Fun Facts for Today – February 17

February 17

It’s Random Acts of Kindness Day


1600 Italian philosopher, alchemist, and Copernican theory advocate Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for heresy by the Inquisition
1621 Myles Standish is appointed as first commander of Plymouth colony
1801 The US House of Representatives resolves an electoral stalement between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr by naming Jefferson president and Burr Vice President
1817 The first gaslit streetlights appeared on the streets of Baltimore, MD
1818 Baron Karl von Drais de Sauerbrun patented the “draisine”, the forerunner of the bicycle
1820 The Senate passes the Missouri Compromise, an attempt to deal with the dangerously divisive issue of extending slavery into the western territories
1867 The first ship passes through the Suez Canal
1895 Swan Lake debuts in St. Petersburg
1904 The opera Madame Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini had its world premiere at La Scala in Milan
1911 The first self-starter was installed in a Cadillac
1924 Swimmer Johnny Weissmuller set a world record in the 100-yard freestyle; he did it with a time of 52-2/5 seconds in Miami, FL
1925 Harold Ross and Jane Grant found The New Yorker magazine
1933 Newsweek was first published
1933 The Blaine Act ends Prohibition in the US
1933 Blondie Boopadoop married Dagwood Bumstead three years after Chic Young’s popular strip first debuted
1934 The first high school automobile driver’s education course was introduced in State College, PA
1936 The world’s first superhero, The Phantom, makes his first appearance in comics
1938 The first public experimental demonstration of Baird color television was transmitted from Crystal Palace to the Dominion Theatre, London
1952 Winston Churchill announced that Britain had developed its own atomic bomb
1954 Doris Day’s single “Secret Love” topped the charts in the US
1958 Pope Pius XII declares Saint Clare of Assisi the patron saint of television
1958 The “BC” comic strip debuted in newspapers
1962 Gene Chandler’s single “Duke of Earl” topped the charts in the US
1965 Comedienne Joan Rivers made her first guest appearances on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson on NBC-TV
1967 The Beatles single “Strawberry Fields Forever”/”Penny Lane” is released in the UK
1972 Sales of the Volkswagen Beetle model exceed those of Ford Model-T
1972 President Richard M. Nixon departed Washington, D.C. on his historic trip to China
1975 John Lennon’s album “Rock n’ Roll” is released in the US
1979 Garrison Keillor’s popular radio variety show, “The Prairie Home Companion”, is first broadcast nationally as part of National Public Radio’s Folk Festival America
1979 The Clash opened their first US tour in New York City
1985 US Postage stamp prices were raised from 20 cents to 22 cents for first class mail
1989 Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure opens in the US
1990 Aerosmith appeared on Saturday Night Live; they performed the Wayne’s World theme song while appearing in the skit as themselves
1992 In Milwaukee, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was sentenced to life in prison
1995 The Brady Bunch Movie opens in the US
1996 World chess champion Garry Kasparov beat the IBM supercomputer “Deep Blue” in Philadelphia, PA
2000 Windows 2000 Professional Edition was released
2004 Disney announces its deal to buy the Muppets and Bear in the Blue House

1665 Rudolph Jacob Camerarius, botanist who demonstrated the existence of sexes in plants, which made plants available for studies of genetics and heredity
1723 Johann Tobias Mayer, astronomer who developed lunar tables that greatly assisted navigators in determining longitude at sea
1781 René Laënnec, physician who invented the stethoscope and is generally considered the father of chest medicine
1843 Montgomery Ward, businessman notable for the invention of mail order
1846 Vasily Vasilyevich Dokuchayev, geomorphologist and pioneer of the study of soil creation processes and their classification
1856 Frederic Eugene Ives, photographer and inventor of the halftone process, a method of reproducing photographs on a printing press
1899 Priscilla Bonner, silent film actress (The Strong Man, Charley’s Aunt, It)
1907 Buster Crabbe, actor who also won the 1932 Olympic 400-meter freestyle swimming championship (Tarzan, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers)
1912 Andre Norton (Alice Mary Norton), prolific science fiction and fantasy author and the first woman to receive the Gandalf Grand Master Award from the World Science Fiction Society
1914 Arthur Kennedy, five-time Academy Award-nominated actor (Trial, Peyton Place, Some Came Running, Bright Victory, Champion)
1919 Kathleen Freeman, actress (The Fly, The Buccaneer, North to Alaska, The Nutty Professor)
1924 Margaret Truman, the only child of Harry and Bess Truman and successful mystery author
1925 Hal Holbrook, actor (The Great White Hope, Magnum Force, All the President’s Men, Julia, The Fog)
1926 Jeremy Slate, actor (G.I. Blues, I’ll Take Sweden, True Grit, The Lawnmower Man)
1929 Chaim Potok, author and rabbi (The Chosen, The Promise, My Name is Asher Lev)
1929 Patricia Routledge, actress (Keeping Up Appearances, Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, To Sir, with Love)
1930 Ruth Rendell, three-time Edgar Award-winning mystery writer, who also writes under the name “Barbara Vine” (The Inspector Wexford novels, A Dark-Adapted Eye, The Tree of Hands, Thirteen Steps Down)
1934 Barry Humphries, actor and comedian (Dame Edna Everage, Bedazzled, Shock Treatment, Immortal Beloved)
1934 Sir Alan Bates, Tony Award-winning actor (The Entertainer, Georgy Girl, The Fixer, Women in Love, Gosford Park)
1936 Jim Brown, member of the Football Hall Of Fame and actor (100 Rifles, The Dirty Dozen, Ice Station Zebra, Slaughter)
1939 John Leyton, singer and actor (The Great Escape, Von Ryan’s Express, Color Me Kubrick)
1939 Mary Ann Mobley, Miss America 1959, actress and the original Girl From U.N.C.L.E. (Harum Scarum, Girl Happy, Young Dillinger)
1941 Gene Pitney, singer/songwriter (“Town Without Pity”, “Hello Mary Lou (Goodbye Heart)”, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”)
1942 Huey P. Newton, the co-founder and inspirational leader of the Black Panthers
1945 Brenda Fricker, Academy Award-winning actress (My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown, Casualty, So I Married an Axe Murderer, The Quatermass Conclusion)
1954 Rene Russo, actress (Freejack, Outbreak, In the Line of Fire, Get Shorty)
1956 Richard Karn, actor (Home Improvement, Mr. Blue Sky, Family Feud)
1962 Lou Diamond Phillips, actor (La Bamba, Young Guns, Stand and Deliver, Renegades)
1963 Michael Jordan, possibly the greatest basketball player of all time – five MVP awards, ten All-NBA First Team designations, nine All-Defensive First Team honors, fourteen NBA All-Star Game appearances and three All-Star MVP, ten scoring titles, three steals titles, six NBA Finals MVP awards, and the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award; he holds the NBA record for highest career regular season scoring average with 30.1 points per game, as well as averaging a record 33.4 points per game in the playoffs
1964 Michael Bay, director (Bad Boys, Pearl Harbor, The Island, Transformers)
1970 Dominic Purcell, actor (John Doe, Prison Break, Equilibrium, Mission: Impossible II)
1972 Billie Joe Armstrong, Grammy Award-winning musician (Green Day)
1974 Jerry O’Connell, actor (Stand by Me, Joe’s Apartment, Jerry Maguire, Sliders, Crossing Jordan)
1981 Joseph Gordon-Levitt, actor (3rd Rock from the Sun, 10 Things I Hate About You, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later)
1981 Paris Hilton, heiress and high school dropout

1600 Giordano Bruno, philosopher, astronomer, mathematician, and occultist whose theories anticipated modern science, dies at 52
1673 Molière, playwright (Tartuffe or the Hypocrite, Don Juan, The Imaginary Invalid), dies at 51
1874 Adolphe Quetelet, mathematician, astronomer, statistician, and sociologist known for his pioneering application of statistics and the theory of probability to social phenomena, especially crime, dies at 77
1875 Friedrich Wilhelm August Argelander, astronomer who established the study of variable stars as an independent branch of astronomy and is renowned for his great catalog listing the positions and magnitudes of 324,188 stars, dies at 75
1909 Geronimo, Chiricahua Apache leader, dies at 79
1936 Hiram Percy Maxim, inventor and manufacturer known especially for the “Maxim silencer” gun attachment, dies at 66
1959 Andrew J. Moyer, microbiologist who invented a method for mass-producing the antibiotic penicillin, dies at 59
1961 Nita Naldi, silent film actress (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Man from Beyond, Blood and Sand, The Ten Commandments), dies at 63
1970 Alfred Newman, nine-time Academy Award-winning film scorer (Camelot, The King and I, Call Me Madam, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, With a Song in My Heart, Mother Wore Tights, The Song of Bernadette, Tin Pan Alley, Alexander’s Ragtime Band), dies at 68
1982 Lee Strasberg, actor (The Godfather Part II, The Cassandra Crossing), dies at 80
1982 Thelonious Monk, jazz pianist considered the father of bebop, composer (“‘Round Midnight”, “Blue Monk”), dies at 64
2005 Dan O’Herlihy, actor (Twin Peaks, At Sword’s Point, The Black Shield of Falworth, Fail-Safe), dies at 85

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