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A Look Back at the Last Fifty Years: 1966 – 2016

From great advancements in science to historic elections and triumphs of the human spirit, the past years have offered some incredible moments that have left indelible marks on history. Even after decades, these events still have the ability to inspire and captivate the imagination as they present real-life examples of what human ingenuity, hard work, and valor can accomplish. Of all the achievements of the past fifty years, the following 13 events and discoveries present humankind at its most inspirational:

1969: Mankind makes one giant leap forward as the first manned mission lands on the moon.

On July 20th, the crew of Apollo 11 made history as the first people to set foot on the moon. Neil Armstrong was the first to step off the lunar module onto the moon’s surface, with fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin joining him about 20 minutes later; together they spent a little over two hours exploring the lunar surface and collecting samples. A culmination of President Kennedy’s promise given in a speech given eight years earlier, this extraordinary scientific achievement followed a decade-long push to advance space exploration and granted the United States a major victory in the Space Race against the Soviet Union.

1973: The United States expands its space program with Skylab, its first space station.
Dubbed Skylab and launched on May 14, 1973, via an unmanned Saturn V rocket, the United States’ first space station marked an important step forward in the country’s space program. Unlike later modular stations, Skylab was delivered into orbit in one massive piece that contained a solar observatory, a workshop, a docking system, and accommodations for three-man crews for up to 84 days. Astronauts aboard Skylab could carry out several landmark scientific experiments, including the confirmation of the Sun’s coronal holes. Skylab’s astronauts were also able to study the effects of prolonged weightlessness, research that played an important role in later space missions. Though only in operation for six years, Skylab helped forge the way for later space stations, including the International Space Station’s launch in 2000.

1977: The Apple II emerged on the market to revolutionize the home computer industry.

The brainchild of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the Apple II was Apple Computer’s first consumer product and was designed to be easy to use, reliable and inexpensive enough to be accessible to many ordinary Americans. Unlike most previous computers which were marketed to computer enthusiasts or businesses, the Apple II was intended to be used by regular American households. As journalists at the time noted, the Apple II helped mark a shift in perception of personal computers “from a ‘machine’ to an ‘appliance'”–something necessary and seamlessly integrated into daily American life. On the basis of the Apple II, Apple Computers experienced yearly growth of 533 percent over the next three years, firmly establishing the company as one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative firms.

1978: Medical research triumphs as the first “test tube baby” is born to a couple in Great Britain.

Louise Joy Brown became the first child born through in vitro fertilization on July 25, 1978. Popularly referred to as the world’s first test tube baby, Louise Joy’s birth followed years of failures in an attempt to find a medically viable cure for infertility. The doctors responsible for this incredible medical advancement, gynecologist Dr. Patrick Steptoe of Oldham General Hospital and physiologist Dr. Robert Edwards of Cambridge University, had begun working on artificial conception methods in 1966. Steptoe and Edwards had difficulty perfecting an effective implantation method for the eggs they had fertilized in test tubes, leading to dozens of failed pregnancies. Finally, the doctors were able to successfully implant a fertilized egg in Louise Joy’s mother, Lesley Brown, setting the stage for thousands of previously infertile couples to have families of their own.

1980: The U.S. Men’s Hockey team surges to victory over the Soviet Union at the Winter Olympics in the “Miracle on Ice.”

Now considered one of the greatest sports moments of the twentieth century, the U.S. Men’s Hockey team’s win against the favored Soviet Union team at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics marked an important moment in U.S. team sports. The Soviet Union’s men’s hockey team were the heavy favorites, having won six of the previous seven gold medals in the sport and featuring a roster of professional players. On the other hand, the U.S. team consisted mainly of amateurs; indeed, the U.S. team was the youngest at the Olympics. Trailing going into the final period, the U.S. team managed to eke out two goals to upset their Cold War rivals, leading to sportscaster Al Michaels to declare, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” and giving the game the nickname “Miracle on Ice.”

1982: University of Utah doctors pioneer first permanent artificial heart.

While the first artificial heart was invented by a Soviet scientist in 1937, the first device appropriate for permanent human use was not implanted until 1982. Building on many years of innovations by a number of doctors and scientists, Dr. Robert Jarvik made Several important adjustments to the design and functionality of the artificial heart while still a student at the University of Utah. On December 2, 1982, Dr. Willian DeVries implanted Jarvik’s design–dubbed the Jarvik 7–into a retired dentist; the patient, Barney Bailey Clark, lived 112 days after the operation. Since this first patient, over 350 others have used the Jarvik 7 model of artificial heart to vastly extend their life expectancies.

1985: Approximately £150 million in donations is generated by Live Aid, a star-studded event aimed at raising money for famine victims in Ethiopia.

