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Tuesday 5th March
Switzerland Facts
Excavations have shown that people were living in fishing villages on the shores of Swiss lakes by 4000 BC.

The Helvetians, a Celtic tribe from Germany, arrived in Switzerland in the 1st century BC.

Roman civilisation was quickly adopted by the Helvetians when Switzerland was conquered by Julius Caesar.

Charlemagne conquered the Swiss tribes in the 6th century and Switzerland became part of the Frankish empire.

The legend of William Tell was based on Swiss defiance of the Holy Roman Empire in the 13th century; an overture was written by Wagner about the story. Disney produced an animated film about William Tell.

In the 14th century the Swiss Confederation defeated the Hapsburgs and the Burgundians to retain independence.

Basel University, the first Swiss University, was founded in 1460.

Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin sowed the seeds of the Reformation of the church in the 16th century.

Swiss mercenary soldiers were found in many European armies in the 15th to 18th centuries.

The eight hundred Swiss Guards of the King of France were all killed on August 10th 1792 during the French revolution protecting the King against French Sans Cullotes (the lower classes). A memorial was carved in stone in Luzern as a tribute - the Lion Monument.

From 1859 Swiss citizens could no longer serve as mercenaries in foreign armies.

Swiss Guards still protect the Pope at the Vatican.

In 1812 the Swiss Federation first declared its neutrality.

Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, the Swiss explorer, discovered the city of Petra in Jordan and the famous temple at Abu Simbel in Egypt.

Chateau de Chillon on the shores of Lake Geneva inspired Lord Byron's poem Prisoner of Chillon.

In the 1820s Swiss educational reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi introduced new ideas about elementary teaching, which now form the basis of modern educational techniques.

In the 1840s a Europe-wide potato blight caused famine throughout Europe and the Swiss people suffered badly.

Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology was founded in 1860 by the Swiss scientist Louis Agassiz, who is known as The Father of Glaciology from his theories about glaciers and Ice Ages.

The Red Cross was started in 1864 by Henri Dunant from Geneva. The symbol of the red cross is based on a reversed Swiss flag.

Victorinox, the manufacturer of the Swiss army knife, was founded in 1884.

The Swiss company Nestle began when Henri Nestle, a pharmacist, developed and marketed milk for feeding babies.

Originally built in 1891, the Jet d'eau fountain in Geneva is the tallest fountain in Europe at 130 metres or 425 feet.

Le Corbusier, the Swiss architect, developed the foundations of the Modern Movement in Architecture.

Albert Einstein published some of his definitive scientific papers, including the special theory of relativity in 1905, whilst working as a patent clerk in Bern.

Switzerland hosted meetings of the League of Nations in 1920 in Geneva.

Jacques Piccard and American Don Walsh made a record breaking dive to 10,916 metres below the surface of the ocean in the deep sea submersible, or Bathyscope, off Trieste in 1960.

Women were not granted suffrage in Switzerland until 1971.

Many international organisations are based in Switzerland including the World Health Organization and the International Red Cross.

Claude Nicollier became the first Swiss in space when he joined a mission on board the shuttle Atlantis in 1992. Nicollier's second mission on Endeavour in 1993 was to repair the Hubble Space telescope.

In 1999, Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard became the first balloonists to circumnavigate the globe non-stop taking 19 days, 21 hour and 55 minutes to travel the 29,000 miles in the balloon Breitling-Orbiter 3.

Swiss architect Jacques Herzog, co-founder of the Herzog & De Meuron Architecture Studio in Basel, designed the Tate Gallery Extension at the Bankside power station.

One of the oldest National Parks in Europe, The Swiss National Park, is at risk because of rapidly melting glaciers possibly caused by global warming.

The Rhine River provides access by barge to the North Sea for Switzerland's merchant fleet.

The CERN Large Hadron Collider, located underground across the borders of France and Switzerland, was activated on 10 September 2008. The particle accelerator will collide particles with the aim of recreating conditions moments after the creation of the universe.

In 2014 a proposal to bring back strict quotas for immigration from European Union countries was passed in a national referendum.

A referendum in 2017 approved plans to phase out nuclear energy.
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