May 29, 2002
In 1453 Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turk, conventionally ending the Roman Empire; in 1913 the audience at the premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring nearly rioted; in 1919 the first pop-up toaster was patented; in 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Everest; in 1982 Pope Paul II, in the first papal visit to Britain since 1531, prayed alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury; in 1985 Liverpool and Juventus fans rioted in the Heysel Stadium, Brussels, killing 41.
BIRTHS: John Walker, an apothecary who made percussion caps in ammunition, was born on this day in Stockton-on-Tees, 1781. While mixing these chemicals, Walker dropped some on the floor; as he trod upon it, the dried mixture ignited. Experiments inspired by this soon led him to the invention of the first friction match.
King Charles II, reigned 1660-85, born in London, 1630; Sir David Bruce, bacteriologist who proved that sleeping sickness was transmitted by the tsetse fly, born in Melbourne, Australia, 1855; G.K. Chesterton, English essayist, novelist and critic, born in London, 1874; Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, Himalayan climber, born in 1914; John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th American President 1961-63, born in Brookline, Massachusetts, 1917.
DEATHS: Bahá’u’lláh (Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri), founder of the Bahai faith which has more than five million adherents, died on this day in Acre, Palestine, 1892. He taught that he was the latest of a line of prophets — including Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad — who had revealed the message of one God; he thus promoted the unity of all religions, as well as gender equality, universal education, international government and the equalisation of wealth.
Constantine XI Palaeologus, last Byzantine Emperor, died in Constantinople, 1453; Sir Humphry Davy, tutor of Faraday, who invented the miner’s safety lamp, died in Geneva, 1829; Sir William Gilbert, librettist of the Savoy operas, died in London, 1911; Mary Pickford, Oscar-winning actress who co-founded the distribution firm United Artists with Charlie Chaplin, among others, died in Santa Monica, California, 1979; Erich Honecker, East German ruler for 18 years who supervised the creation of the Berlin Wall, died in Chile, 1994.
©Copyright 2002, The Sunday Times (London, UK)