Little Bits of History

April 7

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 7, 2017

1989: K-278 Komsomolets sinks. It was the only Project 685 Plavnik (fin) nuclear-powered attack submarine of the Soviet Navy. It’s NATO reporting name was “Mike class” and it was part of the fourth generation of nuclear subs built by the USSR. She was laid down on April 22, 1978 and launched on June 3, 1983 with commission coming on December 28 of that year. The 385 foot long submarine had a top speed of 14 knots or 16 mph while surfaced and 30 knots or 35 mph while submerged. A fully staffed ship would have 33 officers, 21 warrant or petty officers, and 15 enlisted men aboard.

The sub was designed by Rubin Design Bureau for Project 685 in order to craft a submersible capable of carrying a mix of torpedoes and cruise missiles with either conventional or nuclear warheads. The call for designs was issued in 1966 and it was completed in 1974. The double hulled Komsomolets was able to dive deeper than the best American subs because of the titanium inner hull. The pressure hull had seven compartments with stronger forward and aft bulkheads which created a safety zone in case of emergency. Also included in the design was an escape capsule filled into the sail above the stronger compartments which would allow the crew to abandon ship in an underwater emergency. There were many automated systems included which allowed for fewer crewmembers than would be expected for a submarine of that size.

On August 4, 1984 Komsomolets was recorded at a submergence of 3,350 feet in the Norwegian Sea. This proved she was able to withstand the pressure for which the ship was designed. On this day, under the command of Captain 1st Rank Evgeny Vanin, the ship was cruising at a depth of 1,099 feet and had traveled about 100 nautical miles southwest of Bear Island, Norway. A fire broke out in the engine room due to a short circuit. The watertight doors were shut, but the fire spread along the bulkhead cable penetrations and soon propulsion was lost. As the cables burned, more electrical problems emerged and control was threatened. An emergency ballast tank blow was done so the ship could surface eleven minutes after the fire broke out. Distress calls were sent and most of the crew abandoned ship.

Komsomolets was able to remain on the surface for several hours as the fire continued to burn, fed by compressed air. The ship was unable to be saved and at 3.15 PM local time, it sank into 5,510 feet of water. The captain and four others still on board were able to enter the escape capsule and make their way to the surface but only one of the five escaped the capsule before it sank in the rough waters. Rescue aircraft arrived and dropped small rafts but many of the men had already died of hypothermia. In all 42 of the 69 crew died, including the captain. Four died in the fire and 34 froze or drowned in the bitterly cold water awaiting a slow to arrive rescue. The ship with its nuclear reactor and two nuclear warheads remains a mile underwater.

The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim. – Edsger Dijkstra

In the long course of history, having people who understand your thought is much greater security than another submarine. – J. William Fulbright

I’ve been to the Titanic in a yellow submarine and the North Pole in a Russian nuclear ice breaker. – Buzz Aldrin

My own grandfathers were a submarine commander and a ‘desert rats’ tank operator in the Second World War. – Benedict Cumberbatch

Germanwings Precursor

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 7, 2015
Federal Express Flight 705 hijacking McDonnell Douglas *

Federal Express Flight 705 hijacking – McDonnell Douglas aircraft *


April 7, 1994: Federal Express Flight 705 experiences an unsuccessful hijacking. The McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30, designation N306FE was a cargo jet flying out of Memphis, Tennessee heading for San Jose, California. Auburn Calloway was then a 42-year-old FedEx flight engineer. He was a former Navy pilot and an alumnus of Stanford University. He was in danger of being terminated over irregularities in his reporting of flight hours. He was originally scheduled to be the flight engineer on this flight, but he and his crew were one minute over the maximum flying hours the day before. They were replaced by 49 year old Captain David Sanders, 42 year old First Officer James Tucker, and 39 year old flight engineer Andrew Peterson. Tucker was also a designated Captain for FedEx but on this flight he was First Officer. The flight was taking electronic equipment to Silicon Valley.

Calloway hoped to disguise the hijacking as an accident so his family could receive $2.5 million in life insurance. He intended to murder the crew using blunt force and came aboard the plane with two claw hammers, two sledge hammers, and a spear gun hidden inside a guitar case. Just before the flight, Calloway transferred $54,000 in securities and cashier checks to his ex-wife. He also carried on his person a note written to her telling of his despair. He was permitted aboard as a deadheading passenger, a practice allowing members of the airline’s flight crew to travel without charge when they are not working.

He planned to disable the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) by tripping a circuit breaker but it was noticed during the pre-flight check and was reset before takeoff. If he had been able to kill the crew, all he would have needed to do was fly for 30 minutes to erase it since it worked on a 30 minute loop. About 20 minutes after takeoff, with the crew in the midst of casual conversation, Calloway entered the flight deck and began his attack. All three crewmembers were struck several times. Both Peterson and Tucker suffered fractured skulls and Peterson also had a severed temporal artery. The crew fought back while Tucker, also an ex-Navy pilot, performed extreme aerial maneuvers.

