August 27, 1908: Birth of Lyndon B. Johnson
On this day in 1908, former president Lyndon B. Johnson was born in Stonewall, Texas. He succeeded to the presidency after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963.
As president, LBJ was responsible for designing the “Great Society” legislation that included laws upholding civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, and Medicaid. It was his advocacy for American involvement in the Vietnam War that eventually cost him his popularity and the possibility of reelection.
Watch this American Experience documentary about the legacy of the late president Lyndon B. Johnson.
Photo: Library of Congress
August 26, 1906: Birth of Polio Scientist Albert Sabin
On this day in 1906, Albert Sabin, best known for his development of an oral polio vaccine, was born in Poland. He attended medical school at New York University in 1931 and went on to work with other notable scientists like Jonas Salk to find a cure for polio.
The mid-20th century polio epidemic revolutionized medical philanthropy with the creation of the March of Dimes, an effort to raise money one dime at a time from millions of small donors. Cultural icons like Marilyn Monroe, Johnny Cash, and Grace Kelly joined together to support the March of Dimes, which was founded by the polio-infected Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Check out this American Experience photo gallery of the major figures and events of “The Polio Crusade.”
Photo: National Endowment for the Humanities
August 24, 2006: Pluto Loses Planet Status
Papier-mâché solar systems dangling from strings in science classrooms made before this day in 2006 were deemed irrelevant as the International Astronomical Union declared that Pluto was no longer a planet. Since its discovery in 1930, icy Pluto (now considered a “dwarf planet) had been classified as the 9th planet from the sun.
Join Neil deGrasse Tyson in NOVA’s “The Pluto Files” to find out what it is about Pluto that captured so many hearts and caused an uproar upon its demotion.
Photo: Lunar and Planetary Institute
August 24, 79 AD: Pompeii and Herculaneum Destroyed in Mount Vesuvius Eruption
On this day in the year 79 AD, over 16,000 people died from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the Gulf of Naples, Italy. The volcano spewed molten rock and pulverized pumice at 1.5 million tons per second, releasing a 100,000 times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima bombing.
As a result, the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and their citizens were nearly instantly buried beneath a thick layer of volcanic material.
Join geo-archaeologists in Secrets of the Dead’s “Herculaneum Uncovered” as they examine how the eruption devastated Herculaneum in a very different manner than to Pompeii.
Photo: Mount Versuvius, Library of Congress, 1872.
August 23, 2012: 100th Anniversary of Gene Kelly’s Birth
On this day in 1912, American performer and choreographer Eugene “Gene” Kelly was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Most known today for his starring roles in Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris, Gene Kelly is regarded as one of the greatest male stars of all time.
Check out this American Masters timeline of Gene Kelly’s life and career.