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Friday, February 11, 2005

Today in history—February 11

1650: The father of modern philosophy, René Descartes, dies at age 53.

1808: A Pennsylvania judge named Jesse Fell experiments with burning coal in his fireplace.  Turns out, it works, and the Pennsylvania coal industry is born.

1809: Robert Fulton receives a patent for the steamboat.

1812: Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry announces a new redistricting plan for the state, which seems suspiciously designed to enhance the electoral chances of Jeffersonian candidates.  One district looks like a salamander, or "gerrymander."

1826: University College London, the third or fourth university in the U.K. (Durham argues about the sequence) is founded.

1847: Industrialist Thomas Alva Edison, founder of several companies including General Electric, is born in Milan, Ohio.

1928: Cousins Ed Shoemaker and Edward Knabusch invent the La-Z-Boy recliner chair.

1941: Bandleader Glenn Miller receives the first "gold record" ever awarded, for his Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

1966: Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants becomes baseball’s highest-paid player, at $130,000 a year.

1994: The Monsanto Co. begins sales of the first genetically engineered growth hormone for cattle, called "Posilac."

1999: Pluto passes Neptune to become the farthest planet from the sun; Neptune had been farther since 1979.

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