The Eiffel Tower

March 31, 1889 – The Eiffel Tower is officially opened.

The Eiffel Tower is a wrought iron lattice structure on the Champ de Mars in Paris, France. It is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Constructed in 1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticized by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has become a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world.  The tower is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world: 6.98 million people ascended it in 2011.  The tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010.

The tower is 324 meters (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-story building. Its base is square, 125 meters (410 ft) on a side. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to become the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. Due to the addition of the aerial at the top of the tower in 1957, it is now taller than the Chrysler Building by 5.2 metres (17 ft). Not including broadcast aerials, it is the second-tallest structure in France, after the Millau Viaduct.

The tower has been used for making radio transmissions since the beginning of the 20th century. Until the 1950s, sets of aerial wires ran from the cupola to anchors on the Avenue de Suffren and Champ de Mars. These were connected to longwave transmitters in small bunkers. In 1909, a permanent underground radio centre was built near the south pillar, which still exists today. On November 20, 1913, the Paris Observatory, using the Eiffel Tower as an aerial, exchanged wireless signals with the United States Naval Observatory, which used an aerial in Arlington, Virginia. The object of the transmissions was to measure the difference in longitude between Paris and Washington, D.C.  Today, radio and television signals are transmitted from the Eiffel Tower.

On May 5, 1939, France issued a semi-postal stamp, 90-centimes + 50 centimes, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the tower (Scott No. B85):

Eiffel Tower - France semipostal



Salomon Sulzer, 1804 – 1890

March 30, 1804: Birthdate of Salomon Sulzer the Austrian Hazzan and composer whose “Shir Tziyyon” a work in two volumes that “established models for the various sections of the musical service—the recitative of the cantor, the choral of the choir, and the responses of the congregation—and contained music for Sabbaths, festivals, weddings, and funerals which has been introduced into nearly all the synagogues of the world.”

In all his compositions strict attention is paid to the Hebrew text; and a scrupulous adherence to syntactic construction is observed throughout. The collection “Zwanzig Gesänge für den Israelitischen Gottesdienst”(Vienna, 1892) was printed posthumously. In his “Denkschrift an die Wiener Cultusgemeinde” he sums up his ideas on the profession of cantor. Sulzer, who was widely famed as a singer and as an interpreter of Schubert, was a professor at the imperial conservatorium of Vienna, a knight of the Order of Francis Joseph I and a maestro of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecelia in Rome. Universally recognized as the regenerator of synagogal, he has been called the “father of the modern cantorate”.

On January 17, 1990, Austria released this stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of Sulzer’s death (Scott No. 1488):

salomon sulzer - austria 1990

Aristide Briand, 1862 -1932

March 28, 1862 – Birthdate of Aristide Briand, French politician, Prime Minister of France, Nobel Prize laureate.

At the same time he was prominent in the movement for the formation of trade unions, and at the congress of working men at Nantes in 1894 he secured the adoption of the labor union idea against the adherents of Jules Guesde. From that time, Briand was one of the leaders of the French Socialist Party.  In 1902, after several unsuccessful attempts, he was elected deputy. He declared himself a strong partisan of the union of the Left in what was known as the Bloc, in order to check the reactionary Deputies of the Right.

From the beginning of his career in the Chamber of Deputies, Briand was occupied with the question of the separation of church and state. He was appointed reporter of the commission charged with the preparation of the 1905 law on separation, and his masterly report at once marked him out as one of the coming leaders. He succeeded in carrying his project through with but slight modifications, and without dividing the parties upon whose support he relied.

He was the principal author of the law of separation, but, not content with preparing it, he wished to apply it as well. The ministry of Maurice Rouvier was allowing disturbances during the taking of inventories of church property, a clause of the law for which Briand was not responsible. Consequently, he accepted the portfolio of Public Instruction and Worship in the Sarrien ministry (1906). So far as the Chamber was concerned, his success was complete. But the acceptance of a position in a bourgeois ministry led to his exclusion from the Unified Socialist Party (March 1906). As opposed to Jaurès, he contended that the Socialists should co-operate actively with the Radicals in all matters of reform, and not stand aloof to await the complete fulfillment of their ideals.

France issued a 30 centimes stamp in 1933 (Scott No. 291) with a portrait of Briand:

Aristide Briand - France

Amnesty International & the 2014 Gaza-Israel Conflict

March 26, 2015:  The human rights group Amnesty International said in a report issued today that “armed Palestinian organizations committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza-Israel conflict, by killing both Israeli and Palestinian civilians using indiscriminate projectiles.”

