Good News in History, February 16

1421 years ago today, Pope Gregory the Great decreed that saying ‘God bless You’ should be the immediate response whenever someone sneezes, according to History.com.

National Geographic reported it was during the plague when Pope Gregory I ordered “unceasing prayer for divine intercession,” commanding that anyone sneezing “be blessed immediately… since sneezing was often the first sign that someone was falling ill with the plague.” (600)

Gregory I became pope in 590 and effected great changes in the Roman Catholic church. He used the office to govern and provide pastoral care to a large area during a time of little civil administration. He also reformed church liturgy, introducing the Gregorian chant. His writings about saints, including Saint Benedict, helped the growth of Benedictine monasteries in the Middle Ages.

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • Gallaudet University (then known as the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf, Dumb and Blind) received its U.S. funding charter as an educational institution, becoming the first school for the advanced education of the deaf and hard of hearing in the world (1857)
  • The A-note above middle C was standardized to a frequency of 435 Hz, by French law (1859)
  • Lithuania defied the German empire and declared its Independence, governed by democratic principles, with Vilnius as its capital (1918)
  • British Egyptologist Howard Carter unsealed the treasure-filled burial chamber of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun—and later he ensured the artifacts remained in country, in the National Egyptian Museum (1923)
  • Canadians were granted Canadian citizenship, after 80 years of being issuing British passports (1947)
  • The first 911 emergency phone system was instituted by officials in Haleyville, Alabama (1968)
  • The Kyoto Protocol came into force following Russian ratification (2005)

217 years ago, American US Navy Lt. Stephen Decatur led a successful raid into Tripoli harbor to burn the U.S.S. Philadelphia so the captured ship, which had fallen into pirate hands, could not be used against them during the First Barbary War.

ship burning uss philadelphiaTogether with a crew of 84 men, Decatur sailed into the harbor pretending to be lost and stormed the Philadelphia. They set it ablaze and fled, barely escaping being caught in the flames themselves. His spirited initiative made Decatur an instant hero and earned him a promotion to captain at age 25. The young officer would later go on to become one of America’s great naval heroes during the War of 1812. (1804)

Bryan Ledgard, CC license

And, 16 years ago today, Musician Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens, was awarded substantial damages from The Sunday Times and The Sun, after they had printed articles alleging he was involved in terrorism. Both newspapers apologized for the “false and highly defamatory allegations,” and paid his legal bills. The 56-year-old musician gave the money to Tsunami relief projects. (2005)

Publicity

71 years ago today, the longest-running game show on prime-time, What’s My Line? debuted on CBS. The quiz show used celebrity panelists to question contestants in order to determine their occupation, i.e. ‘line’ of work. Top Hollywood celebrities of the day appeared also as “mystery guests” trying to stump the panelists who were blindfolded while asking questions.

The mystery guests would usually attempt to conceal their identities with disguised voices, much to the amusement of the studio audience. Over the years, they included Muhammad Ali, Julie Andrews, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Tony Bennett, Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett—and those are just the names starting with A or B.

Because the program, which won three Emmys and a Golden Globe, had celebrities in every episode, almost all of its recordings have been preserved by the renown producers Mark Goodson and Bill Todman—and they were made available on YouTube. WATCH a clip with Jerry Lewis on the panel and Walt Disney as the mystery guest… (1950)

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