Meridian Crisis Resolved with Greenwich

The Prime Meridian, looking directly North. Photo courtesy of

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

October 13, 1884

Geographers and astronomers adopt Greenwich as the Prime Meridian, the international standard for zero degrees longitude.

Prior to the adoption of a standard Prime Meridian, navigation at sea — and the charting of stars in the heavens — often remained a matter of local, national or even religious preference. Maps might be based on longitude east or west of Jerusalem, Saint Petersburg, Rome, Pisa, Copenhagen, Oslo, Paris, Greenwich (just east of central London), El Hierro (in the Canary Islands), Philadelphia (former U.S. capital) and Washington, D.C. These divergent reference meridians — representing a mixture of astronomical, theological and maritime power — ranged over 112 degrees of longitude.

In the interests of global amity — and commerce — U.S. President Chester Alan Arthur convened the International Meridian Conference in Washington in 1884. Delegates from 25 countries attended.

The conference set out to select a Prime Meridian for the world. The United States, rising power of the Western Hemisphere, had already adopted the Greenwich Meridian for navigation, and 72 percent of the world’s commerce used nautical charts based on Greenwich.

Britain had first solved the problem of longitude, Britain had the world’s largest navy, and the sun indeed did not set on the far-flung British Empire. Britannia ruled the waves, so there was no need for Britain to waive its rules.

Thus, the conference established that the meridian passing through the Royal Observatory at Greenwich would be the world’s Prime Meridian, and all longitude would be calculated both east and west from it up to 180 degrees. The conference also established Greenwich Mean Time as a standard for astronomy and setting time zones.

The vote to select Greenwich passed 22 to 1. San Domingo (now the Dominican Republic) voted against. France and Brazil, diplomatically, abstained.

57 Million Spam E-mails In One Day

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 22, 2007

Storm Botnet Has Sent More Than 1.2 Billion Spam Emails

The Storm botnet sends out a record 57 million e-mails in one day.

The Storm botnet, or Storm worm botnet, is a remotely controlled network of “zombie” computers (or ‘botnet’) that has been linked by the Storm Worm, a Trojan horse spread through e-mail spam.

The Storm botnet was first identified around January 2007, with the Storm worm at one point accounting for 8% of all malware on Microsoft Windows computers.

First detected on the Internet in January 2007, the Storm botnet and worm are so-called because of the storm-related subject lines its infectious e-mail employed initially, such as “230 dead as storm batters Europe.” Later provocative subjects included, “Chinese missile shot down USA aircraft,” and “U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has kicked German Chancellor Angela Merkel.”

The botnet, or zombie network, comprises computers running Microsoft Windows as their operating system.  Once infected, a computer becomes known as a bot. This bot then performs automated tasks—anything from gathering data on the user, to attacking web sites, to forwarding infected e-mail—without its owner’s knowledge or permission. Estimates indicate that 5,000 to 6,000 computers are dedicated to propagating the spread of the worm through the use of e-mails with infected attachments.

Efforts to infect computers usually revolve around convincing people to download e-mail attachments which contain the virus through subtle manipulation. In one instance, the botnet’s controllers took advantage of the National Football League’s opening weekend, sending out mail offering “football tracking programs” which did nothing more than infect a user’s computer.  According to Matt Sergeant, chief anti-spam technologist at MessageLabs, “In terms of power, [the botnet] utterly blows the supercomputers away. If you add up all 500 of the top supercomputers, it blows them all away with just 2 million of its machines. It’s very frightening that criminals have access to that much computing power, but there’s not much we can do about it.”  It is estimated that only 10%-20% of the total capacity and power of the Storm botnet is currently being used.

Panama Canal Opens

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 15, 1914

The Panama Canal, a 77-kilometre (48 mi) ship canal in Panama that joins the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, opens.

One of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, the canal had an enormous impact on shipping between the two oceans, replacing the long and treacherous route via either the Strait of Magellan or Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America. A ship sailing from New York to San Francisco via the canal travels 9,500 km (5,900 mi), well under half the 22,500 km (14,000 mi) route around Cape Horn.

