765 years ago today, the Venice merchant and writer Marco Polo was born. He became the first European to chronicle his travels through Asia—and his exotic details about life along the Silk Road inspired a new wave of explorers. His Book of the Marvels of the World, also known as The Travels of Marco Polo (c. 1300), gave Europeans their first comprehensive look at the mysterious culture and inner workings of the Eastern world, including the wealth and great size of China and its capital Peking. It also described cities in India, Japan and other Asian countries. WATCH a biography… (1254)

Marco journeyed for 24 years with his father and uncle, who had earlier travelled through Asia and met the emperor Kublai Khan. Upon his return back home, he became a wealthy merchant and raised a family. His detailed recollections influenced mapmakers before he died in 1324 and was buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Venice.

MORE Good News on this Day:

  • Commemorated as Independence Day (from Spain) for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and celebrated with marches by schoolchildren (1821)
  • The Royal Air Force inflicted heavy losses on the Luftwaffe as the tide turned in the Battle of Britain during World War II (1940)
  • Ron Shelton, the American film screenwriter/director and former minor league baseball player, who made his directorial debut in Bull Durham, was born (1945)
  • The first edition of USA Today—the first American newspaper to present content in colorful, simple, easy-to-read stories, and sold in all 50 states (1982)
  • U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze signed a treaty to establish centers to reduce the risk of nuclear war (1987)
  • IRA-allied Sinn Fein entered Northern Ireland’s peace talks for the first time (1997)
  • The name Google.com first appeared on the internet, as founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin registered the crazy term as their new company’s domain name while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University (1998)

And, on this day in 1890, Agatha Christie was born to write mysteries.

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Best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections that earned her the nickname, The Queen of Crime, the British author and playwright went on to become the best selling novelist of all time, weaving such masterworks as ‘And Then There Were None’, ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ and ‘The Mousetrap’–the world’s longest-running play.

And, Happy 73rd Birthday to Tommy Lee Jones. Born in Midland, Texas, he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as a U.S. Marshal in The Fugitive.

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He is perhaps best loved for his role as “Agent K” in the Men In Black franchise. He attended Harvard University, and wrote his senior thesis on the role of Catholicism in the works of Flannery O’ Connor. (1946)

Also, Happy Birthday to film director Oliver Stone (Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July, and JFK) who turns 73 today.

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