8 Jan: Interesting historical events that occurred on this date | By Sultan M Hali


8 Jan: Interesting historical events that occurred on this date

JANUARY 8 is an auspicious date, since numerous fascinating events occurred today. Moving chronologically, Christopher Columbus, who is credited with discovering America, on this date in 1493, sighted manatees (herbivorous marine mammals sometimes known as sea cows) for the first time ever near the Dominican Republic after mistaking them for mermaids.

When he described them, he said they were “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” Galileo Galilei, the renowned Italian astronomer died on this day in 1642.

The famous scientist pioneered the study of speed, velocity, gravity, free-fall, the principle of relativity, inertia, projectile motion and innovated the properties of pendulums and “hydrostatic balances”.

The inventor of the thermo scope and various military compasses, used the telescope for scientific observations of celestial objects.

His theory of heliocentrism (the Earth rotating daily and revolving around the Sun) however, was challenged by the Catholic Church.

Tried by the Roman Inquisition—which concluded that heliocentrism was absurd and heretical since it contradicted Holy Scripture—sentenced him to spend the rest of his life under house arrest.

In 1656, The world’s oldest newspaper, “Haarlem”, published its first paper in the Netherlands.

In 1790, The first President of the United States, George Washington, delivered the 1st State of the Union address in New York City.

On the same date in 1835, Mathematician Sophie Germain (1776 – 1831) became the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Paris Academy of Sizes Prize for her theory of surface vibrations.

Sophie Germain was self-taught, gaining education from books in her father’s library, including ones by Euler, and from correspondence with famous mathematicians such as Lagrange, Legendre and Gauss (under the pseudonym of Monsieur LeBlanc, since the social conventions of her time prevented women from following intellectual careers).

She made some of the most significant progress on proving Fermat’s Last Theorem until it was finally proven by Andrew Wiles 170 years later, in 1995.

At the centenary of her life, a street and a girls’ school were named after her, while the Academy of Sciences honoured her by establishing the Sophie Germain Prize.

The US national debt has constantly been a subject of debate, since its commencement during the American War of Independence (19 April 1775 — 3 September 1783), when the first US.

Treasurer Michael Hillegas incurred federal government debt after the country’s formation in 1776.

The United States has continuously had a fluctuating public debt since then because it amassed huge war debts, but lacked the power to repay these obligations through taxation or duties on imports.

However, on 8 January 1835, Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the US, paid off the entire national debt — that is the only time in the US history that this has ever been accomplished.

Public debt has persisted under various administrations but it rose sharply in the wake of the 2007-08 economic meltdown and the resulting significant tax revenue declines and spending increases.

In the current era, the US public debt rose dramatically during the 2019-2021 COVID-19 Pandemic due to emergency measures to sustain the economy during large scale economic retraction in most industries with consequent high unemployment.

In 1918, on 8 January, US President Woodrow Wilson announced his Fourteen Points, an outline for peace following World War-I.

Interestingly, Wilson had made the decision on March 20, 1917 for the United States to declare war on Germany, which became the turning point of the war, because it made the eventual defeat of Germany possible.

Ultimately, Wilson’s peace campaign became a significant factor in the collapse of the German people’s will to fight and the decision of the German government to sue for peace in October 1918.

American rock star Elvis Presley, who was dubbed the “King of Rock and Roll”, and is regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century was born on this date in 1935.

David Bowie, an English singer-song writer and actor—a leading figure in the music industry and regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century—also shares the date as his birthday in 1947.

Bowie was acclaimed by critics and musicians, particularly for his innovative work during the 1970s.

His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, and his music and stagecraft had a significant impact on popular music.

English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who developed a theory of exploding black holes that drew upon both relativity theory and quantum mechanics, was also born on this auspicious date in 1942.

During 1973, on the same date, the unmanned space mission Luna 21 was launched, which carried the second successful Soviet lunar rover, Lunokhod 2, and was launched less than a month after the last Apollo lunar landing.

Kim Jong-un, North Korean politician, who has been Supreme Leader of North Korea since 2011 was born on this date in 1982.

On 8 January 1992, a unique historical event took place. While attending a banquet hosted by the Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, US President George HW Bush fainted after vomiting in Miyazawa’s lap.

Doctors later attributed the incident to a case of acute gastroenteritis. In 1998, on this date, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, convicted of plotting the 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York, was sentenced to life in prison.

In 2021, on 8 January, Donald Trump was permanently suspended from Twitter due to the risk of further incitement of violence.

Readers may recall that following the defeat of then US President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, the flamboyant president rejected the results and in a volatile speech to protesters in Washington DC called for them to march on Congress, hundreds of echoing calls to storm the building were made by his supporters online.

On 6 January 2021, a frenzied mob of his supporters attacked the United States Capitol Building in Washington DC, in which scores of deaths occurred and monetary damages caused by attackers exceeded $2.7 million. Today is the 8th day of the month, and there are 357 days left of the year.

Best of luck.

—The writer is a Retired Group Captain of PAF, who has written several books on China.