Is it just me?

Whenever we find these sorts of stories I do have to wonder:

Researchers believe a famed Polish general who fought in the American Revolutionary war may have been a woman or possibly intersex.

A new Smithsonian Channel documentary examines the history of Casimir Pulaski, a Polish cavalryman who became a protege of George Washington.

Was Sir Pterry reading these things from some historical wormhole that only he knew about? Predicting them as a result? Or was he simply vastly widely read and thus knew about these varied surmises before the rest of us?

For those who don’t get the point, Monstrous Regiment is very fun indeed.

20 thoughts on “Is it just me?”

  1. The Beeb story says

    “Scientists first found that Pulaski’s skeleton had female characteristics about 20 years ago, but were unable to prove it was definitely him.”

    The new story is based on new DNA testing that confirmed the identity.

    Monstrous Regiment was published 2003 so the date fits well with the first bout of news coverage – though not sure how much exposure the story got at the time. Not that this is the only case of “woman believed to be man leads troops into battle” that Sir Pterry could have drawn on.

  2. Well, Carry on Jack was 1963, and Bob in the final Blackadder was 1989, apparently. And according to Wiki “It takes its name from the anti-Catholic 16th century tract by John Knox, the full title of which is The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women”.

    So I’d go with just very well read. See also, the clacks system.

  3. also disney’s Mulan came out in ’98 and there was a live action chinese version a little later too.

  4. There have been several known examples, I’m sure Sir Pterry would have read some..

    One that was quite well known was an Irish woman who, trying to find her missing husband, disguised herself as a man and joined the British Army (cavalry I think). It took her years, she fought in several major battles (including Blenheim, I think), but when she finally found her husband he was with another woman so she dumped him and stayed in the army.

    She not only successfully kept up the disguise for I think ten years, but also (rather than admit her secret) had to pay maintenance to a woman who had accused her of having fathered her child.

    Her deception was only discovered by an army surgeon when she was injured in battle (Malplaquet?); the regiment were so impressed that she was kept on (although only as a cook) and she ended up as a Chelsea Pensioner, where Daniel Defoe got her story and turned it into a novel.

  5. So if they have DNA, why don’t they tell us what sex chromosomes the corpse has?

    Because it’s a social construct?

  6. Bloke in North Dorset

    In those days women who had a calling had to pretend to be men – George Elliot.

    This does not mean that they were automatically one of the alphabet soup of modern day attention seekers, let alone the ones who are genuine.

  7. ‘Researchers believe a famed Polish general who fought in the American Revolutionary war may have been a woman or possibly intersex.’

    Because helping us win freedom and liberty wasn’t enough.

  8. Rob,

    I have, back in my day, taught this stuff to undergrads and postgrads, done it at the lab bench, published papers on it, developed new, now standard, techniques for manipulating (admittedly prokaryotic, hence asexual) genomes, and discovered pathogenic genes in humans. But I must now defer to the new scientific expertise of NIV who is free, in the absence of evidence either way, to speculate about astonishingly rare conditions such as adrenal hyperplasia (which would also be genetically demonstrable), while denying that a sample sufficient to reveal relationship to another individual is also sufficient to reveal the ratio of sex to autosomal DNA. The recent advances in woke science are truly remarkable.

  9. “while denying that a sample sufficient to reveal relationship to another individual is also sufficient to reveal the ratio of sex to autosomal DNA”

    Ah! Dear, dear Bloke in Germany! We bow before the scientific revolution implicit in your expertise! Never has Argumentum ad Verecundiam been so elegantly invoked!

    So please do tell us, in detail, precisely how you would use a mitochondrial DNA match to determine the ratio of sex to autosomal DNA? I await your answer with bated breath!


    Seriously, I just reported what was said (according to Fox News) by the scientist who was the source of this story. I’m dubious myself; there’s obviously rather a lot of speculation going on here. (But who am I to question the experts?!!) And of course, by modern definitions, he’s still a man (or intersex) even if they’re correct and he has XX chromosomes.

