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January 26

1962 NASA launched the Ranger 3 space probe to study the moon. It was designed to transmit pictures of the lunar surface to Earth, to rough-land a seismometer capsule on the Moon, to collect gamma-ray data in flight, to study radar reflectivity of the lunar surface, and to continue testing of the Ranger program for development of lunar and interplanetary spacecraft. Unfortunately, due to a malfunction, the craft missed the moon by 22,000 miles.

1880 American general Douglas MacArthur was born in Little Rock, Arkansas.

1788 The British First Fleet, led by Admiral Arthur Phillip, arrived in Sydney Harbor and established Sydney, the first permanent European settlement in Australia. Today the date is commemorated as Australia Day.

1500 Spanish explorer and conquistador Vicente Yáñez Pinzón landed on the South American coast, in what is today Brazil. He was the first European to set foot there.

January 25

1924 The 1924 Winter Olympics opened in Chamonix, France. These were the first winter Olympic Games, and a total of 16 nations participated, 14 from Europe along with the USA and Canada. The games were held at the foot of Mont Blanc in Chamonix between January 25 and February 5, 1924, organized by the French Olympic Committee, and were in retrospect designated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the I Olympic Winter Games. They were held in association with the 1924 Summer Olympics.

1881 The Oriental Telephone Company was established by Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. The company was licensed to sell telephones in Greece, Turkey, South Africa, India, Japan, China, and other Asian countries.

1879 The Opéra de Monte-Carlo, an opera house located in the principality of Monaco, was inaugurated with a performance by Sarah Bernhardt dressed as a nymph. The first opera performed there was Robert Planquette’s Le Chevalier Gaston on February 8, 1879, followed by three additional operas in the first season.

1759 Scottish poet Robert Burns was born in Alloway. He is regarded as the national poet of Scotland.

1627 Irish philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor Robert Boyle was born in County Waterford. He is best known for the formulation of Boyle’s law, which describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed system. He is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist, and one of the founders of modern chemistry. Among his works, The Sceptical Chymist is seen as a cornerstone book in the field of chemistry.

1554 Portuguese Jesuit missionaries Manuel da Nóbrega and José de Anchieta (pictured below) founded the village of São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga, Brazil. The village would grow into the modern city of Sao Paulo.

January 24

1986 The Voyager 2 spacecraft, an unmanned interplanetary space probe launched in 1977, made its closest approach to the planet Uranus, when it came within 81,500 kilometers (50,600 miles) of the planet’s cloud tops.

1679 German philosopher Christian Wolff was born in Breslau, Silesia. His main achievement was a complete oeuvre on almost every scholarly subject of his time, representing the peak of Enlightenment rationality in Germany.

1670 English poet and playwright William Congreve was born near Leeds. He wrote some of the most popular English plays of the Restoration period of the late 17th century. He coined two very famous, though frequently misquoted, phrases in his play The Mourning Bride: “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast” (often misquoted as “beast”) and “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”.

January 23

2012 British adventurer Felicity Aston completed a crossing of Antarctica, becoming the first woman to ski across the continent alone. This feat also made her the first human to ski solo across Antarctica using only her own muscle power. She did it in 59 days, pulling two sledges for 1,084 miles from her starting point on the Leverett Glacier.

1964 The first animal to human heart transplant was achieved. Dr. James Hardy at the University of Mississippi transplanted the heart of a chimpanzee (named Bino) into the chest of Boyd Rush (age 68) in a last-ditch effort to save the man’s life because no human was heart available.

1960 The Swiss-designed deep-diving research bathyscaphe Trieste broke a depth record by descending to 10,911 m (35,798 feet) to the ocean floor in the Challenger Deep (the deepest southern part of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean). The Trieste was designed by the Swiss scientist Auguste Piccard.

1789 Georgetown college, a Jesuit private college, and the first Roman Catholic college in the United States, was founded by Father John Carroll.

1719 The principality of Liechtenstein was created within the Holy Roman Empire by Emperor Charles VI.

1571 The Royal Exchange, in the City of London, was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth I. The building acts as a centre of commerce for the city. After being destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, the Exchange was rebuilt in 1669 (pictured below). It was destroyed by fire a 2nd time in 1838, and a 3rd building, which adheres to the original layout, was rebuilt and re-opened in 1844. Today it is a luxurious shopping center, housing such stores as Hermès, Molton Brown, Paul Smith, Haines & Bonner, Tiffany and Jo Malone.

January 22

1968 NASA launched Apollo 5 from Cape Canaveral. It was an unmanned flight that carried the first lunar module into space. Its mission was to test the Lunar Module in a space environment, in particular its descent and ascent engine systems, and its ability to separate the ascent and descent stages.

1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift: 139 British soldiers successfully defended themselves from 5,000 attacking Zulu warriors at a Christian missionary next to the Buffalo River in South Africa. The British success is held as one of history’s finest military defenses. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders, along with a number of other decorations and honors.

1592 French philosopher, priest, scientist, astronomer, and mathematician Pierre Gassendi was born at the Champtercier commune, near Digne, in France. As an observational scientist, he published the first data on the transit of Mercury in 1631. As a philosopher, he was one of the first thinkers to formulate the modern “scientific outlook”, of moderated scepticism and empiricism. The lunar crater Gassendi is named after him.

1561 English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, and author Francis Bacon was born in London. Among his life’s work, the most lasting accomplishment was to establish and popularize an inductive methodology for scientific inquiry called the Baconian method, a precursor to the modern scientific method.

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