Some sad-yet-happy news: I’m leaving the people of LWON. Next week I’m launching my own blog at a new network hosted by National Geographic. I’ll be sharing a web neighborhood with some amazing writers (and they’ll post their own announcements soon). My blog, called Only Human, will be all about people — our genes, cells, brains, behaviors, history and culture.
The move has prompted me to reflect on the last two-plus years of my contributions here at LWON. I wrote some posts that turned out to be unexpectedly controversial, cathartic, and popular. I experimented in cartoony multimedia. My voice matured, maybe, and word counts swelled, definitely.
My favorite posts are the quirky detective stories, like how to find out whether Napoleon is really buried in Napoleon’s tomb, or what disease killed Chopin, or in what country a mouse hopped aboard an otherwise sterile container ship.
In that spirit, I leave you with an offbeat tale about the Silk Road, Marco Polo, lamb fetuses, paleo-proteomics and a very old bible.
In 1685, a Belgian Jesuit named Philippe Couplet returned to Europe after nearly 30 years working as a missionary in China. It was not a modest homecoming. Couplet spent several years visiting various European rulers, showering them with golden goblets and elaborate embroideries, and crowing about his time away. He gave the Pope some 400 Christian books that had been translated into Chinese, and took a Chinese traveling companion to visit linguists at Oxford who were curious about the Chinese language. To the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Couplet presented a 4.5-inch square pocket bible wrapped in creamy yellow silk. The manuscript, he claimed, had been carried to China by none other than Marco Polo and was now, finally, returning home.
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