Of the fifty-four individuals publicly honored in the Jardin des Plantes, how many are women?

Two. Anne Vasermanis and Deborah Lifchitz.

The Jardin des Plantes, Paris’ four hundred year old home to some of the West's first scientific steps in ecology, botany and zoology upholds a key tenet of all scholarly institutions; label everything. Visitors will be hard pressed to find an unnamed tree, flower or shrub, though they may be impressed by the fact that even the rocks get identity tags. 
And there is a zoo. 
Amid the cacophony of categorization, fifty two dead white men are also named. Often honored in statue form, many of these early naturalists are depicted in busts mounted on various museums and buildings of the park. 

The vast majority of the men honored in the Jardin worked during the Enlightenment when Paris started the path to a more secular and rational western civilization. With eight separate dedications, Count Buffon, who wrote many of the first encyclopedic descriptions of the natural world, leads the pack of the park’s honorees. Also publicly recognized are Jean-Baptiste Lamark who promoted a theory of evolution before and not too far removed from Darwin’s, Antoine Laurent de Jussieu an early botanist, Georges Cuvier who founded comparative anatomy and dozens of other great but dead white men.

Three of the honored naturalists at the Jardin.

Among the portraits and plaques are allegorical renditions of Mother Nature, muses of learning, anatomically correct wild animals including dinosaurs, a hippo, a pelican, several crocodiles and so on. In two places; by the Seine entrance to the park and on the side of the Cabinet d’Histoire building are tablets  honoring war dead associated with the Jardin. One marble tablet includes a dedication to the 1944 “fallen heroes of the Liberation” given by “neighbors and communist resistance cells”. The word “communist” has been scratched out showing that in Paris, old animosities stay fresh.

On the outside wall of the Cabinet d’Histoire, the Garden’s history museum, are two marble plaques, one above the other simply listing the seventeen staff members who died during WWI and WWII. Two of the dead, Vasermanis and Lifchitz, were Jewish women rounded up in Paris and sent to die in the Holocaust camps to the east.
Honoring France's war dead, these plaques recognize those "who died on the field of honor."
Deborah Lifchitz was not a practicing Jew. She did not attend services on a regular basis.  Her boyfriend, the father of her child, did not wear a yarmulke, and her son was probably not circumcised.[1]  She was more than a bit non-conformist for the 1930’s in general and not simply for her religion or lack there-of. As one of the first professionally trained female ethnologists, Lifchitz worked as a trailblazer in a fledgling field, but one dominated by men and old-school ideas about race and gender.

In 1935, she managed to take part in a research trip to the French colony of Mali.  Focusing on the native Dogon language and oral traditions, Lifchitz wrote three pioneering studies during that trip and was part of an intellectual circle still cited by anthropologists today. From Mali, she brought back two museum worthy pieces of Dogon art currently displayed in the Louvre and the Quai Branly museums.

Lifchitz'sstatue in the Louvre today. 

The only women publicly mentioned at the Jardin.
Lifchitz died in a gas chamber at Auschwitz aged 35.

Little is known of Anne Vasermanis. 

[1] Deotte, Martine. “Les hommes de bonne volonte” in Etudes sur Roger Bastide. Ed. Claude Ravelet. L'Harmattan: Paris. 2003. p. 26 http://books.google.fr/books?id=Fk6V8aUKP1sC&pg=RA1-PA25&lpg=RA1

How does Paris fit into the legend of Friday the 13th?

It depends if you are a conspiracy theorist, Christian or a feminist.

First, the conspiracy;

As host city to the violent end to the Knights of the Temple, Paris plays a not unimportant role in the making of Friday the 13th.

In 1312, bankrupt King Phillipe le Bel of France along with the corrupt Pope Clement V in Rome needed lots of money. Willing to work together, they looked around and saw that their own subjects, the Knights of the Temple, had plenty. However, getting the loot would not be easy as the Knights were one of the strongest and best armed organizations around. In fact, their main fortress served as Paris’ best guarded treasury and even housed, for a fee, the King’s own gold.

