Today in History

This Day in History: Edison Demonstrates the Light Bulb

on Saturday, 31 December 2011. Posted in Today in History, History

Thomas Edison{jathumbnail off}

The now notorious ban of incandescent light bulbs, mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, is about to make 100-watt traditional incandescent bulbs a thing of the past with the ban taking effect beginning January 1, 2012.

Ironically, it was on December 31, 1879 that inventor Thomas Edison gave the first public demonstration of his revolutionary incandescent bulb.

Importantly, Edison wasn’t the first inventor to work on such a lamp. British chemist and inventor Humphrey Davy demonstrated the principle of incandescent lamps as early as 1802 by passing a current through a strip of platinum. But while this set the stage for future development, the Davy lamp was expensive, produced only weak light for a short time, and was not practical.

Happy Birthday Virginia Dare

on Thursday, 18 August 2011. Posted in Today in History, History

Virginia Dare and the Lost ColonyAugust 18 marks the birthday of Virginia Dare, the first European Christian to be born in the Americas.

Virginia was born to parents Eleanor and Ananias Dare in North Carolina’s Roanoke Colony on August 18, 1587.

Dare’s presumably short life is intimately tied to the mysterious disappearance of the Roanoke colony. Shortly after her birth, her grandfather, governor John White, left the colony to return to England with the aim of obtaining additional aid for the settlers.

By the time he returned three years later, the colony was gone. All that remained was a mysterious carving of the word CROATOAN in a post. The letters CRO were carved in another. The number of colonists lost, including Virginia, was 90 men, 17 women and 11 children. Adding to the mystery of the colony’s disappearance was the unnerving fact that there was no sign of a struggle at the colony site.

A Frightful Experience

on Friday, 20 May 2011. Posted in Today in History, History

The Spanish-American War of 1898.In any age, war is terrible. At the dawn of modern naval warfare, in the midst of the Spanish-American War (April 25 - August 12, 1898), one unnamed naval officer recounted the experience of ship-to-ship combat for the May 20, 1898 edition of the Daily Newburgh Journal. In short, the paper called it “The Awful Sensation of a Naval Encounter Graphically Described.”

“The feelings of the men and the scenes in the hour of battle on a modern warship present a large field to the imaginative. As the enemy is perceived on the horizon the ship is cleared for action; boats and everything wooden that might cause the terrible splinters are cast overboard, and the men are summoned to quarters. The gigantic monster of steel throbs like a living heart as ponderous engines drive her through the foam-capped waves. The swash of waters as the leviathan plunges onward without a fearful energy the sharp commands of the officers, the rush of men to their positions, stand out in memory forever afterward....”

Today in History: Jagiellonian University Founded in Poland

on Thursday, 12 May 2011. Posted in Today in History, History

Casimir the Great was the founder of Poland's Jagiellonian University. The first university in Poland and one of the earliest medieval European universities was founded on May 12, 1364 in Krakow, Poland.

Known today as Jagiellonian University, the institution was founded by Poland’s King Casimir the Great.

Born on April 30, 1310, Casimir ruled Poland until his death on November 5, 1370. The start of his reign came in perilous circumstances. War and economic problems had left the country in shambles, and some disputed his claim to the crown.

Under his leadership, however, many reforms were undertaken and the legal system was modernized and improved. Among the improvements was the attempt to found a university that would train a professional class.

Founding a university required the permission of the Pope in Rome. Pope Urban V granted permission and a royal charter authorizing the foundation of the institution was issued on May 12, 1364.

On This Day, April 28: Mutiny on the Bounty

on Wednesday, 27 April 2011. Posted in Today in History, History

Mutiny on the Bounty with William BlighApril 28 was not a good day for Lieutenant William Bligh. Then again, the way things had been shaping up, it was bound to be bad. In fact, with hands tightly bound behind his back while standing on the deck of his ship, many thousands of miles from civilization and with bayonets hovering near his face, it couldn’t get much worse — or so it may have seemed.

Bligh was a career officer in the Royal Navy, joining the service as ship’s boy and captain’s servant onboard the HMS Monmouth, 64 guns, in 1762. He was not quite 8 years old. Still, this was plum assignment at the time, and one that only a privileged family could assure for a son.

Though conditions onboard a Royal Navy warship at the time would be viewed as abhorrent by modern standards, Bligh would have been trained in naval tradition, ship handling, navigation, mathematics and much more by the Captain and officers. His training would prove to be necessary for his survival eventually.

A History of Human Spaceflight

on Monday, 11 April 2011. Posted in Today in History, History

First man in spaceOn April 12, 1961, the era of human spaceflight began when the Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth in his Vostock I spacecraft. The flight lasted 108 minutes.

Twenty years later, on the morning of April 12, 1981, two astronauts sat strapped into their seats on the flight deck of Columbia, a radically new spacecraft known as the space shuttle.

Astronaut John Young, a veteran of four previous spaceflights including a walk on the moon in 1972, commanded the mission. Navy test pilot Bob Crippen piloted the mission and would go on to command three future shuttle missions.

Forty Years Ago — US Defers to Chinese Sea Claim

on Sunday, 10 April 2011. Posted in Today in History, History

U.S. oil companies were told to halt exploration of oil in China. Already in 1971, the Nixon administration was deferring to Communist China, to the detriment of the Nationalist Chinese government in Taiwan. Though allied with the government in exile in the island refuge, in a dispute over energy, the U.S. called off oil exploration on behalf of Taiwan when pressured by Beijing. As reported in the Milwaukee Sentinel, April 10, 1971:

“Washington, D.C. — The government has requested all US oil companies to halt exploration in disputed parts of the China Sea claimed by Communist China, the State Department said Friday. Department spokesman Charles Bray acknowledged that the Gulf Oil Company has been advised to suspend oil explorations by a ship under contract to Nationalist China.”

Forty Years Ago: Senator Knowles Questions Presidential War Powers

on Saturday, 02 April 2011. Posted in Today in History, History

Sen. Robert KnowlesFollowing the U.S. military intervention in Libya, many both in Congress and among the public wondered about the Obama administration's seeming indifference to Congress in the matter. The U.S. Constitution grants to Congress the sole power to declare war, making military attacks on foreign nations absent a Congressional declaration of war unconstitutional.

This issue has dogged the United States since the end of World War II, itself the last war authorized by a Congressional declaration of war. In response to what he perceived as a controversial trend, forty years ago long-time Wisconsin State Senator Robert Knowles proposed a radical and constitutionally risky intervention in the form of a constitutional convention to define the limits of the President's war-making ability.

Asks Convention on War Powers
Milwaukee Sentinel Madison Bureau
April 2, 1971

Madison, Wis. -- Sen. Robert Knowles (R- New Richmond) asked the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday to endorse legislation calling for a constitutional convention to review the military and defense powers of the president and Congress.