Today in History
1066 – Following the death of Edward the Confessor on the previous day, the Witan meets to confirm Harold Godwinson as the new King of England; Harold is crowned the same day, sparking a succession crisis that will eventually lead to the Norman conquest of England.
1540 – King Henry VIII of England marries Anne of Cleves.
1721 – The Committee of Inquiry on the South Sea Bubble publishes its findings, revealing details of fraud among company directors and corrupt politicians.
1839 – The Night of the Big Wind, the most damaging storm in 300 years, sweeps across Ireland, damaging or destroying more than 20% of the houses in Dublin.
1847 – Samuel Colt obtains his first contract for the sale of revolver pistols to the United States government.
1907 – Maria Montessori opens her first school and daycare center for working class children in Rome, Italy.
1912 – New Mexico is admitted to the Union as the 47th U.S. state.
1912 – On this day in 1912, German geophysicist Alfred Wegener first presents his theory of continental drift. Born in Berlin in 1880, he was the youngest of five children. His first notion of continental drift occurred to him by noticing that the different large landmasses of the Earth almost fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The continental shelf of the Americas fits closely to Africa and Europe. Antarctica, Australia, India and Madagascar fit next to the tip of Southern Africa.
He presented his Continental Drift hypothesis on January 6, 1912. He analyzed both sides of the Atlantic Ocean for rock type, geological structures and fossils. He noticed that there was a significant similarity between matching sides of the continents, especially in fossil plants.
His main interest however, was in meteorology and polar research and involved expeditions to Greenland to study polar air circulation before the existence of the jet stream was accepted. Wegener died in Greenland during his fourth expedition in November 1930 while returning from an expedition to bring food to a group of researchers camped in the middle of an icecap.
In his work, Wegener presented a large amount of observational evidence in support of continental drift, but the mechanism remained a problem, partly because Wegener’s estimate of the velocity of continental motion, 250 cm/year, was too high. The currently accepted rate for the separation of the Americas from Europe and Africa is about 2.5 cm/year.
1930 – The first diesel-powered automobile trip is completed, from Indianapolis, Indiana, to New York, New York.
1941 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers his Four Freedoms speechin the State of the Union address.
1947 – Pan American Airlines becomes the first commercial airline to offer a round-the-world ticket.
1960 – National Airlines Flight 2511 is destroyed in mid-air by a bomb, while en route from New York City to Miami.
1974 – In response to the 1973 oil crisis, daylight saving time commences nearly four months early in the United States.
1989 – Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh are sentenced to death for conspiracy in the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi; the two men are executed the same day.
1995 – A chemical fire in an apartment complex in Manila, Philippines, leads to the discovery of plans for Project Bojinka, a mass-terrorist attack.
1256 – Gertrude the Great, German mystic (d. 1302)
1412 – Joan of Arc, French martyr and saint (d. 1431)
1745 – Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier, French co-inventor of the hot air balloon (d. 1799)
1878 – Carl Sandburg, American poet and historian (d. 1967)
1882 – Sam Rayburn, American lawyer and politician, 48th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (d. 1961)
1883 – Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese-American poet, painter, and philosopher (d. 1931)
1920 – John Maynard Smith, English biologist and geneticist (d. 2004)
1925 – John DeLorean, American engineer and businessman, founded the DeLorean Motor Company (d. 2005)
1931 – E. L. Doctorow, American novelist, playwright, and short story writer (d. 2015)
1350 – Giovanni I di Murta, second doge of the Republic of Genoa
1358 – Gertrude van der Oosten, Beguine mystic
1537 – Alessandro de’ Medici, Duke of Florence (b. 1510)
1852 – Louis Braille, French educator, invented Braille (b. 1809)
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