Day By Day

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This Day In History -- "Dr. Livingstone, I Presume"

Today is USMC Day, commemorating the founding, on this day in 1775, of the Continental Marines. These days we know them as the United States Marine Corps. Happy Birthday, jarheads. You done us proud.

On this day in 1871 Stanley met Livingstone. It's one of the iconic moments of the age of imperialism and it brought together two of the Nineteenth Century's most fascinating figures and gave us one of the all-time greatest catch phrases, "Dr. Livingstone I presume". As to what went down when the two men met. You can find a pretty good account here.

And on this day in 1969 Sesame Street debuted on PBS.

And on this day in 1983 at Lehigh University a USC graduate student conducted a demonstration during a security seminar in which he inserted a short code into a UNIX command. Within five minutes this short program, which he called a "virus", had taken control of the university's mainframe. This was the first public demonstration of a computer virus, but it was not the first one created. That distinction probably goes to a fifteen-year old Mount Lebanon kid named Rich Skrenta who in 1982 created the "Elk Cloner"virus that attacked Apple II programs. It is widely considered to be the first large-scale self-spreading personal computer virus. It would not be the last. Hell of a job, Rich.

Happy Birthday to Martin Luther [1483] the man who kicked off the Protestant Reformation with the posting of his "Ninety-five Theses" on the Wittenburg church door. He was not the first to protest the corrupt practices of the Renaissance Church, but he was the first to get away with it in defiance of Papal authority. His success set in motion a vast transformation of Western Christianity. It is a measure of public education in our time that when I was teaching many of my students had never heard of Martin Luther, but they were certainly familiar with Dr. King.

And among those who departed on this day we should note Mustafa (Ataturk) Kemal, the first President of Turkey who set the nation on a secular and modernizing course that has only recently been reversed [1938], and Leonid Brezhnev, Soviet dictator, [1982].