This Day in History (29-Feb-1904) – Theodore Roosevelt, appoints 7-man Panama Canal Commission to proceed with completing a canal at the Isthmus

The dream of digging a water passage across the Isthmus of Panama uniting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans dates to the early 16th century. The Isthmus of Panama, was characterized by mountains, impenetrable jungle, deep swamp, torrential rains, hot sun, debilitating humidity, pestilence and some of the most geologically complex land formations in the world. Both malaria and yellow fever were endemic to the Isthmus. When the Americans took over construction work from French teams in 1904, Medical researchers had found that mosquitoes cause malaria and yellow fever. Necessary prevetion measures and medical aids were provided to combat these diseases. Providing food for more than 40,000 employees and their families in a country with little food production capability and few stores was a tremendous. When the work was completed, 5609 lives were lost from disease and accidents during the American construction era in addition to around 20,000 during French construction era.

The first complete Panama Canal passage by a self-propelled, oceangoing vessel took place on January 7, 1914.  It cut the ship journey of around 8000 miles. On average, it takes a ship 8 to 10 hours to pass through the canal. While moving through it, a system of locks raises each ship 85 feet above sea level. Ship captains aren’t allowed to transit the canal on their own; instead, a specially trained canal pilot takes navigational control of each vessel to guide it through the waterway. In 2010, the 1 millionth vessel crossed the canal. Today, some $1.8 billion in tolls are collected annually.

David McCullough in his book “The Path Between the Seas,” wrote:  “The creation of a water passage across Panama was one of the supreme human achievements of all time, the culmination of a heroic dream of over four hundred years and of more than twenty years of phenomenal effort and sacrifice.  The fifty miles between the oceans were among the hardest ever won by human effort and ingenuity, and no statistics on tonnage or tolls can begin to convey the grandeur of what was accomplished.  Primarily the canal is an expression of that old and noble desire to bridge the divide, to bring people together.  It is a work of civilization.”

 

Reference:

http://www.onthisday.com/day/february/29

https://www.pancanal.com/eng/history/history/index.html

http://www.history.com/news/7-fascinating-facts-about-the-panama-canal

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This Day in History (28-Feb-1935) – Wallace Carothers invents nylon at the DuPont Experimental Station near Wilmington, Delaware

In 1928, the DuPont chemical company opened a research laboratory for the development of artificial materials, deciding that basic research was the way to go – not a common path for a company to follow at the time. A basic lack of knowledge of polymer molecules existed when Wallace Carothers began his work there. Wallace and his team were the first to investigate the acetylene family. In 1931, the research team at DuPont turned their efforts towards a synthetic fiber that could replace silk. Japan was the United States’ main source of silk, and trade relations between the two countries were breaking apart.

By 1934, Wallace had made significant steps toward creating a synthetic silk. He created a new fiber formed by the polymerizing process and known as a condensation reaction. Wallace refined the process by adjusting the equipment so that the water was distilled and removed from the process making for stronger fibers. In 1935, DuPont patented the new fiber known as nylon. Nylon, the miracle fiber, was introduced to the world in 1938. Fortune Magazine  reported it as the first completely new synthetic fiber made by man. It further stated that “In over four thousand years, textiles have seen only three basic developments mercerized cotton, synthetic dyes and rayon. Nylon is a fourth.” Nylon was first used for fishing line, surgical sutures, and toothbrush bristles. DuPont touted its new fiber as being “as strong as steel, as fine as a spider’s web,” and first demonstrated nylon stockings not to a scientific society, but to the three thousand women’s club members  at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. In 1942, nylon went to war in the form of parachutes and tents. Nylon stockings were the favorite gift of American soldiers to impress British women. Today, nylon is still used in all types of apparel and is the second most used synthetic fiber. The company purposefully did not register “nylon” as a trademark – choosing to allow the word to enter the American vocabulary as a synonym for “stockings.”

Wallace Carothers can be considered the father of the science of man-made polymers and the man responsible for the invention of nylon and neoprene. The man was a brilliant chemist, inventor and scholar. Despite an amazing career, and holding more than fifty patents; the inventor ended his own life in depression.

 

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/february-28-1533-philosopher-michel-de-montaigne-is-born-near-bordeaux

http://inventors.about.com/od/nstartinventions/a/nylon.htm

http://www.preservearticles.com/201101032306/uses-of-nylon.html

http://inventors.about.com/od/nstartinventions/a/Nylon_Stockings.htm

http://aoghs.org/products/petroleum-product-nylon-fiber/

This Day in History (27-Feb-1931) – Chandrashekhar Azad shot himself to avoid British police arrest at Alfred Park, Allahabad

Chandrashekhar Tiwari was drawn into the non-cooperation movement of 1920-21, at the age of 15, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. When arrested he gave his name as ‘Azad’, his father’s name as ‘Swatantra’ and his residence as ‘prison’. This annoyed the magistrate who sentenced him to fifteen lashes of flogging. The title of Azad stuck thereafter. Although Gandhiji was appalled by the brutal violence at Chauri chaura and suspended non-cooperation movement, Azad did not feel that violence was unacceptable in the struggle, especially in view of the Amritsar Massacre.

