1446: Death of Filippo Brunelleschi, designer and chief engineer of the dome topping the Florence cathedral. The span and weight of the dome were orders of magnitude larger than ever previously attempted. Brunelleschi’s was on hand for most of the construction.
1452: Birth of Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo is regarded as the prime exemplar of the “Universal Genius” or “Renaissance Man”, an individual of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination”, and he is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived. According to art historian Helen Gardner, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent in recorded history, and “his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, while the man himself mysterious and remote”. Marco Rosci notes that while there is much speculation regarding his life and personality, his view of the world was logical rather than mysterious and that the empirical methods he employed were unorthodox for his time (Wikipedia).
1480: Birth of Lucrezia Borgia. The illegitimate daughter of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (later Pope Alexander VI), Lucrecia Borgia was renowned throughout the Renaissance as a wild beauty of voracious sexual appetite and is often cast as the ultimate femme fatale, central to the politico-criminal machinations of the Borgia family
1492: Genovese mariner Christopher Columbus signs a contract with the Spanish Court to find a direct ocean passage to the Indies.
1521: At the Diet of Worms, the monk Martin Luther is excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church for heresy and denying the authority of the Pope. The Diet of Worms was an imperial diet (assembly) of the Holy Roman Empire held at the Heylshof Garden in Worms, then an Imperial Free City of the Empire. During his cross-examination, he is repeatedly asked,“Do you recant?” He responds, “Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me, Amen!”
1534: Sir Thomas More is imprisoned in the Tower of London. More was a social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He was also a counselor to Henry VIII, and Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to 16 May 1532. He wrote Utopia, published in 1516, about the political system of an imaginary, ideal island nation. More opposed the Protestant Reformation, in particular, the theology of Martin Luther and William Tyndale. More also opposed the king’s separation from the Catholic Church, refusing to acknowledge Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England and the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. After refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy, he was convicted of treason and beheaded. Of his execution, he was reported to have said: “I die the King’s good servant, and God’s first.”
1755: Publication of Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language. The project was contracted for three years, but took nine, and remained the standard for our native tongue until the publication of the first Oxford English Dictionary in 1928.
1775: Paul Revere rides from Boston to Lexington and Concord, announcing the “British are Coming!” Paul Revere was essential to thinkers like John Adams, especially when they needed something done. At age 41, Revere was a prosperous, established and prominent Boston silversmith. He had helped organize an intelligence and alarm system to keep watch on the British military. Revere later served as a Massachusetts militia officer. His ride to Lexington and Concord was part of a tightly organized web of his Alarm Riders who already foiled the British on several other occasions. The ride led to tenacious fights between the colonists and the British regulars that morning, including the “shot heard “round the world” as the face-off developed. The British retreated back to Boston, taking essentially all day under harassing fire along the entire road back to the city. This morning set the stage for the coming war. Following the war, Revere returned to his silversmith trade. He used the profits from his expanding business to finance his work in iron casting, bronze bell and cannon casting, and the forging of copper bolts and spikes. In 1800 he became the first American to successfully roll copper into sheets for use as sheathing on naval vessels.
1770: Captain James Cook in HMS Endeavour arrives at New South Wales and begins exploration and survey of the Great Barrier Reef.
1789: George Washington leaves his Mount Vernon home, en route to his inauguration as the first President of the United States.
1790: Death of Benjamin Franklin.
1814: Napoleon Bonaparte abdicates as Emperor and departs for exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba.
1861: Colonel Robert E. Lee resigns from the United States Army.
1865: Shouting “Sic Semper Tyrannis- the South is avenged!” actor John Wilkes Booth shoots President Lincoln at Ford’s Theater. He breaks his left leg leaping from the Presidential box onto the stage but succeeds in escaping Washington D.C. After getting his leg set by Dr. Mudd (‘your name is Mud’) he continues his flight but is cornered and killed in a burning barn near Bowling Green, Virginia.
1867: Birth of Wilbur Wright, part of the team responsible for the first flight from Kitty Hawk.
1881: Bat Masterson’s last shootout. In support of his brother James, sheriff of Dodge City, the elder Masterson travels from Tombstone, Arizona to confront and shoot two criminals who were terrorizing the Kansas cattle town. No one was killed, although several were injured. A jury reasoned that his actions were essentially in keeping with the laws of the city at the time and fined him $8.00 for disturbing the peace.
1889: Birth of Adolf Hitler, in the town of Braunau am Inn, in Austria-Hungary.
1894: Birth of Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev was employed as a metal worker during his youth, and he was a political commissar during the Russian Civil War. With the help of Lazar Kaganovich, he worked his way up the Soviet hierarchy. He supported Joseph Stalin’s purges and approved thousands of arrests. In 1938, Stalin sent him to govern Ukraine, and he continued the purges there. Stalin’s death in 1953 triggered a power struggle, from which Khrushchev ultimately emerged as Premiere. On 25 February 1956, he delivered the “Secret Speech”, which denounced Stalin’s purges and ushered in a less repressive era in the Soviet Union. His domestic policies, aimed at bettering the lives of ordinary citizens, were often ineffective, especially in agriculture. Hoping eventually to rely on missiles for national defense, Khrushchev ordered major cuts in conventional forces. Despite the cuts, Khrushchev’s rule saw the tensest years of the Cold War, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis (Wikipedia).
