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May Anniversaries

Momentous or merely memorable

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50 YEARS AGO: ON THE FAST TRACK

Despite winds gusting across the Oxford, England, track, Roger Bannister, 25, surges through the “sound barrier” of sport to become the first person to break the four-minute mile. “Once I started to run I forgot everything,” says the medical student, whose record 3:59.4 time will stand for only a month. Today, Bannister, a retired neurologist, lobbies against the use of steroids in sports.


50 YEARS AGO: EQUAL, NOT SEPARATE

Plaintiff’s attorneys in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, stand victorious as the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rules to end state-sanctioned segregation in public schools on May 17, 1954. “Separate but equal” policies, declares Justice Earl Warren, violate the 14th Amendment. Integration will take decades, and will still be hotly debated in 2004.


100 YEARS AGO: HOW DOES IT KNOW?

Invented by physicist James Dewar in 1892, the Thermos first goes on sale for commercial and home use in May 1904, in Germany. A vacuum separating an inner and outer flask impedes heat transfer, keeping contents, ranging from strong coffee to human tissue, hot or cold. By 2004, four out of five Americans will own a Thermos.


160 YEARS AGO: T-MAIL

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