January 1 (The Week) – Alot of good things happened over the last decade: scientific breakthroughs, incredible acts of kindness, feats of athleticism, and historic firsts. Here’s a look back at some of those moments:
33 Chilean miners rescued after 69 days underground
A collapse on August 5 at the San Jose Mine near Copiapó, Chile, left 33 miners trapped 2,300 feet underground. Their families feared the worst, but after two weeks, the miners were able to attach a note to a probe that had been dropped down by rescuers, letting them know all 33 were still alive, sustained by tins of food and the hope that they would soon be free. With the world watching, rescuers worked nonstop, drilling holes in an attempt to reach the men before it was too late. Thanks to their efforts, the first miner was freed on Oct. 13, and 22 hours later, the 33rd and final miner emerged.
Kathryn Bigelow becomes 1st woman to win Best Director Oscar
The 82nd Academy Awards belonged to director Kathryn Bigelow and The Hurt Locker, her film about a bomb disposal unit in the Iraq War. Bigelow made history when she became the first woman to win the Best Director prize, after being only the fourth woman ever nominated. The Hurt Locker won six awards total, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.
Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett launch Giving Pledge
Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett wanted to do something good with their fortunes that would help people for years to come. In August, they announced the Giving Pledge, and invited the richest people in America to join them in committing the majority of their wealth to charitable causes. Today, more than 200 individuals and couples from 23 different countries have signed the pledge. “This is about building on a wonderful tradition of philanthropy that will ultimately help the world become a much better place,” Bill Gates said.
New Orleans Saints win their 1st Super Bowl
When the New Orleans Saints won Super Bowl XLIV, it was exactly what The Big Easy needed. The city was still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina, and the Saints’ 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts was a gift to local fans who stood by the team through thick and thin.
Prince William, Kate Middleton marry at Westminster Abbey
After years of dating, Prince William and Kate Middleton finally made it official. The college sweethearts were married on April 29 at Westminster Abbey, in front of Queen Elizabeth, nearly 2,000 guests, and tens of millions of people watching at home. Now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (having received the titles on their wedding day), they are parents to three extremely adorable children: George, 6, Charlotte, 4, and Louis, 1.
The Arabian oryx is brought back from extinction
In 1972, the Arabian oryx, a type of antelope found in the Middle East, became extinct in the wild. Before hunters were able to kill the last oryx, five were captured, and conservationists got to work breeding them and their descendants. The animal was slowly reintroduced into protected areas, and in 2011, the International Union for Conservation of Nature made a major announcement: the Arabian oryx was being moved from “endangered” to “vulnerable” on its Red List of Threatened Species. The oryx was the first animal to go from extinct to vulnerable on the list, and today, researchers believe there are 1,220 in the wild, with most in Saudi Arabia. There are 6,000 to 7,000 more living in protected areas.
NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft orbits Mercury
On March 17, history was made in space when NASA’s MESSENGER achieved orbit around our solar system’s smallest and innermost planet, Mercury. This was the first time a spacecraft accomplished this feat, and over the next four years, MESSENGER studied the planet’s geology and magnetic field.
Australian researcher discovers new dolphin species
While comparing the skulls of two dolphins, PhD candidate Kate Charlton-Robb of Monash University made a huge realization: she was looking at two different species. Further DNA testing proved that one of the dolphins was a bottlenose and the other was a species that had yet to be discovered. The new species was named the Tursiops australis. The dolphins swim in the waters of South Australia and Tasmania, and had been “living right under our noses for so many years,” Charlton-Robb told ABC News.
Mars rover Curiosity lands on its target
As soon as Curiosity landed August 5 on Mars — just 1.5 miles from the center of its target — scientists at the Jet Propulsion Lab let out whoops and hollers so loud they could almost be heard on the red planet millions of miles away. The Curiosity is a rover that was sent to Mars to study the planet’s climate and geology and to look for signs of the building blocks of life. The $2.5-billion mission was a success, and the rover’s initial two-year mission was extended, with no end date. More than 5,000 people worked on the massive project, an amazing feat of science and technology.
85-year-old woman’s heartfelt review of Olive Garden goes viral
Marilyn Hagerty doesn’t have a pretentious bone in her body, as made evident in the column she wrote when an Olive Garden opened in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Hagerty is a food columnist for the Grand Folks Herald, and she described the chain as being “impressive” and “the most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks.” The internet tried to make fun of her for her sincere review, but that backfired when fans like the late chef and author Anthony Bourdain got involved, with Bourdain praising Hagerty for triumphing over “the snarkologists (myself included).” Hagerty parlayed her sudden fame into a book deal and a review of New York hot dogs for The New York Times.
