Top 10 Influential Firsts in History
History always has something to say about someone who is number one. A certain individual can become famous for a variety of heroic, unfortunate, ground breaking, or even uncontrollable events. When a new trend appears in transportation, communication, or the technical word, an innovator is always there to be the first to develop or test the new technology. History has many examples of influential firsts that have had a great impact on society, culture, and the world as a whole.
10. The first internet virus: Morris Worm
In 1988, Cornell University student Robert Tappan Morris created a computer worm and released it on the cyber world. He claimed that he was trying to gauge the size of the internet. The Morris worm worked by exploiting known vulnerabilities in Unix sendmail, Finger, rsh/rexec, and weak passwords. However, the code became extremely damaging. A computer could be infected multiple times with the virus and each occasion would slow the machine down considerably. Often times to the point of becoming unusable. It was estimated that there were about 60,000 computers attached to the internet at this time and the Morris worm affected 10% of them. The U.S. Government Accountability Office put the cost of the damage at some where between $10 million and $100 million dollars. The Morris worm was the first true distributed internet virus, certainly the first to gain mainstream media coverage. Robert Morris was also the first person convicted under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
10. The first nude film scene by a leading actress: Audrey Munson
From the beginning of the motion picture industry we have had various expressions of nudity in film. Several films of the silent era and early sound era included nude scenes, which were presented in a historical or religious context. In 1915, actress Audrey Munson appeared nude in the film Inspiration. It is believed to be the first film to feature nudity from a leading cast member. In 1934, American studios passed the Hays Code, which forbid scenes of nudity in American films. The ban was not lifted until the 1960’s. Many documentary, foreign, and pornographic films featured nudity during this era. After the ban, Jayne Mansfield became the first mainstream American actress to appear nude in the 1963 film Promises! Promises!
8. The first actor to receive $1 million dollars for a single film: William Holden
William Holden is one of Hollywood’s most storied and famous actors. In the 1950’s he appeared in numerous classic films and in 1957 he starred in the production of The Bridge on the River Kwai and was paid $1 million dollars for his work. The movie had the budget of a blockbuster and Holden was the highest paid actor of his day and the first to receive $1 million for a single role. The Bridge on the River Kwai went on to win seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (David Lean), and Best Actor (Alec Guinness). On a separate note, Elizabeth Taylor was awarded a record setting $1 million dollars for her work in the 1963 film Cleopatra, making her the first actress to receive $1 million dollars for a role. The movie Cleopatra is infamous for almost bankrupting 20th Century Fox. Originally budgeted at a total of $2 million dollars, the film’s cost eventually exceeded $44 million, which is equivalent to $307.5 million dollars today. Taylor didn’t quite mind the delays, as she ended up being paid a total of $7 million for all her overtime.
7. The first primate to successfully enter outer space: Albert II
Before humans went into space, several animal species were launched through the atmosphere to test the biological effects of space travel. The first animals intentionally sent into space were fruit flies, accompanied by corn seeds aboard a U.S. launched V2 rocket in 1947, but the first primate would not make the journey until June of 1949. The first ever monkey astronaut was Albert, a rhesus monkey that traveled over 39 miles on a U.S. built V2 rocket, but died from suffocation before officially entering outer space. The following year Albert II was set to make his attempt and soon became the first primate to officially enter space when he traveled 83 miles, surpassing the Kármán line of 100 km, which is taken to designate the beginning of outer space. Sadly, Albert II died from the impact of his return flight. A few months later Albert III died when his V2 rocket exploded. Space programs learned from these experiences and the first human to enter space was Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union on April 12, 1961. Gagarin also became the first man to orbit the earth.
6. The first person to be conceived by in vitro fertilization: Louise Brown
In the late 1970’s scientists made an extensive breakthrough in assisted reproductive technology. They discovered IVF, a process in which egg cells are fertilized by sperm outside the womb, in vitro. The fertilized egg or zygote is then transferred to the patient’s uterus with the intent of establishing a successful pregnancy. On November 10, 1977 Lesley Brown underwent this procedure, which was performed by Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards. Initially, she had been unable to conceive children with her husband due to blocked fallopian tubes. Louise Joy Brown was born on July 25, 1978, at Oldham General Hospital, in Oldham, Greater Manchester, England. She was delivered by a planned caesarean section and weighed 5 pounds, 12 ounces. Today, Louise Brown has lived a healthy full life and conceived a child naturally in 2006. IVF has become a commonly practiced procedure all over the world, but complications can occur, including the risk of multiple births.
