Today: May 18, 2015 in History

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Today is Monday May 18, 2015 the 137th day and 19th week of 2015, there are 228 days and 33 weeks left in the year.  Highlights of today in world history

1920 Pope John Paul II born

On May 18, 1920, Karol Jozef Wojtyla was born in the Polish town of Wadowice, 35 miles southwest of Krakow. Wojtyla went on to become Pope John Paul II, history’s most well-traveled pope and the first non-Italian to hold the position since the 16th century. After high school, the pope enrolled at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University, where he studied philosophy and literature and performed in a theatre group. During World War II, Nazis occupied Krakow and closed the university, forcing Wojtyla to seek work in a quarry and, later, a chemical factory. By 1941, his mother, father, and only brother had all died, leaving him the sole surviving member of his family.

Although Wojtyla had been involved in the church his whole life, it was not until 1942 that he began seminary training. When the war ended, he returned to school at Jagiellonian to study theology, becoming an ordained priest in 1946. He went on to complete two doctorates and became a professor of moral theology and social ethics. On July 4, 1958, at the age of 38, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Krakow by Pope Pius XII. He later became the city’s archbishop, where he spoke out for religious freedom while the church began the Second Vatican Council, which would revolutionize Catholicism. He was made a cardinal in 1967, taking on the challenges of living and working as a Catholic priest in communist Eastern Europe. Once asked if he feared retribution from communist leaders, he replied, “I’m not afraid of them. They are afraid of me.”

Wojtyla was quietly and slowly building a reputation as a powerful preacher and a man of both great intellect and charisma. Still, when Pope John Paul I died in 1978 after only a 34-day reign, few suspected Wojtyla would be chosen to replace him. But, after seven rounds of balloting, the Sacred College of Cardinals chose the 58-year-old, and he became the first-ever Slavic pope and the youngest to be chosen in 132 years.

A conservative pontiff, John Paul II’s papacy was marked by his firm and unwavering opposition to communism and war, as well as abortion, contraception, capital punishment, and homosexual sex. He later came out against euthanasia, human cloning, and stem cell research. He traveled widely as pope, using the eight languages he spoke (Polish, Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin) and his well-known personal charm, to connect with the Catholic faithful, as well as many outside the fold.

On May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot in St. Peter’s Square by a Turkish political extremist, Mehmet Ali Agca. After his release from the hospital, the pope famously visited his would-be assassin in prison, where he had begun serving a life sentence, and personally forgave him for his actions. The next year, another unsuccessful attempt was made on the pope’s life, this time by a fanatical priest who opposed the reforms of Vatican II.

Although it was not confirmed by the Vatican until 2003, many believe Pope John Paul II began suffering from Parkinson’s disease in the early 1990s. He began to develop slurred speech and had difficulty walking, though he continued to keep up a physically demanding travel schedule. In his final years, he was forced to delegate many of his official duties, but still found the strength to speak to the faithful from a window at the Vatican. In February 2005, the pope was hospitalized with complications from the flu. He died two months later.

Pope John Paul II is remembered for his successful efforts to end communism, as well as for building bridges with peoples of other faiths, and issuing the Catholic Church’s first apology for its actions during World War II. He was succeeded by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI. Benedict XVI began the process to beatify John Paul II in May 2005.

1926 Popular evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson disappears

Aimee Semple McPherson, a nationally known evangelist, disappeared from Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California. Police dispatched planes and ships in an effort to find her, but she was nowhere to be found. Authorities later discovered that radio announcer Kenneth Ormiston, a friend of McPherson, had also vanished.

McPherson was the Billy Graham of her time. In 1923, she opened Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, where she consistently amassed overflowing crowds. McPherson claimed to have faith-healing abilities and put on wonderfully entertaining shows for the public. Because of her religious nature, McPherson’s relationship with Ormiston created something of a scandal in 1925, and their disappearance in 1926 made headlines across the country.

A month later, McPherson turned up in Agua Prieta, New Mexico, with a wild tale of being kidnapped, but reporters quickly uncovered information to prove that she had been with Ormiston the entire time. Although obstruction of justice charges were filed against her, they were later dropped, allegedly because McPherson came up with $30,000 to appease law enforcement officials.

McPherson attempted a comeback evangelism tour after the scandal had died down, but it flopped and she slowly faded from the public’s memory. Even still, she remains the answer to a good trivia question: Who baptized Marilyn Monroe?

