What Happened on April 25?

  • USSR leader Yuri Andropov wrote to Samantha Smith, an American grade schooler. (1983) Smith had written a letter to Andropov as part of a class assignment in which she expressed her fear of nuclear war. To her surprise, she received a personal reply and an invitation to visit the USSR, which she did as a "goodwill ambassador."

  • The name "America" was first used on a map. (1507) German cartographer Martin Waldseemueller decided to use the name "America" to refer to the continent in honor of the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who was the first person to demonstrate that the Americas were actually separate continents from Asia.

  • Robert Noyce got a patent for an integrated circuit. (1961) Integrated circuits are considered one of the most important inventions of the 20th century, and are used in everything from computers to cellphones. Noyce's patented design was an improvement on that which his colleague, Jack Kilby, had patented six months earlier.

  • Truman opened the White House bowling alley. (1947) Truman officially opened the two-lane White House bowling alley on this day. Though Truman himself wasn't much of a bowler, other White House staff members formed a bowling team and even competed in national events.

  • New York became the first state to mandate license plates in the US. (1901) Unlike in modern times, most of the plates weren't government-issued; rather, people made their own. Early license plates were often made out of porcelain, leather, or cardboard.

  • Robinson Crusoe was published. (1719) Though the book is Daniel Defoe's most well-known work, he actually didn't write fiction until he was in his sixties. The book is based on the experiences of a Scottish sailor, Alexander Selkirk.

  • The Battle of Gallipoli began. (1915) The massive invasion of Gallipoli was an ill-fated attempt by Allied forces to get the Ottoman Empire out of World War I. The battle lasted on and off for almost a year before the Allies were forced to retreat.

  • The guillotine was first used. (1792) The iconic method of execution in the French Revolution got its start a few years earlier with the execution of a highwayman named Nicolas J Pelletier. Eyewitness accounts report that the crowd at the execution was dissatisfied with the guillotine since they found it too "clinically effective," and therefore not entertaining enough.

  • US and USSR forces met on the Elbe River. (1945) The meeting of the two armies was largely symbolic, but was considered a strong sign of the fall of Nazi Germany, since the forces had now bisected Germany.

  • Ground was broken for the Suez Canal. (1859) The Suez Canal took ten years to complete, but quickly became a major shipping lane, since it was the first route that allowed people to sail to Asia without going around Africa.

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