June 10, 2021

#ThrowbackThursday – 10 June

Legacy is easy to confuse with history. After all, they both deal with events or time periods that have occurred over billions of years.

The difference, however, is that a legacy concerns itself more with the results of these events or periods, and how these results continue to exist and influence the future long after the causes are over.

As these five events that went down in history on 10 June show, you may find that their legacies among others continue to be felt, for better or worse:

1752 – Franklin’s Kite Takes Flight

Two hundred and sixty-nine years ago, Benjamin Franklin – a forefather of the United States of America – reportedly carried out a very daring experiment.

To demonstrate the connection between lightning and electricity, Franklin is said to have used a silk kite, attached to which was a hemp kite string. Tied to the string was a key, which acted as a conductor and was attached to a Leyden jar, a piece of electrical equipment that can store electricity.

Franklin then flew the kite during a thunderstorm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When the storm passed over his kite, the conductor drew electric charges into the jar. Although historians dispute that this experiment ever occurred, it has certainly turned into the stuff of legends.

1935 – A (Final) Drink to Dr Bob’s Health

Robert Holbrook Smith – AKA “Dr Bob” – was a Vermont surgeon who had a fondness for drinking, so much so he could never fully operate on a patient without alcohol in his system.

Despite his efforts to kick the habit, Dr Bob’s battle with the bottle never waned. That is, until he met Bill Wilson, a businessman and fellow alcoholic from New York, in May 1935. United by their struggle, the men found that talking to each other about the issue was a useful way to deal with it.

In that vein, Dr Bob and Wilson thought it would be a good idea to help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety by sharing their experiences and support with each other, albeit in a safe and comfortable environment.

And so, Dr Bob drank his last glass of beer on 10 June in the presence of Wilson; it is this date which is considered to be the founding date of their world-famous aid fellowship, Alcoholics Anonymous.

2003 – The Strength of Spirit

Six years, two months and 19 days … that’s how long NASA’s Spirit rover mission on Mars lasted, which was more than 25 times its original intended lifetime.

Spirit’s mission to Mars began in 2003 when it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It landed on the Red Planet’s cratered surface seven months later – there, it studied its new home’s climate, searched for a range of rocks and soil types, and looked for clues for past water activity.

Although its assignment was to last 90 Martian days, Spirit’s lifespan was repeatedly extended, during which it travelled a total of 7.73 kilometres. Come 25 May 2011, NASA lost all contact with the rover, thus marking the end of its fruitful and impactful mission.

2004 – “The Genius” Passes Away

One of the most prolific musicians to ever emerge in the 20th century, Ray Charles sadly died, aged 73, at his home in Beverly Hills, California.

A pioneer of the soul music genre, Ray Charles was a talented singer, composer and pianist who got his break in the 1950s. He produced hits such as “I Got a Woman”, “Hit The Road Jack” and “Unchain My Heart”. Indeed, his ability to fuse blues, gospel and jazz to create his soul-tastic tunes was legendary, to the point he earned the monikers “The Genius” and “The Father of Soul”.

Charles was also notable for being blind: by the time he was seven-years-old, he had completely lost his sight due to glaucoma. Nevertheless, he never let his blindness get in the way of making memorable music, nor did he ever let it become his defining characteristic.

2007 – And Cut to Black

After six seasons of drama, tension and heartbreak, “The Sopranos” bid its last farewell … albeit in a seriously abrupt manner.

The TV crime series aired its final episode, “Made in America”, on a Sunday evening that drew 11.9 million viewers: its last minutes saw the Soprano mafia family gathering together at a diner, with the last scene depicting the protagonist, Tony Soprano, looking up from the table.

At that precise moment, the screen turned black, followed by several seconds of silence. Viewers were understably forgiven for thinking that something was wrong with their TV sets at that moment, but in reality, that was truly how the show ended.

Needless to say, the cut-to-black ending caused – and continues to cause – controversy and debate about what happened before everything went black. Questions like “Did Tony Soprano get killed off-screen?” or “If he got killed, was it the suspicious-looking customer who had passed by their table seconds before?” abound to this day.

However, creator David Chase refuses to give an explanation, opting – rather aggravatingly – to let the ending remain open to interpretation.