Fully Catholic, nominally under oath to the papacy and headquartered in Paris, the Knights of the Temple, also known as the Templars, were soldier-priests originally recruited throughout Europe to spearhead the Crusades.  Led by nobility, the rank and file Knights were mostly unemployed second or third sons of European gentry as under western tradition at the time, first sons inherited everything while younger brothers went to war or the church. In the case of the Knights of the Temple, it was both.

Officially known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, the Templars were one of many Christian fighting orders formed to regain Jerusalem. These all-male Catholic fraternities grew at a time when Europe’s population was increasing, and rulers saw a need to occupy the growing demographic of unemployed young men. What better way than to send them off to smite the infidels in the Holy Land. The Knights of the Temple stood out amongst the other crusading orders for its vow of poverty but also, as the fighting carried on over the centuries, for their success in war and wealth.

Two knights on one horse symbolized their poverty

For almost two hundred years starting in 1119, the Knights of the Temple fought Saladin and other potentates while theoretically observing their monastic vows. (Knights swore not just to a life of poverty, but to one of chastity and bravery as well. In fact, they swore to obey so many rules such as eating in silence, never letting the Templar flag fall in battle, owning nothing, praying awfully early in the morning and so on, that there were over 700 different regulations to follow.)[1] 

Though ultimately unsuccessful in their conquest for Jerusalem, the order managed several impressive victories and earned a reputation for military prowess and tight efficiency. And wealth. As the Crusades drew to a close, the organization found itself at loose ends as there were no more battles to fight. Fortunately, a lucrative replacement turned up; international banking. In a sense, the Knights of the Temple would come to serve as history's first ATM machines.

Thanks to more than a century of officially sponsored and religiously sanctioned marauding, the Knights had amassed land holdings, farms, tax rights and most importantly, fortresses scattered through-out the known world. By the end of the 13th century, the order was a notable player in Mediterranean politics and economy. Some of their acquired real estate was conquered, but much of it in mainland Europe came in the form of bequeaths from devout widows and others anxious to donate in the Lord’s name. Where strategically opportune, the Knights built and manned fortresses and often had the rule of the land as the sole local power. Though they did not establish their own sovereign state, the Templar network of forts (‘temples’) ranged from Syria to Cyprus to France and beyond. Along with these strongholds, the order had plenty of knights to man them and safeguard treasures. They even had a navy to rival all but the largest and richest kingdoms during this era of numerous small principalities and post-Crusades lethargy.
Your friendly neighborhood bank. 

And so, enter the free market. Though in the 13th century no economy was exactly laissez faire, European and Mediterranean trade enjoyed a bit of a peace dividend. Silk Road merchants plied their wares from east to west as an end to the Crusades meant a leap forward in global trade. But it was still an age of pirates and thieves, so merchants needed a way to travel safely and, if possible, wire the money ahead rather than risk it in travel. The Knights could, for example, take a merchant’s deposit in Antioch and hand it back, minus a fee, in Marseille. The real money however was not in consumer finance but in central banking. For even larger fees, the Knights of the Temple loaned to kings and guarded in their forts royal treasuries.  In fact, in their main fortress on what is now rue de Temple (Temple Street) in Paris, the Templars safeguarded the dwindling
wealth of France’s King Phillipe. And in 1312, he was having trouble paying off his debts.
Handsome but poor.
So, he did what any medieval monarch would do. He got the Pope’s blessing. Together, Phillipe le Bel (his portraits do show a good looking guy) and Pope Clement V hatched an ingenious and successful plan to get their hands on the Templar booty. First they hired the equivalent of a Washington D.C. public relations firm to bad mouth the Knights of the Temple as heretics and homosexuals. Gossip and pamphlets covered Christendom slandering the order. Then, achieving a remarkable feat of coordination in the days before email and cell phones, the King and Pope arranged dozens of different assaults on Templar forts though-out Europe and the Mediterranean. In order to coordinate such a huge undertaking against such a formidable foe, the royal and papal forces needed a specific date on which to attack. Guess the day.