Following the success of the 1984 charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure came up with the idea to put on multi-country concert to raise money for the victims of the ongoing famine in Ethiopia. Geldof and Ure were able to attract big name artists such as Queen, U2, David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner and Bob Dylan to perform. On July 13, almost 75,000 people attended the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in London with over 100,000 attending the simultaneous concert held at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia; additional concerts were held at the same time in Japan, Australia, Austria, West Germany and the Soviet Union, and almost two billion people watched the live broadcast worldwide. In the end, an incredible £150 million was received in donations from viewers of the television broadcast.

1990: Distant stars and galaxies come into view as the Hubble Space Telescope is launched.

Although not the first telescope sent into space, the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope marked an important advancement in exploration of distant galaxies due to its size and versatility. Delivered into a low Earth orbit by the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 25, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has since captured some of the most iconic images of the far reaches of the universe including those of the Butterfly Nebula, the Tadpole Galaxy, and the Helix Nebula. Many major scientific breakthroughs have also been made based on the Hubble Space Telescope’s observations, including an accurate determination of the rate at which the universe is expanding and a confirmation of the number of galaxies with black holes at their center. Following a final servicing mission in 2009, the Hubble Space Telescope is projected to remain in operation for another 25 years.

1991: The World Wide Web launches to the public and makes the world a smaller place.

The early Internet was a very different place than it is today: primarily the purview of scientists and largely inaccessible to the average American. That all began to change on August 6, 1991 as the World Wide Web saw its launch to the general public. First proposed by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, Berners-Lee and his team at CERN were responsible for much of the foundational work on the World Wide Web. Although now remembered as an important step toward bringing the world together over the Internet, the launch was met with little fanfare or press attention at the time. However, advancements in the technology came quickly to expand its reach, with the first image posted to the World Wide Web the following year and CERN’s announcement that the World Wide Web would be free for all the year after.

1994: South Africa overcomes its checkered apartheid history and elects Nelson Mandela as president in its first election offering universal adult suffrage.

By the late 1980s, South Africa had come under heavy international criticism for its apartheid government, a codified system of racial discrimination and segregation upheld by minority rule since 1948. Beginning in 1991, internal and external pressures lead to discussions to formally end apartheid, paving the way for the first election in South Africa that granted the vote to all adults regardless of race. As the head of the new African National Congress, famed anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela was easily elected as South Africa’s first black president. Nelson Mandela came to be regarded as the “Father of the Nation,” and the date of the 1994 election–April 27th–is now celebrated as Freedom Day, a public holiday observed throughout South Africa.

1996: Dolly the sheep is the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell.

Named the “world’s most famous sheep” by Scientific American, Dolly was born on July 5, 1996 to three mothers: one who supplied the egg, another who provided her DNA, and a third who carried the embryonic Dolly to term. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute pioneered this cloning technique, using the nuclear transfer process on a single cell from a mammary gland to create Dolly. Although this cloning technique offers many possibilities for saving endangered animals or even resurrecting extinct species, Dolly’s major legacy lies in the advancements she made possible in human stem cell research.

2003: The Human Genome Project maps the human genome through the largest collaboration on a biological research project in history.

Formally launched in 1990, the Human Genome Project united scientists from around the world through a publicly funded research project to map out the DNA sequence of the human genome. While the project’s goal was to finish the sequencing within 15 years, the endeavor was declared complete two years ahead of schedule with final mapping carried out on April 14, 2003. With the completion of the sequencing of the human genome came enormous scientific potential in a number of fields from human evolution to molecular medicine. From advancements in the search for a cure for cancer to innovations in biofuels, scientists continue to discover new applications for the information uncovered through the Human Genome Project. Following in the original spirit of the project, the entire sequence has been made available to the public over the Internet.

2009: Barack Obama is inaugurated as the first African-American president of the United States.

On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States in an inauguration ceremony themed “A New Birth of Freedom” in honor of the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Obama’s inauguration followed his decisive victory over Senator John McCain in the general election, becoming the first African-American to be elected president with the largest popular vote percentage for any Democrat since President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. In his inauguration speech, Obama paid homage to President Lincoln and recalled his ideals of national unity and shared sacrifice. As a reflection of the inauguration’s theme of unity, the Presidential Inaugural Committee aimed to include more ordinary citizens in the celebration by opening the entire National Mall to spectators and hosting a Neighborhood Inaugural Ball with low-cost tickets.

If you would like to reminisce about these historic events and achievements with others of your generation who lived through them alongside you, Havenwood Heritage Heights’ tight-knit senior community may be exactly what you are looking for. Please contact us today to learn more about our retirement community in Concord, New Hampshire.