This Day In History – December 21st
ARTHUR WYNNE’S ‘WORD-CROSS’, THE FIRST CROSSWORD PUZZLE, IS PUBLISHED – DECEMBER 21, 1913
On December 21, 1913, Arthur Wynne, a journalist from Liverpool, England, published a “word-cross” puzzle in the New York World that embodied most of the features of the genre as we know it. This puzzle is frequently cited as the first crossword puzzle, and Wynne as the inventor. Later, the name of the puzzle was changed to “crossword”.
Crossword puzzles became a regular weekly feature in the World, and spread to other newspapers; the Boston Globe, for example was publishing them at least as early as 1917. By the 1920s, the crossword phenomenon was starting to attract notice. In 1921, the New York Public Library reported that “The latest craze to strike libraries is the crossword puzzle.”
The first book of crossword puzzles appeared in 1924, published by Simon and Schuster. “This odd-looking book with a pencil attached to it” was an instant hit and crossword puzzles became the craze of 1924. [Source]
WORLD’S FIRST FULL-LENGTH ANIMATED FEATURE PREMIERES
DECEMBER 21, 1937
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a 1937 American animated film based on Snow White, a German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. It was the first full-length cel-animated feature in motion picture history, as well as the first animated feature film produced in America, the first produced in full color, the first to be produced by Walt Disney and Walt Disney Productions, and the first in the Walt Disney Animated Classics canon.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre on December 21, 1937, and the film was released to theaters nationwide by RKO Radio Pictures on February 4, 1938. The story was adapted by storyboard artists Dorothy Ann Blank, Richard Creedon, Merrill De Maris, Otto Englander, Earl Hurd, Dick Rickard, Ted Sears and Webb Smith. David Hand was the supervising director, while William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, and Ben Sharpsteen directed the film’s individual sequences.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was one of only two animated films to rank in the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest American films of all time in 1997 (the other being Disney’s Fantasia), ranking number 49. It achieved a higher ranking (#34) in the list’s 2007 update, this time being the only traditionally animated film on the list. The following year AFI named the film as the greatest American animated film of all time. In 1989, the film was added to the United States National Film Registry as being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. [Source]
LOUIS WASHKANSKY, RECIPIENT OF WORLD’S FIRST HEART TRANSPLANT DIES – DECEMBER 21, 1967
Doctor Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first human heart transplant operation on 3 December 1967, in an operation assisted by his brother, Marius Barnard; the operation lasted nine hours and used a team of thirty people. The patient, Louis Washkansky, was a 54-year-old grocer, suffering from diabetes and incurable heart disease.
The donor heart came from a young woman, Denise Darvall, who had been rendered brain damaged in an accident on December 2, 1967, while crossing a street in Cape Town. After securing permission from Darvall’s father to use her heart, Barnard performed the transplant. Rather than wait for Darvall’s heart to stop beating, at his brother, Dr. Marius Barnard’s urging, Christiaan had injected potassium into her heart to paralyze it and render her technically dead by the whole-body standard.
Washkansky survived the operation and lived for 18 days. However, he succumbed to pneumonia as he was taking Immunosuppressive drugs. Though the first patient with the heart of another human being survived for only a little more than two weeks, Barnard had passed a milestone in a new field of life-extending surgery.
Barnard became an international superstar overnight and was celebrated around the world for his daring accomplishment. He was quite photogenic, and enjoyed the media attention following the operation. Barnard continued to perform heart transplants. A transplant operation was conducted on 2 January 1968, and the patient, Philip Blaiberg, survived for 19 months. Dirk van Zyl, who received a new heart in 1971, was the longest-lived recipient, surviving over 23 years. [Source]
APOLLO 8, THE FIRST HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT TO LEAVE EARTH’S ORBIT, LAUNCHES – DECEMBER 21, 1968
Apollo 8, the second crewed mission in the American Apollo space program, was the first human spaceflight to leave Earth orbit; the first to be captured by and escape from the gravitational field of another celestial body; and the first crewed voyage to return to Earth from another celestial body—Earth’s Moon.
The three-man crew of mission Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders became the first humans to travel beyond low Earth orbit, the first to see Earth as a whole planet, and then the first to directly see the far side of the Moon. The 1968 mission, the first crewed launch of a Saturn V rocket, was also the first crewed launch from the John F. Kennedy Space Center, Florida, located adjacent to Cape Canaveral.
After launching on December 21, 1968, Apollo 8 took three days to travel to the Moon. It orbited ten times over the course of 20 hours, during which the crew made a Christmas Eve television broadcast in which they read the first 10 verses from the Book of Genesis. At the time, the broadcast was the most watched TV program ever. Apollo 8′s successful mission paved the way for Apollo 11 to fulfill U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s. [Source]
On November 22, 1968, the Apollo 8 crew is photographed posing on a Kennedy Space Center (KSC) simulator in their space suits. From left to right are: James A. Lovell Jr., William A. Anders, and Frank Borman. Photograph by NASA
The first image taken by humans of the whole Earth. Photographed by the crew of Apollo 8 (probably by Bill Anders) the photo shows the Earth at a distance of about 30,000 km. South is at the top, with South America visible at the covering the top half center, with Africa entering into shadow. North America is in the bottom right. NASA
Taken by Apollo 8 crewmember Bill Anders on December 24, 1968, showing the Earth seemingly rising above the lunar surface. Note that this phenomenon is only visible from someone in orbit around the Moon. Because of the Moon’s synchronous rotation about the Earth (i.e., the same side of the Moon is always facing the Earth), no Earthrise can be observed by a stationary observer on the surface of the Moon. NASA
THE LOCKERBIE BOMBING: PAN AM FLIGHT 103 – DECEMBER 21, 1988
Pan Am Flight 103 was Pan American World Airways’ third daily scheduled transatlantic flight from London Heathrow Airport to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. On Wednesday, 21 December 1988, the aircraft flying this route — a Boeing 747–121 registered N739PA and named “Clipper Maid of the Seas” — was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members. Eleven people in Lockerbie, in southern Scotland, were also killed as large sections of the plane fell in the town and destroyed several houses, bringing total fatalities to 270. As a result, the event is also known as the Lockerbie bombing.
Of the total of 270 fatalities, 189 were American citizens and 43 British citizens. No more than 4 of the remaining 37 victims of the bombing came from any one of the 19 other countries. After a three-year joint investigation by Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, during which 15,000 witness statements were taken, indictments for murder were issued on 13 November 1991 against Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer and the head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, the LAA station manager in Luqa Airport, Malta. UN sanctions against Libya and protracted negotiations with the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi secured the handover of the accused on 5 April 1999 to Scottish police at Camp Zeist, Netherlands, having been chosen as a neutral venue for their trial.
Until 2003 Libya had never formally admitted carrying out the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. On 16 August 2003 Libya formally admitted responsibility (but did not admit guilt) for Pan Am Flight 103 in a letter presented to the president of the United Nations Security Council. Felicity Barringer of The New York Times said that the letter had “general language that lacked any expression of remorse” for the people killed in the bombing. The letter stated that it “accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials”.
On 29 May 2002, Libya offered up to US$2.7 billion to settle claims by the families of the 270 killed in the Lockerbie bombing, representing US$10 million per family. The Libyan offer was that [Source]:
- 40% of the money would be released when United Nations sanctions, suspended in 1999, were cancelled;
- another 40% when US trade sanctions were lifted; and
- the final 20% when the US State Department removed Libya from its list of states sponsoring terrorism.