World History 1898

About the history of the world in 1898, the Curies discover radium, the first death cause by an automobile, the U.S. wins the Spanish-American War.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1898

* Using the murder of two German missionaries as a pretext for colonial expansion, Germany extracted from the Chinese government a 99-year lease on the 200-sq.-mi. Kiaochow territory on the Shantung Peninsula.

* The husband-and-wife team of Pierre and Marie Curie of France discovered radium and polonium.

* William Ramsay, 46, professor of chemistry at University College in London, discovered in collaboration with M. W. Travers the inert gases krypton, neon, and xenon. Earlier he had isolated helium and argon. For his part in the discovery of five of the six known inert gases, Ramsay was awarded the 1904 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

* The telegraphone, the forerunner of the tape recorder, was invented by Valdemar Poulsen, an engineer at the Copenhagen Telephone Company.

Feb. 12 Henry Lindfield became the first automobile fatality when he lost control of his Imperial electric carriage on the road from London to Brighton. He survived the impact, only to die from shock following the amputation of his crushed leg.

Apr. 25-Aug. 12 The U.S. handily defeated Spanish colonial forces in Cuba and in the Philippines to win the Spanish-American War and thereby established its credentials as a world power. Pres. William McKinley, a peaceful man by nature, had opposed the war. But the battle cry of the yellow press, the nationalistic rhetoric of the politicians, the itchy fingers of the military, and the pious sermons of the clergy overwhelmed the President. Still, McKinley seemed to be resisting the warmongers until Feb. 15, 1898, when the battleship Maine was sunk while anchored in Havana Harbor and 260 officers and men aboard it were killed. Although it is yet to be proved who or what caused the explosion, the American people cried, "Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain!" and demanded revenge. As the U.S. Navy steamed toward Cuba and the Philippines, Spanish commanders knew what was in store for them. Admiral Montojo, trying to minimize the impact of Commodore (later Admiral) Dewey's expected assault on Manila Bay, maneuvered his creaking fleet away from the main island so that Manila would be spared the shelling, and he kept to shallow waters to enable sailors to swim to safety. Nevertheless, 381 Spaniards were killed or wounded in the Battle of Manila without cutting down a single American. Meanwhile, in Cuba, Theodore Roosevelt led his band of ex-cowboys, athletes, and adventurers up San Juan Hill as his part in taking over the island. A treaty was signed on Dec. 10 which expelled Spain from the Western Hemisphere. The U.S. acquired Puerto Rico, Guam, and, for $20 million, the 7,000 Philippine islands.

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