This Day In History – July 20th
WORLD’S FIRST INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINE – JULY 20, 1807
The Pyréolophore (from Ancient Greek pyr, meaning “fire”, eolo, meaning “wind”, and phore, meaning “produce”) was probably the world’s first internal combustion engine. It was invented in the early 19th century in Chalon-sur-Saône, France, by the Niépce brothers: Nicéphore Niépce (who went on to invent photography) and his brother Claude.
In 1807 the brothers ran a prototype internal combustion engine, and on 20 July 1807 a patent was granted by Napoleon Bonaparte after it had successfully powered a boat upstream on the river Saone.
The Pyréolophore ran on what were believed to be “controlled dust explosions” of various experimental fuels, although technically they were deflagrations (rapid burns). The fuels included mixtures of Lycopodium powder (the spores of Lycopodium moss), finely crushed coal dust and resin.
Operating independently, the Swiss engineer François Isaac de Rivaz built the De Rivaz engine, a hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine in 1807. These practical engineering projects may have followed the 1680 theoretical design of an internal combustion engine by the Dutch scientist Christian Huygens. The separate, virtually contemporaneous implementations of this design in different modes of transport means that the de Rivaz engine can be correctly described as the first use of an internal combustion engine in an automobile (1808), whilst the Pyréolophore was the first use of an internal combustion engine in a boat (1807). [Source: Wikipedia]
ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT ON HITLER – JULY 20, 1944
Photograph via the German Federal Archive
On 20 July 1944, an attempt was made to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Führer of the Third Reich, inside his Wolf’s Lair field headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia. The plot was the culmination of the efforts of several groups in the German Resistance to overthrow the Nazi-led German government. The failure of both the assassination and the military coup d’état which was planned to follow it led to the arrest of at least 7,000 people by the Gestapo. According to records of the Führer Conferences on Naval Affairs, 4,980 people were executed, resulting in the destruction of the organised resistance movement in Germany.
At 10:00AM on 20 July Lieutenant Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg flew back to the Wolfsschanze for another Hitler military conference with a bomb in his briefcase. Around 12:30PM as the conference began, Stauffenberg made an excuse to use a washroom in Wilhelm Keitel’s office where he used pliers to crush the end of a pencil detonator inserted into a 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) block of plastic explosive wrapped in brown paper, that was prepared by Wessel von Freytag-Loringhoven.
The detonator consisted of a thin copper tube containing acid that would take ten minutes to silently eat through wire holding back the firing pin from the percussion cap. He then placed the primed bomb quickly inside his briefcase, having been told his presence was required. He entered the conference room and with the unwitting assistance of Major Ernst John von Freyend placed his briefcase under the table around which Hitler and more than 20 officers had gathered.
After a few minutes, Stauffenberg received a planned phone call and left the room. It is presumed that Colonel Heinz Brandt, who was standing next to Hitler, used his foot to move the briefcase aside by pushing it behind the leg of the conference table, thus unwittingly deflecting the blast from Hitler but causing his own death with the loss of one of his legs when the bomb detonated. Between 12:40 and 12:50 the bomb detonated, demolishing the conference room. Three officers and the stenographer were seriously injured and died soon after. Hitler survived, as did everyone else who was shielded from the blast by the conference table leg. Hitler’s trousers were singed and tattered and he suffered from a perforated eardrum, as did most of the other 24 people in the room. [Source: Wikipedia]
Photograph via the German Federal Archive
ABDULLAH I KING OF JORDAN ASSASSINATED – JULY 20, 1951
Photograph via U.S. Library of Congress
Abdullah I bin al-Hussein, King of Jordan (February 1882 – 20 July 1951) was born in Mecca, Ottoman Empire, (in modern-day Saudi Arabia) was the second of three sons of Sherif Hussein bin Ali. From 1909 to 1914, Abdullah sat in the Ottoman legislature, as deputy for Mecca, but allied with Britain during World War I. Between 1916 to 1918, working with the British guerrilla leader T. E. Lawrence, he played a key role as architect and planner of the Great Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule, leading guerrilla raids on garrisons. He was the ruler of Transjordan and its successor state, Jordan, from 1921 to 1951—first as Emir under a British Mandate from 1921 to 1946, then as King of an independent nation from 1946 until his assassination.
