Good News in History, August 10

Happy 75th Birthday to Ian Anderson MBE, the Scottish-born musician, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who was the lead “actor,” voice and flute player in Jethro Tull. Anderson as a singer-songwriter was fascinated by the fringes of society that was rapidly modernizing during his life. The woodsman, the lighthouse tender, the beggar, Travelers, these were often the focus of his musical content, and while his music has often been called prog rock, that element of folk music has always been there. WATCH a fantastic video of Anderson explaining classical arrangements of Tull hits in 2016…(1947)

Anderson abandoned his ambition to play electric guitar before Jethro Tull had released their first album, allegedly because he felt he would never be “as good as Eric Clapton”. As he himself tells it in the introduction to the video Nothing Is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight, he traded his electric guitar in for a flute.

According to the sleeve notes for the first Tull album, This Was, he had been playing the flute only a few months when the album was recorded. His guitar practice did not go to waste either, as he continued to play acoustic guitar, using it as a melodic and rhythmic instrument. As his career progressed, he added soprano saxophone, mandolin, keyboards and other instruments to his arsenal.

His tendency to stand on one leg while playing the flute came about by accident, as he had been inclined to stand on one leg while playing the harmonica, holding the microphone stand for balance. Anderson was known for his famous one-legged flute stance, and was once referred to as a “deranged flamingo”

While 2016 marked 45 years since the release of Tull’s landmark album Aqualung, it brought a new tour for Ian Anderson, under the name “Jethro Tull – The Rock Opera.”

MORE Good News on this Day:

Islam’s prophet Muhammed began receiving the Qur’an on the first Laylat al-Qadr (610)
Candid Camera made its US television debut after being on radio for a year as Candid Microphone (1948)
The groundbreaking ceremony for the Saint Lawrence Seaway was held in Massena, New York (1954)
Japanese-Americans who were either interned or relocated by the U.S. government during World War II would each receive $20,000 payments because The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was signed (1988)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was sworn in as the second female Supreme Court justice (1993)
The robotic probe Magellan successfully inserted itself into Venus’s orbit, launched from a NASA Space Shuttle one year earlier to map the surface of Venus and collect data — the first spacecraft to test aerobraking as a method for circularizing an orbit (1988)
American swimmer Michael Phelps won the first of a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics by smashing his own world record in the 400-meter individual medley (2008)

176 years ago today, the Smithsonian Institution was first chartered, named after the British scientist, James Smithson, who bequeathed $500,000 to create a great museum in Washington, D.C. even though he had never visited the United States. With the aim of advancing science and mankind’s knowledge, the federal government administers and partially funds the 19 museums (and the National Zoo) in nation’s capital.

Displaying a vast collection of 1.43 million items for public view, perhaps the best aspect of the Smithsonian has always been the free admission offered for all. WATCH a video about how the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz were preserved by the Smithsonian after 80 years… (1846)

On this day in 1793, the Louvre Museum was officially opened in Paris. A royal palace on the banks of the Seine, it was suddenly possible for the public to enter and view the many art treasures, including the Mona Lisa, confiscated from the French king, his cronies, and the church, during the revolution.

The Louvre by Pedro Szekely, CC license

The world’s largest and most famous art gallery—with a record 8.1 million visitors last year—added a distinctive glass pyramid entrance during a renovation in the 1980s.

The royal collection had contained more than 20,000 pieces, including the ancient Greek statue of Venus de Milo. The collection has grown steadily with donations and bequests, and is divided into eight departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings. Last year, the Musée du Louvre featured an extensive Delacroix exhibition and a self-guided tour of the 17 artworks around which Beyoncé and Jay-Z filmed the music video to kick off their collaborative album, Everything is Love.

62 years ago today, Los Angeles moviegoers experienced Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho for the first time. After wrangling with movie censors over controversial scenes—the opening shot contained an unmarried couple sharing a bed, the lead actress Janet Leigh in a bra, the infamous shower scene which was unprecedented, and the first close-up shot of a toilet flushing—the director ended up cutting very little.

Movie poster and film set from Psycho

It also may have been the first time the viewing public in the US was required to arrive before the opening scene, with Hitchcock believing the audience would have felt disappointed having not seen the bedroom scene.

The movie starring Anthony Perkins has consistently ranked as one of the best films of all time. It made a lot of money, too, with people lining up around the block to be there on time. Nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actress for Leigh and Best Director for Hitchcock, Psycho centers around a woman who ends up at a secluded motel, after stealing money from her employer, and the Bates Motel’s owner-manager, Norman Bates, played by Perkins.

The shower scene has become a pop culture touchstone and is often regarded as one of the most terrifying scenes ever filmed. Even though few details are shown, the horror comes from the unique and startling shot sequence borrowed from the Soviet montage filmmakers, and the iconic screeching violins in Bernard Herrmann’s musical score. (1960)

And, on this day in 1519, the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan set sail from Seville, Spain—an expedition that circumnavigated the globe for the first time.

A hardy sailor at a young age, Magellan was born into a Catholic society that believed it was their mission to convert the world to Christianity—but there was another goal. Seven years earlier, he captained a voyage to the legendary Spice Islands in Asia (the Moluccas), home to nutmeg and clove trees. These precious exotic flavors were worth their weight in gold—and Magellan’s share in their sale back in Europe sparked his desire for more wealth. Extremely charismatic, he convinced the King of neighboring Spain to bankroll his latest expedition—to discover a new passage to the Spice Islands, between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which would avoid Portuguese battle ships in the southern horn of Africa.

The 270 men carried supplies to sustain two years of travel aboard five ships, but they were essentially “wooden tubs” that had no toilets, privacy, or kitchens on board—and as the mood soured, a mutiny broke out. Despite that, the tenacious Magellan reached the southern tip of South America and discovered a cape. His fleet sailed into the labyrinth of unpredictable winds and currents at Tierra del Fuego—and the 350-miles of narrow waterways claimed one ship (while another took advantage of the confusion and fled back to Spain). But Magellan was ultimately victorious, using his longed-for passage to reach the Pacific Ocean in six weeks…

Finally, with his three remaining ships, he landed in the Philippines—the first Europeans to ever arrive—and though large numbers of the population converted to Catholicism (and still remain so, to this day), one island was hostile to the foreign threats and Magellan was killed in battle.

Two vessels quickly turned back, but, under the command of Juan Sebastian Elcano, the remaining ship reached the Spice Islands, where it finally collected the long-desired spicy cargo and returned to Spain via the Cape of Good Hope, completing the unintended circumnavigation of the world and proving the Earth was round.

The Victoria docked in a Spanish port three years after setting sail with about 20 surviving crew members to tell the tale—and the western passage around South America has been named the Strait of Magellan ever since. The fearless explorer inspired countless missions over the next five centuries, even into outer space—with NASA naming its successful Venus probe Magellan.

He once said, “The church says the earth is flat; but I have seen its shadow on the moon, and I have more confidence even in a shadow than in the church.”

The sea is dangerous and its storms terrible, but these obstacles have never been sufficient reason to remain ashore… Unlike the mediocre, intrepid spirits seek victory over those things that seem impossible… It is with an iron will that they embark on the most daring of all endeavors… to meet the shadowy future without fear and conquer the unknown.” ― Ferdinand Magellan

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