April 12th in history:
A man moved around the Earth in a space capsule for the first time on April 12th, 1961, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was launched into orbit.
Two accidents involving Soviet submarines have happened on April 12th. In 1970, the submarine K-8 sank while being towed in the North Atlantic after a fire. Fifty-two men died when the sub went down with nuclear torpedoes aboard. On April 12th of 1963, the nuclear sub K-33 collided with a Finnish merchant ship. The accident was kept a secret for 44 years.
“The Hunt for Red October,” partly set aboard a Soviet sub, was the first successful novel by author Tom Clancy, born on this date in 1947.
Clancy once appeared as a guest on NBC’s “Late Night” show, but not during David Letterman’s time as the show’s host. Letterman was born the same day and year as Clancy. He was the original host of “Late Night,” from 1982 until 1993, when he moved to CBS and renamed his program “The Late Show.” Letterman retired from the show in 2015, and was succeeded by Stephen Colbert.
Yet another man born on April 12th, 1947, is actor Dan Lauria, who played Jack Arnold, Kevin’s dad, on “The Wonder Years.” Letterman left NBC the same year that “The Wonder Years” ended its run on ABC.
January 7th in history:
Comic strips about two space adventurers began on January 7th, five years apart…”Buck Rogers” in 1929, and “Flash Gordon” in 1934. This is also the birthday of Erin Gray (born 1950), who played Col. Wilma Deering in the “Buck Rogers” TV series of the 1970s.
The original “Star Trek” series featured many scripts by writer Gene L. Coon, born on this day in 1924. Coon also was a producer on “Star Trek,” and is credited with creating the Klingons and the concept of the Prime Directive.
On this date in 1610, Galileo wrote a letter citing his discovery of new objects near Jupiter. Those objects turned out to be Jupiter’s four largest moons.
And January 7th is the birthday of two stars of the movie “Moonstruck”: Nicolas Cage (born 1964), and Vincent Gardenia (1922). Cage got a Golden Globe nomination for “Moonstruck,” while Gardenia was nominated for an Oscar. Cage won an Oscar for “Leaving Las Vegas,” and starred in “Honeymoon in Vegas.”
December 28 in history:
Galileo is thought to be the first person to have seen the planet Neptune, observing it through his telescope on December 28th, 1612. But he is not considered the discoverer of Neptune, because he reportedly thought it was a star, instead of a planet.
An audience in Paris saw movies on December 28th, 1895, and became the first people to pay admission to watch films. The Lumiere brothers sold tickets to a screening of scenes from everyday life in France. We don’t know if they sold popcorn for the occasion.
Another type of image seen on a screen was publicized on that same day in 1895. That’s when German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen published a paper “On a New Kind of Rays,” where he described the discovery of a form of light which could pass through skin but not bones. The new ray became known as an X-ray.
The X-ray is radiation, but it’s not considered radioactive. So if a spider zapped by an X-ray bit you, chances are you would not develop spider powers…as far as we know. The comic book writer who created Spider-Man and other Marvel comics, Stan Lee, was born on December 28th, 1922.
A special 2009 edition of the Spider-Man comic book, called “The Short Halloween,” was written by “Saturday Night Live” veterans Seth Meyers and Bill Hader. Meyers, born on this day in 1973, was best known for anchoring “Weekend Update” on SNL before succeeding Jimmy Fallon as the host of “Late Night” on NBC in 2014.
August 25 in history:
Thirty-five years after being launched from Earth, the Voyager 1 space probe left the solar system on August 25th of 2012. It became the first man-made object to enter interstellar space
On August 25th of 1609, Galileo Galilei demonstrated his first telescope to lawmakers in Venice, hoping they would purchase it. His introduction of the telescope was once parodied on “The Carol Burnett Show.” In the sketch, when a spectator looked through the telescope and complained that he couldn’t see anything, Galileo responded that you had to put a dime in first.
The New York Sun newspaper claimed in 1835 that a powerful new telescope revealed an unknown civilization on the moon. In a series of stories beginning on August 25th, the Sun told of oceans, beaches, and trees seen on the lunar surface. What became known as the “Great Moon Hoax” also included reports of beavers walking on two legs, and winged humans called “man-bats.”
Moviegoers went batty for “Batman” when director Tim Burton made two movies about the comic-book hero. Burton, born August 25th, 1958, has a fanciful film resume that includes “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,” “Beetlejuice,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and new versions of “Alice in Wonderland” and the TV drama “Dark Shadows.”
On the same day Tim Burton was born, the game show “Concentration” made its debut. The show requiring players to match hidden prizes and solve a rebus ran for 15 years on NBC before going into syndication and returning to NBC as “Classic Concentration” in the 1980s. Two men famous for hosting other popular game shows share an August 25th birthday: Monty Hall of “Let’s Make a Deal” (born 1921), and Regis Philbin of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (1931).