This is a fascinating world we live in. When you step back and look at it, something historic has happened literally every single day. Sure, some events are bigger and more important than others, but think about it…history is made every day.
In this regular blog series, we’re going to look at world history by month, with two or three blog posts each month that list momentous events in the history of the world–and inspiration for lessons that you can teach your children at home!
Time to show February’s history some love–here’s Part 1. Now onto Part 2!
February 11, 2011: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigns amid massive protests. Following the assassination of Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat in October of 1981, Hosni Mubarak assumed his vacancy as the president of Egypt. For nearly 30 years, he would rule with an iron fist. Upon taking office, Mubarak appointed no vice president to succeed him under the Egyptian constitution–but that was only the beginning of highly questionable or thoroughly corrupt actions he’d take as president. He put in place a police state that was supported by a network of sprawling military businesses and corrupt businessmen. His party fixed elections while simultaneously shutting down attempts by civic groups to monitor the voting. Unemployment, poverty, and resentment toward President Mubarak’s lavish lifestyle pushed people toward the brink of revolt. In 2010, this pot would nearly boil over. In June, Egyptian security forcibly removed Khaled Said, a young Egyptian, from an internet cafe in Alexandria and beat him to death on the street. Why? Because he had posted a video of Egyptian officers with illegal drugs. Young Egyptians were not about to take that sitting down. It took a few months of percolating, but the powder keg would soon explode.
In January 2011, Arab spring–a series of pro-democracy uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa–began with the ouster of Tunisia’s corrupt leader Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. Next target? Hosni Mubarak. Massive protests erupted and continued for an astonishing 18 straight days in Cairo and across other major Egyptian cities. They wanted Mubarak out–he finally relented and, on February 11, 2011, resigned. Egyptians celebrated the end of the military rule and corrupt leadership that had gripped the country for nearly three decades. Use this lesson to look at other corrupt and cruel leaders and how their reigns ended.
February 11, 1847: Thomas Edison is born in Milan, Ohio. Is there an inventor who made a bigger impact on the world than Thomas Edison? Among his nearly 1,100 patents and inventions are the first commercially viable incandescent bulb, the phonograph, the movie camera, the telegraph, the alkaline storage battery, the coal mining safety lamp, wax paper, the electrographic vote counter, the electric pen (thought to be the precursor to mimeography and the tattoo pen), an airtight container to preserve fruits and vegetables, the talking doll, and the idea for home subscription services (was there anything he didn’t think of?). He also made some notable verbal contributions–did you know he was the first person to use the word “hello” to answer the telephone? And Edison was the one who coined the phrase, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Interestingly enough, Thomas Edison was homeschooled starting at the age of 11 after his teachers deemed the hyperactive child difficult. It’s thought by many Edison biographers that this form of independent education served him well as an adult through experimentation.
Among his other accomplishments were the creation of what would become General Electric, the industrial laboratory complex (which he built for himself in Menlo Park and later in West Orange, New Jersey), and the first American screening of a motion picture (on April 23, 1896 in New York City). It could be argued that Edison did more to bring humankind into the modern electric world than anyone else who ever lived. Take a look at other famous inventors (Nikola Tesla, Benjamin Franklin) and how their ideas also changed the world.
February 12, 1809: Abraham Lincoln is born in Hardin County, Kentucky. We could dedicate an entire series of articles on everything that Abraham Lincoln accomplished in his lifetime. For brevity’s sake, we’ll list some of his major achievements while also acknowledging the many accomplishments and acts that we’re omitting from this blog. As a commentary on his work ethic, it’s worth noting that Lincoln was a self-taught lawyer who built a successful practice in Illinois. Some of his pre-presidential highlights include:
- Elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1834 at the age of 25; this was the beginning of the first of four terms in the Illinois House of Representatives.
- Made his first public declaration against slavery in 1837.
- Elected to Congress as Whip Party representative in 1846.
- Won a seat in the US House of Representatives in 1847.
- Proposed an amendment to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia in 1849.
- Chosen as a US Senate candidate by the Illinois Republican Convention in 1858; this is where he gives his famous “House Divided” speech (“A house divided against itself cannot stand”), which was actually quite ill-received at the time. Two months later, Lincoln begins his famous series of debates against his Democratic opponent for Senate, Stephen A. Douglas.
- Though he lost the Senate race to Douglas, just two years later, in 1860, Lincoln received the Republican nomination for president in May 1860; he’d go on to win the election that November, becoming the 16th President of the United States.
As president, with the help of some of these events and accomplishments, he would go down as arguably the greatest Commander in Chief the United States has ever seen:
- In May of 1862, the sitting president actually participated in battle; he visited Fort Monroe and for a week participated in attacks on Norfolk, Virginia.
