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History of Innovations and Discoveries on January 28th

History of Innovations and Discoveries on January 28th

January 28 is a date in history not known for anything too special, many things happened on this day that could change the world completely. A college chartered where a U.S. Senator and a Nobel Prize winner went, the first telephone exchange happened, and Carnegie Institution of Washington was founded. These things have changed history and impacted many people’s lives. The United States ender direct control of Cuba, the space shuttle the “Challenger” exploded just 73 seconds after takeoff, and a battle in New Bern, North Carolina happened. Without these things, everything could be so different.

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On January 28, 1851 Northwestern University Charted. Northwestern University is located in Evanston Illinois, it is a private and coeducational school. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs at Northwestern are highly regarded in the U.S. A group of businessmen lead by John Evans founded the university in 1851. They created the university to serve the Northwest area, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota. The college began in 1855, women weren’t allowed until 1869. Northwestern University and Evanston College for Ladies merged in 1873. Northwestern is divided into 11 different schools. The university’s law and medical schools are in Chicago. The university opened a campus in Qatar, a country in the middle east, that campus opened in 2008. There are many alumni from Northwestern including, U.S. Senator George McGovern, Nobel Prize Winning Economist George J. Stigler, and many others. (“Northwestern University.”)

Evanston is a city in Cook County, which is located in northeastern Illinois. Evanston is 13 miles north of Chicago, located on Lake Michigan. People started moving there after the Potawatomi indians ceded the land to the U.S. A jewelry dealer from New York opened a tavern there, the community was named Ridgeville. Property was purchased on the lakefront by a group of Chicago business men. After the college had been growing the city grew around it. The name of the city was changed in 1857 after John Evans, a founder of the college. (“Evanston.”)

A little over twenty years later and almost five states over, the first telephone exchange took place on January 28, 1878. Alexander Graham Bell invented the first telephone in 1875, but only private businesses are people owned these. George Coy who was partners with Herrick Frost and Walter Lewis, wanted to change that. Coy created a rudimentary telephone switchboard that allowed central office have multiple people connect for commercial use. So now everyone who bought the telephone had the ability to connect potentially infinite number of everyone else who bought the phone. The first phone call took place in front of a store in New Haven, Connecticut. The place where the first phone call was became a National Historic Landmark on January 29, 1964. The same building was demolished in 1973. After it was torn down it’s landmark was taken away. When they destroyed the building they put a parking garage there. (“First Commercial Telephone Exchange – Today in History: January 28.”)

The telephone made by Belle it used wires to connect the phone, George Coy changed that. Coy went to one of Belle’s lectures about a three-way phone network and after that he got an idea. Coy bought a franchise to license Bell’s technology and Coy the first commercial telephone exchange. The exchange was built from carriage bolts, pot lids, and whatever else he could use that would work. It was able to hold 64 customers. In January the exchange opened and 21 people bought a prescription for $1.50 a month. The telephone exchanges got really popular and started going across the country. (“Hold Please: George Coy Launched the First Commercial Telephone Exchange.”)

Along with new innovating ideas, on January 28, 1902 Andrew Carnegie founded Carnegie Institute of Washington. In 1901 when Andrew Carnegie retired he began his career in philanthropy. Carnegie had 23 organizations that he contributed with his vast fortunes. He contributed in many fields, such as, education, international affairs, peace, and scientific research. With all his new enterprises he thought about establishing a university like the great centers in learning in Europe. President Theodore Roosevelt was contacted by Carnegie who said that he was ready to endow the new institution with $10 million dollars. Carnegie eventually added $12 million dollars later. Carnegie selected 27 men to be on the institutions original board. They had their first meeting the next day in the Secretary of State’s office. The institution was incorporated by U.S. Congress in 1903. Carnegie Institute has changed so much since the beginning, there are now 6 different science departments where many scientists are working. (Science, Carnegie. “About.”)

In 1902 Andrew Carnegie founded Carnegie Institution of Washington to be an organization for science discovery. He wanted the institution to be a home for people who would work to the cutting edge of their field. The science departments work on the West and East Coasts. There are 6 different science departments. The name recently changed in 2007 to Carnegie Institution for Science because of confusion because there were departments out of Washington. (Science, Carnegie. “Our History.”)

Across the United States Cuba was fighting for it’s freedom. Cuba was only 90 miles from the Florida Keys. Cuba was separated by the vast expanse of the Atlantic by Spain. It and Puerto Rico were the only two colonies in the “New World.” Cuba had been settled by spaniards in 1511. Cuba slowly grew out of being a growing colony and became the world’s leading sugar producer. Cuba and the United States became good trading partners.  Before the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States was already thinking about purchasing Cuba. Along with the Declaration of the war, the United States asserted The Teller Amendment, which means they would not attempt to exercise hegemony over Cuba. After lots of battles, in December 1898 representatives from the United States and Spain signed a peace treaty in Paris. Cuba was independent now. (“Cuba in 1898.”)

