1930 – Amy Johnson flies from England to Darwin

Amy Johnson became famous the world over after she became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. Flying her de Havilland Gipsy Moth (which she had named ‘Jason’), she departed from Croydon, near London, on May 5, 1930 and reached Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory, on May 24, a flight of some 11,000 miles (or 18,000 km). She was honoured with the Harmon Trophy, a CBE, the No. 1 civil pilot’s licence under Australia’s 1921 Air Navigation Regulations and a street in Darwin that still bears her name today, all for this achievement.

Johnson later died under disputed circumstances during World War Two – it is believed that she may have been on a mission for British intelligence, but the truth of the matter has never been revealed.

Referenced in:

Flying Sorcery — Al Stewart
A Lone Girl Flier — Bob Molyneux
Just Plain Johnnie — Bob Molyneux
Amy, Wonderful Amy — Harry Bidgood
Johnnie, Our Aeroplane Girl — Jack Lumsdaine

1974 – Duke Ellington dies

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was one of the greatest and most influential of Jazz musicians – although he himself always described his music as “American music”, and used the phrase “beyond category” to praise music he particularly liked.

He was born in Washington DC in 1899 to parents who were also musical, and who nurtured his talents. Ellington started writing his own compositions at the age of 15, and by the time of his death, would have created more than a thousand pieces of original music, embracing the jazz he is best known for as well as other musical styles including blues, gospel, pop and classical.

He is universally regarded as one of the all time greats in his field, and achieved (and faded from) popular and critical success several times during his life (and after).

Referenced in:
L.A. Money Train — Rollins Band
Woke Up This Morning — Alabama 3

1543 – Copernicus publishes ‘De revolutionibus orbium coelestium’

Technically, this is actually the date of Copernicus’ death, however, since no authoritative dating other than ‘shortly before his death’ exists for the publication of ‘De revolutionibus orbium coelestium’, I have chosen to use this date.

‘De revolutionibus orbium coelestium’, or in English, ‘On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres” is the single most famous work regarding the heliocentric theory of the solar system, i.e. the theory that the planets revolve around the Sun. It inspired considerable controversy in its day, which is one reason why Copernicus published it when he did – the historical evidence suggests that it was written between 1510 and 1530 – and effectively disproved the Platonic theory that the sun and planets revolved around the Earth.

Referenced in:

The World’s Address – They Might Be Giants