- Just a few days later, he approved the establishment of the US Department of Agriculture.
- Only a few days after that, Lincoln approved the Homestead Act, which provided settlers with homesteads on government lands.
- In July of 1862, he signed the Pacific Railroad Act and the Morrill Land Act.
- On New Year’s Eve of 1862, Lincoln approved the Congressional act that admitted West Virginia into the Union.
- The very next day, January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in some Southern jurisdictions.
- In October 1863, Lincoln issued a proclamation making Thanksgiving a national holiday.
- Just a month later, on November 19, 1863, President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the cemetery dedication in Pennsylvania.
- Admitted Nevada into the Union on October 31, 1864.
- Just over a week later, President Lincoln was re-elected in a landslide victory over George McClellan.
- On February 1, 1865, Lincoln approved the resolution submitting the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery.
That was a brave, heroic final act as president. Only two-and-a-half months later, on April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre. He was only 56. It’s absolutely amazing to consider what Lincoln accomplished in barely more than four years as president. If only America could have witnessed what other feats he could have achieved had he been given more time in the White House. Use this list to take a longer look at Lincoln’s greatest accomplishments and what they meant to the country then and even today.
February 14, 1929: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre occurs in Chicago at the direction of Al Capone. It’s arguably the the most brutal and most infamous of any gangland murder in American history. On Valentine’s Day 1929, seven members of George “Bugs” Moran’s gang were executed by a barrage of ammunition fired by submachine guns, revolvers, and shotguns against a brick wall inside a garage on N. Clark Street in Chicago.
Known as The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, this slaying was ordered by the most famous mob boss of all, Al Capone. Moran was a rival of Capone’s, the last true organized crime threat to Capone’s reign over Chicago. At 10:30 am, four men burst into the garage where Moran’s gang conducted their illegal affairs; two of the men were dressed as police officers. Under the guise of arresting the seven men, the four “officers” lined them up against the wall. And then the shooting began. Unfortunately for Capone, Moran was not one of the seven murdered that morning; however, the message he sent was received loud and clear. Neither Moran nor anyone else would dare challenge Al Capone’s standing as the only crime boss in the Windy City. As for Capone? He was vacationing at the time of the massacre, providing him with a rather convenient alibi–Capone claimed to have no knowledge of the murders, and authorities were therefore unable to prosecute him. The four gunmen also escaped and were never captured and charged for their roles in the slayings. The world of organized crime, especially during the Prohibition era, is truly fascinating. Explore some other cities and their crime bosses, starting back in the Capone era through today.
February 15, 1564: Astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei is born in Pisa, Italy. Perhaps the most famous of all astronomers, Galileo Galilei actually began his studies in mathematics. But it was during this time, around 1585, that he began to study objects in motion; he published The Little Balance, a text that described the hydrostatic principles of weighing small quantities. This publication brought him some notoriety, which helped him land a teaching position at the University of Pisa in 1589. While at the university, Galileo began conducting his famous experiments on falling objects, publishing Du Motu (On Motion), which broke away from the traditionally held beliefs of Aristotle regarding motion and falling objects. His frequent criticisms of Aristotle caused tension at the University of Pisa; he departed for a teaching post at University of Padua, where he renowned lectures to large crowds of followers, further elevating his status.
In 1609, Galileo developed his own telescope, which was valued by sailors for its ability to spot ships from a distance. Later that year, he pointed the telescope toward the sky and changed science forever. During his telescopic observations, Galileo explored the universe, learning that Venus revolved around the sun–further disputing Aristotle’s claims that the Earth was the center of the universe. He also discovered that Jupiter possessed revolving moons that did not actually revolve around Earth. Thus, he was a public supporter of the Copernicus (see below!) theory that the planets revolve around the sun. This, however, went against (yet again) Aristotle’s theories…and the Catholic Church, who found Galileo’s beliefs to be heretical. As a devoted Catholic, Galileo agreed not to teach–or believe–the Copernican theory for a time. That time period was seven years, at which point he published Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems in 1632, which subscribed entirely to the Copernicus theory. The Church reacted quickly, determining Galileo was guilty of heresy and sentencing him to house arrest for the rest of his life.
Some of Galileo’s other notable discoveries and inventions include:
- Constructing a hydrostatic balance to measure small objects.
- Creating a type of simple thermometer.
- Developing the universal law of acceleration.
- Publishing The Starry Messenger, which observed that the moon was a sphere full of craters and mountains, not flat and smooth as was previously thought.
