World History 1957

About the history of the world in 1957, John F. Kennedy wins the Pulitzer Prize, the Russians launch Sputnik, schools in Arkansas are desegregated.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1957

* Iceland, lacking any armed forces of its own, agreed formally to make the U.S. responsible for its defense.

* A Pulitzer Prize went to John F. Kennedy, then a 39-year-old junior senator from Massachusetts, for his book Profiles in Courage. Written while he was convalescing from spinal surgery, the work portrays eight U.S. senators from both parties who resisted strong constituent and/or party pressures to take an unpopular stand which they believed, not always correctly, to be right, often at the expense of their careers. Those profiled included John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts for his support of President Jefferson's embargo of Great Britain, which crippled New England commerce; Sam Houston for his efforts to keep Texas in the Union during the Civil War; and Edmund G. Ross of Kansas for bucking Republican party whips in casting the deciding vote against the impeachment of Pres. Andrew Johnson.

Sept. 24 President Eisenhower sent 1,000 army paratroopers to Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., to guarantee the safe enrollment of nine black students at the recently desegregated school.

Oct. 4 The U.S.S.R. fired the opening gun of the space race with the launching of Sputnik ("fellow traveler") 1--a 184-lb. spherical satellite, less than 2 ft. in diameter, housing a two-frequency transmitter and sporting four antennae--from Baikonur, Russia. Once the 32 rocket boosters safely delivered Sputnik to its proper orbit, Soviet authorities announced their space coup to a startled world. Designed by Sergei Pavlovich Korolyov, the first artificial satellite vindicated theories originally sketched out by Isaac Newton in 1687. Sputnik maintained its elliptical orbit (apogee 588 mi.; perigee 142 mi.) through the new year before burning up in its fall to earth. The three-month ride through space upset competitive Americans. Although one White House aide dismissed the Soviet vehicle as a "pathetic bauble," the U.S. scrambled into the space race almost immediately. Some observers welcomed the superpower rivalry as a healthy diversion of competitive energy from the battlefield to outer space. Others, however, criticized it as a flagrant waste of money sorely needed to solve domestic problems in both countries.

Nov. 3 While U.S. scientists frantically scratched away at the drawing board, the U.S.S.R. placed its second satellite in orbit. Sputnik 2, several times larger than its predecessor, carried the first living creature, a dog named Laika, into space. Wired from snout to paw with electronic sensors, Laika fed Soviet scientists on the ground valuable data on the biological effects of takeoff and weightlessness. The animal's oxygen supply gave out in 10 days, as planned, and Laika became the first living thing to die in space.

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