In total over 815,000 vessels have passed through the canal. It has been named one of the seven modern wonders of the world by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

B-36 “PeaceMaker” Takes First Flight

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 8, 1946

B-36 Strategic Bomber, the US Military's "PeaceKeeper". Photo courtesy of US Government.

The B-36 strategic bomber took its first flight.

The B-36 bomber was built by Convair solely for the United States Air Force.  It was the largest mass-produced piston engine aircraft ever made. It had the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft ever built (230 ft or 70 m), although there have been larger military transports.

The B-36 was the first bomber capable of delivering any of the nuclear weapons in the US arsenal from inside its two bomb bays without aircraft modifications. With a range greater than 6,000 miles, and a maximum payload of 72,000 lbs, (and thereby having the ability to carry both the United States’ atomic fission and fusion weapons), the B-36 was the world’s first manned bomber with an unrefueled intercontinental range.

The B-36 was arguably obsolete from the outset, being piston-powered, particularly in a world of super-sonic jet interceptors, but its jet rival, the Boeing B-47 Stratojet, which did not become fully operational until 1953, lacked the range to attack the Soviet homeland from North America and could not carry the huge first-generation hydrogen bomb. Nor could the other American piston bombers of the day, the B-29 or B-50. Intercontinental ballistic missiles did not become effective deterrents until the 1960s. Until the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress became operational in the late 1950s, the B-36, as the only truly intercontinental bomber, continued to be the primary nuclear weapons delivery vehicle of the Strategic Air Command, and thus became known as the US’ Peacekeeper.

Freedom of Speech on the Airways Preserved

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 4, 1987

The Internet and Cable Television Played an Important Role in the Need to Abolish the Fairness Doctrine. Cartoon credit:

The FCC abolished the Fairness Doctrine stating that because of the many media voices in the marketplace, the doctrine be deemed unconstitutional:

“The intrusion by government into the content of programming occasioned by the enforcement of [the Fairness Doctrine] restricts the journalistic freedom of broadcasters … [and] actually inhibits the presentation of controversial issues of public importance to the detriment of the public and the degradation of the editorial prerogative of broadcast journalists.”

The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was, in the Commission’s view, honest, equitable and balanced.

The main agenda for the doctrine was to ensure that viewers were exposed to a diversity of viewpoints, and in 1969, the United States Supreme Court upheld the FCC’s general right to enforce the Fairness Doctrine where channels were limited. But the courts did not rule that the FCC was obliged to do so.  The courts reasoned that the scarcity of the broadcast spectrum, which limited the opportunity for access to the airwaves, created a need for the Doctrine. However, the proliferation of cable television, multiple channels within cable, public-access channels, and the Internet have eroded this argument, since there are plenty of places for ordinary individuals to make public comments on controversial issues at low or no cost.

Nuclear Submarine Accomplishes First Undersea Voyage to the North Pole

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 3, 1958

Nautilus: First Nuclear Powered Submarine. Photo compliments of

On August 3, 1958, the U.S. nuclear submarine, Nautilus, accomplished the first undersea voyage to the geographic North Pole.

The world’s first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus dived at Point Barrow, Alaska, and traveled nearly 1,000 miles under the Arctic ice cap to reach the top of the world. It then steamed on to Iceland, pioneering a new and shorter route from the Pacific to the Atlantic and Europe.

The USS Nautilus was constructed under the direction of U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover, a brilliant Russian-born engineer who joined the U.S. atomic program in 1946. In 1947, he was put in charge of the navy’s nuclear-propulsion program and began work on an atomic submarine. Regarded as a fanatic by his detractors, Rickover succeeded in developing and delivering the world’s first nuclear submarine years ahead of schedule.

