This Day In History – January 4th
SIR ISAAC NEWTON IS BORN – JANUARY 4, 1643
Sir Isaac Newton (NS: 4 January 1643 – 31 March 1727) was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been “considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived.”
His monograph Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, lays the foundations for most of classical mechanics. In this work, Newton described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. Newton showed that the motions of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies are governed by the same set of natural laws, by demonstrating the consistency between Kepler’s laws of planetary motion and his theory of gravitation, thus removing the last doubts about heliocentrism and advancing the Scientific Revolution.
The Principia is generally considered to be one of the most important scientific books ever written, due, independently, to the specific physical laws the work successfully described, and for the style of the work, which assisted in setting standards for scientific publication down to the present time.
Newton built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a theory of colour based on the observation that a prism decomposes white light into the many colours that form the visible spectrum. He also formulated an empirical law of cooling and studied the speed of sound.
In mathematics, Newton shares the credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the development of differential and integral calculus. He also demonstrated the generalised binomial theorem, developed Newton’s method for approximating the roots of a function, and contributed to the study of power series.
Newton was also highly religious. He was an unorthodox Christian, and wrote more on Biblical hermeneutics and occult studies than on science and mathematics, the subjects he is mainly associated with. Newton secretly rejected Trinitarianism, fearing to be accused of refusing holy orders. [Source]
Sir Isaac Newton’s own first edition copy of his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica with his handwritten corrections for the second edition. Photograph by ANDREW DUNN
A descendant of the tree from which an apple reputedly fell and inspired Isaac Newton’s theory of gravitation. Found in the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge, England and photographed by Azeira, August 2004.
The plaque reads:
Sir Isaac Newton’s Apple
This apple tree is a descendant by vegetative propagation of a tree which grew in the garden of Woolsthorpe Manor, near Grantham, and which is reputed to be the tree from which fell the apple that helped Newton to formulate his theory of gravitation. The original tree is said to have died about 1815-1820.
The variety is ‘Flower of Kent’.
SAMUEL COLT SELLS HIS FIRST REVOLVER PISTOL TO US GOVERNMENT
JANUARY 4, 1847
Samuel Colt (July 19, 1814 – January 10, 1862) was an American inventor and industrialist from Hartford, Connecticut. He was the founder of Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company (now known as Colt’s Manufacturing Company), and made the mass-production of the revolver commercially viable for the first time.
After the Texas Rangers ordered 1,000 of his revolvers during the American war with Mexico on January 4th, 1847, his business expanded rapidly. His factory in Hartford built the guns that were credited with taming the Western frontier and were used as sidearms by Union forces in the American Civil War.
Colt’s firearms and his manufacturing methods “shaped the destiny of American Firearms”, according to arms historian James E. Serven. The first industrialist to make successful use of the assembly line, he was also innovative in his use of art, celebrity endorsements and corporate gifts to promote his wares. When Colt died in 1862 before the end of the Civil War, he was one of the wealthiest men in America. His legacies include his company, still in business as of 2012, and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Hartford, built as a memorial in 1867 and now on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2006, Colt was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. [Source]
PATRIARCH CORNELIUS ‘COMMODORE’ VANDERBILT DIES
JANUARY 4, 1877
Cornelius Vanderbilt (May 27, 1794 – January 4, 1877), also known by the sobriquet Commodore, was an American entrepreneur who built his wealth in shipping and railroads. He was also the patriarch of the Vanderbilt family and one of the richest Americans in history. He provided the initial gift to found Vanderbilt University, which is named in his honor. At the time of his death, Vanderbilt’s net worth was USD $105 million (approximately 1/87th of US GNP).
Born in Staten Island, New York, Vanderbilt began working on his father’s ferry in New York harbor as a boy, quitting school at the age of 11. At the age of 16 Vanderbilt decided to start his own ferry service. On December 19, 1813, Vanderbilt married his first cousin, Sophia Johnson (1795–1868), daughter of his aunt Elizabeth Hand Johnson. They moved into a boarding house on Broad Street in Manhattan. He and his wife eventually had 13 children.
According to “The Wealthy 100” by Michael Klepper and Robert Gunther, Vanderbilt would be worth $143 billion in 2007 dollars, if his total wealth as a share of the nation’s GDP in 1877 (the year of his death) were taken and applied in that same proportion in 2007. This would make him the second-wealthiest person in American history, after John D. Rockefeller. Another calculation, from 1998, puts him in third place, after Andrew Carnegie. [Source]
THE REAL JAMES BOND (ORNITHOLOGIST) IS BORN – JANUARY 4, 1900
James Bond (January 4, 1900 – February 14, 1989) was a leading American ornithologist whose name was appropriated by writer Ian Fleming for his fictional spy, James Bond.
