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School in a Book: Psychology

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Psychology gives, then gives some more. If you haven’t read a good nonfiction book lately, you could do worse than to pick up a popular self-help book or a book on positive psychology. With recent developments in brain scan technology, we’re developing this field quickly, and much of what we learn is quite practical. Even if you don’t suffer from a mood disorder or some other mental health problem, you can find many ways to improve your sense of well-being that have nothing to do with career advancement or material gain. Self-improvement is satisfying, and good habits are self-reinforcing. Never underestimate the power of a good self-help book.


Psychology: The study of human thought, emotions and behavior, including the study of mental disorders; abnormal behaviors; personality differences; developmental stages; and more

Psychotherapy: Mental health counseling, during which a counselor works either one-on-one or in a group setting to help clients explore problems and goals related to mental health

Psychologist: A psychology expert who holds a PhD and might work as in a clinical or research setting

Clinical psychologist: A psychologist who diagnoses and treats mental disorders in a clinical setting

Psychiatrist: A medical doctor who specializes in mental disorders and can prescribe psychotropic medications

Mental health counselor: A licensed counselor with a Master’s degree who diagnoses and treats mental disorders in a clinical setting

Marriage and family therapist: A licensed counselor with a Master’s degree who diagnoses and treats mental disorders in a clinical setting and specializes in couple and family treatment

Life coach: An advisor without an industry-specific license or credential

Psychoanalysis: A method of psychotherapy that seeks to bring unconscious knowledge into conscious knowledge through dream interpretation, Rorschach tests, free association and more. It was developed by Sigmund Freud and rests on the idea that early experiences shape personality.

Sigmund Freud: The founder of psychoanalysis who worked in Austria in the early 1900s and who is most known for his psychosexual theory of development and his theory of the unconscious

Carl Jung: A psychoanalyst who helped develop Freud’s theory of the unconscious while rejecting his sexual focus

Rorschach test: A psychological test that present ambiguous stimuli in the expectation that people will interpret it in ways that reveal their concerns, desires, feelings and possible mental disorders

Free association: A technique for uncovering a person’s subconscious beliefs by having them respond quickly to questions or prompts, without much thought

Freudian slip: An act or spoken thing that is close to the intended, but different, and reflects unconscious beliefs or anxieties

Freud’s theory of the unconscious: Most of what ails us psychologically resides in the unconscious or subconscious and must be coaxed out through various therapies.

Freud’s theory of the id, ego and superego: The Freudian theory of human behavior that states that there are three parts of human unconscious: the id, a childlike mind who has little impulse control; the superego, a parent-like mind who tries to direct our behavior rightly; and the ego, the more rational self that balances the other two

Freud’s theory of psychosexual development: The Freudian theory of human psychological development that states that it is analagous to human sexual development. It includes the idea of the perfectionistic and controlled “anal retentive” personality type; the idea of “penis envy,” and the idea that boys become sexually attracted to their mothers, which Freud called the “Oedipus complex.”

Freud’s ego defense mechanisms: Denial; displacement (making an unrelated party the object of your anger or blame); intellectualization (to avoid emotion); avoidance; rationalization; projection (placing your own quality or desire onto someone else); regression; repression, sublimation (acting out impulses in a socially acceptable way); reaction formation (taking the opposite stance); suppression.

Behaviorism: A psychological theory that explains human behavior and describes principles of behavioral conditioning, including stimulus and response and negative and positive reinforcements

Ivan Pavlov: A behavioral psychologist who studied conditioned reflexes in the body, such as saliva secretions in dogs after hearing a bell stimulus

B.F. Skinner: The most well-known behavioral psychologist, who performed experiments on animals that showed how their behavior could be modified through learning

Classical conditioning: A form of behavioral conditioning in which two stimuli become associated in someone’s mind through passive learning, such as Pavlov’s dogs and their dinner bell

Operant conditioning: A form of behavioral conditioning in which two stimuli become associated through active learning, such as monkeys who learn to obtain food by pushing a button

Positive reinforcement: The addition of a stimulus after a behavior is exhibited in order to increase the likelihood of the behavior being repeated

Negative reinforcement: The removal of a stimulus after a behavior is exhibited in order to increase the likelihood of the behavior being repeated. An example occurs when a beeping tone stops in your car after you put on your seatbelt.

Punishment: The addition or removal of a stimulus after a behavior is exhibited in order to decrease the likelihood of the behavior being repeated

Desensitization: A behavioral conditioning technique for weakening a strong, undesirable response (such as anxiety about airplane flying) by repeated exposure to the stimulus (airplane flying)

Extinction: The extinguishing of an unwanted behavior through lack of reinforcement. An example is the ceasing of temper tantrums that occurs after a care giver stops giving into them.

Jean Piaget: A developmental psychologist who created a theory of cognitive development that stated that children progress through the sensorimotor stage, the preoperational stage and the concrete operations stage before they arrive at the formal operations stage, at which they have an abstract and nuanced view of the world

Erik Erikson: A developmental psychologist who created a theory of social development that stated that people progress through the “trust versus mistrust” stage as babies; the “autonomy versus shame and doubt” stage as toddlers; the “initiative versus guilt” stage as preschoolers; the “industry versus inferiority” stage as older children; the “identity versus role confusion” stage as adolescents; the “intimacy versus isolation” stage as young adults; the “generativity versus stagnation” stage as middle adults; and the “integrity versus despair” stage as older adults. The names of these stages reflect the dominant goal of each and the positive and negative results if the goal is achieved or not achieved.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: A pyramid-shaped hierarchy of needs developed by Abraham Maslow, with warmth, rest, food, oxygen and water at the bottom; security and safety one step up; belongingness and love after that; prestige and the feeling of accomplishment after that; and self-actualization (the realization of one’s full potential) at the top

Carl Rogers: A psychologist who helped develop a humanistic, client-centered approach to therapy that includes a strong client-therapist bond; unconditional positive regard for the client; and the favoring of listening over advice giving

Talk therapy: A type of therapy in which clients discuss problems and emotions with a trusted counselor

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A type of therapy developed by Aaron Beck and others that focuses on changing negative patterns of thoughts and behaviors and includes questioning and reframing unhelpful beliefs

Attachment theory: The psychological theory that holds that securely attached babies develop better physically and emotionally that those that are not securely attached, and that throughout their lives most people display one of three or four general attachment styles: a secure attachment style; an avoidant attachment style; an anxious attachment style; or (sometimes) a disorganized attachment style. These styles help explain their interpersonal behaviors and needs.

Positive psychology: The field of psychological research that is concerned with the behaviors and life factors that give people a sense of well-being. It was developed by Martin Seligman and others as a response to the traditional emphasis in psychology on abnormal behaviors and mood states.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM): The basic text used by mental health professionals for diagnosis of psychiatric disorders

Types of psychiatric disorders: Mood disorders including depression; anxiety disorders; phobias; substance abuse disorders; psychotic disorders including schizophrenia; sex- and gender-related disorders; eating disorders; sleep disorders; personality disorders; dissociative disorders; and less common disorders

Borderline personality disorder (BPD): A mental health disorder characterized by impulsiveness, emotional extremes, interpersonal conflict and low self-esteem

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD): A mental health disorder characterized by an unusually great need for admiration, a sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy for others and a sense of entitlement

Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD): A mental health disorder characterized by disregard for others’ feelings, violations of others’ rights, a lack of empathy, a lack of remorse, and possible impulsive and/or criminal behaviors of others.

Sociopath/psychopath: Commonly-used labels for a person with antisocial personality disorder. There is no official distinction between these terms, but the word “psychopath” might imply psychosis.

Psychosis: A severe mental condition in which thought and emotions are so affected that contact is lost with external reality

Gender dysphoria: Discomfort experienced because of the difference between gender and your sex, role or gender expression

Compulsion: A repetitive behavior that is used to relieve anxiety

Agoraphobia: The fear of crowds

The theory of multiple intelligences: A psychological theory developed by Howard Gardner that holds that there are eight different types of intelligence: linguistic, logical-mathematical; musical; spacial; bodily-kinesthetic; interpersonal; intrapersonal; and naturalist intelligence. Other theorists proposed different categories of intelligence, while others believe in a single general intelligence factor.

Crystallized intelligence: Mental power that is the result of skills and knowledge collected over time and that tends to increase with age

Fluid intelligence: Mental power that is the result of fast, agile thinking processes, and that tends to decrease with age after the age of thirty

Type A personality: A high-energy personality type characterized by competitiveness, impatience, and an achievement orientation.

Type B personality: A lower-energy personality type characterized by relaxed and easygoing behavior.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: An assessment tool designed to identify a person’s personality type along four dichotomies: extraversion vs. introversion, sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling, and judging vs. perceiving. Results are represented as a four-letter code, such as INTJ.

Neuroplasticity: The brain’s ability to change and adapt in response to new experiences, learning, and injury

Catharsis: The release of tension that occurs when repressed thoughts or memories become conscious

Cognitive dissonance: A tension inside someone who has two seemingly conflicting beliefs that they are trying to resolve

Negative sentiment override: A state in which negative thoughts, feelings, and interpretations dominate a person’s perception of their partner or relationship, leading to a pervasive negative bias. This can lead to increased conflict, decreased satisfaction, and decreased intimacy in the relationship.

Confirmation bias: The tendency to accept evidence that supports one’s pre-existing beliefs and to reject evidence that refutes those beliefs

Fundamental attribution error: The tendency to attribute other people’s behavior to their personalities or character, rather than to their circumstances

Learned helplessness: The tendency to give up too easily, often due to a past pattern of failure

Placebo effect: The improvement of a physical or mental condition in people who believe they’ve received a treatment, but have not

Self-concept: The sum of the beliefs and feelings one has about onesself

Self-serving bias: The tendency to attribute one’s successes to internal factors and one’s failures to circumstance

Inferiority complex: A pattern of emotional insecurity leading to angry, suspicious or withdrawn behavior

Compensation: A striving to rid onesself of feelings of inferiority in one area by striving harder in another

Egocentrism: The tendency to ignore others’ points of view in favor of one’s own

School in a Book: History of Europe

In some schools, the history of Europe is the history of Western civilization, and the history of Western civilization is the history of the world. This isn’t the case. In this book, I outline the story of each major land area separately in order to give weight to developments in other areas around the globe.


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Minoans: The ancient people who lived on the island of Crete near ancient Greece from about 2700 BCE to the 1400s BCE. They are known for their written language, Linear A; their elaborate palace complexes, one of which is fabled to contain a large labyrinth; their centralized bureaucracy; their indoor plumbing; their advanced art and architecture; and their wide trading network. Their island location allowed their people to spend more time on cultural achievement and the gathering of wealth and less time on protection. Their civilization disappeared for unknown reasons.

The Myceaneans: The ancient people whose civilization dominated Greece and the Aegean region from the 1600s BCE to the 1100s BCE. They are known for their graves filled with gold and silver; for their warlike culture; for their strong kings including Agamemnon; for their monumental palaces; for their written language, Linear B; for their extensive trade networks; for their military prowess; and for being the setting of Homer’s epic poems.

The Greek dark ages: A period of political, cultural and economic decline and instability in ancient Greece from the end of the Mycenaean civilization in the 1100s BCE to the 700s BCE, when Greek city-states began to flourish

Homer: The ancient Greek believed to be the author of the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey, which gather together long-recited oral myths and histories including the Trojan War, Odysseus’ journey home from the war and more

Ancient Greece: The civilization located in modern-day Greece, Turkey, Crete and beyond from the 700s BCE to the 300s CE. It is known for the political independence of each of its city-states and for its many contributions to political, artistic, philosophical and scientific thought.

Hellenism: Greek culture, which included the development of democracy, philosophy, science, music, oratory, rationalism, individualism, theater, sports and much more. After spreading to Persia, Egypt and India after Alexander the Great’s campaigns, then to Rome, it became the basis of Western culture.

Ancient Athens: The largest and one of the most prominent ancient Greek city-states, which is known for its focus on education, particularly oration and rhetoric; its invention of the democratic style of government; its art and architecture, which included the Parthenon and the Acropolis; its busy port; and more. It was the home of Socrates, Plato and Cicero. The first Olympics was held there.

The Acropolis: An ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop in Athens, Greece, known for its historical significance and iconic architectural structures, including the Parthenon

The Parthenon: An ancient temple located on the Athenian Acropolis, dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, and considered one of the most important architectural and cultural landmarks of ancient Greece

Ancient Sparta: One of the most prominent ancient Greek cities and Athens’ rival, which is known for its focus on military education; its use of agricultural slaves; its comparatively extensive rights for women; its invention of the phalanx; and more. In one well-known battle against the Persians on a mountain pass, the Battle of Thermopylae, 300 Spartans died rather than retreat.

Phalanx: A military marching formation that was rectangular in shape in which individual soldiers marched forward as one entity

The Macedonian Empire: The ancient empire located north of the Greek city-states that was founded by King Philip II of Macedon in the 300s BCE and greatly extended by his son Alexander the Great that same century. A monarchy, at its largest it included the kingdom of Macedon, Greece, Egypt and parts of Persia and India. After Alexander’s death, it quickly fragmented.

Alexander the Great: The King of Macedonia who, during the 300s BCE, extended the Macedonian Empire from Macedon and northern Greece to all of Greece, plus Egypt and parts of Persia and India. In Persia, he fought the much larger army of Darius the III, and in India, his army faced elephants during battle. After a victory in India, his soldiers became exhausted and asked to return home. He reluctantly agreed, then died on the difficult journey back at the age of 32. He failed to organize his colonies or make a plan for succession after his death. It is said that his last words were, “To the strongest.” He is known for his flexible, intelligent military strategies and for his great pride and hunger for power.

The Gordian Knot: A complex knot tied by King Gordius, which Alexander visited during his campaigns. According to legend, the person who was able to untie the knot would rule all of Asia. Alexander was unable to untie the knot, so he instead cut it with his sword, demonstrating his decisive approach to leadership.

Bucephalus: Alexander the Great’s horse, who, according to legend, no one but Alexander could have tamed

The Etruscans: The people whose civilization thrived in central Italy from the 700s BCE to the 200s BCE and who are known for passing on many cultural ideas to Rome, including architecture, engineering and their alphabet

The Roman Republic: The name of the Roman civilization during the 500 years when it was a Greek-influenced democratic oligarchy led by leaders called patricians. (Prior to this, Rome was led by kings for about 200 years.)  It won the Punic Wars against the Carthaginian Empire and its notable military general Hannibal which allowed it to gain control of the Mediterranean.

The Roman Empire: The name of the Roman civilization during its final 500 years when it was an autocratic system led by emperors. While some emperors expanded the empire, presided over the time known as the Pax Romana (“peace of Rome”) and built the architectural and infrastructural feats Rome is known for, others were corrupt and ineffective. Overall, ancient Rome is known for its expansiveness; its military might; its strong infrastructure including roads and aqueducts; its invention of concrete and the Roman arch that concrete made possible; its calendar, which marks the year 1 in the early part of the Roman Empire and is still in use today; the Roman Catholic Church; and its partly self-inflicted fall. It was eventually sacked by the Goths in 410 CE and finally dissolved fully in 476 CE to the Germanic king Odoacer, the event that marks the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Julius Caesar: The Roman general and statesman who lived during the first century BCE. He is known for his conquest of Gaul and his invasion of Britain, which expanded the Roman Empire; for his reforms to the Roman Republic, such as the introduction of the Julian calendar, which had a lasting impact on Western civilization; for his murder by his fellow politicians that led to the end of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire; and for being one of the greatest military commanders in history.

Marcus Antonius/Mark Antony: The Roman politician and general who lived during the first century BCE. He is known for being a close ally of Julius Caesar; for playing a key role in the events following Caesar’s death; and for his alliance with Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. After Caesar’s assassination, Antony formed an alliance with Octavian and Lepidus known as the Second Triumvirate. Together, they engaged in a civil war against Caesar’s assassins and were successful. However, the alliance between Antony and Octavian eventually deteriorated as they vied for power. In the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, Octavian’s forces defeated Antony and Cleopatra’s combined forces. Following their defeat, both Antony and Cleopatra died by suicide. Octavian’s victory over Antony solidified his position as the sole ruler of Rome, and he went on to become the first Roman emperor, taking the name Augustus.

Gaius Octavius/Emperor Augustus: The Roman politician who founded the Roman Empire and became its first emperor. He is known for his political acumen, shown in his ability to convince Rome to move from an oligarchy to a monarchy; for his leadership skills, shown in his ability to bring peace and stability to Rome after decades of civil war; and his cultural, political, and military achievements, including the expansion of the Roman Empire, the establishment of a standing army, and the construction of many monumental buildings. He became known as Augustus after becoming emperor.

The Celts: The people who lived in various parts of Europe from around the 700s BCE to the 400s CE and who are known for their distinctive language, religious beliefs, and artistic traditions; their bravery in battle; their love of nature; their complex social and political organization; and their successful resistance to Roman takeover. At their peak in the first century CE, they were spread over much of central Europe. They did not have a written language, so knowledge of them is limited to Roman records.

The Colosseum: An ancient Roman amphitheater in the heart of Rome, Italy, known for its grandeur and historical significance as a venue for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles

Nero: The Roman emperor who ruled during the first century CE after being adopted by the previous emperor. He is known for his tyrannical rule; for his brutal persecution of Christians; for his extravagance that weakened the empire; for the Great Fire of Rome that occurred during his reign, which he may have neglected to control; for his erratic behavior and possible madness; for expanding the Roman road system and other infrastructure; and for committing suicide after the Roman Senate declared him a public enemy.

Diocletian: The Roman emperor who ruled during the late 200s and early 300s CE and is known for restructuring the Roman Empire into four administrative regions, each with its own emperor, which helped stabilize it and extend its longevity; for implementing price controls as well as military and tax reforms; and for persecuting Christians.

The Roman Catholic Church: The Christian church that was founded in the 1st century CE and is headquartered in Rome. It is known for being a dominant cultural and political force for over a thousand years, influencing art, architecture, law, education, and morality.

The Pope: The bishop of Rome and the supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church

Constantine the Great: The Roman Emperor who ruled during the 300s CE and is known for his conversion to Christianity; for establishing Christianity as the dominant religion in the Roman Empire; and for splitting the empire into the Western Roman Empire (where Rome remained the capital) and the Eastern Roman Empire/The Byzantine Empire, with Constantinople (formerly Byzantium) as the capital. Because Rome had been in decline for many years, Constantinople himself moved to Constantinople and headed that half.

The Council of Nicaea: A conference held by Constantine the Great that helped define the doctrine of the Christian Church, particularly the doctrine of the trinity

The Edict of Milan: A law of Constantine the Great’s that granted tolerance to Christians and other religions in the Roman Empire

The Byzantine Empire: The empire set up by Constantine the Great when he split the Roman empire into two halves. It lasted from the 300s CE to the 1400s CE. It included parts of Greece, Asia Minor and the Balkans. It is known for serving as the continuation of the Roman Empire after the Western Roman Empire fell; for spreading classic Greek and Roman culture; for spreading Christianity; and for influencing Byzantine art and architecture.

Odoacer: The Germanic king who in 476 overthrew the last Western Roman emperor to become king of Italy, an event that marks the end of ancient history and the beginning of the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Holy Roman Empire: The collection of loosely organized, multi-ethnic territories in central and western Europe that were each ruled by kings or other leaders as well as by an elected emperor who was called the Holy Roman Emperor. It lasted from the 900s CE to the 1800s CE. It is known for its internal instability; for its first and most famous emperor, Charlemagne; and for its roles in the Crusades, the Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War.

Charlemagne: The first Holy Roman Emperor, formerly a king of the Franks, who was crowned in 800 CE. He is known for unifying much of Western Europe by creating the Carolingian Empire; spreading Christianity; promoting education; and issuing a more effective legal code known as the “Capitularies”.

The Vikings: A seafaring people who lived primarily in Scandinavia from the 700s CE to the 1000s CE. They are known for their naval raids and conquests, which took them as far as North America, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East; their extensive trading; their longships; and their distinctive culture.

Feudalism: The social, economic, and political system that dominated Europe from the 800s CE to the 1400s CE. It was characterized by its hierarchical social structure in which serfs (farmers) owed labor and tribute to vassals (land owners), who owed labor, loyalty and military service to lords, who owed loyalty to kings. 

The Book of Kells: The most famous medieval illuminated manuscript, which was created by monks in Ireland, Scotland or England in approximately 800 AD. It was named after the Abbey of Kells, where it was kept for centuries. It is known for its masterful calligraphy and illustrations and its overall intricacy and detail. It contains the four gospels of the New Testament plus various other religious texts.

William the Conqueror: The King of England during the 1000s CE who started as the Duke of Normandy in France. He is known for claiming the English throne after the death of an English king who had no successors, then defeating his competitor at the Battle of Hastings to become the King of England, thus beginning the Norman Conquest of England. He is also known for introducing to England Norman administrators who influenced the development of the English language and other aspects of English culture; for attempting to control England by establishing a new system of feudalism that involved a series of castles, fortifications, and lands granted to Norman lords; and for commissioning the Domesday Book, a comprehensive survey of England’s land and resources.

The Norman invasions: The series of military campaigns led by Norman nobles in the 1000s and 1100s CE aimed at conquering and settling new lands in Europe and the Mediterranean, of which William the Conquerer’s conquest of England was a part. They are known for the use of advanced military tactics, including the use of heavy cavalry; for their centers of trade and culture in southern Italy and Sicily; and for the role of the Norman knights in the Crusades.

The bubonic plague/black plague/Black Death: The pandemic of that swept through Europe, the Middle East, and Asia in the 1300s CE that killed between 75 million and 200 million people, or roughly one third of the world’s population at the time. It was spread through fleas that lived on rats, and death from it often came within three to five days. It led to widespread economic and social upheaval that contributed to the end of the feudal system and the rise of the capitalist system.

The Hundred Years War: The series of conflicts fought between England and France in the 1300s and 1400s over control of the French throne. It was initiated by Edward III of England and is known for the use of new military tactics, such as the widespread use of longbows; for the use of new weapons, such as the cannon; and for contributing to the decline of feudalism.

Joan of Arc: The French army leader who rallied the French to victory in several key battles of the Hundred Years’ War, including the liberation of the city of Orleans. She is known for believing herself to be inspired by God to lead; for being captured by the English and tried for heresy; for being burned at the stake; for being a symbol of French nationalism; and for being canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church in 1920.

The Inquisition: The series of institutions established by the Catholic Church primarily in the late 1100s and 1200s, but also as late as the 1800s in some areas, to combat religious dissent in Europe. It was a judicial body, with the power to investigate, prosecute, and punish individuals suspected of heresy. Its methods were often brutal, and it was known for its use of torture to extract confessions. Those found guilty of heresy were often punished by death, either by burning at the stake or by being hanged and quartered. The most famous branch was the Spanish Inquisition of the mid-1400s.

The fall of Constantinople: The capture of the Byzantine Empire’s capital city, Constantinople, by the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s, which helped establish the Ottomans as a major power in the region and signified the end of the Middle Ages

Early Modern Times (1500 CE through 1900 CE)

The Renaissance: The movement that took place in Europe from the 1300s to the 1600s that was characterized by advances in art and literature, such as Michelangelo’s David, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and Shakespeare’s plays; advances in technology and exploration; renewed interest in ancient Greek and Roman culture; and a partial shift away from feudalism and religion

Galileo Galilei: An Italian astronomer, physicist, and mathematician who made major contributions to the Scientific Revolution during the 1500s. He is known for his work using the newly invented telescope to observe the heavens, which led to several groundbreaking discoveries. He was eventually put on trial by the Inquisition for heresy.

Johannes Gutenberg: The inventor of the first movable type and the first printing press for books, which began the printing revolution in the 1400s

Nicolaus Copernicus: A Renaissance-era astronomer, mathematician, and cleric from Poland, best known for proposing that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the universe and that the planets, including Earth, revolve around it

The Protestant Reformation: The movement that took place in Europe in the 1500s as a reaction against the corruption and excesses of the Roman Catholic Church, which led to the formation of new Protestant denominations and considerably reduced Catholic power

Martin Luther: The father of the Protestant Reformation. A German monk and theologian, he is known for his “Ninety-Five Theses,” the list of criticisms of the Catholic Church’s practices, especially the sale of indulgences, that he nailed to the door of a church in Germany. His ideas quickly spread throughout Europe, challenging the authority of the Church and leading to the formation of Protestant denominations. He is also known for translating the Bible into German, making it accessible to the common people, and for writing numerous treatises and sermons that outlined his views on salvation, faith, and the role of the Church.

Henry VIII: The king of Great Britain in the 1500s who is known for severing ties with Roman Catholicism after the Pope refused to annul his marriage; for establishing the Church of England, with himself as the head of it; and for marrying six times

The colonial era: The period of time from the 1400s to the mid-1900s when European powers established colonies and empires in various regions of the world, including the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australia. This period is characterized by European exploration, the establishment of settlements, the exploitation of resources and labor, and the imposition of European cultural, political, and economic systems on the colonized populations.

Vasco da Gama: The Portuguese explorer who is known for being the first European to reach India by sea. The voyage, which he undertook on behalf of Spain in the late 1400s, marked the beginning of the European exploration of Asia leading to colonization.

Ferdinand Magellan: The Portuguese explorer who is known for leading the first expedition to circumnavigate the Earth in the early 1500s. He sailed on behalf of Spain. After crossing the Atlantic, he reached South America, then sailed across the Pacific to the Phillippines. Though he died there, his expedition continued and some of the crew returned home safely.

Hernán Cortés: The Spanish conquistador who played a key role in the conquest of the Aztec Empire in Mexico in the 1500s. Cortés arrived in Mexico with a force of approximately 600 men and quickly gained the support of several indigenous groups who were hostile to the Aztecs. He marched on the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, with a mixed army of Spanish soldiers and indigenous allies and captured the city. This marked the beginning of the Spanish colonization of Mexico and established Spain as a major world power.

Francisco Pizarro: The Spanish conquistador who is best known for his conquest of the Inca Empire in South America in the 1500s. After arriving in South America, he quickly established a small settlement in what is now Peru. He then led a force of Spanish soldiers and indigenous allies against the Incas, eventually capturing their emperor, Atahualpa, and securing control of the empire.

The Thirty Years’ War: The religious war that took place in Europe during the 1600s, mostly among states belonging to the Holy Roman Empire but also involving France, Sweden, and the Habsburg empire. It occurred due to ambitions of expansion as well as ideological differences between Protestant and Catholic states. It resulted in the deaths of about a third of the population of the Holy Roman Empire. It contributed to the lessened frequency of religious wars in Europe, the decline of the Holy Roman Empire, and the rise of the modern nation-state. The war also marked the beginning of the modern era of warfare, as it was one of the first wars in which mass conscript armies, new military technologies, and tactics were used.

