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Today in History :: Friday, 17 November 2017


Birthdays:
9 CEVespasian, Roman Emperor (69 - 79 CE). The founder of the Flavian dynasty. He won military glory in Great Britain and was awarded a triumph by Claudius. He was proclaimed emperor following the murder of Galba. He is remembered as a popular emperor who lived simply and increased provincial taxation to pay for the deficits incurred by Nero and the civil wars. He also built the Temple of Peace, initiaited construction of the Colosseum, and reformed the army and Praetorian Guard. He was succeeded by his son Titus. Born Titus Flavius Vespasianus in Reate, Latium (now in Italy).
1755Louis XVIII, King of France (1814 - 24). The fourth son of King Louis XVI, he declared himself Regent for his nephew, the new King Louis XVII, on the death of his father who was guillotined in 1793. He proclaimed himself King Louis XVIII in 1795 when his nephew the king died in prison at the age of 10. In 1814 he gained the French throne with the assistance of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand after Napoleon's downfall. Born Louis-Stanislas-Xavier in the Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France.
1790August Möbius, astronomer, mathematician, author. Best known for his work in analytic geometry and in topology, especially remembered as co-discoverer of the Möbius strip, a one-sided surface formed by giving a rectangular strip a half-twist, then joining the ends together. Born in Schulpforta, Saxony (now Germany).
1850Sir George Thomas Beilby, industrial chemist. Developed the process of manufacturing potassium cyanide (widely used to extract gold from low-grade ore) by passing ammonia over a heated mixture of charcoal and potassium carbonate in 1890. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland.
1865William Merriam Burton, chemist. Developed a thermal cracking process for increasing the proportion of petroleum obtainable from crude oil. His process more than doubled the potential yield of petrol from crude oil and during its first 15 years in use, saving more than 1 billion barrels of crude oil. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, USA.
1887Bernard L. Montgomery, British army Field Marshal. Regarded by many as the best British field commander since Wellington. He is best known as commander of the British 8th Army in the North African campaign of 1942, successfully pushing back Erwin Rommel and forcing him to retreat from Egypt after the Second Battle of El Alamein. He successfully led the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, which was also notable for the clash of personalities with the American officer leading the 7th Army General George Patton, both being renowned for their enormous egos. He was created first Viscount Montgomery of Alamein in 1946. Born in London, England.
1902Eugene Paul Wigner, physicist. Shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1963 for his insight into quantum mechanics and for his contributions to the theory of the atomic nucleus and the elementary particles, particularly through the discovery and application of fundamental symmetry principles. He made many contributions to nuclear physics and played a prominent role in the development of the atomic bomb and nuclear energy. Born in Budapest, Hungary.
1906Soichiro Honda, CEO and founder of Honda Corporation. Grew up in Komyo, working in his father's bicycle repair shop and at the age of 16 he moved to Tokyo to begin an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic. He ventured into motor racing but was convinced by his wife to retire following a serious crash. He then began manufacturing car parts (piston-rings) in 1934 and by the 1950s was manufacturing engines, and his company eventually evolved into one of the world's leading motorcycle and car manufacturers. Born in Komyo, Japan.
1922Stanley Cohen, biochemist. Shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1986 for research into epidermal growth factor (EGF), a substance produced in the body that influences the development of skin tissues. The research opened new fields of widespread importance to basic science and increased understanding of many disease states such as developmental malformations, degenerative changes in senile dementia, delayed wound healing and tumour diseases. Born in Brooklyn, New York, USA.
1925Rock Hudson, actor (Magnificent Obsession, Giant, Pillow Talk, Ice Station Zebra). A former mail carrier, mechanic, and truck driver who broke into film work on the strength of his looks alone, having no prior acting experience. He was known in his early career for his inability to remember lines, and went on to become one of the romantic idols of the 1950s and 60s. Born Roy Harold Scherer Jr in Winnetka, Illinois, USA.
1937Peter Cook, comedian (Peter 'n' Dud, Derek and Clive, Blackadder, Bedazzled). Comedy partner of Dudley Moore and founder and proprietor (under the pseudonym Lord Gnome) of British satirical magazine Private Eye. He was widely regarded as one of Britain's most talented comedians, but sadly his career was gradually damaged by his addiction to alcohol. Born in Torquay, England.