Higgs boson particle discovered
After five decades of searching, physicists at the Large Hadron Collider made an incredible discovery: the Higgs boson, an elementary particle in the Standard Model. Nicknamed “the God particle,” it helps give particles their mass.
World’s mountain gorilla population increases by 10 percent
Mountain gorillas are slow breeders, which is why conservationists were thrilled when the world’s population increased by more than 10 percent over just two years. In 2010, there were about 786 mountain gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, a number that rose to 880 in 2012. Mountain gorillas live in just two areas — Bwindi in southwest Uganda and the Virunga Massif range along the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Rwandan borders — and because of war and habitat destruction, there had been fears they would go extinct at the turn of the century.
Batkid saves San Francisco
The Riddler and the Penguin were no match for Batkid. In November, the Make-A-Wish Foundation flew 5-year-old Miles Scott and his family to Gotham City, a.k.a. San Francisco, where he put on a suit and got to work fighting crime. Scott was diagnosed with leukemia at 18 months old, and his wish was to spend the day as Batkid. After he saved the Giants’ mascot, Lou Seal, Scott received a key to the city. In 2018, Make-a-Wish announced that Scott is cancer free.
Twin pandas Mei Lun and Mei Huan cause a stir in Atlanta
Mei Lun and Mei Huan — two very cute, very fluffy pandas — were born at Zoo Atlanta on July 15. It was a major moment in zoo history, as the girls were the first surviving panda twins born in the United States. Mei Lun and Mei Huan moved to China in 2016, where researchers quickly discovered that the twins were “so addicted to American crackers that everything they eat — from bamboos to apples — has to be mixed with crackers.”
Hospital shoeshiner donates $202,000 in tips to sick kids
Albert Lexie spent more than 30 years shining shoes at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital, and by the time he retired in December, he had earned $202,000 in tips. Instead of using the money to live out his golden years, Lexie donated it to the hospital to a fund that covers medical treatment for children without insurance. Lexie died in 2018, and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh President Christopher Gessner said his “kindness and generosity were and continue to be an inspiration for all of us.”
55 customers at a donut shop take part in a ‘pay it forward’ chain
After a woman in the car ahead paid for her order at Heavn’ly Donuts in Amesbury, Massachusetts, Eileen Taylor thought she’d do the same for someone the next time she was in the drive-thru. Taylor told the employee at the window she wanted to cover the car behind her, and it took off from there. A clerk for the donut shop told WBZ every customer offered to pay for the next vehicle, regardless of the total, and the only reason why the “pay it forward” chain finally ended at car 55 was because there wasn’t anyone behind them. “It was worth it,” Taylor said. “It was the best $12 I ever spent.”
Ice Bucket Challenge raises millions for ALS research
All summer, people from around the world uploaded videos showing them pouring buckets of ice cold water on their heads, then calling out friends and asking them to do the same thing. Known as the Ice Bucket Challenge, this awareness/fundraising campaign for ALS (a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the brain and spinal cord’s nerve cells) raised $115 million for The ALS Association in eight weeks. The donations tripled the ALS research budget and funded more than 200 research projects. Since then, five new genes have been discovered, which will be used to develop new therapies.
Malala Yousafzai wins Nobel Peace Prize
Malala Yousafzai was at school when she learned she won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, along with children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi. Once classes were done for the day, she told reporters, “My message to children all around the world is that they should stand up for their rights.” Born in Pakistan, she fought for girls to go to school, and gained international attention in 2012 when she was shot by Taliban gunmen. She was just 17 when she received the award, making her the youngest-ever winner of the prize.
Olympian Gus Kenworthy rescues dogs after Sochi Olympics
Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy came home from the Sochi Olympics with more than a silver medal. The U.S. Olympian and his then-boyfriend Robin MacDonald helped rescue a dog named Mamuchka and her litter from Sochi, with MacDonald staying behind for a month after the Olympics ended in order to ensure the pups were able to leave Russia. They brought awareness to the stray population in Sochi, and several other athletes were inspired to adopt their own Sochi dogs. In 2018, Kenworthy joked to USA Today that his mom is “actually obsessed” with Mamuchka. “She likes the dog more than she likes my brothers and I.”
