30 years ago, Germany reunited, with East and West merging their economies under the Deutsche Mark currency. Western countries helped carry the burden, granting subsidies to pay East German bills and ease the budget gap. (1990)
MORE Good News on this Day:
- Willie Dixon, the blues singer and guitarist called ‘the poet laureate of the blues’, who wrote more than 500 songs, some of them timeless classics, was born (1915)
- The Medicare federal insurance program for health care went into effect in the U.S. (1966)
- Sony introduced the Walkman, the first portable audio cassette player, and though they predicted it would sell about 5,000 units a month, it sold more than 50,000 in the first two months and over the next 30 years more than 385 million Walkmans in cassette, CD, mini-disc and digital file versions, until the arrival of Apple’s iPod (1979)
- Vermont’s civil unions law went into effect (2000)
- 500,000 people marched in Hong Kong to protest a new anti-subversion law…. one year later, 530,000 rallied for democratization and universal suffrage (2003)
- For the first time in history, the U.S. Navy promoted a woman, Adm. Michelle J. Howard—also the first African-American—to become a four-star admiral (2014)
- Today is Canada Day, a national holiday celebrating Canada’s founding, and the date in 1980 when the song, O, Canada, became the national anthem.
- It is also Independence day in Somalia (1960); Rwanda (1962); and Burundi (1962)
On this day in 1957, the International Geophysical Year was launched by 67 countries to cooperate in the scientific study of the Earth. A global project that became a resounding success, it marked the end of a long Cold War period devoid of scientific interchange between East and West.
The IGY encompassed eleven Earth sciences, including meteorology, oceanography, seismology, geomagnetism, gravity, ionospheric physics, precision mapping, and solar activity. The timing of IGY was particularly beneficial since it covered the high point of the eleven-year cycle of sunspot activity. Significant achievements included: Both the Soviet Union and the U.S. launched artificial satellites, including the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1, the first ever to be successful. Also notable were the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts by Explorer 1, the defining of mid-ocean submarine ridges, which confirmed plate tectonics, and the detection of hard solar corpuscular radiation that could be highly dangerous for manned space flight.
How did the IGY come about? On April 5, 1950, a small group of scientists gathered to meet with a visiting scientist from England. The men, all geophysicists, discussed the complexity of Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, magnetism, and the role of the sun. They agreed that with all the new tools available, such as rockets, radar, and computers, perhaps it was time for a coordinated, worldwide study of Earth’s systems. Two years later, the International Council of Scientific Unions proposed a comprehensive series of global geophysical activities to span the period July 1957-December 1958. The IGY still lives today in international collaborations.
And, on this day in 1968, the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty was signed by the US, the Soviet Union, Britain and 58 other nations. Negotiated over three years, the treaty was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and their technology, to promote cooperation around the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament. As of August 2016, 191 states have adhered to the agreement, a testament to the treaty’s significance. Still in force today, the treaty’s main tenet is this: The non-nuclear-weapon states agree never to acquire nuclear weapons and, in exchange, the nuclear-weapon states agree to share the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology and to pursue nuclear disarmament aimed at the ultimate elimination of their nuclear arsenals.
86 years ago today, Sydney Pollack, the director, producer, and actor, was born in Indiana.
His 1985 film Out of Africa won him two Academy Awards for directing and producing. He also earned Best Director Oscar nominations for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and Tootsie. Some of his other best known movies include The Way We Were, with Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford, Three Days of the Condor (also with Redford), Absence of Malice, with Paul Newman and Sally Field, and The Firm with Tom Cruise.
He acted in the Oscar-nominated film Michael Clayton (which he also produced) opposite George Clooney, and he played Will’s father on Will & Grace. Over time, Pollack’s films received a total of 48 Academy Award nominations, winning 11 times. He was married to the same woman, Claire Bradley Griswold, for a half century before his death from cancer at age 73. (1934)
Also, Happy Birthday to one of the last remaining movie stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Olivia de Havilland, who turns 104 years old today. Best remembered as Melanie in “Gone With the Wind,” she’s one of the few to have won two leading-actress Oscars. Her 1944 lawsuit against Warner Bros. helped bring down the studio system that treated actors as property that had no say in their own careers.
She played opposite Errol Flynn in 8 films, including “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, earned Academy Awards for “To Each His Own” (1946) and “The Heiress” (1949), and won praise for her portrayal of mental illness in “The Snake Pit” (1948).
The film led to changes in the conditions of mental institutions in the United States. In 1949, Herb Stein of Daily Variety wrote “Wisconsin is the seventh state to institute reforms in its mental hospitals as a result of The Snake Pit. She wrote a book about her Hollywood escapades, and falling in love with a Frenchman, with Every Frenchman Has One.
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