On the 3rd November 1957, Laika the dog became the first animal to enter orbit around the Earth when she was launched into space on board the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2. Laika was never intended to return as the technology to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere had not yet been developed. However, the launch of a canine into space was seen by the Russian scientists as a precursor to human spaceflight in order to determine the effect of launch and prolonged weightlessness on a living passenger. Laika survived the launch, but died due to overheating as a result of a malfunction in the temperature control system.
Laika was a stray dog who was found on the streets of Moscow. Strays from Moscow were specifically chosen on the assumption that they had already learned how to deal with extreme temperatures and prolonged periods without food. However, Laika and two other dogs still had to undergo extension training ahead of the mission. This included long periods of time in cramped conditions, extreme G-forces on centrifuges, and exposure to loud noises to simulate the conditions of spaceflight.
Throughout the mission, scientists on the ground monitored data coming from sensors attached to Laika. The readings indicated significant stress, but she survived the launch and made four circuits of the Earth before dying of overheating. The exact cause of her death was only confirmed in 2002.
Laika’s death raised ethical questions about the use of animals in scientific research since the spacecraft was not designed to be retrievable. She was, therefore, knowingly sent a mission from which she would not return.
On the 1st November 1911, the first aerial bombing took place when Italian Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti dropped four grenades on Turkish troops in Libya. Although unmanned balloons had been used by Austrian troops to carry bombs in their war against in Venice in 1849, Gavotti was the first to drop explosives from a manned aeroplane. The four 4-pound grenades that he dropped caused no injuries, but his action was still widely condemned by the international community. Despite this, within three years aerial bombing had become an established part of modern warfare.
The weakness of the Ottoman Empire demonstrated by Italy’s victory in the Italo-Turkish War is seen by some historians as a contributor to the rise of Balkan nationalism that preceded the First World War. Indeed the First Balkan War was launched while Turkey was still fighting the Italians in Libya. The Italo-Turkish War was also significant for its impact on the use of aircraft for military purposes. As well carrying out as the world’s first aerial bombing, the Italians were also responsible for conducting the first ever aerial reconnaissance mission a week earlier.
Gavotti himself was flying a reconnaissance mission when he decided to drop the four grenades from his Taube monoplane. Although nobody was injured during the attack, the Ottoman Empire complained that aerial bombing contravened the Hague Convention of 1899. However, Italy argued that the agreement specifically stated that bombs could not be dropped from balloons and said nothing about bombs dropped from aircraft. However, it’s probably worth pointing out that the aeroplane hadn’t even been invented when the agreement in question was signed.
Negotiations over the building of new embassies for the two superpowers were completed in 1969. Bugs had been discovered in the old US building in Moscow just three years earlier but, amidst the improving relations of détente, the Nixon administration permitted the Soviets to have an unprecedented amount of input in to the design and construction of the new American building.
By the time construction began in 1979, the USSR had already manufactured concrete pieces for the building in their own factories. Since these were made away from US supervision, they were fitted with bugs that could not be easily spotted by a visual inspection when they arrived at the construction site. American technical experts still raised concerns, but proof of Soviet devices could not be proved until a team of trained rock-climbers began to X-ray the concrete pillars and beams in situ from 1982 onwards.
News of the situation reached Congress in 1985, and by the summer of 1987 it had become public knowledge that the Soviets had bugged the new building with technology that the United States was struggling to disable. The Senate Intelligence Committee voted in favour of demolishing the entire building the next year, and on October 27 Reagan formally called for a halt on construction. A decision over the future of the new embassy was left until after the Presidential election two weeks later.
Robert E. Lamb, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, later stated, ‘we knew the Russians were going to bug it, but we were confident we could deal with it. Obviously, we were wrong.’
The Italian government of Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti launched its invasion of Libya in order to formalise its influence in the provinces of Tripolitana and Cyrenaica amidst the declining power of the Ottoman Empire. Having sent an ultimatum to the Ottoman government that was not accepted in full, war was declared on 29 September 1911.
Carlo Piazza formally qualified as a pilot in April 1911, and soon took control of the Royal Italian Army air detachment having proved himself as a talented racing pilot. When the Italo-Turkish War broke out later that year, the Italian military transported its entire fleet of nine aircraft to Tripoli following the prediction of aviation theorist Giulio Douhet that aircraft would cause significant problems for the enemy.