Much larger than the diesel-electric submarines that preceded it, the Nautilus stretched 319 feet and displaced 3,180 tons. It could remain submerged for almost unlimited periods because its atomic engine needed no air and only a very small quantity of nuclear fuel. The uranium-powered nuclear reactor produced steam that drove propulsion turbines, allowing the Nautilus to travel underwater at speeds in excess of 20 knots.

In its early years of service, the USS Nautilus broke numerous submarine travel records and on July 23, 1958, departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on “Operation Northwest Passage”–the first crossing of the North Pole by submarine. There were 116 men aboard for this historic voyage, including Commander William R. Anderson, 111 officers and crew, and four civilian scientists. The Nautilus steamed north through the Bering Strait and did not surface until it reached Point Barrow, Alaska, in the Beaufort Sea, though it did send its periscope up once off the Diomedes Islands, between Alaska and Siberia, to check for radar bearings. On August 1, the submarine left the north coast of Alaska and dove under the Arctic ice cap.

The submarine traveled at a depth of about 500 feet, and the ice cap above varied in thickness from 10 to 50 feet, with the midnight sun of the Arctic shining in varying degrees through the blue ice. At 11:15 p.m. EDT on August 3, 1958, Commander Anderson announced to his crew: “For the world, our country, and the Navy–the North Pole.” The Nautilus passed under the geographic North Pole without pausing. The submarine next surfaced in the Greenland Sea between Spitzbergen and Greenland on August 5. Two days later, it ended its historic journey at Iceland.

After a career spanning 25 years and almost 500,000 miles steamed, the Nautilus was decommissioned on March 3, 1980. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982, the world’s first nuclear submarine went on exhibit in 1986 as the Historic Ship Nautilus at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Connecticut.

First Music Videos Aired in the U.S.

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

August 1, 1981

MTV Aired First Music Videos in the U.S. in 1981, and thus an era of 24 hour-a-day music on television was born

The U.S. video channel MTV launched, airing “Video Killed the Radio Star” and beginning an era of 24-hour-a-day music on television.

With this new outlet for material, the music video would grow to play a central role in popular music marketing. Many important acts of this period, most notably Adam and the Ants, Duran Duran and Madonna, owed a great deal of their success to the skillful construction and seductive appeal of their videos.

Two key innovations in the development of the modern music video were the development of relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use video recording and editing equipment, and the development of visual effects created with techniques such as image compositing. The advent of high-quality, color videotape recorders and portable video cameras coincided with the DIY mentality of the New Wave era, enabling many pop acts to produce promotional videos quickly and cheaply, in comparison to the relatively high costs of using film.

Music Videos and the Internet

The earliest purveyors of music videos on the internet were members of IRC-based groups who recorded them as they appeared on television, then digitised them, exchanging the .mpg files via IRC channels. The website iFilm, which hosted short videos, including music videos, launched in 1997. Napster, a peer-to-peer file sharing service which ran between 1999 and 2001, enabled users to share video files, including those for music videos.

By the mid-2000s, MTV and many of its sister channels had largely abandoned showing music videos in favor of reality television shows. 2005 saw the launch of the website YouTube, which made the viewing of online video faster and easier. Thanks to sites such as YouTube, Google Videos, Yahoo! Video, and Facebook, today almost all music videos are created for, and viewed, online.

NASA Is Born

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 29, 1958

President Eisenhower Presents NASA Commissions to Dr. T. Keith Glennan, right, as the first administrator for NASA and Dr. Hugh L. Dryden as deputy administrator

U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, establishing NASA.

NASA is an executive branch agency of the United States government, responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and aeronautics and aerospace research. NASA replaced its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). NASA science is focused on better understanding the Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

Since NASA became operational on October 1, 1958, U.S. space exploration efforts have included the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is developing the manned Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP), which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches.

Creator of the First Internet Worm Indicted

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 1989

Morris Computer Worm - The First Internet Computer Worm

Robert Tappan Morris, a Cornell University computer science graduate student, was indicted for unleashing what became known as the Morris worm, the first computer worm on the internet.

