It’s Sunday! Did you know…
* 1880 – Emily Howard Stowe the first woman licensed to practice medicine in Canada. (Emily Howard Stowe, née Jennings, a physician was a lifelong champion of women’s rights and taught school in Brantford and Mount Pleasant, Canada W (Ontario), and in 1856 married John Stowe, whose illness from tuberculosis inspired her to seek a career in medicine. No Canadian college would accept a woman student, so she enrolled at the New York Medical College for Women and on her graduation in 1867 set up a practice in Toronto. She was the first Canadian woman to practice medicine in Canada, although she was not licensed until 1880. Emily Stowe’s struggle to enter the medical profession caused her to organize the Woman’s Medical College, Toronto, in 1883. In 1876 she had founded the Toronto Women’s Literary Club, Canada’s first suffrage group, and she was the principal founder and first president of the Dominion Women’s Enfranchisement Assn (1889).
The first female public-school principal in Ontario, the first Canadian woman openly to practice medicine, and a founding member of the Canadian Women’s Suffrage Association, Emily Howard Jennings ranks as a true pioneer. Her forebears were early settlers in the New England and New Netherlands colonies who had come to Upper Canada at the beginning of the 19th century. Peter Lossing*, her maternal great-grandfather, had bought 15,000 acres in Norwich Township in 1810 and moved there from New York to live. The Jenningses, originally of Vermont, were farmers who also settled in Norwich.
After marrying John Stowe, Emily apparently converted to Methodism, but formal religion did not play a strong role in her subsequent life. At the end of her career, she would write that she had “out grown all religious creeds” and that she was “a Truth Seeker . . . a Mental Scientist Looking upon Jesus Christ as our great exemplar & at the same time regarding him as pre-eminently a socialist – I am bold to say, I am a Scientific Socialist & would like to see the unity of humanity & nations fully recognized – until which the Kingdom of Heaven is afar off.”)
* 1918 Romanov family executed. (In Yekaterinburg, Russia, Czar Nicholas II and his family are executed by the Bolsheviks, bringing an end to the three-century-old Romanov dynasty.
Crowned in 1896, Nicholas was neither trained nor inclined to rule, which did not help the autocracy he sought to preserve among a people desperate for change. The disastrous outcome of the Russo-Japanese War led to the Russian Revolution of 1905, which ended only after Nicholas approved a representative assembly–the Duma–and promised constitutional reforms. The Czar soon retracted these concessions and repeatedly dissolved the Duma when it opposed him, contributing to the growing public support for the Bolsheviks and other revolutionary groups. In 1914, Nicholas led his country into another costly war–World War I–that Russia was ill-prepared to win. Discontent grew as food became scarce, soldiers became war weary and devastating defeats at the hands of Germany demonstrated the ineffectiveness of Russia under Nicholas.
In March 1917, revolution broke out on the streets of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) and Nicholas was forced to abdicate his throne later that month. That November, the radical socialist Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, seized power in Russia from the provisional government, sued for peace with the Central Powers and set about establishing the world’s first communist state. Civil war broke out in Russia in June 1918, and in July the anti-Bolshevik “White” Russian forces advanced on Yekaterinburg, where Nicholas and his family were located, during a campaign against the Bolshevik forces. Local authorities were ordered to prevent a rescue of the Romanovs, and after a secret meeting of the Yekaterinburg Soviet, a death sentence was passed on the imperial family.
Late on the night of July 16, Nicholas, Alexandra, their five children and four servants were ordered to dress quickly and go down to the cellar of the house in which they were being held. There, the family and servants were arranged in two rows for a photograph they were told was being taken to quell rumors that they had escaped. Suddenly, a dozen armed men burst into the room and gunned down the imperial family in a hail of gunfire. Those who were still breathing when the smoked cleared were stabbed to death.
The remains of Nicholas, Alexandra and three of their children were excavated in a forest near Yekaterinburg in 1991 and positively identified two years later using DNA fingerprinting. The Crown Prince Alexei and one Romanov daughter were not accounted for, fueling the persistent legend that Anastasia, the youngest Romanov daughter, had survived the execution of her family. Of the several “Anastasias” that surfaced in Europe in the decade after the Russian Revolution, Anna Anderson, who died in the United States in 1984, was the most convincing. In 1994, however, scientists used DNA to prove that Anna Anderson was not the Czar’s daughter but a Polish woman named Franziska Schanzkowska.)