On 20 July 1951, Abdullah, while visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, was shot dead by “a Palestinian from the Husseini clan.” On 16 July, Riad Bey al-Solh, a former Prime Minister of Lebanon, had been assassinated in Amman, where rumors were circulating that Lebanon and Jordan were discussing a joint separate peace with Israel.
Abdullah was in Jerusalem to give a eulogy at the funeral and for a prearranged meeting with Reuven Shiloah and Moshe Sasson. Abdullah was shot while attending Friday prayers at the Dome of the Rock in the company of his grandson, Prince Hussein. The Palestinian gunman, motivated by fears that the old king would make a separate peace with Israel, fired three fatal bullets into the King’s head and chest. Abdullah’s grandson, Prince Hussein, was at his side and was hit too. A medal that had been pinned to Hussein’s chest at his grandfather’s insistence deflected the bullet and saved his life. Once Hussein became king, the assassination of Abdullah was said to have influenced Hussein not to enter peace talks with Israel in the aftermath of the Six-Day War in order to avoid a similar fate. [Source: Wikipedia]
Photograph via U.S. Library of Congress
On the Aerodrome at Amman: T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia, 1888-1935), Sir Herbert Samuel (1870-1963), and Emir Abdullah (Abdullah I of Jordan, 1882-1951). Hand-colored photographic print. LOC note: “Photograph also shows a woman, possibly Gertrude Bell, at left and Sheik Majid Pasha el Adwan at far right.”
FIRST HUMANS LAND ON EARTH’S MOON – JULY 20, 1969
Photograph by NASA
Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first humans on Earth’s Moon on July 20, 1969 (20:17:40 UTC). The mission, carried out by the United States, is considered a major accomplishment in the history of space exploration.
Launched from Florida on July 16, the fifth manned mission, and the third lunar mission of NASA’s Apollo program, was crewed by Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr.
On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin landed in the Sea of Tranquillity and on July 21 became the first humans to walk on the Moon. Their landing craft, Eagle, spent 21 hours and 31 minutes on the lunar surface while Collins orbited above in the command ship, Columbia. The three astronauts returned to Earth with 47.5 pounds (21.5 kg) of lunar rocks and landed in the Pacific Ocean on July 24.
Apollo 11 fulfilled U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s goal of reaching the Moon before the Soviet Union by the end of the 1960s, which he had expressed during a 1961 mission statement before the United States Congress: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Five additional Apollo missions landed on the Moon from 1969 to 1972. [Source: Wikipedia]
Photograph by NASA
Photograph by NASA
VIKING 1: FIRST SPACECRAFT TO LAND ON MARS – JULY 20, 1976
Photograph by NASA
Viking 1 was the first of two spacecraft sent to Mars as part of NASA’s Viking program. It was the first spacecraft to successfully land on Mars and perform its mission, and holds the record for the second longest Mars surface mission of 6 years and 116 days (from landing until surface mission termination, Earth time).
Following launch using a Titan/Centaur launch vehicle on August 20, 1975 and a 10-month cruise to Mars, the orbiter began returning global images of Mars about 5 days before orbit insertion. Landing on Mars was planned for July 4, 1976, the United States Bicentennial, but imaging of the primary landing site showed it was too rough for a safe landing. The landing was delayed until a safer site was found. The lander separated from the orbiter on July 20 08:51 UT and landed at 11:53:06 UT. It was the first attempt by the United States at landing on Mars. [Source: Wikipedia]
HANK AARON HITS HIS FINAL HOME RUN #755 – JULY 20, 1976
Photograph via Bonanzasports.net
Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron (born February 5, 1934), nicknamed “Hammer,” “Hammerin’ Hank,” and “Bad Henry,” is a retired American baseball player whose Major League Baseball (MLB) career spanned the years 1954 through 1976. Aaron is widely considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. In 1999, editors at The Sporting News ranked Hank Aaron fifth on their list of “Greatest Baseball Players”.
After playing with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League and in the minor leagues, Aaron started his major league career in 1954. In his final season, he was the only remaining and last Negro league baseball player on an active major league roster. He played 21 seasons with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves in the National League, and his last two years (1975–76) with the Milwaukee Brewers in the American League.