Having arrived in Libya by steamship, the Italian aircraft were brought on shore after the 20,000 ground troops began disembarking their ships on 10 October. The Italians soon found that the Ottoman defence was stronger than they had expected and, during a standoff near Benghazi, Piazza made history’s first reconnaissance flight when he observed the Turkish lines from a Blériot XI aircraft. This type of machine, powered by a 25-horsepower, three-cylinder engine, had famously made the first flight across the English Channel in a heavier-than-air aircraft in 1909.
Barely a week later the Italo-Turkish War would also see the first ever aerial bombing, when Italian Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti dropped four grenades from his Taube monoplane. Later in the conflict, the Turkish military was the first to shoot down an aircraft with rifle fire.
On the 18th October 1922, the British Broadcasting Company was established. Originally established as a private consortium of radio manufacturers to secure the first broadcasting license in the UK, the company later became the British Broadcasting Corporation when it transferred to government ownership under the Postmaster General, the ministerial position that was responsible for the postal system and telecommunications.
In the early 1920s, the UK’s radio set producers were keen to expand their market. At the time the government only granted occasional ‘experimental’ radio licenses, which meant that there were large periods when the airwaves were completely silent. This was no use to radio manufacturers themselves who needed broadcasts in order to make their products worthwhile.
As more and more requests were submitted for the ‘experimental’ licenses, the government declared its decision to instead grant a single broadcasting license to a consortium of the UK’s leading radio manufacturers. The six companies held an equal amount of shares in the new venture, which hired John – later to become Lord – Reith as its first Managing Director.
The new broadcasting company was funded through a royalty on the sale of radio sets sold by the member producers, and by a license fee. However, the number of amateur electronics enthusiasts who began building their own sets meant that the income did not produce adequate funds. Consequently the member companies found themselves making a loss, which contributed to their desire to extricate themselves from the arrangement. By the time the BBC had begun its first experimental television broadcasts in 1932, the company had been publicly funded for five years.
Known as the Orloj, the astronomical clock was designed and built by the Imperial clockmaker Mikuláš of Kadaň and Charles University professor Jan Šindel. Consisting of three main components, the astronomical dial and the mechanical clock itself were first noted in a document on 9 October 1410. The third component – a calendar dial – was added around 1490 when the façade was decorated with additional gothic sculptures.
One of the most famous features of the clock is the hourly “Walk of the Apostles” in which carved figures of the Apostles appear in procession at two windows above the main clock face. These were not added to the Orloj until a major repair on the clock in 1787-1791, although some of the other moving allegorical statues such as Death had been added beforehand. Further statues were added in later years, including the golden crowing rooster that didn’t appear until 1866.
The clock is a masterpiece of medieval engineering, and also serves as evidence of the European view of the universe at the time since the Earth appears at the centre. Against this background are the four key moving parts of the astronomical dial: the zodiacal ring, the Old Czech time scale, and two clock hands representing the Sun and the Moon and their position on the eliptic. The half-black, half-silver Moon even contains a mechanism to show the lunar phases.
The Orloj suffered serious damage in the Second World War when German forces attempted to suppress the Prague Uprising of May 1945. Restoration successfully returned the clock to working order in 1948, since when it has been renovated another two times.
On the 8th October 1829, Robert Stephenson’s steam locomotive The Rocket won the Rainhill Trials and secured a prize of £500 and the contract for Robert Stephenson and Company to produce locomotives for the new Liverpool & Manchester Railway that opened the following year. Although not the first steam locomotive, it is notable for being the first to bring together a number of innovations that made it the basic template for subsequent steam engines.
A specific set of rules had been produced for the Rainhill Trials which, among other things, emphasised speed, reliability, and a low weight. The Rocket was built specifically to take account of these rules, with Stephenson realising that the relatively light haulage demands meant that a small and nimble locomotive with only moderate pulling power would be more successful than a heavier engine with greater strength.
The approximately 1-mile stretch of track at the Rainhill section of the line was straight and flat, so although it posed no significant challenges to the competitors, it allowed the judges to see all locomotives in an identical setting. Each engine was required to run up and down the section twenty times, meaning that they travelled a distance roughly equivalent to the full journey from Liverpool to Manchester.
