Sunday, March 13, 2011

⅏Did You Know - These Random Facts? #13 - March

Did You Know?  For the month of
back in.....

  • 0045, The ides of March:  Julius Caesar is murdered.  (Well I kind of knew about this one, lol) Julius Caesar, the "dictator for life" of the Roman Empire, is murdered by his own senators at a meeting in a hall next to Pompey's Theatre. The conspiracy against Caesar encompassed as many as sixty noblemen, including Caesar's own protege, Marcus Brutus.
  • 1669, Mount Etna, on the island of Sicily in modern-day Italy, began to rumble. Multiple eruptions over the next few weeks killed more than 20,000 people and left thousands more homeless. Most of the victims could have saved themselves by fleeing, but stayed, in a vain attempt to save their city.
  • 1864, Congress ordered that the motto "In God We Trust" be placed on American currency.  The phrase replaced "E Pluribus Unum" as the "official" motto of the United States in 1956.
  • 1876, Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone.  The Scottish-born Bell worked in London with his father, Melville Bell, who developed Visible Speech, a written system used to teach speaking to the deaf. In the 1870s, the Bells moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where the younger Bell found work as a teacher at the Pemberton Avenue School for the Deaf.  Three days after filing the patent, the telephone carried its first intelligible message--the famous "Mr. Watson, come here, I need you"--from Bell to his assistant.
  • 1899, Bayer patents Aspirin.  The Imperial Patent Office in Berlin registers Aspirin, the brand name for acetylsalicylic acid, on behalf of the German pharmaceutical company Friedrich Bayer & Co.  Now the most common drug in household medicine cabinets, acetylsalicylic acid was originally made from a chemical found in the bark of willow trees.  In 1897, Bayer employee Felix Hoffman found a way to create a stable form of the drug that was easier and more pleasant to take. (Some evidence shows that Hoffman's work was really done by a Jewish chemist, Arthur Eichengrun, whose contributions were covered up during the Nazi era.) After obtaining the patent rights, Bayer began distributing aspirin in powder form to physicians to give to their patients one gram at a time. The brand name came from "a" for acetyl, "spir" from the spirea plant (a source of salicin) and the suffix "in," commonly used for medications. It quickly became the number-one drug worldwide.
  • 1906, Mine explosion kills 1,060 in France.  A devastating mine disaster kills over 1,000 workers in Courrieres, France.  An underground fire sparked a massive explosion that virtually destroyed a vast maze of mines. 
    The Courrieres Colliery in northern France was a complex series of mines near the Pas-de-Calais Mountains. Tunnels into the mines issued forth from several towns in the area and more than 2,000 men and boys worked the mines, digging for coal that was used mostly in the manufacture of gas. 
    At about 3 p.m. on the afternoon of March 9, a fire began 270 meters underground in what was known as the Cecil pit. Unable to immediately extinguish it, workers decided to close the pit's outlets and starve the fire of air. The following morning, with 1,795 workers inside the mine's deep tunnels, a huge explosion issued forth from the Cecil pit. Apparently, fissures in the pit's walls had allowed in flammable gases that were then sparked by the still-smoldering fire. It was 7 a.m. when debris rocketed out of the tunnels' openings. Several people on the surface were killed by the blast and the roof a mine office was blown right off the building.
    Elvis Presley
  • 1956, A 21-year old singer named Elvis Presley made his Las Vegas debut to poor reviews.  He wouldn't return to a Las Vegas stage for another 13 years!
  • 1959, The first Barbie doll goes on display at the American Toy Fair in New York City.  Eleven inches tall, with a waterfall of blond hair, Barbie was the first mass-produced toy doll in the United States with adult features. The woman behind Barbie was Ruth Handler, who co-founded Mattel, Inc. with her husband in 1945. After seeing her young daughter ignore her baby dolls to play make-believe with paper dolls of adult women, Handler realized there was an important niche in the market for a toy that allowed little girls to imagine the future.
  • 1981, Japanese power plant leaked radioactive waste.  A nuclear accident at a Japan Atomic Power Company plant in Tsuruga, Japan, exposed 59 workers to radiation.   On March 9, a worker forgot to shut a critical valve, causing a radioactive sludge tank to overflow. Fifty-six workers were sent in to mop up the radioactive sludge before the leak could escape the disposal building, but the plan was not successful and 16 tons of waste spilled into Wakasa Bay.  In May 1981, the president and chairman of the Japan Atomic Power Company resigned.
  • 1985, The Coca-Cola Company announced that it was overhauling its secret formula after 99 years to create a sweeter "new" coke.  People were so upset, the company was forced to reintroduce classic Coke less than three months later.  The news was considered so significant that ABC news anchor Peter Jennings interrupted regular programming to share it with viewers!
  • 1987, Sloppy safety procedures lead to ferry sinking. A British ferry, Herald of Free Enterprise, leaving Zeebrugge, Belgium, capsized, drowning 188 people.   Shockingly poor safety procedures led directly to this deadly disaster. Lord Justice Barry Sheen, an investigator of the accident, later said of it, from top to bottom, the body corporate was affected with the disease of sloppiness.
  • 1988, Hail causes stampede at soccer match in Nepal.   A sudden hail storm prompts fans at a soccer match in Katmandu, Nepal, to flee. The resulting stampede killed at least 70 people and injured hundreds more. Approximately 30,000 people were watching the game between the Nepalese home team, Janakpur, and Muktijodha, of Bangladesh, at the National Stadium. A storm approached quickly and hail stones began pelting the spectators. When the fans panicked and rushed to the exits, they found the gates locked, apparently to keep people without tickets from entering the stadium. As fans continued to push forward toward the exits, there was no space for them to go. The victims of the stampede, unable to breathe, were literally crushed to death.
  • 1992, Quake rocks Turkey.   A 6.8-magnitude earthquake near Erzincan, Turkey, and an unusually powerful aftershock two days later kill at least 500 people and leave 50,000 people homeless.  Erzincan was a provincial capital city of 90,000 people 600 miles east of Istanbul in Central Turkey. The people of the area were no strangers to earthquakes--deadly quakes had struck the area in 1047, 1547, 1583, 1666, 1784 and 1939. It was a Friday evening during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when the 1992 earthquake struck; most people in Erzincan and the surrounding area were sitting down for their evening meal. Seventeen seconds of powerful jolts and rocking began at 7:19 p.m., bringing down buildings and all electricity in the region.
    One casualty of the quake was the minaret on top of the Demirkent Mosque—it toppled and fell, killing 27 people.
  • 1996, The legendary cigar-chomping performer George Burns died at his home in Beverly Hills, California, just weeks after celebrating his 100th birthday.
  • 1997, Rapper Notorious B.I.G. is killed in Los Angeles.  Christopher Wallace, a.k.a Biggie Smalls, a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G., is shot to death at a stoplight in Los Angeles. The murder was thought to be the culmination of an ongoing feud between rap music artists from the East and West coasts. Just six months earlier, rapper Tupac Shakur was killed when he was shot while in his car in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. Ironically, Wallace's death came only weeks before his new album, titled Life After Death, was scheduled to be released.
  • 2004, Terrorists bomb trains in Madrid.  191 people are killed and nearly 2,000 are injured when 10 bombs explode on four trains in three Madrid-area train stations during a busy morning rush hour. The bombs were later found to have been detonated by mobile phones.
    The attacks, the deadliest against civilians on European soil since the 1988 Lockerbie airplane bombing, were initially suspected to be the work of the Basque separatist militant group ETA. This was soon proved incorrect as evidence mounted against an extreme Islamist militant group loosely tied to, but thought to be working in the name of, al-Qaida.
  • 2008, Racecar driver Danica Patrick became the first woman to win an IndyCar race.  She captured the Indy Japan 300 in her 50th career start!

 Resources:, various magazines

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