The Neatest Little Paper Ever Read ®

Issue 974

TIDBITS® TAKES A

BATH

by Janet Spencer

Come along with Tidbits as we take a bath!

BATHS THROUGH HISTORY

• The oldest bathtub ever discovered was made from fired clay found in the Bronze Age ruins of the palace of Knossos on Crete. It dates to 1500 B.C. It sat next to one of the oldest water-flushed toilets ever found. The tub was filled and emptied by hand, having no drain.

• The Romans developed bathing as a central social habit around 300 B.C. By 500 A.D., Rome had around 900 public baths.

• The baths of Caracalla in Rome, built in 212 A.D., held 1,600 bathers at a time and covered 33 acres. The complex included hot, cold, and warm baths, as well as steam rooms, shops, and a library. They remained in use until an army severed the water supply in 537 A.D.

• When the Black Plague wiped out much of Europe’s population in the mid-1300s, bathing fell out of favor because people believed that bathing helped spread the disease.

• Franklin Pierce, the 14th U.S. President (1853-1857), was the first to have a tub installed in the White House.

• William Howard Taft was the heaviest U.S. president at 332 pounds. Early in his administration he became stuck in the White House bathtub, and subsequently had a larger one installed.

• Around the year 250 B.C. in ancient Syracuse, King Hiero wanted to have his old gold crown melted and made into a new crown. However, he feared the jeweler would cut the pure gold with less expensive silver. The crown would still look the same, but the jeweler would be stealing the royal gold. Hiero asked Greek scientist Archimedes for help.

• Archimedes pondered the question. Then he decided to take a bath. As he got into the over-filled tub, some water splashed on the floor. That’s when he realized that a body immersed in fluid loses weight equal to the weight of the fluid it displaces— an important law of physics. He knew that by weighing the amount of water displaced by the crown both before and after it was re-worked, he could tell if the gold had been adulterated. He became so excited that he allegedly rushed naked into the streets of Syracuse, Sicily, shouting “Eureka!” which means “I have found it!” The crown was weighed, the jeweler did indeed steal some gold— and he paid for it with his life.

 

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