On This Day in History, August 26

In 1071, the Byzantine Empire suffered a critical defeat at the hands of the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert. The Byzantine emperor, Romanos IV, was captured and held for a week, undermining his rule and further weakening Byzantine rule over Anatolia, which is now the nation of Turkey. While another four hundred years would pass before the fall of the Byzantines, this battle is commonly seen as, at best, a setback for that empire.

In 1789, the National Constituent Assembly of Revolutionary France adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Involved with its drafting was Marquis de Lafayette, who consulted Thomas Jefferson during the process. The Declaration set down that men are born free with equal rights, those being ‘liberty, property, safety, and resistance against oppression,’ and defined the concept of liberty and the role of law and government.

In 1980, FBI technicians accidentally set off a bomb of 1,000 pounds of dynamite after attempting to disarm the weapon. The bomb had been brought to Harvey’s Resort Hotel in Stateline, Nevada for the purpose of extortion—John Birges, who led the effort along with three others, wanted $3 million after losing $750,000 there due to his gambling habit. The hotel and nearby casino had been emptied before the disarm attempt, so nobody was injured.

A Notable Birth

1918 – Katherine Johnson (d. 2020) was an American mathematician, whose work was essential for NASA’s successes during the Space Race. Most notably, her calculations were used for both Project Mercury, which put Americans into space, and the Apollo Program, to reach the moon.

A Notable Death

1974 – Charles Lindbergh (b. 1902) was an American pilot and activist. His early career included flying for the military and the postal service before turning his attention to the Orteig Prize for whoever could first fly from New York to Paris, which he would achieve with the Spirit of St. Louis. He would eventually leave the military due to non-intervention views.

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