Fun Facts for Today – January 21

January 21

It’s National Hugging Day, Squirrel Appreciation Day, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday



1472 The great daylight comet of 1472 passed within 10.5 million km of earth
1677 The first medical book was published in the US
1790 Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotin proposed the guillotine to the newly formed National Assembly of Paris as a “humane” method of execution
1793 Louis XVI is guillotined for treason near the Palace of the Tuileries
1799 Edward Jenner’s smallpox vaccination was introduced
1807 The London Institution received a royal charter signed by King George III, to “promote the diffusion of Science, Literature, and the Arts, by means of Lectures and Experiments, and by easy access to an extensive collection of books, both ancient and modern, in all languages”
1840 Charles Wheatstone and W.F. Cooke were granted the earliest English alphabetic telegraph patent. Wheatstone made contributions to a broad range of fields in the mid-19th Century
1853 Russell L. Hawes patents the envelope-folding machine
1861 Jefferson Davis resigns from the US Senate
1880 Memphis, TN begins construction of the first independent municipal sewage system in the US
1899 Opel manufactured its first automobile
1908 New York City passes the Sullivan Ordinance, making it illegal for women to smoke in public, only to have the measure vetoed by the mayor
1911 The first Monte Carlo motor rally begins
1915 Kiwanis International founded in Detroit, MI
1919 A Sinn Fein Congress in Dublin, Ireland, adopts Declaration of Independence
1921 The Italian Communist Party is founded
1921 Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid opens in the US
1927 Faust became the first opera to be broadcast over a national radio network when it was aired in Chicago, IL
1941 The commercial production of magnesium first began in the US at Freeport, TX
1946 “The Fat Man” debuted on ABC radio
1950 Former State department official Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury
1954 The first atomic submarine, the U.S.S. Nautilus, was launched at Groton, CT
1966 George Harrison married Patricia (Patty) Anne Boyd
1969 An experimental underground nuclear reactor at Lucens Vad, Switzerland, released radiation into a cavern, which was then sealed
1970 The first wide body jet was put into service as the Pan American Airways Boeing 747 flew its first flight between from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport and Heathrow Airport in London, England
1971 Alias Smith and Jones debuts on ABC-TV
1976 The supersonic Concorde, developed in a joint venture between the French and the English, was put into service as the first two Concordes with commercial passengers simultaneously took flight
1977 President Jimmy Carter pardons nearly all American Vietnam War draft evaders, some of whom had emigrated to Canada
1977 Disney’s Freaky Friday starring Barbara Harris and Jody Foster is released in the US
1984 Britain’s first test-tube triplets – a girl and two boys – were born to a couple in London
1992 Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs receives its debut screening at the Sundance Film Festival
1994 Lorena Bobbitt is found not-guilty by reason of temporary insanity for severing the penis of her husband John Bobbitt
1997 Newt Gingrich becomes the first leader of the US House of Representatives to be internally disciplined for ethical misconduct.