Amazingly, the plan worked. The Templars were wiped-out. Fortresses were over-run, Knights arrested or killed, ships seized, treasures taken. Jaques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the order was captured and held by Phillipe for two tortuous years after the Friday the 13th round-up. During his imprisonment, de Molay confessed to kissing the Devil’s behind and plotting the overthrow of Christianity and decentness. The coup de grace came in 1314 as the French king ordered the hapless de Molay’s execution. In order to watch, Phillipe had the Grand Master burned on the Isle de Juifs or Jew Island in the Seine which was visible from his corner window in the Conciergerie palace where he resided when in Paris.  (It simply would not do for a king to mingle with the commoners thronging to witness yet another burning on Jew Island.) Today, the spot is a romantic park at the leafy tip of the Île de la Cité in the shade of Pont Neuf.
The site of the 14th century burning
De Molay cursing the powers that be.

Legend holds that while tied to the stake, de Molay cursed the King and the Pope, saying he would see them both before God with-in a year. Sure enough, with-in a year the King died in a hunting ‘accident’ and the Pope was poisoned.

Don’t go picking fights on Friday the 13th.

Other interpretations for the existence of the Friday the 13th myth are thankfully shorter.

For non-Templar Christians, Friday the 13th is unlucky because Jesus was betrayed after the number of people at the Last Supper went to thirteen once Judas, the betrayer, arrived late. 13 became the number of betrayal.  Jesus was then crucified on a Friday. At least in the Middle Ages, few devout Christians considered Friday an auspicious day to get married, open a business or start a trip. They refrained from eating meet on Fridays, and legend claims Louis IX of France, who was so devout he went on to become Saint Louis, even tried to ban laughing on Fridays. 
Thursday the 12th.
In turn, feminists believe the superstition is a product of repression created by Western male-dominated culture. In northern Europe, Friday once belonged to Freya, the Norse mother goddess, as Freya’s Day, while 13 was sacred to women because they have 13 menstrual cycles a year. The moon, often depicted as a female in polytheistic religions, also has 13 cycles in its lunar calendar.

The famous Paleolithic carving of the Venus of Laussel supports this view as she holds a cornucopia with 13 notches in it.

Over time, men have co-opted positive female iconography and belittled it through cultural subversion. Making symbols of motherhood like Friday and the number 13 into a message of evil is therefore part of a long and gradual sexism, which could also include tricks such as using the word ‘mankind’ for all humanity or even establishing impossible role models such as the Virgin Mary or Angelina Jolie.

Though Paris has little to do with Hollywood’s contemporary version of Friday the 13th, the different interpretations for the superstition remain, even if only in moonlight. 

[1] Newman, Sharan. The real History Behind the Templars. Berkley Books: New York. P.51.

Was Louis XIV actually the son of an illiterate Spanish peasant?

No, but maybe.

His mother was Anne of Austria who was actually from Spain and a hottie famous for her delicate hands. His father, maybe, was the homosexual Louis XIII. Louis and Anne were forced into a political marriage when both were fourteen. In 1615, they had a proxy marriage (when two people are in different places but hold matching ceremonies) and were never much more intimate than that as Louis apparently refused to consummate the marriage for years.
The loving couple

It got so bad that in 1637 Anne was accused of spying for her brother, the king of Spain, during a war he waged against France. Thirteen angry months later, at the age of 37 and after 23 luckless years, the isolated Queen Ann produced an heir, the future Sun King, Louis XIV. French historians argue there was a specific stormy night in early 1638 during which Louis XII actually slept with his wife. Others speculate that her brother smuggled over a Spanish lover or baby and put one over on the French.

Another theory for Anne’s barren years is housed in Paris’ Cluny museum which boasts one of the world’s finer collections of medieval chastity belts.  Queen Anne’s very own belt consisted of hinged iron plates hanging off iron waist-straps which were cushioned on the inside with lace. On the front, Adam and Eve are etched in gold above the vaginal opening.[1] 
The queen's chastity belt

[1] “Chastity Belts”. NDA. Slideshow World/Robinson, John.   20/07/2011. http://www.sideshowworld.com/a/at/atsCB.html

How many almond milk enemas did King Louis XII have in 1536?


