Apr 26, 2014

Ben-Gurion -- Israel's "founding father" and first Prime Minister

Born David Gruen in Poland, Ben-Gurion became committed to Zionism, the movement to settle and unite Jews in Palestine, under the influence of his father and grandfather. He studied in Warsaw, where he joined Po’alei Zion (Workers of Zion), a socialist workers party. Ben-Gurion saw Zionism as a practical idea to be carried out by Jewish immigration to Palestine and building the land through collective labor. In 1906 he moved to Jaffa, Palestine (now part of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel), and worked as a farmer. There he was elected to the central committee of Po’alei Zion and began organizing workers into unions. In 1910 he moved to Jerusalem and joined the editorial staff of a new Hebrew-language newspaper, Ahdut (Unity), publishing articles under the name Ben-Gurion (Hebrew for "son of the young lion"). He enrolled at the University of Constantinople in present-day Turkey in 1912 and earned a law degree in 1914. He then returned to Palestine and resumed his work as a union organizer, but in 1915 he traveled to the United States after he and thousands of other Zionists were exiled by the Ottoman Empire authorities who controlled Palestine.

Apr 19, 2014

The Great Wall of China

Great Wall (China), popular name for a semi-legendary wall built to protect China’s northern border in the 3rd century BC, and for impressive stone and earthen fortifications built along a different northern border in the 15th and 16th centuries AD, long after the ancient structure had disappeared. Ruins of the later wall are found today along former border areas from Bo Hai (a gulf of the Yellow Sea) in the east to Gansu Province in the west. The Great Wall is visited often near Beijing, at a site called Ju-yong-guan, and at its eastern and western extremes.

Perhaps China's best known monument—even national symbol—the Great Wall is not what most people imagine it to be. The existing wall is not several thousand years old, nor is it, as is widely asserted, visible from outer space (astronauts confirm this). Indeed, the Great Wall is not even a single, continuous structure. Rather, it consists of a network of walls and towers that leaves the frontier open in places.

Apr 12, 2014

Colonial America: 1492-1763

European nations came to the Americas to increase their wealth and broaden their influence over world affairs. The Spanish were among the first Europeans to explore the New World and the first to settle in what is now the United States.

By 1650, however, England had established a dominant presence on the Atlantic coast. The first colony was founded at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. Many of the people who settled in the New World came to escape religious persecution. The Pilgrims, founders of Plymouth, Massachusetts, arrived in 1620. In both Virginia and Massachusetts, the colonists flourished with some assistance from Native Americans. New World grains such as corn kept the colonists from starving while, in Virginia, tobacco provided a valuable cash crop. By the early 1700s enslaved Africans made up a growing percentage of the colonial population. By 1770, more than 2 million people lived and worked in Great Britain's 13 North American colonies ( http://www.americaslibrary.gov/)

Apr 5, 2014

September 30, 1882: The World's First Hydroelectric Power Plant Began Operation

 When you look at rushing waterfalls and rivers, you may not immediately think of electricity. But hydroelectric (water-powered) power plants are responsible for lighting many of our homes and neighborhoods. On September 30, 1882, the world's first hydroelectric power plant began operation on the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin. The plant, later named the Appleton Edison Light Company, was initiated by Appleton paper manufacturer H.J. Rogers, who had been inspired by Thomas Edison's plans for an electricity-producing station in New York. 

Unlike Edison's New York plant which used steam power to drive its generators, the Appleton plant used the natural energy of the Fox River. When the plant opened, it produced enough electricity to light Rogers's home, the plant itself, and a nearby building. Hydroelectric power plants of today generate a lot more electricity. By the early 20th century, these plants produced a significant portion of the country's electric energy. The cheap electricity provided by the plants spurred industrial growth in many regions of the country. To get even more power out of the flowing water, the government started building dams. 

In 1933, the U.S. government established the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which introduced hydroelectric power plants to the South's troubled Tennessee River Valley. The TVA built dams, managed flood control and soil conservation programs, and more. It greatly boosted the region's economy. And this development happened in other places as well. Soon, people across the country were enjoying electricity in homes, schools, and offices, reading by electric lamp instead of candlelight or kerosene. New electricity-powered technologies entered American homes, including electric refrigerators and stoves, radios, televisions, and can openers. Today, people take electricity for granted, not able to imagine life without it. (http://www.americaslibrary.gov/)