1743 John Fitch, pioneer of steamboat transportation who produced serviceable steamboats before Robert Fulton
1813 John Charles Frémont, American military officer, explorer, the first candidate of the Republican Party for the office of President of the US, and the first presidential candidate of a major party to run on a platform in opposition to slavery
1815 Horace Wells, dentist and a pioneer in the use of surgical anesthesia
1824 Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, one of Robert E. Lee’s most outstanding generals in the Army of Northern Virginia
1840 Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake, British physician though whose determined efforts Parliament passed legislation to give women the right to have access to a medical education
1847 Joseph-Achille Le Bel, chemist who was the first to present a theory on the relationship between molecules and how they absorb or reflect light
1857 Joseph Paxson Iddings, geologist who advanced understanding in the field of petrology – the study of the origin, composition, structure, and alteration of rocks
1887 Wolfgang Köhler, psychologist and a key figure in the development of Gestalt psychology
1905 Christian Dior, film costume and fashion designer
1908 Bengt Strömgren, astrophysicist who pioneered the present-day knowledge of the gas clouds in space
1922 Telly Savalas, Emmy Award-winning actor (Kojak, Kelly’s Heroes, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
1922 Paul Scofield, Academy and Emmy Award-winning actor (A Man for All Seasons, Quiz Show, Male of the Species)
1924 Benny Hill, actor/comedian (The Benny Hill Show, The Italian Job, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines)
1926 Steve Reeves, Mr. Universe (1950)/actor (Hercules, The Last Days of Pompeii)
1926 Clive Donner, director (What’s New, Pussycat, The Nude Bomb)
1939 Wolfman Jack, radio DJ/actor (American Graffiti, The Wolfman Jack Show)
1940 Jack Nicklaus, “The Golden Bear” won 18 professional majors in a PGA Tour career, 8 majors on the PGA Seniors Tour; receipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
1941 Placido Domingo, operatic tenor
1941 Richie Havens, musician/songwriter (“Freedom,” “Hands of Time”)
1942 Edwin Starr, singer/songwriter (“War,” “Twenty-Five Miles,” “Agent Double-O Soul”)
1942 Mac Davis, singer/songwriter/actor (North Dallas Forty, The Sting II)
1945 Martin Shaw, actor (Judge John Deed, The Professionals, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad)
1947 Jill Eikenberry, actress (LA Law, The Manhattan Project)
1950 Billy Ocean, musician/songwriter (“Carribean Queen,” “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car”)
1956 Geena Davis, Academy Award-winning actress (The Accidental Tourist, Earth Girls are Easy, Cutthroat Island)
1956 Robby Benson, actor (Ode to Billy Joe, Ice Castles, Beauty and the Beast)
1958 Michael Wincott, actor (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Crow, Strange Days)
1968 Charlotte Ross, actress (NYPD Blue, Jake in Progress)
1976 Emma Bunton, singer (The Spice Girls)


1892 John Couch Adams, mathematician and astronomer, one of two people who independently discovered the planet Neptune, dies at 72
1904 Elisha Gray, scientist and innovator who would have been known to us as the inventor of the telephone if Alexander Graham bell hadn’t got to the patent office before him earlier that day, resulting in a famous legal battle, dies at 65
1924 Vladimir Lenin, Russian revolutionary, a communist politician, the main leader of the October Revolution, the first head of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic, dies at 52
1926 Camillo Golgi, physician and cytologist who, in 1873, published his key discovery, the use of silver salts to stain samples for microscope slides and thus new details of cellular structure components were revealed, dies at 82
1930 H.L. Callendar, physicist famous for work in calorimetry, thermometry and especially, the thermodynamic properties of steam, dies at 66
1950 George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair], novelist and critic as well as a political and cultural commentator (Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm), dies at 46
1959 Cecil B. DeMille, Academy Award-winning producer/director (The Greatest Show on Earth, The Ten Commandments, Cleopatra), dies at 77
1959 Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, actor (Our Gang, The Defiant Ones), is shot and killed in Sun Valley, California, after apparently breaking into a sleeping man’s house in order to threaten him with a jackknife in an effort to collect a debt (the death is ruled a justifiable homicide); he was 32
1963 Al “Fuzzy” St. John, actor who appeared in over 300 silent comedies and B-Westerns, dies at 69
1964 Joseph Schildkraut, actor (Cleopatra, The Shop Around the Corner, The Diary of Anne Frank), dies at 67
1967 Ann Sheridan, actress (Angels with Dirty Faces, The Man Who Came to Dinner, I Was a Male War Bride), dies at 51
1984 Jackie Wilson, singer/songwriter (“Lonely Teardrops,” “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher”), dies at 49
1989 Billy Tipton, jazz musician who became the subject of public interest posthumously when it was revealed that Tipton, who had lived for decades with a male identity, was biologically female, dies at 74
1989 Leslie Halliwell, film critic/author (Halliwells Film Guide), dies at 59
1995 John Halas, director/writer/producer/animator (Animal Farm, Carnival in the Clothes Cupboard, The Owl and the Pussycat), dies at 82
1997 Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s manager of 22 years, dies at 77
1998 Jack Lord, actor (Dr. No, Hawaii Five-O), dies at 77
1999 Susan Strasberg, actress (Picnic, The Trip), dies at 60
2002 Peggy Lee, singer/songwriter/actress (Lady and the Tramp, Pete Kelly’s Blues), dies at 81

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