Tucker’s fancy flying (inverted and near-transonic flight beyond the design capabilities of the plane) finally enabled the others to subdue Calloway. Sanders took over the controls. Tucker had lost most of the use of the right side of his body by the time he was relieved. He went back to help Peterson hold Calloway while Sanders talked to air traffic control and was given permission for an emergency landing at Memphis International Airport. It took a couple tries but the plane was safely landed. The crew all recovered but none have been certified as medically fit to fly commercially since the attack. They each received the Gold Medal Award for heroism. Calloway, now Prisons Inmate #14601-076, is in Federal prison near Fresno, California.

Attackers exploit the rarity of failures. – Bruce Schneier

Men rise from one ambition to another: first, they seek to secure themselves against attack, and then they attack others. – Niccolo Machiavelli

Even pirates, before they attack another ship, hoist a black flag. – Bela Kiraly

The first casualty of any battle is the plan of attack. – Cory Doctorow

Also on this day: Light My Fire – In 1827, John Walker develops a new match.
Internet Born – in 1969, RFC-1 was published.
 WHO’s Your Caregiver? – In 1948, the World Health Organization was founded.
Canadian Assassination – In 1868, Thomas D’Arcy McGee was killed.
Famous American Series – In 1940, Booker T. Washington was placed on a stamp.

* “McDonnell Douglas MD-10-30(F), FedEx JP7375978” by André Du-pont (Mexico Air Spotters) – Gallery page Licensed under GFDL 1.2 via Wikimedia Commons –,_FedEx_JP7375978.jpg#/media/File:McDonnell_Douglas_MD-10-30(F),_FedEx_JP7375978.jpg

Famous Americans Series

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 7, 2014
Famous Americans Series, Booker T. Washington's stamp

Famous Americans Series, Booker T. Washington’s stamp

April 7, 1940: A new set of stamps, the Famous Americans Series, is issued by the Post Office Department. There were five famous Americans in seven groups: authors, poets, educators, scientists, composers, artists, and inventors. The 35 stamps were in five different denominations: one, two, three, five, and ten cents. Booker T. Washington was depicted on the ten cent stamp in the education series, the first time in American history an African-American was depicted on a stamp. Today, the USPS and gained a deeper understanding of minority groups and doesn’t hesitate to place famous people on stamps, regardless of race.

Washington was born a slave in Hale’s Ford, Virginia in 1856. He was an educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents. He was the of the last generation of African-American leaders born into slavery and was a vocal advocate for the former slaves and their descendents. He was appalled by the disenfranchisement and Jim Crow laws enacted in the post-Reconstruction South. In 1895, his Atlanta compromise called for the avoidance of confrontation over segregation and instead to pursue long term goals in education and economic advancement. To that end, he became one of the most famous of black educators.

Washington was a graduate of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University) and Wayland Seminary (now Virginia Union University). In 1881 he was named as the first leader of the new Tuskegee Institute of Alabama. He had supporters in many black communities across the country and played a major role in racial politics of the time. He cooperated with rich, white people and became a beneficiary of their philanthropy. His underlying belief in education was a driving force and with funds raised, he was able to finance the opening of many schools in local communities as well as institutions of higher learning. Washington was married three times and had three children. His first two wives died young and his third outlived him. All three women helped him with his endeavors at Tuskegee.

In 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt responded to petitions from African-Americans and their supporters to recognize the brilliance of Washington. As the series of stamps was being developed, it was only logical to include this great advocate of education. Major Robert Wright, Sr. was one of the greatest lobbyists for this and when he heard that Washington would be among those celebrated, he was happy. However, he was not happy that it would be on the expensive ten cent stamp. He noted that many of the African-Americans who would be buying the highest priced stamp would never have a reason to use the expensive mail feature. Washington was again honored in 1956 when an image of a cabin similar to the one he was born in, emblazoned another stamp, this time with a three cent value.

Character is power.

I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.

There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.

No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. – all from Booker T. Washington

Also on this day: Light My Fire – In 1827, John Walker develops a new match.
Internet Born – in 1969, RFC-1 was published.
 WHO’s Your Caregiver? – In 1948, the World Health Organization was founded.
Canadian Assassination – In 1868, Thomas D’Arcy McGee was killed.

Internet Born

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 7, 2013
The Internet

The Internet

April 7, 1969: RFC-1 is published. Request for Comments documents are memos about new research, innovations, or methods that apply to the Internet. This date, with the first such memo, is the symbolic birthday of the Internet. The forerunner of today’s ubiquitous World Wide Web was the ARPAnet that was developed by the US Department of Defense. The idea, described in August 1962, took until the end of the decade to get up and running with all four of the original points of presence working.