His most notable achievement was breaking the career home run record set by Babe Ruth. During his professional career, Aaron performed at a consistently high level for an extended period of time. He hit 24 or more home runs every year from 1955 through 1973, and is the only player to hit 30 or more home runs in a season at least fifteen times. Aaron made the All-Star team every year from 1955 until 1975 and won three Gold Glove Awards. In 1957, he won the National League Most Valuable Player Award, while that same year, the Braves won the World Series, his one World Series victory during his career. In the second half of the 20th Century, Hank Aaron became the first player to lead the National League in runs, home runs, and runs batted in, and not be named Most Valuable Player.
Aaron’s consistency helped him to establish a number of important hitting records during his 23-year career. Aaron holds the MLB records for the most career runs batted in (2,297) and the most career extra base hits (1,477). Hank Aaron is also in the top five for career hits with 3,771 (third) and runs with 2,174, which is tied for fourth with Babe Ruth. He is one of only four players to have at least seventeen seasons with 150 or more hits. He also is in second place in at-bats (12,364), and in third place in games played (3,298).
On July 20, 1976, Hank Aaron hit his 755th and final home run at Milwaukee County Stadium off Dick Drago of the California Angels. He is second on the all-time home run list with 755 to Barry Bonds’ 762. Aaron held the record for most home runs from 1974 – 2006. [Source: Wikipedia]
HYDE PARK AND REGENT’S PARK BOMBINGS – JULY 20, 1982
Photograph by TheEgyptian
The Hyde Park and Regent’s Park bombings occurred on 20 July 1982 in London, England. Members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonated two bombs during British military ceremonies in Hyde Park and Regent’s Park. The explosions killed eleven military personnel: four soldiers of the Blues & Royals and seven military bandsmen of the Royal Green Jackets. Seven of the regiment’s horses also died in the attack.
The first attack was a large nail bomb hidden in a blue Austin car parked on South Carriage Drive in Hyde Park, along the route used by the Household Cavalry – the Queen’s official bodyguard regiment during the Changing of the Guard between Buckingham Palace and Knightsbridge. Three soldiers of the Blues and Royals were killed instantly, and another died on 23 July from his injuries. The other soldiers in the procession were all badly wounded and shrapnel and nails sprayed into the crowd of tourists assembled to watch the parade, causing further injuries. Seven of the regiment’s horses were also killed or had to be put down because of their injuries.
The second explosion occurred just over two hours later, when a bomb hidden underneath the bandstand in Regent’s Park exploded during a performance of the music from Oliver! by the Royal Green Jackets band to a crowd of 120 people. Here too, the crowd was peppered by shrapnel from the iron bandstand, causing dozens of injuries amongst the audience, as well as killing or wounding the entire band. The blast was so powerful that one of the bodies was thrown onto an iron fence thirty yards away, and seven bandsmen were killed outright.
The second bomb was thought to have been placed under the bandstand weeks in advance, with a timer set to the date and time of the advertised concert.
The IRA claimed responsibility for the attack by deliberately mirroring Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s words just a few months previously when Britain entered the Falklands War. They proclaimed that: “The Irish people have sovereign and national rights which no task or occupational force can put down”. Reacting to the bombing, Thatcher stated that “These callous and cowardly crimes have been committed by evil, brutal men who know nothing of democracy. We shall not rest until they are brought to justice.” [Source: Wikipedia]
AUNG SAN SUU KYI PLACED ON HOUSE ARREST IN BURMA – JULY 20, 1989
Aung San Suu Kyi (born 19 June 1945) is a Burmese opposition politician and the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy. In the 1990 general election, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won 59% of the national votes and 81% (392 of 485) of the seats in Parliament. She had, however, already been detained under house arrest before the elections. She remained under house arrest in Burma for almost 15 of the 21 years from 20 July 1989 until her release on 13 November 2010.
Aung San Suu Kyi received the Rafto Prize and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. In 1992 she was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding by the Government of India and the International Simón Bolívar Prize from the government of Venezuela. In 2007, the Government of Canada made her an honorary citizen of the country, one of only five people ever to receive the honor. Aung San Suu Kyi is the third child and only daughter of Aung San, considered to be the father of modern-day Burma.
Influenced by both Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence and by more specifically Buddhist concepts, Aung San Suu Kyi entered politics to work for democratization, helped found the National League for Democracy on 24 September 1988, and was put under house arrest on 20 July 1989. She was offered freedom if she left the country, but she refused.
One of her most famous speeches is the “Freedom From Fear” speech, which begins: “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” [Source: Wikipedia]