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Sunday, December 02, 2012

World War II

Dec 2, 1942:

Fermi produces the first nuclear chain reaction

On this day, Enrico Fermi, the Italian-born Nobel Prize-winning physicist, directs and controls the first nuclear chain reaction in his laboratory beneath the bleachers of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, ushering in the nuclear age. Upon succesful completion of the experiment, a coded message was transmitted to President Roosevelt: "The Italian navigator has landed in the new world."

Following on England's Sir James Chadwick's discovery of the neutron and the Curies' production of artificial radioactivity, Fermi, a full-time professor of physics at the University of Florence, focused his work on producing radioactivity by manipulating the speed of neutrons derived from radioactive beryllium. Further similar experimentation with other elements, including uranium 92, produced new radioactive substances; Fermi's colleagues believed he had created a new "transuranic" element with an atomic number of 93, the result of uranium 92 capturing a neuron while under bombardment, thus increasing its atomic weight. Fermi remained skeptical about his discovery, despite the enthusiasm of his fellow physicists. He became a believer in 1938, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for "his identification of new radioactive elements." Although travel was restricted for men whose work was deemed vital to national security, Fermi was given permission to leave Italy and go to Sweden to receive his prize. He and his wife, Laura, who was Jewish, never returned; both feared and despised Mussolini's fascist regime.

Crime

Dec 2, 1991:

Kennedy cousin rape trial begins

Opening testimony takes place in the highly publicized rape trial of William Kennedy Smith, a nephew of President John F. Kennedy and son of Jean Kennedy Smith, the president's sister and a former ambassador to Ireland. Smith, then a 30-year-old medical student at Georgetown University, was accused of sexually assaulting a 29-year-old Florida woman in the early hours of March 30, 1991, at the Kennedy family's Palm Beach compound.

On the night of March 29, Smith went out in Palm Beach with his uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, and cousin, Patrick Kennedy. They ended up at a night spot called Au Bar, where Smith met the accuser, who later accompanied him back to the Kennedy estate. Smith and the woman went for a walk on the beach, during which time Smith allegedly tackled and raped her. Taking the stand in his own defense in court, Smith testified he had sex with the woman but that it was consensual. At the trial, Judge Mary E. Lupo barred prosecutors from presenting testimony from three other women who claimed Smith had assaulted them.

General Interest

Dec 2, 1804:

Napoleon crowned emperor

In Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Napoleon Bonaparte is crowned Napoleon I, the first Frenchman to hold the title of emperor in a thousand years. Pope Pius VII handed Napoleon the crown that the 35-year-old conqueror of Europe placed on his own head.

The Corsican-born Napoleon, one of the greatest military strategists in history, rapidly rose in the ranks of the French Revolutionary Army during the late 1790s. By 1799, France was at war with most of Europe, and Napoleon returned home from his Egyptian campaign to take over the reigns of the French government and save his nation from collapse. After becoming first consul in February 1800, he reorganized his armies and defeated Austria. In 1802, he established the Napoleonic Code, a new system of French law, and in 1804 he established the French empire. By 1807, Napoleon's empire stretched from the River Elbe in the north, down through Italy in the south, and from the Pyrenees to the Dalmatian coast.





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