Pope Benedict XV Canonizes Joan of Arc (1920)

Joan of Arc was a French military leader. As a girl, she began hearing voices—those of saints, she believed—exhorting her to aid the dauphin, who was being kept from the throne by the English in the Hundred Years War. Joan organized the French resistance that defeated the English siege of Orléans and had the dauphin crowned Charles VII. Captured and sold to the English by the Burgundians thereafter, she was tried for heresy and witchcraft. How old was she when she was burned at the stake? Discuss

Van Gogh's Portrait of Doctor Gachet Sold for $82.5 Million (1990)

In June 1890, shortly before his death, Vincent Van Gogh created two versions of a painting depicting his doctor, Paul Gachet. The paintings, called Portrait of Dr. Gachet, portray the doctor seated beside a foxglove plant, an extract of which is used to treat heart conditions. In 1990, 100 years after it was first painted, Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito purchased one version of the work for the record sum of $82.5 million. Why did he later say he would have the painting burned? Discuss

State of Israel Proclaimed (1948)

In November 1947, the UN approved the Partition Plan for Palestine. Britain had governed Palestine since 1920, but the Partition Plan called for the formation of two states—one Jewish and one Arab—as well as a small, internationally administered zone in formerly British territory. The Arab leadership rejected the plan, but on May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was declared. The next day, five Arab states declared war on Israel. How did the war end? Discuss

Ecuador Gains Independence from Gran Colombia (1830)

Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, Ecuador was controlled by the Inca empire. Francisco Pizarro’s subordinate, Benalcázar, entered the area in 1533. Not finding the wealth of the mythical El Dorado, he and other conquistadors moved restlessly on, and the region became a colonial backwater. Ecuador remained under Spanish control until 1822, when it was joined to Gran Colombia. With the dissolution of that union in 1830, Ecuador gained its independence. Why is 1859 called the “Terrible Year”? Discuss

Luna 5 Crashes on the Moon (1965)

Luna 5 was an unmanned Soviet space probe launched for lunar investigation. On May 10, the spacecraft began spinning around its axis due to a problem in a gyroscope in the guidance system unit. A subsequent attempt to fire the main engine failed because of a ground control error, and Luna 5 impacted the lunar surface. Though it failed to soft-land—Luna 9 would do so a year later—Luna 5 was the second Soviet lunar probe to land on the moon. What was the first? Discuss

Bob Marley Succumbs to Cancer at Age 36 (1981)

Born in a small Jamaican village and raised in the slums of Kingston’s Trench Town, Marley overcame tremendous hardship to become a groundbreaking singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He propelled reggae to worldwide popularity, creating music that reflects his commitment to nonviolence and the Rastafarian religion. In 1975, Marley released “No Woman, No Cry,” a song that brought him international fame. Marley was diagnosed with cancer in 1977 but refused the recommended medical treatment. Why? Discuss

J. Edgar Hoover Appointed Director of FBI (1924)

As FBI director from 1924 until his death in 1972, Hoover built a more efficient crime-fighting agency and established a centralized fingerprint file, a crime laboratory, and a training school for police. After World War II, he turned to the perceived threat of Communist subversion with a focus that his many critics considered obsessive. It has been verified that he orchestrated systematic harassment of political dissenters and activists, including what celebrated civil-rights leader? Discuss

Thomas Blood Attempts to Steal Crown Jewels of England (1671)

Blood was an Irish-born adventurer who served under Oliver Cromwell during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. After Charles II returned to the throne, Blood fled to Ireland. He later attempted to kidnap the Duke of Ormonde but failed. In 1671, Blood and his accomplices made an infamous attempt to steal the Crown Jewels of England. Having befriended the jewel keeper, Blood arranged a private viewing, during which time the men made off with the treasures. Why did Charles II pardon Blood? Discuss

Antoine Lavoisier Tried, Convicted, and Guillotined (1794)

Known today as the “father of modern chemistry,” Lavoisier was among the first to use quantitative methods in chemical investigations. He stated the first version of the Law of Conservation of Mass, named oxygen and discovered its role in combustion, and helped to construct the metric system. Lavoisier also worked to improve economic and social conditions in France. He was beheaded during the Reign of Terror because, as a member of the farmers general, one of his duties was to do what? Discuss

RMS Lusitania Sunk by German U-Boat (1915)

The Lusitania was a British ocean liner that was sunk off the Irish coast—an area that the ship’s crew had been warned to avoid—by a German U-boat during World War I. The ship’s submersion took only 18 minutes, and nearly 1,200 people died. Many questions surround the incident, including why the ship sank so quickly, what caused a secondary explosion, and whether or not the vessel was transporting contraband munitions. What did dive teams recently reveal about the ship’s cargo? Discuss