 

1958 Lotus makes Formula One debut

In Monaco, France, on this day in 1958, Team Lotus made its Formula One debut in the Monaco Grand Prix, the opening event of the year’s European racing season. Over the next four decades, Team Lotus will go on to become one of the most successful teams in Formula One history.

Team Lotus was the motor sport wing of the Lotus Engineering Company, founded six years earlier by the British engineer and race car driver Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman.

Chapman built his first car, a modified 1930 Austin Seven, while still a university student. His success building trial cars led to the completion of the first Lotus production model, the Mark 6, in 1952; 100 were produced by 1955, establishing Chapman’s reputation as a innovator in the design of top-performing race cars. By 1957, Lotus had become a well-known name among car aficionados, while Team Lotus dominated the Le Mans racing circuit, winning the 750-cc class and the Index of Performance at Le Mans in 1957 with the Lotus Type 11.

On May 18, 1958, Team Lotus made its first entry in the Formula One circuit, entering two single-seat Type 12s, driven by Cliff Allison and Graham Hill, into the Monaco Grand Prix. Though Ferrari was the favorite going into the race, British-made cars dominated the qualifying rounds, with Vanwall, British Racing Motors (BRM) and Cooper all finishing in front of Ferrari. In the main event, Maurice Trintignant (driving a Cooper) took first place after Ferrari’s Mike Hawthorn, that year’s eventual Formula One champion, was forced to stop with a broken fuel pump. Allison finished sixth in his Lotus, 13 laps behind the leader; Hill finished in 26th place.

Chapman learned from the success of the midsize engine Cooper race cars, incorporating the layout into a refined version of the Lotus Type 12. In 1960, Stirling Moss drove the result–the Type 18–to victory in the Monaco Grand Prix, scoring the first of what would be many Grand Prix wins for Lotus. Jim Clark won the team’s first World Driver’s Championship in 1963, beginning a golden age of Lotus racing. Both Clark and Graham Hill won multiple Formula One titles, and Clark also drove a Lotus to victory in the Indianapolis 500 in 1965. In later years, virtuoso drivers like Emmerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti and Alessandro Zanardi all represented Lotus. In 1977, the low-slung Lotus Esprit had a starring turn in the James Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”; another Esprit, the Turbo, was featured in the 1981 Bond film “For Your Eyes Only.”

Chapman died in 1982, and Team Lotus left racing in the 1990s. It remains one of the most successful Formula One teams of all time, with more than 50 Grand Prix titles.

1974 India joins the nuclear club

In the Rajasthan Desert in the state of Pokhran, India successfully detonated its first nuclear weapon, a fission bomb similar in explosive power to the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The test fell on the traditional anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment, and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi received the message “Buddha has smiled” from the exuberant test-site scientists after the detonation. The test, which made India the world’s sixth nuclear power, broke the nuclear monopoly of the five members of the U.N. Security Council–the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, China, and France.

India, which suffered continuing border disputes with China, refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. Fearing a second war with China and a fourth war with Pakistan, India actively sought the development of a nuclear deterrent in the early 1970s. The successful detonation of its first bomb on May 18, 1974, set off an expanded arms race with Pakistan that saw no further nuclear tests but the development of lethal intermediate and long-range ballistic missiles by both countries. On May 11, 1998, India resumed nuclear testing, leading to international outrage and Pakistan’s detonation of its first nuclear bomb later in the month.

1980 Mount St. Helens erupts

At 8:32 a.m. PDT, Mount St. Helens, a volcanic peak in south-western Washington, suffered a massive eruption, killing 57 people and devastating some 210 square miles of wilderness.

Called Louwala-Clough, or “the Smoking Mountain,” by Native Americans, Mount St. Helens is located in the Cascade Range and stood 9,680 feet before its eruption. The volcano has erupted periodically during the last 4,500 years, and the last active period was between 1831 and 1857. On March 20, 1980, noticeable volcanic activity began again with a series of earth tremors cantered on the ground just beneath the north flank of the mountain. These earthquakes escalated, and on March 27 a minor eruption occurred, and Mount St. Helens began emitting steam and ash through its crater and vents.

Small eruptions continued daily, and in April people familiar with the mountain noticed changes to the structure of its north face. A scientific study confirmed that a bulge more than a mile in diameter was moving upward and outward over the high north slope by as much as six feet per day. The bulge was caused by an intrusion of magma below the surface, and authorities began evacuating hundreds of people from the sparsely settled area near the mountain. A few people refused to leave.

