Good News in History, March 14

Happy Birthday to the British film icon Michael Caine who turns 90 today. Known for his distinctive Cockney accent, the 2-time Oscar winner also had 6 nominations for his roles in The Quiet American, The Cider House Rules, Hannah and Her Sisters, Educating Rita, Sleuth, and Alfie. Alongside Laurence Olivier, Paul Newman, and Jack Nicholson, Caine is the only other male actor to be nominated for an Academy Award for acting in five decades. WATCH some birthday highlights… (1933)

During a career spanning 60 years, Caine’s 130 films had earned, as of 2017, over $7.8 billion worldwide—which ranked him No.20 on the list of highest-grossing box office stars. In the year 2000, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to cinema, but for some reason ‘Sir Michael Caine’ hasn’t become as widely used as Sir Ian McKellen for instance.

He achieved success in diverse films, from Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill to The Muppet Christmas Carol, from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to his portrayal of Alfred in the Batman blockbuster Dark Knight Trilogy.

MORE Good News on this Day in History:

Eli Whitney was granted a patent for the cotton gin, one of the most important moments in manufacturing and agriculture (1794)
Orvan Hess and John Bumstead became the first in the world to successfully treat a patient using penicillin (1942)
The Linux operating version 1.0.0 was released (1994)
The International Criminal Court in The Hague issued its first verdict, convicting Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of conscripting and using children under the age of 15 in his Congolese rebel army (2012)
In Japan and Korea, White Day is celebrated, which is similar to Valentine’s Day, when men give gifts to women.

120 years ago today, President Theodore Roosevelt at the behest of some naturalists and ornithologists designated Pelican Island off the east coast of central Florida the nation’s first National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge consists of a 3-acre island that includes an additional 2.5 acres of surrounding water that plays host to hundreds of species, including fifteen federally-listed threatened or endangered ones like the West Indian manatees and sea turtles that occupy parts of the lagoon, and wood storks, who enjoy two nearby refuges. 

Like many beautiful public lands in America, its protection actually stemmed from the advocacy of an immigrant. In this case, it was a German, Paul Kroegel, who along with The American Ornithologists’ Union and the Florida Audubon Society, visited President Roosevelt’s home in New York to petition for its protection. Following its establishment as the first NWR, the register of these unique places has grown to 568, encompassing around 150,000,000 acres (607,028 km2) of American land, or twice the size of Poland.

Despite the small area of Pelican Island, it’s worth chartering a boat to visit, as depending on the season, an avid birder could tick dozens of species onto their list, while the mazy, 7.8 mile “Jungle Trail” built by the area’s original citrus farmers, weaves its way through the wetland mangroves and palm trees on a sandy track. (1903)

And, 63 years ago today, a British radio telescope in North West England, made history by contacting an American probe 407,000 miles away. It was the world’s largest steerable dish telescope at the time, measuring 250 feet in diameter (76 meters). Still located in Cheshire since 1957, it is the third largest in operation today.

It has not only tracked space probes, it has helped measure the distance to the moon and to Venus; observed the first pulsar in a globular cluster; observed quasars, the first gravitational lens, and the first Einstein ring; and, part of time, it searches for signs of life in space for SETI. (1960)

Happy 90th birthday to Quincy Jones, the influential record producer, arranger, and musician who is perhaps best known for producing multiple albums for superstar Michael Jackson, including 1982’s Thriller and 1987’s Bad.

Quincy and his daughter Rashida–Stand Up to Cancer

Since the 1960s, he has worked prolifically on film scores (33 of them), and has earned a record 79 Grammy Award nominations overall, and won 28 of them. Jones was also the producer and conductor of the 1985 charity song “We Are the World”. In his autobiography, entitled “Q”, he revealed how he grew up poor and got into trouble on the mean streets of Chicago’s South Side, but he took up the trumpet and was literally saved by music. His charitable works now help save others–including a re-recording of We Are The World that benefitted victims of the Haiti earthquake. (1933)

And, 144 years ago, one of the greatest thinkers of our time, Albert Einstein, was born. Growing up in Germany, his teachers labeled him stupid when he refused to study what he didn’t find interesting. When he was just 26 years old he wrote his paper on Special Theory of Relativity and also three others that year that were revolutionary, including the one that included: E = mc2. As a Jew, the Nobel Prize winning physicist fled the Nazi regime in 1933 and emigrated to the US.

“The only subjects he did find interesting were math and philosophy. He finally dropped out of school at the age of 16,” and didn’t fare much better in college, according to Writer’s Almanac. WATCH a short bio video… (1879)

Also, the actor-comedian Billy Crystal turns 75 today.

2018 photo by Gage Skidmore, CC license

“You look… mahvelous!” Known for films like When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, Analyze This, and Monsters, Inc., Crystal made it big on Saturday Night Live, and later became the most popular host of the Academy Awards, having anchored the gala nine times. WATCH his famous Muhammad Ali monologue… (1948)

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