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On this date, 86 years ago…

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Dalai Lama, leader of Tibet, is born

On the 6th of July, 1935, a boy named Tenzin Gyatso is born to a peasant family in Takster, Tibet. Only two years old, he was declared to be the future leader of Tibet – Dalai Lama. He is considered the reincarnation of the great Buddhist spiritual leader and is the 14th Dalai Lama.

Until 1950, a regency exercised his leadership rights. Later that year, Dalai Lama was forced to flee by the Chinese government but he successfully negotiated an agreement and returned to the leadership of Tibet for the next eight years. A failed Tibetan nationalist uprising in 1959 led to severe repressions by China. Dalai Lama had to flee to Punjab, India, where he managed to establish his democratic government in exile. He was honored with a Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 due to his determined commitment to the nonviolent liberation of Tibet.

In 1998, he published his book The Art of Happiness, a co-writing with the psychiatrist Howard Cutler. The book became a bestseller. Just a year later, he wrote and published another book - Ethics for the NewMillennium (1999). One more time, his book hit the bestseller list again, giving him two titles in the Top 10. Although based on Buddhist teaching, the book insists that spiritual faith is not necessary to live a contented, peaceful life.




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On this date, 337 years ago...

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Elena Cornaro Piscopia

On the 25th of June, 1678, the Venetian Elena Cornaro Piscopia defended a doctorate thesis of philosophy and was awarded at the University of Padua. She was a high-esteemed philosopher and musician of her time. However, she became famous as the first woman in European history to receive a university doctoral degree or Ph.D.


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On this date, 15 years ago

Entrance to the Seed Vault during Polar Night, highlighting its illuminated artwork; Photo credit: Subet Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 4.0

Construction on Svalbard Global Seed Vault begins

Far north of Norway, on the remote island of Spitsbergen halfway between the mainland and the North Pole, the date was June 19, 2006. The prime ministers of Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden set the official "first stone" of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The storage, which nowadays has the capacity to preserve 2.25 billion seeds, and has already stored more than 1 million different samples from almost every country in the world.

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On this date, 485 years ago...

Portrait of Anne Boleyn, probably based on a contemporary portrait, which no longer survives; via Wikipedia

The execution of Anne Boleyn

The kingship of Henry VIII is a perfect example of how interwoven personal, secular, and religious power could be. The king was married to Catherine of Aragon but began courting her maid of honor – Anne Boleyn in early 1526. In 1533 he wanted to divorce his wife and marry Anne. The Catholic church refused to accept his divorce, which led to the schism between the Catholic and English Church. Hence Henry VIII broke off relations with the Pope and established an independent Church of England and took Anne as his wife.

Anne Boleyn was the second wife of the king, who famously had six in total, and was perhaps the most famous. The happy marriage was not long-lasting, however. Henry was disappointed that Anne gave birth to a daughter (Elizabeth I), and after three miscarriages they had no son. Only three years later, the king was courting the love of Jane Seymour.

 In May 1536, Anne was accused of high treason and adultery, arrested, and later found guilty in a trial by jury, in which her former fiance and her own uncle took part. She was beheaded four days later at the Tower of London. Just one day later, Henry VIII was betrothed to Jayne Seymour.


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On this date, more than six centuries ago...

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What Happened on April 17, 1387 and 1397

Geoffrey Chaucer is considered the greatest English poet before Shakespeare. He is also famous as one of the first scholars along with Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, and Desiderius Erasmus, to use vernacular language for writing his most renowned work – The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer was an important civil servant, diplomat, and courtier who was trusted by three successive kings – Edward III, Richard II, and Henry IV. However, history remembers him mostly with his poetic works, which embody a great variety of subject matter, genres, styles, and approaches towards the complex themes of the human condition, religion, and existence.

Canterbury Tales was written between 1387 and 1400. According to the scholars, the date when Chaucer's characters started their fictional pilgrimage was the 17th of April 1387. It was today, 634 years ago when one of the greatest journeys in the world of Literature began and it is still inspiring poets and artists from all around the globe. It could be a coincidence but ten years later, the same date (17.04.1397) was the first time that Geoffrey Chaucer publicly tells the Canterbury Tales at the court of King Richard II.

Sometimes fictional events could have even a greater impact upon human culture than historical ones. In that regard, factual and fictional worlds intertwine and together they influence human reality and the way our civilization progresses. Today, we celebrate one of these cases when a body of Literature changed our perception and had a great effect on our future activities.


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Happy Birthday, Internet!

Image credit: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

On this date, 52 years ago…

On the 7th of April, 1969, the first "request for comments," the so-called RFC documents, was published. This event set the scene for the appearance of the internet. It is considered a symbolic birth of the net for the reason that RFC documents opened the doors for researches, proposals, and different approaches, which often applied to the later internet technology. The engineers were now able to publicly kick around and generate new ideas for the future development of the net.

One interesting aspect of the RFC is that a unique serial number is issued for each document. An individual paper cannot be overwritten; rather, updates or corrections are submitted on a separate RFC. The result is an ongoing historical record of the evolution of internet standards.

As it usually happens with an event of such a great historical impact, there is another pretender for the birth date of the net – 1st of January, 1983. It was the day when the National Science Foundation's university network backbone became fully operational and it is also considered a forerunner of the World Wide Web.


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On this date, 214 years ago…

Image credit: Slaves cutting the sugar cane on the Island of Antigua, 1823; unsplash.com; British Library


The formal end of the slave trade in the British Empire

The Committee for Abolition of the Slave Trade, which was formed in 1787, was among the first unions in Britain that organized opposition to slavery in the Empire. Another 20 years passed before they formed a large group of supporters in the British parliament. They gathered around the idea that slavery is a despicable act against humanity and Christian morals.

One of the greatest proponents of anti-slavery ideals was William Wilberforce. More and more MPs in the House of Commons were advocating more humanistic views and expressed deep indignation against the slavery trade. Finally, on 23 February 1807, the House of Commons passed the bill with the striking vote majority of 283 to 16, and one month later, on 25 March 1807, King George III signed the bill and it became law.

However, the slave trade continued in some of the more remote countries, which were part of the Empire. It was around 1833 when British Empire completely outlawed the abhorrent practices of slavery and human trade.

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On this date, 543 years ago...

Portrait by Hans Holbein, the younger (1527)

Sir Thomas More was born on February 7, 1478

Sir Thomas More (born February 7, 1478, London, England—died July 6, 1535, London) is the most renowned English Humanist of the Renaissance epoch. Aside from being famous for his literary work - Utopia, he was an influential statesman, chancellor of England, thinker, and a great representative of Christian rhetoric. Eventually, Thomas Moore was tragically sentenced to death and beheaded for repudiating the oath, which had to admit King Henry VIII as the head of the Church of England. On May 19, 1935, he is canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.


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