On the morning of May 18, Mount St. Helens was shaken by an earthquake of about 5.0 magnitude, and the entire north side of the summit began to slide down the mountain. The giant landslide of rock and ice, one of the largest recorded in history, was followed and overtaken by an enormous explosion of steam and volcanic gases, which surged northward along the ground at high speed. The lateral blast stripped trees from most hill slopes within six miles of the volcano and levelled nearly all vegetation for as far as 12 miles away. Approximately 10 million trees were felled by the blast.

The landslide debris, liquefied by the violent explosion, surged down the mountain at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. The avalanche flooded Spirit Lake and roared down the valley of the Toutle River for a distance of 13 miles, burying the river to an average depth of 150 feet. Mudflows, pyroclastic flows, and floods added to the destruction, destroying roads, bridges, parks, and thousands more acres of forest. Simultaneous with the avalanche, a vertical eruption of gas and ash formed a mushrooming column over the volcano more than 12 miles high. Ash from the eruption fell on Northwest cities and towns like snow and drifted around the globe within two weeks. Fifty-seven people, thousands of animals, and millions of fish were killed by the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

By late in the afternoon of May 18, the eruption subsided, and by early the next day it had essentially ceased. Mount St. Helens’ volcanic cone was completely blasted away and replaced by a horseshoe-shaped crater–the mountain lost 1,700 feet from the eruption. The volcano produced five smaller explosive eruptions during the summer and fall of 1980 and remains active today. In 1982, Congress made Mount St. Helens a protected research area.

Mount St. Helens became active again in 2004. On March 8, 2005, a 36,000-foot plume of steam and ash was expelled from the mountain, accompanied by a minor earthquake. Though a new dome has been growing steadily near the top of the peak and small earthquakes are frequent, scientists do not expect a repeat of the 1980 catastrophe anytime soon.

2012 Facebook raises $16 billion in largest tech IPO in U.S. history

On this day in history, Facebook, the world’s largest social network, held its initial public offering (IPO) and raises $16 billion. It was the largest technology IPO in American history to that date, and the third-largest IPO ever in the United States, after those of Visa and General Motors. At the time it went public, Facebook was valued at $104 billion and had some 900 million registered users worldwide.

Facebook was founded as The Facebook in February 2004 by Harvard University sophomore Mark Zuckerberg and fellow classmates Chris Hughes, Eduardo Saverin and Dustin Moskovitz. The site originally was only for students at Harvard; however, it soon opened up to other universities. In June 2004, Zuckerberg moved Facebook to Palo Alto, California, and by the end of the year several Silicon Valley entrepreneurs had invested in the business and it had almost a million registered users. In 2005, Facebook (as it officially became known that year when “the” was dropped from its name) spread to American high schools and foreign schools, and the following year, anyone who was at least 13 years old was allowed to sign up. (Facebook always has been free to join; at the time of its IPO, the bulk of the company’s revenues came from advertising.)

As the site’s user base grew rapidly and its functionality expanded (the “news feed” was added in 2006 and the “like” feature in 2009), Facebook helped change how people communicate and share information. During the 2008 U.S. presidential race, Barack Obama used Facebook to build a following, especially among young voters, a constituency that helped him win the White House. Additionally, during the political uprisings in the Middle East that began in late 2010 and came to be called the Arab Spring, activists used Facebook (and other social media tools, notably Twitter) to share photos and videos of atrocities their governments were committing against citizens, and also to organize protest events. (As of late June 2012, more than 80 percent of Facebook’s monthly active users were outside of America and Canada.)

In 2010, “The Social Network,” a feature film about the founding of Facebook, made its debut. The movie, which earned eight Academy Award nominations, chronicled the 2004 lawsuit filed by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra, Harvard students at the same time as Zuckerberg, who claimed he stole the original idea for Facebook from them. Facebook countersued, and in 2008, the Winklevosses and Narendra agreed to a $65 million settlement from the company.

Facebook made the Dobbs Ferry, New York, native Zuckerberg, the son of a dentist, a billionaire. At the time of the company’s much-anticipated IPO on May 18, 2012, Zuckerberg was worth some $19 billion. However, despite all the fanfare surrounding Facebook’s IPO, its shares closed the first day of trading at $38.23, only slightly above the $38 IPO price, which many investors considered a disappointing performance.

 

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