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 (18-Jan-1886) – Modern field hockey is born with the formation of The Hockey Association in England

A game called hockey was played in English public schools in the early 19th century.  A version of the game played in south-east London was rougher than the modern version, played on a very large field (247m by 64m), and used a cube of black rubber and rough sticks. The modern game was developed on the other side of London by Middlesex cricket clubs. In 1870, members of the Teddington cricket club, experimented with a ‘stick’ game, on the smooth outfield of their cricket pitch and used a cricket ball, so allowing smooth and predictable motion. By 1874 they had begun to draw up rules for their game, including banning the raising of the stick above shoulder height and stipulating that a shot at goal must take place within the circle in front of it. An association was formed in 1875, which dissolved after seven years, but in 1886 the Hockey Association was formed by seven London clubs and representatives from Trinity College, Cambridge.

In the late 19th century, largely due to the British Army, the game spread throughout the British Empire. The International Rules Board was founded in 1895, and hockey first appeared at the Olympic Games at 1908 Olympic Games in London, with only three teams: England, Ireland and Scotland. The first step towards an international structuring occurred in 1909, when England and Belgium agreed to recognize each other for international competitions. In 1924, the International Hockey Federation (FIH, Fédération Internationale de Hockey) was founded in Paris, under the initiative of the French man, Paul Léautey, as a response to hockey’s omission from the 1924 Paris Game.

Hockey became a permanent fixture at the Olympics at the 1928 Olympic Games, at Amsterdam, where India made its Olympic debut. Indian hockey team cruised home to its first Olympic gold, without conceding a single goal. The hallmark of this ruthless domination was the wizardry of Indian hockey legend – Dhyan Chand. From 1928 to 1956, the Indian hockey juggernaut won six straight Olympic gold medals, while winning 24 consecutive matches. During this time, India scored 178 goals conceding only 7 in the process. The record created by India is likely to stand strong through ages.
Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/january/18

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

http://www.iloveindia.com/sports/hockey/history.html

This Day in History (10-Jan-1892) – Wildemar Haffkine, innoculated himself with vaccine against Plague publicly to demonstrate the harmlessness of the product

In 1889 Haffkine, former Vladimir Khavkin, a Russian Jewish, moved to Paris and started working in Pasteur’s world famous laboratory. His initial work on producing a cholera inoculation was successful. Haffkine then sought to test the vaccine under epidemic conditions. When Lord Duffin, ambassador to France and formerly viceroy of India, learned of his project he persuaded Haffkine to go instead to Calcutta, India, where hundreds of thousands died from ongoing epidemics. At first, he was met with deep suspicion and survived an assassination attempt by Islamic extremists; once stones thrown by the crowd broke glass instruments and a panic nearly ensued. Haffkine quickly pulled up his shirt and allowed another to plunge a hypodermic into his side. The curiosity of the villagers was thus aroused and 116 of the 200 peasants assembled volunteered for inoculation. None were to die in the epidemic, although nine of those who refused inoculation did.

At the outbreak of the plague epidemic in Bombay in October 1896, Haffkine was summoned to the city. He improvised a laboratory in the Grant Medical College and set to work on preventive and curative measures. A curative serum was tested in four months, but was not found to be reliable. Emphasis moved to a preventive vaccine using dead bacteria. A form useful enough for human trials was ready by January 1897, and tested on volunteers at the Byculla jail the next month. Recognition followed quickly. Aga Khan provided a building to house Haffkine’s “Plague Research Laboratory” and other prominent citizens of Bombay supported his researches. However, the medical community was not very sympathetic towards him. In 1902 the vaccine apparently caused nineteen cases of tetanus. An inquiry commission indicted Haffkine, who was relieved of the position of the Director of the Plague Laboratory. A review of this commission’s report by the Lister Institute in England overturned this decision, put the blame squarely on the doctor who administered the injections, and exonerated Haffkine. Since the Bombay post was already occupied, Haffkine moved to Calcutta, where he worked until his retirement in 1914. In 1925, when the Plague Laboratory in Bombay was renamed the “Haffkine Institute”, he wrote that “…the work at Bombay absorbed the best years of my life… “.

