This happened this week in history:
1533: Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizzaro and his army arrive in the Inca Empire, raiding the Andean’s of their “treasures”, particularly silver. The massive quantity of plunder that fills the coffers of Spain also sets in motion the “Spanish Price Revolution”, an inflationary spiral that wreaks havoc on the economies of Europe, “too many people with too much money chased too few goods.”
1763: Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon begin surveying the boundary line that now bears their name. The Mason-Dixon line was the English Government’s solution to a border dispute between the colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland. Its primary goal was to finally define the demarcation in the western watershed of the Chesapeake, and to separate out the “south counties” of Pennsylvania that then became the separate colony of Delaware.
1775: American Revolutionary hero and Colonel of New Hampshire’s Green Mountain Boys, Ethan Allen leads a night attack against Montreal. The commander of the British garrison received early word of the attack, and nearly half of the American force fails to cross the St. Lawrence River. Allen, surrounded and outnumbered, was forced to surrender. He was imprisoned through 1778.
1840: Birth of French sculptor August Rodin.
1851: Publication of Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick.
1866: Birth of Sun Yat Sen, Chinese revolutionary whose pursuit of “nationalism, democracy, and the people’s livelihood” led to the final overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912. He is one of the few post-dynastic Chinese who remains not only respected but revered on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. His chief protégé was Chiang Kai Shek major part in the Allied victory WWII. Both the Nationalists and Communists claim him as the founder of the modern Chinese state.
1910: Aviation pioneer Eugene Ely makes the first takeoff of an aeroplane from a ship, launching off of a specially constructed wooden platform over the forward turrets of USS Birmingham near Naval Station Norfolk. Ely fired up his flying machine, right after the Officer of the Deck had already ordered up steam and the anchor raised. Ely ordered the wheel chocks pulled as he wound up the engine to full power. The plane powered down the slightly inclined ramp, continuing down and bouncing off the water as it gathered airspeed, breaking off one of its wheels in the process. Ely continued to fly the plane and recovered in the large meadow just south of Willoughby Spit (now Chambers Field). Ely’s flight made him somewhat of a star among naval leadership. Two months later, aboard the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania anchored in San Francisco Bay, he not only took off from the deck, but also made the first landing aboard a ship, before turning it around on the deck and taking off again. Naval aviation was born.
1945: Birth of Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young.
1964: Birth of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Somali refugee, Dutch author and Legislator, target of a continuing Islamist fatwa. As a Dutch refugee she is now resident in the United States, active lecturer and author, whose firsthand knowledge of the Muslim world’s abuse of women. Her first book, Infidel, depicts how fundamentalist Islamist thinking can effect normal human relations, to say nothing of its effect on larger questions of governance. After the jihadist murder of Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gough (d.2004), the murderer plunged a knife into Van Gough’s chest, holding in place a note which read, “Ayaan, you’re next.”
1981: Space Shuttle Columbia launches on STS-2, its second mission and the first time a man-rated spacecraft is used twice. The ship went on to fly a total of 28 missions, logging 300 days in orbit, 4808 orbits, before disintegrating on re-entry, February 1, 2003. Note: Physicist Richard Feynman, together with the other members of the Rogers Commission, helped to root out the technical failure that led to the explosion, which turned out to be the rubber O-rings fitted to the field joint of the shuttle’s right solid rocket booster.
On November 13 (1970), Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence; that request came from his wife. Deep down, he knew she was right, but he also knew that some day he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his friend, Oscar Madison. Several years earlier, Madison’s wife had thrown HIM out, requesting that HE never return. Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?