November in History: A Geek’s Almanac

  November 01, 2013

There's no date without some history. Some dates are “important,” some are “happy,” many are sad.  Some events are of historical importance; some are of artistic importance; some matter because of their technological importance.

For instance, November is rich in women’s history (see the 1st, the 5th, the 7th, the 12th) and in inventions (see the 4th,  the 5th, the 10th, the 25th, the 29th). Here are some of my favorite historical events for November.

Nov. 1

In1848, the first medical school for women opened in Boston. The Boston Female Medical School was founded by Samuel Gregory with just 12 students. In 1874, the school merged with the Boston University School of Medicine, becoming one of the first co-ed medical schools.

On January 23, 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to graduate from a U.S. medical school; in January 2012, the American Medical Association announced that 31% of its members were female. In Canada, today that percentage is about 40%; in the U.K., 44%; and (stated the U.K. Daily Mail) “It is predicted women doctors will outnumber men across the profession by 2017.”

Nov. 3

In 1957, Russia launched the world's first inhabited space capsule, Sputnik II, carrying a dog named Laika. (Sputnik I had been launched on October 4 into low-earth orbit.) The next year – on  February 7, 1958 – in response to the launch of Sputnik, the US Department of Defense issued directive 5105.15, establishing the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). (In some ways, we owe the Internet and the Web to Sputnik.)

Nov. 4

In 1839, John Frost's Newport (U.K.) Chartist Rising is suppressed.

In 1879, James and John Ritty patent the first cash register, to combat stealing by bartenders in their Dayton, Ohio saloon [“Ritty's Incorruptible Cashier”].

Nov. 5

In 1875, Susan B. Anthony is arrested for attempting to vote.

In 1895, the first patent was granted for an automobile (George Selden, application dated 1879).  The process took so long because Selden repeatedly amended his application. Henry Ford successfully challenged the Selden patent (ruling of January 10, 1911).


Nov. 7

In 1867, the Polish chemist Marie Curie was born in Warsaw. In 1903, she became the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize.

Nov. 8

In 1895, X-rays (electromagnetic rays) were discovered by Wilhelm Roentgen at the University of Wuerzburg in Germany.

In 1966, Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California.

Nov. 9

The Berlin Wall was opened up after standing for 28 years as a symbol of the Cold War. It had been erected in 1961, separating the Eastern (Russian) sector from those of England, France, and the U.S.

Nov. 10

In 1951, the first long distance telephone calling without operator assistance (from Englewood and Teaneck, N.J., to 11 major cities)


tardis-doctor-whoNov. 11

In 1918, the Armistice ending World War I is signed.

In 1963, Doctor Who premieres on the BBC. Though there was a lengthy hiatus, the program is now in its 50th year.

Nov. 12

In 1815, U.S. suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton is born in Johnstown, New York.

Nov. 13

In 1956, Supreme Court strikes down segregation on buses by denying the petition of the City of Montgomery, AL, thus affirming the District Court ruling without issuing a written opinion.

Nov. 15

In 1939, the Social Security Administration approves the first unemployment check.

In 1996, Space Jam was released today. A very happy 17th Anniversary!

Nov. 17

In 1869, the Suez Canal opens, at a cost of about $100 million. The Canal, operated by the Suez Canal Authority, is 101 miles (163 km) long and 984 feet (300 m) wide. It begins at the Mediterranean Sea at Point Said, flows through Ismailia in Egypt, and ends at Suez on the Gulf of Suez.

Nov. 18

In 1477, William Caxton printed the first book in the English language (in Bruges), Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye. It would be nearly a decade before the first book was printed in England.

Nov. 19

In 1863, Lincoln delivers his Gettysburg address. On June 1, 1865, Senator Charles Sumner commented on what is now considered the most famous speech by President Abraham Lincoln. In his eulogy on the slain president, he called it a "monumental act." He said Lincoln was mistaken in saying that “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.” Rather, the Bostonian remarked, “The world noted at once what he said, and will never cease to remember it. The battle itself was less important than the speech.”



In 1963, John F. Kennedy is assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, who was killed by Jack Ruby two days later. In his Inaugural Address, Kennedy had said: “All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days, nor in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this administration. Nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”

Nov. 24

In 1859, Darwin's The Origin of Species is published, one of the most influential works in the history of science.

Nov. 25

In 1867, Alfred Nobel markets dynamite. (He patents it in England on 7 May 1867 and in Sweden on 19 October 1867.)

In 1998, AOL finalizes its purchase of Netscape. (Netscape Navigator was a leading Web browser.) Netscape browser development continued until December 2007, when Tom Drapeau, director of AOL's Netscape Brand, announced that the company would stop supporting Netscape software products as of March 1, 2008.

Nov. 26

In 1865, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is published.

In 1976, the name “Micro-soft” is registered with the secretary of state of New Mexico. Bill Gates had first used the name in an earlier letter to Paul Allen.

Nov. 28

In 1520, Ferdinand Magellan begins crossing the Pacific Ocean.

Nov. 29

In 1887, Thomas Edison demonstrates the hand-cranked phonograph.

Nov. 30

In 1803, Spain cedes its claim to Louisiana Territory to France; it was resold to the US for $15 million (under $0.03 per acre). Thomas Jefferson himself had grave doubts regarding the constitutionality of the Louisiana Purchase. A strict constitutionalist, he had based his entire political career on exercising only those powers explicitly granted by the Constitution. The expansion of the territory of the United States was not a power covered by the Constitution.

In 1835, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) is born. (“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”)

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