August 31, 1997: Diana, Princess of Wales, dies from injuries sustained in a car crash in Paris. Photographers were in pursuit of a photo op as well as Diana and Dodi Fayed. The car was speeding through a tunnel when Henri Paul, the driver, lost control and crashed head on into a pillar. Fayed’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was the only survivor of the crash.
Diana and Dodi left the Hôtel Ritz (owned by Dodi’s father) and were trying to escape the paparazzi. The drunken driver lost control of the Mercedes-Benz S280 while they were traveling through a tunnel. After striking the pillar, the car spun to a stop. Dodi and Henri were dead at the scene. The bodyguard was conscious but with severe injuries. None of the people in the car were wearing seat belts at the time of impact.
Diana was finally freed of the wreckage when the top of the car was cut away. She was still alive and taken to the nearby Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital. She arrived there about 2 AM and was rushed into surgery. The impact of the crash was so implosive that her heart had shifted from a normal left chest position to the right side, tearing major blood vessels. Although an attempt was made to save the princess, she was pronounced dead at 4 AM. Prince Charles and her two sisters came to claim the body and whisked her back to England.
Like many high profile deaths, there are conspiracy theories. Who was Henri Paul? Drunk chauffer? His job was actually as head of security for the Hôtel Ritz. Were his blood samples altered? After repeated testing along with more rigorous tests from other body fluids, it was deemed that Henri was drunk and also taking antidepressants. After claims that the samples did not belong to the Paul, DNA testing proved that the samples were his. Why was he drinking? It was his night off and he was kicking back with a few drinks. Fayed called him back to duty and he responded. Then he was forced to not only drive, but drive like a maniac to keep the ever circling vultures from snapping a few pictures. The case has been called an accident.
“Being a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
“They say it is better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable, but how about a compromise like moderately rich and just moody?”
“Everyone needs to be valued. Everyone has the potential to give something back.”
“When you are happy you can forgive a great deal.” – all from Princess Diana
August 31, 1888: Mary Ann Nichols is brutally murdered by someone wielding a long sharp knife. Her body was discovered in Bucks Row in the Whitechapel District of London, England. She was the first of five victims of an elusive serial killer. All victims were women who were of “ill repute” and all the bodies were mutilated.
The next victim was Annie Chapman who was killed on September 8 and then Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes were murdered on September 30. Finally, Mary Jane Kelly was killed on November 9. The murderer was never found, but his legend remains alive.
Suspected in the slayings were 1) Kosminski – a poor Jew from the area; 2) Montague John Druitt – 31-year-old barrister and teacher who committed suicide in December 1888; 3) Michael Ostrog – 55-year-old Russian-born thief who spent time in many asylums over the years; and 4) Dr. Francis J. Tumblety – 56-year-old American “quack doctor” who left the country in 1888. Other names have been brought forward, including a member of the Royal Family – Prince Edward.
These five murders are part of a larger cluster of attacks. Eleven women were attacked over close to four years in the Whitechapel area. The wounds inflicted on the remaining six victims did not match those of the five listed above and are assumed to have been committed by other person or persons unknown. The brutal murderer of prostitutes was said to have sent a letter to the news and signed it by that most fearful of murderous names – Jack the Ripper.
“Murder is terribly exhausting.” – Albert Camus
“The very emphasis of the commandment: Thou shalt not kill, makes it certain that we are descended from an endlessly long chain of generations of murderers, whose love of murder was in their blood as it is perhaps also in ours.” – Sigmund Freud
“Murder is born of love, and love attains the greatest intensity in murder.” – Octave Mirbeau
“No doubt Jack the Ripper excused himself on the grounds that it was human nature.” – A.A. Milne
“There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper.” – Camille Paglia
August 30, 1909: Charles Doolittle Walcott first discovers fossils in the Burgess Shale near British Columbia, Canada. During the Cambrian Explosion, 500 million years ago, a full spectrum of complex animals formed in the oceans after about 2 billion years of unicellular life forms. In only 10-20 million years, the oceans were full of multicellular, complex flora and fauna.
The Burgess Shale, high in the Canadian Rockies, was at one time part of the seabed in a warm, shallow sea. Mudslides would occur and bury the animals. After millions of years of being embedded in the sediment, these creatures left fossil records of their existence. Many of the fossils were of soft bodied creatures, rarely surviving in the fossil world.
Walcott spent every summer from 1910 – 1917 excavating the site and recovered more than 65,000 specimens. He sent the fossils and his notes to the Smithsonian Institute where they were mostly ignored for nearly 50 years. Harry Whittington of Cambridge University and his grad students studied the fossils in 1966-7 and found that many of the creatures defied classification within our modern system.
These findings show that there was a greater diversification of life forms half a billion years ago than there is today. Many creatures had bizarre forms. One specimen has five eyes and a vacuum cleaner type nose. One animal resembles a flower more than an animal. Another has both fins like crustacean and a shell like a vertebrate.
“It should not be believed that all beings exist for the sake of man. On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sakes and not for the sake of something else.” Moses Maimonides
“Nature … makes nothing in vain.” Aristotle
“This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle; wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it.” Thomas Carlyle
“Man masters nature not by force but by understanding.” Jacob Bronowsky
Also on this day, in 1963 the hotline between the US and the USSR goes live.
August 29, 1882: According to The Sporting Match, English cricket dies. The Ashes is a Test cricket series played by cricket’s greatest international rivalry – Australia and England. Cricket is a summer game and The Ashes is a biennial event. However, summer does not occur at the same time in the two countries. The Ashes is therefore played every 18 or 30 months in a bid to find the new home for the urn.
The Sporting Match published an obituary stating that English cricked had died when Australia beat England on their home field. “The body would be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia” according to the obit. The media played up the need to regain the ashes when England next played in Australia calling the 1882-1883 season the “quest to regain The Ashes.” And so began the tradition.
The first urn contained ashes from some piece of cricket equipment and was presented to English captain Ivo Bligh when they played their next match in Melbourne. It was made of terra cotta and he forever thought of it as a personal gift. Replicas are seen today holding the ashes. It is not a trophy, per se. Since 1998 there has been a trophy that is presented to the winner and it is made of Waterford crystal. Australia is the current title, trophy, and ash holder with the next match scheduled for 2009.
Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world. It is played on an oval field with two teams of eleven members each. In the center of the oval is a flat strip of ground 22 yards (20.12 m) long called a pitch. There is a wicket set up at each end. A bowler throws a ball to the man protecting his wicket who bats the ball into the playing field. If the ball remains in play and the wicket remains standing, the batsman and the non-striker (a second batsman at the opposing end of the pitch) run between the wickets to score runs. The highest score wins.
“By bringing the Ashes back after so long you have given cricket a huge boost and lit up the whole summer.” – Tony Blair
“My warmest congratulations to you, the England cricket team and all in the squad for the magnificent achievement of regaining the Ashes.” – Michael Vaughan
“It has brought cricket alive in Britain and even around the world. And what’s more the players have been great sporting role models for kids. The Ashes victory is great for the sport.” – David Folb
“Baseball has the great advantage over cricket of being ended sooner.” – George Bernard Shaw
August 29, 1885: Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler, industrialist and engineer, gains a patent for an internal combustion engine two-wheeled vehicle, the first motorcycle. Unless you count the steam engine driven motorcycle that was powered by coal and available in 1867, developed by Howard Roper. The steam powered bike, like the steam powered car that Roper developed, never quite caught on.
Daimler’s motorcycle had a wooden chassis and an engine developed by Nicolaus August Otto. It was a 4-stroke combustion engine and wheels made of metal without any tires on them. The motorcycle was not for sale, but was a method for propulsion proving the engine was a viable power source.
The first motorcycle for sale was produced in 1894 by Hildebrand & Wolfmüller with weight of 60 km [132 lb] and a top speed of 40 km/h [25 mph]. In 1901, Indian motorcycles was founded in the US and became the largest manufacturer until after World War I. Harley-Davidson was founded in 1903 and was the next leading motorcycle manufacturer. Then in 1928 DKW took the lead. BMW motorcycles began production in 1923 and enclosed an opposed-twin engine along with the transmission into a single aluminum casing.
After World War II, the BSA Group led the pack. In the late 1960s and early 1970s Japan’s manufacturers – Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha took the lead. Today’s bikes are fuel efficient but not as safe as enclosed vehicles. The rate of fatalities from crashes is three times higher than for standard cars but has not kept entire subcultures from being built around motorcycles.
