406 AD: Traditional date for the beginning of the great Barbarian invasion of the Roman Empire, with waves of Vandals, Alans and Suebians crossing the un-bridged but frozen Rhine River to begin a massive campaign of pillage along a broad front of Roman Gaul.
1229: James I of Aragon enters the port city of Palma de Majorca, completing the reconquista of the Baleric Islands from the invading Moors of North Africa.
1600: Queen Elizabeth I grants a Royal Charter to “Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading with the East Indies”. The charter awarded a monopoly on all trade with all countries east of the Cape of Good Hope and west of the Strait of Magellan. From Wikipedia, “Any traders, in breach of the charter without a license from the Company, were liable to forfeiture of their ships and cargo (half of which went to the Crown and the other half to the Company), as well as imprisonment at the ‘royal pleasure’.”
1642: England’s King Charles I, surrounds himself with soldiers and enters into the Chamber to arrest key Members, all of whom slipped away before the arrest could be made. The act is widely considered the opening act of the English Civil War.
1776: John Murray, the 4th Lord Dunmore and last Royal Governor of Virginia, orders the three ships of his fleet to set fire to the waterfront buildings of Norfolk, Virginia. Using heated shot, the mission was a complete success, made even more successful by rebel forces finishing the job to prevent the seaport’s continued use by royalist forces. By the end of the day, virtually the entire city had burned to ashes. One of the few buildings that remained standing after the fire was Saint Paul’s Church, whose three-foot thick masonry walls simply absorbed the shot and withstood the flames all around. One of Lord Dunmore’s cannonballs remains lodged in a corner wall of the church.
1777: The Continental Army under General George Washington attacks and decisively defeats British Regulars at the Battle of Princeton (NJ).
1809: Birth of Louis Braille (d.1852), blinded in an accident as a child, Braille developed an alternative alphabet that enabled the blind to “read” with their sense of touch.
1863: President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation, legally freeing slaves from their servitude in the states still in rebellion on this date.
1870: Construction begins on the Brooklyn Bridge.
1879: Inventor Thomas Alva Edison publicly demonstrates the incandescent light bulb in his Menlo Park laboratory.
1884: In London, founding of the Fabian Society, a collection of intellectuals who sought to create a socialist society by all means short of violent revolution. The named themselves after the Roman General Fabius, who used delaying tactics and attrition to wear down and defeat Carthaginian General Hannibal. The Fabians function as a left-wing think tank today, closely aligned with Britain’s Labour Party.
1895: Birth of Leroy Grumman whose company built some of the most legendary aircraft in U.S. Navy history, including the F-6F Hellcat of WWII fame, and the A-6 Intruder and F-14 Tomcat that spearheaded Naval Aviation* during the Cold War. The planes’ reputation for toughness earned them the nickname “Grumman Ironworks.”
1964: Birth of Norfolk native Pernel “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, recently named as #10 in a list of the 100 greatest boxers of all time.
1970: At 00:00:00 GMT, time began for the UNIX computer system.
1992: Death of Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, USNR , one of the greatest thinkers who ushered the U.S. into the computer age. In the early 1950s, she worked on the design team for the original UINVAC 1 system, which included her particular input, a functional compiler, a capability long considered beyond the reach of computing machines. Ten years later, she spearheaded the design and application of COBOL, the first computer language designed around more natural English as opposed to machine language. She retired in 1986, the oldest commissioned officer in the Navy at 79 years of age. The USS Hopper is named in her honor.
1983: Formal break-up date for the AT&T – Bell Labs regulated monopoly, an act that freed AT&T to exploit all of its lab work into the burgeoning field of digital telecommunications and personal computing.