Mo’ne Davis makes Little League World Series history
Mo’ne Davis had everyone tuning into the 2014 Little League World Series. The Philadelphia native pitched for the Taney Dragons, and became the first girl to pitch a winning game and the first girl to pitch a shutout in the series. Davis — who also played basketball — went on to become the first Little League player to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, sit down for an interview with Jimmy Fallon, and go onstage at the ESPY Awards. She is now a freshman at Hampton University in Virginia, where she plays softball and studies communications, with the goal of becoming a sports broadcaster.
Same-sex marriage becomes legal in all 50 states
In a momentous decision, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Constitution gives same-sex couples the right to marry. Writing for the majority, then-Justice Anthony Kennedy said the plaintiffs were asking for “equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” and “no longer may this liberty be denied. No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family.”
NASA New Horizons becomes 1st spacecraft to do a flyby of Pluto
After hurtling through space for nearly a decade, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft finally reached it destination on July 14: Pluto. New Horizons was launched on Jan. 19, 2006, and became the first spacecraft to explore Pluto and its moons up close. New Horizons made several discoveries about the dwarf planet, and solved one major mystery. Scientists had spent years trying to determine how big Pluto was, and New Horizons answered that question definitively: Pluto is 1,470 miles in diameter.
Americas region eliminates rubella
The Pan American Health Organization and World Health Organization declared on April 29 that the Americas region — encompassing 45 countries and territories — was the first in the world to eliminate rubella. Rubella is a contagious viral infection that can cause death or serious birth defects in a developing fetus. It took 15 years of widespread administration of the MMR vaccine, which targets measles, mumps, and rubella, to reach this milestone. PAHO/WHO Director Carissa F. Etienne called it a “historic achievement,” proving “the value of immunization and how important it is to make vaccines available to even the remotest corners of our hemisphere.” Smallpox was eliminated in the region in 1971, followed by polio in 1994.
Nearly 200 countries commit to the Paris Climate Agreement to fight climate change
It’s not often that so many world leaders can agree on something, but this year, nearly 200 countries adopted the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, an ambitious plan to fight climate change. Nations signed on to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and work together to limit the global temperature increase for the century. Former President Barack Obama said the environmental accord would leave children with “a world that is safer and more secure, more prosperous, and more free.”
Chicago Cubs win World Series for 1st time since 1908
Cursed no more! The Chicago Cubs finally ended their long (108 years!) world championship drought on Nov. 2, clinching the 2016 World Series title after defeating the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in Game 7. It was a nail-biter, with the game going for 10 innings, plus a rain delay that nearly changed everything.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture opens in D.C.
At almost 400,000 square feet, The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the largest and most comprehensive institution of its kind in the United States. It opened on Sept. 24, and is home to almost 37,000 objects, including relics from the Civil Rights era, the American West, and the time of slavery. It took decades of hard work to get the museum, the 19th operated by the Smithsonian Institute, opened, and it founding director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, said it tells “the American story through the lens of African American history and culture. This is America’s story and this museum is for all Americans.”
Michael Phelps has an incredible Olympics…
Michael Phelps once again dominated the Summer Olympics. The most decorated Olympian of all time, with 28 medals (23 of them gold) earned during five games, Phelps won six medals in Rio. He inspired the next generation of swimmers, but wasn’t the only Phelps to make a splash — his infant son Boomer stole the show watching dad from the stands.
…and so does Simone Biles
Simone Biles proved during the Rio Olympics that she is one of the best gymnasts to ever grace the world stage. After dazzling in the team and individual competitions, Biles took home four gold medals, setting a record for most gold medals won by an American female gymnast in a single Olympics. She also became the first female gymnast to serve as the American flag bearer during the closing ceremonies. After winning the gold, Biles said she was “very excited and relieved … You never know the feeling until it hits you. I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles. To me, I’m just the same Simone.”
Girl Scouts launch 1st-ever troop for homeless girls
Troop 6000 has the same goal for its members as every other Girl Scout troop — to build courage, confidence, and character. It is different though, as the troop is the first one ever created for homeless girls. New York City mom Giselle Burgess worked with the Department of Homeless Services to launch Troop 6000 in February, for 20 girls living in a Queens hotel. The girls participate in all the same fun activities and learn all the same skills as other troops, with Girl Scouts of Greater New York covering their membership fees and dues.
April the giraffe gives birth
Baby Watch 2017 finally ended on April 15, when April the giraffe gave birth to a male calf at the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York. April became an internet star when the park announced her pregnancy, and millions tuned into a livestream to watch her in the days leading up to her calf’s birth; an estimated 1.25 million viewed the big event. A contest was held to name the calf, with “Tajiri,” Swahili for “Hope,” the winner.
