The years teach much the days never know. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
1596 – René Descartes, French mathematician and philosopher is born.
René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician and writer who spent most of his life in the Dutch Republic.
He has been dubbed the father of modern philosophy, and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day. In particular, his Meditations on First Philosophy continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. Descartes’ influence in mathematics is equally apparent; the Cartesian coordinate system — allowing reference to a point in space as a set of numbers, and allowing algebraic equations to be expressed as geometric shapes in a two-dimensional coordinate system (and conversely, shapes to be described as equations) — was named after him. He is credited as the father of analytical geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, crucial to the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the scientific revolution and has been described as an example of genius…
…His best known philosophical statement is “Cogito ergo sum” (French: Je pense, donc je suis; I think, therefore I am).
1927 – Cesar Chavez, American union leader and activist is born.
Cesar Chavez was an American farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist, who, with Dolores Huerta, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (later the United Farm Workers union, UFW).
A Mexican American, Chavez became the best known Latino American civil rights activist, and was strongly promoted by the American labor movement, which was eager to enroll Hispanic members. His public-relations approach to unionism and aggressive but nonviolent tactics made the farm workers’ struggle a moral cause with nationwide support. By the late 1970s, his tactics had forced growers to recognize the UFW as the bargaining agent for 50,000 field workers in California and Florida. However, by the mid-1980s membership in the UFW had dwindled to around 15,000.
During his lifetime, Colegio Cesar Chavez was one of the few institutions named in his honor, but after his death he became a major historical icon for the Latino community, with many schools, streets, and parks being named after him. He has since become an icon for organized labor and leftist politics, symbolizing support for workers and for Hispanic empowerment based on grass roots organizing. He is also famous for popularizing the slogan “Sí, se puede” (Spanish for “Yes, one can” or, roughly, “Yes, it can be done”), which was adopted as the 2008 campaign slogan of Barack Obama. His supporters say his work led to numerous improvements for union laborers. Although the UFW faltered after a few years, after Chavez died in 1993 he became an iconic “folk saint” in the pantheon of Mexican Americans. His birthday, March 31, has become Cesar Chavez Day, a state holiday in California, Colorado, and Texas.
1951 – Remington Rand delivers the first UNIVAC I computer to the United States Census Bureau.
The UNIVAC I (UNIVersal Automatic Computer I) was the second commercial computer produced in the United States. It was designed principally by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, the inventors of the ENIAC. Design work was started by their company, Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation, and was completed after the company had been acquired by Remington Rand (which later became part of Sperry, now Unisys). In the years before successor models of the UNIVAC I appeared, the machine was simply known as “the UNIVAC”.
The first UNIVAC was accepted by the United States Census Bureau on March 31, 1951, and was dedicated on June 14 that year. The fifth machine (built for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission) was used by CBS to predict the result of the 1952 presidential election. With a sample of just 1% of the voting population it famously predicted an Eisenhower landslide while the conventional wisdom favored Stevenson.