5. The first men to climb the giant mountain K2: Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni
K2 is the second highest mountain on earth. With a peak elevation of 8,611 metres (28,251 ft), only 778 ft. shorter then Mt. Everest. K2 is part of the Karakoram segment of the Himalayan range. It is known as the Savage Mountain and has a reputation as the world’s most difficult and dangerous climb. It has the second highest fatality rate among those who attempt to scale it. For every four people that have reached the summit, one has died trying. The most dangerous mountain in the world to climb is another series of peaks in the Himalayas named Annapurna. Unlike Annapurna, K2 has never been summated in the winter. On July 31, 1954, an Italian expedition led by Ardito Desio was the first to reach the peak of K2. Desio never reached the top, but group members Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni became the first men to summit K2 and return alive. The previous year in 1953 an American group attempted to climb K2, but encountered a storm while nearing the peak and had to retreat, suffering casualties. The Italian expedition was the sixth organized attempt to summit K2. The mountain was not successfully climbed again until 1977, 23 years later.
4. The first African American individual to play major league baseball: Jackie Robinson
On April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson made his major league debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers, ultimately becoming the first African American Major League Baseball player in the modern era. Robinson broke the color line and ended a sixty-year ban and segregation in professional baseball. During the sixty-year ban, all African American players were relegated to the Negro Leagues. If you go back to the 1880’s, Moses Fleetwood Walker played for Toledo of the American Association and was essentially the first African American professional ball player. Jackie Robinson’s achievements and personality had a tremendous impact on the subsequent American Civil Rights Movement. Apart from his cultural impact, Robinson had ten extremely productive major league seasons. He played in six World Series, while contributing to the Dodgers 1955 title. Robinson was selected to six consecutive All-Star games, won Rookie of the Year in 1947, and National League MVP in 1949.
3. The first military offensive of World War II: Germany invades Poland
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties signed at the end of World War I in 1919. One of the most important and controversial provisions in the treaty required Germany to accept sole responsibility for causing the war. Germany would disarm, make substantial territorial concessions, and pay reparations to certain countries, netting 132 billion marks. Many argue that it was a grave mistake to not conciliate or permanently weaken Germany at this point in history. In the late 1930’s Adolf Hitler began to create one of the biggest military powers in the world. In 1939, Germany would demand for the return of Danzig and part of the Polish ‘corridor’ granted to Poland from German territory in the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Poland refused to agree to the German’s demands and on September 1, 1939, German forces launched a campaign against Poland and defeated the country in three weeks. World War II had begun and two days later Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. Numerous individual wars occurred over the next six years and by 1941 all of the world’s major powers were entered into the conflict. The civilian and military deaths of WWII exceeded $55 million people.
2. The first people to successfully take flight: Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes
The hot air balloon is the oldest successful human-carrying flight technology. On November 21, 1783, the first manned hot air balloon flight was made in Paris, France, by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes. Pilâtre was a young physician and d’Arlandes was an audacious army officer. The technology used was created by the Montgolfier brothers, who invented the montgolfière style hot air balloon. After numerous experimental tests, the pair took flight over Château de la Muette, in the western outskirts of Paris. They flew for about 3,000 feet (910 m) and a distance of nine kilometres. However, at one point during the flight burning embers from the fire were scorching the balloon fabric and had to be daubed out with sponges. The men became the first pioneers of aviation. Sadly, two years later Jean-François Pilâtre was killed when his balloon crashed near Wimereux in the Pas-de-Calais during an attempt to fly across the English Channel. Another first, he and his companion, Pierre Romain, became the first known fatalities of an air crash.
1. The first person to die from the AIDS pandemic: Ken Horne
The origin of AIDS and HIV has puzzled scientists since the illness first came to light in the 1980’s. Many various isolated incidences of HIV have been reported in the 1960’s and 70’s, but these claims are not confirmed and no outbreak of the disease occurred until the 1980’s in America. On April 24, 1980, San Francisco resident Ken Horne is the first case of AIDS to be reported to the American Center for Disease Control. He would soon die of his illness, becoming the first reported death of the AIDS pandemic. Suddenly, a high proportion of gay men in San Francisco and New York began to gain the HIV virus. In 1981, 121 people were known to have died from the disease and AIDS was beginning to spread all over the world. By 1986, numbers suggested that one million Americans were infected with the HIV virus and India saw their first reported case. In 1992, AIDS became the leading cause of death in the United States for individuals between the ages of 24 and 44. In 1999, studies suggested that the population in west equatorial Africa developed a mutated form of the HIV virus. From 1981 to 2006, AIDS killed over 25 million people worldwide. The numbers are growing and estimates today suggest that around 90 million people in Africa will be infected with the HIV virus, with the majority coming from the poverty ridden sub-Saharan Africa.