The English Civil War: The English Civil War was a series of conflicts between Parliamentarians (also known as Roundheads–those that sought increased power of the parliament) and Royalists (also known as Cavaliers–those that sought increased power of the monarchy) that took place in England in the 1600s. The Parliamentarians won and overthrew (and killed) King Charles I; however, the power gap was soon filled by Oliver Cromwell and later, the monarchy was restored with the coronation of King Charles II.

Charles I: The king of England who was deposed during the English Civil War

Oliver Cromwell: The English military and political leader who installed himself as the Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland during the English Civil War. Though he called himself a Parliamentarian, during his reign he dissolved the Rump Parliament and established a military dictatorship known as the Protectorate. He is also known for modernizing England’s military and administrative systems. After his death, his body was exhumed and he was posthumously tried and executed for his role in the regicide of Charles I.

The Seven Years War: A global conflict that took place primarily between France and Great Britain during the 1700s, and also pulled in many other European countries and their colonies. It was caused by a complex set of political, economic, and territorial disputes and resulted in Britain gaining control of large territories in North America that previously belonged to France, aiding their rise as a global superpower.

The Enlightenment: The cultural, intellectual, and scientific movement that took place in Europe and North America in the late 1600s and 1700s and which was characterized by a focus on reason, individualism and scientific inquiry, as opposed to traditional authority, such as religion. It is known for advancements in art, philosophy, science and more and is also called the Age of Reason.

Isaac Newton: A renowned English mathematician, physicist, and astronomer who is considered one of the most influential scientists of all time. He formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation, laying the groundwork for classical mechanics and profoundly shaping the scientific understanding of the physical world.

Eli Whitney: The inventor of the cotton gin, who created it in the late 1700s. This machine revolutionized the production of cotton by making it much faster and easier to separate the fibers from the seeds. Increased cotton production spurred on the growth of the textile industry and contributed to the Industrial Revolution.

The French Revolution: The war that took place in France in the late 1700s that resulted in the overthrow of the monarchy and the feudal system and the establishment of democracy in France. It began with the storming of the Bastille and ended with the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. The revolution was caused by a variety of factors, including the financial crisis in France, widespread poverty, and enlightenment ideas about individual liberty and equality.

The Bastille: A prison and fortress located in Paris, France that was attacked and taken by a revolution-seeking mob in 1789 on a day now known as Bastille Day. The mob acquired weapons and set the prisoners free as an act of mutiny against the monarchy in the early part of the French Revolution. The prison was eventually torn down and replaced with a large square called the Place de la Bastille, which remains an important symbol of the Revolution.

Maximilien Robespierre: One of the leaders of the French Revolution and of the post-revolution government, who is known for establishing the Committee of Public Safety with himself at its head, then starting the Reign of Terror. Eventually, he fell from power and was arrested and executed by the new government.

The Reign of Terror: The period of extreme violence and repression during the French Revolution that was implemented by the Committee of Public Safety, a revolutionary government body established to defend the revolution from its enemies both foreign and domestic. During this time, thousands of people were arrested and executed without trial on charges of being enemies of the revolution.

Napoleon Bonaparte: The first consul of the newly created French Republic, and, following this, the Emperor of the French. He is known for his ruthless and relentless military conquests across Europe; for helping France become one of the dominant powers in Europe; for his legal, administrative, and educational reforms known as the Napoleonic Code; and for establishing the first French empire. At its height, his empire included much of Europe, including parts of modern-day France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. However, his empire began to crumble after a series of defeats, and he was eventually exiled to the island of Elba in the early 1800s. He escaped after several years and returned to France, but was soon defeated and exiled to the island of Saint Helena, where he died.

The Napoleonic Wars: The military campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte

The Battle of Waterloo: The last battle of Napoleon Bonaparte, fought near the town of Waterloo in modern-day Belgium, which marked the end of Napoleon’s conquests

The Congress of Vienna: The series of diplomatic meetings held in Vienna, Austria in the early 1800s that sought to reestablish peace and stability in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. It resulted in an enlargement of Russia and Prussia; a consolidation of the approximately 300 states of the Holy Roman Empire into a loose German confederation of about 39 states under the leadership of Prussia and Austria; and other changes. It also created system of international relations based on the principle of legitimacy, which held that monarchs should rule according to laws and customs and that borders should be respected. Finally, it reestablished many of the pre-Napoleonic monarchies, imposing conservative, anti-democratic policies aimed at preventing the spread of revolutionary ideals.

The Crimean War: The conflict that took place primarily in the Crimea area on the Black Sea coast of modern-day Ukraine during the mid-1800s between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain and Sardinia. Russia sought to expand, while the other countries sought to check Russian expansion. Russia lost decisively. It is known for the introduction of new technologies and tactics, including the use of ironclads, telegraphs, and modern nursing practices and the creation of the Red Cross, which was established to provide humanitarian aid to wounded soldiers.

The Industrial Revolution: The period of rapid industrialization and modernization that took place in Europe and North America in the 1700s and 1800s. It was characterized by the development of new technologies, especially in manufacturing, farming and transportation, which made consumer goods cheaper; increasing urbanization; economic growth; and the rise of capitalism. Notable inventions of this time included the steam-powered engine and the train; the camera; the steamship; and the telegraph.

Charles Darwin: A British naturalist and biologist who is best known for his theory of evolution by natural selection, outlined in his groundbreaking work “On the Origin of Species.” His theory revolutionized the understanding of how species adapt and change over time, providing a significant contribution to the field of biology and reshaping the understanding of the development of life on Earth.

Marie Curie: A pioneering physicist and chemist of Polish and French nationality, known for her groundbreaking research on radioactivity and for being the first woman to win a Nobel Prize

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

Albert Einstein: The Swiss-born physicist who developed the General Theory of Relativity and other key theories centered around gravity in the early 1900s in the U.S.

World War I: The global conflict that lasted from 1914 to 1918 and involved Europe, the United States, Russia, Japan, Australia and other countries. The causes of the war included nationalism; militarism; imperialism; and entangling alliances, which caused nations to defend their allies, spurring even more conflict. The spark that ignited the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary by a Serbian nationalist. The conflict quickly escalated, as Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire formed the Central Powers and went to war against France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, who formed the Allied Powers. The war was fought on several fronts, including the Western Front in France and Belgium, the Eastern Front in Russia, and the Italian Front. The war is known for its mass casualties (including about 20 million deaths); the introduction of new weapons, such as machine guns, poison gas, and tanks; the horrific experience of trench warfare; and for setting the stage for World War II. It is sometimes also known as the Great War.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand: The heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian Empire whose assassination led to the outbreak of war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, which then led to the outbreak of World War I

The Treaty of Versailles: The treaty that officially ended World War I. It called for harsh financial and military penalties for Germany and created many new Eastern European countries out of the German, Austrian/Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman Empires.

The Weimar Republic: The German government founded after World War I to replace the monarchy

The League of Nations: The precursor to the United Nations which was promoted by U.S. president Wilson after World War I to prevent further large-scale wars

The Great Depression: A severe worldwide economic depression that lasted from 1929 to 1939.It originated in the United States and quickly spread to other countries, leading to a decline in global trade and economic activity. During it, millions of people lost their jobs and many lived in poverty. Its causes include the overproduction of goods, a decrease in consumer spending, a decline in agriculture and the failure of the banking system. It led to greatly increased governmental involvement in the economy and an increase in state welfare programs.

Benito Mussolini: The dictator of Italy from the 1920s to the 1940s and the founder of the Fascist party who ruled through totalitarianism and extreme nationalism. During World War II he allied with Germany and Japan but was deposed in 1943 and executed in 1945. After he was removed from office, Italy switched sides in the war and joined the Allies.

Spanish Civil War: The civil war that took place in Spain from 1936 to 1939 between the Nationalists, a fascist group, and the Republicans, a varied group including communists and progressives. The nationalists won.

Francisco Franco: The dictator of Spain from the 1930s to the 1970s and the leader of the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War

The Commonwealth: A voluntary political association of sovereign states, most of which were once part of the British Empire, which serves as a platform for cooperation and collaboration on a wide range of issues and promotes the values of democracy, human rights and more. Some of these states are republics, while others are monarchies.

World War II: The global conflict that lasted from 1939 to 1945 and involved the majority of the world’s nations, which eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allied Powers and the Axis Powers. The war began with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and quickly spread, drawing in many other nations. From there, Germany captured many European countries including France, Scandanavia and the Balkans (though Britain successfully resisted). Italy, meanwhile, attempted to take North Africa. Then Germany invaded the USSR and was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Japan (who joined the war in 1940) attacked Britain in Southeast Asia and the U.S. at Hawaii. Germany also declared war on the U.S. The U.S., which had already been supplying aid to the Allies, joined at that time. The war in Europe ended after a decisive victory at Normandy and the rapid advancement of the Allies through Europe that followed. The war in the Pacific ended after the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. The primary causes of the war included aggressive expansionist policies by the Axis powers, particularly Nazi Germany, as well as a failure by the international community to prevent the aggressive actions of these powers. The war resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people, including soldiers and civilians, and caused widespread destruction across Europe, Africa, and Asia.

The Axis Powers: The name for the alliance between Germany, Italy and Japan during World War II

The Allied Powers: The name for the alliance between Great Britain, the Soviet Union, the U.S. and other countries during World War II

Adolf Hitler: The Chancellor of Germany and leader of the Nazi party during the 1930s who is known for starting World War II and for implementing the Holocaust. He committed suicide before being captured by the Allies as they closed in on the city. His girlfriend (who he married before their death), Eva Braun, also killed herself at that time.

The Munich Agreement: The treaty signed in Munich, Germany before the start of World War II between the leaders of Nazi Germany and the United Kingdom, France and Italy. It allowed Nazi Germany to annex the Sudetenland, a region in western Czechoslovakia with a large German-speaking population, in exchange for a guarantee of peace–an agreement Hitler soon broke. It is often seen as having paved the way for the Nazi occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia and the eventual outbreak of World War II.

Winston Churchill: The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II, who is known for successfully fighting off Germany during the Battle of Britain; for forging an alliance with the United States and Soviet Union to defeat the Axis powers; for giving inspiring speeches; for not negotiating with Hitler; and for being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Lend-lease Act: A U.S. law passed in during World War II that called for financial and material aid (including weapons, food and raw materials) to be provided to the Allies by the U.S. during World War II, even though the U.S. had not yet officially entered the war

The Normandy Landing/D-day: The World War II military operation in which the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, recaptured France from Germany and started the push through Europe that ended the war. It occurred in June 1944.

Victory in Europe Day/V-E Day: The date that marks the end of World War II in Europe when the Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany: May 8, 1945

The Holocaust: The systematic genocide of eleven million people, including six million Jews, by Germany between 1933 and 1945. The victims, including Jews, disabled individuals, political prisoners, homosexuals, and others, were sent to concentration camps, where they were subjected to forced labor, medical experiments, and mass extermination via gas chambers. The Nazis called this effort the Final Solution.

The United Nations (UN): The international organization founded after World War II to promote peace, security, and cooperation among nations. It has almost 200 member states and its headquarters is in New York City. Its main objectives are to maintain international peace; to engage in diplomacy; and to promote human rights. The World Health Organization and UNICEF are part of the UN.

The Marshall Plan: A U.S.-led plan offering subsidies to help rebuild Western Europe after World War II

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO): The political and military alliance of thirty North American and European countries that was established after World War II to promote stability and democracy

The Warsaw Pact: The agreement between the Soviet Union and many communist Eastern European countries that was made after Word War II to ally against the U.S. and against the spread of democracy

The Suez Crisis: The conflict that occurred in the 1950s when Israel, Britain and France captured the Suez Canal Zone from Egypt, on whose territory the Canal Zone is located. It brought widespread international condemnation and the intervention of the United Nations, which eventually forced Israel, Britain and France to withdraw from Egypt. It damaged the reputation of France and Britain and helped establish the U.S. and the Soviet Union as the two superpowers of the Cold War.

Jane Goodall: A renowned British primatologist, ethologist, and anthropologist, best known for her extensive and groundbreaking research on the behavior of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania

The European Union (EU): The political and economic union of 27 European countries that was founded after World War II to promote peace, stability and economic growth in Europe. It operates through a number of institutions, including the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the European Council. The EU has a common market, which allows for the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people within its member states. The EU has also established a common currency, the euro.

The euro: The currency used by 19 of the 27 countries of the European Union (EU), whose introduction in 1999 was a major step in the integration of European economies and was designed to facilitate trade and investment, promote economic stability, and reduce transaction costs

Brexit: The separation of the UK from the EU that occurred in 2020

School in a Book: History of the Middle East

The Middle East isn’t its own continent, but with its distinct climate, its cultural uniqueness, its geographical separation from the rest of Asia and its political separation from Europe, its story is largely its own. Here, review your knowledge of the first civilization in history, and the many other great Middle Eastern civilizations to follow.


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

Sumer: The collection of cities that arose in ancient southern Mesopotamia along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers around 4000 BCE and that made up the first known human civilization. It was not a unified empire; each city-state had its own ruler and government. It is known for its ziggurats; its use of cuneiform; and its professional scribes and accountants.

Ziggurats: Massive pyramid-like buildings with stepped sides that served as centers of worship and administrative centers in ancient Mesopotamia

The Akkadian Empire: The ancient Mesopotamian empire that lasted from about 2300 BCE to about 2100 BCE and that is sometimes considered the world’s first empire. Likely encompassing most of Mesopotamia, it united the northern Akkadian people and the southern Sumerian people under one rule. Akkad became its capital, and Akkadian became the dominant language, though Sumerian was also used.

Sargon the Great: The Sumerian ruler who united northern and southern Mesopotamia into the Akkadian Empire in the 2300s BCE. He is known for establishing a centralized government; for standardizing weights and measures; and for promoting Akkadian as the official language of the empire.

The Assyrian Empire: The ancient Mesopotamian empire that lasted from about 2100 BCE to about 600 BCE and that dominated northern Mesopotamia in the valley of the Upper Tigris River. It was named after its capital and ongoing prominent city Assur. It co-existed with its southern rival, the Babylonian Empire, with each empire enjoying periods of dominance. Eventually, it fell to the Babylonians. It is known for its military-minded warrior kings; its polytheistic religion, which included worship of nature and objects; its siege warfare techniques; its well-organized infrastructure that included roads and aqueducts; and its effective governance over conquered lands. Under some particularly harsh rulers, Assyrians burned and wrecked the towns they captured and murdered many inhabitants in order to instill fear.

Ashurbanipal: The last great ruler of the Assyrian Empire, who ruled in the 600s BCE. He is known for building the great library at Nineveh after ordering historical and scientific works to be written down; for creating impressive palace gardens featuring plants from all over the world; and for conquering Babylon for a time.

The Babylonian Empire: The ancient Mesopotamian empire that lasted from about 1900 BCE to about 500 BCE and that dominated southern Mesopotamia. It was named after one of its prominent cities, Babylon. It co-existed with its northern rival, the Assyrian Empire, with each empire enjoying periods of dominance. It is known for its unique code of law; its invention of a math system that used base 60 for time and degrees of a circle; its stable, efficient rule; and its well-disciplined armies.

Hammurabi: The ruler who, in the 1700s BCE, first unified and led the Babylonian Empire, and who is known for creating a fair and historically influential justice system

The Code of Hammurabi: The set of laws created by Hammurabi and the longest, most complete legal text of the ancient world. It is known for their fairness; their widespread historical influence; and their effectiveness in strengthening the Babylonian Empire and encouraging internal peace. It famously includes the phrase “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” which is quoted in the Old Testament.

The Hittites: The ancient people who inhabited a collection of city-states in modern-day Turkey from around 1600 BCE to the 1100s BCE. They are known for being the first people to smelt iron; for their warlike culture; for their invention of the chariot; for their boulder sculptures; for their 1000 gods; and for introducing the horse to the Middle East.

The Phoenicians: The ancient people who inhabited a collection of city-states on the east end of the Mediterranean Sea in modern-day Lebanon from approximately 1550 to 300 BCE. They are known for creating the first known alphabet, which later became the basis for Greek and Roman alphabets; for being the greatest seafarers of ancient times; for making a highly prized purple dye from snails; for advancing the art of glass making; for maintaining internal peace; for colonizing Carthage in Egypt; for culturally influencing Greece; and for prospering through extensive trade with India and China. They fell in 300 BCE to the Persians.

The Hebrews/Jews/Israelites: The ancient Semitic people who settled Canaan (modern-day Israel and Palestine) around 1900 BCE and whose story is told in the Old Testament. After migrating from Mesopotamia, possibly from the city of Ur, then possibly spending time in modern-day Turkey, they fled to Egypt during a famine. There, they eventually became enslaved and had to escape to Canaan. In Canaan, their twelve tribes settled and established a unique identity. They fought the Palestinians (whom they called the Philistines) and other groups for territory and conquered Jericho, Jerusalem and other areas. Later, they established the Kingdom of Israel and Jerusalem became its capital. They are known for their monotheism; their individualism; their strong cultural identity and resistance to assimilation, which kept them united in spite of multiple exiles and separations; and their belief that negative occurrences result from sin, not from the whim of the gods.

Abraham: The father of the Jewish people, who lived in the 1900s BCE and whose story is told in the Old Testament. According to that account, he was the father of Isaac, who was the father of Jacob, who was the father of the twelve sons who became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel.

The Twelve Tribes of Israel: The twelve ancestral tribes of the Jewish people, all of whom descended from Jacob. Each tribe had its own territory and identity and played a specific role in the social and religious life of ancient Israel. The tribes were led by various judges before uniting under kings as the Kingdom of Israel. Later, the kingdom split into two separate entities: the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah. This weakened them politically and militarily, and led to the exile of many Jews in the 700s BCE by Assyria after Assyria conquered Israel, and the exile of many more in the 500s BCE by Babylon after Babylon conquered Israel. These events were known as the Assyrian Captivity and the Babylonian Captivity, and were the first of many diaspora events experienced by the Jewish people.

The Jewish diaspora: The scattering of the Jewish people from their homeland of Israel to other parts of the world. It started during the Assyrian captivity, and during the centuries to follow, Jews have migrated to many other countries while attempting to maintain their unique identity.

Moses: The Jewish leader and prophet who lived around the 1300s BCE and whose story is told in the Old Testament. According to that account, he is known for leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt; receiving the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai; and receiving the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.

The Ark of the Covenant: The legendary gold-covered wooden chest that, according to the Old Testament, held the stone manuscript on which Moses’ Ten Commandments were written. It was held in the temple at Jerusalem for many years, then was lost, possibly during a battle with the Palestinians.

Saul: The first king of the Kingdom of Israel, who ruled during the 1000s BCE. He was chosen by God after the people of Israel demanded to replace their judge leaders with kings, like other nations had. He is known for starting out as a successful and popular leader, then later disobeying God and falling from grace as well as for his persecution of David.

David: The second king of the Kingdom of Israel, who ruled in the late 900s BCE. He was from the tribe of Judah and is known for his military victories; for his justice, faith and mercy; for his musicianship; for his authorship of the Biblical book of Psalms; and for establishing Jerusalem as the political and religious capital of Israel.

Solomon: The third third king of the Kingdom of Israel, who ruled during the 900s BCE. The son of King David and Bathsheba, he is known for his wisdom; his wealth; his extensive building projects, including the construction of the First Temple in Jerusalem and his own palace; and his marriages to foreign princesses, which led to the introduction of foreign gods into Israel.

Jerusalem: The city in modern-day Israel that was established around 3000 BCE, then was conquered by the Jews and became the capital of the Kingdom of Israel around 1000 BCE under King Solomon. It is known for being one of the oldest cities in the world; for its significance to three major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam; for being the site of the Temple Mount, the location of the First and Second Temples and the Al-Aqsa Mosque; for being the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the most important Christian sites in the world; and for its capture and attempted recapture during the Crusades.

The Babylonian captivity: The approximately 70-year period during which many Hebrews from the Kingdom of Judah were enslaved by the Babylonians in the late 500s BCE. In part, this happened because after Solomon’s death, Israel split into two kingdoms and were weakened. The captivity came to an end when the Persian Empire, led by King Cyrus the Great, conquered Babylon and issued a decree allowing the exiled Judahites to return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

Nebuchadnezzar II: A king of Babylon during the 500s BCE who is known for helping Babylon regain independence from Assyria, starting a period of their history known as Babylon Revived; for extending Babylonian territory significantly; for capturing Jerusalem and destroying it as well as the Temple of Jerusalem, and forcing the Jews to exile; for beautifying Babylon by building and restoring numerous temples and palaces and possibly creating the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; for extending trade networks; and for, later in his life, possibly going mad.

The Persian Empire: The ancient Mesopotamian empire that existed in modern-day Iran, Afghanistan and beyond from the 500s BCE to the 300s BCE. It is known for its vast size; its military prowess; its cultural diversity and religious tolerance; its contributions to art and literature; its advanced road and postal systems; its centralized bureaucracy; and its peaceful incorporation of other conquered territories. It fell to Alexander the Great in the 300s.

Cyrus the Great: The founder of the Persian Empire, who ruled from 550 BCE to 530 BCE, and who is known for his military conquests; for his political acumen; for his religious tolerance (he freed the Jews out of captivity in Babylon); and for creating the Cyrus Cylinder

The Cyrus Cylinder: An ancient clay artifact that was written in Babylonian cuneiform in the 500s BCE and discovered in the 1800s CE and is considered the world’s first written declaration of human rights. It describes Cyrus the Great’s policy of religious tolerance as well as his restoration of temples and release of captive peoples.

Darius the Great: An important king of the Persian Empire during the time of ancient Greece. He is known for expanding the Persian Empire; for adopting Zoroastrianism, which might have later influenced Christianity; for building an extensive road network throughout the empire; and for introducing a standard coinage.

Xerxes the Great: The son of Darius the Great and the king of the Persian Empire in the 400s BCE who fought the Persian Wars against the Greeks. A skillful general, he is known for losing two key battles against the Greeks: the Battle of Thermopylae, which took place on a mountain pass and was fought against only 300 Spartan soldiers, and the Battle of Salamis, a naval engagement.

Arabs: An ethnic group originating in the Middle East that speaks Arabic

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Islamic Empire: The succession of various Islamic caliphates (governments led by caliphs) that ruled in the Middle East after the death of Muhammad in the 600s. It is known for rapidly expanding to eventually encompass the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, Persia and parts of Europe and Asia, as well as for bringing an Islamic golden age.

The Abbasid Dynasty: The dynasty that led the Islamic Empire from the 700s CE to the 1200s CE, bringing a golden age to the area. It is known for its unity and stability; its flourishing capital at Baghdad, whose court is the setting for much of the classic story The Thousand and One Nights; its advances in chemistry and astronomy; and for the invention of algebra at this time.

The Mongol invasion: The successful overthrow of the Abbasids and Turks by the Mongol Empire led by Genghis Khan in the 1200s CE. Their power in the area did not last, however.

The Crusades: A series of religious battles fought between Christians and Muslims from around 1100 CE to the 1200s CE. Initiated by Christians, the primary goal was to recapture the Holy Land, particularly Jerusalem, which was under Muslim control, and to defend Christian pilgrims who made the journey to the region. The battles took place over a period of two centuries, involving many of the most powerful states and armies of Europe at the time. The Roman Catholic Pope initially called for the attacks. The Crusades were unsuccessful, ill-conceived and disastrous for all involved.

The Seljuk Turks: The Turkic people whose civilization was located in modern-day Iran and beyond from about the 1000s CE to the 1200s CE. They are known for their military prowess; for influencing the cultural and political development of the Islamic world; and for successfully defending their land against the Crusaders.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

Safavid Empire: The empire that ruled Persia and beyond from the early 1500s to the 1700s. It is known for successfully resisting Ottoman takeover; for being one of the greatest Iranian empires; for establishing Islam as the official religion of the empire; for modernizing the area; and for increasing the area’s economic power and global status by increasing governmental efficiency, architectural innovations and fine arts.

The Ottoman Empire: The empire that encompassed most of the Middle East from the 1200s to the early 1900s, with its peak power in the 1600s. Vast and wealthy, it united the whole region under one ruler for the first time since the Abbasid Empire. It is known for its impressive military strength; its complex hierarchical administrative system led by a sultan; its cultural achievements, including in architecture, literature, and music; its extensive trade with the West; its control of important trade routes; and its retaking of Constantinople from the Byzantine empire. It sided with the Central Powers in World War I, which led to its fall and the redrawing of the map of the Middle East by the Allied victors.

Suleymon the Magnificent: The most successful sultan of the Ottoman Empire, who reigned in the 1500s. He is known for expanding the empire to its greatest size and power, conquering much of Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East; for encouraging the arts; for building many impressive structures, including the Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul; and for reforming legal and administrative systems, which helped modernize the Ottoman state.

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

The State of Israel: The Jewish state founded in 1948, partly to unite displaced Jews after the Holocaust and return their historical homeland. This resulted in frequent civil war between the Jews and Palestinians in the area.

OPEC: A coalition founded in 1960 with the goal of overseeing and controlling petroleum prices and policies of its member countries, who are mostly located in the Middle East. In the early 1900s, large oil reserves were discovered in the Middle East, which led to growing power in the area. It also led to attempts by European countries to control these areas and to set economic regulations there.

The Suez Crisis: The conflict that took place in the 1950s between Egypt and the UK, France, and Israel over control of the Suez Canal. After Egypt nationalized the canal, Israel, the UK and France attempted to seize it, but the United Nations intervened to prevent it.

Saddam Hussein: The president and dictator of Iraq during the 1970s, 80s ad 90s who is known for his aggressive foreign policies, his authoritarian rule, his human rights abuses, and his suppression of political opposition. In the early 2000s, a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime, leading to his capture and subsequent execution.

The 1970s oil embargo: An oil embargo by Arab oil-producing countries, which occurred as a protest of countries that supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War, a war against Israel by several Arab countries. It caused a significant increase in oil prices and economic disruption.

The Iranian Revolution: The overthrow of the Iranian shah in the late 1970s, which led to the creation of an Islamic republic and increased political and religious extremism in Iran

The Iran-Iraq war: The long, drawn-out war that took place in the 1980s between Iran and Iraq after Saddam Hussein invaded Iran over disputed border territories. It resulted in a stalemate and ceasefire and Iran retained its lands.

