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Released: 20 Dec 2013

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Today in History :: Thursday, 23 November 2017

912 CEOtto I (Otto the Great), Holy Roman emperor (962 - 73), German king (936 - 73). Son of Henry I the Fowler and regarded by many as first Holy Roman emperor, he succeeded his father as King of Germany in 936. Crowned Emperor by Pope John XII in 962 and though the term "Holy Roman Empire" was not used until more than 200 years later, Otto is widely considered its founder. Born in Saxony (now Germany).
1221Alfonso X (Alfonso the Wise), King of León and Castile (1252 - 84). Known as El Sabio, or "the learned", he enjoyed considerable scientific fame, based mainly on his encouragement of astronomy and had the Alphonsus crater on the Moon named after him. As a ruler he showed a strong desire to provide his kingdoms with a code of laws and a consistent judicial system however he lacked the strong leadership and temperament to put his plans into action. He captured Cadiz and Algarve from the Moors, thus uniting Murcia with Castille. Born in Burgos, Spain.
1616John Wallis, mathematician. First to suggest the law of conservation of momentum for colliding bodies, the first of the important conservation laws. He was also skilled in cryptography, decoding royalist messages for the parliamentarians during the American Civil War. Born in Ashford, Kent, England.
1804Franklin Pierce, 14th president (Democrat) of the USA (1853 - 57). A former brigadier general in the US Army during the Mexican War and a practicing lawyer, he won the 1853 presidential election in a landslide victory. He was known for his strong views against slavery but was unable to bring about any change to the laws and atitudes of the time. He oversaw the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico, which added 52,000 km2 to the USA. His key weakness however was a severe alcohol problem which resulted in his death in 1869 from cirrhosis of the liver. Born in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, USA.
1837Johannes van der Waals, physicist. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1910 for his research on the gaseous and liquid states of matter. He developed the van der Waals equation which took into account the fact that molecules of gases have volume as well as weak electrostatic attractive forces, now called van der Waals forces in his honour. Born in Leyden, The Netherlands.
1859Billy the Kid, outlaw. Also known as Henry McCarty and Kid Antrim, he began his life of crime when he fled to the Pecos Valley after killing a man who'd insulted his mother, and he was drawn into the cattle wars. From there, he murdered a number of men including Sheriff James Brady and a deputy. He became as well known for his extreme contempt for the law, enjoying the notoriety he created for himself, and he was eventually killed by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Summer, New Mexico, in 1881. Born William Bonney in New York City, USA.
1887Henry Gwyn Jeffreys Moseley, chemist. Experimentally demonstrated that the major properties of an element are determined by the atomic number, not by the atomic weight, thus firmly establishing the relationship between atomic number and the charge of the atomic nucleus. Born in Weymouth, Dorset, England.
1887Boris Karloff, actor (Frankenstein, The Body Snatcher, The Mummy). The original inspiration for the first illustrations of the Incredible Hulk. He became successful as an actor late in his life following the premier of Frankenstein when he was 44 years old and became known for his series of "hammer horror" films including "The Mummy", "The Body Snatcher", "The Raven", and "The Ghoul". However his off-screen persona was very different, widely respected as a quiet, humble man and a true gentleman with many friends, both in and out of show business. He was particularly fond of children and recorded many successful albums of children's stories. Born William Henry Pratt in Camberwell, London, England.
1888Harpo Marx, comedian, actor (Marx Brothers). Became famous as a member of one of the most colourful and popular comedy teams of all time. He is best known for his pantomime, girl-chasing roles in films such as "Duck Soup", "Animal Crackers", "Horse Feathers", and "A Night at the Opera". He was nicknamed Harpo for his ability to play the harp. Born Adolph Marx in New York City, USA.
1935Vladislav Volkov (Владислав Волков), cosmonaut. Flight engineer on the Soyuz 11 mission in which he, mission commander Georgy Dobrovolsky, and design engineer Viktor Patsayev remained in space for a record 24 days and created the first manned orbital scientific station by docking their spacecraft with the unmanned Salyut station launched two months earlier. He died along with the other two crew members on their return to Earth when their cabin depressurised due to a valve that had opened just prior to leaving orbit that had allowed the capsule's atmosphere to vent away into space. Born in Moscow, Russia.
