70 years ago today, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, outlining basic human rights: The right to life, liberty and security of person; the right to participate fully in cultural life; Freedom from torture or cruel, inhumane treatment or punishment; Freedom of thought, conscience and religion Freedom of expression and opinion.

Listen to what President Reagan said as he adopted this day as Human Rights Day in the U.S. during a signing ceremony in 1986…(1948)

“Today we renew our allegiance to those human rights which all free men cherish and which we Americans, in particular, hold so dear. It’s love of freedom that binds a people who are so richly diverse. It unites us in purpose… that these human rights are the property of every man, woman, and child on this planet and that a violation of human rights anywhere is the business of free people everywhere. Those who suffer for freedom are not alone.”

(Photo of Eleanor Roosevelt by United Nations, CC license)

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • The US Territory of Wyoming granted women the right to vote (1869)
  • The first Nobel Prizes were awarded and on this date; which many notables have received, including, Schweitzer,  Sakharov, Sadat and Begin, Lech Wałęsa, Martin Luther King Jr., Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter (1901)
  • Thailand adopted a Constitution, becoming a constitutional monarchy (1932)
  • The Grateful Dead played their first concert, at the Fillmore, in San Francisco (1965)
  • Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President of Egypt Anwar Sadat were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (1978)
  • Mongolia‘s democratic movement was established, which peacefully changed the second oldest communist country into a democratic society (1989)
  • 100 British hostages held by Saddam Hussein for 4 months were freed (1990)
  • Six astronauts entered the new International Space Station, becoming the first guests to stay in the outpost 250 miles up (1998)

And on this day in 1815, the first computer programmer was born–and she was a woman. Called the “Enchantress of Numbers,” British mathematician Ada Lovelace became the first programmer when she wrote an algorithm for an early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.

Though known for her collaboration with Charles Babbage on that pioneering machine, which came a full century before any calculating computer was actually put to use, she was also a writer and the daughter of poet Lord Byron. In Ada’s elaborate writings about the Analytical Engine, entitled, simply, Notes, she described a vision of the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching, a unique thought at that time. She envisioned that maybe music could be expressed and composed on such a machine, for instance.AnalyticalMachine_Babbage_London-CC-Bruno Barral

As Babbage ran out of money, the engine was never completed, so her code was untested. However, The first complete Babbage Engine was completed in London in 2002, 153 years after it was designed. Built faithfully to the original drawings, it uses 8,000 parts, weighs five tons, and measures 11 feet long—and it did exactly what the designers said it would do. An identical Engine is on display in the Mountain View, CA Computer Museum. (Learn more from these books, including the fantastic Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators.) Photo of Analytical Engine by Bruno Barral, CC