympic venue, Los Angeles. A total of 22 Para cyclists from eight countries vied for glory in seven events. The only women’s event on the programme saw just two athletes line up at the start.

Four years later in Seoul, the number of events remained the same, but the number of participants nearly doubled, to 40. The only shadow cast on Para cycling that year was the fact that no female athletes were present to compete in South Korea’s capital city. However, the women came back for the Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games, where they numbered 17 – just over 10 per cent of the Para cycling delegation.

The year 1996 marked two important steps for the sport. In Atlanta, track events were added to the Paralympic Games, and the proportion of female athletes continued to climb – this year to 16 per cent of Para cyclists. No less than 23 countries participated in cycling events.

The 2000s: Milestones Marked

The Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games confirmed that Para cycling was a major sport, with more than 200 Para cyclists competing. Australian athletes thrilled home crowds with impressive results that won the nation the overall medals count, having earned 21 medals on the road and in the velodrome.

Four years later in Athens, the Para cycling family grew once more with the addition of handbike events. For the first time, female athletes reached 20 per cent of total Para cycling athletes present.

Athletes were henceforth classed in four categories: visually impaired (tandem), lower-body paralysis (handbike), cerebral palsy, and locomotor impairments.

The new four-year cycle experienced an important stage in 2007 when the organisation of the sport changed hands. Previously headed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Para cycling came under the auspices of the Union Cycliste Internationale.

In line with all the other cycling disciplines, UCI World Championships were held for Para cycling, for both road and track. In addition, a UCI Para cycling Road World Cup was introduced in 2010, initially with one round but growing to three rounds the following year.

In Beijing in 2008, Great Britain dethroned Australia at the top of the Paralympic Games medals ranking a trend that would continue at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Nowadays, the Paralympic Games welcome more than 200 Para cyclists from close to 50 countries competing for 50 titles. In Rio, the proportion of female athletes was over 30 per cent. Another sign of the expansion of this sport is that 23 countries earned at least one medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games last September.

Since it is no longer a rarity to see Para cyclists from certain categories compete against able-bodied athletes, what will the next step be? Perhaps winning one of those events…


History

The roots of wheelchair dancing in the UK can be traced back to the late 60s when a rehabilitation centre in Scotland was teaching people how to manoeuvre their wheelchairs and realised this could be done to music. A Wheelchair Dance Association was set up in the seventies and although team dancing developed, the international competitive style did not catch on.

Ruth Boyne and Sue Cummings

In 2006, our co-founders Sue Cummings, Ruth Boyne, Linda Wilson and Nigel Cummings established the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association (UK), or the WDSA (UK). It evolved when a group of wheelchair dancers from Devon wanted to compete and Sue felt the international style was very different and went along to an Instructor’s course in Malta in 2004 to learn more about it. On their return to the UK they started trying this new style of wheelchair dance sport and began advertising it, with the aim of showing that everyone can dance regardless of their disability. Sue and Ruth both retired in 2017 and were replaced on the Board of Trustees. Para Dance UK aim’s to continue their vision and legacy.

WDSA (UK) was the National Governing Body for the sport in the UK, as recognised by IPC, WDSF, WWDC and IDSF among others.

As the charity grew, the Head Offices moved to North London to be central to the UK in 2012. The charity started developing new ideas around inclusive dance to include a wider range of people from the disability community. After the International Paralympic Committee rebranded the sport worldwide to Para Dance Sport in 2016, the WDSA (UK) followed suit in 2017. They are now known as Para Dance UK.

Origins of Wheelchair Dance Sport and the Change to Para Dance Sport

Wheelchair Dance Sport has been defined as a sport that “involves athletes with a physical disability which affects the lower limbs.” However, this definition has since been expanded to incorporate upper limb disabilities, dual disability and multiple disabilities. In 1998, Wheelchair Dance Sport became an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Championship Sport and the World Dance Sport Federation (WDSF) has entered into partnership with the IPC.

Wheelchair user Els-Britt Larsson was one of the pioneers of wheelchair dancing when it originated in her native Sweden in 1968 for recreational and rehabilitation purposes.

From there the sport’s popularity grew and in 1975 the first competition was organised in Vasteras, Sweden involving 30 couples.

Two years later in 1977 Sweden staged the first international competition and several regional and international competitions soon followed.

In 1984 Munich, Germany staged the first Rock’n’Roll European Championship for wheelchair dancers and the following year the Netherlands hosted the first unofficial European Championships in Latin and Standard.

