One Giant Leap into History; ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS
Byline: Compiled by Charles Legge
QUESTION Which Olympic records have remained unbroken for the longest and shortest time?
IN THE 1968 Mexico City Games, Bob Beamon of the U.S. smashed the world long jump record with 8.90m -- 55cm more than the previous best.
Though the high altitude favoured long jumps, the result was sensational. It was beyond the measuring equipment and had to be checked manually, so it took more than 15 minutes to get the result.
When it finally arrived, Beamon was so shocked he suffered a cataplectic seizure. The defending Olympic champion, Lynn Davies of Great Britain, told him: 'You have destroyed this event.'
Twenty-three years later, Mike Powell jumped 8.95m at the 1991 World Athletics Championships in Tokyo, but Beamon's jump remains the longest-standing Olympic record at nigh-on 44 years.
Liam Burns, Huddersfield, Yorks.
STEVE BACKLEY was a fantastic UK javelin thrower, unlucky enough to be competing at the same time as the sport's greatest proponent, Jan Zelezny of the Czech Republic.
Backley won the European Athletics Championship four consecutive times from 1990 to 2002 -- but Zelezny scooped all the World and Olympic records.
After Backley was beaten into second place at Atlanta in 1996, he took time out to study Zelezny's action and arrived at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in top form.
In the second round he threw a massive 89.85m to break the Olympic record -- and many thought he'd finally beaten his great rival.
But during the third round, Zelezny threw 90.17m. Backley had held the Olympic record for less than ten minutes -- and had once again been pipped by Zelezny on the biggest stage of them all.
May Robbins, Leeds.
QUESTION Was Marie Stopes an advocate of eugenics?
MARIE STOPES (1880-1958) was an author, palaeo-botanist, women's rights campaigner and birth control advocate. With her U.S. counterpart Mary Sanger (1879-1966), as well as the birth control and suffragette movements and most social reformers, scientists and political movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, she was indeed involved in eugenics as a scientific, social and political movement.
The word 'eugenics' was invented by Charles Darwin's cousin Francis Galton (1822-1911), who also came up with the phrase 'nature versus nurture'. This 'science' was seen as the logical next step to Darwinism. 'Applying science or the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population' became a respectable mainstream science from the 1860s to 1940s.
The president of the First International Eugenics Conference in 1912 was Darwin's son, Leonard.
During the 20th century, with the notable exception of the Nazis and Marxists, many eugenicists were driven by a desire to improve the lot of the 'inferior races', not to exterminate them.
They were not racist in the sense of hatred, but many believed 'superior' races had a duty of care to the 'lesser' ones, who needed to be controlled and cared for like children because they were incapable of self-determination.
A major factor for activists such as Stopes was that the better a woman was educated, the more likely she was to be healthier and live longer.
Statistics showed that healthy, wealthy women had fewer children than ill, poor women, and that criminal men sired more children than law-abiding men.
This had been known for millennia, which was why some extremist cultures in ancient and modern times forbade the education of women and executed men for petty crimes.
For reformers such as Stopes and Sanger, enabling poverty afflicted women access to birth control was a discreet, non-violent way of reducing the offspring of 'inferior races'. The reformers considered this a humane way of 'allowing' the inferior races to become extinct. …