While regarded as one of the world’s most powerful and influential historical figures, Julius Caesar wasn’t an expert on math or the stars above.
With 2020 being a Leap Year—a once-every-four-years manifestation created to deal with our imprecise notion of a year being 365 days—WSU experts looked back on the development of the modern calendar to demonstrate just how far humanity has come in its quest.
Ancient civilizations depended on the cosmos above to guide their decisions, said Michael Allen, a senior instructor in physics and astronomy at WSU.
The need to be prepared for changing seasons and related weather events led to the development of the first calendars, which typically were either solar or lunar-based. Ancient Greeks made a tremendous breakthrough some 2,500 years ago when they calculated the length of a year at 365.25 days.
Meanwhile, during the Roman Republic, the development of the calendar was a process fraught with upheaval, said Nikolaus Overtoom, a clinical assistant professor in Ancient History at WSU.
Over the next four weeks, four WSU researchers in the College of Arts and Sciences will share their work and expertise with communities across the state of Washington.
The WSU faculty are members of the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau and the initial cohort of WSU Foley Fellows.
Speakers Bureau talks are free public presentations on history, politics, music, philosophy, and everything in between. Humanities Washington’s roster of presenters are professors, artists, activists, historians, performers, journalists, and others—all chosen not only for their expertise, but their ability to inspire discussion with people of all ages and backgrounds. All talks are free and open to the public, and each lasts about an hour.
Matthew Sutton, an Edward R. Meyer Distinguished Professor of history, traces the history of the religious right in America, from its early roots to its rise to power under Ronald Reagan and into the current era.
A raft of local buildings has joined the Society of Architectural Historians’ Archipedia database as part of a statewide effort to showcase 100 sites that represent the social, economic and historic impact of Washington’s built environment.
Coordinators of the information for Washington said a fixation on narrative as a way to interpret the state’s built environment allowed them to include some seemingly humble structures, including Pullman’s Dumas Seed Warehouse, the city proper’s only contribution to the site.
Now a Frontier Communications retail location, the structure was once a storage warehouse for dry peas, garbanzo beans and lentils harvested on the Palouse. While the building is no beauty to behold, it was once owned by Edwin Dumas, who is credited with helping to establish a toehold for Washington agricultural products in markets in Japan and East Asia.
“He was instrumental in helping build that relationship which is now a big chunk of the market for Palouse products in East Asia,” said history instructor Robert Franklin, who is one of the state’s two coordinators and assistant director of the Hanford History Project at WSU Tri-Cities. “So that little warehouse … it’s emblematic of that not only agricultural history but the connections between eastern Washington and East Asia.”
The story of Gog and Magog is central to the bloody eschatology long embraced by millions of American evangelicals. In recent years, End Times has gained special political currency as believers have seen any number of Middle East conflagrations as fulfilling Ezekiel’s prophecy, notably the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the war in Syria. Gog and Magog took on fresh relevance earlier this month, when the Trump administration assassinated Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force.
What may be less obvious is how Trump’s disdain for international governing bodies like NATO also dovetails almost perfectly with End Times theology, whether he realizes it or not.
Matthew Avery Sutton, a Washington State University history professor and author of American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism, says evangelicals who believe the end is near have always been hostile to any sort of international organizations. That’s because they believe biblical prophecies that say that in the last days, a world leader who preaches peace will emerge and move toward a one-world government. In fact, the prophecy goes, that leader will be the Antichrist who will force the world to accept a false religion and persecute people who don’t accept him as a Messiah.
Evangelicals love Trump’s talk of pulling out of NATO, his attacks on the UN, and his trashing of the Paris climate change accord. “They hate the UN,” Sutton says. “Trump’s unilateralism is also music to their ears.”
Aimee Semple McPherson and the Resurrection of Christian America (2007), by WSU history professor and chair Matthew Avery Sutton, is among the top five books about American preachers.
Even among the Hollywood stars of the 1920s and ’30s, Aimee Semple McPherson stood out as a celebrity. A master of mass communication and entertainment, she blended both into her spectacular evangelism. One of the first women in radio, McPherson began broadcasting in the 1920s. Her monumental Angelus Temple in Los Angeles was decorated “half like a Roman Coliseum, half like a Parisian Opera House.” Here, the audience watched as she worked miracles: “The blind saw, the paralytic walked, the palsied became calm.”
A magnetic figure in Matthew Avery Sutton’s portrait, McPherson summoned the fury of critics, who said she caused “hysteria, mob psychology, or religious hypnosis.” Her two divorces and her openness to black ministers preaching from her pulpit — almost unheard of at the time — fueled more controversy. Her sudden disappearance led to a frenzy in the press, as did her explanation, upon her return, that she had been kidnapped — though most of the evidence pointed to a tryst with a married man. A potent mix of religion, sex and mass media, her story “cut to the heart of modern American culture” and made McPherson a template for countless media evangelists to come.