1938Gordon Lightfoot, folksinger (Sundown, Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald). Born in Orillia, Ontario, Canada.
1942Martin Scorsese, director (Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Last Temptation of Christ). Grew up in Manhattan's (New York City) Little Italy and planned to become a priest, entering a seminary in 1956. However he later opted to channel his passions into film, becoming widely regarded as one of America's top directors. Born in Queens, New York, USA.
1944Danny De Vito, actor (Hoffa, Taxi, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), director, producer. Born in Neptune, New Jersey, USA.
1960Jonathan Ross, radio announcer, talk show host, comedian. Began his media career as a researcher on Britain's Channel 4 before becoming a television presenter in 1987. He began working in radio that same year and went on to become one of Great Britain's most popular radio and television presenters. Born in Leytonstone, London, England.
Deaths:
375 CEValentinian I (b. Flavius Valentinianus), Roman Emperor (364 - 75 CE). Served in the military in Africa under his father and having been proclaimed emperor by the army, he made his brother Valens ruler in the East while he ruled the West. Despite being known for his religious tolerance and military prowess, he was also known for his cruelty and poor choice of ministers. Died in Brigetio, Pannonia Inferior (now in Hungary), aged 54.
1558Mary I (Mary Tudor), Queen of England (1553 - 58). The daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, she ascended the throne after Lady Jane Grey was forced to abdicate after a reign of only nine days. However her refusal to accept the Protestant religion aroused suspicions in her Catholic half-sister Elizabeth, and she was imprisoned in the Tower of London. In an attempt to protect her position, she formed an alliance with the Catholic monarchy in Spain and in 1554, married Philip II, the eldest son of King Charles of Spain. She was commonly known as "Bloody Mary" because of the large number of religious persecutions that took place during her reign, almost 300 people being condemned to death as a result of trials for heresy. Died of stomach cancer in London, England, aged 42.
1796Catherine II of Russia (Екатерина II Алексеевна - b. Sophie Augusta Fredericka), German-born empress of Russia (1762 - 96). Known as Catherine the Great, she was chosen at the age of 14 to be the wife of the future Peter III (Tsar of Russia, 1762). Because her neurotic husband was incapable of ruling, she saw the possibility of eliminating him and governing Russia herself, and after Peter became emperor in 1762 she conspired with her lover, Russian military officer Grigory, Count Orlov, to force Peter to abdicate and have herself proclaimed empress. Peter was murdered soon after. During her 34-year reign she led Russia into full participation in European political and cultural life. She reorganised the administration and law of the Russian Empire and extended Russian territory, adding the Crimea and much of Poland. Died in Tsarskoye Selo, near St Petersburg, Russia, aged 70.
1838François-Joseph-Victor Broussais, French physician. Known for his advocacy of leech treatments which dominated Parisian medical practice in the early 19th century. The theory was that the depleting effect of bloodletting was "cooling", relieving the congestion of inflamed capillaries, and he saw leeches as a panacea. Died in Paris, France, aged 55.
1917Auguste Rodin (b. François-Auguste-René Rodin), French sculptor. A sculptor of marble and bronze, best known as creator of "Le Penseur" (The Thinker) and "Le Baiser" (The Kiss), among the most immediately recognisable sculptures in the Western artistic tradition. Died in Meudon, Île-de-France, France, aged 77.
1926Carl Akeley, American naturalist, explorer. Developed the taxidermic method for mounting museum displays to show animals in their natural surroundings. His method of applying skin on a finely moulded replica of the body of the animal gave results of unprecedented realism and elevated taxidermy from a craft to an art. He died while working on a mountain gorilla diorama in the Virunga mountains of the Albert National Park, in the Belgian Congo, aged 62.
1929Herman Hollerith, American engineer. Invented a tabulating machine that was fed data via punch cards. He founded the Tabulating Machine Company in 1896 which eventually became International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) in 1924. Died in Washington DC, USA, aged 69.
1940Raymond Pearl, American zoologist. One of the founders of biometry, the application of statistics to biology and medicine, he pioneered studies in longevity, changes in world population, and genetics. He was first to state the possible health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption (as opposed to both abstinence and heavy drinking) in 1926 and that the smoking of tobacco was definitely "associated with an impairment of life duration". Died aged 61.