The Gulf War: The war against Iraq in the 1990s by a international military coalition led by the U.S. It was a response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, which resulted in the devastation of Kuwait including the burning of their oil fields. It resulted in the liberation of Kuwait and a ceasefire. Afterwards, the UN established a system of inspections and disarmament measures to prevent Iraq from developing or possessing weapons of mass destruction.

Osama bin Laden: The founder and leader of Al-Qaeda, an extremist Islamist militant group responsible for several high-profile attacks against the United States, including the September 11th attacks in 2001. He died during a U.S. military raid in 2011.

Al-Qaida: An extremist Islamist militant group founded by Osama bin Laden in the 1980s. Its goals are to drive Western influence and military presence out of Muslim countries and to establish a global Islamic caliphate. It is known for several terrorist attacks, including the September 11th attacks on the U.S., which killed nearly 3,000 people.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict: The ongoing dispute between the state of Israel, a Jewish nation, and the Palestinians, a Muslim Arab ethnic group, over land, borders and the right of self-rule. It started with the rise of Zionism in the early 1900s and the subsequent creation of the state of Israel. Since then, the groups have fought many holy wars, some of which have included many other countries on both sides. Historically, the U.S. has supported Israel, partly for reasons of religion and tradition and partly due to economic and strategic reasons.

School in a Book: Mathematics Skills

close up photo of yellow tape measure
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Obviously, math knowledge is more than just knowledge. The trick to this subject is in the application. Since this isn’t a how-to book, but a terminology-based review, further math study will be important. Use this list like a checklist, noting what you’ve already learned in school and elsewhere. Any areas that were skipped can be learned on your own, either by using a user-friendly book like Everything You Need to Ace Math in One Big Fat Notebook by Workman Publishing or by taking advantage of the wonders of YouTube.


How to add and subtract large numbers without using a calculator or writing instruments: Break the numbers into ones, tens and hundreds. For example, 72 + 83 becomes 70 + 80, then 2 + 3, then 150 + 5.

How to round numbers up or down: The two main rules that apply when rounding numbers to the nearest ones, fives, tens, hundreds, etc. are: 1. Round the number up if it is past the halfway point and down if it is less than the halfway point; and 2. Round numbers that are at the halfway point up, not down. For example, 56 rounded to the nearest multiple of 10 is 60, and 55 is also 60.

  • Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing
  • Memorizing the times tables up to 12
  • Recognizing common shapes
  • Solving basic story problems
  • Using a calculator
  • Using a ruler and drawing compass
  • Calculating map distances
  • Deciphering information on line graphs, bar graphs, circle graphs, tables and Venn diagrams
  • Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions, decimals and positive and negative numbers


  • Using algebraic symbols
  • Solving for variables
  • Solving and graphing inequalities
  • Calculating ratios, rates, percentages and proportions (as when finding taxes, discounts, markups, gratuities, commissions, simple interest, the percent rate of change, exponential growth and more)
  • Finding prime numbers and square roots
  • Solving quadratic equations
  • Working with radicals
  • Comparing functions


Formula for calculating the area of squares and rectangles: Multiply height by width: hxw. Note that some areas can be divided into multiple squares and rectangles and the results can be added together to find the total area.

Formula for calculating square footage: Use the same formula as for finding the area of a square, using feet as the measurement: hxw

Formula for calculating the area of a triangle: Multiple the height by the width, then divide by two: (h x w)/2

Formula for calculating diameter: Multiply the radius by two: d = 2r

Formula for calculating perimeter: Add length and width, then multiply this by two: 2(l + w)

Formula for calculating the volume of a cube or rectangle-based shape: Multiply width, length and height: l x w x h

Formula for calculating the volume of a sphere: Cube the radius, then use this formula: 4/3 × π × R3

Formula for calculating the volume of a prism or cylinder: Find the area of the end shape, then multiply by its depth

Formula for calculating the volume of a cone or pyramid: Calculate the volume of the base as if the base were a square, then divide by 3.

  • Calculating scale
  • Measuring angles
  • Calculating arc length
  • Graphing lines and slopes
  • Working with coordinate planes
  • Proving simple geometric theorems
  • Making geometric constructions based on a given set of numbers
  • Working with the Pythagorean theorem
  • Solving linear equations
  • Working with functions

School in a Book: Personal Records

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In case you haven’t noticed, I have a thing for lists. I’ve kept a written record of every significant book I’ve read since high school. I also list my own and my kids’ other achievements and experiences, including places we travel, awards we win and the like. What better way to round out this checklist of facts, skills and resources, then, than providing a place for you to do the same (or to at least get started)? (Don’t forget to include the dates!)

Enjoy all the books. Enjoy all the adventures. Thank you for going on this educational exploration with me.

Books I’ve Read: Children’s and Middle Grade

Books I’ve Read: Young Adult and Adult Fiction

Books I’ve Read: Young Adult and Adult Nonfiction

Poems I’ve Read

Significant Films, Shows and Other Media Presentations I’ve Seen

Places I’ve Traveled

Clubs, Teams and Special Classes I’ve Participated In

Other Notable Achievements and Experiences I’ve Had

School in a Book: Algebra and Geometry

When it comes to algebra and geometry, most schools emphasize skills practice while spending almost no time helping students understand the ideas they are putting to use. Studying the definitions of commonly used higher-level math terms might help further your grasp of these subjects and allow you to converse about them more easily. Fluency in these ideas might also ease transitions between math teachers and curriculum and shorten your review time before exams.

Note that calculus and trigonometry terms are not included in this book, as these ideas require the kind of in-depth explanations that aren’t practical in this format. Also, this treatment of algebra and geometry focuses on the ideas and processes that are most useful for a general audience.


Algebra: An extension of arithmetic in which unknown numbers can be represented by letters

Variable: Any letter that stands for a number

Expression: Any string of numbers and symbols that makes sense when placed on one side of an equation; for example 5x + 4x

Term: Any part of an expression that is separated from the other parts by either a plus sign or a minus sign; for example, 3x and 5x in the expression 3x – 5x

Coefficient: The numerical part of a term; for example, the term 3x has a coefficient of 3

Constant: A number without a variable; for example, the number 2 in 6m + 2 = x

Like terms: Terms whose variables (with any exponents) are the same; for examples, 3x and 5x

Order of operations: The correct sequence of operations to use when solving an expression with multiple operations. Mathematical symbols are often used to indicate this sequence; for example, in (3x + 5x)/2, 3x and 5x are to be added before that number is divided by 2.

Theorem: A mathematical proposition that has been proven true, such as the Pythagorean Theorum

Rational number: A number that can be made by dividing two integers

Irrational number: A real number that cannot be made by dividing two integers

The Commutative Rule of Addition: The rule that states that when two terms are added, the order of addition does not matter

Commutative Rule of Multiplication: The rule that states that when two terms are multiplied, the order of multiplication does not matter

Associative Rule of Addition: The rule that states that when three or more terms are added, the order of addition does not matter

Distributive Rule of Multiplication: The rule that states that when a number is multiplied to an addition of two numbers, it results in the output which is same as the sum of their products with the number individually. The equation for the for this is: a × (b + c) = (a × b) + (a × c). For example, x2 × (2x + 1) = (x2 × 2x) + (x2× 1).

The inverse property of addition: The rule that states that for every number a, a + (-a) = 0 (zero)

The inverse property of multiplication: The rule that states that for every non-zero number a, a x (1/a) = 1

Prime number: A positive number that has exactly two factors, 1 and itself

Square root: The number that, multiplied by itself once, equals the number of which it is a root. For example, the square root of 16 is 4 because 4 x = 16.

Root: The number that, multiplied by itself one or more times, equals the number of which it is a root. For example, the number 2 is a cube root of 8 because 2 x 2 x 2 = 8.

Radical: The symbol √ that is used to indicate the square root or nth root of a number

Exponent: A number that indicates how many times to multiply its associated number. An exponent is written in a smaller font at the top right-hand corner of its associated number.

Exponential growth: The rapid numerical growth that occurs when numbers are multiplied, then multiplied again, with each iteration folding in the previous total and multiplying it by x number

Linear equation: An equation in which the highest power of the variable is always one and which describes a straight line on a graph. The standard form with one variable is: Ax + B = 0.

Linear model: A model that assumes a linear relationship between the input variables (x) and the single output variable (y)

Quadratic equation: An equation that has a second-degree term and no higher terms

Quadratic formula: A formula that provides a solution to the quadratic equation ax2 + bx + c = 0. The quadratic formula is obtained by solving the general quadratic equation.

Polynomial: A mathematical expression with one or more algebraic terms, each of which consists of a constant multiplied by one or more variables raised to a nonnegative integral power (such as a + bx + cx2)

Monomial: A polynomial with only one term

Binomial: A polynomial with only two terms

Trinomial: A polynomial with only three terms

Degree of a polynomial: The sum of the exponents of variables that occur in that term (if there is no exponent written on a variable, such as in 3x, the exponent is one). The degree of a polynomial is the greatest degree of any term in the polynomial (for instance, for the polynomial 4x2 + 7xyz, the degree is 3 because of the last term).

Function: An expression that states a relationship between one variable (the independent variable) and another variable. These expressions can be graphed on a coordinate plane.

Nonlinear function: A function whose graph is not a line or part of a line

Simple interest: Interest that is calculated on the principal amount only

Compound interest: Interest that is calculated on both the principal amount as well as the interest accumulated over the previous period

Amortization: A method for calculating interest payments wherein a much higher proportion of the total interest is charged first, and reduced at a regular rate over the life of a loan


Plane geometry: The mathematics of flat, two-dimensional shapes like lines, circles and triangles

Solid geometry: The mathematics of three dimensional objects like cubes, prisms, cylinders and spheres

Point: A specific position on a line, on a plane, or in space. A theoretical construct, it has no dimensions, only position.

Line: A one-dimensional figure that features length but no depth or height. It is a theoretical construct.

Plane: A flat two-dimensional surface. A theoretical construct, it has no depth and its height and width are infinite or indefinite.

Solid: A three-dimensional shape

Polygon: Any two-dimensional plane shape with straight sides, such as triangles, rectangles and pentagons

Quadrilateral: A polygon with four sides

Pentagon: A polygon with five sides

Hexagon: A polygon with six sides

Heptagon: A polygon with seven sides

Octagon: A polygon with eight sides

Rhombus: A quadrilateral with parallel and equally-sized opposite sides; a diamond

Parallelogram: A quadrilateral with parallel equally-sized opposite sides

Trapezoid: A quadrilateral with two parallel and two nonparallel sides

Isosceles triangle: A triangle with two sides that are of equal length

Equilateral triangle: A triangle with equal sides and angles

Scalene triangle: A triangle with unequal sides and angles

Right triangle: A triangle with one internal 90-degree angle

Cube: A three-dimensional figure with six identical square faces

Cone: A three-dimensional triangle with a circular base and a pointed top

Cylinder: A tube-shaped object

Sphere: A ball-shaped object

Pyramid: A three-dimensional figure on which the faces are triangular and converge to a single point at the top

Prism: A three-dimensional figure with identical ends of any shape

Parallel lines: Lines that do not intersect

Perpendicular lines: Lines that intersect at a 90-degree angle

Angle: Two lines that meet to form a corner

Vertex: A corner point

Right angle: A 90-degree angle

Acute angle: An angle less than 90 degrees but greater than 0 degrees

Obtuse angle: An angle greater than 90 degrees but less than 180 degrees

Diameter: A straight line that passes through the center of a circle or sphere and ends at the circle or sphere’s outer edges

Radius: A straight line that extends from the center of a circle or sphere to the outer edge; half of a diameter

Chord: The line segment between two points on a curve

Face: A surface plane of a three-dimensional shape

Edge: The meeting place of two faces on a three-dimensional shape

Slope: The steepness and direction of a line as read from left to right

Coordinate plane: A grid with a horizontal x-axis and a vertical y-axis that meet at a center point, with the center point value being 0 and each line on the grid representing whole numbers as they increase or decrease along each axis. It is used to graph points, lines and other objects. It has four quadrants: quadrant I, with a positive x value and a positive y value; quadrant II, with a negative x value and a positive y value; quadrant III, with a negative x value and a negative y value; and quadrant IV, with a positive x value and a negative y value.

Coordinates: Two numbers (or a letter and a number) that signify a specific point on a coordinate plane

X-axis: The horizontal axis in a coordinate plane

Y-axis: The vertical axis in a coordinate plane

Congruent: Having the same shape and size, though not necessarily positioned the same way

Similar: Having the same shape, with the same angle degrees, though not necessarily the same size

Vector: A quantity that has both magnitude and direction but not position. Two examples are velocity and acceleration.

Pythagorean theorem: The rule of mathematics that states that the square of the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides. Written as a formula, this is: a2 + b2 = c2 (for a right-angled triangle).

Proof: Statements that prove that a mathematical concept is true

Scientific notation: A way of writing very large or very small numbers in a shorter form using symbols. For example, 650,000,000 can be written as 6.5 ✕ 10^8.

Trigonometry: The branch of mathematics that applies algebra and geometry skills to circular and periodic functions. It includes the use of sine, cosine and tangent.

Calculus: The branch of mathematics that works with series and sequences; probability and statistics; and limits and derivatives

School in a Book: Science and History Skills

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Oh, how I wish this book had room for … well, everything. But especially visual diagrams, images and how-tos. Then again, that’s what we have the internet for, and the internet is really great at stuff like that. Use this brief list as a guideline for further scientific study. If I were you, I’d use this list like a to-do list, checking off items as I went.

For this list, I tacked on science projects and history discussion questions. These are non-essentials, but good ideas.


  • Interpreting the Periodic Table of the Elements
  • Drawing a simple diagram of an atom
  • Drawing simple diagrams of molecules
  • Drawing simple diagrams of plant and animal cells
  • Visually identifying parts of the body and body systems
  • Using a telescope
  • Using a microscope
  • Using a map
  • Calculating time zone differences
  • Making and testing a hypothesis and using the scientific method
  • Identifying local plants and animals (daisy, bluebell, iris, crocus, pansy, lilac, rose, marigold, tulip, daffodil, buttercup, lavender, juniper, oak tree, maple tree, ivy, blueberry bush, apple tree, pear tree, palm tree, raspberry bush, blackberry bush, cedar, pine)
  • Identifying rocks
  • Classifying animals into major taxonomic groups (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, arthropods, vertebrates, invertebrates, those having live births and those which lay eggs)
  • Making a sun dial
  • Identifying important cities, states, countries, and bodies of water on a map

Science Projects

  • Building science-related structures and models with Lego and/or other media (such as animals, vehicles, etc.)
  • Block building
  • Train set building
  • Playing with magnets
  • Breaking open and identifying rocks
  • Building circuits
  • Taking nighttime walks
  • Watching astronomical events (such as a lunar eclipse, shooting stars or the Aurora Borealis)
  • Making homemade environmentally friendly house cleaners (using borax, lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar and more)
  • Learning computer programming basics
  • Growing crystals
  • Making a balloon rocket
  • Making a volcano using baking soda and vinegar
  • Making a bottle submarine
  • Making invisible ink
  • Hunting for fossils
  • Making a rainbow
  • Making a bat house
  • Making a birdhouse
  • Making a birdbath
  • Making a bee house for honeybees
  • Making a foam-and-cardboard planetarium
  • Growing coral
  • Comparing rates of decomposition
  • Going on tidepooling and nature collecting excursions
  • Watching sunsets and sunrises

History Discussion Questions

  • What are some of the important similarities between various historical cultures? What are some of the important differences?
  • Were there any good civilizations in history? Were there any bad ones?
  • What part did ethnocentrism play in various historical cultures? What part did racism play?
  • What are the main reasons nations and states waged war? Why did smaller tribes and peoples wage war?
  • How was history influenced by various technological discoveries, including farming, the wheel, metalwork, gunpowder, the printing press, the train and many more?
  • What are some examples of religious wars? To what extent were they motivated by the spread of religious ideas and the quashing of other religious ideas and to what extent were they motivated by other desires or needs?
  • What are some possible reasons towns and civilizations spring up independently in so many different parts of the world within a few hundred years of each other?
  • Why did relatively safe, prosperous nations, like Rome, continuously try to grow larger? Was this a wise strategy?
  • What are some of the historical reasons for poverty?

School in a Book: Technology

Practical knowledge is a bit underrated. It took me far too many years to learn how water treatment works, and when I did, I found it pretty interesting. Also, if you drive or plan to drive, it comes in handy to know about basic car systems.


Internal combustion engine: The type of engine that powers most vehicles. It works when the vehicle’s battery powers its spark plugs, which ignite a mixture of air and gasoline, causing small explosions. These explosions produce gases that expand rapidly and push against pistons on cylinders, which go up and down as gases expand and contract. Rods connected to the pistons convert that movement into the power that eventually turns the wheels.

Exhaust system: The system that is part of an internal combustion engine-powered vehicle that carries burned gases from the engine to the muffler, which then cools the gases and reduces their pressure

Catalytic converter: The device in an internal combustion engine-powered vehicle that uses chemicals to reduce exhaust pollution

Power train: The parts of an internal combustion engine-powered vehicle that transmit power from the engine to the wheels, including the transmission, which uses gears to reduce or increase the speed and power of the engine and the drive shaft, which carries the power from the transmission to the axle which connects the wheels

Water treatment facility: A facility that receives and treats water from the sewer system and sends out clean potable water to be distributed. Water treatment begins with the addition of chemicals known as coagulants, which cause small particles and impurities in the water to clump together, forming larger particles called flocs. After coagulation, the water enters a sedimentation basin or tank, where the flocs settle down to the bottom due to gravity and are removed later. The water is then filtered in several layers to remove finer particles, then disinfected with chlorine, ozone, UV light or other disinfectants. The water’s pH level might also be altered and other processes completed before it is sent into the distribution pipes.

Dam: A barrier built across a river that either redirects the water to narrow channels, creating high-pressure water currents, or creates a reservoir from which water is redirected to narrow channels. From there, the water currents power turbines, which power electricity generators.

Turbine: A machine that helps convert mechanical energy, such as from strong winds or diverted water channels, into electrical energy. It does this by rotating its blades when winds or water move over it, which causes the rotor in the generator to also rotate, which then creates electrical current.

Solar panel: Devices that contain solar cells made of silicon that convert sunlight into electricity

Nuclear power: The energy that comes from nuclear fission

Nuclear weapons: Bombs that produce uncontrolled nuclear reactions. Atomic bombs are created through nuclear fission, whereas hydrogen bombs are created through both fission and fusion and are more destructive.

Nuclear reactor: A device used to initiate and control nuclear reactions, specifically nuclear fission, to generate heat. The heat produced is then harnessed to generate electricity.

Radioactivity: The state that occurs when a substance’s atoms release nuclear energy as radiation

Steel: A alloy of iron, carbon and traces of other metals

Crude oil/petroleum: The raw material from which fuels like oil, fuel, gas are obtained. It is a fossil fuel that is often found in rock reservoirs under the seabed.

Plastic: An easily-molded synthetic polymers made from the organic compounds found in crude oil.

Polymer: A substance made of many small molecules joined together to make long chains. Some are synthetic (nylon), while others are natural (hair, rubber, wool, silk, etc.).

In vitro fertilization (IVF): A process by which egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside the womb, in vitro.

Medical imaging: Creating images of the internal organs to help diagnose and treat disease

CT scan: Computed tomography scan. Formerly CAT scan. Uses computer-processed combinations of many X-ray measurements taken from different angles to produce cross-sectional images of internal organs.

MRI scan: Magnetic resonance imaging. Uses magnets and radio waves (not X-rays, as CT scans do) to create images of the internal organs.

Laser surgery: Laser surgery is a type of surgery that uses a laser (in contrast to using a scalpel) to cut tissue.

Laser: Machine that creates a beam of intense pure color of one wavelength and frequency. Its waves are coherent—travel in step with each other and stay in a narrow beam. Lots of energy is transported in a small space.

Gyroscope: A rotating device used for navigation and other purposes that consists of a spinning wheel or disk mounted on an axis within a frame. When the wheel spins rapidly, it resists external forces that might otherwise change its position.

Generator: A device that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy using a turbine driven by steam, water, wind, or another source of kinetic energy. When the rotor rotates within the magnetic field provided by the stator, the changing magnetic flux induces voltage across the coils of the rotor.

Galvanizing: Covering metal with zinc. This is sometimes done to machine parts for additional protection and strength.

Hydrometer: A device used to measure the specific gravity (relative density) of a liquid by its level of flotation

Rocket: An engine that burns fuel to achieve thrust and lift a spacecraft

Astronaut: Someone who goes to space to work. They fly space shuttles, fix parts of the space station or satellites, do scientific experiments on the space station and more. Some of their training is done underwater to simulate space conditions.

Space shuttle: A rocket-powered spacecraft developed by NASA that brought astronauts and supplies to the ISS and other satellites, then returned to Earth as an airplane. Booster rockets and fuel tanks fell off after they were used. The crew compartment, located at the top of the shuttle, held the flight deck and other areas for working and sleeping. The shuttle was replaced with different spacecrafts.

Hubble Space Telescope: A big telescope with a camera that orbits Earth and takes clear photos of deep space from outside our atmosphere. It is powered by solar panels and has orbited Earth since 1990.

Space walk: A trip taken by an astronaut outside the space station or space shuttle, into empty space, to check or repair equipment. A strong spacesuit regulates the astronaut’s temperature and carries air.

International Space Station (ISS): The series of connected rooms, compartments and solar panels in space where astronauts live and work. It is located 230 miles above Earth. On the station, all water (including pee) is recycled. Many scientific experiments are conducted there.

Satellite: Any object in space that orbits a planet or the sun other than planets and moons. These include natural ones, such as asteroids, as well as man-made ones that are used to investigate space and carry radio signals around Earth.

Space probe: A robot that explores other planets and moons. Some space probes even leave our solar system and carry information about Earth, looking for other life forms.

Flight simulator: A replica of the inside of an airplane that allows pilots to practice flying the aircraft

School in a Book: Statistics and Research

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Statistics are for everyone. You might not need to know all of the terms presented here, but conversational fluency on politics, economics, science and much more requires most.


Percentage: A part of one hundred, with one hundred representing the whole

Mean/average: The score that is found when a group of scores are added, then divided by the total number of scores

Median: The score that falls directly in the middle of a group of scores when those scores are presented in numerical order

Mode: The most frequently occurring score in a group

Range: A number that shows how dispersed a group of scores is

Data set: A collection of numbers or values that relate to a particular subject

Sample: A single data point in a data set

Data distribution: A function that shows all possible values for a variable as well as their frequency of occurrence. Data distributions can be used to find probability.

Standard deviation: The average amount of variability in a data set. Standard deviation shows how far any given value lies from the mean.

Normal curve/normal distribution/bell curve: The arrangement of data into a graph that delineates the average in the center, most of the data points within one standard deviation of the center, and fewer data points two, three and four standard deviations from the center. The normal curve is always symmetrical, since it depicts where various data points lie in relation to each other and to the average.

Probability: The likelihood of something happening. Probability can be represented as percentages or other numbers.

Conditional probability: The likelihood of something happening if something else happens first

Statistical significance: The likelihood that a given result occurred due to the independent variables being studied, rather than random chance

Correlation: The degree to which two or more quantities increase or decrease together. Data sets have a positive correlation when they increase together, and a negative correlation when one set increases as the other decreases. High correlation does not indicate causation.

Spurious correlation: An inaccurate or questioned correlation

Type One error/false positive: The statistical error that occurs when a true null hypothesis is rejected

Type Two error/false negative: The statistical error that occurs when a false null hypothesis is retained

Regression testing/statistical regression: A way of mathematically analyzing experimental results that uses past results to predict future results. Regression testing is used to predict college GPAs based on high school SAT scores, for example.

P value: A number that indicates the degree to which a relationship between two variables has significance; in other words, the probability

Validity coefficient: A number between 0 and 1.0 that indicates the validity of a test, with 1.0 indicating perfect validity

Correlation coefficient: A number that indicates the amount of correlation that exists between two variables, with 0 showing no correlation, a positive number showing a positive relationship and a negative number showing a negative relationship

Reliability coefficient: A number that indicates the reliability of a test’s scores from one iteration to the next, with a number greater than 1.0 indicating low reliability

Nominal scale: A binary scale such as yes/no or male/female

Ordinal scale: A scale in which scores are rated or ordered in comparison to each other

Interval scale: A scale that uses intervals, but not as part of a ratio, such as temperature

Ratio scale: A scale in which scores can be quantified in absolute terms; for example, height, length and weight

Derived score: A score that results when a raw score (for example, 67/70 on a test) is converted to a standardized scoring ratio (for example, 3.8 on a GPA scale)

Scatterplot: A set of data points plotted on a grid with horizontal and vertical axes. Scatterplots are used to visually show relationships between data points.

Venn diagram: A diagram that uses circles that sometimes overlap to show relationships between data sets. Overlapping circles represent data sets that are similar to the degree that they overlap, and different to the degree that they do not.


Experiment: A scientific test to determine whether or not a hypothesis is true. A proper experiment includes a control group, an experimental group and variables (including independent, dependent and controlled variables).

The scientific method: The accepted process for “doing science”; that is, the way that scientific theories are tested. The steps include: making an observation; forming a hypothesis; gathering data, which might include conducting one or more experiments; and analyzing the results and drawing conclusions.

Hypothesis: An educated guess which might provide the basis of an experiment or other research. The hypothesis is also sometimes called the alternative hypothesis, since experiments are usually based around a null hypothesis.

Null hypothesis: The statement that contradicts the research hypothesis, saying that no effect of statistical significance exists. Experiments are often built around a null hypothesis since it is easier to disprove a null hypothesis than to prove a hypothesis directly.

Independent variable: A variable that is not affected by another variable

Dependent variable: A variable that may be affected by an independent variable

Experimental group/treatment group: The group of subjects in an experiment that is exposed to the dependent variable being studied

Control group: The group of subjects in an experiment that is not exposed to the dependent variable being studied. Control groups might include placebo groups, treatment as usual groups or even groups that are not acted on within the experiment in any meaningful way.

Random assignment: The practice of assigning subjects to treatment groups and control groups randomly

Random sampling: Choosing subjects by pure chance, from the whole known population

Probability sampling: Choosing subjects from within a particular population in a randomized manner, rather than purely at random

Nonprobability sampling: Choosing subjects from within a particular population in a non-randomized manner. Subjects might be selected due to their unique characteristics or due to their willingness to participate, for example. Nonprobability sampling is not used to show the probability of a variable, only to study the variable in other ways.

