This Day in Geek History: May 25
John T. Scopes is indicted for violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which prohibits the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution in Tennessee public schools. It marks the beginning of what will come to be known as the Scopes Trial.
The National Forensics League of America is founded to encourage high school students to participate in the forensic arts: debate, public speaking, and interpretation. Visit the official National Forensics League website.
First public screening of Fox Movietone News is exhibited at the Sam Harris Theater, in New York City. It features footage of Charles Lindberg’s sensational solo flight across the Atlantic ocean, which took place on May 20th and 21st.
In an experimental test of Penicillin, eight mice are inoculated with a lethal dose of streptococci and then four of the mice are injected with Penicillin. On the 26th, the four mice given the anti-biotic will be healthy, while the other four will be dead. Thus, Howard Florey, Ernst Chain, and Norman Heatley confirm that they had isolated enough of the drug’s active ingredient from what Fleming had termed “mould juice” to produce an effective dose.
In the case of Joseph Burstyn, Inc v. Wilson, dubbed the “Miracle case” by the press, the United States Supreme Court rules that it is unconstitutional to deny a license for exhibition of a film on the grounds that it the film “sacrilegious.” Films are, contrary to the Court’s 1915 opinion, “a significant medium for the communication of ideas” and thus entitled to protection of freedom of speech under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Read the ruling at Cornell University Law School.
At the Department of Energy Nevada Test Site in southeastern Nye County, the United States conducts its first and only nuclear artillery test as part of Operation Upshot-Knothole, a series of eleven nuclear tests. In 1955, the John Wayne film The Conqueror will be shot on shot on location near St. George, Utah, just 137 miles downwind of the test site over the course of thirteen weeks. By 1981, 91 of the film’s 220 cast and crew members will have developed some form of cancer. On June 11, 1979, John Wayne himself will die of stomach cancer, most likely due to the fallout from Operation Upshot-Knothole.
In a speech before a Special Joint Session of Congress, U.S. President John F. Kennedy calls for a vastly accelerated space program declaring, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.” In the speech he asks for additional appropriations for this and associated projects in space technology. He also estimates that US$9 bill will be needed over the following five years to fund rockets and other projects. Read the speech online. Watch the speech at Hulu.
Twentieth Century Fox releases the science fiction film Star Wars (which will later be retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), directed by George Lucas and starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, and Alec Guinness, opens in thirty-two U.S. theaters. The film will become an immediate success, breaking house records for the theater in which it was released and effectively becoming the first blockbuster in history, before expanding to become the highest grossing movie to date. Audiences are mesmerized by the extensive use of unparalleled special effects, most notably its pioneering use of motion control cameras. The success spawns a new wave of technology-based special effects houses. Produced on a budget of US$11 million, the film will gross US$6,806,951 in its first weekend of wide release. The film franchise spawned by the film will gross roughly US$4.3 billion by 2008, making it the third highest grossing film franchise of all time. IMDB listing (MPAA Rating: PG) Running Time: 2 hrs 1 min
Twentieth Century Fox releases the science fiction film Alien, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, and John Hurt, to 1,437 U.S. theaters. Produced on a budget of US$11 million, the film will gross US$10,052,042 domestically in its opening weekend. IMDB listing (MPAA Rating: R) Running Time: 1 hr 57 mins
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