“That’s all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel.” – Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
“Most motorcycle problems are caused by the nut that connects the handlebars to the saddle.” – Unknown
“Bikes don’t leak oil, they mark their territory.” – Unknown
“What do you call a cyclist who doesn’t wear a helmet? An organ donor.” – David Perry
August 28, 1884: Near Howard, South Dakota a tornado is photographed for the first time. The process of taking photographs came to the public in 1839 and was named as such by Sir John Herschel. The first photo was taken in 1827 by Joseph Niépce and required an exposure time of eight hours. Niépce went into partnership with Louis Daguerre and the exposure time was quickly dropped to a mere thirty minutes.
The early process allowed for only one copy of any picture to ever be made. By August 1835, a negative on paper was produced by William Fox Talbot in a process called Calotype. It allowed for many copies of the picture to be made. These first pictures were not quite as nice as Daguerreotypes. However, the less defined pictures was offset by the ability to make copies. In fifteen years, the number of photographic shops more than doubled.
By 1884, the negatives were being made on celluloid or film. Color photos were possible in 1907 when the first color film was introduced. Digital photography was introduced in 1981 when Sony first marketed a camera for the public. That camera saved images to a disk and they were displayed on television screens. The first truly digital camera arrived in 1990 from Kodak.
Warren Faidley bills himself as the first full-time professional storm chaser. Roger Jensen began chasing storms in 1951 and is generally said to be the first storm chaser ever. Storm chasers seek out all types of weather: lightning storms, thunderstorms, hurricanes, fires, blizzards, hail storms, and of course, tornadoes. There was even a movie about this, called appropriately – Twister.
“To photograph is to confer importance.” Susan Sontag
“Every day we have some weather, and yesterday was no exception.” – John Carr
“As I have practiced it, photography produces pleasure by simplicity. I see something special and show it to the camera. A picture is produced. The moment is held until someone sees it. Then it is theirs.” – Sam Abell
“One of the things about a tornado, it comes so quickly you don’t have time to get in a panic. If you do, you’re probably not in one.” – Mike Huckabee
Also on this day, in 1845 Scientific American begins publication.
August 27, 551 BC: Confucius is born in the State of Lu, China. He was conceived out of wedlock with is father a 70 year old down and out noble and his mother an 18 year old woman. His father died when Confucius was three and his mother raised him in poverty. He married Qi Quan when he was 19 and their first child was born the next year. He worked as a shepherd and cowherd as well as a clerk and bookkeeper. By the age of 53 he was the Justice Minister of Lu. Two years later he resigned his position after becoming disenchanted with the political process.
He set about traveling through the small kingdoms of north-central China. He would endear himself to the local rulers and then impart the wisdom, hopes, and dreams he had formulated in the off chance someone would implement his political agenda. He would then be run out of town.
Some consider Confucianism a religion. However, it lacks an afterlife, deities, and concern with spiritual matters. It is an ethical and political or social philosophy based on three concepts: sacrificing to the gods; ethical, social, and political institutions; and personal daily behaviors. Confucius formulated an early version of the Golden Rule and felt that the world would be better if we moved from a sense of total self absorption to behaving in a moral or right manner concerned with the effects of our behavior on others and the world around us. His political beliefs flowed from this ethical base.
By the age of 67 Confucius returned to Lu to settle down. He spent the rest of his life teaching and writing. In his work, Analects, he calls himself “a transmitter who invented nothing.” He put great emphasis on study and opened his book with the Chinese character for this word. His name is a westernized version of Kǒng Fūzǐ that the Jesuits gave to the author as they translated his works. Fūzǐ means teacher; he was born with the name Kǒng Qiū.
“Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.”
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
“To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage.”
“When anger rises, think of the consequences.”
“What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” – all from Confucius
August 27, 1859: Edwin Drake strikes oil at Titusville, Pennsylvania – the birth of the modern oil industry. Titusville, was founded by Jonathan Titus in 1796 with lumber as the primary industry and 17 sawmills in the region. Oil was known to exist, but there was no practical way to get it out of the ground. Local natives would soak blankets on the top of the creek and let them absorb the oil.
In the late 1850s Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company sent Drake to the area with orders to drill on some leased land. He used an old steam engine to power the drill and tried in several locations over the span of two years. The most any previous well produced was ten barrels a day, not enough to be considered commercially viable. Digging larger shafts produced water seepage. Drake hired a salt mine drilling expert, William A. Smith, and in the summer of 1859 they began to drill.