Galileo would pass away in 1642 near Florence, Italy–still under house arrest. Interestingly enough, it took the Catholic Church until 1758 to lift its ban on most works supporting Copernican theory; and it wasn’t until 1835 that the Vatican fully dropped its opposition to heliocentrism. Learn about more pioneers in science–including one just a few paragraphs below!
February 15, 1820: Susan B. Anthony is born in Adams, Massachusetts. Perhaps the original pioneer for women’s rights, Susan B. Anthony was raised as a Quaker, firmly believing in the Quaker principle that everyone was equal under God. Ms. Anthony taught for many years before returning to New York State, where her family had moved. It was there that she met Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, friend of her father–but more importantly, two of the most prominent abolitionists at that time. Conversing with them solidified Ms. Anthony’s anti-slavery beliefs and propelled her to become active in the cause. Though not entirely accepted by society at the time, Susan gave several spirited speeches against slavery. It wasn’t until a few years later, however, in 1851, that Ms. Anthony would champion women’s rights and the suffrage movement; it was at this time that she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, another women’s rights activist. The two would work closely over the next half-century fighting for women’s equality. They co-founded the American Equal Rights Association and were editors of the group’s newspaper, The Revolution. In 1868 and 1870, Congress passed the 14th and 15th Amendments, affirming the rights of freed slaves and the rights of African American men to vote, respectively. This outraged Ms. Stanton and Ms. Anthony–where did women’s right to vote fit into this? It didn’t, and they opposed the legislation. In response, they founded the National Woman Suffrage Association, dedicated to securing a constitutional amendment that allowed women to vote.
The lack of amendment certainly didn’t stop Susan B. Anthony, however–she was arrested for voting in 1872 and fined $100 for her crime. Her arrest and conviction brought national outrage and, in turn, support for the suffrage movement. At the 1876 Centennial celebration of America’s independence, she gave a speech protesting the denial of voting rights to women. Ms. Anthony dedicated the rest of her life to women’s rights–particularly the right to vote. In 1888, she helped merge the two large suffrage organizations in the country into the National American Woman Suffrage Association, leading the group until 1900. In this role, she toured the country delivering speeches, getting petitions signed, and lobbying Congress. Sadly, Susan B. Anthony died in 1906–14 years before women were granted the right to vote with the passing of 1920’s 19th Amendment. She would have been proud. Her work and dedication to equality were commemorated in 1979, when she became the first American woman to be immortalized on a United States coin–the Susan B. Anthony dollar. There have been many women’s rights advocates since, so use Ms. Anthony as an inspiration to learn more about those women and what they fought for throughout the years.
February 19, 1473: Nicolaus Copernicus is born in Torun, Poland. Remember him? If not, see Galileo Galilei just a few paragraphs above. Nicolaus Copernicus is considered the founder of modern astronomy, based on his belief that the sun–not the Earth–was the center of the solar system. While at the University of Bologna, Nicolaus lived with and assisted his astronomy professor, Domenico Maria de Novara, spending his time researching and observing the skies. During this time, most people were of the opinion that the planets and sun revolved around the Earth. One of main problems with this model was that the planets would sometimes travel backward across the sky over several nights of observation; astronomers called this retrograde motion. To account for that motion, the current model, based on the Greek astronomer Ptolemy’s view, incorporated a number of epicycles (circles within circles) inside a planet’s path. But many felt this model was too complicated to have naturally occurred. In 1514, Copernicus wrote a book that explained his view of the universe. He suggested that the center of the universe was not Earth, but that the sun. He also proposed that Earth’s rotation caused the rise and setting of the sun, the movement of the stars and that the cycle of seasons was caused by Earth’s revolutions around the sun. In 1532, Copernicus completed the first manuscript of his book, which translates to On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. In it, he established that the planets orbited the sun rather than the Earth and presented his model of the solar system and the path of the planets. It wasn’t published until 1543, just months before his death.
Similar to Galileo’s views, which subscribed to this very Copernican theory, the Church banned Nicolaus Copernicus’ book in 1616. While his theory was far more accurate than Ptolemy’s or Aristotle’s, it wasn’t airtight. For example, Copernicus deduced that planets traveled in perfect circles; ultimately, Johannes Kepler determined that planets actually orbit in ellipse patterns. That said, he was remarkably close in his observations, especially for that time. Sadly, it would take 100 years (thanks to Galileo!) for Copernicus’ work to be taken seriously.
That does it for the second of three parts of historical figures and events for February. Stay tuned for the last part, coming soon! In the meantime, check out our partner site, Elephango.com, for more fun and factual lessons!