Reference:

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

http://www.hafftka.com/bio/great-uncle.html

http://www.whonamedit.com/doctor.cfm/3306.html

This Day in History (22-Dec-1900) – First “Mercedes” is delivered to its buyer

Gottlieb Daimler was the first man to harness with any true degree of success a combustion engine into a road vehicle. Daimler’s first four-wheeler, a Victoria-type motor driven carriage, was built in 1886. By 1890 demands for Daimler’s engine made expansion necessary and a corporation was formed, the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, or Daimler Motor Company as it was known in English.

The first recorded auto race, sponsored by the Petit-Journal of Paris in 1894 and conducted over a Paris to Rouen course, attracted forty-six entries and was looked forward to as a test of the steamer and electric versus the gas burners. The first three winning cars were powered by Daimler-built engines. A wealthy banker-sportsman Emil Jellinek of Vienna was much impressed by the success of the Daimler motor in racing competition. He purchased controlling stock interest in Daimler in the early 1890’s and put nearly unlimited funds at the disposal of Gottlieb Daimler’s two sons, Paul and Adolph. It was Jellinek who encouraged Daimler in his idea to create what was to be the most powerful car of its day, a 35 h.p. Monster.

In 1900 the 4-cylinder Daimler was completed and the car was christened in honor of Emil Jellinek’s beautiful daughter, Mercedes. The new car was an immediate sensation. From its flaring front fenders, rakish rearward sloping steering column to the T-head type cylinder construction and twin carburetors, the Mercedes was a beauty and did justice to its namesake.

Jellinek was so obsessed with his interest in high-speed automobiles that for nearly’ five years he held exclusive rights to the bulk of the Mercedes production and carefully limited the sale of the cars to individuals of known influence. Jellinek’s own international reputation as a sportsman and his careful selection of purchasers of the limited number of Mercedes available placed the cars with an upper-bracket clientele which, nearly as much as the car’s own intrinsic superior engineering and design, gave the Mercedes it’s reputation as a quality and high performance product.

Reference:

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-mercedes-is-delivered-to-its-buyer

http://www.ordain.com/history.htm

This Day in History (11-Dec-1913) – “Mona Lisa”, stolen from the Louvre Museum in 1911, recovered

On August 21, 1911, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, one of the most famous paintings in the world, was stolen right off the wall of the Louvre (famous museum in Paris, France). The Louvre was closed for a week to aid the investigation. Police found the plate of glass which was placed on the painting and Mona Lisa’s frame lying in a staircase. But investigation headed nowhere.

In the Autumn of 1913, a well-known antique dealer, Alfredo Geri, innocently placed an ad in several Italian newspapers which stated that he was “a buyer at good prices of art objects.” Soon after he placed the ad, Geri received a letter dated November 29 (1913), that stated the writer was in possession of the stolen Mona Lisa. The letter had a post office box in Paris as a return address and had been signed only as “Leonardo.” Geri contacted Commendatore Giovanni Poggi, museum director of the Uffizi (museum in Florence, Italy). Geri replied showing interest. Another letter came almost immediately asking Geri to go to Paris to see the painting. Geri replied, stating that he could not go to Paris, but, instead, arranged for “Leonardo” to meet him in Milan.

On December 10, 1913, an Italian man appeared stating he was Leonardo Vincenzo and that he had the Mona Lisa back in his hotel room. Leonardo explained that he had stolen the painting in order to restore to Italy what had been stolen from it by Napoleon. Thus, Leonardo made the stipulation that the Mona Lisa was to be hung at the Uffizi and never given back to France. Upon his leaving, Geri contacted the police and the Uffizi. The following day, Geri and Poggi (the museum director) appeared at Leonardo’s hotel room. Leonardo pulled out a wooden trunk. After opening the trunk, Leonardo pulled out a pair of underwear, some old shoes, and a shirt. Then Leonardo removed a false bottom — and there lay the Mona Lisa. The museum director said that he would need to compare the painting with other works by Leonardo da Vinci. They then walked out with the painting. Leonardo Vincenzo, whose real name was Vincenzo Peruggia, was arrested. Peruggia hadn’t had a plan to dispose of the painting; his only goal was to return it to Italy. The painting was displayed throughout Italy before it was returned to France on December 30, 1913.

