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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

My day in history

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

(1/2014) As I sat down to write about what happened in history on December 19, my birthday, it seemed a happy coincidence that my birthday was the very next day. As a result, I woke up with the fresh knowledge that my birthday may be unique to me, but for so many others, this day holds a different meaning, one of celebration or remembrance.

Of course my birthday has always been special to me: cake, presents, and time when it seemed to be all about me. While many would think itís difficult having a birthday close to Christmas, it never felt that way for me. My dad made sure of that; since I had a birthday so close to Christmas, we never bought a tree, decorated, or did anything "Christmas-y" until after my birthday. I always had a birthday countdown starting 90 or 100 days out, a tradition that I continue to this day, so itís strange to think that a day so unique and special to me can have such an important history behind it. Growing up, it was almost a competition in school to see which famous person had the same birthday as you. I remember only ever being able to say, "Well, my birthday is six days away from Taylor Swiftís." As it turns out, December 19 may not have been the most popular day for pop singers to be born, but it certainly was an important date in history.

After a little research on thebookofdays.com, where every event is linked to a calendar day, I found a couple December 19 birthdays. I found a world-renowned chemist, Charles William Scheele, who was born in 1742 in Stralsund, and Captain William Edward Perry, an Arctic navigator who was born in 1790 in Bath. Even if I could never claim the same birthday as Katy Perry or Taylor Swift, I found these men, who left their mark on the world in different ways. Scheele is credited with the joint discovery of the essential element Oxygen, the composition of the first known sample of what we now call Chlorine, and much more. Captain Perry blazed trails in a different way when he attempted one of the earliest expeditions to the North Pole in 1827. He reached 82E45 North Latitude, setting the record for the farthest North human exploration that stood for nearly five decades before being surpassed at 83E20 26". It didnít stop there; after delving a little deeper into the history of this day, I found the following:

December 19, 1732

Benjamin Franklin began publishing Poor Richard's Almanac. The only American of the colonial period to earn a European reputation as a natural philosopher, he is best remembered in the United States as a patriot, diplomat, and statesman.

December 19, 1776

Thomas Paine published his first American Crisis essay with the famous line, "These are the times that try men's souls." The first of a series of 16 pamphlets called The American Crisis were widely distributed and encouraged the Patriotsí cause throughout the American Revolution. He also wrote essays for the Pennsylvania Journal and edited the Pennsylvania Magazine. After the war he returned to his farm and family in New York.

December 19, 1843

Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol. Dickens is considered one of the world's most popular, prolific, and skilled novelists. He wrote largely from his own experiences.

December 19, 1972

Apollo 17 splashed down in the Pacific, ending the Apollo program of manned lunar landings. Apollo 17 was the final mission of the United States' Apollo lunar landing program, and was the sixth landing of humans on the moon.

December 19, 1998

President Bill Clinton was impeached on two counts by the House of Representatives. The impeachment trial overshadowed all other activity in Washington for a good portion of 1998 and Clinton was forced to respond to continued problems with Iraq at the end of the year. For example, in December, Saddam Hussein blocked a weapons inspection by the United Nations. The UN responded with airstrikes that continued on a nearly daily basis for the next three months, and then off and on through the spring and summer. Iraq taunted the U.S. and its allies by shooting at jets patrolling the no-fly zones set up after the Persian Gulf War, further escalating the situation.

December 19, 2003

Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya announced that his country would discontinue development of weapons of mass destruction. Libya signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968, ratified it in 1975, and concluded a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1980. The United States and the United Kingdom assisted Libya in removing equipment and material from its nuclear weapons program. After the announcement on December 19, Libya consented to the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2004 and began destroying its chemical munitions later that year, but missed the deadlines for converting one chemical weapons production facility to peaceful use and for destroying its stockpile of mustard agent.

This year December 19 will not just be in celebration of my birthday, but also in celebration of peace, space programs, works of literature, justice, and much more. Itís intriguing in the truest sense of the word to take a moment and imagine what went on in years past, on this day in history.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary