Jul 15, 1919:
Iris Murdoch is born
Irish Murdoch, author of 26 intellectually rigorous novels, is born on this day in Dublin. Murdoch's family moved to London when she was still an infant. Her father, who worked in the civil service, encouraged her to read and discuss books, and she resolved at an early age to become a writer.
After earning her degree at Oxford, she worked for the British Treasury and the United Nations until the end of World War II, then returned to academia to become a philosophy professor.
She began teaching at Oxford in 1948, where she met her future husband, John Bayley. Several years younger than Murdoch, Bayley fell in love with her at first sight as she rode by his room on a bicycle one day. The pair married in 1956. Murdoch published her first book, a philosophical study of Sartre, in 1953, and her first novel, Under the Net, was published the following year. She wrote two dozen novels as well as numerous scholarly works and several plays. She won the Booker Prize for The Sea, the Sea (1978). Many of her works were turned into plays.Murdoch was named a Dame of the Order of the British Empire in 1987 and won many other awards during four decades of writing. In the mid-1990s, Murdoch was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and died in 1999; not long after, Bayley published Elegy for Iris, a critically acclaimed memoir of their marriage and her decline.
Disaster: Jul 15, 1888:
Volcano buries victims in fiery mud
The Bandai volcano erupts on the Japanese island of Honshu on this day in 1888, killing hundreds and burying many nearby villages in ash.
Honshu, the main island of the Japanese archipelago, is in an area of intense geological activity, where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are relatively common. The Bandai volcano is a mountain in northern Honshu with a very steep slope. It had erupted four times in the 1,000 years prior to the 1888 eruption, but none of these had been particularly deadly.
At just after 7 a.m. on July 15, rumblings were heard from Bandai. Only 30 minutes after that, an explosion on the north side of the mountain caused powerful tremors. Fifteen minutes later, there was another explosion and, in the next two hours, dozens followed. The explosive eruptions sent debris thousands of feet into the air. The resulting cloud of ash and steam was estimated at 21,000 feet wide.
The giant cloud sent a dangerous rain of burning mud down over the area. Several villages in the Bandai area were buried by a combination of the fiery mud and landslides caused by the tremors. At the Kawakami spa, 100-foot-deep debris covered the ground. Although 100 bodies were recovered there, many were never found. The best estimate is that 461 people were killed and hundreds more were seriously injured, suffering broken bones and skulls from the rain or flying debris, as a result of the eruption. More than one hundred people were critically burned. The eruption left an 8,000-foot crater in the earth. In the aftermath, the ash from Bandai dimmed the sun slightly worldwide for months.
Crime: Jul 15, 1953:
A notorious English killer is executed
John Christie, one of England's most notorious killers, is executed. Four months earlier, on March 25, the police and a tenant at 10 Rillington Place in West London made an awful discovery: the bodies of four women in an empty apartment, three in a hidden cupboard and one more beneath the floorboards. Christie, who used to live at the house, was apprehended a week later and confessed to the murders.
Since one of the dead women had been identified as Christie's wife, Ethel, police knew where to begin their search for the killer. The three other victims were young women, all of whom had been sexually assaulted. Detectives soon found additional bodies buried in the yard behind the house. Strangely enough, two of the women had not been murdered by Christie, but had died as the result of botched, illegal abortions conducted by another man.
Christie had been plagued his whole life with impotence, which caused the rage that eventually sparked his murder spree. Stories of the grisly discoveries at the soon-to-be infamous house at 10 Rillington Place filled the London tabloids for weeks and fueled the call for Christie's quick execution. Sources: history.com