150 years ago today, the first traffic lights were installed outside the British Parliament building in London. J P Knight, a railway signaling engineer, used the same waving semaphore arms as for trains, illuminated at night by red and green gas lamps. Modern traffic lights were an American invention 45 years later. (1868)
MORE Good News on this Date:
- Peru secured its independence by defeating Spanish colonialists (1824)
- UK Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson’s iconic poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, describing a terrible loss during a Crimean War battle, was published in The Examiner (1854)
- In Louisiana, P.B.S. Pinchback (born Pinckney Benton Stewart) became the first African-American to serve as the governor of a U.S. state (1872)
- Academy Award winning actor Judi Dench turns 84 years old today (1934)
- Illinois-born actor, director, producer and fashion designer John Malkovich who has appeared in more than 70 films was born 65 years ago today (1953)
- 60s teen idol Donny Osmond, with hits “Go Away Little Girl” and “Puppy Love”, and a 2002 Christmas CD, who also won the ninth season of Dancing with the Stars, was born (1957)
- Tanzania gained Independence from Britain (1961)
- Eradication of the smallpox virus was achieved, making smallpox the first, and to date only, human disease driven to extinction (1979)
- Lech Wałęsa became the first directly elected president of Poland winning in a landslide (1990)
- Canada‘s Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was constitutional (2004)
And, Happy Birthday to Kirk Douglas, one of the last surviving stars of the Golden Age of Cinema, who turns 102 today. Born Issur Danielovitch in New York to poor immigrant parents, the former wrestler earned three Oscar nominations for his roles in Champion; Bad & the Beautiful; and his 1956 portrayal of Vincent van Gogh (with uncanny resemblance), in Lust For Life.
Acting runs through Douglas’s family–in his son Michael and grandson Cameron–and through his generous heart, with donations of $40 million going to help aging entertainers in need of support. As an author, he has written ten novels and a new memoir. His proudest accomplishment was to help break the Hollywood Blacklist by giving onscreen credit to an accused writer on his 1960 film “Spartacus.” (1916)
Married 62 years to his wife, Anne, and despite suffering a stroke in 1996, Douglas has not slowed down. He has focused on renewing his spiritual and religious life, and written his upcoming 12th book with wife Anne Buydens Douglas, entitled Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood. The book features comments on the couple’s secrets to marital longevity and stories of their famous contemporaries like Sinatra, Peck, Wayne, Lancaster, Bacall, and others.
His 2015 donation of $15 million to the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s new Alzheimer’s facility pushed his lifetime donations to the organization over the $40 million mark.