A computer worm is a self-replicating malware computer program that uses a computer network to send copies of itself to other nodes (computers on the network), and it may do so without any user intervention. Unlike a computer virus, it does not need to attach itself to an existing program. Worms almost always cause at least some harm to the network, even if only by consuming bandwidth, whereas viruses almost always corrupt or modify files on a targeted computer.

Like a number of early bits of malware, the Morris Worm’s creator insists that he didn’t design it with the intention of harming computers. Instead, the worm was apparently created with the intention of measuring the size of the Internet. The result, however, was one of the earliest Internet-distributed worms, disrupting perhaps 10% of the computers then on the Internet, and Morris became the first person tried and convicted under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Satellite Telecommunications: Synchronicity At Its Finest

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 26, 1963

Syncom 2 - The First Successful Geosynchronous Satellite

Syncom 2, the first geosynchronous communication satellite, is launched from Cape Canaveral to test practical applications and uses of space technology, such as weather and communications.

The synchronization of rotation and orbital period of such a satellite means that for an observer on the surface of the Earth, the satellite appears to constantly hover over the same meridian (north-south line) on the surface, moving in a slow oscillation alternately north and south with a period of one day, so it returns to exactly the same place in the sky at exactly the same time each day.

During the first year of Syncom 2 operations, NASA conducted voice, teletype, and facsimile tests, as well as 110 public demonstrations to show the capabilities of this satellite. In August 1963, President John F. Kennedy telephoned Nigerian Prime Minister Abubakar Balewa aboard USNS Kingsport docked in Lagos Harbor; the first live two-way call between heads of government by satellite. The Kingsport acted as a control station and uplink station.

Syncom 2 also relayed a number of test television transmissions from Ft. Dix, N.J. to a ground station in Andover, Maine beginning on Sept. 29, 1963; the first successful TV transmission through a geosynchronous satellite.

Modern communications satellites use a variety of orbits including geostationary orbits, Molniya orbits, other elliptical orbits and low (polar and non-polar) Earth orbits.

Birthday of Unheralded Co-Discoverer of DNA

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 25, 1920

DNA Double Helix

Rosalind Elsie Franklin, a British biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who made critical contributions to the understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite, was born on July 25, 1920.

Her DNA work achieved the most fame and controversy.  Franklin was responsible for much of the research and discovery work that led to the understanding of the structure of DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, which plays essential roles in cell metabolism and genetics, yet she was not originally recognized as a co-discoverer.   The story of DNA is a tale of competition and intrigue, told one way in James Watson’s book, The Double Helix, and quite another in Anne Sayre’s study, Rosalind Franklin and DNA. James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins received a Nobel Prize for the double-helix model of DNA in 1962, four years after Franklin’s death at age 37 from ovarian cancer.

First Robot-Related Fatality

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 21, 1984

Industrial Robot At Work

On July 21, 1984, Harry Allen, 34, a diecast operator with Diecast Corp. in Jackson, Michigan, was pinned between a factory pole and the back of an industrial robot. Allen died five days later as a result of his injuries and became the first – and so far only – US victim of an industrial, robot-related accident.

What Happened

Allen had entered a restricted area, presumably to clean up scrap metal from the floor, and got in the way of the robot’s work. A co-worker of Allen’s found him pinned but was unable to come to his immediate aid. Using the robot’s controller, the company’s director of manufacturing finally unpinned Allen, who was alive but in cardiac arrest.  He died 5 days later in a local hospital.

Rosetta Stone Found

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 19, 1799

The Rosetta Stone Reveals Much About Ancient Egyptian Life, Culture and Technology

During Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian campaign, a French soldier discovers a black basalt slab inscribed with ancient writing near the town of Rosetta, about 35 miles north of Alexandria.

The irregularly shaped stone contained fragments of passages written in three different scripts: Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Egyptian demotic. The ancient Greek on the Rosetta Stone told archaeologists that it was inscribed by priests honoring the king of Egypt, Ptolemy V, in the second century B.C. More startlingly, the Greek passage announced that the three scripts were all of identical meaning. The artifact thus held the key to solving the riddle of hieroglyphics, a written language that had been “dead” for nearly 2,000 years.

