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December 22

1989 Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate re-opened after nearly 30 years, effectively ending the division of East and West Germany.

1964 The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, an advanced, long range, Mach 3 strategic reconnaissance aircraft, was flown for the first time.

1937 The Lincoln Tunnel officially opened. It is a 1.5 mile long tunnel under the Hudson River that connects New Jersey with Manhattan. The tunnel was designed by Norwegian-American civil engineer Ole Singstad.

1790 A force led by Russian Army commander Alexander Suvorov successfully stormed the fortress of Izmail, in Izmail, Ukraine. Izmail had been under the control of invading Ottoman Muslim Turks for about 400 years. The defeat was seen as a catastrophe in the Ottoman Empire, while in Russia it was glorified in the country’s first national anthem, Let the thunder of victory sound!.

December 21

1968 NASA launched Apollo 8 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the first human spaceflight mission to achieve a velocity sufficient to allow escape from the gravitational field of planet Earth; the first to be captured by and escape from the gravitational field of another celestial body; and the first crewed voyage to return to planet Earth from another celestial body – Earth’s Moon.

1904 English engineer Francis Thomas Bacon was born. He developed the first practical hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell, which electrochemically converts air and fuel directly into electricity. His fuel cells were used by U.S. Apollo space vehicles, where they could provide both in-flight power and clean drinking water, the by-product of the electrochemical reaction.

1872 The H.M.S. Challenger embarked from Portsmouth, England on the world’s first scientific voyage around the world. She travelled nearly 70,000 nautical miles surveying and exploring. The 4-year voyage, led by Scottish naturalist Charles Wyville Thomson, catalogued over 4,000 previously unknown species, visited every continent, sounded the ocean bottom to a depth of 26,850-ft, and provided scores of collections for biologists.

December 20

1951 The Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-1) in Arco, Idaho became the first nuclear power plant to generate electricity. The electricity powered four light bulbs. The reactor itself was designed by a team led by Walter Zinn.

1901 American physicist Robert J. Van de Graaff was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He invented the Van de Graaff generator, a type of high-voltage electrostatic generator that can be used as a particle accelerator in atomic research.

1880 New York’s Broadway was first lighted by electricity using arc lights designed and built by American inventor Charles F. Brush.

1868 American industrialist Harvey Samuel Firestone was born in Columbiana, Ohio. He was the founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, one of the first global makers of automobile tires.

December 19

1974 The Altair 8800 microcomputer, one of the very first hobbyist personal computers, was first put on sale in the U.S. as a do-it-yourself computer kit. It used switches for input and flashing lights as a display. It was built by American electrical engineer Ed Roberts.

1903 The Williamsburg Bridge in New York City, America’s first major suspension bridge using steel towers instead of the customary masonry towers, was officially opened. American civil engineer Leffert L. Buck was the chief engineer and Austrian-American architect Henry Hornbostel was chief architect.

1843 A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, was first published.

1606 An expedition led by English sailor and privateer Christopher Newport left London for Virginia, where they would create the Jamestown settlement. The expedition was funded by the Virginia Company of London, which had been granted a proprietorship to establish a settlement in the Virginia Colony by King James I.

1154 Henry II was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey.

December 18

1958 The USA’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) launched Project SCORE, the world’s first communications satellite.

1898 French race car driver Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat set the first automobile land speed record using a using a Jeantaud electric car. He completed a single 1 kilometer run in 57 seconds to give an average speed of 63.13 km/h (39 mph).

1890 American electrical engineer Edwin Armstrong was born in New York. He was the inventor of frequency modulation (FM) radio.

1856 British physicist Sir Joseph John “J. J.” Thomson was born in Manchester. He is credited for the discovery of the electron and of isotopes, and the invention of the mass spectrometer.

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