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On this day March 18, 1789

Catherine Murphy was executed at Newgate prison on March 18, 1789, for coining. Her co-defendants, including her husband, were executed at the same time by hanging, but as a woman the law provided that she should be burnt at the stake.

She was brought out past the hanging bodies of eight men and made to stand on a foot high 10in square platform in front of the stake. She was secured to the stake with ropes and an iron ring. When she finished her prayers, the hangman piled faggots of straw around the stake and lit them.

According to testimony given by Sir Benjamin Hammett, then Sheriff of London, she was hanged before being burned. In part through his efforts, burning as a method of execution was abolished the next year.

On this day September 29, 1954

Eleven countries signed a convention establishing the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), currently the world’s largest particle physics laboratory.

Blue founding members

Blue founding members

The acronym CERN originally stood, in French, for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Council for Nuclear Research), which was a provisional council for setting up the laboratory.

The organization was established by the following 11 European governments; Belgium, Denmark, West Germany, France, Greece, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands and United Kingdom.

Today the organization has twenty European member states, and is currently the workplace of approximately 2,600 full-time employees, as well as some 7,931 scientists and engineers (representing 580 universities and research facilities and 80 nationalities). Read More…

On this day September 26, 1580

Sir Francis Drake finishes his circumnavigation of the Earth when Golden Hind sailed into Plymouth with Drake and 59 remaining crew aboard, along with a rich cargo of spices and captured Spanish treasures.

Statue of Sir Drake in Plymouth

Drake's statue in Plymouth

The Queen’s half-share of the cargo surpassed the rest of the crown’s income for that entire year. Drake was hailed as the first Englishman to circumnavigate the Earth.

Drake was awarded a knighthood, but not by Queen Elizabeth aboard Golden Hind, as is commonly thought.

He was actually knighted by a French nobleman called Monsieur de Marchaumont, on 4 April 1581, and, in September 1581, became the Mayor of Plymouth.

He was also a Member of Parliament in 1581, for an unknown constituency, and again in 1584 for Bossiney.

The Queen ordered all written accounts of Drake’s voyage to be considered classified information, and its participants sworn to silence on pain of death; her aim was to keep Drake’s activities away from the eyes of rival Spain.

Drake was a navigator, slaver, a renowned pirate, his exploits were legendary, making him a hero to the English but a pirate to the Spaniards , King Philip II was claimed to have offered a reward of 20,000 ducats, about (US$6.5M) by modern standards, for his life.

He was second-in-command of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada in 1588, subordinate only to Charles Howard and the Queen herself. He died of dysentery in January 1596 after unsuccessfully attacking San Juan, Puerto Rico.

On this day March 31, 1990

200,000 protestors take to the streets of London to protest against the newly introduced Poll Tax (Community Charge), introduced by the Conservative government led by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

By far the largest occurred in central London on Saturday March 31, 1990, shortly before the poll tax was due to come into force in England and Wales. Many believe the riot – the largest in the city in the 20th century – caused Thatcher’s downfall eight months later.

The disorder in London arose from a demonstration which began at 11am. The rioting and looting ended at 3am the next morning. This riot is sometimes called the Battle of Trafalgar, particularly by opponents of poll tax, because much of the rioting took place in Trafalgar Square. Read More…

On this day July 5, 1687

The Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton was first published, describing his laws of motion and his law of universal gravitation.Prinicipia-title

The Principia is a three-volume work, Newton also published two further editions, the second in 1713, and the third in 1726.

The Principia contains the statement of Newton’s laws of motion forming the foundation of classical mechanics, as well as his law of universal gravitation and a derivation of Kepler’s laws for the motion of the planets (which were first obtained empirically).

The Principia is “justly regarded as one of the most important works in the history of science”.

In formulating his physical theories, Newton had developed a field of mathematics now known as calculus. However, the language of calculus as we know it was largely absent from the Principia. Instead, Newton cast the majority of his proofs in geometric form, although with many calculus-like arguments based on limits of vanishing small geometric quantities.

On this day June 21, 1948

The Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM), nicknamed Baby, was the world’s first stored-program computer. It was built at the Victoria University of Manchester by Frederic C. Williams, Tom Kilburn and Geoff Tootill, and ran its first program on 21 June 1948.

The machine was not intended to be a practical computer but was instead designed as a testbed for the Williams tube, an early form of computer memory. Although considered “small and primitive” by the standards of its time, it was the first working machine to contain all of the elements essential to a modern electronic computer. Read More…

Cumbria shootings

Yesterday a gunman shot 23 people, killing 12 of them, in the county of Cumbria, North West England, United Kingdom.

Western Cumbria

The series of attacks began in mid-morning in Frizington and moved to Whitehaven, Egremont, Gosforth and Seascale, sparking a major manhunt by Cumbria Constabulary.

The gunman, a local taxi driver, was later found dead in a wooded area, having abandoned his vehicle in the village of Boot.

Two weapons that appeared to have been used were recovered. There are 30 different crime scenes being investigated. Police confirmed it was the worst incident of mass shooting in Britain since the Dunblane massacre of 1996.

The incident began in the morning of 2 June 2010, when 52-year-old Derrick Bird, shot dead his twin brother, David Bird, in Lamplugh, followed by the family solicitor, Kevin Commons, in and around Frizington. He then moved on toward Whitehaven. Read More…

On this day May 30, 1913

The Treaty of London was signed to deal with territorial adjustments arising out of the conclusion of the First Balkan War, declaring, among other things, an independent Albania.

The combatants were the victorious Balkan League (Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Montenegro) and the defeated Ottoman Empire. Representing the Great Powers were Britain, Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Italy.

Hostilities had ceased on 2 December 1912. Three principal points were in dispute:

  • the status of the territory of present-day Albania, the vast majority of which had been overrun by Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece
  • the status of the Sanjak of Novi Pazar formally under the protection of Austria-Hungary since the Treaty of Berlin in 1878
  • the status of the other territories taken by the Allies: Kosovo; Macedonia; and Thrace

The Treaty was negotiated in London at an international conference which had opened there in December 1912, following the declaration of independence by Albania on 28 November 1912. Read More…