He got involved in revolutionary activities and joined the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), a revolutionary organization formed by Ram Prasad Bismil . He trained the revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Batukeshwar Dutt, and Rajguru.  He was involved in the Kakori Conspiracy where revolutionaries looted the Government treasury from train. He was also involved in the attempt to blow up the Viceroy’s train, the Assembly bomb incident, the Delhi Conspiracy and the Second Lahore conspiracy. He was one of the three who were involved in the shooting of Saunders at Lahore.  Azad was also a believer in socialism as the basis for a future India, free of social and economic oppression and adversity. He was instrumental in transforming the HRA into the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) in 1928 so as to achieve their primary aim of an independent India based on socialist principle.

As a result of a friend’s betrayal, he was encircled by the police at Alfred Park in Allahabad on 27 February 1931 where he had gone to meet his colleague Sukhdev Raj. Surrounded by the police, he put up a good fight which made it possible for Raj to escape. When he was left with only one bullet, he fired it at his own temple and lived up to his resolve that he would never be arrested and be dragged to gallows to be hanged. After the independence, to commemorate Azad, Alfred Park was renamed Chandrashekhar Azad Park.

Reference:

http://www.indianage.com/search.php

http://www.freedomfirst.in/issue/articles.aspx?id=7804

http://www.liveindia.com/freedomfighters/chandrashekharazad.html

http://www.culturalindia.net/leaders/chandrasekhar-azad.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandra_Shekhar_Azad

This Day in History (26-Feb-1815) – Napoleon Bonaparte Escapes from Elba

Defeat in Russia forced Napolean to return to France, when all the european nations jointly attacked him and defeated him in April 1814. The post war treaty provided Napolean with 2 million francs a year, and allowed him to retain the title of Emperor. But Napoleon was of course distraught, and tried unsuccessfully to poison himself. Finally he accepted exile on the island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea, six miles off the western coast of Italy. Napoleon was allowed to rule Elba, which had 12,000 inhabitants. Napoleon actually worked hard to improve Elba, and to all observers, it seemed as though Napoleon was content to a life of relative retirement. All the while, however, he was plotting his return.

On Elba, Napoleon was under the constant watch of Austrian and French guards. Nonetheless, he was not isolated: he received thousands of letters from all over Europe and read major newspapers that kept him abreast of events. Napoleon organized and trained a small navy, instructed work crews on the manufacture of mines and created a small regiment of loyal troops. He gathered approximately 1,000 men and slipped away from his palace on Elba during the night of February 26, 1815, a little more than ten months after his arrival.

Two days later, he arrived on the French coast and brought his force ashore with designs on a march to Paris. Passing through the southeast of France without much in the way of resistance, Napoleon and his men finally stood before resolute opposition at Laffrey. The soldiers realized it was their former commander and could not believe their eyes — Napoleon stood within range of their pistols and yelled, “Let him that has the heart kill his Emperor!” Amazed, the men are said to have lowered their weapons and shouted, “Vive l’Empereur!” before joining the ranks behind him. As the days passed, battalion after battalion lined up with Napoleon. Less than a month after setting foot on French soil again, Napoleon was in control of Paris on March 20th and Louis XVIII, the new king, fled to Belgium. However within next hundred days, Napolean was defeated at Waterloo and was sent to exile to the remote island of Saint Helena, in the South Pacific where he died due to poor health.

 

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/february-26-1815-napoleon-bonaparte-escapes-from-elba

http://www.sparknotes.com/biography/napoleon/section8.rhtml

http://www.sparknotes.com/biography/napoleon/section9.rhtml

This Day in History (24-Feb-1938) – Du Pont begins commercial production of nylon toothbrush bristles

Toothbrushing tools date back to 3500-3000 BC when the Babylonians and the Egyptians made a brush by fraying the end of a twig. Tombs of the ancient Egyptians have been found containing toothsticks alongside their owners. Around 1600BC, the Chinese developed “chewing sticks” which were made from aromatic tree twigs to freshen breath. The Chinese are believed to have invented the first natural bristle toothbrush made from the bristles from pigs’ necks in the 15th century, with the bristles attached to a bone or bamboo handle. When it was brought from China to Europe, this design was adapted and often used softer horsehairs which many Europeans preferred. The first toothbrush of a more modern design was made by William Addis in England around 1780 – the handle was carved from cattle bone and the brush portion was still made from swine bristles. In 1844, the first 3-row bristle brush was designed.

The world’s first synthetic fiber – nylon – was discovered in 1935, by a former Harvard professor  Wallace Carothers  working at a DuPont Corporation research laboratory. Later called Nylon 6 by scientists, the revolutionary product comes from chemicals found in petroleum. Interestingly, the first commercial use of revolutionary petroleum product “Nylon” was for toothbrushes, before Nylon became synonym for stockings. On February 24, 1938, the Weco Products Company of Chicago, Illinois, began selling its new “Dr. West’s Miracle-Tuft” – the earliest toothbrush to use synthetic DuPont nylon bristles.

