History of the Week: November 19-24


November 19

For the first time since the late 1970s, the Soviet Union and the United States held a summit conference on this day in 1985.

Gathering in Geneva, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and United States President Ronald Reagan created no consequential settlements. Nevertheless, the meeting portended well for the future, as the two men participated in long, personal conversations and appeared to cultivate a genuine and close association. The meeting came as a bit of a surprise to some in the United States, seeing as Reagan’s frequently combustible oration when it came to communism and the Soviet Union, but it was in keeping with the president’s frequently specified wish to bring the nuclear arms race under control. For Gorbachev, the meeting was yet another pure indication of his want to have better associations with the United States so that he could better follow his domestic improvements. Little was accomplished.

The next summit occurred in October 1986 in Reykjavik, Iceland, and concluded rather tragically, with Reagan’s obligation to the Strategic Defense Initiative (the so-called “Star Wars” missile defense system) causing a key hindrance to advancement in arms control discussions. Though, by the occurrence of their third summit, which took place in Washington, D.C. in 1987, both Reagan and Gorbachev made allowances in order to accomplish agreement on an extensive collection of arms control issues.


November 20

On this day in 1945, 24 prominent Nazis went on trial in Nuremburg, Germany, for outrages carried out during World War II.

The Nuremburg Trials were led by a global committee of agents from the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and France. It was the first hearing of its kind in history to this point. The defendants faced charges including crimes of war, crimes against humanity and crimes against peace. Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence of Great Britain supervised the proceedings, which lasted 10 months. The proceedings entailed 216 court sessions.


November 21

On this day in 1877, Thomas Alva Edison declared his invention of the phonograph, which created a way to record and play back sound.

Edison stumbled upon this great invention while trying to figure out a way to record telephone conversations in his laboratory in Menlo Park, N.J. His work steered him to play around with a stylus on a tinfoil cylinder, which played back the song he recorded, “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” to his surprise. Community demonstrations of the phonograph made the Northern creator world renowned; he was dubbed the “Wizard of Menlo Park.”

Edison halted work on the phonograph temporarily in 1878, so that he could turn his sights onto the incandescent light bulb. This allowed for other inventors to move forward on improvements to the phonograph. In 1887, Edison resumed work on his phonograph by using the wax-cylinder technique developed by Charles Tainter. Although primarily used as a dictating machine, the phonograph proved itself to be a popular tool for entertainment.


November 22

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th president of the United States, was shot while traveling through Dallas, Texas, in an open-top convertible on this day in 1963; he died not long after from his injuries.

First lady Jacqueline Kennedy seldom joined her husband on political excursions, but she was beside him for a 10-mile motorcade through the streets of downtown Dallas on Nov. 22, along with Texas Gov. John Connally and his wife. Traveling in a convertible, the Kennedys and Connallys waved to the huge, excited and eager crowds who were gathered along the parade route. As the convertible passed the Texas School Book Depository Building around 12:30 p.m., Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly fired three shots from the sixth floor, fatally wounding President Kennedy and seriously injuring Gov. Connally. Kennedy was pronounced dead 30 minutes later at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital. He was 46. Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who was three cars behind the convertible in the motorcade, was sworn in as the 36th president of the United States at 2:39 p.m. on Air Force One; Jacqueline Kennedy was present for the swearing in, still wearing the Oleg Cassini suit covered in her late husband’s blood.

The next day, President Johnson issued his first decree, announcing that Nov. 25 would be a day of national mourning for Kennedy. On the following Monday, hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of Washington, D.C. to watch a horse-drawn caisson carry Kennedy’s body from the Capitol Rotunda to St. Matthew’s Catholic Cathedral for a funeral mass. The grave convoy then made its way to Arlington National Cemetery; leaders of 99 nations assembled for the state funeral. Kennedy was buried with full military honors on a slope just beneath Arlington House, where an eternal flame was lit by his widow to mark his grave forever.


November 23

On this day in 1936, the first issue of Life magazine was published; the cover featured a photo of the Fort Peck Dam by Margaret Bourke-White.

Life actually had its start earlier in the 20th century as a different kind of magazine. It originally was a weekly humor publication, very similar to today’s The New Yorker with its utilization of biting cartoons, entertaining sections and reports on culture. When the original Life failed during the Great Depression, the prominent American publisher Henry Luce purchased the name, reworked the magazine, and rereleased it as a pictorial publication in 1936.

Life was an awesome triumph in its first year of publication after its reboot by Luce. Virtually overnight, Life transformed the way people saw the world by altering the way people could view the world. Its spray of images highlighted intense photographs in the public’s mind, showing both the personal and the public, and displaying them for the world to take in. At its highest, Life had a circulation of over 8 million. It exercised substantial effect on American life in the beginning and middle of the 20th century.


November 24

“On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection,” an innovative work of science by British naturalist Charles Darwin, was published in England on this day in 1859. Darwin’s concept contended that organisms evolved gradually through a process he called “natural selection.” In natural selection, organisms with genetic disparities that fit their environment are inclined to proliferate more offspring than organisms of the same species that do not have this variation, therefore manipulating the complete genetic makeup of the species.

Darwin attained most of the proof for his theory during a five-year surveying voyage aboard the HMS Beagle in the 1830s. Visiting such sundry destinations as New Zealand and the Galapagos Islands, Darwin compiled an intimate understanding of the fauna, flora, and geology of many places. His findings, including his studies in interbreeding and in variation after returning to England, showed priceless in the construction of his theory of organic evolution.

“Origin of Species’” first printing sold out immediately. Most scientists swiftly accepted the theory that resolved so many enigmas of biological science, but orthodox Christians doomed the work as sacrilegious. Debate over Darwin’s ideas worsened with the publishing of “November 21The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex” (1871), in which Darwin showed proof of man’s evolution from apes.GenericPic

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