Saturation: The practice of administering a test to subjects over and over again until no new data refute findings of previous data

Validity: The extent to which a test measures what it says it measures

Internal validity: The extent to which a test measures what it says it measures, based on the structure of the test itself

External validity: The extent to which a test’s results can be generalized to other contexts

Face validity: The extent to which a test seems valid at first glance

Content validity: The extent to which a test’s content relates to the subject at hand

Construct validity: The extent to which a test’s construction increasing the test’s validity

Concurrent validity/convergent validity: The extent to which a test’s results overlap with other tests that measure the same phenomenon

Threats to validity: Participant effects; researcher effects; environmental effects; time-related effects; testing modality effects; drop-out effects; maturation effects; placebo effects; participant selection and more

The placebo effect: The effect on subjects not exposed to treatment that occurs when they believe they have received treatment

Reliability: The extent to which a test’s results are consistent, recurring in different iterations. Valid tests are by definition reliable; however, reliable results aren’t always valid since results can be reliably wrong.

Inter-scorer/inter-rater reliability: Degree of consistency of ratings between two or more raters observing the same behavior (like two judges of a contest)

Test-retest reliability: The consistency of the scores of the same test taker across multiple instances of the same test

Sensitivity: The extent to which a test is accurately identifies the presence of a phenomenon

Specificity: The extent to which a test accurately identifies the absence of a phenomenon

Power: The likelihood of detecting a significant relationship between the independent variable and the dependent variable, which is due to an experiment’s design

Internal consistency: Measures how consistent the test taker’s answers were to show they were honest and consistent, taking the test correctly

Descriptive research: Research questions that merely explore data in a non-experimental way. These include case studies, observational studies, statistical reports and more.

Relational research: Research that explores correlation

Causal research: Research that seeks to prove or disprove that X phenomenon causes Y phenomenon

Case study: A nonexperimental research study that presents data on a single individual or a single group of individuals experiencing the phenomenon of interest

Blind study: A study in which participants don’t know whether they are in the control group or the experiment group

Double blind study: A study in which both the researchers and the participants don’t know which group participants are in (the control group or the experiment group)

Naturalistic/observational study: A nonexperimental research study in which participants are observed, usually in their natural environment, but not directly experimented on. Interviews might also be used.

Statistical report: A nonexperimental research study consisting of a report that provides a variety of statistical data on a given topic. Two examples are reports on crime statistics in a particular city and a company annual report.

Action study: A nonexperimental study conducted for the purpose of program evaluation and improvement. An example is a needs assessment for a school free lunch program that presents relevant data, conclusions and action steps.

Quantitative research: Experimental research that presents all data in the form of numbers

Qualitative research: Experimental research that presents at least some of its data in the form of words, pictures, video and/or artifacts

Mixed-method research: Research that presents both quantitative and qualitative data

Pilot study: A less extensive preliminary experimental study for the purpose of determining whether or not a full-scale study is warranted. It is designed as an experiment, but is not a true experiment.

Comparative research design: A research design for investigating group differences for a particular variable. Simplistic; doesn’t show causation.

Longitudinal research design: A research design in which the same subject (either the same individuals or samples from the same cohort) is examined and re-examined over the course of time. Answers the research question, “What were the effects on this group over time?”

Single-subject research design: A research design for studying the effect of an experiment on a single subject or group without comparing it with another group

Time lag research design/cohort sequential research design: A research design that duplicates the experiment on a second cohort shortly after the first experiment is conducted; similar to cross-sectional but sequential

Cross-sectional research design: A research design for studying several groups at the same time. The groups might be different from each other in some way, such as children in different grades.

Correlational research design: A research design for studying the relationship between two variables. This design, however, does not show whether the variables directly affect each other.

Ex post facto/causal-comparative research design: No true randomization but otherwise, does show causation

Split-plot research design: A research design in which an experiment is first done on a large plot, then the plot is split into smaller sections and various aspects of the treatment are given to the subplots. This helps show which aspect of the treatment had the most impact on the results.

Norm-referenced assessment: An assessment or test in which each individual’s score is compared to the average score of the entire test-taking group, such as the SAT

Criterion-referenced assessment: An assessment or test in which each individual’s score is compared to the criteria, such as a skills test

School in a Book: History of Japan

Next to China, Japan stands as one of the oldest continuous civilizations in the world. Settled early–some estimate by 30,000 BCE–it soon unified politically and culturally and began to develop some of the hallmarks we identify with early Japan: its pottery and writing systems, for example. Its separate geographical location aided in this process, and today, we appreciate Japan’s unique cultural place in the world.

Japan’s much-celebrated classical period period lasted from about 300 BCE to about 800 CE, with its Golden Age taking place during the 700s. Following this, the Fujiwara Dynasty took power and held it till about 1150. Then, dynastic Japan ended and was replaced by a feudal system run by military dictators with ceremonial emperors. During this period, colonists attempted to gain control of the area but were mostly unsuccessful until the 1850s, when the U.S. forced Japan to open trade. Rapid modernization followed, as well as some mostly failed attempts at territorial expansion. After its World War II defeat and atomic bombing, Japan rebuilt as the capitalist, democratic nation we see today. They improved their education system, started holding democratic elections, built factories, incorporated modern technology and modernized their infrastructure. Eventually, Japan became a technological giant, with its people among the best educated in the world. This helped spread modernization to South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.


Ancient Times (3500 BCE to 500 CE)

The Jomon period: The period of Japanese history that took place from about 14,000 BCE to about 300 BCE. It is known for the development of a distinctive Japanese culture, including the creation of pottery, hunting and gathering and the use of natural materials for construction.

The Kofun period: The period of Japanese history that took place from about 300 CE to about 700 CE. It is known for its technological advancements such as the use of bronze and iron; the introduction of rice and barley from neighboring countries; greater cultural unity; the development of Shintoism; and the beginning of the process of unification.

Princess Himiko: A tribal queen who, during the 200s CE, used her religious influence to unite up to thirty smaller Japanese tribes, creating the first united Japanese state. She is known for sending ambassadors to China to learn about their culture and adopting some Chinese ways, as well as for encouraging a female-centered social system. While some scholars question her historicity, she remains an important mythological figure.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Nara Period: The Japanese era that took place during the 700s CE during which Nara became the capital city. It is known for its significant artistic and literary achievements, including the development of calligraphy; for the prominence of both Shinto and Buddhism; and for the rise in political power of the officials and monks, with the emperor gradually becoming a ceremonial figure.

Fujiwara Dynasty: The dynasty that ruled Japan from about 800 CE to about 1200 CE. It is known for the leadership of regents, who gained more political power than the emperors over time, partly by marrying their daughters to the emperors; for the flourishing of art and literature during this time; and for the infighting which eventually led to civil war and the dynasty’s downfall. Some people consider the time period of this dynasty the classical period.

Shogun Japan: The feudal system that ruled Japan from about 1200 CE to the late 1800s (when the Meiji Restoration occurred). It is known for the leadership of the shoguns, who held most of the political power while the emperors served largely as figureheads, as well as for the system’s strict social hierarchy that included the ruling class (emperors, shoguns, and daimyos), the warrior class (samurai), and the commoners (peasants, artisans and merchants).

Shoguns: The military dictators who led Shogun Japan in a succession of shogunates (reigns), some of which were known for their ruthlessness

Daimyos: The feudal lords of Shogun Japan. Appointed by the shoguns and serving under the emperors, they held vast estates and commanded their own armies, and were in turn served by the samurai and the commoners.

Samurai: Specially trained and highly respected warriors who fought on behalf of their daimyos, especially during the first half of the Shogun era. This class developed as a response to the jostling for power that occurred between the shoguns, daimyos and emperors during Shogun Japan. In addition to fighting techniques, they studied religion, arts, and more. They followed a code of honor and many detailed rituals. Many became Zen Buddhists.

Hara-kiri: The honorable, highly ritualized act of suicide by a samurai after they had been dishonored, defeated in battle, or faced with a situation that could not be resolved in any other way

Minamoto no Yoritomo: The first shogun of Japan. He is known for establishing the Kamakura shogunate; introducing the feudal system; and stabilizing and centralizing the military and political power of Japan, which had been experiencing a time of clan warfare.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

Oda Nobunaga: A daimyo who, in the late 1500s, overcame other daimyos and began the reunification of Japan after a long period of instability and fragmentation. He was aided by his use of Western style guns, which were first introduced to Japan by the Portuguese in the mid-1500s, an event which threatened the samurai traditions.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi: Nobunaga’s general and advisor who became the regent of Japan after Nobunaga’s death. He is known for his expansionist plans and his invasion of Korea; his belief in a strong central government; his furthering of the unification of Japan; his ban on foreigners, Christianity and overseas travel; and his policies that encouraged economic growth.

The Edo period: The era of Japanese history that took place during the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s, which was led by the Tokugawa dynasty of shoguns. It is known for being the final era to feature traditional Japanese government, culture and society; for its isolationist policies; for its turn from feudalism to a trading economy; for its strong central government and increased stability and prosperity; for its population expansion; for its improvements in education and hygiene; for its reduced military conflict; for its persecution of Christians; for its moving of the capital city of to Edo (Tokyo); for the reduced relevance of the once-respected daimyos and samurai and the increased importance of merchants and business; and for the increase in public works projects that occurred during this time.

Tokugawa Ieyasu: The first Tokugawa shogun, who is known for unifying Japan, establishing the relatively stable Tokugawa shogunate, moving the capital to Edo (modern-day Tokyo) and encouraging trade and commerce

Nijo castle: The palace built during the Tokugawa shogun era which was originally intended to be a residence for the shogun when he visited Kyoto, the old imperial capital of Japan. It is known for its unique features, such as the “nightingale floors,” which were designed to squeak when stepped on, in order to alert guards to intruders.

Millard Fillmore: The U.S. president who sent four warships to Japan in the 1850s in order to intimidate the country into opening trade. The effort succeeded and was followed by additional trade agreements with foreigners, ending Japan’s isolationism.

Matthew Perry: The commander of the warships sent by the U.S. to Japan to force trade

The Meiji Restoration: A series of events that resulted in the toppling of the Tokugawa shogunate in the late 1800s, which ended the Edo period and brought Japan into the modern era

The Meiji Era: The Japanese historical period that followed the Meiji Restoration and lasted until the early 1900s. It is known for the establishment of a new constitution; the modernization of the military and educational systems; the restoration of imperial rule under an emperor; the adoption of Western technologies; the emergence of a new middle class; the growth of cities and industry; and the expansion of Japanese influence abroad.

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

The First Sino-Japanese War: A war initiated by Japan against China in the late 1800s over control of Korea. With its victory, Japan gained control of Korea and Taiwan and became a powerful rival to China.

The Russo-Japanese War: A war initiated by Japan against Russia in the early 1900s. With its victory, Japan gained some Russian territory and became the first non-Western country to defeat a European power in modern times.

The Second Sino-Japanese War: A war initiated by Japan against China in the 1930s over control of mainland China. It started with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, in which a dispute between Chinese and Japanese troops near Beijing led to a full-scale Japanese invasion. It lasted for eight years and was marked by brutal atrocities committed by the Japanese, including the Rape of Nanking. Though China had been fighting a civil war when the invasion began, they united to fight the Japanese until the end of the war in 1945, when Japan surrendered and withdrew from China.

Rape of Nanking: The invasion of Nanking, China by Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War, during which they tortured, raped and killed hundreds of thousands of Chinese

Hirohito Showa: The emperor of Japan from the 1920s to the 1980s. He is known for initiating expansionist endeavors including The Second Sino-Japanese War; for leading Japan during World War II and eventually surrendering to the Allies; for publicly renouncing his divine status after the war and becoming a figurehead; and for being longest-reigning emperor in Japanese history. After the war, the country transitioned to a democratic constitutional monarchy that was accompanied by rapid modernization.

Pearl Harbor: The U.S. military base that Japan bombed on December 7, 1941, which led to the U.S. joining World War II the next day. 2400 soldiers were killed in the attack. Japan had joined the Axis Powers in 1940 with the hopes of gaining territory in Southeast Asia and the U.S. was pressuring them to stop their attacks. This led to the bombing of this U.S. base.

Kamikaze attacks: Japanese suicide bomber plane attacks, most of which were used against Allied ships during the Battle of Okinawa. The term comes from the Japanese word meaning “divine wind”–a word also used to describe two typhoons that struck Japan in the 13th century, which were believed to have saved the country from invasion by the Mongol Empire.

Battle of Midway: A World War II naval battle fought between the U.S. and Japan near the Midway Atoll, which ended Japan’s naval superiority in the Pacific

Atomic bomb attacks: The 1945 attacks wherein the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They occurred after the U.S. secured Okinawa and Iwo Jima and was faced with the decision of whether or not to invade mainland Japan. They were followed by Japan’s surrender and the end of World War II. Hundreds of thousands died, and many Japanese cities were destroyed. The United States dropped the first bomb, code-named “Little Boy,” on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The second bomb, code-named “Fat Man,” was dropped on Nagasaki three days later, on August 9, 1945.

Enola Gay: The plane that dropped Little Boy

Little Boy: The code name for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, which killed approximately 130,000 people and more later from fallout

Fat Man: The nickname for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, which killed approximately 75,000 people and more later from fallout

School in a Book: History of India

Not long after the first civilizations sprang up in the Middle East and China, India’s Indus Valley similarly developed. Gradually, the people united politically until, after the fall of the Gupta Dynasty in the Middle Ages, India became divided again. Parts of the empire fell to Hun invaders for a time. Other parts were led by various other dynasties, some of which were Hindi and some of which were Islamic. The invasion of the Turks and, later, the Mongols further hampered Indian unity. During this time, Indian culture further blended with Muslim and Persian culture.

Then, during 1500s to the mid-1900s, the colonial period occurred. During this time, European countries colonized India. This began with the arrival of the Portuguese and continued as British, Dutch and French companies competed for trading rights and governmental control. The British were most successful, and by the mid-1800s, they were the de facto rulers of all of India.

India gained her independence in the mid-1900s, though, and a democratic form of government took Britain’s place. In the 1990s, the new system instituted a series of economic reforms that led to rapid economic growth. These included reduced government intervention, reduced trade barriers and increased foreign investment. During this time the country also improved their education, healthcare and infrastructure systems. However, poverty, corruption and environmental concerns continued to the present day.


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Indus Valley civilization/Harappan civilization: One of the world’s first civilizations, and the first known civilization in modern-day India, which lasted from about 2600 BCE to about 1900 BCE. It is named for the fertile region in which it was established, the Indus Valley, and for one of its major cities, Harappa. It is known for its sophisticated architecture and drainage systems; its advanced agricultural and trade practices; its animal husbandry; its carts pulled by water buffaloes; its pottery, copper, bronze and spun cotton crafts; and its trade with the Middle East. It was larger than either of its close contemporaries in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Mohenjo Daro: One of the two most well-known ancient Indus Valley cities, located in modern-day Pakistan. It is known for its citadel; its public bath; its granary; its assembly halls; its effective drainage system; its system of standard weights and measures; its writing system; and its population of around 40,000.

Harappa: One of the two most well-known ancient Indus Valley cities, located in modern-day Pakistan. It is known for its well-planned grid layout; its complex drainage system; and its pottery, jewelry, and textiles.

The Vedic age: The period of Indian history lasting from about 1500 BCE to about 500 BCE during which the Vedas, the oldest sacred texts of Hinduism, were composed. It is known for the introduction and spread of Hinduism; the start of Indian literature; the dominance of the Aryans; and the rise of the caste system.

The Aryans: A group of Indo-European peoples who migrated into northern India around 1500 BCE. They spoke related languages and had shared cultural traditions. They are known for establishing the Vedic civilization in India; writing the Vedas; and possibly introducing the caste system to India.

The Indian caste system: A hierarchical social structure that determined one’s position and occupation in society based on birth. At the top were the Brahmins (priests and scholars), followed by the Kshatriyas (warriors and rulers), then the Vaishyas (merchants and farmers), and finally the Shudras (laborers and artisans). Below them were the Dalits (untouchables) who performed the lowest and most undesirable jobs. The caste system was rigid and prohibited social mobility between castes.

The Mauryan Empire: The first unified Indian empire, which lasted from the 300s BCE to the 100s BCE and was established by Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. It is known for its strong central government; its greatly increased trade routes and wealth; its advancements in art and architecture; and its role in the spread of Buddhism.

Ashoka: The greatest Mauryan ruler, who in the 200s BCE expanded the empire through conquest then converted to Buddhism, helped spread this religion, and advocated for peace

The Gupta Dynasty: The dynasty that ruled during the Golden Age of Indian history from the 300s CE to the 500s CE. It is known for reuniting India after a time of decline; for increasing trade with China; and for making significant advances in literature, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy and medicine.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Bhakti movement: A religious tradition that emerged during Medieval India that promoted the worship of a personal god through devotion (bhakti) rather than through ritual or sacrifice. It greatly contributed to Indian culture, creating a new form of poetry and literature.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE through 1900 CE)

The Mughal Empire: One of the greatest empires in Indian history, which was led by Muslim rulers and which lasted from the early 1500s to the mid-1800s. It is known for reuniting of India under a single ruler; for making significant advancements in infrastructure, administration and the arts; and for constructing many well-known monuments, including the Taj Mahal. However, by the mid-1800s, the power of the Mughals had declined significantly due to colonialism, and much of India was under the control of the British.

Akbar the Great: The greatest Mughal emperor, who ruled over much of India from the mid-1500s to about 1600. He is known for establishing a centralized government; creating a new system for revenue collection; promoting Persian and Hindu culture; instituting other social reforms; and promoting religious tolerance.

Shah Jahan: One of the last Mughal emperors, who is most famous for building the Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal: A mausoleum located in Agra, India, which was built built in the 1600s by emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife after her death. It took 22 years to complete.

The British East Indian Company: The organization created by England in the 1600s to conduct trade with India. It operated in Calcutta, Bombay and elsewhere and eventually became the dominant political power in the country.

Bombay: The English name for Mumbai, an important trading center of the British East Indian Company that eventually became a major administrative center for the British Raj

The British Raj: The British empire in India that lasted from the mid-1800s to 1947. It is also called the British Indian Empire. It is known for its economic exploitation and cultural and political oppression of the Indian people through legal, bureaucratic and police force means as it actively prevented independence movements from forming. It is also known for instituting several helpful reforms, such as the introduction of modern education and legal systems and the building of railroads and other infrastructure. For a time, Queen Victoria served as the Empress of India, and the title was held by subsequent British monarchs until India gained independence.

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

The Indian industrial revolution: The widespread increase in manufacturing that gained momentum in India the 1930s, particularly in the production of steel, textiles, and chemicals and increased further after independence

Mahatma Gandhi: The Indian nationalist leader who led the long fight for Indian independence from World War I on. He was a lawyer who lived in South Africa for a time and served as a leader of Indians living there. After returning to India, he launched a movement of non-cooperation with the British which included boycotts of British goods and schools. He advocated for non-violence, though others involved in the movement did not follow this recommendation. He also advocated for Hindu-Muslim unity and religious tolerance. He went to prison multiple times during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. He was assassinated in 1948, a year after India won independence.

Indian constitution: The constitution created after India gained independence from Britain in 1947. It provided for a strong central government along with smaller state governments, democratic processes and civil rights.

Jawaharlal Nehru: The first prime minister of India. He played a key role in the Indian independence movement, working alongside Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders to fight for India’s freedom from British rule. He is known for helping modernize, industrialize and democratize India; helping to create the Indian constitution; helping to reduce poverty and improve the status of women and minorities; and helping to boost agricultural production. However, despite these efforts, poverty and illiteracy remained widespread, particularly in rural areas.

Indira Gandhi: The prime minister of India during parts of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. During her leadership, the country experienced inflation and a recession due in part to rapidly rising oil prices. It also experienced political instability leading to a temporary emergency rule during which civil liberties were curtailed. She is known for her reforms aimed at reducing poverty. She was assassinated in the 1980s and succeeded by her son.

Bollywood: The Hindi film industry, which experienced a resurgence in the 1990s with the emergence of new stars and a new style of filmmaking

School in a Book: Logic and Rhetoric

It’s hard to imagine having a proper debate without knowledge of logical fallacies. For one thing, they’re just so common. If you want to argue better, or be better able to discriminate between sides of an argument, you’re in the right place. Just remember to flavor your powers of logic with tact.

Here’s how to analyze an argument for soundness: First, notice whether or not the form of the argument makes sense. Does the conclusion follow from the premises? If not, you likely have a formal fallacy on your hands. As a beginning logician, don’t spend too much time figuring out the name of the fallacy; instead, point out the problem and say something like, “The conclusion doesn’t follow the premises.” Step two is to notice whether or not the statements made in the argument are true; if not, there is an informal fallacy. You should be able to identify all ad hominem fallacies and name them as such. You should also be able to call out these fallacies by name: the fallacy of equivocation; the slippery slope fallacy; the poisoning the well fallacy; the straw man fallacy; the appeals to emotion, fear, pity, ridicule and the like; and the appeals to tradition, authority, and popularity. Other fallacies can simply be identified as a logical fallacy, and often, this is enough.

Important note: Many logical fallacies are known by more than one name. I’ve attempted to use the most common in my list, but if you rely too much on memorization, you won’t always recognize other people’s terms. More important, you’ll miss the point.

Finally, a quote to consider by Gongsun Long, a Chinese logician of ancient times: “One and one cannot become two, since neither becomes two.”

I think that pretty much says it all.


Logic: The set of rules for forming valid arguments; the study of rational argumentation. The word comes from the Greek word logos, originally meaning “the word,” “thought” or “reason.”

Rhetoric: The art of persuasion through the use of language

Semantics: The study of word meanings and usages, which can be complicated by cultural and linguistic factors

Argument: A set of statements that supports an opinion or position. A logical argument attempts to demonstrate the factual accuracy of a position and is usually expressed as two or more premises that lead to a conclusion. An example is: “All A’s are B’s and all B’s are C’s; therefore, all A’s are C’s.” A rhetorical argument attempts to persuade someone of a position, whether or not the position is factually accurate.

Valid: Containing a conclusion that logically follows from the premises. An example is: “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.”

True: Accurate and corresponding with reality

Rational: Both logically valid and factually accurate; sound. An example is: “All zebras are mammals and all mammals have fur; therefore, all zebras have fur.”

Premise: A statement that forms the basis of an argument and leads to a conclusion. When it is false, the conclusion might also be false. In the argument “All A’s are B’s and all B’s are C’s; therefore, all A’s are C’s,” the two premises are “All A’s are B’s” and “All B’s are C’s.”

Antecedent: The part of an argument that comes before the “if.” In the premise “If A, then B,” A is the antecedent.

Consequent: The part of an argument that comes after the “then.” In the premise “If A, then B,” B is the consequent.

Deductive reasoning: Drawing a specific conclusion based on a general principle. An example is: “All zebras are mammals, and all mammals have fur; therefore, zebras have fur.”

Inductive reasoning: Arriving at a general principle based on specific facts or observations. An example is: “All apples I have ever eaten are sweet; therefore, all animals are sweet.”

Analysis: Pulling apart an argument to describe its individual elements

Synthesis: Putting the parts of an argument together to find its overall meaning

A priori: Known to be valid or true by reason alone. It means “from the earlier” in Latin.

A posteriori: Known to be valid or true through observation and experience, not reason. It means “from the latter” in Latin.

Logical fallacy: A weakness in an argument, often hidden, that leads to an invalid conclusion

Formal logical fallacy: A fallacy in the structure of the argument that causes the argument to be invalid or illogical, regardless of the factual accuracy of its conclusion. There are many types of these, and they often take the form of either affirming or denying the antecedent or the consequent. An example is the denying the consequent fallacy, which follows the form, “If A, then B; not B, therefore not A,” as in, “If Fred killed Todd, then he hated him. Fred didn’t hate Todd. Therefore, he didn’t kill him.”

Informal logical fallacy: A fallacy in the content of the argument that causes the argument to be invalid or illogical, regardless of the factual accuracy of its conclusion. There are many types of these, and many of these are simple distractions from the actual argument.

Ad hominem fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer points to someone’s character, background or other characteristics, rather than to the relevant facts. The name comes from the Latin phrase meaning “against the person.” An example is: “Jane has a felony record so she won’t be a good student.”

Appeal to authority fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer points to someone’s knowledge, training or other credentials, rather than to the relevant facts. An example is: “My professor told me this, so it must be true.”

Equivocation fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer uses multiple definitions of the same word, misleading the audience. An example is: “I have a right to bear arms. Therefore, it is right for me to bear arms.”

Straw man fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer misrepresents the opponent’s position as being weaker than it really is. An example is: “The opponent is saying that they want extremely high taxes for everyone, even people who cannot afford it.”

Slippery slope fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer claims that a relatively small first step leads necessarily to a chain of related events, which it might or might not do. An example is: “If gay marriage becomes legal, people will soon start marrying animals.”

Poisoning the well fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer presents adverse information about an opponent with the intention of discrediting everything the opponent says. An example is: “The candidate is a liar and a cheat.”

Appeal to emotion fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer attempts to manipulate an audience’s emotions. This is a general category that includes the appeal to threat fallacy, the appeal to fear fallacy, the appeal to flattery fallacy, the appeal to pity fallacy, the appeal to ridicule fallacy and more. An example is: “If you change careers, it will disappoint your family.”

False dilemma fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer presents a limited number of options (usually two), implying these are the only options possible, when in reality there are more. An example is: “Either you like apples or you don’t. If you like them, you should eat them every day, and if you don’t, you should never eat them.”

Begging the question fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer states the conclusion as part of the premise in order to make the argument appear logical. An example is: “God exists because the Bible says so, and the Bible is the word of God.”

Ad nauseam fallacy: A fallacy in which an arguer relies on mere repetition. The name comes from the Latin phrase meaning “to the point of nausea.”

Ad infinitum fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer doesn’t directly lead to a conclusion and instead, merely adds additional facts and information. The name comes from the Latin phrase meaning “to infinity.”

Non sequitur fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer draws a conclusion that does not logically follow from the premises or evidence presented. The name comes from the Latin phrase meaning “it does not follow.” An example is: “All dogs are animals. My cat is not a dog. Therefore, my cat is not an animal.”

Appeal to tradition fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer relies on long-held truths rather than the relevant facts. An example is: “We have always gone to church on Sundays. Therefore, Sunday is the best day to go to church.”

Appeal to the people/bandwagon fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer claims a position to be true or good solely because a majority or many people believe it to be so. An example is: “This is the top brand of toothpaste. Therefore, it must be good.”

Guilt by association fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer assumes that something related to something bad is also bad. An example is: “Tom is friends with Sarah, and Sarah spent time in jail. Therefore, Tom can’t be trusted.”

