February president. In the midst of a

February 15 is an important date in history because
many significant events took place. A famous philosopher and astronomer who
made contributions in the fields of astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy was
born. A naval ship exploded, resulting in devastating ramifications. The
explosion also increased tensions between two countries and was a factor in the
start of a war. A United States president was gaining supporters in a parade
rally when a man fired shots and killed a mayor in an assassination attempt on
the soon-to-elected president. In the midst of a war, an island who was a
stronghold of the British surrendered to a powerful country in Asia. A group of
talented United States athletes were headed to the world championships of their
sport when they were in a tragic crash.

            On
February 15, 1564, Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa, Italy to Vincenzio Galilei
and Julia Ammanati (Geymonat 5). Galileo went to the University of Pisa to
study medicine, but after four years he decided to focus more on mathematic and
philosophy. When he made this decision, he left the university without a degree
in 1585 (“Galileo”). In 1583, Galileo made his first discovery in the world of
physics, which was when he first began to fully study mathematics. He
discovered “that the beating of a pendulum takes place in equal times”
(Geymonat 8). Galileo became a professor at the University of Pisa in 1589 and
spent three years teaching. During this time, it was reported that he pointed
out the errors of Aristotle, a philosopher, and demonstrated them to his
students. He dropped two objects that weighed different amounts off the Leaning
Tower. This showed “the error of Aristotle’s belief that speed of fall is
proportional to weight” (“Galileo”).

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            After
teaching at the University of Pisa, Galileo was chosen as the chair of
mathematics at the University of Padua in 1592 (“Galileo”). In order to conduct
experiments and do research, Galileo constructed a shop in his house in Padua.
During this time, he created different instruments used in mathematics. One of
these was a compass. The compass had already been invented, but Galileo was
able to use the already constructed compasses and make them more useful. This
compass was used for rapid calculations and based on the idea of proportional
magnitudes (Geymonat 26).

            One of
Galileo’s most famous discoveries is the telescope. In August of 1609, Galileo
created a telescope and presented it to the doge of Venice. Galileo kept
working on his telescopes and soon built a telescope that had twenty times
magnification. This amount of magnification helped him discover mountains and
craters on the moon. With the help of his newly built telescope, Galileo
discovered Jupiter’s four largest satellites and found that the Milky Way
consisted of stars. Galileo also discovered sunspots, the phases of Venus,
lunar mountains and valleys, and the laws of falling bodies (“Galileo”).

            The USS
Maine was first docked in Havana,
Cuba at Havana Harbor on January 25, 1898 by Captain Charles D. Sigsbee (Hearn
44). The day before, January 24, United States President William McKinley made
orders to send the naval ship to Havana Harbor from Key West, Florida, where it
had been residing. In order for the ship to be sent to Cuba, President McKinley
had to speak with the government officials in Madrid, Spain. After being very
hesitant, the government in Spain allowed for McKinley to send Maine to Havana Harbor (“The
Destruction”). There were many Americans whose lives were in danger as a result
of Cuba’s revolt against Spain and the USS Maine’s
purpose was to protect the well-being of those American citizens (Hearn 44).

            On
February 15, the USS Maine exploded. The
explosion killed 253 of the 358 men aboard the ship. After several weeks of
investigations and examining the ship wreckage, it was concluded that the cause
of the explosion was a mine that went off beneath the ship by Captain William
T. Sampson (Hearn 44). In 1911, the United States Navy Department began a
second investigation on the cause of the explosion. This investigation
discovered a six-inch magazine and came to the conclusion that a mine exploded
under the magazine, causing the ship to also explode. There were people that
did not agree with either of these conclusions. Admiral Hyman G. Rickover conducted
investigations and published his findings in a book. He concluded that the
explosion was a result of combustion of coal next to the magazine (“The Destruction”).

            The
American people quickly became angered and blamed everything on the Spanish
government. According to Hearn, “Americans became enraged, shouting, ?Remember
the Maine! To hell with Spain!'”
(46). By April 25, the United States Congress had declared war on Spain,
beginning the Spanish American War. The explosion of Maine did not directly cause the declaration of war by America, but
it was a facilitator in the actions taken by the United States Congress (“The Destruction”).

            On
February 15, 1933, president-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt arrived in Miami,
Florida to attend a rally. The rally was to be held at Bayfront Park. When
Roosevelt arrived, an estimated 25,000 people surrounded the stage in any way
they could (Piket). These thousands of Americans gathered in anticipation of
hearing the soon-to-be-elected president Franklin Delano Roosevelt speak. There
was one person who was there for a completely different reason. Giuseppe, or
Joe, Zangara attended with the intention of shooting and killing Roosevelt.

Zangara traveled to Miami from Paterson, New Jersey.
As George McJimsey describes, “he

stood in the crowd wincing at the stabbing stomach
pains that had tormented him for years and nursing a hatred for all those who
held political power” (27). Zangara carried two things with him. He carried the
weapon, a .12-caliber revolver which he bought for eight dollars at a Miami
pawnshop (27). He also carried a newspaper clipping which described what
Roosevelt would be doing and where he would be during his time in Miami. Zangara
was a short man, just over five feet tall. He was dressed casually, wearing
brown pants and a brown shirt (Piket).