French Egyptologist Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832), who had taught himself ancient languages, ultimately cracked the code and deciphered the hieroglyphics using his knowledge of Greek as a guide. Hieroglyphics used pictures to represent objects, sounds and groups of sounds. Once the Rosetta Stone inscriptions were translated, the language, culture and some of the advanced technology of ancient Egypt was suddenly open to scientists as never before.

First East-West Crossing of the Atlantic

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 13, 1919

Airship R34 Made First East-West Journey Across Atlantic

The R34 returned from the first East-West crossing of the Atlantic on July 13, 1919.

First East-West Crossing

The R34 left Britain on July 2, 1919 and arrived in Mineola, Long Island on July 6 with virtually no fuel left, after a flight of 108 hours. As the landing party had no experience handling large, rigid airships, Major EM Pritchard jumped by parachute and so became the first person from Europe to reach American soil by air.  The return journey to Pulham in Norfolk was from July 10 to 13 and took 75 hours.


The R33 class of British, rigid airships were built for the Royal Naval Air Service during World War I, but were not completed until after the end of the War.  The lead ship, R33, went on to serve successfully for ten years and survived one of the most alarming and heroic incidents in airship history when she was ripped from her mast in a gale.  The R34 was the only other airship in the class.  It was decommissioned in 1921 after sustaining damage in adverse weather. The crew nicknamed her “Tiny”.

The Etch A Sketch Draws Immediate Attention

Technology That Shapes Our Lives

July 12, 1960

The Etch a Sketch goes on sale in plenty of time for the holiday rush.


The Etch A Sketch toy was invented in André Cassagnes’ basement in the late 1950s.  He called it “L’Ecran Magique“, the magic screen. In 1959, he took his drawing toy to the International Toy Fair in Nuremburg, Germany. The Ohio Art Company saw it but had no interest in the toy. When Ohio Art saw the toy a second time, they decided to take a chance on the product. The L’Ecran Magique was soon renamed the Etch A Sketch and became the most popular drawing toy in the business.

The Technology Behind the Toy

The toy can be considered a simplified version of a plotter. The inside surface of the glass screen is coated with aluminium powder which is then scraped off by a movable stylus, leaving a dark line on the light gray screen. The stylus is controlled by the two large knobs, one of which moves it vertically and the other horizontally. To erase the picture, the artist turns the toy upside down and shakes it. Doing this causes polystyrene beads to smooth out and re-coat the inside surface of the screen with aluminium powder. The “black” line merely exposes the darkness inside the toy. Filling in large “black” areas will allow enough light through to expose parts of the interior.

The Etch A Sketch Today

Today one can draw on color, digital and on-line versions of the Etch a Sketch toys.

The Precursor to the PDA is Born

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 11, 1990

On July 11, 1990, Bill Atkinson, the inventor of the HyperCard software, and Andy Hertzfeld, co-inventor of Apple Macintosh, left Apple Computers and, together with Marc Porat, started a new company called General Magic. General Magic’s main objective was to develop a new kind of handheld communications device they called a “personal intelligent communicator”, which was a PDA precursor that stressed communications.

The original project started in 1990 within Apple Computer, when Porat convinced Apple’s CEO, John Sculley, that the next generation of computing would require a partnership of computer, communications and consumer electronics companies to cooperate. Known as the Paradigm Project, the project ran for some time within Apple, but management remained generally uninterested and the team struggled for resources. Eventually they approached Sculley with the idea of spinning off the group as a separate company.

By 1992 some of the world’s largest electronics corporations, including Sony, Motorola, Matsushita, Philips and AT&T were partners and investors in General Magic. Apple also decided to re-enter the market with a project that eventually developed into the Apple Newton, and they decided to sue General Magic. The lawsuit did not produce a definitive outcome, however, there remained long running tensions betweens the two companies.

