Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Napoleon, Brown, Ford, Fermi, McCarthy, Castro

There are some days when nothing happens, but December 2nd isn't one of them.

On this day in 1804, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France. He was 35. France hadn't had an emperor since Charlemagne a thousand years earlier.

On December 2nd, 1859, the abolitionist John Brown was hanged for his violent attack on the military arsenal at Harper's Ferry. He was 59. If you've seen the famous painting of him, he looked a lot like God. The federal troops that captured Brown and retook the arsenal were under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee.

On this day in 1927 Henry Ford replaced the famously reliable Model T with the Model A. Ford was 64 and still innovating. The Model T had been in production for the previous 19 years and came in a variety of colors, all of them black. That was the joke, anyway.

It was on this day in 1942 that Enrico Fermi initiated the first sustained nuclear reaction, the first step toward the production of an atomic weapon. It took place in a secret laboratory under the bleachers of a university football stadium. On the same day the State Department announced the deaths of 2 million Jews at the hands of the Nazis. Fermi was 41, and a recent immigrant from fascist Italy.

Fifty five years ago today the Senate voted to censure Joe McCarthy for "conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute." He was 46. He was still in office when he died two years later.

On December 2nd, 1956 Castro, Ché Guevara and 80 other members of his July 26th Movement landed in Cuba to begin their revolution. On December 2nd, 1961, his revolution completed, Castro announced in a nationwide radio address that he was a Marxist. He was 35.

All of these stories, and hundreds of others, appear in A Book of Ages. Monarchs, revolutionaries, soldiers, scientists, authors, painters, inventors, demagogues, tycoons; what they did, and how old they were when they did it.

No comments:

Post a Comment