Good News in History, March 13

240 years ago today, Sir William Herschel first observed Uranus from the garden of his house. With his homemade 6.2-inch reflecting telescope, he initially reported it as “either a Nebulous star or perhaps a comet,” and engaged in a “series of observations on the parallax of the fixed stars,” comparing it to a planet.

Herschel notified the Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne of his discovery, who said, “I don’t know what to call it. It is as likely to be a regular planet moving in an orbit nearly circular to the sun as a Comet moving in a very eccentric ellipsis.” Astronomers soon began to suspect the truth.

In recognition of his achievement, King George III gave Herschel an annual stipend for him to move to Windsor so the Royal Family could look through his telescopes. Herschel’s home in Bath, Somerset, England is now the Herschel Museum of Astronomy—and Uranus was named after the ancient Greek deity of the sky Uranus, the grandfather of Zeus. (1781)

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • Workdays for women and children in France were limited to 11 hours (1900)
  • Mongolia declared its independence from China (1921)
  • Mike Stoller, (with producing partner Jerry Leiber) who co-wrote over 70 hits that climbed American record charts, including “Hound Dog”, “Kansas City”, and “Jailhouse Rock”, was born (1933)
  • The Allman Brothers Band recorded a rock concert in New York City (for the second night) that would become their classic album, Live At Fillmore East (1971)
  • In response to widespread demonstrations by the deaf and hearing impaired student body, Gallaudet University hired its first deaf president (1988)
  • The journal Nature reported that 350,000-year-old upright-walking human footprints were found in Italy (2003)

And, on this day in 2013, Pope Francis was selected by the Vatican’s papal conclave to become the leader of the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis-CC Casa RosadaSince then, numerous charitable and kind-hearted deeds have earned him rock star levels of popularity, even among non-religious folks. Check out the Pope’s Top 10 Happiness Tips: Focus on Leisure, Family and Being Positive.

And, on this day in 1993, Eric Clapton’s LP Unplugged hit No.1 on U.S. charts—and stayed there—becoming the most successful and best-selling LIVE album of all time. It was nominated for 9 Grammy Awards in 1993 and won 6, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year.

The MTV production shot in England followed the accidental death of his young son and was Clapton’s best-selling album, with sales of 26 million copies worldwide. It included wondrous versions of Layla and Tears of Heaven, and Love Comes Over You.

Also, 176 years ago today, Felix Mendelssohn’s renowned violin concerto premiered in Leipzig, Germany. It took six years to complete and became one of the most frequently performed and commonly recognizable violin pieces in history.

Lasting just under half an hour, the concerto was innovative and included many novel features for its time, distinctive aspects such as the almost-immediate entrance of the violin at the beginning of the work—rather than an orchestral lead-in. The Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 was the German composer’s last orchestral work. One of the finest of the Romantic era, it was influential on so many other composers. LISTEN below to see if you recognize it within a few seconds… (1845) – Violin by Anne Sophie-Mutter


And, on this day in 1999, Cher hit No.1 with ‘Believe’, and the upbeat dance-pop song stayed atop the US singles chart for four weeks. Cher became the oldest woman to top the Hot 100, at age 53. The song reached No.1 in almost every country it charted, including the UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Spain, France, Germany and Italy. ‘Believe‘— an anthem of hope about overcoming a painful breakup—remains one of the best-selling singles of all time, logging 11 million sold worldwide.

WATCH the official video, and listen for the “auto-tuned” vocal effect, made by audio processing software, a relatively new process that became known as the “Cher effect”.

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