Honor by association fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer assumes that something related to something good is also good. An example is: “Tom is friends with Sarah, and Sarah is an engineer. Therefore, Tom knows about engineering and her opinion can be trusted.”

Red herring fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer attempts to distract an audience by deviating from the topic at hand by introducing a separate argument the speaker believes is easier to speak to. An example is: “We shouldn’t invest in education. We should focus on reducing crime instead.”

Cherry picking fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer selects individual cases or data points that seem to confirm their position, while ignoring other, contradictory cases or data points. An example is: “We have many positive reviews of our product, so it must be good.”

Appeal to consequences fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer describes the consequences of a position, rather than whether or not the position is true. An example is: “If they pass the law, people will get more divorces. Therefore, we shouldn’t pass the law.”

Appeal to motive fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer attacks the motives of the opponent. An example is: “Sarah works for the company that she is advocating for. Therefore, she can’t be trusted.”

Tu quoque fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer points out the hypocrisy of the opponent. The name comes from the Latin phrase meaning “you too.” An example is: “You drive a car, so your opinion about carbon emission reduction isn’t reliable.”

Etymological fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer uses the historical, disused meaning of a word or phrase as a way to support an argument. An example is: “I am gay, so that must mean I’m happy.”

Moving the goal posts/raising the bar fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer dismisses the opponent’s evidence and demands additional, harder-to-find evidence. An example is: “I won’t believe the results unless I can see ten more DNA test results.”

Survivorship bias fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer points to a small number of successes while ignoring a large number of failures. An example is: “I am great at choosing stock because of the three times I chose correctly.”

False analogy fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer presents an analogy that does not suit the situation or conclusion. An example is: “Running the economy is like running a small business and the same strategies apply to both.”

Hasty generalization: A fallacy in which the arguer draws a broad conclusion based on a small sample or on an example that might not represent the whole. An example is: “This cat scratched me, so all cats must be bad-tempered.”

Oversimplification fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer assumes that there is one, simple cause of an outcome when in reality there might have been more than one. An example is: “Poverty can be solved if people just worked harder.”

Appeal to ignorance: A fallacy in which the arguer assumes that a claim is true because it has not been or cannot be proven false, or vice versa. An example is: “Aliens must exist because we have no evidence that they don’t.”

Pooh-pooh fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer deems the opponent’s position as unworthy of serious consideration. An example is: “The idea that global warming affects ocean temperature is ridiculous. Therefore, it can’t be true.”

Moralistic fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer assumes that what ought to be true, is in fact true. An example is: “Lying is always wrong, so this lie is also unjustifiable.”

School in a Book: Art and Architecture

There’s a unique pleasure that comes when creating something beautiful. But don’t just delve in without any background knowledge. Learning a few basic art principles can help you create more successful pieces and learning art history can help you understand and appreciate its influences.

Another tip I once heard: When attending an art gallery or museum, choose your favorite piece and try to explain to someone else why you feel that way. By forcing a choice, you learn how to think critically about what you’re seeing and you become a more participatory viewer. (Kids can do this, too!)

One final tip: students with an interest in architecture, or an interest in geography, might want to learn about some important world architectural landmarks, including: The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey; the Eiffel Tower in Paris; the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy; the White House in Washington, D.C.; Buckingham Palace in London; Big Ben in London; Westminster Abbey in London; the Empire State Building in New York City; St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow; the Space Needle in Seattle; the Guggenheim in New York City; the Dancing House in Prague; the Louvre Museum in Paris; the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco; the Sydney Opera House in Australia; the Geghard Monastery in Armenia; La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona; Burj Khalifa in Dubai; Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur; Casa Batlló in Barcelona; Angkor Wat in Cambodia; the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem; Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City


Composition: The placement of a work’s various elements and the ways these elements work together. The work’s elements include visual tools–line, shape, color, value, form, texture and space–as well as lighting, values, proportions, silhouettes, gradient, contrast, shading and detail. A successful piece of visual art includes technical skill; emotive power; movement; pattern; and a balance of contrast and emphasis, unity and variety, and proportion.

Balance: The relative proportion of a work’s various elements

Emphasis: Visual dominance

Movement: The way a work encourages the viewer’s eye to take it in, area by area, which can be achieved through the use of diagonal lines, curvy lines, negative space and/or repetition

Pattern: A repetition of a work’s element or elements

Rhythm: A type of movement resulting from repetition and variety within a work

Unity/harmony: A sense of relatedness of the parts of a work

Symmetry: A mirror-image visual effect, with similar elements on opposite sides of the piece

Asymmetry: A non-mirror-image visual effect, with contrasting elements on opposite sides of the piece

Radial symmetry: A visual effect resulting from elements being equally spaced around a central point (as the spokes in a hub)

Dominant: Larger and more eye-catching than other elements in the piece. An example is found in magazines, newspapers and websites, which often use a single photo as the centerpiece of each page.

Negative space: Empty space, as opposed to filled positive space

The golden ratio: Approximately 1.618, a number that appears many times in geometry, art, and architecture and that seems to help create an attractive balance in a work

The rule of thirds: The artistic guideline recommending that the central focus and other key elements of a work should be placed 1/3 of the way down, up, right or left in a composition in order to achieve visual balance

The 70/30 rule of drawing: The artistic guideline recommending that 30 percent of the work is made up of its main focus and the rest is made up of filler and background

Color theory: The set of rules that describe how colors relate to each other

Color wheel: A circular representation of the relationships between various colors

Color scheme: A set of colors that provide a theme

Primary colors: The three basic colors from which the secondary colors are created. Traditionally, and in art theory, these are red, blue and yellow, while in printing pigment, these are cyan, magenta and yellow.

Secondary colors: The colors that are made up of exactly two primary colors. When using the traditional primary colors, these are orange, purple and green.

Complementary colors: Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel

Analogous colors: Colors that border each other on the color wheel

Achromatic colors: Black, white and grey

Neutral colors: Achromatic and near-achromatic colors like beige, tan, black, brown and grey

Hue: A specific wavelength of light; a color

Saturation: A color’s intensity

Shade: A hue produced by adding black

Tint: A hue produced by adding white

Tone: A hue produced by adding grey

Value: The lightness or darkness of the color

Pigment: A colored material used for artworks that is mostly or entirely insoluble in water

Dye: A colored material used for artworks that is mostly or entirely water soluble

Prehistoric art: The earliest arts, found on every continent, which predated writing and the Neolithic Revolution and which included cave drawings, pottery, textile weaving, statue making and much more

Ancient Mesopotamian art: The art of ancient Mesopotamia and nearby, which included wood and stone statues; cuneiform and other pictographs; elaborate gardens; and more

Ancient Chinese art: The art of ancient China, which included silk weaving; delicate painted ceramics; bronze ritual vessels; jade and gold statues; intricate calligraphy; gold jewelry; ink handscroll with gold embellishment; the Terracotta Army; the Sanxingdui excavation; and more

Ancient Egyptian art: The art of ancient Egypt, which includes pyramids; sarcophagi (intricately decorated coffins); gold works and more. Many ancient Egyptian tombs were crammed with gold jewelry, statues and much more.

Traditional Tibetan and Indian art: The ancient and medieval art of Tibet and India that often features sacred themes, drawing inspiration from Buddhism, Hinduism and tribal religions and that includes religious icons; Tibetan murals and frescoes on monastery walls; cave paintings; textiles and more. Many works were intended to be used as meditation aids.

Traditional African art: The ancient and medieval art of Africa that includes buffalo hide masks; masks of other mediums; brass and gold sculpture; gold jewelry; elaborate palaces; and more. Many traditional African art forms were created as conduits to the spirit world.

Ancient Japanese art: The ancient art of Japan, which includes pottery, sculpture, ink painting, calligraphy on silk and paper, ceramics, origami and more

Traditional Aboriginal art: The art of native Australians, which includes rock engravings and paintings from 50,000 years ago; the Easter Island statues (larger-than-life human figures built during the Middle Ages); treasure chests; masks; battle shields; paintings; and more

Native American art: The traditional art of North America that includes Zapotec masks; ornate Aztec clothing; stone calendars of the Aztecs; massive Olmec heads; Mayan illuminated manuscripts on tree bark; pottery painting; totem poles; masks; quillwork; beadwork; ceramics; burial mounds; and gold and jade statues

Medieval European art: The art of medieval Europe, which reflected the dominance of the Catholic Church and included illustrated and illuminated manuscripts; paintings with gold leaf; gold leaf on glass; holy vessels; mosaics; religious icons; stained glass; detailed church architecture; and more

Medieval Celtic art: The art of the people who spoke Celtic languages and other culturally similar people and which included decorated shields, swoards and armor; religious vessels; gold jewelry; statues; painted manuscripts; and more

Medieval Anglo-Saxon art: The traditional art of Anglo-Saxon people that includes illuminated manuscripts and Romanesque-style metalwork including metal armor

Medieval Viking/Norse art: The traditional art of the Vikings and Nordic peoples that includes animal heads and plain large stone structures

Medieval Russian art: The art of Russia after the region’s state-led westernization that included Christian icons, religious paintings and Saint Basil’s Cathedral, which features onion-shaped domes in bright colors

Medieval Islamic art: The traditional art of the Islamic-speaking areas, especially the Middle East, that was inspired by Islam and includes painted ceramics; detailed metalwork; ornate textiles; intricate calligraphy; and architectural domes, arches and minarets

Romanesque art: The art movement that arose in Europe in the Middle Ages that was inspired by ancient Rome and that included frescoes; illuminated books; austere yet imposing churches decorated with sculptures; and other monumental stone structures

Renaissance art: The art movement of the 1400s and 1500s that was a response to the magical thinking of medieval times and that focused on scientific principles and realism. Notable examples include Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci; The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli; and David by Michaelangelo.

Romanticism: The art movement of the 1800s that was a response to Renaissance art and that emphasized emotion and subjectivity over realism

The arts and crafts movement: The art movement of the mid-1800s that was a response to mass production and that featured handmade furniture and other items. A notable artist of this movement is John Ruskin.

Art Nouveau: The style of art that arose during the late 1800s in which the work’s elements follow a single curved line or several curved lines to bring unity, balance, emphasis, movement and an organic quality to the piece

Impressionism: The partially abstract style of painting that arose during the late 1800s and that features small, thin strokes and an emphasis on light and movement to create an impression of an image, rather than a realistic depiction of it. Notable artists of this style are Vincent van Gogh (“Starry Night”), Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Modern art: The art movement that arose during the late 1800s and lasted until the 1950s and that encompassed a variety of non-traditional, anti-authoritarian styles

Art Deco: The style of art that applied modernism to useful items like clothing, furniture and dishes, bringing a modern style to an average home

Expressionism: The style of art that arose during the early 1900s in which a realistic image is distorted in order to reveal the artist’s ideas and feelings about it, and about the world. A notable example is Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

Cubism: The style of abstract modern art that arose during the early 1900s and features fragmentation, geometrical shapes and multiple perspectives of the same subject

Postmodern art: The art movement that arose during the 1960s that emphasized relative rather than absolute knowledge

Contemporary art: Any art style or work of art being created during the current time

Abstract art: Any art style or work of art that depicts its subject in a symbolic, rather than realistic, way

Dadaism: The artistic movement that arose as a response to World War I that rejected realism and rationalism, instead depicting chaos and nonsense

Surrealism: The artistic movement that arose after World War I and combines real and unreal, dreamlike elements, with strange beauty resulting

Pop art: The art movement that emerged during the 1970s that as a response to the traditional hierarchy of artistic culture and taste (and as a response to culture in a larger sense, too) that incorporates objects not normally used in artworks, such as newspaper, soup cans and discarded items

Street art: The style of art that emerged during the 1970s and is featured in public spaces with the intention of taking art out of its typical confined settings such as art galleries. It encompasses a variety of mediums like painting, sculpture, or stained glass and is sometimes made illegally in the form of graffiti.

Manga: A form of modern Japanese cartooning and comic art

Leonardo da Vinci: The Italian Renaissance artist most known for his realist depictions, such as the Mona Lisa, as well as his engineering drawings, such as those of aircraft and automobiles

Michelangelo: The Italian Renaissance artist most known for his statue David as well as his Sistine Chapel paintings

Renoir: The French impressionist artist most known for his use of soft light and broken brushstrokes

Rembrandt: The Dutch Baroque artist most known for the complex moods of his subjects in paintings like The Night Watch and Doctor Nicolaes Tulp’s Demonstration of the Anatomy of the Arm

Claude Monet: The French impressionist artist most known for his landscapes showing changing effects of light

Vincent van Gogh: The Dutch impressionist artist most known for his thick brushstrokes and vibrant colors in paintings like The Starry Night

Edgar Degas: The French impressionist artist most known for his depictions of dancers

Pablo Picasso: The Spanish abstract artist most known for helping found the cubist movement

Salvador Dali: The Spanish surrealist artist most known for his rule-breaking depictions of the subconscious, such as his depiction of a melting clock

Georgia O’Keeffe: The American modernist painter most known for her close-ups of large flowers as well as for her desert landscapes

Jackson Pollock: The American abstract expressionist painter most known for his drip paintings

Andy Warhol: The American pop artist most known for his paintings of soup cans and his commentary on consumerism


Atrium: An interior courtyard-like space

Buttress: A structure that helps to reinforce and strengthen a wall

Gable: The triangular portion between intersecting roof pitches, whose shape allows for easy water drainage and good interior ventilation

Mezzanine: A half floor that usually opens to and overlooks a high-ceilinged space

Pavilion: A structure with a roof and beams but no walls that often serves as a shelter in gardens and parks

Ziggurats: Step pyramids, which were the precursor to the sloped pyramid. They were created in multiple early world civilizations, including Mesopotamia, the Mayan and Egyptian civilizations, separately, and were often meant to bring people closer to heaven.

Megaliths: Large stone building-like structures such as Stonehenge and Newgrange, the purpose of which is often unclear

Ancient Mesopotamian architecture: The architectural style of the ancient Mesopotamians, which included ziggurats, pyramids, monuments, tombs, temples, sphinxes, obelisks, shrines and more

Ancient Greek architecture: The architectural style of the ancient Greeks, which included the first columns, canopies and other novel elements, and which greatly influenced other architectural styles in the West. It includes the Parthenon, whose columns were tilted to account for visual distortion, so that the human eye saw it as if it were perfectly straight.

Ancient Roman architecture: The architectural style that dominated for nearly 1,000 years in Europe and that introduced concrete, domes, arches, triumphal gates, paved roads, aqueducts and more. It includes the Roman aqueducts and the Colosseum.

Byzantine architecture: A glamorous architectural style that came about during the Byzantine Empire after the fall of Rome that featured elevated domes organized into octagons, extensive mosaics and other enhanced Greek and Roman ideas

Ottoman Empire architecture: The architectural style that incorporated both Byzantine and Islamic ideas and that featured detailed ornamentation plus domes and minarets

Romanesque architecture: The architectural style that came about in Europe during the Middle Ages whose style incorporated classical Roman and Byzantine elements like arches and sculpture

Baroque architecture: The highly ornate, dramatic, emotionally expressive architectural style that arose during the 1600s and early 1700s and that took Renaissance architecture to a new level, featuring decorative elements like gargoyles, lion heads, baby angels, horns of abundance and the like. 

Neo-classical architecture: The architectural style of the 1700s and 1800s that sought to mimic aspects of Greek and Roman architecture

Colonial architecture: The architectural style of the 1500s through the 1800s that adapted a colonizing culture’s styles to the places they colonized

Modern architecture: The architectural style guided by the idea that form follows function, which is known for minimalist features, lack of ornamentation, simple silhouettes and basic materials such as concrete

Postmodern architecture: A quirky, playful architectural style that came about in the 1960s as a response to the cold, function-focused modern style

School in a Book: Anatomy and Medical Science

We love our bodies, don’t we? It’s just so nice to understand what’s going on inside of all of this skin.


The eleven systems of the human body: Skeletal system, respiratory system, muscular system, nervous system, digestive system, reproductive system, circulatory system, endocrine system, lymphatic/immune system, integumentary system, urinary system

Skeletal system: The system of the body that includes the bones and cartilage, that creates a framework for the body and that provides hard surfaces for the muscles to contract on

Bones: The organs that form the structural framework of the body. The four types are flat (such as the ribs), long (such as the femur), irregular (such as the vertebrae), short (such as the phelanges).

Cranium: The skull bones

Mandible: The jawbone

Scapula: The shoulder blade bones

Clavicle: The collar bone

Sternum: The breastbone

Vertebrae: The bones that make up the spine

Pelvis: The set of bones that includes the hip bones, the sacrum and the coccyx

Coccyx: The tailbone

The sacrum: The large, triangular bone located at the base of the spine and between the two hip bones of the pelvis

Humerus: The upper arm bone

Radius: The bone on the thumb side of the lower arm

Ulna: The bone on the pinky side of the lower arm

Femur: The upper leg bone

Tibia: The shin bone on the inside of the lower leg that is larger than the fibula

Fibula: The bone on the outside of the lower leg that is smaller than the fibula

Patella: The kneecap

Metatarsals: The foot bones

Tarsals: The ankle bones

Carpals: The wrist bones

Metacarpals: The bones in the palm of the hand

Phalanges: The finger and toe bones

Joint: The places where bones meet, most of which are movable

Bone marrow: The soft, spongy tissue located in the cavities of many bones that produces blood cells and stores fat

Cartilage: The connective tissue similar to bone that is more flexible than bone but more rigid than muscle. Most baby bones start as cartilage and slowly turn into bone as the baby grows.

Muscular system: The system of the body that includes muscles, tendons and ligaments and enables the body to move

Muscles: Stretchy tissues that connect to bones that contract and relax, allowing for movement and stability. While contracting, muscles become shorter and harder and may bulge.

Voluntary muscles: Muscles that respond to conscious intention (such as the quads)

Involuntary muscles: Muscles that move without conscious intention (such as the heart)

Skeletal muscles: The muscles located on the bones of the skeletal system that can be voluntarily contracted

Cardiac muscles: The heart and related muscles

Visceral muscles: The smooth muscles inside organs (such as the intestines and bladder)

Abdominal muscles: The muscles in the front and sides of the abdominal wall

Biceps: The muscles on the front of the upper arms

Deltoids: The muscles on the top of the shoulders

Gluteus muscles: The buttocks muscles

Hamstrings: The muscles on the back of the thighs

Obliques: The muscles on the sides of the torso

Pectorals: The muscles on the front of the upper chest

Quadriceps: The muscles on the front of the thighs

Triceps: The muscles on the back of the upper arms

Trapezius: The muscles on the upper and mid-back that help with neck stability

Circulatory system: The system of the body that circulates blood via the heart, arteries and veins, delivering oxygen and nutrients to organs and cells and carrying their waste products away. It also regulates body temperature.

The parts of the heart: Four chambers (two atria and two ventricles); valves to keep blood moving the right direction through the heart; and veins and arteries that carry blood to and from the lungs and the rest of the body

Arteries: Thick, muscular blood vessels, most of which move oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to tissues and organs

Veins: Thinner-walled blood vessels, most of which move oxygen-depleted blood from tissues and organs toward the heart. They have valves that keep the blood flowing in the right direction.

Capillaries: The fine branching blood vessels that help move blood around the body

White blood cells: The cells of the immune system that are involved in protecting the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders

Red blood cells: The cells that are made in the bone marrow and make up blood, and that contain hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen

Digestive system: The system of the body that includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines and more and that is responsible for the mechanical and chemical processes that provide nutrients and eliminate waste

Esophagus: The tube that connects the mouth to the stomach

Stomach: The sac that stores and breaks down food before it moves to the intestines and other places in the body

Liver: The body’s largest organ by mass, which processes nutrients, removes toxins from the blood and stores food energy in the form of glycogen

Respiratory system: The system of the body that includes the lungs and the passages that lead to them and that allows for the breathing in of oxygen and breathing out of carbon dioxide

Windpipe/trachea: The tube that connects the pharynx and larynx to the lungs, allowing the passage of air

Primary bronchus: The tubes between the trachea and each lung. After passing through the bronchus, air goes into the lungs. Then oxygen goes into secondary and tertiary bronchi, bronchioles, air sacs and capillaries and from there is distributed throughout the body.

Lungs: The pair of spongy, air-filled organs located in the chest that are responsible for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the body and the environment during breathing

Diaphragm: The flat sheet of muscle lying under the lungs that moves up and flattens when a person breathes in and moves down when a person breathes out

Voice box/larynx: The organ in the neck located on the top part of the trachea just below the root of the tongue that contains vocal cords, which vibrate to produce sound when air passes through them during exhalation

Vocal cords: Two bands of muscle in the larynx that can tighten as air passes over them to create a vibration and allow for speaking during breathing. Shorter, faster cords, as those of many females, create higher pitched sounds.

Integumentary system: The system of the body that includes skin, hair, nails, sweat and other exocrine glands that is responsible for organ protection, heat regulation and more

Skin: The soft outer tissue covering that contains the epidermis, the dermis and subcutaneous tissues (fat cells)

Melanin: A natural pigment found in most organisms that protects from UV rays

Pores: Tiny openings on the surface of the skin that allow sweat, oil, and other substances to pass through

Keratin: The tough, protective material that the epidermis, hair and nails are made of

Hair follicles: The structures located at the base of hairs in the skin that produce and grow hair. Their shape determines whether the hair is curly, wavy or straight.

Urinary/renal system: The system of the body that includes the kidneys, the bladder and the tubes connected to them that is responsible for regulating the amount of water and electrolytes in the body, filtering blood and excreting waste materials

Bladder: A muscular, balloon-like sac that holds urine before it is excreted

Urethra: The tube that connects the bladder to the urinary meatus for the removal of urine from the body

Kidneys: The two bean-shaped organs located in the back of the abdomen on either side of the spine that filter blood and produce urine

Lymphatic system/immune system: The system of the body that includes lymphatic vessels, nodes, other organs and lymph and that is responsible for preventing infection, filtering waste products, regulating fluid balance and helping with nutrient absorption

Lymph: The fluid that contains white blood cells, waste products and more that circulates throughout the body through vessels, nodes and organs

Lymph nodes: The small, bean-shaped organs located throughout the body that filter lymph and it passes through them

Endocrine system: The system of the body that includes glands and other organs that produce and secrete hormones into the bloodstream

Endocrine glands: Small organs that make hormones

Hormones: Chemicals that are located throughout the body that act as messengers to regulate a large variety of body functions

Pituitary gland: The pea-sized endocrine gland located at the base of the brain that produces and secretes several important hormones, including prolactin and growth hormone

Adrenal glands: The twin endocrine glands that are located on top of each kidney that produce and secrete adrenaline, cortisol, androgens and more

Thyroid gland: The endocrine gland located in the neck in front of the trachea that makes thyroxine and other hormones that control metabolism

The pancreas: The endocrine gland located in the abdomen behind the stomach that produces and secretes insulin and glucagon, which regulate glucose levels in the body. It also releases digestive enzymes into the small intestine.

Adrenaline: A hormone produced by the adrenal glands that prepares the body for “fight or flight” response to stress or danger

Cortisol: A hormone produced by the adrenal glands that helps to regulate various bodily functions, including metabolism, immune response, and stress response

Oxytocin: A hormone produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland that plays a role in social bonding, maternal behavior, and sexual reproduction

Pitocin: A synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin that is sometimes used to induce or augment labor during childbirth

Testosterone: A hormone primarily produced by the testicles that plays a key role in the development of male reproductive tissues and secondary sexual characteristics, as well as in maintaining bone density and muscle mass

Estrogen: A group of hormones primarily produced by the ovaries that play a key role in the development and regulation of the female reproductive system and secondary sexual characteristics

Progesterone: A hormone primarily produced by the ovaries that plays a key role in regulating the menstrual cycle, preparing the uterus for pregnancy, and maintaining a healthy pregnancy

The nervous system: The system of the body that includes the sensory organs, the brain, the spinal cord and the nerves that is responsible for collecting and processing information from the senses and coordinating body movement

The central nervous system: The brain and spinal cord

Peripheral nervous system: The network of nerves throughout the body that connects the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body

Autonomic nervous system: The part of the nervous system that regulates and controls involuntary bodily functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, digestion, and glandular secretion. It includes the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

Sympathetic nervous system: The part of the autonomic nervous system that prepares the body for a “fight or flight” response by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, while decreasing digestive activity and blood flow to non-essential organs

Parasympathetic nervous system: The part of the autonomic nervous system that promotes “rest and digest” functions by decreasing heart rate and respiration, while increasing digestive activity and blood flow to non-essential organs

Brain: The central organ of the nervous system, which is located under the skull and made up of billions of neurons and supporting cells that communicate through electrical signaling

Brain stem: The part of the brain that connects the brain to the spinal cord and that controls many automatic functions like heartbeat, breathing and blood pressure regulation

Spinal cord: The thick bundle of nerves located inside a tunnel in the backbone that joins the brain to the rest of the body

Neurons: Nerve cells, which include sensory, association and motor nerve cells

Nerves: Cord-like structures that contain nerve fibers and can be sensory, motor or mixed types

Motor nerves: Nerves that carry signals from the brain to the muscles to move

Nerve impulse: A brief electrical signal that moves through and between neurons

Neurotransmitters: Various chemical messengers such as serotonin and epinephrine that are released by neurons and allow them to communicate with each other

Sensory organs: Organs that send nerve impulses to the brain along nerves

Eyes: The seeing organs of the body, which contain a retina, cornea, pupil and optic nerve. Light enters the pupil through the clear cornea and lens. These bend the light rays so they form an upside down image on the retina and back of the eye. Rods and cones convert the image to nerve impulses which move along the optic nerve to the brain. Then the brain interprets the signal and turns the image right side up.

Stereoscopic vision: The perception of depth and three-dimensional structure, which is obtained through visual information from the eyes

Ears: The hearing organs of the body, which contain outer, middle and inner parts. The ear flap funnels and amplifies sound waves to the ear canal, then to the eardrum. The eardrum vibrates. These vibrations pass through bones and holes to the cochlea, then to fluid chambers. Tiny nerve cells in the fluid convert vibrations into nerve impulses, which go along the auditory nerve to the brain. Ears also help keep you balanced through the vestibular system, which senses the movement of fluid in the ducts and sends that information to the brain, which uses it to determine how the body as a whole is moving.

Chemoreceptors: The small organs in the nose and tongue that detect the chemicals responsible for smells and tastes and send this information to the brain

Nasal cavity: The large air-filled space located above and behind the nose that allows for breathing as well as filtering and humidifying incoming air

Cerebrum: The largest part of the brain, located at the front of the skull and divided into the right and left hemispheres, which is responsible for voluntary physical activity, thinking, sensation and emotion. It contains the frontal lobe, parietal, temporal and occipital lobes as well as the cerebral cortex.

