May 15 Events in History

May 15th is a significant date in history, marked by a diverse range of impactful events that have shaped the course of human culture, governance, and technology.

This article provides a chronological exploration of twenty notable occurrences on this day, from the issuance of the papal bull Ad extirpanda in 1252, authorizing torture during the Medieval Inquisition, to the 1997 victory of IBM’s Deep Blue over world chess champion Garry Kasparov, showcasing pivotal moments that have influenced global developments across centuries.

May 15th – On this Day in History

1252 – Pope Innocent IV issues the papal bull Ad extirpanda, authorizing the torture of heretics in the Medieval Inquisition

Pope Innocent IV authorized the use of torture for interrogating heretics through the papal bull Ad extirpanda. This document allowed inquisitors to use torture as a method to extract confessions from those accused of heresy, under certain conditions.

Also Read: May 14 Events in History

The bull was part of a broader effort by the Church to suppress dissent and enforce religious orthodoxy during the Medieval Inquisition.

It marked a significant point in the history of the relationship between the Church and secular authorities, reflecting the Church’s increasing involvement in punitive measures against heresy.

1536 – Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, stands trial in London on charges of treason, adultery, and incest; she is condemned to death by a specially-selected jury

Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII of England, was tried and convicted of treason, adultery, and incest. This trial was politically motivated, as Henry sought to marry Jane Seymour, whom he hoped would bear him a male heir.

Also Read: May 16th – On this Day in History

The jury, which included peers and even Anne’s own uncle, found her guilty, and she was executed shortly thereafter. Her trial and execution marked a pivotal moment in English history, leading to significant changes in the Church of England and influencing the course of English royal succession.

Anne Boleyn

1618 – Johannes Kepler confirms his previously rejected discovery of the third law of planetary motion (he first discovered it on March 8, 1618)

Johannes Kepler confirmed his third law of planetary motion, which states that the square of the orbital period of a planet is proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit.

This law, which Kepler first discovered in March 1618 and confirmed later, completed his three laws of planetary motion. These laws revolutionized the understanding of the solar system and laid the groundwork for Isaac Newton’s theory of universal gravitation.

1648 – The Treaty of Westphalia is signed, ending the Thirty Years’ War and radically shifting the balance of power in Europe

The Treaty of Westphalia was signed in 1648, ending the Thirty Years’ War, which had ravaged much of Europe.

This series of peace treaties between the warring states of Europe also marked the beginning of the modern state system by recognizing the sovereignty of over 300 German princes and the independence of the Dutch Republic and Switzerland.

The treaty is often cited as the origin of the concept of state sovereignty and had a profound impact on the political landscape of Europe, shaping international relations based on legal equality between sovereign states.

1793 – Diego Marín Aguilera flies a glider for “about 360 meters”, at a height of 5-6 meters, during one of the first attempted manned flights

Spanish inventor Diego Marín Aguilera flew a glider for approximately 360 meters at a height of about 5-6 meters. This event took place in Coruña del Conde and is considered one of the earliest recorded attempts at manned flight.

Aguilera, a self-taught inventor, built his flying machine using materials such as wood, iron, and feathers. Although his flight was short-lived and ended with a crash, it represented a significant early effort to understand and achieve human flight, predating the Wright Brothers by more than a century.

1796 – Napoleon enters Milan in triumph

During his first Italian campaign, Napoleon Bonaparte led French forces into Milan, entering the city in triumph after a series of successful military engagements against the Austrian Empire.

This event was significant because it marked the expansion of French influence into northern Italy and demonstrated Napoleon’s strategic brilliance and his ability to inspire troops.

His arrival in Milan also led to the establishment of the Cisalpine Republic, a sister republic in the French Revolutionary model, which consolidated his control over northern Italy and spread revolutionary ideals.

Emperor Napoleon

1862 – President Abraham Lincoln signs into law the U.S. Homestead Act, allowing citizens to claim free land in the American West

The Homestead Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, and it provided 160 acres of public land for free to any adult who paid a small registration fee and agreed to work on the land and improve it, including building a dwelling, for at least five years.

This act aimed to encourage the westward expansion of settlers in the United States and led to the distribution of 270 million acres of federal land to private owners. It played a crucial role in the settlement of the American West and significantly impacted the U.S. agricultural development.

1869 – The National Woman Suffrage Association is formed in New York, founded by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton

The National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) was founded by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in New York. The organization was created in response to a split in the women’s suffrage movement regarding the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted African American men the right to vote but did not extend voting rights to women.

The NWSA aimed to advocate for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would grant women the right to vote. It was a key organization in the women’s suffrage movement and helped to galvanize efforts that eventually led to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.

1891 – Pope Leo XIII issues the encyclical Rerum Novarum, addressing the rights of labor and the inequalities of capitalism

Rerum Novarum, meaning “Of New Things”, is an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII. It addressed the condition of the working classes and is often considered the foundation of modern Catholic social thought.

The document criticized the abuses of both Marxist socialism and unfettered capitalism, advocating a position of balance where the rights of workers to form unions and to secure fair wages and safe working conditions were upheld.

The encyclical emphasized the importance of both private property and the state’s role in promoting social justice through laws and regulations.

1905 – Las Vegas is founded when 110 acres (45 ha) of land adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks are auctioned off in what would become the downtown area

Las Vegas was officially founded as a city when 110 acres of land adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks were auctioned off. This area would become the heart of downtown Las Vegas. The land auction marked the beginning of Las Vegas as a city known initially for its railroads and later for its casinos and entertainment industries.

