150 years ago today, the colorless, odorless, non-toxic gas, Helium, was first discovered. Named for the Greek Titan of the Sun, Helios, it showed up as an unknown yellow spectral line signature during a solar eclipse. Norman Lockyer was the first to propose that it was a new element, which he named. The second most abundant element in the observable universe, most helium in the universe is helium-4, the vast majority of which was formed during the Big Bang. Used in the cooling of superconducting magnets, in MRI scanners, and for arc welding, a well-known but minor use is as a lifting gas in balloons and airships. (1868)

MORE Good News on this Day:

  • The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote, was ratified, the culmination of years of effort by the women’s suffrage movement (1920)
  • Ringo Starr made his debut with The Beatles at a horticultural society dance– the first appearance of John, Paul, George, and Ringo playing together in public (1962)
  • James Meredith became the first black person to graduate from the University of Mississippi (1963)
  • Woodstock concluded with a morning performance by Jimi Hendrix (1969)
  • The Police played live for the first time as a three-piece band in Birmingham, England, in a style influenced by punk, reggae, and jazz that made themone of the first New Wave groups to achieve mainstream success (1977)
  • Canada’s “highway to the Arctic” opened (Dempster Highway), from Dawson, Yukon, to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, stretching 457 miles/736 km – much of it following an old sled dog trail (1979)
  • Japan‘s election law was amended to allow for proportional representation (1982)
  • Liberia‘s civil war ended after 14 years when the Comprehensive Peace Accord was signed in Accra, Ghana (2003)

And, Happy 82nd Birthday to Hollywood star Robert Redford. From his working class roots in California, he became an actor beloved for his roles in The Sting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Way We Were, and All the President’s Men.

As a director, he won the Oscar for Ordinary People–and other awards for The Milagro Beanfield War, A River Runs Through It, and The Legend of Bagger Vance. He is also founder of the Sundance Film Festival and a noted environmental activist. WATCH his lifetime achievement Oscar video… (1936) – Photo courtesy of Jemal Countess

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