August 20th 1938: Lou Gehrig hits 23rd Grand Slam
On this day in 1938 the famous New York Yankees baseball first baseman Lou Gehrig hit his 23rd Grand Slam. Nicknamed ‘The Iron Horse’, Gehrig’s 23 Grand Slams remained the most on record until it was broken by fellow Yankees player Alex Rodriguez in 2013. The remarkable career of this exceptionally talented baseball player ended in 1939 when, after his performance had been deteriorating, Gehrig was diagnosed with a terminal neurodegenerative disease which severely limits physical mobility (often to the point of paralysis) while not affecting the brain. The disease is known by different names, for example in the UK it is called motor neurone disease (or MND), and in the US as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The diagnosis led Gehrig to retire aged 36 and on a July 4th 1939 ‘Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day’ at Yankee Stadium, he gave an emotional farewell speech that has become known as baseball’s Gettysburg Address. Lou Gehrig died two years later just before his 38th birthday. His legacy continues as one of the greatest players of all time and in the fact that many Americans now refer to ALS/MND as ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease’. Other notable people to have this disease include Stephen Hawking, whose is an unusual case as he has lived with it for over 50 years. This cruel disease, which affects hundreds of thousands of people across the world, has been brought to the forefront of public attention due to the recent ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ in which someone has a bucket of ice water tipped over their head and then nominate others to do the same and donate to charity. To donate to this cause and find out more about the disease visit the ALSA website (US) or MNDA website (UK). The effort to raise funds and awareness of this disease which tragically ended Lou Gehrig’s life has been a great success, with over $30 million in donations being made to the ALSA and celebrities like Bill Gates, Robert Downey Jr. and the Foo Fighters getting involved.
"Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth…I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for”
- Lou Gehrig in his 1939 farewell speech
August 19th 14 AD: Augustus dies
On this day in 14 AD the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, died aged 75. Born Gaius Octavius and known as Octavian, he was named as heir of his great uncle Julius Caesar. Upon Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC, Augustus formed an alliance - the Second Triumvirate - with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Mark Antony, to rule and take vengeance on Caesar’s assassins. The alliance soon fell apart and the three fought for sole rule of Rome. Octavian emerged victorious after defeating Mark Anthony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. Octavian then set about ‘restoring’ the Roman Republic, which had been ruled by Caesar as Dictator, by formally returning power to the Senate. However in reality the new leader kept considerable power in his person, adopting many titles which became part of the imperial pantheon, including ‘Augustus’ (which loosely translates as ‘magnificent’), ‘princeps’ (first citizen), ‘pontifex maximus’ (priest of Roman religion) and ‘tribunicia potestas’ (power over the tribune assemblies elected by the people). Augustus’s constitutional system gave way to the birth of the Principate, the first period of the Roman Empire. He is also considered the first Roman Emperor because the empire greatly expanded under his rule. Augustus died in 14 AD, and was succeeded by his step-son and adopted heir Tiberius. Augustus thus began the stable line of ‘adoptive’ Roman Emperors which ended with Marcus Aurelius’s decision to name his birth son Commodus, who came to power in 180 AD. This year is the momentous 2000th anniversary of the death of the first Roman Emperor. Even today Rome is remembered as a pinnacle of civilisation and empire and much of modern Europe continues to be shaped by its legacy.
2000 years ago today
These icebergs by Zaria Forman are not photographed, they are painted. The New York based artist paints fascinating landscapes using pastels. The inspiration for her drawings began in her early childhood when she traveled with her family throughout several of the world’s most remote landscapes, which were the subject of her mother’s fine art photography. When Zaria Forman visited Greenland in 2012, she saw firsthand the effects that climate change had taken on the region. In her project ‘Chasing the Light’ she captures the idea of a world deep in the process of a terrifying change.
The artist explains: ‘My mother, Rena Bass Forman, had conceived the idea for the voyage, but sadly did not live to see it through. During the months of her illness her dedication to the expedition never wavered and I promised to carry out her final journey. In Greenland, I scattered her ashes amongst crackling ice diamonds, on the towering peak of one of earth’s oldest stones and under the green glow of northern lights. She is now a part of the landscape she loved so much. I am deeply grateful for the team of talented artists and scholars and the Wanderbird captains and crew for helping me carry out her wishes and realize her dream.’
This motivational man serves as a great example to kids that you don’t have to be limited by your limitations.
August 12th 30 BC: Cleopatra dies
On this day in 30 BC the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra VII, committed suicide. She came from a family of Greek origin who ruled Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great. Upon the death of her father Ptolemy XII in 51 BC Cleopatra became co-ruler with her brother Ptolemy XIII (and later her other brother Ptolemy XIV). She famously became lovers with Roman leader Julius Caesar, with whose help she was restored to rule after her brother had tried to oust her; she eventually became the sole pharaoh of Egypt. Cleopatra travelled to Rome with Caesar, but returned to her native Egypt upon his assassination. After Caesar’s death, she began a relationship with Mark Anthony as they worked together against Caesar’s successor Octavian. However their attempt was in vain, and at the sea Battle of Actium on the Greek coast in 31 BC they suffered a resounding defeat by Octavian’s forces. The two fled back to Egypt, where Anthony committed suicide after his troops deserted him. Cleopatra followed soon after, supposedly killing herself by means of an asp bite on August 12th 30 BC. With the fall of these two powerful figures, Octavian was able to consolidate his rule and become the first Roman emperor as ‘Augustus’. Caesarion, Cleopatra and Caesar’s son, who had been ruling as co-ruler with his mother, was killed by Augustus’s forces and thus Egypt soon became a province of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra remains a famous figure for her political astuteness and remarkable leadership of Egypt and has been popular in art and literature, including William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.