A Day of Soviet Intrigue, Science and Peacemakers
August 20 is marked by three events of Soviet intrigue from the assassination of Leon Trotsky, to the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the failed 1991 coup. It is also a day of science in which Charles Darwin first published his theory of evolution and Viking I and Voyager II launched to Mars and Outer Space respectively. Finally, it is a day of peacemakers from the signing of the Oslo Accords to a New Hampshire Seminarian’s taking a bullet to save a black child from a racial attack in Alabama.
Charles Darwin Publishes Theory of Evolution
Charles Darwin first publishes his theory of evolution through natural selection in The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, alongside Alfred Russel Wallace’s same theory. Darwin would publishes The Origin of Species the next year.
Leon Trotsky Fatally Wounded
Leon Trotsky,the founder and first leader of the Soviet Red Army, who broke with and was exiled by Joseph Stalin, was attacked with an Ice Ax at his home in Mexico. He died the next day
Seminarian Jonathan Daniels Takes Bullet Intended for Black Child
Keene, NH Episcopal seminarian Jonathan Daniels, 26, is martyred; murdered by shotgun at point-blank range in Hayneville, Alabama, by an unpaid sheriff’s deputy, sacrificing his life for young black activist Ruby Sales whom he pushed out of the way of the blast.
Warsaw Pact Invades Czechoslavakia Crushing Prague Spring
On the night of 20–21 August 1968, the Soviet Union and its main allies in the Warsaw Pact—Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany, and Poland—invaded the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in order to halt Alexander Dubček’s Prague Spring political liberalization reforms. In the operation, codenamed Danube, approximately 500,000 troops, with Romania and Albania refusing to participate, attacked Czechoslovakia. 108 Czechs and Slovaks were killed and around 500 wounded in the invasion.
NASA Launches Viking 1 and Voyager 2
Viking 1 was the first of two spacecraft (along with Viking 2) sent to Mars as part of NASA’s Viking program. It was the first spacecraft to successfully land on Mars and perform its mission, and held the record for the longest Mars surface mission of 2307 days or 2245 sols (from landing until surface mission termination, Earth time) until that record was broken by the Opportunity Rover on May 19, 2010.
Voyager 2 is a 722 kg (1,592 lb) space probe launched by NASA on August 20, 1977 to study the outer Solar System and eventually interstellar space. It was actually launched before Voyager 1, but Voyager 2 was sent on a different trajectory and arrived at Jupiter and Saturn after Voyager 1. Voyager 2 has been operating for 38 years as of 20 August 2015, and the Deep Space Network is still receiving its data transmissions.
Protesters Block Soviet Coup Attempt
The day after communist hardliners launched a coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, more than 100,000 people rally outside the Soviet Union’s parliament in protest. The coup attempt fizzled out the next day, although it accelerated the collapsed of the Soviet Union.
Oslo Accords Signed at White House
The Oslo I Accord or Oslo I, officially called the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements or short Declaration of Principles(DOP), was an attempt in 1993 to set up a framework that would lead to the resolution of the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict. It was the first face-to-face agreement between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). P