The city’s development was spurred by its legalization of gambling in 1931, but its origins trace back to this pivotal land auction, which laid the physical and economic foundations of the city.

1928 – The first Academy Awards are presented at a dinner held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California

The first Academy Awards ceremony was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California. The event was organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) and aimed to honor outstanding film achievements of 1927 and 1928. It was a private dinner with about 270 attendees.

The ceremony awarded 15 statuettes to artists and movies in various categories, with the silent film Wings winning “Best Picture.” Unlike today, winners were announced three months before the ceremony. This first awards ceremony marked the beginning of what would become an annual celebration of excellence in the film industry.

1930 – Ellen Church becomes the first female flight attendant when she boards a United Airlines flight from Oakland, California to Chicago

Ellen Church, a registered nurse, became the first female flight attendant when she boarded a United Airlines flight from Oakland, California, to Chicago. Her inclusion in the crew was based on the idea that having a nurse on board would reassure passengers about the safety and comfort of air travel.

Church not only attended to passengers’ needs but also demonstrated safety procedures and helped with refueling and pushing the aircraft into hangars. This marked the beginning of the profession of flight attendants, who would become crucial to the commercial aviation industry.

1940 – McDonald’s opens its first restaurant in San Bernardino, California

The first McDonald’s restaurant was opened in San Bernardino, California, by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald. Originally, it was a barbecue restaurant, but they found more success focusing on a limited menu of hamburgers, fries, and beverages.

Their innovative practices, such as the “Speedee Service System,” streamlined operations and reduced costs, allowing them to sell hamburgers for just 15 cents. This restaurant marked the start of what would become a global fast-food empire, known for its efficiency and uniformity in serving food.

1941 – Joe DiMaggio begins his historic 56-game hitting streak

Joe DiMaggio, playing for the New York Yankees, began his record-setting 56-game hitting streak, a record that still stands today. He hit safely in every game from May 15 to July 16, 1941.

This streak is considered one of the greatest feats in baseball history and a testament to DiMaggio’s consistency and skill as a hitter. The streak captured the attention of America, bringing a sense of excitement and unity during the uncertain times of World War II.

1948 – Following the expiration of the British mandate, the State of Israel is proclaimed

The State of Israel was officially proclaimed on May 14, 1948, just before the British mandate was due to expire on May 15. David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, declared the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.

This declaration marked the culmination of years of effort by the Zionist movement to establish a homeland for the Jewish people. Immediately following the declaration, Israel was attacked by neighboring Arab states, leading to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

The establishment of Israel had a profound impact on the Middle East, setting the stage for decades of geopolitical conflict but also fulfilling a centuries-old dream for a Jewish homeland.

1963 – Project Mercury: The launch of the final manned space mission of the program, sending Gordon Cooper into space

Gordon Cooper launched on the Mercury-Atlas 9 mission, the last flight of NASA’s Project Mercury. His spacecraft, named “Faith 7,” orbited the Earth 22 times over more than a day in space.

This mission was significant because it demonstrated that the United States could conduct extended manned space missions, and it gathered a wealth of data on the space environment and its effects on the human body. Cooper’s flight marked a significant step in the space race, proving that NASA had the capability to send astronauts into space for prolonged periods.

1970 – President Richard Nixon appoints Anna Mae Hays and Elizabeth P. Hoisington as the first female United States Army Generals

President Richard Nixon appointed Anna Mae Hays and Elizabeth P. Hoisington as the first female generals in the United States Army. Anna Mae Hays served as the Chief of the Army Nurse Corps, and Elizabeth P. Hoisington was the director of the Women’s Army Corps.

Their promotions marked a significant milestone in the history of the U.S. military, reflecting changing attitudes towards women’s roles in the armed forces and paving the way for future generations of women in military leadership positions.

1988 – After more than eight years of fighting, the Soviet Army begins to withdraw from Afghanistan

The Soviet Union began the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan, ending more than nine years of military involvement in the country. The withdrawal was part of the Geneva Accords, which were agreements aimed at bringing peace to Afghanistan.

The Soviet intervention had been costly and unpopular, leading to significant casualties and contributing to domestic dissent within the Soviet Union. The end of the Soviet occupation marked the beginning of a new but still turbulent phase in Afghanistan’s history, leading eventually to civil war and the rise of the Taliban.

1991 – Edith Cresson becomes France’s first female Prime Minister

Edith Cresson was appointed as the Prime Minister of France by President François Mitterrand, becoming the first and, to date, only woman to hold the position. Her tenure was marked by controversial statements and challenges in her policies, particularly in handling economic issues and unemployment.

Although her time in office was relatively short, Cresson’s appointment was a significant event in French politics, highlighting the evolving role of women in leadership positions within the government.

1997 – The Deep Blue Chess Computer, developed by IBM, defeats World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov

Deep Blue, a chess-playing computer developed by IBM, defeated the reigning world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, in a highly publicized match. The computer won the six-game match with two wins, one loss, and three draws.

This event was a landmark in the field of artificial intelligence, demonstrating that computers could outperform humans in complex intellectual tasks. Deep Blue’s victory sparked discussions about the implications of artificial intelligence and computing power, influencing future research and perspectives on human-computer interaction.