Category Archives: This day in History

The Mount Everest Disaster (1996)

During the spring climbing season in 1996, 15 people died trying to reach the summit of Mount Everest, making it the deadliest season in the mountain’s history. Eight of the deaths occurred on a single day in May, when climbers were caught by a fierce storm. The disaster was chronicled in a number of books, including one by journalist Jon Krakauer, who was on assignment writing about the commercialization and overcrowding of Everest. What non-weather factors contributed to the deaths that day? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

US Supreme Court Classifies Tomatoes as Vegetables, Not Fruit (1893)

To most of us, a fruit is a sweet plant part eaten as a dessert or snack, but to a botanist, a fruit is a mature ovary of a plant. All species of flowering plants produce fruits that contain seeds. A vegetable, on the other hand, is simply part of a plant that is grown primarily for food. The tomato—one of the newer additions to world cuisine—can be said to meet both criteria but is technically a fruit. Why was the Supreme Court tasked with classifying the tomato in the first place? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

First Flight over the North Pole? (1926)

In 1926, aviators Floyd Bennett and Richard Byrd took off from Spitsbergen Island on what would be a historic flight. When they returned, they announced that they had flown over the North Pole, becoming the first to do so. Although both men received the Congressional Medal of Honor for the feat—and Byrd went on to make the first flight over the South Pole in 1929—many were skeptical about their North Pole claims. What diary entries have led many to believe they never reached the pole? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Coca-Cola Hits the Market as a Health Tonic (1886)

At a time when soda fountains were popular in the US due to the widespread belief that carbonated water was good for the health, American pharmacist John Pemberton came up with his own formula for a health tonic. Among its ingredients were cocaine, derived from the coca leaf, and caffeine, derived from the kola nut, leading to the name Coca-Cola. It was initially sold as a patent medicine for five cents a glass. What serious ailments did Pemberton claim Coca-Cola had the power to cure? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Suicidal Passenger Brings Down Pacific Air Lines Flight 773 (1964)

In early May, Francisco Gonzales—a disturbed former member of the Philippine Olympic sailing team—bought a gun and life insurance and began talking about killing himself. He followed through on his threat during a flight to San Francisco, but he did more than just end his own life; he took the lives of all 44 people on board by shooting both the pilot and co-pilot, causing the plane to crash. What cockpit security regulation—adopted before the flight—only went into effect after the tragic crash? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Roger Bannister Breaks Four-Minute Mile (1954)

Bannister was a British medical student when he became the first man to run the mile in less than four minutes—a barrier many experts had long considered unbreakable. His official time was 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. Australia’s John Landy and New Zealand’s Peter Snell bettered the record that year, but in August, Bannister defeated Landy at the British Empire Games in Vancouver, clocking 3:58.8 in a thrilling race. For his accomplishments, Bannister became the first to earn what honor? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

First American in Space (1961)

In 1961, 23 days after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth, astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American to be launched into space. Shepard’s suborbital flight—part of the US space program Project Mercury—reached a height of 115 miles (185 km). He performed several maneuvers of his capsule, Freedom 7, but returned after only a 15-minute flight. Although Gagarin was the first human in space, Shepard was the first to return in what way? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Jesse Tafero's Execution Goes Horribly Wrong (1990)

Accused of the fatal shooting of a Florida Highway Patrol officer and a visiting Canadian constable, Tafero was convicted of murder in 1976 and sentenced to death. His execution by electrocution in 1990 was grisly. Lasting more than 13 minutes, it took three separate jolts of electricity and caused flames to shoot out of his head. Later, the conviction of Tafero’s girlfriend—obtained with the same evidence that implicated Tafero—was overturned, and someone confessed to the murders. Who was it? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Three-Year-Old Madeleine McCann Goes Missing (2007)

A few weeks before her fourth birthday, Madeleine McCann disappeared from an apartment in Portugal, where she, her parents, and her twin siblings were on vacation. Her disappearance received international press coverage, but despite numerous investigations by several different agencies, young Madeleine remains missing and no arrests have been made in the case. However, Portuguese authorities at different times categorized several individuals as having arguido status, which means what? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

"Nessie" Reported for the First Time (1933)

More than 700 ft (213 m) deep, Loch Ness is the largest freshwater lake in the UK by volume. This makes it the perfect hiding place for a prehistoric creature—or so believers say. Though the legend of the Loch Ness Monster dates back to at least 565 BCE, modern accounts of “Nessie” date only to 1933, the year a local newspaper began reporting sightings of a fearsome, dragon-like creature in the lake. What natural phenomenon, known as a seiche, may be responsible for some of the sightings? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary