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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Today in history—May 12

1003: Gerbert d'Aurillac dies at Rome.  As a scholar, he introduced the abacus to Europe, helped popularize Arabic numerals, and devised a new hydraulic organ.  As Pope Sylvester II he also battled simony.

1641: A cheerful crowd of 200,000 watches Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, the Inner Temple barrister who played a major role in the events leading up to the English Civil War, lose his head on Tower Hill.

1551: The oldest university in South America, the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, is founded at Lima, Peru.

1850: Henry Cabot Lodge (Harvard Law 1874), who will receive the first Ph.D. in political science awarded by Harvard and will go on to teach there, is born at Boston, Massachusetts.  As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his dust-up with Woodrow Wilson over the League of Nations, will be one of the rare times when opposing sides on a major public issue are both led by recovering academics.

1870: Manitoba, a piece of the old Hudson’s Bay Company property, becomes the fifth Canadian province.

1890: The first County Championship of cricket begins at Bristol, as Yorkshire beats Gloucestershire by eight wickets. Thirty-eight year-old George Ulyett of Yorkshire notches the first century.

1914: Anchorman Howard K. (for "Kingsbury") Smith is born at Ferriday, Louisiana. He will become one of the relatively few journalists to excel in college, which perhaps explains why he nearly always finishes third in the ratings.

1921: Joseph Beuys, one of the most influential artists of the past 50 years, is born at Krefeld, Germany. In 1982 he will begin his 7,000 Oaks project, which will plant 7,000 oak trees, or only about 100 million fewer than Weyerhaeuser Corp. does each year.

1926: After the government refuses to budge, Britain's trade unions call off a general strike in support of distressed coal miners, who are left to fend for themselves.

1966: Busch Memorial Stadium opens in 1966. It’s designed by legendary modernist architect Edward Durrell Stone, which is probably why it never was much good for anything and will be replaced next year by something not designed by a legendary modernist architect.

1975: A container ship owned by America’s Sea-Land Services, Inc., the S.S. Mayagüez, is seized by Cambodian gunboats.

1999: David Martin Scott Steel (Edinburgh Law 1962) becomes the first Presiding Officer (Oifigear-Riaghlaidh) of the modern Scottish Parliament.

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