Good News in History September 28

42 years ago, the thirteen part astronomy series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage debuted on American Public Television. Hosted by Carl Sagan, it was the most watched TV series in America until Ken Burns’ The Civil War ten years later. Cosmos covered a wide range of scientific topics such as the solar system’s place in the galaxy, the origin of life, the birth and death of stars, etc. Sagan was America’s most beloved space-science communicator, and with him in the lead, the series went on to win two Emmys and a Peabody Award. READ more… (1982)

Cosmos has been broadcasted in 60 different countries, and been viewed 500 million times. The series is notable for its companion book and wonderful soundtrack, as well as its groundbreaking use of special effects, which allow Sagan to seemingly walk through environments that are actually models rather than full-sized sets.

The episodes are not all just ruminations on complex physics, but usually begin with something originating from Earth—the origin of astrology for example as a basis for astronomy, the meetings between Europeans and uncontacted tribes as the table-setter for discussions on aliens, or many of the old Greek or Renaissance philosophers ideas.

 MORE Good News on this Day:

Brazil passed a law freeing all future children of slaves (1871)
TV personality Ed Sullivan was born in Harlem, New York (1901)
Japan and Communist China agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations (1972)

81 years ago today, baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox finished the season with a .406 batting average. No major league player since Williams has ever achieved an average higher than .400—which translates to getting a hit 4 times during every ten trips to the plate.

Though he had offers from the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees while he was still in high school, his mother thought he was too young to leave home, so he signed up with the local minor league club in San Diego, and—despite respiratory problems that would plague him for the rest of his life—soon became a triple-threat, dominating in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. Throughout his career, Williams stated his goal was to have people point to him and remark, “There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.” (1941)

Ted Williams, public domain

And, today is the birthday of Confucius, born in 551 BCE. The Chinese philosopher emphasized personal and governmental morality, caring social relationships, justice and sincerity. His golden rule to guide a person through life, formulated five centuries before Jesus was, “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

235 years ago today, the recently completed US Constitution that was created to set up a framework of government for the new nation, was submitted to the 13 States.

Dates of ratification map by Drdpw, CC license

The US Congress voted unanimously to do so, but with no recommendation either for or against its adoption. It would go into full force upon the approval of nine (two-thirds of the 13) states, which was achieved on June 21 of the following year. (1787)

And, on this day in 1976, Stevie Wonder released his eighteenth studio album Songs in the Key of Life. The ambitious double LP debuted at No.1 on the Billboard Chart—only the third album in history to achieve that feat, and the first by an American artist.

The Motown Records LP, which included a four-song bonus disk, was the most critically acclaimed of Wonder’s career, selling 10 million copies in the U.S. alone, with 13 consecutive weeks at number one. Two years before he commenced work on the LP, Wonder had moved to Ghana to work with handicapped children.

And, 94 years ago today, Sir Alexander Fleming noticed a bacteria-killing mold growing in his laboratory, a discovery that would become the world’s first antibiotic—penicillin. The  Scottish physician and Professor of Bacteriology had served throughout World War I in the British Army Medical Corps and witnessed the death of many soldiers from infected wounds, and began searching for a solution. One morning, after having left his laboratory a mess, he returned from vacation and found a mold had killed the staphylococci culture in the petrie dish and commented, “That’s funny!”

Fleming published his discovery the following year, in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology, but little attention was paid to his article. But it changed the course of medicine, and won him the Nobel Prize for Physiology, and many other awards. The room where Fleming discovered and tested penicillin is preserved as the Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum in St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington. WATCH a great 2-min video on the Biography Channel website. (1928)

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