Through-out the 16th and 17th century, rectally induced fluids including scented water or almond milk (Louis XIII’s favorite) were quite popular for aristocrats who thought having liquids pumped up their rears would help their complexion, digestion and over-all health. Louis XIV, who likely had up to 2,000 enemas in his lifetime, was occasionally administered one while holding court. Louis XI had them given to his pet dogs.(1)

The Enema- Heir to the Clyster”. South African Medical Journal. April 26, 1947. p. 278.

What has modern technology revealed about the Mona Lisa?

The sound of her voice, that she had given birth and that there is a drop of modern orange paint on the 16th century masterpiece.

In 2004, scientists from Canada’s National Research Council used 3-D imaging to scan the famous painting which has darkened immensely since it was painted by Leonardo in 1507. Under layers of varnish which have obscured many details including her eyebrows, the Canadian scans found a lightly painted transparent bodice over her neckline of the type worn by new mothers in Renaissance Italy. Though the scanning cannot say exactly who she was, such information helps support the theory that Mona Lisa is the Florentine Lisa Gherardini who posed after giving birth to her second son. The scientists also found a small cap on the back of her head which is a good thing as loose hair was a sign of an immoral woman.(1)

In 2006, French engineer Pascal Cotte and his company Lumiere Technology used multispectral digitization to once again see under the years of grime and varnish on the world’s most famous painting. Their ‘true color’ Mona Lisa has a brilliant blue sky which must have cost Leonardo quite a bit as lapis lazuli pigment was extraordinarily expensive back in the day. The French company also found a single drop of twentieth century orange paint in the clouds above Mona Lisa but cannot confirm how it got there. (2) 
Lumiere Technology's scan
Lumiere Technology's find of orange paint
Theories include the possibility of a restorer dripping on it by accident while working on the canvas at the Louvre, but it could have been done in 1911 when Vincenzo Perugia, an Italian carpenter who worked in the museum, stole the painting and kept it rolled up under his bed. (He was caught two years later and no harm done. Maybe.)
Vincenzo Perugia. He worked at the Louvre but escaped being caught for the theft by not showing up for his police interview. Despite such behavior, previous arrests for thefts in Paris and inside knowledge of the museum, the Paris Police never suspected the Italian carpenter though they had his fingerprint on the frame of the Mona Lisa which the thief had left behind. Unfortunately, it was a left thumb print. On an earlier arrest, the Paris Police had only taken a print of Perugia's right thumb. 
The most intriguing (or hard to believe) finding comes from Dr Matsumi Suzuki, a Japanese forensic scientist who measured Mona Lisa’s features in 2006 to estimate the size of her skull and throat. He put her height at 5 feet 6 inches. These measurements then enabled his team, including an Italian, at the Japan Acoustic Lab to create vocal pitches and timber for how she would have sounded when she talked. They then posted their audio result of Mona Lisa's "voice" on the internet.(3)
Dr. Matsumi Suzuki
In 2002 Dr. Suzuki won Harvard University’s satirical Ig Noble Prize (for improbable science that makes one think but probably should not be continued) in honor of his work on Bow-Lingual, an interpretation machine to understand dogs. Bowlingual's dog translation service is now available as an app for cell phones. 

(1) NRC Scientists Discover Mona Lisa Secrets”. October 25, 2007. CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc. Canada.com. 20/08/09. http://www.canada.com/topics/technology/science/story.html?id=dd098037-dce6-4a6d-90de-88ccc05c9e57&k=96188
(2) “True Colors of the Mona Lisa Revealed”. October 19, 2006. Lumiere Technology. 20/08/09. http://www.lumiere-technology.com/Pages/News/news3.htm
(3) Freire, Carl. "In Japan, Scientists Recreate Mona Lisa's Voice". 2006. Art Info. Associated Press. 20/08/09.

Who won in the famous Bear Cub Hunter statue which stands in the Jardin des Plantes?

