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Released: 20 Dec 2013

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Today in History :: Friday, 19 January 2018

1736James Watt, mechanical engineer, instrument maker. Best known for his enhancements to the steam engine which contributed substantially to the industrial revolution. His design used a separate condensing chamber that prevented enormous losses of steam in the cylinder and a system of valves to make the piston return to the top of the cylinder after descending. He also invented the flywheel and the governor. Born in Greenock, Scotland.
1737William Williams Keen, physician. A pioneer of brain surgery who, in 1887, performed the first successful removal of a brain tumour in the USA at St Mary's Hospital in Philadelphia. He was also the first physician to perform a decompression of the skull and was an early adopter of Lister's antiseptic surgical practices. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1747Johann Bode, astronomer. Best known for his popularisation of Bode's law which, until the discovery of Neptune, described the relative distances of planets from the Sun. He is also known for the , the idea fell into disrepute after the discovery of Neptune which does not conform with the "law", and nor does Pluto. Born in Berlin, Germany.
1807Robert E. Lee, General of the US Confederate Army. Best remembered for his role of commanding general of the US Confederate forces during the American Civil War. He graduated from the West Point Academy in 1829 and was commissioned as an engineer and second lieutenant, distinguishing himself in the Mexican War (1846 - 48). He was offered command of the United States (Union) Army in 1861 by President Abraham Lincoln, however his loyalty to his native Virginia led him to join the Confederacy. He was eventually promoted to be general-in-chief of Confederate forces in 1865, but was forced to surrender 3 months later at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia. He was indicted for treason for his part in the war, however he never stood trial. Born in Stratford, Westmoreland County, Virginia, USA.
1809Edgar Allan Poe, author, poet. Credited with being the principal initiator of the genre of detective fiction for his three stories about Auguste Dupin, the most famous of which is "Murders in the Rue Morgue". He earned nothing from from his most famous poem, "" (originally titled "To Lenore"), having published it first in a newspaper for free and thereby losing any future copyright monies. Born Edgar Poe in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
1813Sir Henry Bessemer, engineer. Developed the first process for manufacturing steel inexpensively in 1856, leading to the development of the Bessemer converter and solving a specific problem with another of his inventions, the self-spinning artillery shell. His converter removed impurities from molten pig iron by oxidation, blowing air through the molten iron, which also raised the temperature of the iron mass, keeping it molten and removing impurities such as silicon, manganese, and carbon as oxides. He was knighted in 1879. Born in Charlton, near Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England.
1839Paul Cézanne, impressionist painter (Apples and Oranges, The Great Bathers). Regarded by early 20th Century Modernists as the founder of modern painting and the bridge between Impressionism and Cubism. Born in Aix-en-Provence, France.
1912Leonid Vitalyevich Kantorovich, mathematician, economist. Shared the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1975 for work on the optimal allocation of scarce resources. He was one of the first to use linear programming as a tool in economics. Born in St Petersburg, Russia.
1935Tippi Hedren, actress (The Birds, Marnie). The mother of actress Melanie Griffith, she was discovered by Alfred Hitchcock while doing a commercial on "The Today Show". Born Nathalie Hedren in New Ulm, Minnesota, USA.
1942Michael Crawford, actor (Some Mothers Do 'ave 'em, Phantom of the Opera, Hello Dolly). Born Michael Patrick Dumble-Smith in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England.
1943Janis Joplin, singer (Jefferson Airplane). Best remembered for her powerful, distinctive voice and for her drug (speed and heroin) and alcohol intake. Born in Port Arthur, Texas, USA.
1946Dolly Parton, country singer, actress (Steel Magnolias, Nine to Five). Best known for her breast implants which are reportedly insured for $600,000. She is the owner and namesake of the Smokey Mountain area theme park "Dollywood", in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Born in Sevierville, Tennessee, USA.
1966Stefan Edberg, tennis player. Ranked world number 1 for a total of 72 weeks, he played over 1000 matches as a professional. He was awarded tennis' Sportsman of the Year award 5 times. He won 41 singles and 18 doubles titles including the Wimbledon singles title (1988, 90), US Open (1991, 92), Australian Open (1985, 87). Born in Vastervik, Sweden.
1878Henri Victor Regnault, French chemist, physicist. Best known for his careful measurements of the thermal properties of gases. He determined the coefficients of expansion of air and other gases, devised new methods of investigation, and designed sensitive thermometers, hygrometers, and calorimeters. Two laws governing the specific heat of gases are named after him. He was also an avid amateur photographer and introduced the use of pyrogallic acid as a developing agent, and was one of the first photographers to use paper negatives. His laboratory at Sevres was destroyed and his son Alex-Georges-Henri Regnault killed, as a result of the Franco-Prussian War. Died in Auteuil, France, aged 67.
1888Heinrich Anton de Bary, German botanist. One of the founders of modern mycology and plant pathology for his research into the roles of fungi and other agents in causing plant diseases. He determined the life cycles of many fungi for which he developed a classification that has been retained in large part by modern mycologists. Died aged 56.
1998Carl Perkins (b. Carl Lee Perkings), American singer, songwriter (Blue Suede Shoes). The "King of Rockabilly" and founder of the Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse. Died of complications from multiple strokes in Jackson, Tennessee, USA, aged 65.
2000George Stebbins, American botanist, geneticist. Known for his application of the modern synthetic theory of evolution to plants. He was the first scientist to artificially synthesise a species of plant that was capable of thriving under natural conditions. Died at his home in Davis, California, USA, aged 94.
Events on this day:
1419Rouen surrenders to King Henry V of England during the Hundred Years' War, making Normandy a part of England.
1793King Louis XVI of France is sentenced to death.
1840American explorer Charles Wilkes completes the voyage that confirms Antarctica is a continent.
1894Professor James Dewar exhibits several properties of liquid air and produces solid air at a meeting of the Royal Institution. He had previously exhibited liquid air, obtained at the temperature of -192°C, in 1885.
1903King Edward VII and US President Theodore Roosevelt exchange greetings in a coded radio exchange, the first trans-Atlantic radio broadcast, between Cape Cod, USA and Cornwall, England.
1903The Tour de France cycle race is announced.
1915German Zeppelins begin the first ever strategy bombing campaign, hitting Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn in England.
1915The Neon Tube sign is patented by George Claude of France.
1920The US Senate votes against joining the League of Nations.
1942Japan invades Burma, igniting the longest WW II campaign fought by British troops.
1966Indira Gandhi is elected as India's third prime minister.
1981US and Iranian officials sign an agreement to release 52 American hostages after 14 months of captivity.
1983Klaus Barbie, SS chief of Lyon in Nazi-France, is arrested in Bolivia.
1983The Apple Lisa personal computer is announced.
1984Italian cyclist Francesco Moser breaks the world record for one hour, covering a distance of 50.808 km.
1993IBM announces a $4.97 billion loss for 1992, the largest single-year corporate loss in US history.
Quote of the day:
A new randomly-selected quote each day.

"Sacred cows make the best hamburgers."
~ Abbie Hoffmann

Daily Trivia
A new (mostly science-related) question each day.
Q. What was dubbed the official birthplace of Silicon Valley?
show answer

Site of the Day:
A random site to visit each day, some of which I've found interesting, useful, humourous, provocative, etc...
The Millenium Project
The "site of a thousand arseholes", dedicated to exposing medical frauds, anti-vaccination myths, holocaust deniers, terrorist and survivalist groups, fanatics of all kinds, bigots and everything that makes rational people angry.
Astronomy Picture of the Day
Marking 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy. Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

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