August 6

Amber pages

Alfred Lord Tennyson, English poet, born today in 

Sir Alexander Fleming, Scottish discoverer of penicillin, born today in 1881

I am committed to recording only the positives, but there are negatives of such powerful impact that they simply cannot be left out. So, today, the greatest war crime in the history of humanity, the deliberate, pre-meditated dropping of an atomic bomb on a civilian population (it took  44.4 seconds from plane to explosion, and actually detonated 580 metres above the ground - much more effective that way), in an area where there were no significant military targets of any kind. 

The bomb was dropped at 8:15 am, local time in Hiroshima, and American almanacs and historical accounts confirm that 80,000 non-combatants were killed in the immediate impact. This, however, does not accord with other reports, which reckon a higher number, and more importanly it does not include those who died slow and miserable deaths, mostly cancerous, as a consequence of radiation. Out of a total population of 225,000, 135,000 are reckoned to have died in the aftermath of the bomb (this figure excludes those who had left Hiroshima the day before, to take a vacation, or for business or family reasons, in Nagasaki).

I wonder if the Americans chose the date deliberately - the sort of thing lobbyists in the NRA would certainly approve of if they did - because it was the anniversary of the first ever execution by electric chair, a man named William Kemmler, in New York, today in 1890. Another of the great achievements of Thomas Edison (see July 24), though this one doesn't tend to get remembered when people biographise him: how strange!
As to what actually happened on that day, which led to one of those present commenting "they could have done a better job with an axe" - "The Washington Post" tells the horrible tale in all its gruesome and shameful detail here

And finally, today in 1825, Bolivia gained independence from Spain - another item that requires a list, combined in one single entry: all the independences that were ever granted, and how long did they endure. But of course such a list can only start in modern times, leaving out the billion conquests and independences that happened along the millennia,  only to be unhappened, or rehappened, or modified, by the next piece of conquest and/or liberation. And there will therefore be multitudes of countries whose names appear more than once (my own ancestral Poland for absolute certain: conquered, divided, liberated, absorbed, partitioned, independent, over and over again throughout the last seven hundred years)

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