Feb 23 2011

On This Day in History February 23

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 23 is the 54th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 311 days remaining until the end of the year (312 in leap years).

On this day in 1954, a group of children from Arsenal Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, receive the first injections of the new polio vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.

Though not as devastating as the plague or influenza, poliomyelitis was a highly contagious disease that emerged in terrifying outbreaks and seemed impossible to stop. Attacking the nerve cells and sometimes the central nervous system, polio caused muscle deterioration, paralysis and even death. Even as medicine vastly improved in the first half of the 20th century in the Western world, polio still struck, affecting mostly children but sometimes adults as well. The most famous victim of a 1921 outbreak in America was future President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then a young politician. The disease spread quickly, leaving his legs permanently paralyzed.

Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis, is an acute viral infectious disease spread from person to person, primarily via the fecal-oral route The term derives from the Greek polios, meaning “grey”, myelos, referring to the “spinal cord”, and the suffix -itis, which denotes inflammation.

Although around 90% of polio infections cause no symptoms at all, affected individuals can exhibit a range of symptoms if the virus enters the blood stream. In about 1% of cases the virus enters the central nervous system, preferentially infecting and destroying motor neurons, leading to muscle weakness and acute flaccid paralysis. Different types of paralysis may occur, depending on the nerves involved. Spinal polio is the most common form, characterized by asymmetric paralysis that most often involves the legs. Bulbar polio leads to weakness of muscles innervated by cranial nerves. Bulbospinal polio is a combination of bulbar and spinal paralysis.

Poliomyelitis was first recognized as a distinct condition by Jakob Heine in 1840. Its causative agent, poliovirus, was identified in 1908 by Karl Landsteiner. Although major polio epidemics were unknown before the late 19th century, polio was one of the most dreaded childhood diseases of the 20th century. Polio epidemics have crippled thousands of people, mostly young children; the disease has caused paralysis and death for much of human history. Polio had existed for thousands of years quietly as an endemic pathogen until the 1880s, when major epidemics began to occur in Europe; soon after, widespread epidemics appeared in the United States.

By 1910, much of the world experienced a dramatic increase in polio cases and frequent epidemics became regular events, primarily in cities during the summer months. These epidemics-which left thousands of children and adults paralyzed-provided the impetus for a “Great Race” towards the development of a vaccine. Developed in the 1950s, polio vaccines are credited with reducing the global number of polio cases per year from many hundreds of thousands to around a thousand. Enhanced vaccination efforts led by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and Rotary International could result in global eradication of the disease.


While now rare in the Western world, polio is still endemic to South Asia and Nigeria. Following the widespread use of poliovirus vaccine in the mid-1950s, the incidence of poliomyelitis declined dramatically in many industrialized countries. A global effort to eradicate polio began in 1988, led by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and The Rotary Foundation. These efforts have reduced the number of annual diagnosed cases by 99%; from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to a low of 483 cases in 2001, after which it has remained at a level of about 1,000 cases per year (1,606 in 2009). Polio is one of only two diseases currently the subject of a global eradication program, the other being Guinea worm disease. If the global Polio Eradication initiative is successful before that for Guinea worm or any other disease, it would be only the third time humankind has ever completely eradicated a disease, after smallpox in 1979 and rinderpest in 2010. A number of eradication milestones have already been reached, and several regions of the world have been certified polio-free. The Americas were declared polio-free in 1994. In 2000 polio was officially eliminated in 36 Western Pacific countries, including China and Australia. Europe was declared polio-free in 2002. As of 2006, polio remains endemic in only four countries: Nigeria, India (specifically Uttar Pradesh and Bihar), Pakistan, and Afghanistan, although it continues to cause epidemics in other nearby countries born of hidden or reestablished transmission.

 632 – The Last Sermon (Khutbah, Khutbatul Wada’) of prophet Muhammad.

1455 – Traditional date for the publication of the Gutenberg Bible, the first Western book printed with movable type.

1778 – American Revolution: Baron von Steuben arrives at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania to help to train the Continental Army.

1836 – The Battle of the Alamo begins in San Antonio, Texas.

1846 – John Henry Newman leaves the Church of England and is received into the Roman Catholic Church.

1847 – Mexican-American War: Battle of Buena Vista – In Mexico, American troops under General Zachary Taylor defeat Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

1848 – The French Revolution of 1848, which would lead to the establishment of the French Second Republic, begins.

1854 – The official independence of the Orange Free State is declared.

1861 – President-elect Abraham Lincoln arrives secretly in Washington, D.C., after the thwarting of an alleged assassination plot in Baltimore, Maryland.

1870 – In the United States, post-Civil War military control of Mississippi ends and it is readmitted to the Union.

1883 – Alabama becomes the first U.S. state to enact an antitrust law.

1886 – Charles Martin Hall produced the first samples of man-made aluminum, after several years of intensive work. He was assisted in this project by his older sister Julia Brainerd Hall.

1887 – The French Riviera is hit by a large earthquake, killing around 2,000.

1898 – Emile Zola is imprisoned in France after writing “J’accuse”, a letter accusing the French government of anti-Semitism and wrongfully imprisoning Captain Alfred Dreyfus.

1903 – Cuba leases Guantanamo Bay to the United States “in perpetuity”.

1917 – First demonstrations in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The beginning of the February Revolution.

1918 – First victory of Red Army over the Kaiser’s German troops near Narva and Pskov. In honor of this victory, the date is celebrated from 1923 onward as “Red Army Day”; it is renamed Defender of the Fatherland Day after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and is colloquially known as “Men’s Day”.

1927 – The Federal Radio Commission (later renamed the Federal Communications Commission) begins to regulate the use of radio frequencies in the United States.