The first ARPAnet message was sent at 10:30 PM on October 29, 1969. Both computers were at UCLA and the original message was “login.” In an ironic premonition of things to come, the system crashed and only the first two letters were sent. An hour later they got it to work properly. One problem was how to get information from Computer A to Computer B. A method for moving information was developed and improved and today we use TCP/IP or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol.

Nam June Paik, a South Korean-American, claims to have coined the term “Information Superhighway” in a study he wrote for the Rockefeller Foundation in 1974. The phrase first appeared in Newsweek in the January 3, 1983 issue. The Internet is a constellation of connected computers – a “network of networks” – or the Superhighway. There are domestic, academic, business, and government networks – the Information.

The “digital divide,” a debated theory, states there is a distinct disadvantage to those without onramps to the Superhighway. In September 2007, it was estimated that 1.244 billion people accessed the Internet, but only 2% of the world’s population regularly cruised the super highways. That would be about 13,000,000 people. The digital divide can be used locally, to show the differences in technological advances within an area or country. Or it can be used in a global sense, pointing out the disparities across the globe with countries that have less technology available to them and their citizens.

“The Internet is the world’s largest library. It’s just that all the books are on the floor.” – John Allen Paulos

“National borders aren’t even speed bumps on the information superhighway.” – Tim May

“The Internet is so big, so powerful and pointless that for some people it is a complete substitute for life.” – Andrew Brown

“The Internet is a telephone system that’s gotten uppity.” – Clifford Stoll

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Between 2006 and 2011 (last year for figures) there was an increase of 500,000 people to the world’s population. The number of people connected to the Internet rose from 18% to 35%. Africa went from a 3% usage to a 13% usage while the Americas went from 39% to 56%. The Arab states went from 11% to 29% while Asia and the Pacific went from 11% to 27%. The Commonwealth of Independent States went from 13% to 48% and Europe increased from 50% to 74%. Despite these growing numbers, the digital divide remains both inside countries and between them. Whether or not someone has access depends a great deal on their financial status as well as their geographical location and their government’s policies.

Also on this day: Light My Fire – In 1827 John Walker develops a new match.
 WHO’s Your Caregiver? – In 1948, the World Health Organization was founded.
Canadian Assassination – In 1868, Thomas D’Arcy McGee was killed.

Canadian Assassination

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 7, 2012

Thomas D'Arcy McGee

April 7, 1868: Thomas D’Arcy McGee is gunned down outside his home. McGee was a Father of Confederation and is, to date, the only federal level Canadian politician to be assassinated. He was born in Ireland and came to the United States in 1842 when he was just 17. He worked for a Boston Catholic newspaper for a few years before returning to Ireland. There he edited The Nation, an Irish nationalist newspaper. His support of the Fenians and his association with rebellious factions led to a warrant for his arrest. He fled Ireland and returned to the US.

In 1857 McGee moved to Montreal, Quebec. He became politically active and was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1858. Rather than working for a free and independent Ireland, he began to work toward an independent Canada. He changed his radical views and denounced the Fenian Brotherhood. At the time, their plan was to take over the Canadian colonies and use them as leverage to free Ireland from British rule. In fact, the Fenians sent an invasion force into Canada in 1866 without much effect. However, Canadians remained fearful of future attacks.

McGee was elected to the 1st Canadian Parliament in 1867 representing Montreal West as a Conservative member. On April 6 he participated in a Parliamentary debate lasting until after midnight. He walked home and as he approached his apartment on Sparks Street, he was killed by a single pistol shot to the head. He was to turn 43 at his next birthday, the following week. He was given a state funeral and buried at Côtes des Neiges cemetery in Montreal.

The government immediately put forth a $2,000 reward (nearly $45,000 in 2009 USD) for the capture of the criminal. Before nightfall James Patrick Whelan was arrested for the murder. All evidence presented at trial was circumstantial at best. Whelan was born in Galway, Ireland and came to Quebec City, Canada. He spent two years volunteering to protect his new home from Fenian raids. He then moved to Montreal, married Bridget Boyle and found work as a tailor before moving to Ottawa. A man matching his description was seen leaving the scene of the crime. Whelan was accused of having Fenian ties, the motive for his becoming an assassin. Within a few decades of his trial and subsequent hanging, the verdict was under scrutiny. It is felt a scapegoat was needed and James Patrick Whelan was it.

