Saturday, September 25, 2010

July 21st in History

356 BC – Herostratus sets fire to the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The first version had taken 120 years to construct; the sole reason for burning it down was to become famous (it worked).
 It was rebuilt by Alexander the Great, and destroyed by the Goths.  It was rebuilt a third time in 391, and destroyed by a mob led by St. Chrysostom in 401, when it stayed destroyed.  The Ephesus temple was known for it's many-breasted figures of the Goddess Artemis, sometimes also identified as the many-breasted Diana.  The site of Ephesus, location for the book Ephesians in the Bible, subsequently became a center for the medieval 'Cult of the Virgin Mary' in Christianity.  The site has historically had connections to worship or reverence for female deity figures going back at least as far as the Bronze age.  Give yourself bonus history points if you can name the other seven wonders of the world in antiquity; double bonus points if you can place where they were (one still exists).

365    A tsunami devastates the city of Alexandria, Egypt. The tsunami is caused by an earthquake estimated to be 8.0 on the Richter Scale. 5,000 people perished in the Alexandria, and 45,000 more died outside of the city.

1620  Birth of Jean-Felix Picard, French astronomer and priest, the first person to reasonably accurately measure the size of the earth from a 1669-70 survey (geodesy).  He was a contemporary and rival of Cassini. (d. 1682)

Not the same Jean-Felix Picard and twin brother Auguste Picard that were the source Gene Roddenberry used for the Star Trek Next Generation character's name; they were two Swiss scientists.  However, I couldn't help but notice that there was a striking resemblance between this Jean-Felix Picard and the actor Patrick Stewart. (something for the Penigma geeks among us, including me)

1816 Birth of  Paul Julius Freiherr von Reuter, Baron de Reuter, German-born British journalist (d. 1899) founder of the Reuters News Agency, pioneer in using telegraphy in reporting.  He was born Israel Bere Josafat into a Jewish family, then converted to the Lutheran religion in London, changing his name.  Before the telegraph, news agencies relied on carrier pigeons. Reuters began as a financial news agency.  In 1871 the German Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (raise your hand if you remember the surname of the Windsors before they were Windsors and started knotting ties) conferred the barony of Freiherr on Reuter, confirmed by Queen Victoria for use in England.

1865   In the market square of Springfield, Missouri, Wild Bill Hickok shoots and kills Davis Tutt in what is regarded as the first true western showdown; Missouri was at the time 'the wild west' if not entirely 'the frontier'.  It was still a few decades from becoming 'fly over land'.

1873   At Adair, Iowa, Jesse James and the James-Younger gang pull off the first successful train robbery in the American Old West.  Yes, Iowa is considered the 'wild west' not the 'not so wild' middle of the U.S.

1877  After rioting by Baltimore and Ohio Railroad workers and the deaths of nine rail workers at the hands of the Maryland militia, workers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania stage a sympathy strike that is met with an assault by the state militia.

1899  Birth of Ernest Hemingway, American writer, Nobel laureate 1954 (d. 1961)

1904   Louis Rigolly, a Frenchman, becomes the first man to break the 100 mph (161 km/h) barrier on land, to win the Bennett Cup. He drove a 15-liter Gobron-Brille in Ostend, Belgium. I didn't know what a 'Gobron-Brillie' was, I just assumed whatever it was it went very fast, so I had to look it up.  I tried to provide a picture of a proper 1904 version; not the 1909 or 1912.  I can only assume the prow-like front was intended to be aero dynamic. There were also earlier versions of the kind of car; some of them even stranger.

1918   U-156 shells Nauset Beach, in Orleans, Massachusetts. This is the first time that the United States is shelled since the Mexican-American War.

1919   The dirigible Wingfoot Air Express crashes into the Illinois Trust and Savings Building in Chicago, killing 12 people.

1922  Birth of Mollie Sugden, British comedic actress who became famous for her portrayal of the character Mrs. Slocum in the long running "Are You Being Served" (d. 2009)

1925    Scopes Trial: In Dayton, Tennessee, high school biology teacher John T. Scopes is found guilty of teaching evolution in class and fined $100.
            Sir Malcolm Campbell becomes the first man to break the 150 mph (241 km/h) land barrier at Pendine Sands in Wales. He drove a Sunbeam to a two-way average of 150.33 mph (242 km/h).
1944   Birth of Paul Wellstone, Minnesota Senator (d. 2002)
          World War II: Battle of Guam – American troops land on Guam starting the battle. It would end on August 10. Today is celebrated as Guam Independence Day.
          World War II: Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and fellow conspirators are executed in Berlin, Germany for the July 20 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler

1949    The United States Senate ratifies the North Atlantic Treaty, creating NATO.  The other countries which were founding signatories were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the UK.

1954    First Indochina War: The Geneva Conference partitions Vietnam into North Vietnam and South Vietnam.

1960   Sirimavo Bandaranaike is elected prime minister of Sri Lanka and becomes the first woman prime minister in the world.

1961    Mercury program: Mercury-Redstone 4 Mission with Gus Grissom piloting Liberty Bell 7 becomes the second American to go into space (in a suborbital mission).

1970   After 11 years of construction, the Aswan High Dam in Egypt is completed.

1972    Bloody Friday bombing by the Provisional Irish Republican Army around Belfast, Northern Ireland – 22 bomb explosions, 9 people killed and 130 people seriously injured.

1976   Christopher Ewart-Biggs British ambassador to the Republic of Ireland is assassinated by the Provisional IRA.

1977   The start of a four day long Libyan-Egyptian War takes place. Which is two days shorter than the six days war ten years earlier between Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Israel.

1983   The world's lowest temperature is recorded at Vostok Station, Antarctica at −89.2°C (−129°F).

1994   Tony Blair is declared the winner of the leadership election of the British Labour Party, paving the way for him to become Prime Minister in 1997.

1997   The fully restored USS Constitution (aka "Old Ironsides") celebrates her 200th birthday by setting sail for the first time in 116 years.

2005   Four terrorist bombings, occurring exactly two weeks after the similar July 7 bombings, target London's public transportation system. Only the detonators fired, but the rest of the bombs failed to explode. Neither shoes nor underwear appear to have been involved.  One of the terrorists tried shooting his backpack bomb with a handgun when it failed to detonate properly, but that didn't work either. The incident, two weeks after a more tragic series of bombings resulted  in the most extensive man-hunt in the history of the UK. All four suspected suiide bombers are captured, convicted, and given minimum 40 year prison sentences.  Photo courtesy the Telegraph, UK.  Left to right, Muktar Said Ibrahim, of  Eritrea; Yassin Hassan Omar, of Somalia; Ramzi Mohammed of Somalia; Hussein Osman was from Ethiopia, but had become a naturalized citizen of the UK.

2008 – Bosnian-Serb war criminal Radovan Karadžić is arrested in Serbia and is indicted by the UN's ICTY tribunal.

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