The 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, also known as Operation Protective Edge was a military operation launched by Israel on July 8, 2014 in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.  Following the IDF Operation Brother’s Keeper, Hamas started rocket attacks, targeting Israeli cities and infrastructure, resulting in seven weeks of Israeli operations.

The stated aim of the Israeli operation was to stop rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, which increased after an Israeli crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank was launched following the June 12th kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by two Hamas members.  Conversely, Hamas’s goal was to bring international pressure to bear to lift Israel’s bockade of the Gaza Strip, end Israel’s defensive operations in Gaza and pressure Israel to release Palestinians imprisoned for terrorism.

Denmark issued this semi-postal (charity) stamp in 2001 honoring Amnesty International:

amnesty international - denmark

Bed-In for Peace, 1969

March 25, 1969 – During their honeymoon, John Lennon and Yoko Ono hold their first “Bed-In for Peace” at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel (until March 31).

As the Vietnam War raged in 1969, Yoko Ono and her husband John Lennon held two week-long Bed-Ins for Peace, one at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam and one at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal, each of which were intended to be non-violent protests against wars, and experimental tests of new ways to promote peace. The idea is derived from a “sit-in”, in which a group of protesters remains seated in front of an establishment until they are evicted, arrested, or their demands are met.

The public proceedings were filmed, and later turned into a documentary movie. The film Bed Peace was made available for free on YouTube in August 2011 by Yoko Ono, as part of her website “Imagine Peace”.

On March 20, 1999, Gibraltar issued two £1 mini-sheetlets with two different images of John Lennon and Yoko Ono on their wedding day.

John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Gibraltar

Ezer Weizman, 7th President of Israel

March 24, 1993: Ezer Weizman was elected President of Israel. The nephew of Chaim Weizman enjoyed a distinguished military career before entering politics. He flew for the RAF during World War II and was one of the founders of what would become the Israeli Air Force. He played an instrumental role in developing it into one of the finest military units of its kind in the world.

The Knesset elected Weizman, by a majority of 66 to 53 (against Dov Shilansky, the Likud candidate), to serve as the next President of Israel. He assumed office as President on May 13, 1993.

In 1996, in an attempt to promote the peace process, Weizman invited Yasser Arafat for a private visit to his home in Caesarea. In 1999, he met with the DFLP leader Nayef Hawatmeh, declaring “I am even prepared to meet with the devil if it helps [to bring peace].”  He openly supported withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria, drawing criticism from the right wing parties.

At the end of 1999, newspapers published allegations that Weizman had accepted large sums of money from businessmen before becoming president, without reporting this to the proper authorities.  Since the statute of limitations had expired Weizman was not prosecuted, but the controversy compelled him to resign. Weizman’s resignation took effect on July 13, 2000.

In 2006, Israel issued this 7,40 NIS stamp honoring Weizman (Michel No. 1854):

ezer weizman - israel

Akira Kurosawa, 1910 – 1998

March 23, 1910 – Birthdate of Akira Kurosawa, Japanese director, producer, and screenwriter.

Regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema, Kurosawa directed 30 films in a career spanning 57 years.

Kurosawa entered the Japanese film industry in 1936, following a brief stint as a painter. After years of working on numerous films as an assistant director and scriptwriter, he made his debut as a director in 1943, during World War II, with the popular action film Sanshiro Sugata (a.k.a. Judo Saga). After the war, the critically acclaimed Drunken Angel (1948), in which Kurosawa cast then-unknown actor Toshiro Mifune in a starring role, cemented the director’s reputation as one of the most important young filmmakers in Japan. The two men would go on to collaborate on another 15 films. His wife Yoko Yaguchi was also an actress in one of his films.

In 2010, San Marino issued a € 0,65 postage stamp honoring Kurosawa.  The stamp shows details of some of the films either written or directed by Kurosawa, including “The Seven Samurai”, “Ran” and “Dersu Uzala”.

akira kurosawa - san marino

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

March 20, 1916: Albert Einstein published his theory of relativity in a scientific journal called Annalen der Physik.

Einstein’s “Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper” (“On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”) was received on June 30, 1905 and published September 26th of that same year. It reconciles Maxwell’s equations for electricity and magnetism with the laws of mechanics, by introducing major changes to mechanics close to the speed of light. This later became known as Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

Consequences of this include the time-space frame of a moving body appearing to slow down and contract (in the direction of motion) when measured in the frame of the observer. This paper also argued that the idea of a luminiferous aether—one of the leading theoretical entities in physics at the time—was superfluous.