True independence and freedom can only exist in doing what’s right. – Brigham Young

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom. – Søren Kierkegaard

Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom. – Albert Einstein

The more freedom we enjoy, the greater the responsibility we bear, toward others as well as ourselves. – Oscar Arias Sanchez

Also on this day:

Light My Fire – In 1827 John Walker develops a new match.
Internet Born – in 1969, RFC-1 was published.
WHO’s Your Caregiver? – In 1948, the World Health Organization was founded.

WHO’s Your Caregiver?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 8, 2011

Flag of the World Health Organization

April 7, 1948: The World Health Organization [WHO] is founded. The headquarters for this agency of the United Nations is located in Geneva, Switzerland. As the UN followed the League of Nations, so too did the WHO follow the Heath Organization. The objective of WHO is “the attainment by all people of the highest possible level of health.” Its constitution formally came into force on the first World Health Day when it was ratified by the 26th member nation.

Members of WHO are the 191 nations of the UN and the Cook Islands and Niue. There are also Associate Members such as Puerto Rico and Tokelau. There are states with observer status such as Palestine, the Holy See, the Order of Malta and Chinese Taipei. Non-members are Liechtenstein and all other states with limited diplomatic recognition. Member States appoint delegates to the World Health Assembly – the supreme decision making body. This body meets each May and appoints a Director-General as well as takes care of fiduciary business. They select 34 members [each to a three year term] to the Executive Board.

Dr. Margaret Chan is the current Director-General. The WHO has a six point agenda – two health objectives, two strategic needs, and two operational approaches. The first goal is to promote development. There is a focus to address both chronic diseases and to address neglected tropical disease issues. The second goal is to foster health security. The WHO monitors endemics and pandemics which have risen in both numbers and intensity because of changing ways in which we live. The urbanization of the globe as well as the mismanagement of the environment have affected our overall health culture.

Strengthening health systems and harnessing research, information and evidence are the two strategic needs we all face. Health services need to reach all citizens, especially the poor. It is imperative that facilities are provided, funded, and staffed so that all people are given the chance to receive adequate health care. The dissemination of information is also needed. The two operational approaches are enhancing partnerships and improving performance. Global health is a vast undertaking and the proper use of limited resources must be husbanded for the greatest use. Looking at measurable outcomes allows the WHO and the world at large to see if these goals are being achieved.

“I want my leadership to be judged by the impact of our work on the health of two populations: women and the people of Africa.” – Margaret Chan

“It is not only disingenuous, but also shabby education, not to point out that, according to the World Health Organization, average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.4 years and rising, while that number is as low as 48 years in Tanzania.” – from Town Hall

“Patient safety is one of the most pressing issues facing the healthcare industry today. The World Health Organization estimates that in developed countries as many as one in 10 patients is harmed while receiving hospital care.” – from

“When polio erupted in Central Asia last year, the World Health Organization vaccinated 6 million kids in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, at a cost of less than $2 million.” – Susan E. Rice

Also on this day:
Light My Fire – In 1827 John Walker develops a new match.
Internet Born – in 1969, RFC-1 was published.

Light My Fire

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 7, 2010

Match afire

April 7, 1827: John Walker, an English chemist, invents the friction match. Fire is necessary for many tasks humans need to perform. Cooking is a major one and in the past heating and light came from fire, as well. Getting a fire started today is quite easy. But it wasn’t always so.

The first matches were chemically soaked cords that were continually burning and used to light other fires. They could burn either fast or slow and were classified as such. They burned at the rate of 1-15 seconds per centimeter. They were similar in design to today’s fuses.

Early precursor matches were developed in China in 577 and were small sticks of pinewood impregnated with sulfur. In 1805 the first modern match was created. The tip was coated with chemicals and it was stuck into a bottle of sulfuric acid to get a flammable reaction. It was both volatile and expensive.

Early work done in the 1680s by Robert Boyle laid the groundwork for Walker’s new kind of match. Walker’s match could light by striking it against any rough surface. The resulting flame was not at all safe, however, and threw sparks – sometimes for several feet – and ignited unintended objects. It was also very stinky because it used sulfur. In 1830 Charles Sauria added white phosphorus and got rid of the offensive odor. The safety match was a refinement that was introduced in 1836. Book matches came on the scene in 1889. Today, there are also special purpose matches, such as storm matches. They are able to light when struck against any rough surface, but the stick itself is also coated with chemicals to keep them burning even in strong winds. The entire match is covered with a thin coat of wax, making them waterproof.

“Fire is never a gentle master.” – Proverb

“There can be no great smoke arise, but there must be some fire.” – John Lyly

“People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes.” – Abigail Van Buren

“He who sits by the fire, thankless for the fire, is just as if he had no fire.  Nothing is possessed save in appreciation, of which thankfulness is the indispensable ingredient.” – W.J. Cameron

Also on this day, in 1969 RFC-1 was published, the beginning of the Internet.

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