The hunter.

The statue depicts a giant mother bear with a knife driven into her heart while she is literally bear-hugging to death the struggling Stone Age hunter responsible for her mortal wound. Though both the hunter and the bear will clearly die within seconds of the statue’s frozen moment, the answer can be found on another statue less than a hundred yards away.  By the entrance to the near-by Gallery of Comparative Anatomy and Paleontology, a small monument in honor of Fremiet himself shows the artist at work. However, an engraved plaque on the back of this statue's pedestal portrays another Stone Age hunter -- but this time old and with a long beard. Gaunt and wizened, he is dragging the corpse of a bear cub over the rocky ground. While the Dénicheur d'oursons hunter may have died, his offspring, unlike the mother bear’s, survived and grew old.
The dying bear
The dying hunter
The surviving offspring with the rising sun and  blessings of civilization. 

One of the most renowned and prolific animal sculptors of the 19th century, Fremiet created an impressive body of work including the famed ‘Gorilla Abducting a Woman’ which strongly influenced the imagery of the film King Kong.
The original Kong. 

He is most famous for the gilded equestrian statue of Joan of Arc at the Place des Pyramides which is made of bronze but often referred to as the Iron Maiden of Paris. Responsible for the life-size elephant which stands in front of the Musée d'Orsay, Fremiet also made two bronze replicas of Napoleon III’s favorite basset hounds.
Fremiet's Maid

And his trapped elephant

What is unique about Paris' roman ampitheater, the Arènes de Lutèce?

It is Wi-Fi accessible.

Thanks to the current municipal government, twenty-first century spectators can download Ultimate Fighting bouts for free where their second century ancestors watched gladiators and animal fights along with some classical theater but also a lot of low-brow comedies.
Bird's eye view of the rebuilt arena

Built in the 2nd century A.D., the amphitheater was rare in having a stage with a two story backdrop on its eastern end and a retractable canvas roof to shade spectators in bad weather. Estimates for the seating capacity in the arena range from 10,000 up to an implausible 17,000 spectators. At the time, the entire population of Lutece, as Paris was then called, hovered around 10,000 people.(1) Roman garrison included. (Like the seating of the arena, the size of Lutece’s over-all population is also a source of historical dispute with some estimates rising as high as 20,000 inhabitants in 2nd century.)
Not a bad stadium for a provincial town

To fill all the seats (slaves and women were relegated to the nose bleed sections), major spectacles were needed. Productions likely included fights between bears and dogs, horses versus wolves or whatever beasts the traders brought in which may even have included a lion or two. Large scale gladiator fights like in the movies would be rare as they were expensive, however the arena did host at least one naval battle with water piped in from the near-by Bievre river which today feeds the neighborhood sewer system. Paris’ Cluny Museum which houses the ancient roman baths where spectators could wash up after a good bloodletting, has a small ivory panel depicting one popular show; a man trapped inside a large wooden framework ball rolled out to wild bears who would presumably smash it to pieces to get at the meat inside.
Bear with the large size photo (pun intended), to fully make-out the different blood sports. The bear attacking a wooden ball with a man inside is at the top of the arena scene. The hoops being thrown around are a mystery. 

There is a very slight chance that the Christian martyr Saint Denis was decapitated here around 250 A.D. and not a couple miles away on Montmartre (Martyr’s Mountain). Probably some Christians did die here, if not fed to lions then to wild dogs or seasoned gladiators like the one whose helmet adorns the front entrance today. Unfortunately nothing remains of the original arena as it was reduced to rubble by the end of 4th century. The ruins were discovered in the mid-1800s while workers were digging up the plot to make a tram station. Thanks to Victor Hugo’s urging, the city moved the trams and rebuilt arena into the popular and Wi-Fi accessible park it is today.

Fun then

and today

(1) L C. “La population de Lutèce avant 275 après J.-C”. Population, Année 1962, Volume 17, Numéro 2 p.327-328. 2008. Persee Scientific Journals. 21/08/09. http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/pop_0032-4663_1962_num_17_2_10103