This Week in History: January 1-7

History from Around the World

This week in history: The birth of a creative genius, construction of a NY icon, and newly discovered planets. Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.

January 3rd, 1870 – Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge begins

Image of The Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge – connecting the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River.

This almost 1600 foot behemoth of granite, limestone, and cable stretches across New York’s East River, connecting lower Manhattan with the boro of Brooklyn. It currently can accommodate six lanes of cars-only automobile traffic as well as a section reserved for pedestrians and bicyclists. It is a suspension/ cable-stayed hybrid, one of the first of its kinds. The construction took 13 years. It is one of the most iconic of New York City landmarks.

Learn more about the Brooklyn Bridge and other amazing places in Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures

January 3rd, 1892- J.R.R. Tolkien is born

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is best known for his epic fantasy works, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion. In addition to his extensive writings, he was also a soldier in WWI, a linguist, a philologist, and an Oxford professor. He was a contemporary and close friend of C.S. Lewis; they often discussed religion over drinks at The Eagle and Child outside of Oxford’s campus.

Learn more about Tolkien and his characters in Heros and Legends: The Most Influential Characters in Literature

January 7th, 1610 – Galileo Galilei makes his first observation of the four Galilean moons

Image of Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei – an Italian polymath: astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician.

Can you name the four Galilean moons? They’re Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa. Galileo discovered these four and named them after the lovers of Jupiter, the planet they orbit. They are among the largest objects in the Solar System with the exception of the Sun and the eight planets. (In what would seem to become a 400-year-old punchline, the NASA probe Juno is named after Jupiter’s wife.) Jupiter has a total of 64 moons, but these four are the most notible.

Learn more about moons, suns, planets and more in Life in Our Universe.