* 1945 Atom bomb successfully tested. (On this day in 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m., the Manhattan Project comes to an explosive end as the first atom bomb is successfully tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Plans for the creation of a uranium bomb by the Allies were established as early as 1939 when Italian emigre physicist Enrico Fermi met with U.S. Navy department officials at Columbia University to discuss the use of fissionable materials for military purposes. That same year, Albert Einstein wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt supporting the theory that an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction had great potential as a basis for a weapon of mass destruction. In February 1940, the federal government granted a total of $6,000 for research. But in early 1942, with the United States now at war with the Axis powers, and fear mounting that Germany was working on its own uranium bomb, the War Department took a more active interest, and limits on resources for the project were removed.
Brigadier-General Leslie R. Groves, himself an engineer, was now in complete charge of a project to assemble the greatest minds in science and discover how to harness the power of the atom as a means of bringing the war to a decisive end. The Manhattan Project (so-called because of where the research began) would wind its way through many locations during the early period of theoretical exploration, most importantly, the University of Chicago, where Enrico Fermi successfully set off the first fission chain reaction. But the Project took final form in the desert of New Mexico, where, in 1943, Robert J. Oppenheimer began directing Project Y at a laboratory at Los Alamos, along with such minds as Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, and Fermi. Here theory and practice came together, as the problems of achieving critical mass-a nuclear explosion-and the construction of a deliverable bomb were worked out.
Finally, on the morning of July 16, in the New Mexico desert 120 miles south of Santa Fe, the first atomic bomb was detonated. The scientists and a few dignitaries had removed themselves 10,000 yards away to observe as the first mushroom cloud of searing light stretched 40,000 feet into the air and generated the destructive power of 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT. The tower on which the bomb sat when detonated was vaporized.
The question now became-on whom was the bomb to be dropped? Germany was the original target, but the Germans had already surrendered. The only belligerent remaining was Japan.
A footnote: The original $6,000 budget for the Manhattan Project finally ballooned to a total cost of $2 billion.)
* 1995 Amazon opens for business (On this day in 1995, Amazon officially opens for business as an online bookseller. Within a month, the fledgling retailer had shipped books to all 50 U.S. states and to 45 countries. Founder Jeff Bezos’s motto was “get big fast,” and Seattle-based Amazon eventually morphed into an e-commerce colossus, selling everything from groceries to furniture to live ladybugs, and helping to revolutionize the way people shop.
Bezos earned an undergraduate degree in computer science and electrical engineering from Princeton University in 1986 then worked in the financial services industry in New York City. In 1994, after realizing the commercial potential of the Internet and determining that books might sell well online, he moved to Washington State and founded Amazon. He initially dubbed the business Cadabra (as in abracadabra) but after someone misheard the name as “cadaver,” Bezos decided to call his start-up Amazon, after the enormous river in South America, a moniker he believed wouldn’t box him into offering just one type of product or service.
In the spring of 1995, Bezos invited a small group of friends and former colleagues to check out a beta version of Amazon’s website, and the first-ever order was placed on April 3 of that year, for a science book titled “Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies.” When Amazon.com went live to the general public in July 1995, the company boldly billed itself as “Earth’s biggest bookstore,” although sales initially were drummed up solely by word of mouth and Bezos assisted with assembling orders and driving the packages to the post office. However, by the end of 1996 Amazon had racked up $15.7 million in revenues, and in 1997 Bezos took the company public with an initial public offering that raised $54 million. That same year, Bezos personally delivered his company’s one-millionth order, to a customer in Japan who’d purchased a Windows NT manual and a Princess Diana biography. In 1998, Amazon extended beyond books and started selling music CDs, and by the following year, it had added more product categories, such as toys, electronics, and tools.
By December 1999, Amazon had shipped 20 million items to 150 countries around the globe. That same month, Bezos was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. In 2000, the company introduced a service allowing individual sellers and other outside merchants to peddle their products alongside Amazon’s own items. Meanwhile, Amazon continued to spend heavily on expansion and didn’t post its first full-year profit until 2003.
In 2007, Amazon debuted its Kindle e-reader; four years later, the company announced it was selling more e-books than print books. Also in 2011, Amazon’s tablet computer, the Kindle Fire, was released. Among a variety of other ventures, Amazon launched a cloud computing service in 2006; a studio that develops movies and TV series, in 2010; and an online marketplace for fine art, in 2013, which has featured original works by artists including Claude Monet and Norman Rockwell. Additionally, Amazon has acquired a number of companies over the course of its history, including online shoe shop Zappos, video game streaming site Twitch.tv and Kiva Systems a maker of automation technology for fulfillment centers. In 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the world’s most valuable retailer. Two decades after its founding and with Bezos still at the helm, Amazon’s market value was $250 billion.)
