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No Need For Geniuses

Steve Jones

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Every decade of the C16, C17 and C18 centuries had a severe food crisis. Two decades before the Fr Revn, the pharmacist Antoine-Augustine Parmentier began a lengthy campaign to introduce the potato to improve food productivity. The RC church opposed bc lumpy surface of a potato looked like the lumps of a leprosy sufferer,so they assumed it was the cause. Plus, it wasn't mentioned in the Bible.

Potatoes grew even in the poor, unfertiised French soils.They were more nutritious than seed crops, and a crop cd be squeezed in between 2 plantings of seeds, to get an extra harvest each year.

Took long time to overcome suspicion. Story that Parmentier planted spuds on sandy soli on outskirts of Paris and posted guards, then took them away at night.

The potato at least partly responsible for the surge in popn from 1650 onwards. In France, the average height of soldiers incr by a centimetre in the generation that first exoerienced it.

Potato is a better source of sugars and starch than wheat or rice, it produces more protein per acre than any other crop, and it is full of vitamins - one large tuber gives half necessary dose of vit C.

It thrives even in poorer soils, it needs much less water than grains

Average Am eats 50kg of potatoes each year, mainly as fries, while Europeans get through nearly 100kg. China is biggest producer, with India not far behind.

The ocean surface is 60 metres lower in some places than others bc dense bedrock attracts billions of gallons of water.

In 2000 Paris inserted a line of brass discs along the meridian, each inscribed with name Arago, the great triangualtor who drew first accuratemaps of France. Most of the markers have been stolen by fans of The Da Vinci Code who belive they mark the supposed Rose Line followed by book's hero.

Three classic books published in the same week in November 1859. The Origin of Species ("I was much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the inhabitants of South America") by Charles Darwin, Self Help ("Heaven helps those who help themselves.") by Samuel Smiles, and A Tale of Two Cities ("It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness"), by Chales Dickens. All three were best sellers.

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