At 16 feet, the hole began to collapse. Drake devised the use of a cast iron drain pipe in ten foot lengths and drove them into the ground. At 32 feet, they hit bedrock and drilled down via the drain pipes. Progress was about 3 feet per day. Crowds came to make fun of the process. Drake was running out of money. The company was no longer sending funds and Drake relied on friends to supply the cash flow to finish the drilling.
At the depth of 69.5 feet the bit hit a crevice and the men stopped for the day. The next morning, getting ready to drill some more, they found crude oil rising up from the crevice and began to pump it out and into a bathtub. By the next day, Drakes system of drilling was being copied at other Oil Company sites. Drake failed to patent his method and while many grew fabulously wealthy, Drake never cashed in and died impoverished.
“Invention is a combination of brains and materials. The more brains you use, the less material you need.” – Charles F. Kettering
“True creativity is characterized by a succession of acts each dependent on the one before and suggesting the one after.” – Edwin H. Land
“It puzzles me how they know what corners are good for filling stations. Just how did they know gas and oil was under there?” – Dizzy Dean
“Moses dragged us for 40 years through the desert to bring us to the one place in the Middle East where there was no oil.” – Golda Meir
August 26, 1988: Mehran Karrimi Nasseri arrives at the Terminal One departure lounge in Charles de Gaulle Airport, France. On August 1, 2006 Nasseri fell ill and was taken to the hospital. He has not returned. Why would anyone live at an airport for nearly twenty years? Nasseri is an Iranian refugee who claims his father was an Iranian doctor working for the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and his mother was a British nurse. His family disputes this.
Nasseri came to the UK in 1973 to study at Bradford University. While there, he participated in protests against the Shah of Iran. He returned to Iran in August 1975 when tuition was no longer forthcoming. He claims that on arrival at Tehran’s airport, he was taken immediately to prison where he was tortured for four months. He was then expelled from the country.
He asked for asylum in West Germany and the Netherlands in 1977, France in 1978, Yugoslavia in 1979, France again in 1980 and all were denied. He applied for emigration to the UK and tried to enter that country. He was expelled first from the UK, then Germany, and finally accepted into Belgium in 1980. He lived there until 1986 when he tried to gain access into the UK again. He claimed he was mugged and lost all identification papers.
After arriving without papers at Charles de Gaulle airport, he was moved to Zone d’attente (waiting zone) and has stayed on. His case has been taken up by human rights lawyers. In 1992, the French courts ruled that Nasseri couldn’t be expelled because he entered the country legally, but he need not be granted refugee status since he had no proper paperwork. His story about his plight has changed over time. A fictionalized version of his story made it to the big screen with Tom Hanks starring in The Terminal; Nasseri received $250,000 for his story rights.
“Where could one settle more pleasantly than [in] one’s home?” – Cicero
”He who troubles his household will inherit the wind.”- Bible, Proverbs 11:29
“Home is where the heart is.” – Pliny the Younger
“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” – John Howard Payne
Also on this day, in 1883 Krakatau erupts.
August 25, 1875: Matthew Webb becomes the first person to swim the English Channel without aid from artificial means. He did so in 21 hours and 45 minutes. Webb was born in Dawley, Shropshire, England, and saved a younger brother, Thomas, from drowning in 1863. He joined the merchant navy at age twelve for a three year stint.
When a man fell overboard in the Atlantic Ocean, Webb jumped in after him in a futile attempt at rescue. He won both £100 and the Stanhope Gold Medal along with hero worship after the story appeared in the local papers. While serving as Captain of the steamship, Emerald, he read of an unsuccessful attempt by J. B. Johnson to swim the English Channel. He left his job and began training. He trained in endurance and to accustom himself to the cold waters.
He made his first attempt on August 12, but was unable to finish. He dove in again at Dover, England, swam a zigzag course that covered 39 miles and came ashore at Calais, France.
To date, nearly 1,200 people have successfully made the English Channel swim. By June 2006, 554 men and 262 women had completed the task. The England to France swim has been done 916 times, while the France to England trip has been accomplished 255 times. Thirty-three people have made both the coming and going trek, while three people have done a 3-way swim.
“Whoever knocks persistently, ends by entering.” – ‘Ali
“Ever’thing we do – seems to me is aimed right at goin’ on. Seems that way to me. Even gettin’ hungry – even bein’ sick; some die, but the rest is tougher.” – John Steinbeck
“Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.” Benjamin Franklin
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” Abraham Lincoln
Also on this day, in 1835 The Sun began printing the Great Moon Hoax.