black hole of calcutta

Black Hole

noun
1.
Also called Black Hole of Calcutta. a small prison cell in Fort William, Calcutta, in which, in 1756, Indians are said to have imprisoned 146 Europeans, only 23 of whom were alive the following morning.
2.
(lowercase) any usually wretched place of imprisonment or confinement.
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World English Dictionary
black hole
 
n
1.  an object in space so dense that its escape velocity exceeds the speed of light
2.  any place regarded as resembling a black hole in that items or information entering it cannot be retrieved

Black Hole of Calcutta
 
n
1.  a small dungeon in which in 1756 the Nawab of Bengal reputedly confined 146 English prisoners, of whom only 23 survived
2.  informal chiefly (Brit) any uncomfortable or overcrowded place

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Word Origin & History

black hole
in astrophysics, 1968, probably with awareness of Black Hole of Calcutta, incident of June 19, 1756, in which 146 British POWs taken by the Nawab of Bengal after the capture of Ft. William, Calcutta, were held overnight in punishment cell of the barracks (meant to hold 4 people) and all but 23 perished.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
black hole  


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An extremely dense celestial object whose gravitational field is so strong that not even light can escape from its vicinity. Black holes are believed to form in the aftermath of a supernova with the collapse of the star's core. See also event horizon, See more at star.

Our Living Language  : When a very massive star ends its life in a supernova explosion, the remaining matter collapses in upon itself. If there is enough mass in this collapsed star, it becomes a black hole. A black hole is so dense that its gravitational forces are strong enough to prevent anything that comes close enough to the region known as the event horizon from escaping. Even light cannot escape, since the escape velocity (the velocity needed for an object to escape some larger object's gravitational field) necessary to escape a black hole is greater than the speed of light. Black holes are extremely dense: for the Sun, which has a diameter of about 1,390,000 kilometers (862,000 miles), to be as dense as a black hole, its entire mass would have to be squeezed down to a ball fewer than 3 kilometers (5 miles) across. Some theorists postulate that the material in a black hole may be compressed to a single point of infinite density called a singularity. Because astronomers cannot directly observe a black hole, they infer its existence from the effects of its gravitational pull. For example, when a black hole results from the collapse of one star in a binary star system, it attracts material from the remaining star. This material forms an accretion disk, which compresses and heats up until it emits detectable x-rays. Black holes are thought to reside in the centers of many galaxies, including our own Milky Way.
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Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Cultural Dictionary

Black Hole of Calcutta definition


A cell in the jail of a British fort in Calcutta, India. In the middle of the eighteenth century, British and Indian troops clashed at the fort. The Indian troops drove a reported 146 defenders of the fort into the cell, which measured about fifteen by eighteen feet. Many had suffocated by the next morning.

black hole definition


In astronomy, an object so massive that nothing, not even light, can escape its gravitation. Black holes were given their name because they absorb all the light that falls on them. The existence of black holes was first predicted by the general theory of relativity. Supermassive black holes have been found in the centers of many galaxies. Stellar black holes are thought to arise from the death of very massive stars. Astronomers expect to find many stellar black holes in the Milky Way.

Note: Figuratively, the term black hole is used to refer to a total disappearance: “They never saw the man again — he might as well have fallen into a black hole.”
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

black hole of calcutta

scene of an incident (June 20, 1756) in which the remaining European defenders of Calcutta were shut away and many died, following the capture of the city by the nawab Siraj-ud-Dawlah, of Bengal, and the surrender of the East India Company's garrison under a member of the council, John Z. Holwell. The incident became a cause celebre in the idealization of British imperialism in India and a subject of controversy. The nawab attacked Calcutta because of the company's failure to stop fortifying the city as a defense against its rivals in anticipation of war (the Seven Years' War, 1756-63). Following his surrender, Holwell and the other Europeans were placed for the night in the company's local lockup for petty offenders, popularly known as the Black Hole. It was a room 18 feet (5.5 m) long and 14 feet 10 inches wide, and it had two small windows. According to Holwell, 146 people were shut up, and 23 emerged alive. The incident was held up as evidence of British heroism and the nawab's callousness.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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