1906: An earthquake registering 8.25 on the Richter scale strikes San Francisco, leveling buildings, shattering gas and water mains, and igniting a fire that burns for three days. Over 700 residents are killed, 28,000 buildings are destroyed and damage payments exceed $500,000,000.
1912: RMS Titanic strikes an iceberg and sinks. Over 1500 passengers drown in what remains the single biggest non-combat transportation disaster in history.
1920: The League of Nations recognizes the Balfour Declaration and creates the British Mandate of Palestine from lands ceded by the Ottoman Empire at the close WWI.
1942: Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, USAAF, leads a flight of B-25s from the flight deck of USS Hornet (CV-8), operating 650 nautical miles east of Japan. Coming five months after Pearl Harbor, Corregidor and Singapore, and in the face of a continuing onslaught by Japanese forces throughout the Asia-Pacific basin, the raids accomplish little militarily but provide a massive morale boost at home. Later, as part of the Navy’s buildup and delivery of aircraft carriers during the war (114 carriers of various sizes were in commission by September ’45), in September 1944, CV-38 was commissioned USS Shangri-La. Lieutenant Colonel Doolittle was awarded the Medal of Honor for his leadership of this raid.
1943: Death of Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamato (b.1884), a former student at the U.S. Naval War College and Harvard University (1919-1921), Commander in Chief of the Combined Imperial Fleet and architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor. American intelligence learned that he would be making an inspection flight to the Solomon Islands in mid-April. Based on this knowledge, an assassination attempt was specifically ordered by President Roosevelt. Planning and execution of the mission was assigned to a squadron of long-range P-38 fighters, flying under a code-name: “Operation Vengeance.” Successful.
1945: Lieutenant Colonel Boris Pash, USA, seizes 1,100 tons of enriched uranium in Strassfurt, Germany, just before our Soviet “allies” could have found it first.
1945: Soldiers of the Red Army enter Berlin.
1947: Birth of Lew Alcindor, who later became Kareem Abdul-Jabar, holder of the NBA record for points scored, six MVP awards and six NBA championships.
1952: First flight of Boeing’s B-52 Stratofortress. The bomber was capable of carrying up to 70,000 pounds (32,000 kg) of weapons,and has a typical combat range of more than 8,800 miles (14,080 km) without aerial refueling.
1953: USS New Jersey (BB-62) shells communist forces in and around Wonsan Harbor from Wonsan Harbor itself.
1961: First day of the Bay of Pigs invasion.
1964: Sandy Koufax pitches his 9th complete game without allowing a walk.
1970: After a near-disastrous trip around the moon and manual course corrections made by sightings through the LM windows along the limb of the earth, Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell, and crew Fred Haise and Jack Swigert make a successful splashdown within sight of the recovery ship USS Iwo Jima. The lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the Service Module (SM) upon which the Command Module (CM) had depended. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need to make makeshift repairs to the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth on April 17, 1970, six days after launch.
1972: Launch of Apollo 16, the fifth of six total Apollo flights to land on the moon. Astronauts John Young and Charlie Duke spend just under three days on the surface and collect more than 200 pounds of rock samples. Thomas Mattingly remained with the command module in lunar orbit.
1978: By a one-vote margin the United States Senate votes 68-32 to ratify the Panama Canal Treaty, ceding sovereignty of the Canal Zone and operational control of the canal itself to Panama. Former President Carter was the sole senior US representative at the final handover ceremonies in 1999.
1988: USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) strikes an Iranian mine floating free in international waters. The blast tears a fifteen foot hole in the hull, breaks the keel, and floods an engine room. The crew fought fire and flooding for over five hours, decisively saving the ship from otherwise certain destruction. Roberts was eventually lifted aboard a Dutch heavy-lift barge, the Mighty Servant 2, and returned to the United States for repairs. After forensics proved a direct link from the mine to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Navy launched Operation Praying Mantis, a one-day retaliation that destroyed two Iranian oil platforms they had converted to command and control stations, sank an Iranian frigate, heavily damaged another, and sank three Iranian high speed patrol boats. None of Roberts’ crew was killed, although ten were injured as a result of the blast.
1993: Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms storm the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas with Bradley fighting vehicles (“tanks” in the press) and tear gas, igniting the compound into an inferno that kills 77 U.S. citizens. Attorney General Janet Reno authorized and defended the action of the ATF agents. Fifty-one days before the FBI final assault, scores of federal Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agents launched an attack on the Davidians’ home spurred by allegations that they had converted semi-automatic rifles to full-automatic capacity. The ATF’s lead investigator had previously rejected an offer to peacefully search the Davidians’ home for firearms violations. Four ATF agents and six Davidians were killed in the fracas on February 28, 1993. At least one ATF agent told superiors that the ATF fired first, spurring an immediate end to the official shooting review. But the media trumpeted the ATF storyline that its agents had been ambushed, entitling the feds to be far more aggressive in the following weeks.
1995: A truck bomb devastates the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 U.S. citizens and injuring 680 others going about their business. Timothy McVey is later convicted and executed for the crime, which he freely admitted was timed to the Waco raid.
1999: The German Bundestag returns to Berlin, the first government to sit there since the Reichstag was dissolved in 1945.