This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
December 10 is the 344th day of the year (345th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 21 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1901, the first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The ceremony came on the fifth anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite and other high explosives. In his will, Nobel directed that the bulk of his vast fortune be placed in a fund in which the interest would be “annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” Although Nobel offered no public reason for his creation of the prizes, it is widely believed that he did so out of moral regret over the increasingly lethal uses of his inventions in war.
Alfred Nobel was born on 21 October 1833 in Stockholm, Sweden, into a family of engineers. He was a chemist, engineer, and inventor. In 1895 Nobel purchased the Bofors iron and steel mill, which he converted into a major armaments manufacturer. Nobel also invented ballistite, a precursor to many smokeless military explosives, especially cordite, the main British smokeless powder. Nobel was even involved in a patent infringement lawsuit over cordite. Nobel amassed a fortune during his lifetime, most of it from his 355 inventions, of which dynamite is the most famous. In 1888, Alfred had the unpleasant surprise of reading his own obituary, titled ‘The merchant of death is dead’, in a French newspaper. As it was Alfred’s brother Ludvig who had died, the obituary was eight years premature. Alfred was disappointed with what he read and concerned with how he would be remembered. This inspired him to change his will. On 10 December 1896 Alfred Nobel died in his villa in San Remo, Italy, at the age of 63 from a cerebral haemorrhage.
To the wide-spread surprise, Nobel’s last will requested that his fortune be used to create a series of prizes for those who confer the “greatest benefit on mankind” in physics, chemistry, peace, physiology or medicine, and literature. Nobel wrote several wills during his lifetime. The last was written over a year before he died, signed at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris on 27 November 1895. Nobel bequeathed 94% of his total assets, 31 million SEK (c. US$186 million in 2008), to establish the five Nobel Prizes. Because of the level of scepticism surrounding the will, it was not until 26 April 1897 that it was approved by the Storting in Norway. The executors of Nobel’s will, Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist, formed the Nobel Foundation to take care of Nobel’s fortune and organise the prizes.
Nobel’s instructions named a Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize, the members of whom were appointed shortly after the will was approved in April 1897. Soon thereafter, the other prize-awarding organisations were established: the Karolinska Institutet on 7 June, the Swedish Academy on 9 June, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on 11 June. The Nobel Foundation reached an agreement on guidelines for how the prizes should be awarded, and in 1900, the Nobel Foundation’s newly-created statutes were promulgated by King Oscar II. In 1905, the Union between Sweden and Norway was dissolved. Thereafter Norway’s Nobel Committee remained responsible for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize and the Swedish institutions retained responsibility for the other prizes.
1041 – Empress Zoe of Byzantium elevates her adopted son to the throne of the Eastern Roman Empire as Michael V.
1508 – The League of Cambrai is formed by Pope Julius II, Louis XII of France, Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor and Ferdinand II of Aragon as an alliance against Venice.
1520 – Martin Luther burns his copy of the papal bull Exsurge Domine outside Wittenberg’s Elster Gate.
1541 – Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham are executed for having affairs with Catherine Howard, Queen of England and wife of Henry VIII.
1665 – The Royal Netherlands Marine Corps is founded by Michiel de Ruyter
1684 – Isaac Newton’s derivation of Kepler’s laws from his theory of gravity, contained in the paper De motu corporum in gyrum, is read to the Royal Society by Edmund Halley.
1817 – Mississippi becomes the 20th U.S. state.
1861 – American Civil War: the Confederate States of America accept a rival state government’s pronouncement that declares Kentucky to be the 13th state of the Confederacy.
1864 – American Civil War: Sherman’s March to the Sea – Major General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union Army troops reach Savannah, Georgia.
1868 – The first traffic lights are installed, outside the Palace of Westminster in London. Resembling railway signals, they use semaphore arms and are illuminated at night by red and green gas lamps.
1898 – Spanish-American War: The Treaty of Paris is signed, officially ending the conflict.
1901 – The first Nobel Prizes are awarded.
1902 – Women are given the right to vote in Tasmania.
1906 – U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt wins the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the first American to win a Nobel Prize.
1907 – The worst night of the Brown Dog riots in London, when 1,000 medical students clash with 400 police officers over the existence of a memorial for animals who have been vivisected.
1927 – The Grand Ole Opry premieres on radio.
1932 – Thailand adopts a Constitution and becomes a constitutional monarchy.
1935 – The Downtown Athletic Club Trophy, later renamed the Heisman Trophy, is awarded to halfback Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago.
1936 – Abdication Crisis: Edward VIII signs the Instrument of Abdication.
1941 – World War II: The Royal Navy capital ships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse are sunk by Imperial Japanese Navy torpedo bombers near Malaya.
1941 – World War II: Battle of the Philippines – Imperial Japanese forces under the command of General Masaharu Homma land on the Philippine mainland.
1948 – The UN General Assembly adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
1949 – Chinese Civil War: The People’s Liberation Army begins its siege of Chengdu, the last Kuomintang-held city in mainland China, forcing President of the Republic of China Chiang Kai-shek and his government to retreat to Taiwan.
1955 – The Mighty Mouse Playhouse premieres on television.
1968 – Japan’s biggest heist, the still-unsolved “300 million yen robbery”, is carried out in Tokyo.
1978 – Arab-Israeli conflict: Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin and President of Egypt Anwar Sadat are jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
1979 – Kaohsiung Incident: Taiwanese pro-democracy demonstrations are suppressed by the KMT dictatorship, and organizers are arrested.
1981 – The United Nations General Assembly approves Pakistan’s proposal for establishing nuclear free-zone in South Asia.
1983 – Democracy is restored in Argentina with the assumption of President Raúul Alfonsin.
1989 – Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj announces the establishment of Mongolia’s democratic movement that changes the second oldest communist country into a democracy.
1993 – The last shift leaves Wearmouth Colliery in Sunderland. The closure of the 156-year-old pit marks the end of the old County Durham coalfield, which had been in operation since the Middle Ages.
1994 – Rwandan Genocide: Military advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General and head of the Military Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations of the United Nations Maurice Baril recommends that the UN multi-national forces in Zaire stand down.
* Alfred Nobel Day or Nobeldagen, presentation ceremony of the Nobel Prize. (Sweden))
* Christian Feast Day
* International Animal Rights Day