    But it does show the depths of the dribble that goes on around here when a simple reporting/repetition of the news story as written (and linked!) elicits this sort of response, just because it’s me saying it. (Hilariously ironic in this case that this logical incompetence is known as the ‘Genetic Fallacy’!) Presumably, the assistant professor of anthropology who did the work and sourced the quote has also “taught this stuff to undergrads and postgrads, done it at the lab bench, published papers on it” etc. too. It seems that’s not as much of a guarantee of quality as some people seem to think!

    Thanks for the laugh. 🙂


    From here.

    This time, researchers were able to confirm the skeleton through the mitochondrial DNA of Pulaski’s grandniece, known injuries and physical characteristics. The Smithsonian Institute funded the research.

    As I’m sure you’re well aware, mitochondrial DNA is often used for human identification when samples are very badly degraded. It’s more effective due to there being lots more mitochondrial than nuclear DNA in a cell. Hence my (reasonable, I think) speculation that the reason they didn’t report the ratio is that they don’t know it.

  10. PS. I do apologise. That was a little rude of me!

    But seriously, I very much enjoyed the humour in your comment, and I appreciate it. 🙂

  11. Where there is mitochondrial DNA there is nuclear DNA, and as you can now amplify DNA to sequencable quantities from a single cell, I continue to call bullshit.

    Bear in mind, if you constantly provoke the same type of reaction in a broad spectrum of people, then perhaps, just perhaps, it’s you who is at fault.

  12. “Where there is mitochondrial DNA there is nuclear DNA, and as you can now amplify DNA to sequencable quantities from a single cell, I continue to call bullshit.”

    🙂

    The forensic scientists who use mtDNA precisely because it still works when nDNA is gone beyond recovery don’t agree. But we’ve been here before, haven’t we? If science says things your prejudices don’t agree with, well that’s “woke science” and to be automatically dismissed, isn’t it?

    (And by the way, “woke” is clearly a false accusation in this case, given that the reporting of the story itself is very un-PC. Casimir identified publicly as a man. Hence, in PC terms, they shouldn’t be mis-gendering him saying he was a woman. The media are simplifying for dramatic purposes.)

    “Bear in mind, if you constantly provoke the same type of reaction in a broad spectrum of people, then perhaps, just perhaps, it’s you who is at fault.”

    But I don’t. I only provoke this sort of reaction in idiots distressed that their old-fashioned rigid dogmas have been overtaken by scientific progress.

    For most people, this would be just a gee-whiz ‘forensic science meets history’ story in the pop science media, and my comment would have been seen as a helpful pointer to where the scientist who did the work gave their answer to the question asked. Information on the recent scientific developments in mitochondrial DNA analysis, and the way they’ve been used to identify human remains beyond the reach of other techniques, is likewise widely available in the pop science media, not particularly controversial, and would, by any sensible person, be seen as helpful.

    And a proper scientist would seek to resist their own prejudices and dislikes and evaluate any statement based on the evidence, not on the basis of who is telling them about it. Science doesn’t get “provoked” by seeing its dogmas being challenged.

    But you’re all blinded by your hatred, and you’ll assume that whatever I say is wrong by default. Which is fine by me. It makes the lesson even more clearly.

  13. Mitochondrial DNA Is used because it is (almost) always transmitted exclusively maternally, and is highly polymorphic, so ideally suited to pedigree analyses.

    All you need do to clarify that this person was genetically female is to find some amplifiable X-linked product and no amplifiable, for argument’s sake, SRY.

    Leave aside the fact that this has been done many times on nuclear DNA from remains that are tens of thousands of years old, you only need a copy number of 1 these days, to amplify up sequenceable quantities. Hell, it wouldn’t surprise me too much if you can find karyotypable cells hanging around in what’s left of the bone marrow. Depends how hard you want to look.

  14. OK, call up the Smithsonian and offer to do the analysis. Or put them in touch with someone who will.

  15. Well if Pulaski was an female, he was masculine enough to sport a decent mustache in most of his portraits . So it probably didn’t require a lot of work to pass as male. So maybe XX male and SRY positive?

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