May 31, 2020
Day 152 of 366
May 31st is the 152nd day of the year. It is World No Tobacco Day, an event that informs the public on the dangers of using tobacco, the business practices of tobacco companies, what WHO is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic, and what people around the world can do to claim their right to health and healthy living and to protect future generations.
In the United States, today is “celebrated” as Autonomous Vehicle Day, National Save Your Hearing Day, National Speak in Sentences Day, National Macaroon Day, National Utah Day, National Smile Day, and Necrotizing Fasciitis Awareness Day.
Historical items of note:
- In 1790, the United States enacted its first copyright statute, the Copyright Act of 1790.
- In 1819, poet, essayist, and journalist Walt Whitman was born.
- In 1852, Julius Richard Petri was born. He was the German microbiologist who invented the Petri dish.
- In 1909, the National Negro Committee, the forerunner to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), convened for the first time.
- In 1911, the RMS Titanic was launched in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
- In 1922, actor Denholm Elliott was born.
- In 1930, actor, director, musician, and producer Clint Eastwood was born. He likes to have televised conversations with empty chairs.
- In 1943, actress Sharon Gless was born.
- In 1950, director, producer, and screenwriter Jean Chalopin was born. He was the founder of DIC Entertainment.
- In 1961, actress, director, and producer Lea Thompson was born.
- In 1965, model, actress, and producer Brooke Shields was born.
- In 1971, in accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed by the United States Congress in 1968, observation of Memorial Day occurred on the last Monday in May for the first time. This was rather than on the traditional Memorial Day of May 30.
- In 1976, actor Colin Farrell was born.
- In 2005, Vanity Fair revealed that Mark Felt was “Deep Throat”.
- In 2013, the asteroid 1998 QE2 and its moon made their closest approach to Earth for the next two centuries.
In 1859, the clock tower at the Houses of Parliament, which houses Big Ben, started keeping time.
Big Ben is usually extended to refer to both the clock and the clock tower, however, the tower’s original name was the Clock Tower. It was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom.
The tower was designed by Augustus Pugin, and when it was completed in 1859, the clock was the largest and most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world. The tower measures 315 feet in height, with a climb of 334 steps from ground to belfry. The square base is 39 feet on each side and the dials of the clock are 23 feet in diameter.
Big Ben is the largest of the tower’s five bells, weighing in at 13.5 long tons. It was the largest bell in the United Kingdom for 23 years. The origin of the bell’s nickname is up for debate, owning to either Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw its installation, or to heavyweight boxing champion Benjamin Caunt.
Four quarter bells chime at 15, 30, and 45 minutes past the hour, as well as just before Big Ben tolls on the hour. The clock uses its original Victorian mechanism with an electric motor as a backup.
The tower is a British cultural icon that is recognized worldwide, representing the United Kingdom and parliamentary democracy. The clock tower has been part of a Grade I listed building since 1970 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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