Because of the thousands of people
in attendance, Zangara was only able to make his way to a few rows from the
front. When he arrived at his row which consisted of benches, many people stood
in front of him which blocked his view of Roosevelt. Roosevelt began to give
his speech, which was short and straight to the point. As Roosevelt made his
final points, the crowd began to sit down. This gave Zangara the perfect time
to take his shots. Roosevelt was in the middle of talking to reporters and
Anton J. Cermak, the mayor of Chicago, came up to Roosevelt to have a short
conversation. At this point, Zangara took a shot. A woman realized what was
happening and took Zangara’s arm, but with his strength, he was able to let a
total of five shots off. Each bullet struck someone. He hit two people in the
head, one person in the abdomen, one on the hand, and struck Cermak in the
chest. Cermak was rushed to the hospital, with Roosevelt by his side, and died nineteen
days later (McJimsey 28; Piket).

Ever since the nineteenth century,
Singapore had been a colony belonging to the British and was considered a
stronghold of the British. Singapore is an island that is the capital of the
Straits Settlement of the Malay Peninsula. The Japanese made their intentions
to take over Singapore by telegraphing the British in July of 1941. While the
Japanese were getting ready to attack Pearl Harbor, they also sent 24,000
members of the Japanese army to the Malay Peninsula. After they sent troops,
the Japanese attacked Singapore from the air and killed a total of 61 Singapore
civilians during this one air attack (“February 15”).

The Japanese forces and British
forces continued to battle throughout December and January. These battles
killed hundreds more innocent civilians in the process. The constant Japanese
attacks resulted in the British being forced to leave many of their positions
in the island of Singapore. On February 8, the Japanese placed 5,000 more
members of their forces on the island. The Japanese began to drop leaflets that
contained pro-Japanese propaganda which highly encouraged the British to
surrender the island to the Japanese. Singapore’s main defensive weapons were
their coastal guns. These guns were destroyed by the Japanese on February 13.
Many miscalculations and bad communication by the British caused the British to
slowly have less and less defense tactics (“February 15”).

            On February
15, the seventieth day after the invasion began, Singapore surrendered to the
Japanese forces. Before Singapore officially surrendered, the Japanese had
surrounded Singapore City from three sides of the island. Domei, a Japanese
news agency, reported “that Lieut. General Arthur E. Percival, British
commander, signed the unconditional surrender dictated by Lieut. General
Tomoyuki Yamashita, Japanese commander…” (“World News”). After Singapore
surrendered, 62,000 Allied soldiers were kept as prisoners. An estimated more
than half of these prisoners eventually died. As a result of the surrender of
Singapore, the British lost their foothold in the East (“February 15”).

On February 15, 1961, the United
States figure skating team was headed to Prague for the 1961 World
Championships. The figure skating team boarded the Boeing 707 ready for their
chance to win the championships, not knowing what would happen to them next. While
attempting to land in Brussels, Belgium, the Sabena Flight 548 crashed. The
crash killed all seventy-two people who were on the plane, and one farmer who
was on the ground in the fields of the airport. Of the seventy-two people on
the plane, thirty-four of them were members of the United States figure skating
team (Ford).

            The
cause of the plane crash was easy to find. There was poor communication between
the ground control members and the crew on the plane. According to Bonnie D.
Ford, “for some unknown reason the pilot retracted the plane’s landing gear on
his initial approach.” Although there was no person who survived the tragic
crash, there were many possessions that were found at the scene of the crash.
There were airplane tickets, jackets with the United States of America patches
sewn on them, and the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. The magazine featured
Laurence Owen who was just sixteen years old, the United States ladies
champion, and a victim of the plane crash. There were many great American
athletes and citizens killed during the crash. Some include: Laurence Owen, her
sister and mother, Eddie LeMaire, a figure skating judge, Larry Pierce, the
national ice-dancing champion, his partner, Diane Sherbloom, and Doug Ramsay
are just a few of the many who lost their lives (“Accidents and Disasters”; Ford).

            After
the devastating crash, the International Skating Union cancelled the World
Championships that were to be held in honor of the skaters who lost their lives
in the crash. There were many people who were supposed to be on the plane, but
certain circumstances allowed them not to be. Lorraine Hanlon was supposed to
be traveling to Prague, but her school would not allow her to miss any more
days of class. The coach could not afford airfare for two skaters, Bob and Pat
Dineen. Tim Brown became ill and could not travel to Prague. After the
accident, the “United States figure skating executives issued a mandate that
still stands: No team traveling to an international competition would ever fly
together again” (Ford).

            Every
one of these events makes February 15 an important date in history. Each event
changed how people would see the world and how the world works. Galileo Galilei
was born and made important contributions to the fields of mathematics,
physics, and astronomy. The explosion of the USS Maine was a stepping stone in the declaration of war leading to the
Spanish American War. Chicago mayor, Anton J. Cermak, was shot and killed by
Giuseppe Zangara who had the intentions of shooting and killing the
president-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt who went on to get America out of the
Great Depression. Singapore fell to Japan, which gave Japan more land and power
and caused Britain to lose its foothold in the East. Part of the United States
figure skating team was killed in a plane crash which changed the lives of
their families, other figure skaters, athletes of any sport, and the fans of
figure skating.