June 22, 4119 BCE — Bilbo Baggins returns to the Shire after his adventures

More than a year after he had departed, and after numerous adventures, after triumphs and losses, Bilbo Baggins returned to his home of Bag End, in the Shire. His long adventures there and back again are completed; he carries with him the One Ring (albeit not yet recognised as such), and believes that all his troubles lie behind him.

He is mildly discombobulated to discover that he has been declared dead and that certain of his relatives are attempting to claim his possessions. The matter is soon sorted out, although Bilbo’s penchant for adventures, the strange company he keeps (elves, dwarves and even wizards come to visit at times), and, we must suppose, a certain jealousy of his wealth, do little to endear him to most other hobbits.

1633 – Galileo is forced to recant by the Inquisition

Galileo Galilei is one of the people most credited with creating modern science – he is regarded as the father of physics and of observational astronomy. Among his acheivements are the discovery of Jupiter’s four largest moons, advances in telescope design and construction and his famous demonstration of the constant acceleration of falling objects.

An early advocate of the heliocentric theory – the idea that the Earth and the other planets revolve around the sun – Galileo Galilei was denounced for this heretical view by various members of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately for Galileo, he lived in Italy, which at the time was dominated by the power of the church. He was summoned to Rome and tried for heresy (although his true crime seems to be less his heresies and more his willingness to teach them to others).

He was convicted and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. In addition, he was forced to publicly recant his views – although legend has it that his denial was followed by the muttered words ‘E pur si muove!’ – ‘and yet it moves’ – an explicit contradiction of the Biblical doctrine that the Earth is fixed in space. It will never be known if he actually did say the words – but it’s nice to think that he did.

Referenced in:

Bohemian Rhapsody — Queen

I know, I know, the song only mentions his name… but this is such a cool story, and it’s such a cool song…

1969 – The Cuyahoga River catches fire. Again.

Between 1868 and 1969, there were thirteen separate fires on the Cuyahoga River, the worst occurring in 1952. It was one of the most polluted watercourses in all of the United States. But the 1969 fire, although not the most damaging, was the one with the most lasting effects. Public outcry over the fire led to the creation of the Clean Water Act, Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA).

Water quality on the Cuyahoga has improved, and most of the largest individual sources of pollution have been cleaned up, but the problem remains one that needs guarding against to prevent a recurrence.

Referenced in:
Cuyahoga – R.E.M.
Burn On – Randy Newman
River On Fire – Adam Again

June 22, 1491 BCE — The Ten Commandments are handed down to Moses

No doubt you’re familiar with the story: during the 40 years that the Israelites spent wandering in the Sinai desert between fleeing Egypt and entering Canaan, they encamped for some time at the foot of Mt Sinai.

At one point, God summoned Moses, his chosen prophet and the leader of the Israelites, to the top of the mountain, and here he gave him stone tablets upon which were inscribed the Ten Commandments – one of the world’s earliest legal codes that is still known to us.

When Moses carried the tablets back down the mountain, he was sufficiently enraged by the conduct and reaction of his fellow Israelites that he broke them half. Fortunately, God had made a backup copy, and Moses was able to once more bring the tablets of the Ten Commandments.

Jewish tradition holds that both sets of tablets were stored inside the Ark of the Covenant, which implies that their current resting place is a non-descript government warehouse somewhere in the USA.