FYI February 15 & 16, 2020

On This Day

1113 – Pope Paschal II issues Pie Postulatio Voluntatis, recognizing the Order of Hospitallers.[3]
The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem (Latin: Ordo Fratrum Hospitalis Sancti Ioannis Hierosolymitani), commonly known as the Knights Hospitaller or the Order of Saint John, was a medieval and early modern Catholic military order. It was headquartered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem until 1291, on the island of Rhodes from 1310 until 1522, in Malta from 1530 until 1798 and at Saint Petersburg from 1799 until 1801. Today several organizations continue the Hospitaller tradition, most importantly the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

The Hospitallers arose in the early 11th century, during the time of the Cluniac (or Benedictine) Reform, as a group of individuals associated with an Amalfitan hospital in the Muristan district of Jerusalem, dedicated to John the Baptist and founded around 1099 by Gerard Thom to provide care for sick, poor or injured pilgrims coming to the Holy Land. Some scholars, however, consider that the Amalfitan order and hospital were different from Gerard Thom’s order and its hospital.

After the conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, the organisation became a military religious order under its own papal charter, charged with the care and defence of the Holy Land. Following the conquest of the Holy Land by Islamic forces, the knights operated from Rhodes, over which they were sovereign, and later from Malta, where they administered a vassal state under the Spanish viceroy of Sicily. The Hospitallers were one of the smallest groups to briefly colonise parts of the Americas: they acquired four Caribbean islands in the mid-17th century, which they turned over to France in the 1660s.

The knights became divided during the Protestant Reformation, when rich commanderies of the order in northern Germany and the Netherlands became Protestant and largely separated from the Roman Catholic main stem, remaining separate to this day, although ecumenical relations between the descendant chivalric orders are amicable. The order was suppressed in England, Denmark, as well as in some other parts of northern Europe, and it was further damaged by Napoleon’s capture of Malta in 1798, following which it became dispersed throughout Europe.

1960 – The U.S. Navy submarine USS Triton begins Operation Sandblast, setting sail from New London, Connecticut, to begin the first submerged circumnavigation of the globe.
Operation Sandblast was the code name for the first submerged circumnavigation of the world, executed by the United States Navy nuclear-powered radar picket submarine USS Triton (SSRN-586) in 1960 under the command of Captain Edward L. Beach Jr.. The New York Times described Triton’s submerged circumnavigation of the Earth as “a triumph of human prowess and engineering skill, a feat which the United States Navy can rank as one of its bright victories in man’s ultimate conquest of the seas.”[1]

The circumnavigation took place between 24 February and 25 April 1960, covering 26,723 nautical miles (49,491 km; 30,752 mi) over 60 days and 21 hours. The route began and ended at the St. Peter and Paul Rocks in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean near the Equator. During the voyage, Triton crossed the Equator four times while maintaining an average speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph). Triton’s overall navigational track during Operation Sandblast generally followed that of the first circumnavigation of the world led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan from 1519 to 1522.

The initial impetus for Operation Sandblast was to increase American technological and scientific prestige before the May 1960 Paris Summit between President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. It also provided a high-profile public demonstration of the capability of U.S. Navy nuclear-powered submarines to carry out long-range submerged operations independent of external support and undetected by hostile forces, presaging the initial deployment of the Navy’s Polaris ballistic missile submarines later in 1960. Finally, Operation Sandblast gathered extensive oceanographic, hydrographic, gravimetric, geophysical, and psychological data during Triton’s circumnavigation.

Official celebrations were cancelled for Operation Sandblast following the diplomatic furor arising from the 1960 U-2 incident in which a U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union in early May. However, Triton did receive the Presidential Unit Citation with a special clasp in the form of a golden replica of the globe in recognition of the successful completion of its mission, and Captain Beach received the Legion of Merit for his role as Triton’s commanding officer. In 1961, Beach received the Magellanic Premium from the American Philosophical Society, the United States’ oldest and most prestigious scientific award in “recognition of his navigation of the U.S. submarine Triton around the globe.”