“Until now, all good toothbrushes were made with animal bristles,” noted a 1938 Weco Products advertisement in Life magazine. “Today, Dr. West’s new Miracle-Tuft is a single exception. It is made with EXTON, a unique bristle-like filament developed by the great DuPont laboratories, and produced exclusively for Dr. West’s.” Johnson & Johnson of New Brunswick, New Jersey, introduced a competing nylon-bristle toothbrush in 1939.

Interestingly, we’ve been using the same material since the 1938. And we’ve been using the same overall design since the 1780s.

 

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/february/24

http://aoghs.org/petroleum-state0and-national-education-contacts/petroleums-nylon-fiber/

http://www.colgateprofessional.com/patient-education/articles/history-of-toothbrushes-and-toothpastes

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thomas-p-connelly-dds/mouth-health-how-long-hav_b_683535.html?ir=India

This Day in History (23-Feb-1980) – Prakash Padukone becomes the first Indian to win All-England Badminton Championship

Prakash Padukone,  dominated the national badminton scene for almost a decade (1971–80) and put India on the sport’s international map. Padukone participated in the Karnataka State Junior Championship, his first official Badminton tournament in 1962, wherein he lost right in the first round. Improving his performance, Padukone was able to win the State Junior Championship 2 years later in 1964. Later, he won the National Junior Badminton Championship in the year 1970. In the same year, he occurred to witness the legendry Badminton player, Rudi Hartono of Indonesia playing a power packed game, full of aggressiveness and power, at Jabalpur, India. Getting inspired by him, Padukone decided to change his style of game from mild to aggressive. There was no looking back for him. He won the national senior championship in 1971 at age 16, thereby becoming the youngest player to have achieved the feat. He won each successive national championship until 1979, setting a record of nine national titles in a row. In 1978 he won the singles badminton gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.

The following year he completely dominated the top European players of his era and won both the Danish Open and the Swedish Open. His greatest accomplishment came in 1980 when he became the first Indian to win the All England Championships, the world’s most prestigious annual badminton competition. The All England win catapulted Padukone to the number one world badminton ranking, making him the first Indian to achieve that status.

Padukone won the first Alba World Cup in October 1981 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and the first Indian open prize-money tournament, the Indian Masters (now the India Open), at Pune in November. In 1982 he won the Dutch Open and the Hong Kong Open, and at the 1983 world championships, Padukone won the bronze medal in men’s badminton. Padukone was conferred upon the Arjuna Award in 1972 and was awarded the Padmashri in 1982. He was known as the ‘Gentle Tiger’ on the court. In 1994, he launched The Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy at Bengaluru to nurture Badminton talents.
Reference:

http://www.indianage.com/search.php

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1913047/Prakash-Padukone

http://www.iloveindia.com/sports/badminton/players/prakash-padukone.html

http://www.ppba.in/about-us/our-centers/

This Day in History (22-Feb-1991) – US Gulf War allies give Iraq 24 hrs to begin Kuwait withdrawal

After the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, Iraq was extremely indebted to several Arab countries, including a $14 billion debt to Kuwait. Iraq hoped to repay its debts by raising the price of oil through OPEC oil production cuts, but instead, Kuwait increased production, lowering prices, in an attempt to leverage a better resolution of their border dispute. In addition, greatly antagonizing Iraq, Kuwait had taken advantage of the Iran-Iraq War and had begun illegal slant drilling for oil into Iraqi reserves, and had built military outposts on Iraqi soil near Kuwait. Furthermore, Iraq charged that it had performed a collective service for all Arabs by acting as a buffer against Iran and that therefore Kuwait and Saudi Arabia should negotiate or cancel Iraq’s war debts. The war with Iran had also seen the destruction of almost all of Iraq’s port facilities on the Persian Gulf cutting off Iraq’s main trade outlet. Iraq security could only be guaranteed by controlling more of the Gulf Coast, including more secure ports including Kuwait.

In August 1990, Iraqi troops crossed the Kuwaiti border with armor and infantry, occupying strategic posts throughout the country, including the Emir’s palace. Iraq detained thousands of Western visitors as hostages and later attempted to use them as bargaining chips. Hussein then installed a new Iraqi provincial governor, described as “liberation” from the Kuwaiti Emir

In January 1991 the United States Congress authorized the use of military force to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. The coalition launched a massive air campaign codenamed Operation Desert Storm, beginning early morning on January 17, 1991. On February 22, 1991, Iraq agreed to a Soviet-proposed cease-fire agreement. The agreement called for Iraq to withdraw troops to pre-invasion positions within three weeks following a total cease-fire, and called for monitoring of the cease-fire and withdrawal to be overseen by the UN Security Council. The US rejected the proposal but said that retreating Iraqi forces would not be attacked, and gave twenty-four hours for Iraq to begin withdrawing forces. On February 24, the US began Operation Desert Sabre, the ground portion of its campaign and declared that Kuwait had been liberated in next 3 days.

 

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/february/22?p=2

http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/Middleeastweb/factfile/Unique-facts-MiddleEast10.htm