Cerebral cortex: The outermost layer of the brain that is divided into four lobes (the occipital, parietal, temporal and frontal lobes) and that is responsible for perception/sensing, thinking, and voluntary muscle coordination

Frontal lobe: The part of the cerebrum that includes the prefrontal cortex and other areas and is responsible for decision making, voluntary physical activity, speech and more

Parietal lobe: The part of the cerebrum that is responsible for processing touch and temperature information, spacial awareness and more

Temporal lobe: The part of the cerebrum that includes the hippocampus and amygdala and other areas and is responsible for memory functions, processing auditory information and more

Occipital lobe: The part of the cerebrum that is responsible for processing visual information and more

Hypothalamus: The small but distinct area of the brain located near the amygdala at the base of the brain that controls body temperature, hunger, and thirst

Amygdala: The area of the brain located near the hippocampus at the base of the brain that is primarily associated with emotional processes, such as fear

Cerebellum: The part of the brain located at the back of the skull that is primarily responsible for muscle movement and balance

Corpus callosum: The large bundle of nerve fibers that connects the two hemispheres of the brain and allows them to integrate cognitive, emotional and bodily functions

The limbic system: The various parts of the brain, including the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, hypothalamus and more, that work together to regulate emotions, stress responses, aggression, social bonding, hunger, sexual desire and other reactions to external stimuli

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep: Sleep that is characterized by rapid movement of the eyes, deep relaxation, and vivid dreams, which happens as part of each 90- to 120-minute sleep cycle

Reproductive system: The system of the body that includes sex organs and that is responsible for the production of offspring

Vagina: The elastic, muscular canal leading to the uterus in which penetrative sex takes place and out of which a baby exits the mother’s body

Vulva: The external genitals of the female, which include the labia, the clitoris, the vaginal opening and more

Clitoris: The small, highly sensitive organ located underneath the labia of females that swells with blood during sexual arousal and is covered by the clitoral hood

Labia: The two folds of skin that are part of the vulva

Cervix: The lower part of the uterus that contracts and opens during childbirth

Ovaries: The pair of endocrine glands located in the reproductive system of females that produce and release estrogen, progesterone and reproductive eggs (ova)

Fallopian tubes: The tubes leading from the ovaries to the uterus

Uterus: The organ in which the fetus grows and lives; the womb

Placenta: The organ that supplies nutrients, oxygen, hormones and more to the fetus and that also supports gas exchange, waste elimination, immune responses and heat regulation

Umbilical cord: The cord-like structure that connects the fetus to the placenta

Penis: The external male reproductive organ that also contains the urethra

Testes/testicles: The pair of oval-shaped endocrine glands located in the scrotum of males that produce testosterone and sperm cells (spermatozoa), which mix with other fluids during ejaculation to form semen

Prostate gland: A small gland located between the bladder and the penis in males that produces some of the fluid that makes up semen

Scrotum: The suspended dual-chambered sack of skin and smooth muscle that holds the two testicles


Infection: The invasion of an organism’s body tissues by disease-causing agents, their multiplication, and the reaction of host tissues to the infectious agents and the toxins they produce

Immunity: The balanced state that occurs when an organism is able to both resist infection and disease while not overresponding to infectious agents so that autoimmune problems don’t develop

Etiology: The cause or origin of a disorder or disease

Virus: A small pathogen that replicates only inside the living cells of other organisms and can cause illness

Pathogen: A germ, usually a microorganism like a bacteria or virus, that can cause illness

Drug: A natural or synthetic chemical substance other than food and water that, when introduced to the body, causes a temporary physiological change

Vaccine: A medication that usually contains weakened disease pathogens that is introduced to the body via vaccination in order to help stimulate the immune system to develop immunity to those pathogens

Antibiotics: A type of medication that kills or prevents the growth of bacteria in the body. They do not work against viruses.

Tumor: An abnormal and excessive growth of tissue that can form anywhere in the body and that starts as a neoplasm, then forms a mass. Benign tumors are non-cancerous and usually do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors are cancerous and can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs, as well as spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.

Preventive medicine: Measures taken for disease prevention, as opposed to disease treatment

Conventional medicine: The mainstream medical practices that are widely accepted and used by the medical community, such as pharmaceutical drugs, surgery, and other scientifically-proven treatments. It is also known as Western medicine or allopathic medicine.

Alternative medicine: A wide range of health promoting techniques that are not part of conventional medicine, some of which are backed by research and some of which are not

Nutrients: The carbohydrates and fats that are burned for fuel in the body, as well as the vitamins, minerals and proteins that are used to make body parts, either by facilitating chemical reactions or by being used as actual material

Carbohydrates: Sugars, starches and fibers

Lipids: Fats, which are important for hormone synthesis, insulation, and cellular function

Amino acids: The building blocks of proteins, which are used by the body to build enzymes, hormones and body cells

Vitamin A: A nutrient that helps with vision and more

Vitamin C: A nutrient that helps with immune system functioning and more

Vitamin D: A nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium and more

Vitamin E: A nutrient that helps protect cells from damage and more

Vitamin K: A nutrient that helps with blood clotting and more

Calcium: A mineral that helps with bone and cartilage production and more

Iron: A mineral that helps with red blood cell production and with carrying oxygen throughout the body

Magnesium: A mineral that helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels and more

Zinc: A mineral that helps with wound healing, immune system functioning and more

Potassium: A mineral that helps with fluid balance, muscle and nerve functioning and more

School in a Book: Geology, Ecology and Meteorology

As humans, we experience the effects of chemistry, biology and physics every day, but not always knowingly. For this reason, geology and ecology are to me the most visual–even the most sensual–of the hard sciences, the ones that allows us to better understand our immediate environment.

Geology isn’t theory and microscopes; it’s what we see around us every day.

Sometimes, it’s hard to mentally separate geology and ecology. Here’s the short version: geology is the study of all the stuff on the earth, and ecology is the study of the way living things interact with it.


Rock: A hard lump of one or more minerals. Some examples are limestone, shale, sandstone, granite, marble, basalt, obsidian, coal, quartz, conglomerate and chalk.

Mineral: An inorganic substance of uniform color, texture, luster and structure

Sedimentary rock: Rock formed when other rocks break down into sediment, then gradually reform into new layers of rock due to pressure and layering. An example is found in the Grand Canyon, whose layers are clearly visible.

Igneous rock: Rock formed from magma that erupted from a volcano, then cooled into layers and chunks

Metamorphic rock: Rock that has undergone significant changes due to heat. An example is marble, which forms after limestone is subjected to high heat and pressure.

Ore: Any natural material that contains a metal and is mined for that metal. An example is iron ore, which is rock that contains iron.

Crystal: A mineral whose molecules are arranged in a highly regular pattern, which results in a characteristic shape. Some examples are table salt, graphite, ice and quartz.

Dirt: A loose mixture of minerals and organic substances that have been broken down through weathering, animal digestion and more

Soil: Dirt that is fit to grow plants in and contains living organisms

Sediment: Dirt and sand that is carried away with water and wind and deposited in other places in layers. These layers separate according to the size and density of the materials and eventually harden into rock under the sea and elsewhere.

Fossil: The remains of organisms after they are buried under layers of sediment and pressed upon for many years. Some are rocks that show imprints of organic material that has eroded away and others are the actual remains of the organism, such as bone, or remains that have slowly become petrified

Petrification: A process by which organic material, such as wood or bone, is gradually replaced by minerals and turned into stone. Little by little, minerals fill the spaces where the material has broken down until the entire material is replaced with mineral but retains the shape of the original material. This process typically occurs over a long period of time, as the organic material is buried under sediment and subjected to high pressure and temperatures.

Clay: A type of dirt that contains very small particles, which allow for a soft, uniform, well-mixed substance. It holds water well and is often good for farming.

The four layers of the earth: The outer crust (oceans and tectonic plates), the mantle (rock), the outer core (extremely hot liquid metal), and the inner core (solid metal)

Weathering: The breakdown of minerals, rocks and organic materials through freezing, thawing, melting, abrasion, wind, acids and more

Erosion: The movement of soil, sand and sediment from one place to another through wind, water, tilling and more. Since topsoil is richest in nutrients, erosion lowers soil quality.

The carbon cycle: The process by which carbon cycles through plants, animals, water bodies, the soil and the atmosphere. It occurs during plant photosynthesis; the intake of carbon from plants by animals for energy; organic decomposition; and the burning of fossil fuels.

The nitrogen cycle: The process by which nitrogen cycles through plants, animals, water, the soil and the atmosphere as it is used by plants, animals and bacteria for creating amino acids and other needed compounds

The water cycle: The process by which water is continuously recycled between the earth, the atmosphere and living things through heat from the sun, evaporation, clouds and precipitation

Evaporation: The process by which a liquid or solid is transformed into a vapor

Condensation: The process by which water vapor from the air collects back into drops on a solid

Tides: The rise and fall of sea levels caused by the gravity of the moon and sun on the ocean and the rotation of the earth

Ocean currents: The large-scale movements of the oceans due to wind, the rotation of the earth and more

Groundwater: The water that resides under the earth’s surface in porous rocks and cracks in soil and sand

The water table: The top of the groundwater zone, the depth of which is affected by rainfall or lack thereof

Air: The gas mixture that animals breathe and that makes up the earth’s atmosphere. It is made up of oxygen (about 21 percent), nitrogen (about 78 percent) and other gases, including carbon dioxide (about 1 percent). It helps plants make food; protects people from UV rays; and helps people obtain oxygen, which is an important component of human blood. Its gases can be separated out by specialized cooling and compression processes in which each gas liquefies at a different temperature and allows for separation.

Air pressure: The force exerted by the weight and movement of air molecules on an area due to the closeness of the particles. High-pressure air naturally and quickly moves toward areas of lower-pressure air due to its energy and momentum. The eardrum in the human ear must have equal pressure on both sides; however, air has to move through a bottleneck and, during quick changes in atmospheric pressure, can move unevenly, resulting in what is known as “ear popping.”

Earth’s atmosphere: All of the air that surrounds the earth, which is held in place by gravity and which has no distinct endpoint. It is divided into layers, with higher, thinner layers that have less oxygen and are unbreathable.

Earthquake: A sudden and rapid shaking of the surface of the earth, usually due to tectonic plate shifts

Seismic activity: The sum of all of the tremors and earthquakes in a region over a specified period of time

Tectonic plates: Large pieces of the earth’s crust that move, whose movement is driven by movements deep in the earth’s molten mantle

Fault line: An area where two tectonic plates meet that are particularly vulnerable to earthquake effects

Subduction zone: An area where two plates have collided, causing one plate to slide below the other

Volcano: Openings in the ground from which magma, ash, gas, and rock fragments surge upward and erupt as lava. This occurs when magma is pushed to the surface due to pressure from within the earth.

Magma: Molten rock (plus some minerals and gases) that is found deep in the earth’s crust and mantle and forms due to intense pressure and heat

Geological time: A way of dividing the history of the earth into periods based on the types of fossils found in the various layers of the earth’s crust

Radiometric dating: A scientific, though inexact, method for determining the age of rock and other materials based on the decay of radioactive isotopes

Carbon dating: A type of radiometric dating that measures the amount of carbon still in organic materials after death and decay


Ecology: The study of the way living things interact with their environments

Ecosystem: A group of plants and animals that interact with each other and their surroundings

Biome: A community of similar plants, animals, climate and geography

The eleven biomes of Earth: Tropical rainforests, temperate forests, coniferous forests, tundra, grasslands, savannas, deserts, scrublands, alpine, wetlands and marine

Biodiversity: The huge variety of living things in a particular area, which can be lost with selective breeding, deforestation and other human activities

Biodegradable: The ability of a substance to be decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms in its environment

Drought: An extended period without adequate precipitation in a given area

Waterlogged: Oversaturated with water. Water-holding capacity is better for rich soil but poorer for sandy soil.

Aeration: The process of adding air to soil, which increases its oxygen levels and helps plants grow. This can be done by bacteria and other animals in the soil, or by specialized human techniques.

Intensive farming: Farming with the help of chemicals, technology, high-output machinery and the like

Soil management: Maintaining proper balance of soil nutrients, airflow and water in soil

Soil conservation: Measures used to prevent erosion and maintain soil quality, such as crop rotation, reduced tillage and more

Renewable resource: A natural resource that replenishes itself fast enough to keep up with human rates of use, including sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat

Non-renewable resource: A natural resource that does not renew itself fast enough to keep up with human rates of use, including minerals, metal ores, fossil fuels (coal, petroleum and natural gas) and some groundwater

Fossil fuel: A fuel that forms deep under the earth from the remains of decomposed animals and plants. Some examples are coal, petroleum and natural gas. They are considered non-renewable because it takes millions of years for them to complete one cycle of formation.

The Ozone Layer: The layer of ozone (O3) that exists in the upper atmosphere of the earth and that protects humans from UV rays

The Greenhouse Effect: The natural process whereby gases in the earth’s atmosphere trap heat and keep the planet warm. When there is an overabundance of these gases (due to human production of carbon dioxide and methane, for example), the planet warms too much, creating climate change that then results in the melting of polar ice caps, the rising of ocean levels, the death of coral reefs and other detrimental effects.

Global warming: A slow warming of the earth resulting from the Greenhouse Effect


Weather: The atmospheric conditions, including temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind, and other variables, in a given place and time that are caused by changing air pressure and heat from the sun

Climate: The long-term average weather conditions of a particular area

The four basic climate types: Tropical (hot all year); polar (cold all year); temperate (moderate, seasonal change); deserts (dry all year)

Wind: The movement of air that happens when higher pressure air is moving toward lower pressure air. If there is no pressure difference, there is no wind.

Storm: Any disruption in the atmosphere producing severe weather, including strong wind, tornadoes, hail, rain, snow (blizzard), lightning (thunderstorm), clouds of dust or sand carried by wind (a dust or sand storm)

Lightning: The visible and audible flow of electricity that occurs during a thunderstorm. It can occur inside a single cloud, between clouds, or between a cloud and the ground. It produces an audible booming sound called thunder. Since the speed of light is greater than the speed of sound, we hear thunder after we see lightning.

Tornado: A funnel-shaped column of wind, evaporated water, dust and debris that moves rapidly, sweeping up objects in its path. It is formed when a thunderstorm occurs in areas of both cold and warm air.

Hurricane: A large rotating storm system with a low-pressure center called an eye, formed when multiple oceanic thunderstorms collide. They are sometimes also called typhoons or cyclones.

Tsunami: A series of huge, destructive waves formed during major ocean events like volcanic eruptions, meteorite crashes, landslides and underwater earthquakes. They are sometimes mistakenly called tidal waves, though they are not caused by tides.

Atmospheric particle: Organic and human-made microscopic solid or liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere

Barometer: A tool to measure air pressure

Cumulus clouds: Large, puffy clouds with a flat base and a rounded top that often indicate fair weather

Stratus clouds: Flat clouds that form in layers, often cover the entire sky and often produce light rain

Cirrus clouds: Thin, wispy clouds made up of ice crystals that form at high altitudes

Nimbus clouds: Large, dark-colored clouds that produce precipitation

School in a Book: Philosophy

Whether or not you’ve studied philosophy, you’re probably already a philosopher. You think about the meaning of life, absolute and relative moral precepts, political ideals and the indelible qualities of human nature. For this reason, the formal study of philosophy isn’t so much about defining or comparing philosophical ideas–something you’re already quite capable of doing–but about the thinkers of the past who famously argued different sides of these questions.

Here, I offer simple definitions for some philosophy terms that you’re likely to encounter regularly throughout your life. But mostly, I introduce you to some of the more well-known philosophers, which will hopefully give your philosophical discussions and debates more texture, context and depth.

Please keep in mind that due to significant overlaps in subject matter, some major Eastern philosophies are described in the Religion and Spirituality section of this book rather than in this one.


Philosophy: The study of meaning, reality, morality and other large life questions. The word comes from two Greek words that together mean “love of wisdom.” Some major questions of study include: What is the meaning of life? What qualities are fundamental to human nature? How can we know what we know (empiricism versus rationalism)? What is truth? How do we arrive at morality and values? What political structures are most beneficial? How does language shape our beliefs? What is the best way to live? Do humans have free will? What is the nature of existence? What is beauty?

Eastern philosophy: The philosophical tradition of China, Japan, India and other eastern countries that includes Daoism (The Tao Te Ching of approximately 600 BCE), Confucianism (The Analects of Confucius of approximately 500 BCE), Buddhism (which arose in India around 500 BCE) and more and that is known for its focus on the unknowable, the unspeakable and patterns and cycles

Western philosophy: The philosophical tradition of Europe and other western countries that includes ancient Greek thinkers (Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle), ancient Roman thinkers (Cicero and Seneca), medieval Christian thinkers (Aquinas and Augustine) and more and that is known for its focus on logic, cause and effect and absolute knowledge

Metaphysics: The study of nonphysical reality

Epistemology: The study of knowledge

Ethics: The study of morality and right behavior

Ontology: The study of existence and reality

Cosmology: The study of the nature and origins of the universe

Aesthetics: The study of beauty and art

Empiricism: The philosophy that holds that when determining what is knowable, experience and evidence are more important than reason

Rationalism: The philosophy that holds that when determining what is knowable, reason is more important than experience and evidence

Materialism: The philosophy that holds that ultimate reality is material

Naturalism: The philosophy that holds that ultimate reality is material and exists in natural causes, phenomena and events

Idealism: The philosophy that holds that ultimate reality is non-material and exists in the world of ideas

Mysticism: The philosophy that holds that ultimate reality is non-material and exists in a spiritual dimension

Determinism: The philosophy that holds that all events, including human actions, are ultimately determined by preceding causes or natural laws

Humanism: The philosophy that emphasizes human choice, human flourishing, critical thinking and eschews dogma

Stoicism: The ancient Roman philosophy that emphasized the importance of self-control, indifference to pleasure and pain and acceptance of one’s lot in life

Epicureanism: The ancient Roman philosophy that emphasized the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, often through the cultivation of simple pleasures

Cynicism: The ancient Roman philosophy that emphasized simple living, self-sufficiency and rejection of conventional values and social norms

Pragmatism: The philosophy that emphasizes practical consequences and utility

Utilitarianism: The philosophy that judges actions on consequences, not morality, saying that right actions are those that offer the greatest amount good for the greatest number or people

Transcendentalism: The philosophy that emphasizes personal experiences and a close relationship with nature over traditions and dogma

Postmodernism: The modern philosophy that holds that there are no unifying, ultimate, knowable answers and that truth is relative

Existentialism: The philosophy that emphasizes individual freedom, choice, and responsibility and that explores the meaning and purpose of existence

Deconstructionism: The philosophy that pulls apart language, literature, and other cultural artifacts to reveal hidden assumptions and contradictions that underlie them, and that challenges the idea of fixed, universal truths

Phenomenon: An object or experience as it appears to the human senses

Noumenon: The unknowable, underlying reality behind a phenomenon; something’s true nature

Numinous: The quality of being mysterious, awe-inspiring and somehow beyond natural world

Pythagoras: The ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician who is known for developing the Pythagorean theorem and for his ideas on the mystical nature of numbers. Pythagoras influenced Socrates, who taught Plato, who taught Aristotle.

Socrates: The ancient Greek philosopher who developed the Socratic Method in which he asked question after question in order to confound people who believed themselves to be wise, digging for deeper truths in everything. He emphasized questioning and critical thinking and was condemned to die by drinking hemlock due to his ideas. He is known for saying, “The life which is unexamined is not worth living” and “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.”

Plato: The ancient Greek philosopher who was taught by Socrates and who recorded Socrates’ teachings. He founded the Academy in Athens, who (unlike Aristotle) was a philosophical rationalist and who introduced the idea of the world of forms, an imagined place that holds the ideal of each type of real thing. For example, when we think of a table, there is the specific table we see and touch, but there is also the idea of table that is the shared concept of what a table is. That concept belongs to the world of forms. He used the Allegory of the Cave to show how humans only see a mere shadow of what is ultimately real. He was a philosophical rationalist. He is known for saying, “Earthly knowledge is but shadow.”

Aristotle: The ancient Greek philosopher who was taught by Plato. He was the first known proponent of formal logic, who opened a school in Athens, the Lyceum, that competed with Plato’s, and who (unlike Plato) was a philosophical empiricist. He is known for saying, “Truth resides in the world around us.”

Cicero: A famous Greek orator, statesman and scholar who wrote about just government in De Republica, oratory in De Oratore and more

Rumi: The Persian philosopher of the Middle Ages who taught about reincarnation and Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam. He is known for many sayings such as, “Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes around in another form.”

St. Augustine: The Christian philosopher of the late Roman empire who wrote about free will, the existence of God and the existence of evil

Thomas Aquinas: A Christian philosopher of the Middle Ages who wrote about the logical and scientific nature of Christianity

Niccolo Machiavelli: The philosopher of the late Middle Ages who wrote about how to obtain and maintain political power and who argued that government can’t be bound by morality if it wants to succeed. He is known for saying, “The ends justifies the means.”

Erasmus: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who introduced humanism, arguing that religion is folly and the Christian church was corrupt. He is known for saying, “To know nothing is the happiest life.”

Francis Bacon: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who wrote about the scientific method. He is known for saying, “Knowledge is power.”

Thomas Hobbes: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who wrote about the social contract, saying that social agreements, not moral ideals, are the basis of a peaceful society. He is known for saying, “… The life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Rene Descartes: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who wrote about the nature of knowledge, saying that even the existence of physical matter cannot be proven and the only thing we can truly know exists is our own minds. He is known for saying, “I think, therefore I am.”

John Locke: The empirical philosopher of the Early Modern Times who argued that no truths are universal to all people and all cultures and who came up with the idea of the tabula rasa–the blank slate, which is a metaphor for the unknowing state in which each person is born before they are implanted with cultural ideas. He is known for saying, “No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience.”

David Hume: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who said that certainty is absurd and custom is the source of knowledge. He is known for saying, “Custom is the great guide of human life.”

Immanuel Kant: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who sought to prove the existence of the physical world and who tried to unite empiricism and rationalism, saying that both reason and perceptions are needed for knowledge

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The political philosopher of the Early Modern Times who argued that though man is fundamentally good, laws and government create injustice and oppression. He is known for saying, “Man was born free, yet everywhere he is in chains.”

Adam Smith: The economics philosopher of the Early Modern Times who argued for free market capitalism, saying that the basis of society is trade. He is known for saying, “Man is an animal that makes bargains.”

Jeremy Bentham: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who is known for developing utilitarianism and who tried to calculate pleasure and proposed that laws are created by considering which give the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. He is known for saying, “The greatest happiness for the greatest number.”

John Stuart Mill: The utilitarian philosopher of the Early Modern Times who argued for political freedom, saying that people should be free to do with their own bodies as they wished, but not be free to harm anyone else. He is known for saying, “Over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

Soren Kierkegaard: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who founded existentialism and said that though people believe they want freedom, they really do not. He is known for saying, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”

Karl Marx: The political philosopher of the Early Modern Times who said that class struggle is what causes all of the ills of society. He is known for saying, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”

Henry David Thoreau: The transcendentalist philosopher of the Early Modern Times who argued for individual liberty, non-conformism, and conscientious objection through non-cooperation and non-violent resistance

William James: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who founded pragmatism, saying that people should just do the best they can in spite of uncertainty. He is known for saying, “Act as if what you do makes a difference.”

Friedrich Nietsche: The modern existentialist philosopher who is known for his critique of traditional morality and religion, his concept of the “will to power” and the idea of the “Übermensch”–the “superman.” He is known for saying, “God is dead.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The modern existentialist philosopher who described the limits of language and the limits placed on our thinking by language. He is known for saying, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”

Jean Paul Sartre: The modern existentialist philosopher who believed that people must create their own life purpose. He is known for saying, “Existence precedes essence.”

Simone de Beauvior: The modern feminist philosopher who wrote about the oppression of women. She is known for saying, “Man is defined as a human being and woman as a female.”

School in a Book: History of Russia

Considering the challenging climate and living conditions of the wide area now known as Russia, it isn’t surprising that it was late to develop. When I was in school, Russian history was largely ignored (until it collided with European history, of course), so it was delightful to learn about the area and place it on the timeline in my mind. Maybe you’ll have the same experience.


The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

East Slavs: The ethnic group that inhabited modern-day Russia from about 500 CE on. They were independent, nomadic clans with no known agriculture or writing who spoke various Slavic languages. They co-existed with the West Slavs and the South Slavs.

The Vikings: The Scandinavian warrior tribes who traded with the East Slavs during the Middle Ages, some of whom settled in modern-day Russia

The Rus: The tribe (likely Viking) that eventually united the various Viking and Slavic tribes into the single nation of Russia, and the tribe that might have given Russia its name

Rurik: The leader of the Rus tribe and the first Russian ruler mentioned in Islamic and Western literature

Kievic Rus: The first Russian state, with Kiev at its center. It was a loose federation of various Rus and Slavic tribes and the center of Varangian wealth and culture

The Varangians: The new name given to the various combined Rus and Slav peoples as they expanded south to Baghdad and Constantinople and along the river routes connecting the Baltic to the Black Sea. After their failure to defeat the well-defended city of Constantinople, they elected to create an ally of it instead by sending gifts of soldiers and more. This effective strategy meant that by 1000, the Varangians largely controlled the region. However, there was no central government. Varangian clans, each with a prince, ruled local areas along these important but sparsely populated trade routes. 

Prince Vladimir: The Rus prince of Kiev who, in the 1000s, greatly expanded Russian territory and further centralized the Russian state (though did not fully unify it). He adopted Christianity, which started a significant political and cultural shift in Russia that eventually led to the creation of a Russian national identity. He allowed Constantinople to set up an Episcopal see there, beginning the blending of Slavic and Byzantine cultures.

Mongol invasions: The event of the 1200s that contributed to the decline of Kiev and of the Russian state as a whole. This occurred during the last part of the Middle Ages and significantly reduced the population of Rus.

Tartars/Golden Horde: The combined group of Mongol and Turkic invaders that controlled Russia during the 1200s to the 1400s. They helped Russia advance in military tactics and transportation while allowing local princes to continue ruling under them. During this time, Russia also developed its postal road network, a census, a fiscal system and its military organization. Soon after the Mongolian Empire broke up, they lost power in Russia.

Moscow: The Russian city that grew in prominence during the Tartar reign by cooperating with it. It became the center of the Russian Orthodox Church, then, under Ivan the Great, the capital of Russia.

