Archive for February 13th, 2009

13
Feb
09

Soaring Bald Eagle

IMG_5121a

Have a good weekend.

13
Feb
09

On This Day, February 13, Galileo Galilei

February 13, 1633

Galileo in Rome for Inquisition

On this day in 1633, Italian philosopher, astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei arrives in Rome to face charges of heresy for advocating Copernican theory, which holds that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo officially faced the Roman Inquisition in April of that same year and agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Put under house arrest indefinitely by Pope Urban VIII, Galileo spent the rest of his days at his villa in Arcetri, near Florence, before dying on January 8, 1642.

Galileo, the son of a musician, was born February 15, 1564, in Pisa, Italy. He entered the University of Pisa planning to study medicine, but shifted his focus to philosophy and mathematics. In 1589, he became a professor at Pisa for several years, during which time he demonstrated that the speed of a falling object is not proportional to its weight, as Aristotle had believed. According to some reports, Galileo conducted his research by dropping objects of different weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. From 1592 to 1630, Galileo was a math professor at the University of Padua, where he developed a telescope that enabled him to observe lunar mountains and craters, the four largest satellites of Jupiter and the phases of Jupiter. He also discovered that the Milky Way was made up of stars. Following the publication of his research in 1610, Galileo gained acclaim and was appointed court mathematician at Florence.

Galileo’s research led him to become an advocate of the work of the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1573). However, the Copernican theory of a sun-centered solar system conflicted with the teachings of the powerful Roman Catholic Church, which essentially ruled Italy at the time. Church teachings contended that Earth, not the sun, was at the center of the universe. In 1633, Galileo was brought before the Roman Inquisition, a judicial system established by the papacy in 1542 to regulate church doctrine. This included the banning of books that conflicted with church teachings. The Roman Inquisition had its roots in the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, the purpose of which was to seek out and prosecute heretics, considered enemies of the state.

Today, Galileo is recognized for making important contributions to the study of motion and astronomy. His work influenced later scientists such as the English mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton, who developed the law of universal gravitation. In 1992, the Vatican formally acknowledged its mistake in condemning Galileo.

“Galileo in Rome for Inquisition.” 2009. The History Channel website. 13 Feb 2009, 04:44 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52544.

 

On This Day

1542 – Catherine Howard was executed for adultery. She was the fifth wife of England’s King Henry VIII.

1635 – The Boston Public Latin School was established. It was the first public school building in the United States.

1914 – The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (known as ASCAP) was formed in New York City. The society was founded to protect the copyrighted musical compositions of its members.

1945 – During World War II, the Soviets captured Budapest, Hungary, from the German army.

1955 – Israel acquired 4 of the 7 Dead Sea scrolls.

1960 – France detonated its first atomic bomb.

1984 – Konstantin Chernenko was chosen to be general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party’s Central Committee, succeeding the late Yuri Andropov.

1985 – The Dow Jones industrial average closed at a record high of 1297.92 after it topped the 1300 mark earlier in the trading session.

1997 – The Dow Jones industrial average passed the 7,000 mark for the first time. The day ended at 7,022.44.

2000 – Charles M. Schulz’s last original Sunday “Peanuts” comic strip appeared in newspapers. Schulz had died the day before.

 

February 13, 1945

Firebombing of Dresden

On the evening of February 13, 1945, a series of Allied firebombing raids begins against the German city of Dresden, reducing the “Florence of the Elbe” to rubble and flames, and killing as many as 135,000 people. It was the single most destructive bombing of the war–including Hiroshima and Nagasaki–and all the more horrendous because little, if anything, was accomplished strategically, since the Germans were already on the verge of surrender.

Among the conclusions reached at the February 1945 Yalta Conference of the Allied powers was the resolution that the Allies would engage in concerted strategic bombing raids against German cities known for war-production and manufacturing, in an effort to bring the Nazi war machine to a crashing halt. The tragic irony of the raid on Dresden, a medieval city renowned for its rich artistic and architectural treasures, is that during the war it had never been a site of war-production or major industry. Both Allies and Germans alike have argued over the real purpose of the firebombing; the ostensible “official” rationale was that Dresden was a major communications center and bombing it would hamper the German ability to convey messages to its army, which was battling Soviet forces at the time. But the extent of the destruction was, for many, disproportionate to the stated strategic goal–many believe that the attack was simply an attempt to punish the Germans and weaken their morale.

More than 3,400 tons of explosives were dropped on the city by 800 American and British aircraft. The firestorm created by the two days of bombing set the city burning for many more days, littering the streets with charred corpses, including many children. Eight square miles of the city was ruined, and the total body count was between 35,000 and 135,000 (an approximation is all that was possible given that the city was filled with many refugees from farther east). The hospitals that were left standing could not handle the numbers of injured and burned, and mass burials became necessary.

Among the American POWs who were in Dresden during the raid was novelist Kurt Vonnegut, who conveyed his experience in his classic antiwar novel Slaughterhouse Five.

“Firebombing of Dresden.” 2009. The History Channel website. 13 Feb 2009, 04:32 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6711.

Arguably, the darkest moment in the Allied war effort against Nazi Germany.  I, personally, have always believed the bombing of Dresden as more of a warning to the Russians than a punitive raid against the Nazis.  Dresden would be located in the Russian Zone of occupied Germany and so the Russians could see what the West could do to a city and Dresden would then serve as a reminder during the ensuing Cold War, which many military planners, at the time, believed to be the inevitable next war.




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