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What Happened on July 11?

  • Skylab - the first US space station - crashed to the Earth. (1979) The space station, which orbited the Earth from 1973 to 1979, was the second space station to be visited by humans. Skylab was expected to burn as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere, producing a debris shower. NASA estimated the chance of debris hitting a human were 152 to 1, but the chance of hitting a city was estimated at 7 to 1. The San Francisco Examiner newspaper offered $10,000 US Dollars (USD) for the first piece of debris brought to its offices. The debris shower hit the Indian Ocean and Western Australia. The Shire of Esperance in Western Australia fined the US $400 USD for littering. The US never paid the fine, but a radio show host raised the money from listeners and paid the fine for NASA in 2009. A 17-year-old resident in Esperance delivered debris to the San Francisco Examiner newspaper offices and collected the $10,000 USD prize.

  • The world population exceeded 5 billion people. (1987) About 134 million people are born each year. The death rate is less than half the birth rate at about 57 million people annually. The world population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2040 or 2050.

  • Babe Ruth made his major league baseball pitching debut. (1914) Ruth started his career pitching for the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park. He became one of the best hitters in baseball history and was the first to hit 60 home runs in a season. His lifetime batting record of .342 ranks 10th best in history.

  • The US Vice President killed the US Secretary of the Treasury in a duel. (1804) US Vice President Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton, who died the next day. Hamilton was a longtime political rival and a public critic of Burr. After Hamilton made critical remarks at a dinner party one night, Burr had enough and challenged him to a duel. Burr was subsequently indicted for murder, but the trial ended in an acquittal. His political career was ruined, and later rumors that he was planning to start his own monarchy and secede from the US resulted in his arrest for treason. This charge, too, resulted in an acquittal. He took refuge in Europe for several years, then returned to New York where he practiced law until his death.

  • Jean-Louis Pons, a French astronomer, saw his first comet — a path that led him to discover more comets than anyone in history. (1801) Pons discovered a total of 37 comets over the next 27 years, setting a historical record for the most comets discovered by one person.

  • William Howard Taft became the only US President to also serve as Chief Justice on the US Supreme Court. (1921) Taft served as US President from 1909 to 1913 and Chief Justice from 1921 to 1930, making him the only person in US history to hold both offices.

  • The first cultured pearl was made. (1893) Japanese businessman Kokichi Mikimoto perfected his technique for creating hemispherical cultured pearls, producing the world's first pearl on this day. In the next 12 years, he would hone his technique, making spherical pearls that were indistinguishable from the perfect specimens rarely found in nature.

  • A Tale of Two Cities was published. (1859) The book, written by Charles Dickens, would become the best-selling, original English language novel of all time, with more than 200 million copies sold.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird was published. (1960) Written by Harper Lee, the book is her only published work. It quickly became a classic and won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1961.

  • Tijuana, Mexico, was founded. (1889) Tijuana is the largest city in Mexico's Baja California region and the sixth largest city in Mexico. It is a Mexico-US border city with about 300,000 border crossings each day.

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