Boyars: The Rus princes and upper class government administrators that reclaimed control of Rus from the Mongols. They did not attempt to unify the area under one rule and interfered minimally with the local clan rule. They collected taxes and performed other basic functions. There was only a rudimentary written law code. During this time, cultural and political distinctions formed from one Slavic territory to the next–distinctions that remain to this day.

Ivan the Great: The leader of Moscow who, in the mid-1400s, united Russia. He extravagantly renovated the Kremlin, reformed military service and more.

The Kremlin: The Russian fortress at the center of Moscow that is now the center of Russian government

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

Third Rome: The name given to Moscow after the fall of Constantinople to show that it had taken its place as the third Rome, after Rome and Constantinople

Ivan the Terrible: The ruthless, murderous Russian leader that ruled during the 1500s following Ivan the Great. He took the title of tsar, the Russian word for Caesar. He established the secret police, which terrorized Russia; however, he also established the first feudal representative government–an improvement on the previous feudal system.

The Time of Troubles: A period of crop failure and famine in the late 1500s and early 1600s during which Russia lost territory to outsiders. During this time, there was no heir to the throne (Ivan the Terrible had murdered his son), so the other government leaders held the state together until appointing a new dynasty.

Romanov dynasty: The dynasty that followed Ivan the Great’s, which ruled from the 1600s till 1917. During this time, the population increased significantly even though the peasants were burdened by high taxes.

Peter the Great: The Romanov ruler who, in the 1700s, modernized Russia, which till then functioned under a primitive feudal system. A great admirer of Western culture, he is known for encouraging the arts; spending money carefully; abolishing the boyar ruling class; moving the capital to St. Petersburg; gaining territory for Russia; centralizing the government; creating a standing army and navy; putting the Orthodox Church under state control; hiring Western teachers for Russian schools; creating a merit-based civil service; improving and expanding infrastructure systems like roads and canals; introducing new industries; and more. Many of his improvements were inspired by his extensive travels to the West, which he undertook while disguised as an ordinary citizen.

Catherine the Great: The ruler that followed Peter the Great, ruling in the latter half of the 1700s. She is known for extending his advances by expanding Russian territory; for establishing social services like education and health care; and for establishing free trade in Russia. Like Peter, she was an admirer of Western culture, and, like Peter, she did not abolish serfdom.

The Crimean War: The 1850s war primarily between Russia and Turkey over control of the Crimean Peninsula. France and Britain entered on the side of Turkey to check Russia’s growing power. The war included the failed Charge of the Light Brigade by the British and was the first war that was covered by newspapers with photographers.

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

The Russian Revolution: The series of revolutionary actions that started in the first decade of the 1900s and continued until the establishment of the USSR in 1922, of which the February Revolution, the October Revolution and other protests were a part

Bloody Sunday: The killing of defenseless demonstrators in St. Petersburg by government troops after a series of worker riots and strikes in the early 1900s

October Manifesto: Russia’s 1905 promise of civil rights and representative government following Bloody Sunday as an attempt to appease the protesters. These promises were broken, however, leading to the Russian Revolution.

The February Revolution: A series of February 1917 protests and strikes in Petrograd (modern-day St. Petersburg), which led to the fall of the Romanov dynasty in Russia. Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate, and a provisional government was established. The new government failed to address the social and economic issues that the Russian people faced, leading to the October Revolution later that year.

The October Revolution/The Bolshevik Revolution: The October 1917 overthrow of the provisional government and the seizing of power by the Bolshevik party. The Bolsheviks set up a Soviet government and the Russian Civil War ensued.

The Bolshevik Party: The socialist political party led by Lenin that later became the Communist Party. It promised to end the war, distribute land to the peasants, and transfer power to the workers.

The Russian Civil War: The war that took place from 1918 to 1922 between the pro-Bolshevik Red Army led by Leon Trotsky and the anti-Bolshevik White Army. The Red Army won, then executed their enemies en masse. The Bolshevik party later became the Communist Party..

Leon Trotsky: The leader of the pro-Bolshevik Red Army during the Russian Civil War

The Red Terror: A period of violence, mass killings, and repression carried out by a Bolshevik secret police force called the Cheka to suppress dissent during the Russian Civil War

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR): The nation established in 1922 as a federation of republics that included Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and others. Also called the Soviet Union, it was the first socialist nation in the world.

Vladimir Lenin: The leader of the Bolshevik Party and the first leader of the Soviet Union. Following his communist ideals, he implemented policies such as land nationalization, worker control of factories, and the New Economic Policy (NEP), which allowed for limited capitalism in the Soviet Union. The NEP was intended to stimulate economic growth and alleviate the effects of the Civil War.

Marxism: Communism, as expressed by Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto. Lenin was a follower of Marxism.

Josef Stalin: The communist leader that took over in the 1920s after Lenin died after fighting for power with Leon Trotsky. He served as dictator of the Soviet Union until his death in the 1950s. He continued the policies of Lenin and mass starvation and poverty occurred under him, largely due to the collectivization of agriculture.

The Berlin Wall: The guarded concrete barrier between East and West Berlin in the 1960s built to prevent people from the poverty-stricken communist east from fleeing to the economically flourishing democratic west. A symbol of communism, it fell in 1989.

The Iron Curtain: The metaphor used to describe the separation between the communist and democratic countries of Eastern Europe throughout the Cold War

The Cold War: The hostilities and threat of war between Russia and western countries that began after Russia obtained nuclear bomb technology in the 1940s till the late 1980s

Sputnik: The first artificial satellite to orbit Earth, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957 and beginning the Space Age

The Cuban Missile Crisis: The threat to the U.S. that occurred during the 1960s after the Soviet Union built missile bases in Cuba, aiming the missiles at the U.S. It came to an end after the U.S. blocked trade with the Soviet Union and the Soviets responded by destroying the launch sites.

The fall of the Soviet Union: The end of the communist government of the Soviet Union, after which it was re-named Russia. This event led to various revolutions in Eastern Europe as these countries fought to gain independence as well.

Mikhail Gorbachev: The leader of the Soviet Union during the 1980s and 1990s who facilitated the dissolution of the Soviet Union, allowed Eastern Europe to elect democratic governments, and allowed the Berlin Wall to be torn down.

The Chernobyl disaster: The worst accidental nuclear disaster in history, which occurred in 1986 in Ukraine, which was then part of the Soviet Union. A reactor failure during a safety test led to a massive explosion and the release of radioactive materials into the atmosphere. Two plant workers died in the explosion and many others suffered from radiation.

School in a Book: History of North, Central and South America

It seems that homo sapiens first came to North America overland from Asia during the Ice Age when the sea level was lower using a land bridge that connected Asia and modern-day Alaska. Some historians dispute this, though, saying that shipbuilding technology was sufficiently developed to allow for overseas travel from other continents. Either way (or both ways), by 7000 B.C., humans had reached North and Central America. By 1500 CE, there were about six million native Americans grouped into hundreds of unique tribes with different food, art, governmental styles and ways of life.


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Inuits: The Native American people who lived in modern-day Alaska, Canada and Greenland from about 2500 BCE till the present day. They are known for their ice houses called igloos; their use of whale blubber as fuel; and their trade with the Vikings during the Middle Ages.

The Cree: The Native American people that lived in what is now the northern and central regions of Canada from prehistoric times to the present day. They are known for their hunting, fishing, and trapping ways of life; their use of canoes, snowshoes, and other traditional rugged terrain equipment; their food culture, including the making of bannock, a type of bread; and their wigwams, longhouses and bush camps.

The Chippewa/Ojibwe: The Native American people that lived in what is now the northern and central regions of Canada from prehistoric times to the present day. They are known for their hunting, fishing, and trapping ways of life; their use of canoes, snowshoes, and other traditional rugged terrain equipment; their food culture, including the harvesting of wild rice; their artworks, including dream catchers; and their distinctive wigwams, longhouses and teepees.

The Algonquin: The Native American people that lived in what is now the eastern regions of Canada from prehistoric times to the present day. They are known for their hunting, fishing, and trapping ways of life; their use of canoes, snowshoes, and other traditional rugged terrain equipment; their food culture, including the harvesting of maple syrup; their artworks, including beading and quillwork; and their distinctive wigwams and longhouses.

The Sioux: The Native American people that lived in the modern-day Great Plains region from prehistorical times to the present. They are known for their nomadic way of life, which was based on hunting bison and other game animals; their rich history of art, music, and dance; their conflicts with European settlers during the colonial era; and their later use of horses. They are also called the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota peoples.

The Anasazi: The Native American people who lived in what is now Colorado, as well as parts of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, from about 2000 BCE to about 1300 CE. They are known for their distinctive multi-story dwellings made of adobe bricks, called pueblos; their intricate system of irrigation canals and terraced fields; their various crafts; and their cultivation of corn, beans and squash.

Mesoamerica: The area that now includes much of Mexico and Central America that was home to indigenous groups like the Olmecs, Zapotecs, Maya and Aztecs. It was settled by 7000 BCE.

The Olmecs: The people who built one of the earliest civilizations in Mesoamerica, which lasted from about 1400 BCE till about 400 BCE. They are known for their earth and stone pyramids for religious worship; their stone sculptures, including some of enormous heads; and their ceremonial centers.

The Zapotecs: The people who built a Mesoamerican civilization that lasted from about 800 BCE to about 1400 CE. They are known for their writing system, one of the earliest in the Americas; their trade with the Olmecs; their elaborate stone platforms, tombs, and temples; and their effective irrigation and terracing farming techniques.

Teotihuacan: The ancient Mesoamerican city located about 30 miles from modern-day Mexico City which was built by an unknown people about 400 BCE. It was at its height about 400 CE, abandoned for a time, then taken over by the Aztecs around 1400 CE. At its height, its population rose to 125,000 or more. It is known for its pyramids, including the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon, where Aztecs practiced blood sacrifice; its multi-floor apartment compounds; its planned grid system; and its main road called the Avenue of the Dead that leads directly to an extinct volcano.

The Maya: The people who built one of the largest and greatest Mesoamerican civilizations that, for a time, spanned parts of modern-day Mexico and Central America and that lasted from about 600 BCE to about 800 CE. They are known for their advanced cities; their temples and pyramids; their peaceful social structure led by priests; their class system that included nobles, priests, rulers, officials, servants and farmers; their writing system; their advanced knowledge of astronomy, math and science; their calendar; and their practice of blood sacrifice, which influenced later practices by the Aztecs. Their cities functioned as independent city-states and occasionally fought each other. These fights led to their decline due to the loss of farmers and food production.

The Hopewell: The Native American people who lived in the eastern and midwestern areas of the modern-day U.S., including modern-day Ohio, from about 200 BCE to about 500 CE. They are known for their elaborate, ornamented burial mounds; their long-distance trade; and their stone carving.

The Chavins: The people who lived in modern-day Peru from about 1000 BCE till about 200 BCE and who built one of the oldest South American civilizations. They are known for their effective canal and drainage systems; their elaborate temples and ceremonial sites; their artworks, including glazed pottery, loom weaving and elaborate carvings; and their use of tunnels, chambers and advanced acoustics in their architecture.

Tiahuanaco: The civilization that was built around 300 BCE in the Andes in modern-day Bolivia near Lake Titicaca and that served as a political center for the area till its decline for unknown reasons during the Middle Ages. It is known for its enormous stone temples and palaces; its distinctive jewelry, pottery and temple stones; and its mostly peaceful culture were found there.

The Moche: The people who lived in modern-day Peru from about 100 CE to about 800 CE. They are known for their adobe brick architecture; their artworks, including painted ceramic vessels depicting realistic everyday scenes, mythological creatures and erotic scenes; and their sophisticated irrigation systems and terraced fields that allowed them to farm in the desert.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Temple Mound cultures: The Native American people who lived along what are now the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers from about 700 CE to about 1500 CE. They are known for their towns with central plazas; their rectangular mounds with temples for the dead on top; their adobe longhouses; and their cultivation of corn, sunflowers, beans and pumpkins.

The Hopi: The Native American people who lived in what is now the southwestern U.S. from the Middle Ages till the present day. They are known for their advanced irrigation systems; their unique artworks; their complex ceremonies, including rain dances; their traditional dwellings including the Cliff Palace; and their cultivation of corn, beans, squash and cotton.

The Huari: The people who lived in modern-day Peru from about 700 CE to about 1000 CE. They are known for their militaristic culture; their highly organized, centrally governed political system; their wide reach as they spread out over half of modern-day Peru; their extensive road network over 1,000 kilometers in length; and their influence on the Incas to come.

The Incas: The people who lived in modern-day Peru from about 1200 CE to the 1500s. They are known for their many important towns, including Cuzco and Macchu Picchu, which remain today; their mortarless stone fitting technique; their relay runners, who carried messages along the two main roads that spanned the length of the empire; their terraced farms built onto the sides of mountains; their wooden spears and slingshots; their complex social and political system led by a divine ruler; and their quipus (knotted ropes that helped them count). They were conquered by the Spanish at the start of the Colonial Era.

Machu Picchu: A small Incan town that still exists deep in the Andes mountains that was built in the 1400s and abandoned about 100 years later. It likely served as a royal estate for Incan rulers and as a spiritual center for the Incan people. A stunning tourist attraction nestled between mountain peaks, it features terraced gardens, plazas and stone temples and plazas.

The Toltecs: The people who lived in Mesoamerica from about 800 CE till about 1200 CE. They are known for their militaristic city-state led by warrior chiefs; their temples guarded by stone warriors; their influence on the Aztecs; and their declining quality of poetry, art and literature during their dominance.

The Aztecs: The people who lived in Mesoamerica from about 1200 CE to the 1500s CE. They are known for their warlike culture; their numerous human sacrifices; their polytheism; their engineering skill; their pyramids; their unique calendar; their advanced economic system based on the use of cocoa beans and other goods as currency; their tiered social structure; and their impressive capital city, Tenochtitlan. They replaced the Toltecs in the area, but were conquered quickly by the Spanish led by Hernan Cortez.

Tenochtitlan: The central city of the Aztecs, which they built in the 1300s on an island in Lake Texcoco on the site of present-day Mexico City. It is known for being one of the world’s best-planned cities; for its easily defendable location; for its thousands of floating garden islands for growing food; and for its large population of over 200,000.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE through 1900 CE)

The Iroquois: The Native American people that have lived in what is now New York State and parts of southern Canada for several hundred years. They are known for their sophisticated political system, which is based on a confederacy of six nations; their traditional artworks and clothing, including ribbon shirts worn by men; and their cultivation of corn, beans and squash.

The Mohawks: The Native American people that have lived in what is now New York State for several hundred years. They are known for their participation in the Iroquois Confederacy; their metalwork; their use of wampum belts for storytelling and record keeping; and their fierce warriors.

Christopher Columbus: The explorer who sought a Western route to Asia and landed in the Americas instead, which resulted in the locating and mapping of the Americas by Europeans. He sailed for Spain and landed on the Caribbean Islands in 1492. Possibly believing the islands to be the far western part of the Indies, a name for Asia, he named the islands the West Indies and called the people there Indians. He was not the first European to land in the Americas, but his voyages and wars of conquest started the colonization of the Americas by Europeans.

Amerigo Vespucci: The Italian explorer who sailed to the Americas several times a few years after Columbus, then published popular writings about his travels. This sealed his credibility and inspired cartographers to name the area after him. He likely first landed in modern-day Brazil, then explored parts of the Caribbean Islands.

John Cabot: The Italian explorer sailing for England who located North America a few years after Columbus and Vespucci located the Caribbean Islands, Central America and South America. He landed in and named Newfoundland (“New Found Land”), but did not establish a lasting settlement there.

Santo Domingo: The first permanent European settlement in the Americas, established by the Spanish around 1500 on the island of modern-day Dominican Republic and Haiti. It served as the capital of the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean.

Ponce de Leon: The Spanish explorer who located Florida in the early 1500s at claimed it for Spain

Hernan Cortez: The Spanish conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire in Mexico. He arrived in Mexico in the early 1500s and, despite facing numerous challenges, managed to defeat the Aztec forces and capture their capital city, Tenochtitlan.

New Spain: The colony settled by the Spanish in present-day Mexico and parts of Central America and the southwestern U.S. after the arrival of Hernán Cortés. Its initial base was the city of Veracruz, which later shifted to Mexico City.

Moctezuma II: The Aztec emperor who was defeated by Cortes in Mexico

St. Augustine: The oldest continuously occupied European-established city in the U.S., which is located in Florida. It was founded by the Spanish in the mid-1500s and served as a strategic outpost during colonial times.

Jacques Cartier: The French explorer who located parts of Canada, including Montreal, in the mid-1500s and claimed them for France

Conquistadors: The Spanish colonizers of South America. In the mid-1500s, led by Francisco Pizarro, they defeated and destroyed the Inca Empire at their center in Peru. From there, the Spanish spread throughout the continent, mistreating the native peoples, smashing native temples and idols and introducing deadly diseases. During the late 1500s and throughout the 1600s, they forced natives as well as African slaves to mine for gold, which brought extravagant wealth to Spain and allowed it to dominate Europe until greed and mismanagement undermined their power.

Roanoke: The so-called “lost colony,” which was settled by the English in the late 1500s on Roanoke Island in modern-day North Carolina. When the governor returned after a trip to renew supplies, the struggling colony had been completely abandoned. The only clue to the mystery was two carvings: “Croatoan,” carved into a post, and “Cro,” carved into a tree.

Jamestown: The first long-lasting English American settlement, which was located in modern-day Virginia near the James River. Settlers came in the early 1600s via three ships: the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery. It is known for its several years of struggle and near failure; for its strict leader, Captain John Smith; for its House of Burgess, which was the first representative assembly of English America; and for accepting the first recorded arrival of enslaved Africans in 1619.

Captain John Smith: One of the founders and an early leader of Jamestown, Virginia, who is known for his strict leadership style and for eventually establishing good trading relationships with the Native Americans

Pocahontas: The daughter of Chief Powhatan who facilitated trade between her people and the people of Jamestown. She is said to have saved John Smith’s life twice after he was threatened by her people. Later in life, she was captured and imprisoned by colonists, then converted to Christianity and married a colonist–John Rolfe, who introduced tobacco to the colonies.

Henry Hudson: An English explorer who, in the 1600s, looked for a northern passage to Asia but was turned back by ice. Eventually, he located Hudson Bay, which was later colonized by the English Hudson Bay Company.

Plymouth Plantation: The second long-lasting English American settlement, which was founded in 1620 by English pilgrims seeking religious freedom and some mercenaries. They arrived on a ship called the Mayflower and it is said that they named a prominent landmark near the place where they landed Plymouth Rock. The first winter, Plymouth Plantation saw the death of over half its settlers. The following fall, however, they shared the first Thanksgiving meal with Squanto and other Native Americans. Over the following 20 years, about 20,000 new settlers arrived in Plymouth and surrounding areas. Without the help of the natives in the area, survival would have been unlikely.

Squanto: A nickname for Tisquanto, a Native American who is known for helping the pilgrims survive their first winter at the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He learned English after escaping a slave ship and settling in England for a time. He returned to America, then served as an interpreter for the pilgrims and Native Americans, helping them make alliances and helping the newcomers grow crops.

Pilgrims: The approximately 100 settlers who founded Plymouth Plantation. Some were religious separatists, rejecting the Church of England, and some were mercenaries. This term is also used for the other settlers who joined the first group until the Puritans blended with them in the 1630s.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony: The third long-lasting English American settlement, which was established near Plymouth in 1630 and was centered around Boston. It grew faster than either Jamestown or Plymouth and eventually, Boston became a political center of the colonies. Several years after its founding, Harvard College, the first college of English America, was founded there.

Puritans: The settlers who founded the Massachussetts Bay Colony and went on to settle many other parts of North America. Unlike some of the Pilgrims, they were not religious separatists, but considered themselves part of the reformed Church of England.

New Amsterdam: The original name of New York, one of the original thirteen colonies, established by the Dutch then later taken over by the English and renamed

Pennsylvania: The colony granted to a group of Quakers by the English king

William Penn: The founder of Pennsylvania and a strong proponent of religious freedom in the New World, whose ideas were a precursor to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

Port-Royal: The first French colony in North America, settled in the early 1600s in present-day Nova Scotia. It was established by Samuel de Champlain and Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons and served as a center for fur trading and exploration.

Quebec: The second French colony in North America, settled in the early 1600s on the St. Lawrence River. Founded by Samuel de Champlain, it was an important trading post and the center of French colonial administration.

Montreal: One of the important French colonies in North America, settled in the mid-1600s at modern-day Montreal. It was founded by Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve and is known for its thriving fur trade and for being a center of commerce.

Louisiana: One of the important French colonies in North America, settled around 1700 in the Mississippi River valley and the Gulf Coast region

Salem witch trials: The trials held in Salem, Massachusetts around 1700 in which men and women were found guilty of witchcraft due to Puritan fears. The trials led to the execution by hanging of fourteen women and six men.

King Philip’s War: A major conflict between Native American tribes, led by Wampanoag leader Metacom (known as King Philip to the English), and the New England colonies. One of many violent wars between colonists and natives in the late 1600s, it was one of the deadliest. Though at first, many Native Americans were friendly to European colonists, soon they began to suffer from smallpox, measles and other European diseases, to be killed, and to be driven off their lands, and wars such as this one ensued. Until Europeans introduced them to horses, wheeled transportation and guns, they fought only with wood and stone tools, bows, slingshots and spears.

The French and Indian War: The war between the French and British, along with each side’s Native American allies, for American territory. It was part of the larger Seven Years’ War between European colonizing nations.

The original thirteen colonies: The American colonies that fought the American Revolution, which included: Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia

Benjamin Franklin: An American polymath, statesman, inventor, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He played a crucial role in drafting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and his scientific contributions, such as his experiments with electricity, earned him international acclaim as a leading figure of the Enlightenment era.

The Sugar Act: The tax on sugar and other imports, imposed by England on the American colonies

The Stamp Act: A law requiring the purchase of specially stamped paper for legal documents, newspapers, pamphlets, and even playing cards, imposed by England on the American colonies and repealed after about a year due to resistance

“No taxation without representation”: The slogan used by American colonists to protest their lack of representation in the English government in spite of the high taxes imposed on them by that government.

The Boston Tea Party: A protest that occurred in the late 1700s by the American colonies against England over taxation of British imports. In it, a group of colonists snuck into the Boston Harbor at night and threw tea imports overboard.

The American Revolution: The eight-year war that occurred in the late 1700s between Great Britain and the original thirteen American colonies that led to American independence. Partly, it was sparked by unfair English taxes and other laws. It is also called the American War of Independence and the Revolutionary War. The first battles took place in Lexington and Concord and the final major battle took place in Yorktown, where the British surrendered to America.

Paul Revere: A member of the secret anti-British rule society called Sons of Liberty who played a crucial role in the Revolutionary War when in 1775 he went on a midnight ride to warn the American militia of approaching British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord

The Treaty of Paris (1783): The treaty between the American colonies and Great Britain that ended the American Revolution and formally recognized the United States as an independent nation. Note that The Treaty of Paris (1763) is a different treaty, one that ended the French and Indian War.

Thomas Jefferson: The main author of the Declaration of Independence and the third U.S. president

The Articles of Confederation: The first constitution of the United States, which held the American colonies together during the American Revolution before the new constitution was developed. It gave most of the power to the states.

The Constitutional Convention: The 1787 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania gathering during which the founders of the U.S. wrote and adopted the U.S. Constitution. Note that other constitutional conventions had been held previously by the colonists, including the one that drafted the Articles of Confederation.

The Federalist Papers: A collection of essays written by the nation’s founders and published in newspapers that attempted to convince citizens to vote to ratify the proposed U.S. Constitution

George Washington: The first president of the United States, elected in 1789, and the military general that led the Americans to victory in the American Revolution

Upper Canada and Lower Canada: The two parts of Canada after Britain split the English-speaking north (the Ontario area) from the French-speaking south (the Quebec are) to reduce tensions between these areas, who both wanted control

The Louisiana Purchase: The United States’ buying of approximately 530 million acres of land from France in the early 1800s. Stretching from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border, the land doubled the size of the recently-created nation. It was sold by Napoleon Bonaparte, who was engaged in costly wars of expansion in Europe.

Lewis and Clark: Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the explorers assigned by President Thomas Jefferson to map and report about the land of the Louisiana Purchase and beyond. Their journey began in Missouri and took about a year and a half, when they reached the Pacific Ocean in present-day Oregon.

Sacajawea: A native American who helped Lewis and Clark navigate across America

The War of 1812: The war between the U.S. and Great Britain over Britain’s continued involvement in U.S. trade. After it, Britain agreed to no longer have military posts on U.S. soil or block U.S. trade with Europe. The treaty of Ghent, which ended the war, helped establish the U.S. as a world power.

Nat Turner: The leader of a violent and unsuccessful slave revolt in Virginia in the 1830s that resulted in the deaths of 50 to 60 White people and the deaths and convictions of many Black participants and led to harsher penalties for slaves

The Alamo: A significant battle in Texas’ war of independence from Mexico that occurred in the 1830s in which a small group of Texan defenders, including famous figures like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, held the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas against a Mexico. After a 13-day seige, the Alamo fell to Mexico and most of the defenders were killed. However, Texas ultimately won its war of independence. After a decade of independence as the Republic of Texas (nicknamed the “Lone Star Republic”), Texas joined the U.S.

The Trail of Tears: The path that Cherokee and other Native Americans took after being forced out of Oklahoma by President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. Thousands died on the trail.

The Mexican-American War: The mid-1800s war between the U.S. and Mexico in which the U.S. gained California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico as well as parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma

The Underground Railroad: A network of secret routes and safe houses in the U.S. that worked to help slaves escape the South prior to and during the Civil War

Harriet Tubman: A escaped slave who made trips through southern territory along the so-called Underground Railroad, helping others escape to the North

The American Civil War: The war that took place from 1861 to 1865 that divided the United States in two–the northern states (called the Union states) versus the southern states (called the confederate states). While the northerners had already banned slavery, partly because their economy was based on manufacturing, the southerners maintained its legality, using slaves on their tobacco, cotton and other plantations. The North also wanted a stronger national government, while the South wanted more power for individual states. After the North won, slavery ended and the U.S. reunited.

The Confederate States of America: The name the southern states took for their union after seceding from the U.S., an act which started the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln: The U.S. president of the mid-1800s who presided over the American Civil War. Lincoln opposed slavery and was in favor of a stronger national government.

Ulysses S. Grant: The commander of the Union army of the North during the Civil War

Robert E. Lee: The commander of the Confederate army of the South during the Civil War

Fort Sumter: The fort in South Carolina where the Civil War fighting began

The Gettysburg Address: A speech made by Lincoln arguing for equality and national unity after a victory for the North at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania that was a turning point in the war

The Emancipation Proclamation: The executive order made by Lincoln during the Civil War calling for the slaves in confederate states to be set free. It did not end slavery, however, partly because of enforcement difficulties.

The thirteenth amendment: The constitutional amendment that abolished slavery

John Wilkes Booth: The man who assassinated Lincoln five days after General Lee surrendered to General Grant in the courthouse at Appomattox, Virginia

Reconstruction: The process of rebuilding after the Civil War and transitioning away from slavery

Jim Crow laws: Laws created in southern states that enforced racial segregation and denied African Americans their constitutional rights

The Dominion of Canada: The state created in the 1860s that united Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia under one government. It was not fully independent, but instead a self-governing entity within the British Empire. It declared both French and English as their official languages. Before the turn of the century, the Northwest Territories (a very large portion of modern-day Canada) as well as the Yukon Territory were also added. (These areas were previously owned by the Hudson Bay Company.) In the 1930s, Canada was granted full legal autonomy, and in the 1980s, it gained full constitutional independence with the passage of the Canada Act.

Canadian gold rush: The discovery of gold in Canada’s Yukon Territory in the late 1800s that led to a population expansion there

Canadian Pacific Railway: The railway completed in the late 1800s that united Canada from the St. Lawrence River to the Pacific Ocean

Simón Bolívar: One of the two main leaders of the fight for South American independence from Spain, who led the liberation of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia in the 1800s. He is also known as “El Libertador” or “The Liberator”. Though he desired the political unification of all of South America, this did not happen. Some lost trust in him, believing that he intended to reign over South America as its king.

Jose de San Martin: One of the two main leaders of the fight for South American independence from Spain, who led the liberation of Chile and Peru in the 1800s. Though he desired the political unification of all of South America, this did not happen. Instead, leaders from the wealthier classes fought for power over the working classes. Eventually, all countries except French Guyana gained independence, but because wealthy plantation owners still held most of the power in these areas, living conditions didn’t immediately improve. Many of the new governments were oppressive dictatorships.

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

Wilbur and Orville Wright: The inventors of the Wright Flyer, considered to be the first airplane, which they first flew in 1903

Henry Ford: The inventor of the assembly line and the owner of the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. His company is known for contributing significantly to U.S. industrialization; for significantly advancing the use of the motorized vehicle, which is one of the hallmarks of modern life; and for revolutionizing factory production methods, which led to greater mass production, another hallmark of modern life.

President Woodrow Wilson: The U.S. president during World War I and the developer of the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations. He maintained U.S. neutrality in the war until the final year when Germany began to attack neutral ships. At that time, the U.S. joined the Allies. Though he advocated for joining the League of Nations after its creation, the U.S. voted not to join and to resume non-interventionist policies.

The Lusitania: The British passenger ship that was sunk by a German u-boat during World War I, killing over 1,000 people, including some Americans

The Roaring Twenties: The nickname given to the decade after the end of World War I, which was a boom time for the U.S. economy. It is known for increased urbanization; the popularization of jazz music and movies; its signature flapper style of dress; increased car ownership; and the introduction of skyscrapers and elevators.

Prohibition: The period in U.S. history during which the sale and use of alcohol was outlawed by the U.S. constitution. It was granted by the 18th Amendment in the 1920s and ended by the 21st Amendment in the 1930s. During this time, mafia and other crime organizations led by people like Al Capone set up bootlegging operations, increasing overall rates of crime.

The 19th Amendment: The constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote, which was ratified in 1920 after nearly 100 years of protests

Ku Klux Klan: A white supremacist hate group that originated in the U.S. after the Civil War with the goal of undermining the rights and freedoms of African Americans through violent means such as lynchings and arson

The Scopes Trial: A trial that took place in the 1920s in Tennessee after teacher John Scopes broke a local law against teaching evolution in a public school. It is also known as the “Monkey Trial.” Scopes was found guilty but his $100 fine was set aside.

The Wall Street Crash: The stock market crash of 1929, which started the Great Depression worldwide. It occurred because stock market speculators had overvalued many companies. Unemployment was extremely high, and a massive drought in the Great Plains (the Dust Bowl) and resulting crop failures exacerbated the problems.

The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS): The first two television broadcasting companies, which began regular, commercial broadcasts in the 1940s

The New Deal: The set of government-sponsored programs initiated in the early 1930s by President Roosevelt to increase employment rates and reduce poverty during the Depression. These programs included infrastructure expansions, farming subsidies, the social security program, a federal minimum wage program and more.

Relocation centers: Overcrowded internment camps that Japanese and Japanese Americans were forced to move to during World War II. They were created by order of President Roosevelt. Inhabitants stayed for the remainder of the war.

The Manhattan Project: The code name for the scientific endeavor to develop the first nuclear weapons

Harry Truman: The U.S. president that made the decision to drop the nuclear bombs

McCarthyism: An anti-communist ideology prominent during the 1950s. Led by Senator Joseph McCarthy, it led to many false accusations of communist allegiance that resulted in investigations, censorship and other disciplinary actions.

The Civil Rights movement: The collection of protests that took place during the 1950s and 1960s in the U.S. south and elsewhere that brought an end to racial segregation and discrimination through the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act

Brown vs. the Board of Education: The 1950s U.S. Supreme Court case between the Brown family and the Board of Education of Topeka that banned a Black child from a public school. The court unanimously favored Brown and banned racial segregation in public schools.

The “Little Rock Nine”: The nine students that integrated an Arkansas high school, to violent protest. The students were supported by the National Guard.

Martin Luther King, Jr.: The most prominent leader of the Civil Rights movement, who delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in the 1960s and was assassinated in the late 1960s. He promoted non-violence and civil disobedience.

John F. Kennedy: The U.S. president who was assassinated in Texas in the 1960s. He is also known as JFK.

Malcolm X: An influential civil rights activist who advocated for Black nationalism and who was assassinated in New York City

Thurgood Marshall: The first Black U.S. Supreme Court justice

The nuclear arms race: The race between the U.S., the U.S.S.R. and other countries to develop atomic weapons after World War II. (Though Russia fought on the side of the Allies during the war, they soon merged with communist countries in Eastern Europe, including East Germany, forming the U.S.S.R.)

The space race: The race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War to advance space exploration

Apollo 11: The U.S. mission that took place in 1969 and resulted in the first moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin

The Korean War: The war between North Korea and South Korea that took place from 1950 to 1953. It occurred after the communist-led North Korea attacked the democratic South Korea in spite of their recent border agreement. The U.N. sent troops (including many American troops) to defend democracy, believing that any extension of communist-allied countries could lead to further communist military action around the world. No side won, and in the end, the border returned to the 38th parallel, where it had been at the start of the war.

The Vietnam War: The long, drawn-out civil war that took place in Vietnam with the involvement of other countries as well during the 1960s and 1970s. The two sides were the Viet Cong in the south and the communists in the north, both of whom attempted to take control of the country after Vietnam claimed independence from France in the 1950s. The U.S. sent troops to aid the south to decrease the spread of communism, but no side won and millions died in this long-running conflict.

The draft: The practice of lawfully compelling people to join the army, a practice that took place in the U.S. during the Vietnam War

Fidel Castro: The anti-capitalist leader of Cuba for the last half of the 20th century who established communism there

The Bay of Pigs invasion: A failed mission in which Cuban exiles led by the U.S. attempted to overthrow the Cuban government led by Fidel Castro, but had to surrender after just a few days. It occurred in the 1960s as part of U.S. attempts to thwart the spread of communism.

The Panama Canal treaty: The treaty signed by the Republic of Panama and the U.S. in the 1970s agreeing that Panama would regain control the Panama Canal Zone in the year 2000. Prior to this, in the early 1900s, the U.S. had backed a successful Panamanian independence movement in exchange for control of this zone. They then built this highly valuable canal, which provides the only shipping path through the Americas.

The Cuban missile crisis: A 1960s exchange between the U.S. and the communist-led Soviet Union in which both countries positioned nuclear missiles facing each other and the countries came close to initiating a nuclear war. The Soviet missile was located in Cuba, where the communist leader Fidel Castro had agreed to work with the Soviets in their Cold War attempts at intimidation. Castro believed that doing so might prevent U.S. attacks on Cuba as well.

Space shuttle Columbia: The first reusable space plane, which the U.S. launched in the early 1980s

Hubble Space Telescope: The first telescope in space, which brought pictures of deep space to the world

The Gulf War: A war between the U.S. and Iraq in the early 1990s in which the U.S. and its allies liberated Kuwait from its Iraqi occupiers, then forced the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, to end all his weapons programs. Following the war, a democratic government was put in place, but a shortage of troops, a lack of evidence of WMDs, anti-American violence and more have prevented success and stability there. Some people want the U.S. to leave Iraq immediately, while others believe doing so will allow it to become a safe haven for terrorists.

Barack Obama: The first African American to be elected president of the United States, who took office in 2008

September 11, 2001: The date of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. by the extremist group Al-Qaeda that led to war in Afghanistan

The Afghan War: The war that took place between the U.S. and other NATO countries and Afghanistan immediately following the September 11, 2001 attacks. It aimed to dismantle the Taliban regime, which provided safe haven to the terrorist group responsible for the attacks, Al-Qaeda, and to establish democracy in Afghanistan. It ended in 2021 after years of unsuccessful attempts to stabilize the region.

School in a Book: History of China

I definitely have a soft spot for the gigantic, epic country of China, whose story is one of political unity and distinctness. For a land of this size, China’s ability to maintain its cultural and political identity for almost as long as civilization has existed is an impressive feat indeed.


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Xia Dynasty: The first Chinese dynasty, located along the Yellow River in the 2000s BCE. Due to sparse historical references and no historical records, this dynasty’s existence is disputed. It did not feature a strong monarch; instead, it was a collection of small, mostly independent farming villages led by a ruling clan. During this time, irrigation and dams were developed.

The Shang Dynasty: The second Chinese dynasty and the first with written records. Like the Xia Dynasty, it was located along the Yellow River and was ruled not by a strong monarch, but by a ruling clan. It is known for its bronze and jade works; its horses and chariots; its domesticated animals; wheat, millet and rice agriculture; its silk and calligraphy; and its ancestor worship.

The Zhou Dynasty: The third dynasty in Chinese history that lasted from the 1000s BCE to the 200s BCE. It is known for its long period of political and social upheaval, including civil wars and conflicts between different states, and for the development of Confucianism and Taoism.

The Warring States Period: The period of political and social upheaval in ancient China that occurred during the latter part of the Zhou Dynasty from the 400s BCE to the 200s BCE. During this period, various states vied for supremacy, leading to a breakdown in central authority and unity.

The Qin Dynasty: The fourth dynasty in Chinese history, which took place during the 200s BCE. It is known for its short 15-year duration; for being the first dynasty to unify China under a single emperor, Shi Huang Di; and for Shi Huang Di’s many contributions to culture and infrastructure.

Shi Huang Di: The first emperor of China, whose name means “first emperor”. He was known for reuniting China under a central government after the Warring States Period; for introducing standardized weights and measures, a single currency and a writing system; for beginning the construction of the Great Wall of China and the Silk Road; for making Confucianism the official state religion; for replacing the feudal aristocrats with capable administrators; and for building roads, canals, irrigation systems and other infrastructure. He is also known for destroying classic literary works, including some by Confucius, in the name of modernization. His original name was Qin Shi Huang and he was also known as the Yellow Emperor.

Leizu: The wife of Shi Huang Di, who is credited in Chinese legend with the discovery of silk

The Great Wall of China: The wall started by Shi Huang Di in the 200s to help protect China from invaders, such as the Mongols. During the Ming Dynasty in the late Middle Ages, it was rebuilt and extended to form a continuous structure stretching over 13,000 miles across China’s northern border. It is made of a variety of materials, including brick, tamped earth, stone, and wood, and includes watchtowers, battlements, and other defensive structures.

The Silk Road: A vast network of trade routes that connected China with the Middle East, Africa and Europe that greatly influenced cultural development. Traversing it was treacherous due to harsh climates, bandits, rugged terrain and political instability and a trip could take several years each direction.

The terracotta soldiers: The over 7,000 larger-than-life terracotta statues that were created after the death of Shi Huang Di and placed in his tomb to serve as guardians as well as to accompany him in the afterlife and protect him in the underworld. They include replications of soldiers, chariots, horses, and other figures, and each one is unique, with different facial expressions, hairstyles, and clothing, indicating that they were modeled after real individuals. Their creation involved thousands of laborers and craftsmen, and their discovery is considered one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times.

The Han Dynasty: The fifth Chinese dynasty, which took place in the early 200s CE and is considered one of the most powerful and important Chinese dynasties. It is known for its political stability and economic prosperity; for its establishment of foreign diplomacy and trading along the Silk Road; for its scientific achievements, including the invention of paper, anesthetic, the compass and the seismograph; and for its cultural achievements such as the spread of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. For a time, its capital was the largest city in the world, and China was as large as the Roman Empire.

Liu Bang: The founder of the Han Dynasty, whose son became its first emperor. He is known for relaxing harsh laws and replacing them with fair Confucian laws; for working to replace classic writings destroyed by the Qin Dynasty; and for his overall popularity.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Sui Dynasty: The Chinese dynasty that restored stability during the early Middle Ages after a time of political, economic and social instability following the Han Dynasty during which many short-lived dynasties ruled. It lasted from the late 500s to the early 600s CE. It is known for the construction of the Grand Canal, which connected the Yellow River and the Yangtze River, and the establishment of a strong, merit-based bureaucracy which lasted until the 1900s in which prized government positions were given to those who passed the imperial exam covering various topics including Confucianism.

Mandarins: The Western term for the shi or daifu, professional Chinese officials that ran the government

The Tang Dynasty: The Chinese dynasty that ruled from the 600s CE to about 900 CE, a time considered a golden age in Chinese history. It is known for its peace and prosperity; its effective organization; its expansion of China’s western borders; its effective control of the Silk Road; its advancements in art, literature and music; and its technological advances, which include the invention of porcelain and gunpowder. It ruled territories from modern-day Korea to Thailand to Afghanistan.

The Song dynasty: The Chinese dynasty that ruled from the mid-900s CE to the late-1200s. It continued the advances of the Tang Dynasty and is known for its advances in porcelain making, theater, poetry, painting and shipbuilding; its establishing of peace at its borders; the invention of clocks, movable-type printing, paddle wheel boats and the magnetic compass; its expanded system of agriculture; its population explosion; its trade expansion; its use of the world’s first paper currency; its starting the practice of foot binding; its government reforms; and its modernized form of banking.

The Mongol Empire: The empire led by Mongols under Kublai Khan ruled during the 1200s and 1300s CE and that spread across Asia and Europe, including China, with its capital in modern-day Beijing (known as Khanbaliq).The Mongols conquered China with fast horses, far-firing bows and a disciplined army.

Genghis Khan: The military general who founded the Mongol Empire in the 1200s CE. At the age of thirteen he took leadership of his small warlike tribe and with it, conquered Mongolia and created a unified empire. Then he extended its borders from China to Eastern Europe. His name means “emperor of all men.”

Kublai Khan: The grandson of Genghis Khan and the fifth leader of the Mongol Empire, succeeding his older brother Mongke Khan. He is known for founding the Yuan Dynasty in China and becoming its emperor.

The Yuan Dynasty: The unified Chinese and Mongolian dynasty that lasted from the mid-1200s to the mid-1300s CE and was started and led by Kublai Khan as emperor. It is known for being the first foreign-led dynasty in China; for expanding foreign trade and cultural exchange, partly by opening the Silk Road to the West; for advancing the arts and sciences; and for starting the construction of the Forbidden City.

Marco Polo: The Italian merchant and explorer who famously spent seventeen years at the court of Kublai Khan and wrote about the luxuries enjoyed by the Chinese

The Ming Dynasty: The Chinese dynasty that ruled from the mid-1300s to the mid-1600s, which returned China to Chinese leadership and restored peace and stability. Though the Mongols retained control of parts of China during the first part of this dynasty, by 1400 they had fallen from power in China and elsewhere. This dynasty is known for finishing the construction of the Forbidden City; for constructing many roads, canals, palaces and temples; for expanding trade; and for moving the capital city from Xian to Beijing.

The Forbidden City: The extravagant residence of the emperor located in the capital city of Beijing that was built during the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. It is said to have included 9,999 rooms. Its halls and temples, some of which were used solely by the emperor, were astonishingly ornate, and no one was allowed to enter or leave it without the emperor’s permission.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

The Qing Dynasty: The last imperial dynasty of China, which ruled from the mid-1600s till 1911. Prosperous, it was ruled by the Manchu people. It is known for expanding the Chinese empire to become the largest in the world by 1800; for bringing efficiency without greatly disturbing existing Chinese customs; for increasing trade, especially of tea, porcelain, cotton and silk; and for maintaining a mostly isolationist policy that was challenged by foreign powers. Officially, the dynasty allowed Chinese to take only silver as payment for their goods and disallowed foreign goods to enter China. However, during this time, illegal foreign trade occurred, including trade in opium.

The Manchus: The rulers of the Qing Dynasty and a foreign people from the northeast. At first, the Manchus lived separately from the Chinese in closed-off areas and Chinese men had to wear long hair in pigtails to show inferiority to the Manchus; however, both Manchus and Chinese were allowed to be civil servants. Eventually the Manchus assimilated and were accepted.

The first and second Opium Wars: The wars that occurred in the mid-1800s primarily between China and Britain over the illegal importing of opium into China. They occurred partly because the colonists were not allowed to trade their goods for Chinese goods, only silver. This policy caused an increase in illegal foreign trade, with opium as a key export. Colonists encouraged heavy opium use by the Chinese and exported huge quantities to this country. When Chinese officials burned British stores of opium, Britain sent warships. Britain won both wars and took Hong Kong as its own. After this, China was forced to open trade and made trade agreements with many countries.

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

The Boxer Rebellion: A violent uprising in China that occurred around 1900, which was led by a secret society called the Boxers, who opposed foreign influence in China and the spread of Christianity. Believing that their martial arts training made them invulnerable to bullets and other weapons, they attacked foreign missionaries, Christian converts, and others. A coalition of eight foreign powers, including the United States, Britain, France, and Japan, sent troops to suppress the rebellion and were successful. This suppression further weakened the Qing Dynasty.

The Republican Revolution: The revolution led by Sun Yat-sen in 1911 which overthrew the Qing Dynasty, ended the Chinese imperial era, and established the Republic of China

Sun Yat-sen: The first president of the Republic of China and the leader of the Republican Revolution

The Republic of China: The government that followed the Qing Dynasty, which included a new democratic constitution, the promotion of modern education, and the empowerment of women. It had two centers, one in the north in Beijing and one in the south at Nanjing. It was continuously threatened by civil war between the communist north and the nationalist south. It fell in 1949 when the Communist Party won and established the People’s Republic of China.

Chinese Civil War: The war that began with the Republican Revolution in the 1920s and continued throughout the time of the Republic of China until Mao’s communists emerged as victors and created the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The Nationalists, led by Chiang Kai-shek, controlled the central government, while the Communists, led by Mao Zedong, operated from rural areas. The Nationalists received support from the United States and other Western powers, while the Communists received support from the Soviet Union. The war was temporarily interrupted during World War II when the two sides united to fight the Japanese, but resumed after the war. The Communists won in 1949, with the Nationalists fleeing to Taiwan, and Mao establishing the People’s Republic of China.

Chiang Kai-Shek: The leader of the Nationalist Party in China, who fought the Communist Party for control of China in the Chinese Civil War

Mao Zedong: The leader of the Chinese Communist Party who prevailed after the long Chinese Civil War and created the People’s Republic of China (PRC). He ruled the country from 1949 until his death in the 1970s. He was also known as Chairman Mao.

The Long March: A year-long, 6,000-mile military retreat by the Red Army of the Communist Party of China during the mid-1930s. It was led by Mao Zedong for the purpose of evading the Nationalist government’s army during the Chinese Civil War. Many died due to hunger, disease, and battles with the Nationalist forces. However, it was considered a success, as it allowed the Communist Party to regroup and strengthen its organization, as well as gain popular support among the peasants who lived along the route.

The Sino-Japanese War: The war between China and Japan that started in 1937 when Japan took advantage of the turmoil of civil war in China to invade and occupy large parts of it. It ended with the surrender of Japan to the Allies in 1945. China was aided by the U.S., the U.K. and other Western powers. The war included atrocities committed by both sides, including Japan’s Three Alls Policy (“kill all, burn all, loot all), which resulted in the deaths of millions of Chinese civilians, as well as guerrilla warfare tactics by the Chinese. China was led by Chiang Kai-shek, who formed a temporary alliance with Mao’s communist forces to fight the Japanese. After the surrender of Japan, civil war resumed.

People’s Republic of China (PRC): The modern government of China, which was founded by Mao Zedong in 1949. Strictly communist for several decades, in the late 1970s it began adopting free trade policies that brought on an economic boom.

Great Leap Forward: Mao Zedong’s campaign to end poverty and increase industrialization, which he launched in the late 1950s. It called for the establishment of large collective farms known as communes, where people lived and worked together, as well as government-run steel factories. It was one of the largest man-made disasters in history, leading to widespread food shortages and the death of 20 to 45 million people by starvation.

Cultural Revolution: Mao Zedong’s campaign to suppress anti-Communist ideas in which over one million intellectuals, political opponents and others were placed in concentration camps and killed. It started during the 1960s and also included the destruction of historical artifacts and cultural sites; the closing of schools; economic disruption; and more.

The Little Red Book: The nickname for Mao’s political treatise titled The Thoughts of Chairman Mao

Tiananmen Square demonstration: The series of student demonstrations that took place in Beijing in 1989 during which an unknown number of people were killed and injured for advocating for democracy

The return of Hong Hong: The 1997 handover of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China after 100 years of British colonial rule

Special Administrative Region (SAR): The name given to Hong Kong and Macau to denote their unique political status within the PRC. These areas maintain their own legal, economic, and political systems, while also being subject to the authority of the PRC.

Special economic zones (SEZs): Geographic regions in China that have reduced governmental restrictions and regulations on business. The first four were established in the late 1970s and early 1980s to attract foreign investment, increase exports and grow the economy. New zones continue to be added, and they contribute significantly to China’s economic success.

School in a Book: History of Australia

Australia is a continent as well as a country. Its remote location has given rise to an uniquely Australian ecosystem, one that the rest of the world might see as wild and dangerous. However, since colonial times, Australia’s development has been similar to that of the Americas and other places in the world. Then, after World War II, the continent’s economy boomed along with those of Japan, the U.S. and many other countries. Increased tourism and immigration were part of the reason for this, as was increased postwar industrial production. During this time, Australia imported a great deal of American technology and culture; improved their infrastructure; provided greater access to healthcare and other social benefits; and grew from a relatively small, isolated nation to the important economic power we know today.


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Aborigines: The indigenous people of Australia, who might have come from Asia on a land bridge during prehistoric times. (During the last Ice Age, sea water was trapped as ice and sea levels were much lower, allowing for migrations in areas that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.) The Aborigines lived in tribal societies ruled by chiefs. They are known for their music, including the use of the didgeridoo, a wind instrument made from a hollowed-out tree trunk; for their spiritual connection to nature, including their concept of the Dreamtime, which refers to the time of creation and the connection between the living world and the spirit world; and for their expert wood carving.

Easter Island statues: The famous collection of around 900 statues that was created by the Polynesians or an earlier unknown people on Easter Island in the Pacific. They are made of volcanic rock and some stand over 30 feet tall. Shaped as human figures, including full bodies, torsos and heads and shoulders, they might have represented watchful ancestors.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Maori: The indigenous people of New Zealand, who likely arrived during the Middle Ages from Polynesia. They are known for their traditional forms of dance; their intricate tattoo art; and their seafaring skills.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

New Holland: The name the Dutch gave the Australian continent after locating it in the 1600s. (The Dutch also located Tasmania and New Zealand around this time.) The Dutch did not settle the area, however.

James Cook: The British explorer who is known for his trips to the Pacific in the 1700s: several to New Zealand and Australia, parts of which he claimed for Britain; one to the Hawaiian Islands; and one to Antarctica, where thick pack ice prevented him from landing. He is also known as Captain Cook.

New South Wales: The name that Captain Cook gave to the east coast of Australia while mapping it, which later became the name of the first Australian colony that included Sydney Cove. After other colonies arose in Australia, then gained independence, New South Wales became one of the six Australian states.

Arthur Phillip: The leader of the first British settlement of Australia, which was made up of over 700 convicts, a few free settlers, and 200 marines. He was sent there in the late 1700s by the British government to establish a penal colony for English prisoners in order to alleviate prison overcrowding in England. After settlement, the British and Aborigines coexisted, but not entirely peacefully. Many Aborigines were killed in conflicts over land and many others died of Western diseases.

Sydney Cove: The bay settled and named by Arthur Phillip’s group of settlers, who struggled to survive in an unfamiliar climate with limited supplies. Later, other groups of convicts and settlers arrived. In the 1800s other colonies were built, some penal colonies and some free.

Treaty of Waitangi: The 1800s treaty between the British and the Maori that gave sovereignty over the island to the British in exchange for various rights and protections, including land ownership rights. Two versions of the treaty were written, though, with one leading the Maori to believe they were giving up governorship, not sovereignty. Following this, there were wars between the British and Maori. Eventually, New Zealand became an official British colony.

The Australian gold rush: The influx of settlers in the mid-1800s that occurred after the discovery of gold there and that resulted in the creation of five new Australian colonies: Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia. After Australia gained independence, these, with New South Wales, became the six Australian states. During the gold rush, the Aboriginal population declined significantly due to land fights and foreign disease.

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

The Commonwealth of Australia: The full name of today’s Australia, a parliamentary democratic federation of the six Australian colonies, which was founded in the early 1900s. Though it is part of the British Commonwealth (a group of former British colonies), it is sovereign and independent. Its constitution is partially based on the American and British constitutions and calls for free trade and equal rights.

The Australian Imperial Force (AIF): The Australian military group that fought alongside the British during World War I and participated in significant battles, including those at Gallipoli and the western front. Australia allied with Britain because they were a part of the British Commonwealth.

Battle of Kokoda Track: A World War II battle during which Australia successfully prevented Japan from invading. In spite of having limited resources, Australia fought on the side of the Allies in Europe and in the Pacific; were faced with invasion by Japan; and suffered the 1941 bombing of their city, Darwin, by Japan.

Battle of the Coral Sea: A World War II battle during which Australian and American forces successfully halted a Japanese naval offensive