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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Today in history—January 26

1340: A legal squabble that has already led to war escalates, as King Edward III of England has himself declared King of France.  Under English law his mother Isabella would have been the heir of the dead King Philip V, but under the Salic law—invoked by French nobles—the French crown cannot pass through a female.  It will take a hundred years of war to resolve the dispute.

1699: The end of Islamic expansion into Europe is signaled by the Treat of Karlowitz, the first in which the Ottoman Empire is forced to give back some of its European conquests, and the first in which the Christian powers (Austria, Poland, Venice, and Russia) are able to deal on terms of equality with the Turks.

Bernadotte 1763: One of the very few lawyers’ sons to become a king, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte (left) is born at Pau, France. While serving as one of Napoleon’s top marshals, he is, although a commoner, unexpectedly elected by the Swedes and Norwegians to become the heir to their throne.  Taking the name of his adopted father, he will succeed as Charles XIV.

1802: The U.S. Congress votes to establish a Capitol library; it becomes known as the Library of Congress.

1837: Michigan enters the Union as the 26th state.

1841: The United Kingdom formally occupies Hong Kong, which has been ceded to the British by China.

1886: Lawyer David Rice Atchison dies at Plattsburg, Missouri.  As president pro tem of the Senate, some claim he was technically President of the United States for one day on March 4, 1849, between the administrations of James K. Polk and Zachary Taylor.  He spent the day in bed, recovering from a hangover, and later said that his "presidency" was the "most honest administration this country ever had."

1905: The Callinan Diamond, the largest rough gem-quality diamond ever discovered (at 3,106 carats, or 1.4 pounds), is found at the Premier Mine near Pretoria, South Africa.

Akio_morita 1921: Akio Morita (left) is born in Nagoya, Japan, to a family of sake brewers.  At age 25, he will in 1946 co-found Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo K.K. in a bombed-out department store, with $375 in start-up capital.   Its first product will be a rice boiler.  It will later change its name to Sony.

1934: The Apollo Theater in Harlem opens. Its famous amateur nights will launch the careers of such stars as Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, and Michael Jackson.

1962: The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration launches the Ranger 3 moon probe. It misses the moon, though, by 22,000 miles.

1962: Charles "Lucky" Luciano, the Sicilian-born mobster who made the mob an organized "business" by dividing territories and creating cooperation among various families, dies of a heart attack in Naples, Italy.

1983: Lotus Software releases a new "spreadsheet" program called "Lotus 1-2-3" that will help make the new personal computer a must-have for financial users.

1998: President Bill Clinton goes on national television to claim, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

1998: Two former high-tech darlings turned computer dinosaurs try to see if cross-breeding will help them ensure their survival, as Compaq buys Digital Equipment Corp. Compaq itself is later subsumed into Hewlett-Packard.

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