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The Week in History from November 23
1936: The first edition of Life magazine was published. It went on to gain acclaim for photojournalism – think sailor kissing nurse on V-J Day – but it struggled to stay relevant in a digitizing world, finally folding in 2007. Life’s archive of six million photographs is hosted by Google. Its journey from print to digital is portrayed in the 2013 film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
2005: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President of Liberia, becoming the first female head of state in Africa. Among her achievements, she made elementary education free and compulsory, and won full debt relief from the United States. She won a second term in 2011 and was given the Nobel Peace Prize with two activists for their advancement of women’s rights.
1859: On the Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin, introduced the world to his theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin included evidence from his world expedition aboard the HMS Beagle, when he had distinguished himself as a naturalist. His work symbolizes the triumph of modern science, abolishing the belief that humans were superior to all other creatures.
1974: The partial fossil of a hominid, nicknamed Lucy, was discovered in Ethiopia. Only 40 percent of her skeleton exists, as bone fragments dating back 3.2 million years. On their first day at the site, the team that found the hominid kept playing the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” – hence her name. She is preserved at the National Museum in Addis Ababa.
1952: The Mousetrap, a play by Agatha Christie, opened in London. With some 26,000 performances to date, it is the world’s longest-running show. It was originally Three Blind Mice, re-titled with a nod to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Audiences have traditionally kept the twist ending to themselves, allowing generations of murder-mystery fans to keep enjoying the show.
1960: The Mirabal sisters were assassinated in the Dominican Republic. Along with their sister, Dedé Mirabal, the three women – Patria, Minerva and María Teresa – had openly opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo. They were murdered by his henchmen. In 1999, this date was declared the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
1983: £26 million in gold, diamonds and cash were stolen from the Brink’s-Mat warehouse at London’s Heathrow Airport. That’s about US$118 million today. Only two of the six robbers were convicted, serving 25 years each, and several murders occurred during its investigation. The 6,800 bars of gold were either melted down or buried, and have not been fully recovered.
2008: The first day of the Mumbai attacks began. Ten gunmen opened fire at a railway station, a hospital, a café and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, among other places. Nine were killed by the time the Indian authorities ended the attacks three days later, and the last gunman was executed in 2012. The attackers killed 164 people and wounded more than 300.
1895: Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel signed his last will, bequeathing 94 percent of his wealth toward the first five eponymous prizes. Best known for inventing dynamite, Nobel had read a premature obituary denouncing him as “the merchant of death.” This inspired him to create the Nobel Prize, to be awarded every year to anyone who “shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind” in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace.
1896: Also sprach Zarathustra, a tone poem by Richard Strauss, made its debut in Frankfurt, Germany. Inspired by Nietzsche’s philosophical novel of the same title, the composition is recognizable only for its “Sunrise” fanfare, which opens the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
1520: Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, on a breakthrough expedition, found the sea so peaceful that he named it the Pacific Ocean. Having crossed the Atlantic, his fleet had rounded the tip of South America and emerged west. It would become the first expedition to circumnavigate the Earth, although Magellan himself didn’t live to complete the voyage.
1893: New Zealand became the first country in the world where women voted in parliamentary elections. (In comparison, the United States only granted women the right to vote after World War I.) The turnout at the polls was no less than 85 percent of registered female voters. New Zealand’s suffragists were led by Kate Sheppard, who is pictured on its $10 bill.
1781: Fifty-four African women and children were thrown overboard from the Zong, a slave ship on the Caribbean Sea. Nearly 100 more slaves subsequently suffered the same fate so that their “owners” could claim insurance on the remaining “cargo.” The case went to trial and eventually led to the movement to abolish the Atlantic slave trade in Great Britain. The massacre was partly portrayed in the 2013 film Belle.
1899: The Futbol Club Barcelona soccer team was founded in Spain. Affectionately called Barça, the team boasts a record number of best players to date: 10 awarded the annual Ballon d’Or, and seven given the FIFA World Player of the Year. Its most famous player now is Lionel Messi, who holds Guinness records for most goals scored in several categories.
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