In 1891 the SS Utopia ocean liner accidentally collides with the warship HMS Anson in Gibraltar Bay and sank, killing 562 of the 880 passengers aboard. In 1963 Mt Agung erupts in Bali, killing more than 1,100 people. And in 1992 the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was bombed, killing 29 and wounding 242.

In happier news researchers at the University of California announced the creation of element 98 in 1950, which they named ‘californium’. The US launched the first solar-powered satellite in 1958 which became the first satellite to achieve a long-term orbit. And in 1969 Golda Meir became the first female prime minister of Israel.

There were two American astronauts born this date: James Irwin (1930) who was the Apollo 15 pilot and was the 8th man to walk on the moon. He later became the first and youngest moonwalker to die. Ken Mattingly, (1936) who famously avoided the Apollo 13 debacle, and was instrumental in helping bring the astronauts safely home, would get another chance later on aboard Apollo 13 which orbited the moon but did not land. And coincidentally Gary Sinise, the actor that played Ken Mattingly in the film Apollo 13, was also born on this date in 1955.

There were also 3 notable women born on this date: Rosina Heikel (1842), the first female physician in Finland, specializing in gynecology and pediatrics; Cornelius Clapp (1849) the first woman awarded a PhD in biology; and Myrlie Evers-Williams( 1933), the widow of Medgar Evers, who was murdered for standing up against segregation. She continued his work, which they had first done together, became chairwoman of the NAACP, and delivered the invocation at Pres Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

The wise stoic philosopher and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius died in 180 AD, and as we saw in the movie Gladiator, was succeeded by his nasty son Commodus. The great stage and screen actress Helen Hayes walked off the stage in 1993. She was the first woman (and only third overall) to win an EGOT award batch – Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards.

There was also a trio of scientists born on this date: Christian Doppler (1853) who discovered what in sound theory is called the Doppler effect: Irene Joliot Curie, eldest daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie, who with her husband did what her parents had done -shared the Nobel Prize – this time for work involving induced radioactivity.

And American mathematician and computer scientist John Backus died in 2007, forty years after he and his team designed FORTRAN in 1967 – five years before I took my first computer programming class, which was taught by a teacher who had worked on the Apollo program and landed men on the moon.

Of course, it is also St Patrick’s Day so think green:)