60 years ago today, the International Geophysical Year was launched by 67 countries to cooperate in the scientific study of the Earth. A global project that became a resounding success, it marked the end of a long Cold War period devoid of scientific interchange between East and West. The IGY encompassed eleven Earth sciences, including meteorology, oceanography, seismology, geomagnetism, gravity, ionospheric physics, precision mapping, and solar activity. The timing of IGY was particularly beneficial since it covered the high point of the eleven-year cycle of sunspot activity. Significant achievements included… (1957)
Both the Soviet Union and the U.S. launched artificial satellites, including the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1, the first ever to be successful. Also notable were the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts by Explorer 1, the defining of mid-ocean submarine ridges, which confirmed plate tectonics, and the detection of hard solar corpuscular radiation that could be highly dangerous for manned space flight.
How did the IGY come about? On April 5, 1950, a small group of scientists gathered to meet with a visiting scientist from England. The men, all geophysicists, discussed the complexity of Earth’s oceans, atmosphere, magnetism, and the role of the sun. They agreed that with all the new tools available, such as rockets, radar, and computers, perhaps it was time for a coordinated, worldwide study of Earth’s systems. Two years later, the International Council of Scientific Unions proposed a comprehensive series of global geophysical activities to span the period July 1957-December 1958. The IGY still lives today in international collaborations. (Compiled from information from NOAA, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and Wikipedia)
MORE Good News on this Day:
- The Medicare federal insurance program for health care went into effect in the U.S. (1966)
- The Nuclear non-proliferation treaty was signed by the US, Soviet Union, Britain and 58 other nations (1968)
- East Germany and West Germany reunited, merging their economies under the Deutsche Mark currency, with help from Western countries that granted subsidies to pay bills for the East and ease the deep gap in budgets (1990)
- Vermont’s civil unions law went into effect (2000)
- 500,000 people marched in Hong Kong to protest a new anti-subversion law…. one year later, 530,000 rallied for democratization and universal suffrage (2003)
- For the first time in history, the U.S. Navy promoted a woman, Adm. Michelle J. Howard – also the first African-American – to become a four-star admiral (2014)
Today is Canada Day, a national holiday celebrating Canada’s founding, and the date in 1980 when the song, O, Canada, became the national anthem. It is also Independence day in Somalia (1960); Rwanda (1962); and Burundi (1962)
And, Happy Birthday to one of the last remaining movie stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Olivia de Havilland, who turns 101 years old today. Best remembered as Melanie in “Gone With the Wind,” she’s one of the few to have won two leading-actress Oscars. Her 1944 lawsuit against Warner Bros. helped bring down the studio system that treated actors as property that had no say in their own careers.
She played opposite Errol Flynn in 8 films, including “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, earned Academy Awards for “To Each His Own” (1946) and “The Heiress” (1949), and won praise for her portrayal of mental illness in “The Snake Pit” (1948) —see video below. The film led to changes in the conditions of mental institutions in the United States. In 1949, Herb Stein of Daily Variety wrote “Wisconsin is the seventh state to institute reforms in its mental hospitals as a result of The Snake Pit. She wrote a book about her Hollywood escapades, and falling in love with a Frenchman, with Every Frenchman Has One.