The United States had thought of purchasing Cuba long before 1898, but after the Ten Year War American sugar interests bought up land in Cuba. The U.S. already had $50 million towards Cuba and the trading there. The sugar from Cuba was twice that much. President Grover Cleveland had a proclamation of neutrality in the summer of 1895, but the longing for war started. President McKinley was inaugurated on March 4, 1897, and he was anxious to become part of the war. On April 21, Mckinley ordered a blockade on Cuba, and in four days the U.S. was in the war. April 25, was when the U.S. added the Teller Amendment which was an amendment that meant the U.S. would not attempt to exercise hegemony over Cuba. This war lasted for two years and cost the U.S. $250 million dollars and 3,000 lives. (“Introduction.”)

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Just a little less than a century later NASA ran into a problem. In just 73 seconds after launching the space shuttle ‘Challenger” exploded on January 28, 1986. This explosion killed everyone on the craft including a teacher, Christa McAuliffe from New Hampshire. She would have been the first civilian in space. The cause of the explosion was two rubber O-rings that had been designed to seal sections of the rocket booster, they had failed because of the cold temperatures on the morning of the launch. Nasa temporarily suspended all shuttle missions for awhile after that happened. That launch had been delayed for 6 days because of mechanical problems and weather.  When the spacecraft broke apart it all went into the ocean. That killed the entire crew. After this happen there was a special commision appointed to determine what went wrong by Ronald Reagan. (“Challenger Explosion.”)

In Cape Canaveral, Florida on January 28, the “Challenger” exploded after taking off the launch pad. Debris was going into the Atlantic Ocean for one hour after the explosion. All seven people on the shuttle died. Mrs. McAuliffe was a high school teacher from Concord, who would have been the first ordinary citizen in space. The shuttle was around 10 miles above the Earth before it exploded. All of Mrs. McAuliffe’s family, including her children and her husband, and hundreds of her students watched the shuttle explode. “I regret to report that, based on very preliminary searches of the ocean where the Challenger impacted this morning, these searches have not revealed any evidence that the crew of the Challenger survived.” Jesse W. Moore, the head of the shuttle program at NASA, said that after the shuttle exploded. (“The Shuttle Explodes.”)

More than a century back the U.S. was going through the civil war and here is a glimpse of one battle. Union General, Ambrose Burnside captured North Carolina’s second largest city, New Bern in 1862. This closes another port where the Confederates could get supplies. Burnside had been on the Carolina coast and capturing New Bern lead to success. Five weeks earlier Burnside led a force against Roanoke Island. He landed 12,000 troops along the Neuse River, the river was 15 miles away from New Bern. Burnside’s army marched up the river with 13 gunboats. They faced 4,000 Confederate troops, they were commanded by General Lawrence O. Branch. Branch did not have enough soldiers to properly staff the protective extensive defenses. Burnsides men attacked on a foggy morning on March 14. Union casualties were 90 killed and 380 wounded, and Confederates were 60 killed, 100 wounded, and 400 captured. (“Battle of New Bern, North Carolina.”)

Major General George Brinton McClellan had a grand strategy to defeat the Confederacy. McClellan had a group of expeditions to harass the fringes of the Southern states, that would force the Confederacy to send more troops go to these expeditions. This weakened the main field in Virginia, that made is easier to attack. Burnside became incharge of the battle and he got a Coast Division of 15,000 men. They were accompanied by a army-led flotilla of wood boats and supply ships. The division left in early January from Annapolis and the weather was really bad but they got across the sandbars at Hatteras Inlet they went to attack Roanoke Island. Burnsides men captured the island along with 2,500 southerners. They left Roanoke on March 11 and went to New Bern. (“The Battle of New Bern.”)

January 28 is a day not many know but so many things happened. Without this day the world could be short of a U.S. senator and a Nobel Prize winner, phones could be completely changed, there would be less knowledge about science, Cuba could be so different, six astronauts and a teacher would still be alive, and the Civil War outcome could have changed.

Works Cited

  • “Battle of New Bern, North Carolina.”, A&E Television Networks, 13 Nov. 2009,
  • “Northwestern University.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 29 Jan. 2016,
  • “Evanston.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 27 July 2011,
  • Broad, William J. “The Shuttle Explodes.” The New York Times, The New York Times,
  • “Cuba in 1898.” Cuba in 1898 – The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War (Hispanic Division, Library of Congress),
  • “Challenger Explosion.”, A&E Television Networks, 15 Feb. 2010,
  • “First Commercial Telephone Exchange – Today in History: January 28.” Connecticut History | a CTHumanities Project,
  • “Hold Please: George Coy Launched the First Commercial Telephone Exchange.” New England Historical Society, 28 Jan. 2015,
  • “Introduction.” Introduction – The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War (Hispanic Division, Library of Congress),
  • Sauers, Richard A. “The Battle of New Bern.” StackPath,
  • Science, Carnegie. “About.” Carnegie Institution for Science, 6 Sept. 2018,
  • Science, Carnegie. “Our History.” Carnegie Institution for Science, 2 July 2018,


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