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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Today in History: July 31

1763: Chancellor James Kent is born at Fredericksburgh, New York.  The first professor of law at Columbia, his Commentaries on American Law will go through six editions in his lifetime and be enormously influential on both sides of the Atlantic.

1790: Philadelphia potash maker Samuel Hopkins receives the first patent issued by the United States government, for an improvement in the process of making potash.  The document is signed by President Washington, Secretary of State Jefferson, and Attorney-General Randolph.

1803: Inventor John Ericsson is born at Långbanshyttan in Wermelandia, Sweden.  Although he'll become most famous as the designer of the U.S.S. Monitor, his greatest contribution is the screw propeller, which revolutionizes steamship design.

1856: Christchurch, named after the Oxford college of the same name, receives a royal charter to become the first city in New Zealand.

1912: Economist Milton Friedman is born at New York City.  "A major source of objection to a free economy," he will say, "is precisely that it . . . gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want."

1923: Record impresario and Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun is born at Istanbul, Turkey.

1930: The Mutual Broadcasting Service debuts a new radio series, Detective Stories.  The most memorable character is the announcer, known only as "The Shadow."

1951: Japan Airlines (known as JAL) is formed.  Today it flies more Boeing 747s than any other airline.

1958: Internet entrepreneur Mark Cuban is born at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  In 1998 his Broadcast.com will go public, making him a billionaire and 300 other employees millionaires.

1965: Joanne Rowling is born at Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire.  Her six Harry Potter novels will make her the first writer in history to earn $1 billion from her writings.

1975: Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa is reported missing from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

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