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April 28

1916 Italian industrialist Ferruccio Lamborghini was born in Renazzo di Cento, a city in the province of Ferrara. He served as an aircraft mechanic in World War 2, and after the war he founded Lamborghini Trattori, a manufacturer of tractors and agricultural equipment. In 1959, he started Lamborghini Bruciatori to manufacture oil heaters and air conditioning equipment. Most famously, in 1963, he created Automobili Lamborghini, a maker of high-end sports cars.

1906 Dutch-American astronomer Bart J. Bok was born in Hoorn. He was the first to investigate the dark clouds of dense gas and dust visible against a background of bright nebulae, which became known as “Bok globules”. Bok’s other important work was on the structure and evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy. In 1975 Bok coauthored the statement Objections to Astrology, which was endorsed by 186 professional astronomers, astrophysicists, and other scientists and led to the formation of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

1900 Dutch astronomer Jan Oort was born in Franeker. He was a pioneer in the field of radio astronomy, having made systematic studies of radio waves in the universe. In 1950, he created a hypothesis about the origin of comets, which proved to be mostly correct. In 1927, he was the first to calculate the distance from the Earth to the center of the Milky Way galaxy, and to calculate the entire mass of the galaxy. The Oort cloud of comets in our solar system is named after him.

1753 Prussian chemist, physicist and biologist Franz Karl Achard was born in Berlin. He invented a process for the large-scale extraction of table sugar (sucrose) from beets, and in 1801, opened the first sugar-beet factory, in Silesia (now Poland). He also discovered a method for working platinum and was the first to prepare a platinum crucible in 1784.

April 27

1810 German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven composed “Für Elise”, one of his most popular compositions.

1805 United States Marine Corps Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon led a successful attack in the Battle of Derna, over pirate forces along the Barbary coast nation of Tripoli during the First Barbary War. It was the first recorded land battle the United States fought overseas. This battle was the inspiration for giving the Marines’ Hymn its immortal “to the shores of Tripoli”.

1791 American inventor Samuel Morse was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He contributed to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system based on European telegraphs, and was co-inventor of the Morse code, which bears his name.

April 26

1962 NASA’s Ranger 4 spacecraft crashed into the Moon. The spacecraft was designed to transmit pictures of the lunar surface to Earth stations during a period of 10 minutes of flight prior to crashing upon the Moon, 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.

1774 German geologist and paleontologist Christian Leopold von Buch was born in Stolpe an der Ode (modern Angermünde, Brandenburg). He studied a broad spectrum of geological topics: volcanism, fossils, stratigraphy; and is most remembered for creating the scientific definition of the jurassic system. He is remembered as one of the most important contributors to geology in the first half of the nineteenth century.

1607 English Captain Edward Maria Wingfield, as part of the voyage of the Virginia Company of London to establish a colony in the New World, selected Jamestown Island on the James River as a prime location for a fortified settlement. He chose the site, a strong defensive position against land or canoe attack, and supervised the construction of the fort in a month and a day. This became the first successful, English-speaking colony in the New World.

1564 English poet and playwright William Shakespeare was baptised. He was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, but his exact birthdate is unknown. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. His surviving works include 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

April 25

1960 The American nuclear submarine USS Triton, while under the command of Captain Edward L. Beach, completed Operation Sandblast, the first underwater circumnavigation of the earth. The New York Times described Triton’s submerged circumnavigation of the world as “a triumph of human prowess and engineering skill, a feat which the United States Navy can rank as one of its bright victories in man’s ultimate conquest of the seas.”

1953 The Molecular structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid, an article by American biologist James D. Watson and British biologist Francis Crick, was published in the scientific journal Nature. It was the first publication which described the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.

1859 British and French engineers began working on the Suez Canal. The Compagnie universelle du canal maritime de Suez (Universal Suez Ship Canal Company) had been formed the previous December by Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps, and spent the next 10 years constructing the canal. French engineer Louis Maurice Adolphe Linant de Bellefonds was the chief engineer of the project.

1792 The national anthem of France, “La Marseillaise”, was written and composed in Strasbourg by French composer Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle. Its original name was “Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin” (“War Song for the Army of the Rhine”) and it was dedicated to Marshal Nicolas Luckner, a Bavarian-born French officer from Cham.

1719 Robinson Crusoe, a novel by Daniel Defoe, was first published.

April 24

1913 The Woolworth Building, one of the oldest and most famous skyscrapers in New York City, was officially opened.

1904 Dutch-American artist Willem de Kooning was born in Rotterdam. He became part of the “New York School” of abstract expressionists, which also included Jackson Pollack. In 1964, he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson, in honor of his work. In November 2006, his Woman III painting was sold for $137.5 million, making it the second most expensive painting ever sold at that time.

1845 Swiss poet Carl Spitteler was born in Liestal. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1919, “in special appreciation of his epic, Olympian Spring“.

1817 Swiss chemist Jean-Charles-Galinard de Marignac was born in Geneva. His life work consisted of making many precise determinations of atomic weights which suggested the possibility of isotopes and the packing fraction of nuclei. In 1878 he discovered ytterbium, and later was a codiscover of gadolinium in 1880.

1815 English author Anthony Trollope was born in London. He was one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era.

1800 The Library of Congress was established on April 24, 1800, when President John Adams signed an Act of Congress providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington. Part of the legislation appropriated $5,000 “for the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress …, and for fitting up a suitable apartment for containing them….”

1743 English clergyman and inventor Edmund Cartwright was born in Nottinghamshire. In 1784/1785, he designed and built the first power loom, which was a mechanized loom powered by a drive shaft. The was one of the key inventions of the industrial revolution, and over the next 50 years his designes would be updated until looms became completely automatic.

1718 Irish painter Nathaniel Hone the Elder was born. He moved to London as a young man where he acquired a reputation as a portrait-painter. Several of his works are now held at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

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