Good News in History, May 21

Good News in History, May 21

Clara Barton engraving portrait135 years ago today, Clara Barton established The American Red Cross to provide humanitarian aid to victims of wars and natural disasters. She worked with the International Red Cross in Germany 11 years earlier when the Franco-Prussian War broke out and wanted to extend the same good works at home. Barton, already known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her work with the sick during the U.S. Civil War, led the American Red Cross until she was in her 80s. (1881)


MORE Good News on this Day:

  • The nation of Colombia abolished slavery (1851)
  • FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, was founded in Paris (1904)
  • Charles Lindbergh touched down at Le Bourget Field in Paris, completing the world’s first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, after taking off from Long Island, New York (1927)
  • The 9th Street Art Exhibition opened – a gathering of notable artists stepping out of the post war New York avant-garde scene, collectively known as the New York School (1951)


And, on this day in 1805, a pharmacist’s apprentice in Paderborn, Germany, discovered the valuable properties contained in opium. Friedrich Sertürner named its active ingredient “morphium” after the Greek god of dreams, and later renamed it morphine. This lifelong pharmacist was the first person to isolate an alkaloid as an active ingredient from a medicinal plant.

When other chemists did not believe the initial report of Sertürner’s discovery of morphine he resorted to public experimentation on himself and three friends to prove that the substance he had isolated was indeed the one which was responsible for the actions of opium. By 1820 chemists had isolated other medically important substances such as quinine, strychnine and caffeine.