Ian Fleming, who was a keen bird watcher living in Jamaica, was familiar with Bond’s book, and chose the name of its author for the hero of Casino Royale in 1953, apparently because he wanted a name that sounded ‘as ordinary as possible’. Fleming wrote to the real Bond’s wife, “It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born.”
He also contacted the real James Bond about using his name in the books and Bond replied to him, “Fine with it.” At some point during one of Fleming’s visits to Jamaica he met with the real Bond and his wife as shown in a made for DVD documentary about Fleming. A short clip was shown with Fleming, Bond and his wife. Also in his novel Dr. No Fleming referenced Bond’s work by basing a large Ornithological Sanctuary on Dr. No’s island in the Bahamas. In 1964, Fleming gave Bond a first edition copy of You Only Live Twice signed “To the real James Bond, from the thief of his identity”.
In the 2002 Bond film Die Another Day, the fictional Bond, played by Pierce Brosnan, can be seen examining Birds of the West Indies in an early scene that takes place in Havana, Cuba. The author’s name (James Bond) on the front cover is obscured. In the same film, when Bond first meets Jinx (Halle Berry), he introduces himself as an ornithologist. [Source]
LITERARY T.S. ELIOT DIES – JANUARY 4, 1965
Thomas Stearns “T. S.” Eliot (September 26, 1888 – January 4, 1965) was a playwright, literary critic, and an important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 (at age 25) and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.
The poem that made his name, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock—started in 1910 and published in Chicago in 1915—is regarded as a masterpiece of the modernist movement. He followed this with what have become some of the best-known poems in the English language, including Gerontion (1920), The Waste Land (1922), The Hollow Men (1925), Ash Wednesday (1930), and Four Quartets (1945). He is also known for his seven plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral (1935). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.
Eliot died of emphysema in London on January 4, 1965. For many years he had had health problems caused by his heavy smoking, and had often been laid low with bronchitis or tachycardia. He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. In accordance with Eliot’s wishes, his ashes were taken to St Michael’s Church in East Coker, the village from which his ancestors had emigrated to America. [Source]
NANCY PELOSI ELECTED AS FIRST FEMALE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE IN US HISTORY – JANUARY 4, 2007
Nancy Patricia D’Alesandro Pelosi is the Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives and served as the 60th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011. She was the first woman to hold the office and to date, has been the highest-ranking female politician in American history.
A member of the Democratic Party, Pelosi has represented California’s 8th congressional district, which consists of four-fifths of the city and county of San Francisco, since 1987. The district was numbered as the 5th during Pelosi’s first three terms in the House. She served as the House Minority Whip from 2002 to 2003, and was House Minority Leader from 2003 to 2007, holding the post during the 108th and 109th Congresses. Pelosi is the first woman, the first Californian and first Italian-American to lead a major party in Congress. After the Democrats took control of the House in 2007 and increased their majority in 2009, Pelosi was elected Speaker of the House for the 110th and 111th sessions of Congress.
On November 17, 2010, Pelosi was elected as the Democratic Leader by House Democrats and therefore the Minority Leader in the Republican-controlled House for the 112th Congress. [Source]
BURJ KHALIFA, THE TALLEST MANMADE STRUCTURE IN THE WORLD OFFICIALLY OPENS – JANUARY 4, 2010
Burj Khalifa, known as Burj Dubai prior to its inauguration, is a skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and is currently the tallest manmade structure in the world, at 829.84m (2,723 ft). Construction began on 21 September 2004, with the exterior of the structure completed on 1 October 2009. The building officially opened on 4 January 2010, and is part of the new 2 sq-km (490-acre) flagship development called Downtown Dubai at the ‘First Interchange’ along Sheikh Zayed Road, near Dubai’s main business district.
The tower’s architecture and engineering were performed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill of Chicago, with Adrian Smith as chief architect, and Bill Baker as chief structural engineer. The primary contractor was Samsung C&T of South Korea. The total cost for the project was about US$1.5 billion; and for the entire “Downtown Dubai” development, US$20 billion. In March 2009, Mohamed Ali Alabbar, chairman of the project’s developer, Emaar Properties, said office space pricing at Burj Khalifa reached US$4,000 per sq ft (over US$43,000 per m²) and the Armani Residences, also in Burj Khalifa, sold for US$3,500 per sq ft (over US$37,500 per m²).
The project’s completion coincided with the global financial crisis of 2007–2010, and with vast overbuilding in the country, led to high vacancies and foreclosures. With Dubai mired in debt from its huge ambitions, the government was forced to seek multibillion dollar bailouts from its oil rich neighbor Abu Dhabi. Subsequently, in a surprise move at its opening ceremony, the tower was renamed Burj Khalifa, said to honour the UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his crucial support. [Source]