1956John Evershed, English astronomer. Discoverer and namesake of the Evershed effect - the horizontal motion of gases outward from the centres of sunspots. He showed that many of the Fraunhofer lines in the sunspot spectra were shifted toward the red of the visible spectrum and were therefore Doppler shifts, proving the motion of the source gases. Died in Ewhurst, Surrey, England, aged 92.
1990Robert Hofstadter, American atomic physicist. Shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1961 for his investigations in which he measured the size of the neutron and proton in the nuclei of atoms. His work revealed the hitherto unknown structure of these particles. He also correctly predicted the existence of the and made substantial contributions to gamma ray spectroscopy, leading to the use of radioactive tracers to locate tumours and other disorders. Died in Stanford, California, USA, aged 75.
Events on this day:
1278680 Jews are arrested, and 293 eventually hanged, in England for counterfeiting coins.
1292Edward I of England makes John Balliol king of Scotland, marking the start of increased English control.
1558Elizabeth I ascends to the English throne following the death of her half-sister Queen Mary I.
1603Sir Walter Raleigh goes on trial for treason in the converted Great hall of Winchester Castle, England.
1800US Congress holds its first session in Washington DC.
1839Giuseppe Verdi's first opera "Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio" opens in Milan, Italy.
1869The Suez Canal opens in Egypt, linking the Mediterranean and the Red seas.
1871The US National Rifle Association is granted a charter by the state of New York.
1903At its London conference the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party splits into two groups, the Bolsheviks (Russian for "majority") and the Mensheviks (Russian for "minority").
1937Britain's Lord Halifax visits Germany to begin the "appeasement" process.
1938Italy passes their own version of the anti-Jewish Nürnberg laws.
1941US ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew notifies the US State Department that Japan has plans to launch an attack against Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. His message is ignored.
1945A new world air speed record of 606 mph (982 kph) is set by H. J. Wilson of the RAF.
1959The De Beers Company of South Africa announces the manufacture of a synthetic diamond.
1962US President John F. Kennedy dedicates Dulles International Airport in Washington DC.
1967NASA's Surveyor 6 lunar probe becomes the first man-made object to lift off from the Moon.
1970Russia lands Lunokhod 1, an unmanned remote-controlled vehicle, on the Moon.
1970A patent is issued for the computer mouse, to Doug Engelbart, named an "X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System".
1970Lieutenant William Calley goes on trial for the My Lai massacre, following the deaths of 109 Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnam War.
1973US President Richard Nixon tells Associated Press: "... people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook".
1978Soviet leader Leonard Brezhnev announces from Moscow that the Soviets have tested a neutron bomb.
1979Iranian leader Ruhollah Khomeini orders the release of 13 American hostages being held at the US Embassy in Tehran.
1988Benazir Bhutto is elected Prime Minister of Pakistan.
1989The Velvet Revolution begins in Czechoslovakia when a peaceful student demonstration in Prague is severely beaten back by the communist riot police. This sparks a revolution aimed at overthrowing the communist government, which was dissolved on 29th December.
1997Sixty two people, mostly tourists, are killed by 6 Islamic militants outside the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor, Egypt.
2003Arnold Schwarzenegger is inaugurated as Governor of California, USA.
2010Scientists at CERN, Switzerland announce that they have trapped particles of anti-matter for the first time. They were able to hold 38 stable atoms of antihydrogen in a magnetic field for approximately 0.2 seconds each. Previously when antihydrogen has been produced it is instantly destroyed in a flash of light when it encounters normal matter.
Quote of the day:
A new randomly-selected quote each day.

"I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I've ever known."
~ Walt Disney

Daily Trivia
A new (mostly science-related) question each day.
Q. How far above Earth is the International Space Station?
show answer

Site of the Day:
A random site to visit each day, some of which I've found interesting, useful, humourous, provocative, etc...
Galileo's Top Ten Science Images
An awesome collection of the top-ten images captured by NASA space probe Galileo during its 14 year mission to investigate Jupiter.
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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This page first created by Craig Porter: 2002.