1927 – German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg writes a letter to fellow physicist Wolfgang Pauli, in which he describes his uncertainty principle for the first time.

1934 – Leopold III becomes King of Belgium.

1941 – Plutonium is first produced and isolated by Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg.

1942 – World War II: Japanese submarines fire artillery shells at the California coastline near Santa Barbara.

1944 – The Soviet Union begins the forced deportation of the Chechen and Ingush people from the North Caucasus to Central Asia.

1945 – World War II: During the Battle of Iwo Jima, a group of United States Marines and a commonly forgotten U.S. Navy Corpsman, reach the top of Mount Suribachi on the island and are photographed raising the American flag. The photo would later win a Pulitzer Prize and become the model for the national USMC War Memorial.

1945 – World War II: The 11th Airborne Division, with Filipino guerrillas, free the captives of the Los Banos internment camp.

1945 – World War II: The capital of the Philippines, Manila, is liberated by American forces.

1945 – World War II: Capitulation of German garrison in Poznan. The city is liberated by Soviet and Polish forces.

1945 – World War II: The German town of Pforzheim is completely destroyed in a raid by 379 British bombers.

1945 – World War II: The Verona Philharmonic Theatre is bombed by Allied forces. It would later be re-opened in 1975.

1947 – The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is founded.

1954 – The first mass inoculation of children against polio with the Salk vaccine begins in Pittsburgh.

1955 – First meeting of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO).

1966 – In Syria, Baath party member Salah Jadid leads an intra-party military coup that replaces the previous government of General Amin Hafiz, also a Baathist.

1974 – The Symbionese Liberation Army demands $4 million more to release kidnap victim Patty Hearst.

1980 – Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini states that Iran’s parliament will decide the fate of the American embassy hostages.

1983 – The United States Environmental Protection Agency announces its intent to buy out and evacuate the dioxin-contaminated community of Times Beach, Missouri.

1987 – Supernova 1987a is seen in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

1991 – Gulf War: Ground troops cross the Saudi Arabian border and enter Iraq, thus beginning the ground phase of the war.

1991 – In Thailand, General Sunthorn Kongsompong leads a bloodless coup d’etat, deposing Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan.

1992 – The Socialist Labour Party is founded in the nation of Georgia.

1997 – A small fire occurs in the Russian Space station, Mir.

1998 – Osama bin Laden publishes a fatwa declaring jihad against all Jews and “Crusaders”; the latter term is commonly interpreted to refer to the people of Europe and the United States.

1999 – Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan is charged with treason in Ankara, Turkey.

2005 – In Slovakia, a two-day meeting dubbed “Slovakia Summit 2005” takes place between U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. This occasion marks the first visit of a sitting American President to the Slovak Republic since its establishment in 1993.

2006 – Dubai Ports World agrees to postpone its plans to take over management of six U.S. ports after the proposal ignited harsh bipartisan criticism.

2010 – Unknown criminals pour more than 2.5 million liters of diesel oil and other hydrocarbons into the river Lambro, in Northern Italy, causing an environmental disaster.

Holidays and observances

   * Christian Feast Day:

         o Polycarp of Smyrna(Catholic Church)

         o Blessed Isabelle of France

         o Serenus the Gardener

         o February 23 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

   * Mashramani-Republic Day (Guyana)

   * National Day (Brunei)

   * Red Army Day or Day of Soviet Army and Navy in the former Soviet Union, also held in various former Soviet republics:

         o Defender of the Fatherland Day (Russia)

   * Terminalia held in honor of Terminus (Ancient Rome)


Skip to comment form

  1. TMC

    Dalai Lama

    If we want to help humanity in a practical way, we must begin by setting an example of mutual respect, harmony and cooperation.

  2. RiaD

    after knowing each other for almost 3 weeks, Ria & mrD get married.


  3. RiaD

    plz be sure to see this:


    after all you & your friend inspired it!

  4. Translator, aka Dr. David W. Smith

    one for any of us less than around 55 years old.  The Salk Vaccine literally started the end of a scourge, at least in North America, that had crippled and killed both children and adults, for just about ever.

    The Salk Vaccine was a killed virus product, pretty effective but had to be given by injection.  A few years later, the Sabin Vaccine, a live attenuated virus preparation, became the preferred medium for several reasons, two of which were that is was more effective and that it had to be eaten rather than injected.

    Does this sound like a decent idea for Pique the Geek coming Sunday?  Please let me know if this subject might be of interest.

    By the way, Muse visited me a little while ago and indicated that I should merge current events with music.  Thus, I am writing Van Sustern to the Rescue, to the tune of Jim Dandy to the Rescue, to point out the desperation that the Wisconsin governor feels right now in regards to his punked telephone conversation.  Any thoughts?

    Warmest regards,


  5. TMC
  6. TMC

    that would inspire you. :-)

  7. TMC

    I think a full article about the polio vaccines would be a great topic.

  8. Translator, aka Dr. David W. Smith

    how difficult it is to provide quality material.  I could easily just make things up, and likely get away with it for a couple of posts.  But that would be dishonest for all of you, and to myself as well.  I spend many hours doing research, and sometimes still get it wrong, but with intentions of being honest.

    Unlike Glenn Beck, with the obvious lie that he told this week about the 400 signatures on the letter sent to the horrible head of FOX where Beck said that NOT EVEN ONE signature was from an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, but all from Reform Jewish rabbis, I am happy to stand corrected when I am just wrong, and NEVER lie just to make a point.

    Sometimes I am wrong, but NEVER intend to lie to my readers.

    Warmest regards,


  9. TMC

    that earns respect is admitting to errors.  

  10. Translator, aka Dr. David W. Smith

    in every thing that I say, but that does not mean that I do not INTEND to be correct each and every time.

    Warmest regards,


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