20 February-Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was an escaped African-American slave. He escaped from slavery in the state of Maryland on September 3rd 1838. Following his escape Douglass became a leader of the abolitionist movement in America.  He travelled first to New York and later settled in Massachusetts. In the years following his escape he travelled the northern states to speak at rallies demanding the abolition of slavery.

In 1845 Douglass visited Ireland, where he met Daniel O Connell. He gave lectures, which were very popular, in several locations across Ireland. In a letter to the abolitionist William Garrison, Douglass wrote: I have travelled almost from the hill of Howth to the Giant’s Causeway and from the Giant’s Causeway to Cape Clear. Plaques in Waterford and Cork commemorate visits by Douglass to those cities.

During his travels Douglass spoke at meetings in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Belfast, Wexford and Waterford. He described the great sense of freedom which he felt while visiting Ireland. “I am covered with the soft, grey fog of the Emerald Isle. I breathe, and lo! The chattel becomes a man. I gaze around in vain for one who will question my equal humanity, claim me as his slave, or offer me an insult”.

Frederick Douglass, who was an escaped African-American slave, died in Washington DC in the year 1895 On This Day.

 

 

 

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19 February-Lee Marvin

Lee Marvin was an award winning actor who was a native of America.  He appeared in over 70 films during his acting career. His most famous films include ‘Cat Ballou’, ‘The Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Paint Your Wagon’.

Lee Marvin was born in New York City in 1924. Following service in the US Marine Corps during World War II he began his stage career in New York. He appeared in several television shows and made his film debut in 1951 in ‘You’re in the Navy Now’. He went on to appear in over 70 films and won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his roles in ‘Cat Ballou’ in 1965.

Lee Marvin, award winning actor whose most famous films include ‘Cat Ballou’, ‘The Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Paint Your Wagon’, was born in New York City in the year 1924 On This Day.

 

 

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18 February-Robert Oppenheimer

Robert Oppenheimer is often referred to as the ‘father of the atomic bomb’. He was a theoretical physicist who worked at institutions such as the University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University. Oppenheimer was also director of the Los Alamos Laboratory where the atomic bomb was developed.

Robert Oppenheimer was born Julius Robert Oppenheimer was born in New York City on April 22nd 1904. Following graduation from Harvard University Oppenheimer moved to England in 1925 to Study at Cambridge University. A year later he moved to the University of Göttingen in Germany where he was awarded a PhD in 1927 at the age of 23. He was appointed Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley in 1929 where he taught until 1942.

The growth in popularity of the National Socialist Party (Nazi Party) in Germany and Hitler’s rise to power had a major influence on Oppenheimer. It led him to support resistance movements and he became associated with left wing politics. He supported the letter sent by Einstein and others to President Roosevelt at the beginning of World War II which indicated that the Nazi’s had the capability to develop a nuclear bomb. Roosevelt established the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico and Oppenheimer was appointed scientific director of the project in 1942.

On July 16th 1945 the first atomic bomb was successfully exploded in New Mexico. Within a month a further two atomic bombs were exploded, one in Nagasaki, Japan, and the other in Hiroshima, effectively ending World War II.

Oppenheimer refused to support the development of the hydrogen bomb in 1949 because of his regrets at the mass destruction caused by the atomic bomb. He was accused of having communist sympathies because of his previous association with left wing politics and he resigned from his post. He was appointed Director of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton University where he remained until 1966.

Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist who is referred to as the ‘father of the atomic bomb’, died aged 62 in the year 1967 On This Day.

 

 

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17 February-Suez Canal

The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt. The Canal, which is 123km long, stretches from its northern terminus at Port Said to the city of Suez on the Red Sea. The Canal is used by over 17,000 vessels annually.

Several canals had been constructed in the Suez area dating back to almost 2000 BC. The first survey of the Isthmus of Suez, with a view to building a canal, was carried out by the French who occupied Egypt (1898-1801) under Napoleon. Over 50 year later work began on the construction of the Suez Canal in 1859. The Canal, which was designed by Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps, took 10 years to build.

Though the Suez Canal was not officially opened until November 17th 1869, the first ship passed through the canal in the year 1867 On This Day.

Canale di Suez / Suez canal

Suez Canal

 

 

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16 February-LeVar Burton, Roots

LeVar Burton is an award-winning American actor who was born in Germany. He is best known for his role as Lt Commander Geordi La Forge in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. He first achieved fame at the age of twenty, playing the part of Kunta Kinte in the 1977 television series ‘Roots’. Burton was also the host of the long-running children’s television series ‘Reading Rainbow’.

LeVar Burton was born Levardis Robert Martyn Burton in Landstuhl, Germany in 1957. His parents were stationed with the US Army in Germany at the time. He grew up in Sacramento, California and graduated from the School of Theatre at the University of Southern California. In 1977 he made his acting debut as Kunta Kinte in the drama series ‘Roots’. The winner of numerous awards, Burton went on to have a successful career as an actor, presenter, director and author.

LeVar Burton, award-winning actor who starred as Kunta Kinte in ‘Roots’ and as Lt Commander Geordi La Forge in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ was born in the year 1957 On This Day.

LeVar Burton

 

 

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