World History 1978

About the history of the world in 1978, China ends its censorship ban of authors, the skeleton sales market, and early thoughts on human cloning.



Feb. 11 China announced the ending of a 10-year ban on 70 renowned classical and modern international writers. Among those who had been banned, but will be read once again in China, were Aristotle, Plato, Shakespeare, Honore de Balzac, Jonathan Swift, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain.

Feb. 18 At a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., Robert M. Salter of the Rand Corporation announced plans for a supersubway called Planetran that would extend across the United States from coast to coast. The subway, magnetically set in a vacuum tube, run by a solar power station and electromagnetic impulses, would travel at 14,000 mph from New York to Los Angeles in 21 min (faster than a ballistic missile). Passenger cost would depend on the number of riders: if 200 persons a minute used the subway, each would pay $54 a ticket; if 4 million persons a day used the system, the fare would be $6 each. The budget for this subway? Almost $500 million, a mere $100 million more than the U.S. interstate highway system. Engineers have declared Planetran feasible.

Mar. 9 In New York, publishers J.B. Lippincott Co. announced details of a book written by David M. Rorvik, in which the author claimed to have actually seen the results of the first cloning of a human being. According to Rorvik, this asexually produced male child, 14 months old, was "alive, healthy, and loved." "Cloning, an asexual reproduction achieved by transplanting the nucleus of a donor's cell into a fertile egg cell, has been achieved under special conditions in frogs," said The New York Times. "In cloning, the nucleus of the egg cell is either removed or inactivated so that the cloned progeny develops as a genetically identical copy of the individual that supplied the donor cell." In short, cloning produces a biological photocopy of the donor. To protect the privacy of the cloned child, and others involved, Rorvik refused to identify the participants. While some scientists believed a human cloning possible, other scientists remained doubtful and said all attempts to clone mammals to date had been unsuccessful. Columbia University's Dr. Robert S. Krooth, professor of human genetics, thought it all sounded like "a hoax."

Mar. 11 Rouilly Ltd., of England, one of the world's leading importers of human skeletons, announced that the price of a single skeleton for a medical school had gone up from $190 to $475. The price rise was attributed to an international shortage of human skeletons created when India, a leading exporter of skeletons, banned their sale during 1976 and much of 1977, then lifted the ban. Rouilly Ltd. buys about 1,000 human skeletons a year from India. These arrive in bags filled with jumbled bones; then English experts assemble the 206 parts of each skeleton. About 10,000 skeletons are sold worldwide annually, the demand having increased since new doctors are being trained in the Middle East and Africa, Plastic skeletons are being marketed at the cut-rate of $210 each.

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