Of the ten locomotives entered into the competition only five turned up to the first day on the 6th October. By the end of the competition only the Rocket had completed the full competition without suffering any damage, despite reaching speeds in excess of 25 miles per hour while hauling a train of 13 tons.
The world’s first submarine transatlantic telephone cable system was inaugurated.
Known as Transatlantic No. 1 or TAT-1, the £120 million system actually consisted of two identical cables to allow transmission in each direction. Prompted by the successful installation of a submarine cable between Florida and Cuba in 1952, a consortium of the UK’s General Post Office, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, and the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation agreed to investigate the feasibility of a transatlantic cable.
It was already possible to make a transatlantic telephone call when the 1,950 nautical mile long cable began to be laid in 1955. However, this involved numerous radio links to be booked in advance and was consequently an expensive method of communicating that required significant advance planning.
Stretching from Oban in Scotland to Clarenville in Newfoundland, TAT-1 was able to carry 35 simultaneous telephone calls while a 36th channel provided an additional 22 telegraph lines. Calls from the UK were charged at £1 per minute, a significant reduction from the cost of the radio alternative.
Having gone into operation almost as soon as the two ends were connected, TAT-1 went on to carry over 600 transatlantic calls in the first 24 hours of public service. In 1963, following the de-escalation of the Cuban Missile Crisis, TAT-1 also carried the Moscow-Washington hotline that linked the Kremlin to the White House.
TAT-1 was eventually retired in 1978 having been superseded by other transatlantic cables that were capable of transmitting a greater number of concurrent signals.
The Illuminations at the British seaside resort of Blackpool were turned on for the first time.
The Illuminations, which continue to be an annual light festival, have grown considerably since their inception. Now stretching for 6 miles along the Promenade, and featuring over one million bulbs, the very first illuminations consisted of just eight carbon arc lamps that were used to light the Promenade.
The lamps were positioned 320 yards apart, and were powered by 16 Robey steam engines that drove 8 Siemens dynamo-electric machines. Described at the time as ‘artificial sunshine’, the first Illuminations were turned on almost a year before Thomas Edison patented the electric light bulb. At the time the streets of Britain were lit by gas lamps, assuming they were lit at all. Since the eight Blackpool amp lamps were each equivalent to the light of 48,000 candles, their installation was an incredible novelty and it is estimated that over 70,000 people travelled from all over Britain to see them.
The Illuminations didn’t become an actual display until May 1912, when Blackpool was visited by a member of the British Royal family for the first time. Princess Louise opened the Princess Parade section of the Promenade, and her visit was marked by “festoons of garland lamps” that used more than 10,000 bulbs. The spectacle was so impressive that the local Chamber of trade urged the council to stage them again in September to mark the end of the season.
The Illuminations were such a commercial success that they were turned on again the following year, but the Promenade stayed dark throughout both the First and Second World Wars. The Illuminations were staged again in 1949 and have been an annual event ever since.
The British MP William Huskisson died as a result of a fatal accident on the opening day of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.
The Liverpool and Manchester Railway was created in order to link Manchester, a major industrial city in the north west of England, with the nearby port of Liverpool. Intended to lower the cost of transporting imported cotton to the Manchester textile mills, the 35-mile railway was an incredibly expensive project as it was the first railway to use locomotives to haul goods and passengers.
William Huskisson was the MP for Liverpool, and fought hard to secure parliamentary representation for the new industrial towns. As former President of the Board of Trade he also had an acute awareness of the likely positive effects of the creation of the railway.
The Liverpool and Manchester railway used four equally spaced rails along the length of the route. George Stephenson, the designer and builder intended that under normal circumstances this would allow two-way traffic using a pair of rails in each direction, but also meant that the centre two rails could be used in case of a wide load or a problem with one of the outer rails.
The railway was opened on 15 September 1830 with great fanfare. Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, the Prime Minister, was riding in a special carriage when his train stopped to take on water. Having invited Huskisson over, the passengers noticed the prototype engine Rocket approaching on the adjacent track. Huskisson attempted to climb into Wellington’s carriage, but the door swung open and the approaching locomotive crashed into it. Huskisson fell on to the track and Rocket ran over his right leg and thigh. He died of his injuries later that evening.