50 YEARS AGO
The longest earthworm in the world, Megascolides australis, is found in Gippsland, Australia, and grows up to eleven feet in length...When disturbed, the worm squirts out a series of pairs of jets of fluid from a line of pores opening down each side of the body. The effect can be most spectacular, for these jets rise as high as eighteen inches or two feet into the air. Although there are reports that the fluid has a corrosive action, it is only slightly alkaline and contains some dissolved salts, body wastes like urea and some proteinous materials and cells. The fluid comes from the worm's body cavity and is squirted out by violent contractions of the body-wall which force the fluid out under great pressure through the pores. There is no record of the fluid having anything but a mildly irritating effect on the skin of human beings. The fluid is used for lining or lubricating the burrows of the worms.
From Nature 12 May 1956.
100 YEARS AGO
“The bicentenary celebration of the birth of Benjamin Franklin” — The oldest scientific society in the new world is, I believe, the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia...founded by Benjamin Franklin... An altogether exceptional feature of the ceremony was that a degree was conferred on the King, who was represented by Sir Mortimer Durand, H.M. Ambassador at Washington. In announcing this degree the Provost read with great effect the celebrated speech on England from Henry V. It is pleasant to record the enthusiastic cheers which the whole audience gave, standing, as the Ambassador was hooded... An American dinner is managed somewhat differently from our own, for the toast-master is not, as with us, a servant with a stentorian voice, but is the most highly honoured of the hosts of the occasion... Those who have taken part in such festivals in America need not be told that the organization was admirable and the hospitality unbounded.
From Nature 10 May 1906.