World History 1869

About the history of the world in 1869, air brake invented, Mendeleev comes up with periodic law, the Suez Canal is opened.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1869

* John Wesley Hyatt of Albany, N.Y., invented a billiard ball composed of pyroxylin, camphor, and alcohol, which was molded under heat and pressure. He called the new substance celluloid. For his effort, Hyatt won a $10,000 prize from a grateful billiards manufacturer eager for a cheap substitute for ivory.

* George Westinghouse, 23, of Schenectady, N.Y., invented the air brake. The device enabled an engineer to brake an entire train simultaneously, instead of having to have brakemen hand-brake each car separately, thus allowing trains to travel safely at higher speeds.

* Debtors' prisons were abolished in Great Britain.

* Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, 35, formulated the Periodic Law, classifying elements according to their atomic numbers.

May 24 John Wesley Powell, 35, a one-armed geology professor from Wheaton, Ill., led an expedition, underwritten jointly by the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Congress, down 1,000 mi. of the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon by boat. The trip took 101 days.

Nov. 17 The Suez Canal opened for traffic. The triumph of Ferdinand de Lesseps--who combined diplomacy, fiscal sleight-of-hand, and technology to construct the 100-mi. canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea--was marked by a lavish christening ceremony lasting several days. It began on the 17th with the first joint Muslim-Christian religious service in history. Then a procession of ships carrying dignitaries from all over the world entered the canal from the north at Port Said. The lead vessel, L'Aigle, bore Empress Eugenie of France and De Lesseps, followed in succession at 10-minute intervals by the festooned craft of the emperor of Austria, the crown prince of Prussia, and the prince and princess of Holland, and over 40 other assorted yachts and warships. Present, too, were Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen and French novelist Emile Zola. The royal convoy reached Ismailia on Lake Timsah that evening for more festivities. Some 5,000 honored guests jammed into the palace of the khedive (the Turkish viceroy of Egypt) for the night. Less fortunate celebrants were herded into outdoor sheep roasts and soup kitchens, leading one Egyptian official to complain. "We are eating up the pyramids stone by stone." Ismailia, which had been laid out by De Lesseps just six years before as a base of operations, groaned under the weight of 40,000 sightseers, who spent much of their time tracking down lost luggage and missing companions. On the 20th, the procession, with Empress Eugenie still out front, sailed into the Gulf of Suez from the canal. As if the four-day celebration were not heady enough for the 64-year-old De Lesseps, the widower chose this time to marry a young French girl at a small chapel in Ismailia.

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