12 February 1809 – Charles Darwin born

12 February 2009

Today we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Robert Darwin’s birth.

Charles Robert Darwin aged 51

Happy Darwin Day.

Earlier posts on Darwin day here and here.

Darwin on Wikipedia.


12th April 1961 – First human in space

11 April 2008

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin ( 1934- 1968 ) was the first human in space and the first to orbit the Earth.

This is one of the pivotal events in human history.

Yuri Gagarin

Gagarin orbited the Earth once. The entire mission from launch to landing took 108 minutes. During reentry the Vostok command section was supposed separate from the rentry module. A bundle of wires failed to release and the two sections were connected to each other until the wires burn out. As planned Gagarin ejected from the capsule before it landed because landing in the capsule was considered too risky.

  • Space craft: Vostok 1
  • Mass: 4725 kg (10416 ib).
  • Launch vehicle: Vostok 8K72K.
  • Launch site: Baikonur
  • Perigee: 169 km (105 mi).
  • Apogee: 315 km (195 mi).
  • Inclination: 65.00 deg.
  • Period: 89.30 min.

I am sorry to say I do not remember this historic event at all. I was 11 years old when it happened. I suspect this event was one of the reasons my interest in space flight finally awoke. I do remember reading about Project Vanguard and Project Mercury in The Eagle so my interest must have fully awoken by late 1961/1962. Of course Dan Dare helped.

Links of interest:

Wikipedias entry on Yuri Gagarin.
Wikipedias entry on Vostok 1.

21st February 1804 – First steam locomotive demonstrated

21 February 2008

Richard Trevithick demonstrated for the public the world’s first railway locomotive on 21st February 1802.


Wikipedia has this to say about the event.

In 1802 Trevithick built one of his high pressure steam engines to drive an automatic hammer at the Penydarren iron works near Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. With the assistance of Rees Jones, an employee of the iron works and under the supervision of Samuel Homfray, the proprietor, he mounted the engine on wheels and turned it into a locomotive. In 1803 Trevithick sold the patents for his locomotives to Samuel Homfray.
Homfray was so impressed with Trevithick’s locomotive that he made a bet with another ironmaster, Richard Crawshay, for 500 guineas that Trevithick’s steam locomotive could haul 10 tons of iron along the Merthyr Tydfil Tramroad from Penydarren to Abercynon, a distance of 9.75 miles (16 km). Amid great interest from the public, on 21 February 1804 it successfully carried 10 tons of iron, 5 wagons and 70 men the full distance in 4 hours and 5 minutes, an average speed of nearly 5 mph. As well as Homfray, Crawshay and the passengers, other witnesses included Mr. Giddy, a respected patron of Trevithick and an ‘engineer from the Government’. The engineer from the Government was probably a safety inspector and particularly interested in the boiler’s ability to withstand high steam pressures.

A day off to visit the past

17 October 2007

Today I took a day off work. So did my two daughters. We spent several hours at Eidsvollbygningen. This is one of the most well known buildings in Norway.

A view of the entrance on the West side.

The Eidsvollbygningen is now a museum.

This is the place where the Norwegian Constitution was drafted over a period of six hectic weeks by 112 men before being adopted and subsequently signed and dated on 17th May 1814. These 112 men, elected from all levels of society, declared Norway an independent state, and chose a King to rule it. The Constitution was based on ideas from the US and French Constitutions.

This Constitution, still in force in Norway today, has been subsequently amended (mostly recently in 2006) in order to bring it more in line with the times we live in.

The South West corner.

The South side.

In seven years time Norway will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Constitution.

4th October 1957 – Sputnik 1 launched

4 October 2007

Sputnik 1 the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth is launched by the Soviet Union on 4th October 1957.


I do not remember this. My interest for space and astronomy woke up a little later.

MSNBC writes:

Fifty years ago this week, Sputnik Chief Designer Sergei Korolyov watched as a modified Russian missile launched into space from Kazakhstan’s lonely steppes carrying a very special payload.

and this:

But 50 years later, it emerges that the momentous launch was far from being part of a well-planned strategy to demonstrate communist superiority over the West. Instead, the first artificial satellite in space was a spur-of-the-moment gamble driven by the dream of one scientist, whose team scrounged a rocket, slapped together a satellite and persuaded a dubious Kremlin to open the space age.

2nd September 1666 – The Great Fire of London starts

2 September 2007

Excerpt from The Diary of Samuel Pepys

September 2d. (Lord’s Day.) Some of our maids sitting up late last night to get things ready against our feast today, Jane called up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose, and slipped on my night-gown and went to her window, and thought it to be on the back side of Mark Lane at the farthest; but, being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off, and so went to bed again, and to sleep. About seven rose again to dress myself, and there looked out at the window, and saw the fire not so much as it was, and further off. So to my closet to set things to rights after yesterday’s cleaning. By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down tonight by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish Street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower; and there got up upon one of the high places, Sir J. Robinson’s little son going up with me; and there I did see the houses at the end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side the end of the bridge; which, among other people, did trouble me for poor little Mitchell and our Sarah on the bridge. So down , with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it begun this morning in the King’s baker’s house in Pudding Lane, and that it hath burned St. Magnus’s Church and most part of Fish Street already.

Samuel Pepys

The Great Fire of London

More on the Great Fire of London.