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John’s Believe It Or Not… March 27th

John Fioravanti standing at the front of his classroom.

It’s Marvellous Monday… Right? Did you know…

* 1855 – Abraham Gesner patents kerosene; completely replaces whale oil for lamps. (1846 invents what he calls kerosene or coal oil; 1854 patents the process and builds a refinery in Long Island, New York; 1863 sells his patents and returns to Halifax to serve as a Professor of Geology at Dalhousie University. His other inventions include a wood preservative (the ancestor of creosote), an asphalt paving process, coal dust briquettes and a machine for insulating electric wire. Kerosene will soon light the world, replacing the more expensive whale oil.)

Canadian postage stamp commemorating Gesner's invention.

* 1918 – Manitoba pilot Alan McLeod youngest man ever awarded the Victoria Cross. (March 27 over Albert, France, he and his observer Lt. Arthur Hammond, in an Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 bomber, destroyed an enemy triplane; they were immediately attacked by eight more triplanes; they shot down three, but the German fighters hit the gas tank of the bomber and it burst into flames; McLeod sideslipped steeply to keep the flames away from his observer; when they crashed in No Man’s Land, he dragged Hammond from the burning wreckage and under heavy fire carried him to safety. McLeod was wounded three times in the side and Hammond six times; Hammond lost a leg and was awarded a bar for his Military Cross. McLeod was recommended for a DSO (Distinguished Service Order) but was awarded the Victoria Cross at only 19 years old; returned to Stonewall, to recover from his wounds but died during the Spanish flu epidemic. The Victoria Cross was the highest award of the British Emire honours system. It was awarded for gallantry “in the face of the enemy” to members of the British armed forces. Canada belonged to the Empire at that time.)

Picture of McLeod seated and in full uniform.

* 1998 FDA approves Viagra. (On this day in 1998, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the use of the drug Viagra, an oral medication that treats impotence. Sildenafil, the chemical name for Viagra, is an artificial compound that was originally synthesised and studied to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) and angina pectoris (a form of cardiovascular disease). Chemists at the Pfizer pharmaceutical company found, however, that while the drug had little effect on angina, it could induce penile erections, typically within 30 to 60 minutes. Seeing the economic opportunity in such a biochemical effect, Pfizer decided to market the drug for impotence. Sildenafil was patented in 1996, and a mere two years later–a stunningly short time compared to other drugs–it was approved by the FDA for use in treating “erectile dysfunction,” the new clinical name for impotence. Though unconfirmed, it is believed the drug was invented by Peter Dunn and Albert Wood.)

Ad showing two Viagra pills

* 1977 Jumbo jets collide at Canary Islands airport. (On this day in 1977, two 747 jumbo jets crash into each other on the runway at an airport in the Canary Islands, killing 582 passengers and crew members. Both Boeing 747s were charter jets that were not supposed to be at the Los Rodeos Airport on Santa Cruz de Tenerife that day. Both had been scheduled to be at the Las Palmas Airport, where a group of militants had set off a small bomb at the airport’s flower shop earlier that day. Thus, a Pan Am charter carrying passengers from Los Angeles and New York to a Mediterranean cruise and a KLM charter with Dutch tourists were both diverted to Santa Cruz on March 27. The Los Rodeos airport is known for its sudden fog problems and was not a favourite location for pilots. At 4:40 p.m. on a typically foggy afternoon, the KLM jet was cleared to taxi to the end of the single main runway. The Pan Am jet followed behind it and was to wait in the side space while the KLM jet turned around to begin takeoff. However, in the fog, the Pan Am pilot was unable to keep the KLM jet in sight and did not move into the proper position. The Dutch crew of the KLM jet, apparently unable to understand the accented English spoken by the flight controllers, began to take off down the runway before the Pan Am jet was able to move to the side space. At the last minute, the Pan Am pilot saw the other 747 coming straight at his own jet and screamed What’s he doing? He’ll kill us all! while attempting to swerve into a grassy field. It was too late. The KLM 747 slammed into the side of the Pan Am jet and both planes erupted into a huge fireball. The only survivors on either plane were those in the very front of the Pan Am 747. Survivor Lynda Daniel later said of the disaster, It exploded from the back. Most of the people in the first six rows made it.)

Picture of the two jets colliding.

Look who was born on this date!

Head shot of Mariah Carey* Mariah Carey in 1971. (American Singer:  Came to prominence after releasing her self-titled debut studio album “Mariah Carey”, which went multiplatinum and spawned four consecutive number one singles. She has sold more than 200 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. She has won five Grammy Awards and is famed for her five-octave vocal range.)


Head shot of Gloria Swanson* Gloria Swanson in 1899. (Gloria May Josephine Swanson was an American actress and producer best known for her role as Norma Desmond, a reclusive silent film star, in the critically acclaimed 1950 film Sunset Boulevard.)




Head shot of Duhamel* Fergie Duhamel in 1975. (American Singer: Stacy Ann Ferguson came to fame as the female vocalist in the hip-hop group The Black Eyed Peas (The E.N.D). Her debut solo album, The Dutchess (2006), spawned five Billboard Hot 100 top five singles, including three number ones.)


Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December 2013 and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

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