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April 20th 1912: Bram Stoker dies

On this day in 1912, the Irish author Bram Stoker died in London aged 64. Stoker, born as Abraham Stoker in Dublin in 1847, studied mathematics at the University of Dublin and went on to become a civil servant. However, he long displayed a talent for writing, and ended up in a management position at London’s illustrious Lyceum Theatre. His first forays into fiction writing were modest successes, but were overshadowed by his 1897 masterpiece Dracula. Originally titled The Undead, the horror story told of the struggle between the vampire Count Dracula and vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing. It has traditionally been claimed that the titular character was inspired by fifteenth-century Transylvanian despot Vlad the Impaler, but this has recently been called into question, and Stoker himself said the character came to him in a nightmare after eating too much dressed crab. Dracula, while not inventing the concept of a vampire (which was a trope already seen in earlier work like the 1871 Carmilla), defined modern perceptions of the supernatural beings. Stoker continued writing until his death, though none of his novels have reached the same fame as Dracula. The Irish author was well travelled, and counted among his acquaintances U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, and authors Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, and Arthur Conan Doyle. Bram Stoker died in 1912, leaving a legacy of great literary achievement; Dracula remains one of the most famous fictional characters in history, with more than one thousand novels and two hundred films featuring the iconic vampire.

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April 10th 1912: Titanic sets sail

On this day in 1912, the RMS Titanic, set sail from Southampton on her maiden and only voyage; the intended destination was New York, but the ship never made it across the Atlantic. The Titanic was the largest passenger liner the world had ever seen, and was remarkable for its opulence, which attracted notable dignitaries to its debut voyage. The vessel was built at Belfast for White Star Line, and was intended to trump the company’s rivals at Cunard. It was lauded as an ‘unsinkable’ ship, but subsequent examinations have suggested some fatal flaws in the ship’s design plus a lack of lifeboats, which only could accommodate half the passengers. Just four days after setting sail, on April 14th at around 11.40pm, the Titanic hit an iceberg. The collision caused a massive gash in the ship’s hull, dooming the vessel to sink. As the opulent ship filled with water and slowly sank, its over two thousand passengers rushed to lifeboats, but the evacuation was haphazard, with lifeboats being lowered not at full capacity. There are numerous famous stories of the ship’s final hours, including the elderly Straus couple who stayed in their cabin to die together, the violin players continuing to perform as the ship sank, and Benjamin Guggenheim who changed into his formal dress and declared “We are dressed in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.”  The Titanic finally sank at around 2.20am, leaving thousands to die of hypothermia in the freezing ocean. Over 1,500 people died in the tragedy, with around 700 survivors being rescued by the Cunard’s Carpathia. The demise of the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic shocked the world, and the story of the tragic fate of a symbol of early twentieth century optimism continues to captivate the public mind.

1912 - Today is the day that the Titanic should have began the second leg of her maiden voyage; the eastbound crossing from the Big Apple to Southampton via Plymouth and Cherbourg. Instead, the world’s largest and most luxurious liner is in ruin on the floor of the North Atlantic ocean; thirteen lifeboats take her place at New York’s Pier 59.

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Remembering Titanic, 103 years later.

“It seemed as if once everybody had gone, drowned, finished, the whole world was standing still. There was nothing, just this deathly, terrible silence in the dark night with the stars overhead.”-  Eva Miriam Hart (Titanic Survivor)

Bone and skeleton distorted by osteomalacia

Literally translated, osteomalacia means “soft bones”, and in modern times very rarely leads to such extreme deformities as these.

There are many diseases and situations that lead to osteomalacia, but ultimately only one cause - defective bone mineralization leading to decreased or ceased deposition of new calcium or phosphorus in the bones. The condition itself is usually treated by administering high doses of vitamin D, while attempting to treat the underlying cause.

In children, osteomalacia is often called rickets. The adult form of the condition is often much milder than in children, but can still lead to bone weakness and bowing. In all ages, the most common cause is vitamin D deficiency, due to malabsorption by the intestines (as in Coeliac disease) , lack of sunlight, or very poor diet.

Deformities, Including Diseases of the Joints and Bones. A. H. Tubby, 1912.