Sesame Street introduces its 1st character with autism
Sesame Street gained a new resident in March: Julia. Julia was the first new Muppet to appear on Sesame Street in 10 years, and also the first to have autism. While developing Julia, Sesame Workshop consulted with 14 autism groups, and together they found common ground on how Julia should be portrayed. “It’s not like there is a typical example of an autistic child, but we do believe that [with] Julia, we worked so carefully to make sure that she had certain characteristics that would allow children to identify with her,” Sherrie Westin, executive vice president at Sesame Workshop, told NPR.
Iraqi Muslims help Christian neighbors rebuild church
The Monastery of Mar Georges in Mosul, Iraq, was nearly destroyed by the Islamic State, but after fighters were driven out of town, Muslim residents came together to help their Christian neighbors rebuild. There is a church inside the site, and the volunteers helped clear debris and make repairs, giving Christians a place to worship. Their goal was to show that “Mosul is yours and it’s ours” and “our differences are our strength.”
Secretary who kept wealth a secret donates millions to college scholarship funds
Legal secretary Sylvia Bloom was often tasked with making personal investments for her bosses, and she usually ended up making the same stock purchase — just in a smaller amount. This paid off, as Bloom wound up with a $9 million fortune. Her family had no idea she had amassed such wealth until Bloom died in 2016 at age 96. Jane Lockshin, executor of her aunt’s estate, was given one direction: give a bulk of the inheritance to scholarship funds. Lockshin chose to give $6.24 million to the Henry Street Settlement, which will endow the Expanded Horizons College Success Program, and $2 million to Hunter College, Bloom’s alma mater.
Nepal nearly doubles its tiger population
Nepal set a goal to double its tiger population by 2022, and in 2018, the country announced it was on course to hit that mark. Due to sustained conservation tactics, including policing national parks and stepping up anti-poaching efforts, the number of tigers living in the wild increased to 235 in 2018, up from 121 in 2009.
World’s 1st museum dedicated to dachshunds opens in Germany
Everyone’s favorite long dog finally has its own museum. The Dackelmuseum opened in Passau, Germany, welcoming visitors who adore the dachshund. The museum was founded by two former florists, who collected thousands of dachshund-related items over the span of 25 years. All of those toys, pieces of art, stuffed animals, and statues are now on display. “The world needs a sausage dog museum,” co-founder Seppi Küblbeck told BBC News.
Afghan province declared free of landmines
Once Afghanistan’s deadliest province for landmines, Herat was declared free of landmines in 2018. Britain’s foreign aid department said that until clearance started in 2008, an average of 125 people were killed or injured every year by landmines in Herat, which had mostly been dropped during wars in the 1980s and 1990s. The HALO Trust organization said it cleared more than 600 minefields, opening up 15.5 square miles for farmers. In one area, a new city district was built on top of cleared land, and is now home to many returning refugees.
Most diverse class of lawmakers sworn into Congress
The 116th U.S. Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse in history, Pew Research says. This has been a trend, as each of the previous four Congresses broke the record set by the Congress before it. More than 1 in 5 voting members are racial or ethnic minorities, an 84 percent increase over the 107th Congress, which had 63 minority members.
Michigan kindergartners support friend as his adoption is finalized
Michael Clark Jr. wanted all of his friends to be there when his adoption was finalized — and they wanted to be there for him, too. In early December, Clark’s entire Kindergarten class came to a Grand Rapids, Michigan, courtroom to watch as he was formally adopted. They sang and shared how much they loved Clark, who couldn’t keep his smile contained. His teacher told WZZM the class “began the school year as a family. Family doesn’t have to be DNA, because family is support and love.”
India plants 220 million trees in one day
On August 9, more than one million Indians committed to fighting climate change planted 220 million trees in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populated state. Forest official Bivhas Ranjan said the trees will increase forest cover in the state, which is home to more than 200 million people. The trees were planted along roads, by railroad tracks, and in existing forests, and will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Scientists reveal 1st photo of a black hole
Black holes are made up of a large amount of matter packed into an extremely small space, resulting in a gravitational pull so strong light can’t even escape. Because of that, it’s been difficult for scientists to actually photograph one — until now. The Event Horizon Telescope project used information gathered from different radio telescopes set up around the world to create a high-resolution image of a black hole that couldn’t be produced by just a single telescope. The historic image shoes the “event horizon,” which is the point after which no matter can escape the black hole.