The first World Championships took place in Japan in 1998, the same year the sport came under the governance and management of the International Paralympic Committee.

At the 2006 World Championships in Papendal, the Netherlands, duo-dance was presented for the first time with two Standard and three Latin being danced.

In 2014 singles and freestyle (singles and combi) were introduced as the part of the official programme.

The format of wheelchair dance sport competitions is very similar to those for non-wheelchair dancers including Beginner Competitions and Intermediate and Championship level competitions where the five dances for Ballroom and Latin categories are danced. There are two categories for the disability competitions which are: Class 1 for severe disabilities and Class 2 for those who do not have severe disabilities.

There are also two types of competitions: Duo – where the two dancers are both in wheelchairs and Combi – where one is in a wheelchair and one is a non-disabled partner, which currently seems to be more popular. Age categories are not currently well established, but some Junior and Senior events are developing as the popularity of the sport has grown. The WDSF rules for wheelchair dance sport are as much the same as those for non-wheelchair dance sport.

In 2016, IPC rebranded numerous sporting disciplines including dance sport and renamed it World Para Dance Sport. Progress is being made worldwide as, towards the end of 2017, World Para Dance Sport has been shortlisted to be entered into the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris, France.

The World Para Dance Sport Championships are held every two years and were last staged in 2018 in Cuijk, Netherlands. In 2019 the championships will be held again in Cujik Netherlands on April 19-21st

Team GB’s top couple, Paula Moulton and Gary Lyness are ranked 6th in Europe.


First Death, Harness, Knapsack, Breakaway

V.Leers/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Here are a few little-known facts about parachutes:

  • In 1837, Robert Cocking became the first person to die from a parachute accident.
  • In 1887, Captain Thomas Baldwin invented the first parachute harness.
  • In 1890, Paul Letteman and Kathchen Paulus invented the method of folding or packing the parachute in a knapsack to be worn on a person's back before its release. Kathchen Paulus was also behind the invention of the intentional breakaway, which is when one small parachute opens first and pulls open the main parachute.

History of the American Chestnut

The history of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) chronicles the ongoing pursuit of a fundamental goal: to develop a blight-resistant American chestnut tree through scientific research and breeding, and to restore the tree to its native forests along the eastern United States.

More than a century ago, nearly four billion American chestnut trees were growing in the eastern U.S. They were among the largest, tallest, and fastest-growing trees. The wood was rot-resistant, straight-grained, and suitable for furniture, fencing, and building. The nuts fed billions of wildlife, people and their livestock. It was almost a perfect tree, that is, until a blight fungus killed it more than a century ago. The chestnut blight has been called the greatest ecological disaster to strike the world’s forests in all of history.

The American chestnut tree survived all adversaries for 40 million years, then disappeared within 40.

The American chestnut tree (Castanea dentata) once dominated the eastern half of the U.S. Because it could grow rapidly and attain huge sizes, the tree was often the outstanding visual feature in both urban and rural landscapes. The wood was used wherever strength and rot-resistance was needed.

In colonial America, chestnut was a preferred species for log cabins, especially the bottom rot-prone foundation logs. Later posts, poles, flooring, and railroad ties were all made from chestnut lumber.

The edible nut was also a significant contributor to the rural economy. Hogs and cattle were often fattened for market by allowing them to forage in chestnut-dominated forests. Chestnut ripening coincided with the holiday season, and turn-of-the-century newspaper articles often showed train cars overflowing with chestnuts rolling into major cities to be sold fresh or roasted. The American chestnut was truly a heritage tree.

All of this began to change at or slightly before the turn of the century with the introduction of Cryphonectria parasitica, the causal agent of chestnut blight. This disease reduced the American chestnut from its position as the dominant tree species in the eastern forest ecosystem to little more than an early-succession-stage shrub. There has been essentially no chestnut lumber sold in the U.S. for decades, and the bulk of the annual 20-million-pound nut crop now comes from introduced chestnut species or imported nuts.

Despite its decimation as a lumber and nut-crop species, the American chestnut has not gone extinct. It is considered functionally extinct because the blight fungus does not kill the tree’s root system underground. The American chestnut has survived by sending up stump sprouts that grow vigorously in logged or otherwise disturbed sites, but inevitably succumb to the blight and die back to the ground.

Learn how to identify American chestnuts and send us a sample to support our research.


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