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10 of the Noteworthy Firsts Throughout History

Noteworthy Firsts

The way of life that seems usual for us today was not, of course, the same forever. There had been some remarkable changes that twisted the fabric of reality tremendously. These varieties of first-timer incidents are the sources of almost all the phenomena that we witness today in the world. From such a heavy basket of “firsts,” here are 10 of them that are noteworthy and truly groundbreaking.

1. The first anti-hacking law was passed after US President Ronald Reagan saw the movie War Games and asked his staff if something like that was possible. A week later, the staff responded to Reagan by saying that the problem is “much worse than you think.”

President Ronald Reagan
Washington, DC. USA, February, 1985 President Ronald Reagan (Image to the left), War Games movie scene. Image credits: Mark Reinstein via Shutterstock, Sherwood Productions

The movie War Games was the first popular film that depicted what hackers could do. When President Ronald Reagan saw it for the first time, it freaked him out and brought the issue to the White House a few days later. He asked his staff if breaking into sensitive computers is actually possible.

A week later, the staff replied to the President by saying that the matter is “much worse than you think,” and that led to important changes in the computer security at the Defence Department.

The event also helped in the drafting of an anti-hacking law which eventually turned into the Computer Fraud and Abuse Law.

This was not the only time that Reagan was influenced by a sci-fi movie to the degree that he considered it to be real. Other dramas like The Day the Earth Stood Still and John Carter of Mars also left an impact on him and influenced the theories that he came up with. (source)

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2. Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win it twice, and the only person to win it in two different sciences. Curie, being a woman, couldn’t attend college legally, so she did it illegally by going to a secret organization called the “Flying University.”

Marie Curie
Marie Curie (1867-1934), Polish-French physicist who won two Nobel Prizes, in 1903 for Physics and 1911 for Chemistry. Image credit: Shutterstock

Curie was a prodigy with an exceptional memory. At 16, she won a gold medal for completing her secondary education at a Russian Iycee.

After going through substantial financial turmoil, she moved to Paris in 1891 with her new name Marie. Her original name was “Sklodowska.”

There she met with renowned physicists and worked really hard. Her financial position was still very bad, and she had to survive days on bread, butter, and tea.

Finally, in 1903, she was awarded half of the Nobel Prize for Physics along with her husband, Pierre Curie. The award was given to them for their study of spontaneous radiation which was discovered by Becquerel. And in 1911, Madam Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, this time for the isolation of pure radium.

Besides the Nobel Prize, Curie also received the Davy Medal of Royal Society in 1903 jointly with her husband. (1, 2)

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3. In 1911, France Perkins witnessed the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which claimed the lives of 146 workers. Most of the victims were the employed young women of the factory. The factory didn’t have fire escapes, and when it caught fire, workers tried escaping from windows but failed. The incident became a pivotal event in Perkins’ life, and she went on to become the first female US Secretary of Labor. She made great strides in improving workplace safety. 

France Perkins
France Perkins. Image credits: Library of Congress/Picryl.com

It was 25 March of the year 1911 when the infamous disaster happened. 

The incident compelled Perkins to push through important labor law reforms, improve safety codes and protect women workers.

In her own words, Perkins described the fire as “a never to be forgotten reminder of why I had to spend my life fighting conditions that could permit such tragedy.” Perkins held the position of secretary of labor from 1933 to 1945.

The scene at the 1911 factory fire was horrible. The fire started on the 18th floor, the doors were tightly locked, and nobody could breakthrough. There wasn’t enough water to stop the fire, and even the fireman’s ladder below was too short of reaching the higher stories.

To escape from fire, workers jumped out of the windows but fell to their deaths right onto the sidewalks outsides. Some even got crushed into the elevator shaft or when the fire escape collapsed. 

However, the aftermath of the incident saw some significant legislative changes.

Perkins and her committee on Safety introduced 36 new labor laws, including restrictions on child labor and working hours. She also passed the National Labor Relations Act of 1935. (1, 2)

4. During the 1887 mayoral elections, a group of men added Susanna M. Salter’s name to the mayoral ballot of Argonia, Kansas as a prank. They thought a clear loss would discourage women from running for office. Ironically, she won by a two-thirds majority and became America’s first female mayor.

Susanna Salter
Susanna Madora Salter. Image credit: kansasmemory

Salter didn’t have a hint that her name had been placed on the ballot until the results were disclosed on 4 April 1887, also that was because candidates were not supposed to be made public before election day.

When she knew her name was on the list, she surprisingly agreed to accept the office in case she got elected.

She then actually won the elections with the help of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union who dissolved their support for a male candidate and voted for Salter.

The Republicans also voted for her, and she accepted the delegation which was exclusively sent to her at her own place by the local Republican Party chairman himself.

Her victory also made her one of the first women to serve in any political office in the US.

The news spread rapidly across the entire nation when the press showed interest in the case. Newspapers also helped the event reach the public in Sweden and South Africa.

Later, Salter served for just a year and declined to stand for re-election in 1888. (source)

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5. Alexander Cumming was an inventor and the first person to patent a flush toilet in 1775. He included an S-trap in the design to prevent sewer gasses from entering the building through the toilet which helped in keeping out foul odors. This design is still incorporated by modern toilets.

Alexander Cumming
Alexander Cumming (Image to the left), Cumming’s valve closet. Image credit: Wikimedia, Alexander Cumming via the plumber.com/Wikimedia

The inventor and the period of the invention of flush toilets that we use today are actually debatable. Some historians claim the method was invented by ancient civilizations, whereas some believe the flush toilet was first invented by Thomas Crapper in the 1860s.

The most commonly agreed-upon claim is that it was Sir John Harrington, godson of Elizabeth I, in 1592.

Harrington had built one of the earliest models of flush toilets for himself and one for his godmother. The invention is said to have been overlooked for almost 200 years until 1775 when Alexander Cumming entered the scene.

Cumming was a watchmaker and his most substantial invention, rather a enhancement, was the S-shaped pipe fixed under the toilet basin which keeps the foul odor out.

The bend retains the water within the pipe which helps prevent the sewer gases from entering the room. This genius development is still used in modern toilets and all home drainage systems.

Cumming patented the design of the flush toilet in 1775. The same design that had been pioneered by Harrington. (1, 2, 3)

Also read: 10 Interesting but Lesser-known Events From History

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