Image is of one of the original personal intelligent communicators.

Customer Information Control System, CICS, Available for Mainframe

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 8, 1969

IBM CICS Performance Monitor for z/OS, V1.2 Architecture

If you have ever used an ATM machine, engaged in on-line banking, or filed your taxes on-line, you have IBM and its Customer Information Control System, or CICS, to thank.

On July 8, 1969, IBM made CICS generally available for the 360 mainframe computer.  CICS is a transaction manager designed for rapid, high-volume, online processing. This processing is mostly interactive (screen-oriented), but background transactions are possible. Applications are written in a variety of languages and use CICS-supplied language extensions to interact with CICS resources such as files, database connections or to invoke functions such as web-related services.  CICS manages the entire transaction such that if for any reason a part of the transaction fails, all recoverable changes are saved.

While CICS has its highest profile among financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies, over 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies are reported to rely on CICS for their core business functions, along with many government entities. CICS is used in bank-teller applications, ATM systems, industrial production control systems, insurance applications, and many other types of interactive applications.

Image from

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Technology That Shapes Our Lives

July 7, 1928

On  July 7, 1928, the expression, ‘the best thing since sliced bread’, became a reality when the first loaf of sliced bread was sold by the Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Missouri.  Their product, “Kleen Maid Sliced Bread”, proved a success.

St. Louis baker, Gustav Papendick, set out to improve the original bread slicer by devising a way to keep the slices together long enough to allow the loaves to be wrapped. Following many failures, including the use of rubber bands and metal pins, Papendick settled on placing the slices into a cardboard tray. The tray aligned the slices, allowing mechanized wrapping machines to function.

In 1930 Wonder Bread, first sold in 1925, started marketing sliced bread nationwide.

World Wide Effects

While the commercially sliced bread used uniform and somewhat thinner slices, because of the ease of eating another piece, people ate more slices of bread at a time and ate bread more frequently.  This increased consumption of bread and, in turn, increased consumption of spreads to put on the bread.  

First Patent for X-Ray Tube

Technology That Shapes Our Lives

July 1933

William Coolidge obtained a patent for the X-Ray tube, more popularly called the Coolidge Tube.  This invention revolutionized the generation of X-rays and is the model upon which all X-ray tubes for medical applications are based.

Soft Medical X-Ray Image

Medical X-rays

X-rays are capable of penetrating some thickness of matter. Medical x-rays are produced by letting a stream of fast electrons come to a sudden stop at a metal plate; it is believed that X-rays emitted by the Sun or stars also come from fast electrons. The images produced by X-rays are due to the different absorption rates of different tissues. Calcium in bones absorbs X-rays the most, so bones look white on a film recording of the X-ray image , called a radiograph.

Soft medical X-rays are used to photograph bones and internal organs. They operate at a relatively low frequency and, unless they are repeated too often, cause little damage to tissues.

Hard X-rays are very high frequency rays. They are designed to destroy the molecules within specific cells, thus destroying tissue. Hard X-rays are used in radiotherapy, a treatment for cancer.

Declaration of Independence: Forward Thinking

Technology that Shapes Our Lives

July 4, 1776

The Dunlap broadside was the first published version of the Declaration of Independence

The United States Declaration of Independence is a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, were now independent states, and thus no longer a part of the British Empire.

Written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration is a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain, more than a year after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The birthday of the United States of America—Independence Day—is celebrated on July 4, the day the wording of the Declaration was approved by Congress.

Having served its original purpose in announcing independence, the text of the Declaration was initially ignored after the American Revolution. Its stature grew over the years, particularly the second sentence, a sweeping statement of human rights:

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’

This sentence has been called  “the most potent and consequential words in American history”. The passage has often been used to promote the rights of marginalized groups, and came to represent for many people a moral standard for which the United States should strive.  Without such standards and forward thinking about one’s unalienable rights as humans, so many of the technological advancements from which we benefit and enjoy today, would not have been possible.

May you, your friends and loved ones enjoy a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!