This Day in Geek History: June 22
Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, age 70, is forced by the Inquisition to “abjure, curse, and detest” his heliocentric theories that the Sun rather than the Earth is the center of the Universe. He is also condemned to “formal prison of the Holy Office” for an indeterminate period served at the pleasure of the Inquisition’s judges and ordered to recite the seven penitential psalms once a week, every week for three years. However the Pope will moderate the sentence by specifying that it will be served under house arrest. On Oct 31, 1992, Pope John Paul II will admit regret over the handling of the matter and issue a declaration acknowledge errors committed by the tribunal that judged Galileo.
The Royal Greenwich Observatory is created by Royal Warrant in England by Charles II. Construction will begin on August 10, 1675 and finish the following year. The observatory’s primary uses will be practical astronomy: navigation, timekeeping, and mapping the star. Visit the official Greenwich Observatory website.
A scientific congress in France defines the length of a meter as one ten-millionth of the distance of the Earth from the equator to the North Pole in a curved line of latitude passing through Paris. The measurement is based on observations made by astronomers Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre and Pierre-François-André Mechain. The measurement is .2 millimeters shorter than later modern scientific instruments will determine. The inaccuracy is the result of incorrect latitude data gathered by Mechain.
Mail is transported via jet airplane for the first time in history.
The first operationally successful U.S. surveillance satellite, Galactic Radiation and Background (GRAB), is launched.
The Supreme Court of the United States rules in the case of Loydd v. Tanner that the First Amendment does not give citizens the right to express themselves freely on private property. Though the case concerns a private citizen’s right to distribute handbills in a mall, the ruling will have a significant and long-reaching impact on matters involving communication via the internet. It will often be used to defend companies’ right to censor or and filter user’s communications in games and on internet forums.
The first crew of the Skylab splash down safely after a record twenty-eight days in space. The Skylab is the first space station the United States launched into orbit. The Skylab was launched on May 14th, and it was first manned on May 25th.
Evidence of the first moon of Pluto is discovered by astronomer James W. Christy of the Naval Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona when he obtains a photograph of Pluto that shows the orb to be distinctly elongated. Furthermore, the elongations appeared to change position with respect to the stars over time. After eliminating the possibility that the elongations are produced by plate defects and background stars, the only plausible explanation is that they are caused by a previously unknown body orbiting Pluto at a distance of approximately 12,100 miles (19,600km) with a period of 6.4 days. Depending on the definition employed, the body is either the largest moon of Pluto or one member of a double dwarf planet of which Pluto is also part. The moon is named Charon, after the boatman in Greek mythology who took the souls of the dead across the River Styx to Pluto’s underworld.
The software company Infocom is founded by a group of programmers from the Dynamic Modeling Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) staff and students led by Joel Berez, Marc Blank, Dave Lebling, and Albert Vezza. It will be notable for the numerous interactive fiction games and it’s one business application, Cornerstone, a database program developed at an absurd cost that will become an utter flop in the PC market, bankrupting Infocom. The company will be acquired by Activision in 1986 and shut down in 1989, although Activision will release several popular titles under Infocom’s Zork brand.