On This Day
1872 – In Louisiana, P. B. S. Pinchback becomes the first African-American governor of a U.S. state.
Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback (born Pinckney Benton Stewart May 10, 1837 – December 21, 1921) was an American publisher and politician, a Union Army officer, and the first African American to become governor of a U.S. state. A Republican, Pinchback served as the 24th Governor of Louisiana from December 9, 1872, to January 13, 1873. He was one of the most prominent African-American officeholders during the Reconstruction Era.
Pinchback was born free in Macon, Georgia to a mulatto woman and a white planter. His father, William Pinchback, raised the younger Pinchback as his own son on his plantation in Mississippi. After the death of his father in 1848, Pinchback and his mother fled to the free state of Ohio. After the start of the American Civil War, Pinchback traveled to Union-occupied New Orleans and raised several companies for the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, becoming one of few African American commissioned officers in the Union Army.
Pinchback remained in New Orleans after the Civil War, becoming active in Republican politics. He won election to the Louisiana State Senate in 1868 and became the president pro tempore of the state senate. He became the acting Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana upon the death of Oscar Dunn in 1871 and briefly served as Governor of Louisiana after Henry C. Warmoth was suspended from office. African Americans were increasingly disenfranchised after the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and Pinchback would be the only African American to serve as governor of a U.S. state until 1990. After the contested 1872 Louisiana gubernatorial election, Republican legislators elected Pinchback to the United States Senate. Due to the controversy over the 1872 elections, Pinchback was never seated in Congress.
Pinchback served as a delegate to the 1879 Louisiana constitutional convention, where he helped gain support for the founding of Southern University. He served as the surveyor of customs of New Orleans from 1882 to 1885 and later helped challenge the segregation of Louisiana’s public transportation system, leading to the Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson. He moved to Washington, D.C. in 1892 and died in that city in 1921.
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1968 – Douglas Engelbart gave what became known as “The Mother of All Demos”, publicly debuting the computer mouse, hypertext, and the bit-mapped graphical user interface using the oN-Line System (NLS).
Douglas Carl Engelbart (January 30, 1925 – July 2, 2013) was an American engineer and inventor, and an early computer and Internet pioneer. He is best known for his work on founding the field of human–computer interaction, particularly while at his Augmentation Research Center Lab in SRI International, which resulted in creation of the computer mouse, and the development of hypertext, networked computers, and precursors to graphical user interfaces. These were demonstrated at The Mother of All Demos in 1968. Engelbart’s law, the observation that the intrinsic rate of human performance is exponential, is named after him.
In the early 1950s, he decided that instead of “having a steady job” – such as his position at Ames Research Center – he would focus on making the world a better place. He reasoned that because the complexity of the world’s problems was increasing, and that any effort to improve the world would require the coordination of groups of people, the most effective way to solve problems was to augment human intelligence and develop ways of building collective intelligence. He believed that the computer, which was at the time thought of only as a tool for automation, would be an essential tool for future knowledge workers to solve such problems. He was a committed, vocal proponent of the development and use of computers and computer networks to help cope with the world’s increasingly urgent and complex problems. Engelbart embedded a set of organizing principles in his lab, which he termed “bootstrapping”. His belief was that when human systems and tool systems were aligned, such that workers spent time “improving their tools for improving their tools” it would lead to an accelerating rate of progress.
Under Engelbart’s guidance, the Augmentation Research Center developed, with funding primarily from DARPA, the NLS to demonstrate numerous technologies, most of which are now in widespread use; this included the computer mouse, bitmapped screens, hypertext; all of which were displayed at “The Mother of All Demos” in 1968. The lab was transferred from SRI to Tymshare in the late 1970s, which was acquired by McDonnell Douglas in 1984, and NLS was renamed Augment (now the Doug Engelbart Institute). At both Tymshare and McDonnell Douglas, Engelbart was limited by a lack of interest in his ideas and funding to pursue them, and retired in 1986.
In 1988, Engelbart and his daughter Christina launched the Bootstrap Institute – later known as The Doug Engelbart Institute – to promote his vision, especially at Stanford University; this effort did result in some DARPA funding to modernize the user interface of Augment. In December 2000, United States President Bill Clinton awarded Engelbart the National Medal of Technology, the U.S.’s highest technology award. In December 2008, Engelbart was honored by SRI at the 40th anniversary of the “Mother of All Demos”.
Born On This Day
1508 – Gemma Frisius, Dutch mathematician and cartographer (d. 1555)
Gemma Frisius (/ˈfrɪziəs/; born Jemme Reinerszoon; December 9, 1508 – May 25, 1555), was a Dutch physician, mathematician, cartographer, philosopher, and instrument maker. He created important globes, improved the mathematical instruments of his day and applied mathematics in new ways to surveying and navigation. Gemma’s rings are named after him. Along with Gerardus Mercator and Abraham Ortelius, Frisius is often considered one of the founders of the Netherlandish school of cartography and significantly helped lay the foundations for the school’s golden age (approximately 1570s–1670s).
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