This Week in Geographic History: March 12-18

Here’s an advance look at some of the “This Day in Geographic History” (TDIGH) events coming up this week. For each date, we’ve matched it with a map or visual, background information, and a classroom activity so you can plan ahead.

Check out our Pinterest board for additional resources!

Wednesday, March 14

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Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity revolutionized the field of physics. Artwork by Jean-Leon Huens, National Geographic

TDIGH 1879: Happy Birthday, Albert Einstein

The German theoretical physicist invented the most famous equation in history—E=mc², the mass-energy equivalence—and changed the way we think about gravity, space, and time.

Media: Listen to Einstein explain his theory of relativity and its implications (“a very small amount of mass may be converted to a very large amount of energy, and vice versa”), in less than a minute.

Background: Who was Albert Einstein?

Activity: Read about Einstein’s theory of general relativity and take this quick quiz!


Thursday, March 15

This 1865 painting depicts the moment right before senators stabbed Roman dictator Julius Caesar in 44 BCE. Artwork by Karl von Piloty, courtesy Wikimedia. Public domain

TDIGH 44 BCE: Julius Caesar Assassinated

Julius Caesar’s brutal murder on the floor of the Senate led to a series of civil wars and the eventual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.

Map: Take a look at the extent of the Roman world at the time of Caesar’s death, and compare it to the gains made after the republic became an empire.

Background: What were the critical attributes of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire? How did the two systems impact citizens’ lives? Use our great activity to help introduce students to these questions.

Activity: Watch a clip from the movie Mean Girls and discuss how the movie’s plot is similar to Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar.


Thursday, March 15

his map of London was created by John Snow in 1854. London was experiencing a deadly cholera epidemic when Snow tracked the cases on this map. The cholera cases are highlighted in black. Using this map, Snow and other scientists were able to trace the cholera outbreak to a single infected water pump.
Illustration by John Snow, image courtesy Finavon, courtesy Wikimedia. Public domain

TDIGH 1813: Happy Birthday, John Snow

Snow, a doctor, was the first person to use the geographic method to keep track of cholera cases during an outbreak in London. His early maps helped locate the outbreak’s source, and earned Snow the title “father of epidemiology.”

Map: Take a look at Snow’s breakthrough map, and recreate it using this terrific ArcGIS activity.

Background: Read this delightfully illustrated account of “John Snow and the Broad Street Pump: On the Trail of an Epidemic.” (Can anything about cholera be delightful?)

Activity: Use our activity “Mapping a London Epidemic” to help students understand how maps like John Snow’s can be used to help solve community problems.


Saturday, March 17

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Irish youth pose on a caravan in this 1951 photo. According to the 2010 Census, 34.5 million Americans list their heritage as primarily or partially Irish. Photograph by Dorothea Sheats, National Geographic.

TDIGH: Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Though less connected to the original 4th-century saint, the holiday of St. Patrick’s Day has endured as a celebration of Irish identity.

Map: Who celebrates St. Patrick’s Day? Use our study guide and lovely interactive map of the Irish diaspora to help students explore this 19th-century migration.

Background: Use these class activities and racist political cartoons to better understand the anti-immigrant bias Irish migrants faced. Then take another look at St. Patrick’s Day facts, myths, and traditions.

Activity: Try your luck with our St. Patrick’s Day Quiz!


Sunday, March 18

The stagecoaches of Wells Fargo, founded as a cross-country shipping company, quickly became a symbol of the Old West. The company transferred millions of dollars in silver ore from this office in Virginia City, Nevada.

TDIGH 1852: Wells Fargo Founded

Like the other company founded by Henry Wells and William Fargo—American Express—Wells Fargo was originally an express-delivery business.

Media: How did Wells Fargo become a part of the geography of the West? With iconic stagecoaches and ponies, of course. Learn more about efficient transportation options in the pre-railroad era.

Background: Wells Fargo pivoted to financial services because of competition from railroads. What other businesses were impacted by railroad commerce?

Activity: Take a listen to “The Wells Fargo Wagon” from the musical The Music Man. With younger students, discuss what goods the Wells Fargo stagecoach might bring to them. With older students, discuss representation (who might expect packages from Wells Fargo, and who might not), where those packages would come from, and look for anachronisms in the musical.

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