Sunday, December 18, 2011

Today in Labor History—December 18

December 18, 1829 – Scientist Jean-Baptiste Lamark died on this date. (From the Daily Bleed) Lamarck was best known for his discredited theory of inheritance of acquired traits, the idea that characteristics acquired during the parents’ lifetime would be passed on to offspring. It was later discovered that traits of the parents are passed down to offspring through DNA, while acquired traits (e.g., losing a finger in an accident or getting larger muscles from weight lifting) do not involved changes to the DNA that can be passed down. Yet, over the past decade, with the discovery of epigenetics, Lamarck’s theory has been shown to be true under certain circumstances. Some experiences that occur during the parents lifetime that do not change the DNA, but add epigenetic markers to the DNA, are not only passed on the their children, but can be passed on to grandchildren and great grandchildren, too. (For more on epigenetics, see the NOVA special “The Ghost in the Genes.”)
Horse-Powered Thresher
 December 18, 1830 - The "Swing Rioters" went on trial on this date. The rioters were agricultural laborers who fought for a minimum wage during the early decades of the 19th century. During this time, England shifted from self-sufficient, open fields to farms rented by tenant farmers. Technology, including the increasing use of threshers, and a surplus of labor, drove down wages. Farm workers in the "swing" counties of the south and east of England responded by destroying farm machinery. Hundreds were arrested, jailed and executed. (From Workday Minnesota)

December 18, 1878—Joseph Stalin was born on this date and went on to slaughter between 10 and 60 million peasants, workers and other mostly innocent civilians. (From the Daily Bleed and Wikipedia)

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