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/december/11

http://history1900s.about.com/od/famouscrimesscandals/a/monalisa.htm

This Day in History (1-Dec-1990) – Chunnel makes breakthrough

The idea of tunneling beneath the English Channel began circulating in the early 19th century. In 1986, Britain and France signed a treaty authorizing the construction of a tunnel running between Folkestone, England, and Calais, France. Construction on the Chunnel (channel-tunnel) began in 1988. On December 1, 1990, 132 feet below the English Channel, workers drill an opening the size of a car through a wall of rock. This was no ordinary hole–it connected the two ends of an underwater tunnel linking Great Britain with the European mainland for the first time in more than 8,000 years. After workers drilled that final hole, they exchanged French and British flags and toasted each other with champagne.

Over the next four years, nearly 13,000 workers dug 95 miles of tunnels at an average depth of 150 feet below sea level. Eight million cubic meters of soil were removed, at a rate of some 2,400 tons per hour. The completed Chunnel would have three interconnected tubes, including one rail track in each direction and one service tunnel. At a cost of over $21 billion, the 31.4 mile-long Channel Tunnel was completed in 1994, and officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II and President Mitterrand. With regular maintenance and upkeep, the Chunnel allows for millions of passengers travel between London and Paris each year – both for business and pleasure!

A company called Eurotunnel won the 55-year concession to operate the Chunnel, which is the crucial stretch of the Eurostar high-speed rail link between London and Paris. The regular shuttle train through the tunnel runs 31 miles in total–23 of those underwater–and takes 20 minutes, with an additional 15-minute loop to turn the train around. The Chunnel is the second-longest rail tunnel in the world, after the Seikan Tunnel in Japan.

The Channel tunnel was one of the largest construction projects of the 20th century and remains a marvel of engineering even today. It was selected by American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World in 1996.

Reference:

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/chunnel–makes-breakthrough

http://www.chunnel.com/

http://www.unmuseum.org/7wonders/chunnel.htm

This Day in History (27-Nov-1895) – Inventor Alfred Nobel signs his last will and testament, establishing a Nobel Prize after he dies

Alfred Nobel, who was interested in explosives since childhood, built a factory to manufacture nitroglycerin, a very unsafe explosive, and continued the research on safe detonation. In 1863, he invented a practical detonator. In 1865, Nobel invented an improved detonator called a blasting cap, triggering the modern use of high explosives. Nobel’s nitroglycerin factory blew up in 1864, killing his younger brother Emil. Undaunted by this tragic accident, Nobel built several factories to manufacture nitroglycerin for use in concert with his blasting caps. Nobel’s second important invention was that of dynamite (from Greek dynamis, “power”) in 1867 and was granted patents for it. Dynamite established Nobel’s fame worldwide and was soon put to use in blasting tunnels, cutting canals, and building railways and roads.

In 1875 he invented a more powerful form of dynamite, blasting gelatin, which he patented the following year. In 1887 Nobel introduced ballistite, one of the first nitroglycerin smokeless powders and a precursor of cordite. In 1893 he became interested in Sweden’s arms industry, and the following year he bought an ironworks at Bofors, near Varmland, that became the nucleus of the well-known Bofors arms factory. He registered more than 350 patents in various countries.

Nobel died of a cerebral hemorrhage at his villa in San Remo, Italy, in 1896. The opening of his will, which he had drawn up in Paris on November 27, 1895, and had deposited in a bank in Stockholm, contained a great surprise for his family, friends, and the general public. He left the bulk of his fortune in trust to establish what came to be the most highly regarded of international awards, the Nobel Prizes. Incidence in 1888 may have triggered the train of reflection that culminated in his bequest for the Nobel Prizes. That year Alfred’s brother Ludvig had died in France. The French newspapers reported Ludvig’s death but confused him with Alfred, and one paper sported the headline “Le marchand de la mort est mort” (“The merchant of death is dead.”) Perhaps Alfred Nobel established the prizes to avoid precisely the sort of posthumous reputation suggested by this premature obituary. It is certain that the actual awards he instituted reflect his lifelong interest in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology, and literature.

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/november-27-1989-the-medellin-cartel-brings-down-avianca-flight-203-over-colombia

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/416842/Alfred-Bernhard-Nobel