There were a number of disasters on this date, some natural and some man-made. The Iranian city of Tabriz was devastated by a massive earthquake in 1721,, causing an approximate 80,000 deaths. Thousands of meteor fragments fell on the French city of L’Aigle in 1803, finally convincing European scientists that meteors really do exist. In 1900 the Canadian cities of Ottawa and Hull were destroyed by fires – reducing them to ashes in 12 hours. And the German Luftwaffe mercilessly bombed the city of Guernica in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War, a preview of what would occur over the skies of London and other Allied cities during WWII. And in 1986 the Chernobyl nuclear plant meltdown disaster happened.
There were more positive news items for this day. In 1777 16-year-old Sybil Ludington rode 40 miles to alert colonial forces to the approach of British regular forces. Hockey made its Olympic debut at the Antwerp Games in 1920, with Canada beating Sweden 12-1 for the gold medal. The first clinical trials of the Jonas Salk polio vaccine began in Fairfax County Virginia in 1954. And in 1960 the autocratic leader of South Korea, Syngman Rhee, was forced out by the April Revolution after 12 years in power.
Those who stepped onto the world’s stage on this date included Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius (121 AD), French-American ornithologist and painter John James Audobon (1785), Chinese-American architect I.M.Pei (1917)- designer of the National Gallery of Art, comedian Carol Burnett (1933), and the stony-faced Giancarlo Esposito (1958), most notably seen as drug kingpin Gus in Breaking Bad and genie/mirror/Sydney Glass in Once Upon a Time.
Gypsy Rose Lee danced her final steps in 1970. Irene Ryan (Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies) cooked her last possum in 1973. Jacob Valenti left moviegoers to his MPAA film ratings in 2007. And we lost the musical talents of Count Basie (1984), George Jones (2013), and Harry Belafonte this year, and we lost the humor of Lucille Ball in 1989 – but we have her forever in re-runs.
Today is also World Intellectual Property Day, recognizing the rights of writers, singers, inventors, and other creative people to be rewarded for their efforts and for their compensation to be protected, worldwide.