In his paper on mass-energy equivalence, Einstein produced E = mc2 from his special relativity equations.  

Einstein used the formula

E_{kin}=mc^2\left(\frac1{\sqrt{1-\frac{v^2} {c^2}}}-1\right)

for the kinetic energy of an electron. In elaboration of this he published a paper (received September 27, November 1905), in which Einstein showed that when a material body lost energy (either radiation or heat) of amount E, its mass decreased by the amount E /c2. This led to the famous mass-energy equivalence formula: E = mc2. Einstein considered the equivalency equation to be of paramount importance because it showed that a massive particle possesses an energy, the “rest energy”, distinct from its classical kinetic and potential energies.  It was Einstein who was the first to: (a) ascribe this relation to all forms of energy, and (b) understand the connection of Mass-energy equivalence with the relativity principle.

Einstein’s 1905 work on relativity remained controversial for many years, but was accepted by leading physicists, starting with Max Planck.

There are philatelic examples of the equation E = mc² from many different countries, some of which include a portrait of Albert Einstein. Here a just a few examples:

Israel – issue of 1956:

e=mc2 - Israel


Germany – 100th anniversary issue of 2005:

e=mc2 - Germany


Serbia – issue of 2005:

e=mc2 - Serbia


India – issue of 2005:

e=mc2 - India


France – issue of 2005:

e=mc2 - France


Ireland – issue of 2005:

e=mc2 - Ireland



Max Reger, 1873 – 1916

March 19, 1873 – Birthdate of Max Reger, German pianist, composer, and conductor.

Johann Baptist Joseph Maximilian Reger was born in Brand, Bavaria and studied music in Munich and Wiesbaden with Hugo Riemann. From September 1901, he settled in Munich, where he obtained concert offers and where his rapid rise to fame began. During his first Munich season, Reger appeared in ten concerts as an organist, chamber pianist and accompanist. He continued to compose without interruption. From 1907, he worked in Leipzig, where he was music director of the university until 1908 and professor of composition at the conservatory until his death. In 1911 he moved to Meiningen where he got the position of Hofkapellmeister at the court of Georg II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. In 1915 he moved to Jena, commuting once a week to teach in Leipzig. He died in May 1916 on one of these trips of a heart attack at age 43.

Reger produced an enormous output over little more than 25 years, nearly always in abstract forms. Few of his compositions are well known in the 21st century. Many of his works are fugues or in variation form, including what is probably his best known orchestral work, the Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart based on the opening theme of Mozart’s Piano Sonata in A major, K. 331. He also wrote a large amount of music for organ, the most famous being his Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and the Fantasy and Fugue on Bach.

German issued this stamp in 1991, memorializing the 75th anniversary of Reger’s death (Michel Catalog No. 1529):

max reger - Germany

Mount Vesuvius erupts – 1944

March 18, 1944 – The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Italy kills 26 people and causes thousands to flee their homes.

Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in  CE 79 that led to the burying and destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and several other settlements. That eruption ejected a cloud of stones, ash, and fumes to a height of 33 km (20.5 mi), spewing molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 1.5 million tons per second, ultimately releasing a hundred thousand times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima bombing.  An estimated 16,000 people died due to hydrothermal pyroclastic flows. The only surviving eyewitness account of the event consists of two letters by Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus.

Vesuvius has erupted many times since and is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years. Today, it is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living nearby and its tendency towards explosive (Plinian) eruptions. It is the most densely populated volcanic region in the world.

The last major eruption was in March 1944. It destroyed the villages of Sebastiano al Vesuvio, Massa di Somma, Ottaviano, and part of San Giorgio a Cremano.  From March 18 to 23, 1944, lava flows appeared within the rim. There were outflows. Small explosions then occurred until the major explosion took place on March 18, 1944.

At the time of the eruption, the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) 340th Bombardment Group was based at Pompeii Airfield near Terzigno, Italy, just a few kilometers from the eastern base of the mountain. The tephra and hot ash damaged the fabric control surfaces, the engines, the Plexiglas windshields and the gun turrets of the 340th’s B-25 Mitchell medium bombers. Estimates ranged from 78 to 88 aircraft destroyed.

The eruption could be seen from Naples. Different perspectives and the damage caused to the local villages were recorded by USAAF photographers and other personnel based nearer to the volcano.
In 1989, Italy issued this 500-lire stamp (Michel Catalog No. IT 2086) picturing Mount Vesuvius and the ruins near Pompeii..
mount vesuvius - italy