* 1999 JFK Jr. killed in plane crash. (On July 16, 1999, John F. Kennedy, Jr.; his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy; and her sister, Lauren Bessette, die when the single-engine plane that Kennedy was piloting crashes into the Atlantic Ocean near Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr., was born on November 25, 1960, just a few weeks after his father and namesake was elected the 35th president of the United States. On his third birthday, “John-John” attended the funeral of his assassinated father and was photographed saluting his father’s coffin in a famous and searing image. Along with his sister, Caroline, he was raised in Manhattan by his mother, Jacqueline. After graduating from Brown University and a very brief acting stint, he attended New York University Law School. He passed the bar on his third try and worked in New York as an assistant district attorney, winning all six of his cases. In 1995, he founded the political magazine George, which grew to have a circulation of more than 400,000. Unlike many others in his famous family, he never sought public office himself.
Always in the media spotlight, he was celebrated for the good looks that he inherited from his parents. In 1988, he was named the “Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine. He was linked romantically with several celebrities, including the actress Daryl Hannah, whom he dated for five years. In September 1996, he married girlfriend Carolyn Bessette, a fashion publicist. The two shared an apartment in New York City, where Kennedy was often seen inline skating in public. Known for his adventurous nature, he nonetheless took pains to separate himself from the more self-destructive behavior of some of the other men in the Kennedy clan.
On July 16, 1999, however, with about 300 hours of flying experience, Kennedy took off from Essex County Airport in New Jersey and flew his single-engine plane into a hazy, moonless night. He had turned down an offer by one of his flight instructors to accompany him, saying he “wanted to do it alone.” To reach his destination of Martha’s Vineyard, he would have to fly 200 miles–the final phase over a dark, hazy ocean–and inexperienced pilots can lose sight of the horizon under such conditions. Unable to see shore lights or other landmarks, Kennedy would have to depend on his instruments, but he had not qualified for a license to fly with instruments only. In addition, he was recovering from a broken ankle, which might have affected his ability to pilot his plane.
At Martha’s Vineyard, Kennedy was to drop off his sister-in-law Lauren Bessette, one of his two passengers. From there, Kennedy and his wife, Carolyn, were to fly on to the Kennedy compound on Cape Cod’s Hyannis Port for the marriage of Rory Kennedy, the youngest child of the late Robert F. Kennedy. The Piper Saratoga aircraft never made it to Martha’s Vineyard. Radar data examined later showed the plane plummeting from 2,200 feet to 1,100 feet in a span of 14 seconds, a rate far beyond the aircraft’s safe maximum. It then disappeared from the radar screen.
Kennedy’s plane was reported missing by friends and family members, and an intensive rescue operation was launched by the Coast Guard, the navy, the air force, and civilians. After two days of searching, the thousands of people involved gave up hope of finding survivors and turned their efforts to recovering the wreckage of the aircraft and the bodies. Americans mourned the loss of the “crown prince” of one of the country’s most admired families, a sadness that was especially poignant given the relentless string of tragedies that have haunted the Kennedy family over the years.
On July 21, Navy divers recovered the bodies of JFK Jr., his wife, and sister-in-law from the wreckage of the plane, which was lying under 116 feet of water about eight miles off the Vineyard’s shores. The next day, the cremated remains of the three were buried at sea during a ceremony on the USS Briscoe, a navy destroyer. A private mass for JFK Jr. and Carolyn was held on July 23 at the Church of St. Thomas More in Manhattan, where the late Jackie Kennedy Onassis worshiped. President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, were among the 300 invited guests. The Kennedy family’s surviving patriarch, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, delivered a moving eulogy: “From the first day of his life, John seemed to belong not only to our family but to the American family. He had a legacy, and he learned to treasure it. He was part of a legend, and he learned to live with it.”
Investigators studying the wreckage of the Piper Saratoga found no problems with its mechanical or navigational systems. In their final report released in 2000, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the crash was caused by an inexperienced pilot who became disoriented in the dark and lost control.)
* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/
* The Canadian Encyclopedia http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/emily-stowe/
* Dictionary of Canadian Biography http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/jennings_emily_howard_13E.html