1057 Macbeth died.
1769 Napoleon Bonaparte was born.
1865 Sir Joseph Lister discovered the antiseptic process. (See April 5th entry.)
1888 T. E. Lawrence was born. (See July 6th entry.)
1914 The Panama Canal was opened.
When the Panama Canal opened on this date in 1914, it was considered one of the wonders of the modern world. Countless laborers had suffered in the dense Central American jungles, battling heat, humidity, snakes, and malaria to build it. A half century later, people realized that the canal wasn’t wide enough for modern freighters and cruise ships to pass through. Forgetting the political wrangling and maneuvering that centered around the canal, it became a monument to the rapidity of change.
Today is Napoleon Bonaparte’s birthday. born in 1769 in Ajaccio, Corsica, Napoleon was a small man who cast a gigantic shadow over most of Europe, Egypt, and part of Mexico. A lot of people have imagined themselves to be Napoleon and succeeded only in meeting their Waterloo.
A notable anniversary that inspired a tragic play marks this date. In 1057, Macbeth of Moray was mortally wounded by Malcolm near Aberdeen, Scotland. Macbeth had placed his claim on the Scottish throne because he was married to King Kenneth Ill’s granddaughter. In 1047, he had killed his only rival, Duncan, in battle and grabbed the throne. As the saying goes, violence begets violence. Macbeth’s death did not end the fight for the Scottish crown. It continued for generations.
On this day, in 1888, an enigma was born. Thomas Edward Lawrence came from a middle-class Edwardian background and showed great promise as an archaeologist when he studied at Oxford University. He had fallen in love with the desert after bicycling from England to Palestine, and his passion grew as he joined an excavation team in Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the First World War. Lawrence joined the British army as a cartographer and expert in Arab culture when the war reached the desert. A spark of inspiration spurred him on to lead a handful of Arab rebels and overtake a Turkish garrison at Aqaba; and from that day forward, he was known as Lawrence of Arabia. His fame grew as news of his exploits reached Europe and America. But instead of reaping glory’s benefits, he hid in the shadows. He changed his name and joined the R. A.F., working on motorcycle and hydrofoil designs; and writing his epic chronicle, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He found peace in obscurity until he died in 1935, when he was laid to rest in Britain’s highest place of honor—Westminster Abbey. An average person would have reveled in fame, but Lawrence was no ordinary man. His accomplishments transformed the Near and Middle East’s future, but he never perceived his deeds as historical turning points. He had not chased his destiny, it found him.