Born On This Day

1850 – Sophie Bryant, Irish mathematician, academic and activist (d. 1922)
Sophie Willock Bryant (15 February 1850, Sandymount, Dublin, – 14 August 1922, Chamonix, France) was an Anglo-Irish mathematician, educator, feminist and activist.[1]

Early life and education
Bryant was born Sophie Willock in Dublin in 1850. Her father was Revd Dr William Willock DD, Fellow and Tutor of Trinity College, Dublin. She was educated at home, largely by her father. As a teenager she moved to London, when her father was appointed Professor of Geometry at the University of London in 1863, and she attended Bedford College. At the age of nineteen she married Dr William Hicks Bryant, a surgeon ten years older than she was, who died of cirrhosis within a year.[2][3]

In 1875 Bryant became a teacher and was invited by Frances Mary Buss to join the staff of North London Collegiate School. In 1895 she succeeded Miss Buss as headmistress of North London Collegiate, serving until 1918.[2][3]

When the University of London opened its degree courses to women in 1878, she became one of the first women to obtain First Class Honours, in Mental and Moral Sciences, together with a degree in mathematics in 1881, and three years later was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science. In 1882 she was the third woman to be elected to the London Mathematical Society, and was the first active female member, publishing her first paper with the Society in 1884.[2][3] Together with Charles Smith, Bryant edited three volumes of Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, for the use of schools (Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, books I and II (1897); Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, books III and IV (1899); Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, books VI and IX (1901)).[4]

Sophie Bryant was a pioneer in education for women. She was the first woman to receive a DSc in England; one of the first three women to be appointed to a Royal Commission, the Bryce commission on Secondary Education in 1894–1895; and one of the first three women to be appointed to the Senate of the University of London. When Trinity College Dublin opened its degrees to women, Bryant was one of the first to be awarded an honorary doctorate. She was also instrumental in setting up the Cambridge Training College for Women, now Hughes Hall, Cambridge.[2][3] She is also said to have been one of the first women to own a bicycle.[2]

She was interested in Irish politics, wrote books on Irish history and ancient Irish law (Celtic Ireland (1889), The Genius of the Gael (1913)), and was an ardent Protestant Irish nationalist. She was president of the Irish National Literary Society in 1914. She supported women’s suffrage but advocated postponement until women were better educated.[2][3][5]

Later life and death
Bryant loved physical activity and the outdoors. She rowed, cycled, and swam, and twice climbed the Matterhorn.[6] She died in a hiking accident in the Alps in 1922, age 72.[2][3]


1905 – Henrietta Barnett, British Women’s Royal Air Force officer (d. 1985)[9]
Air Commandant Dame Mary Henrietta Barnett DBE (16 February 1905 – 11 September 1985), known as Henrietta Barnett, was a senior officer of the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF). From 1956 to 1960, she served as its Director.[1]

Military career
In 1938, Barnett joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service as a volunteer (IE private), and was assigned to No. 45 County of Oxford Company.[2] She transferred to the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) when it was established on 28 June 1939.[2][3] She was commissioned into the WAAF as a company assistant (equivalent to a pilot officer in the Royal Air Force), with seniority from 5 December 1938.[4] During World War II, she served at RAF Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire, at RAF Feltwell in Norfolk, and at the Air Ministry in London.[2]

Barnett was present for the London Blitz and witnessed the destruction of the House of Commons as well as other places. At that time, she was stationed there and air women like herself worked on various tasks at the Air Ministry. Barnett states “Never once did they speak of their secret work, seldom were they late for duty, even after a raid. They were known as the Whitehall Warriors.”[5]

After the end of the war, in the summer of 1945, Barnett was posted to RAF Mediterranean Command in Caserta, Italy.[1] There, she served as the “staff officer responsible for all WAAF personnel working in the RAF Mediterranean and Middle East command”.[2] She traveled to Vienna to seek out the possibility of stationing air women there.[6] In October 1947, she returned to the United Kingdom and was appointed as an WAAF staff officer at Flying Training Command headquarters.[2] On 13 November 1947, she was appointed to an extended service commission as a flight officer (equivalent to flight lieutenant) with seniority in that rank from 3 March 1943.[7] In October 1948, she appointed the WAAF Inspector; this job required her to travel extensively, inspecting all the bases within RAF Home Command that had WAAF personnel.[1][2]

In 1949, the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) was created. On 1 February 1949, Barnett was made a group officer (equivalent in rank to a group captain in the RAF) in the Secretary Branch of the WRAF.[8] From 1949 to 1952, she served as one of two Deputy-Directors of the WRAF:[1] in that role, she had responsibility for the “selection, promotion, and career and personal problems of WRAF officers”.[2] On 1 November 1952, she was appointed Commanding Officer of RAF Hawkinge; as such, she became the only female station commander in the RAF.[1][2] From 1 August 1956 to March 1960, she served as Director of the Women’s Royal Air Force, holding the rank of air commandant (equivalent to air commodore).[2]

In the 1956 New Year Honours, Barnett was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).[9] In the 1958 Queen’s Birthday Honours, she was promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE), and therefore granted the title Dame.[10]


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