1499Perkin Warbeck, Belgian pretender. A pretender to the English throne during the reign of King Henry VII of England, he pretended to be Richard, Duke of York, the younger son of King Edward IV of England. The real Richard was almost certainly dead by this time, murdered in the Tower of London. He landed in Cornwall in 1497 and made a feeble military challenge to Henry in 1498 but was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London. The following year he attempted escape, but was captured and hanged as a traitor at Tyburn, London, England, aged 25.
1826Johann Bode, German 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. Died in Berlin, Germany, aged 79.
1864Friedrich von Struve, German astronomer. Regarded as one of the greatest 19th century astronomers and the first in a line of four generations of distinguished astronomers. He is best known as founder of the modern study of binary stars who discovered well over 2000. Died in St Petersburg, Russia, aged 71.
1914Elbridge Gerry, Fifth vice president (Democratic-Republican) of the USA (1812 - 14). One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, he later became governor of Massachusetts and vice President of the USA. The art of gerrymandering, rearranging districts of his state to the advantage of his own party, is named after him, for which he was strongly criticised during his time in office. Died in Washington DC, USA, aged 70.
1990Roald Dahl, Welsh novelist and short story author (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tales of the Unexpected), screenplay writer (You Only Live Twice). Famous both as a writer of children's fiction as well as macabre adult and horror fiction, usually with a dark sense of humour and a surprise ending. He also served as a fighter pilot in the RAF during WW II and was shot down over the Libyan Desert, subsequently spending 16 weeks in a German POW hospital. Died of leukaemia in Oxford, England, aged 74.
Events on this day:
1499Pretender to the throne of England Perkin Warbeck is hanged for reportedly attempting to escape from the Tower of London. He entered England in 1497, claiming to be the lost son of King Edward IV.
1832The French Army take Antwerp in the liberation of Belgium.
1835Henry Burden of of Troy, New York, USA is awarded a patent for his horseshoe manufacturing machine. He later made nearly all the horseshoes used by the Union Calvary during the American Civil War.
1863A patent is granted for a process of making colour photographs.
1869Clipper ship Cutty Sark is launched in Dumbarton, Scotland. It was one of the last clipper ships to be built, and the only one surviving to the present day, moored in dry dock in Greenwich, London, England.
1874A paper by Ferdinand Braun is published describing his discovery of the electrical rectifier effect.
1897Inventor John Lee Love of Fall River, Massachusetts, USA is awarded a patent for a pencil sharpener.
1899The Palais Royal Hotel, San Francisco, commissions the first jukebox to be installed.
1904The third Olympic Games close in St Louis, Missouri, USA.
1942Adolf Hitler orders German troops in Stalingrad to 'dig in', ensuring they will be encircled and cut off.
1948A zoom lens is patented by F. G. Back.
1955Britain transfers the Cocos Islands to Australia.
1971The People's Republic of China takes its seat at the UN, replacing the Republic of China (Taiwan).
1991US President Ronald Reagan signs the top secret National Security Decision Directive 17, giving the CIA the authority to recruit and support Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
2009Engineers operating the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Switzerland perform the first low-energy collision of beams of protons. It was the first experiment using the LHC following the repairs after a forced shutdown shortly after its inauguration when an electrical fault led to magnets being damaged and one tonne of liquid helium leaking into the tunnel.
2010North Korean armed forces fire around 200 artillery shells on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing one South Korean marine and injuring several civilians. It is the most serious incident since the Korean War ended without a peace treaty in 1953. The attack comes days after US nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker reported seeing hundreds of centrifuges during a visit to a plant at the Yongbyon nuclear complex.
Quote of the day:
A new randomly-selected quote each day.

"Trying to be a first-rate reporter on the average American newspaper is like trying to play Bach's 'St Matthew's Passion' on a ukelele."
~ Bagdikian's Observation

Daily Trivia
A new (mostly science-related) question each day.
Q. How quickly do hummingbirds beat their wings?
show answer

Site of the Day:
A random site to visit each day, some of which I've found interesting, useful, humourous, provocative, etc...
Michio Kaku
Dr. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist, best-selling author, and popularizer of science. He's the co-founder of string field theory (a branch of string theory), and continues Einstein's search to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one unified theory.
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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