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This Week In History: Recap Of Happenings Around The World (October 15 – October 21)


Shenzhou 5, China’s first human space flight mission launched.

  • On October 15, 2003, the first manned spacecraft was launched in 2003, with China’s first astronaut, Yang Liwei, on board. The craft traveled in space for 21 hours and orbited the Earth for 14 times. It landed successfully in Inner Mongolia the next day.


Cuban missile crisis begins

  • On Oct. 16, 1962, the Cuban missile crisis began as President John F. Kennedy was informed that reconnaissance photographs had revealed the presence of missile bases in Cuba.

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Albert Einstein arrives in the U.S. as a refugee from Nazi Germany


U.S. takes possession of Alaska from Russia

  • On October 18, 1867, the United States officially acquired Alaska from Russia through the Alaska Purchase or Treaty of Cession. The US government paid $7.2 million for the territory, initially seen as unimportant but later found to be rich in resources.


The purchase of Alaska in 1867 marked the end of Russian efforts to expand trade and settlements to the Pacific coast of North America, and became an important step in the United States rise as a great power in the Asia-Pacific region.

Beginning in 1725, when Russian Czar Peter the Great dispatched Vitus Bering to explore the Alaskan coast, Russia had a keen interest in this region, which was rich in natural resources and lightly inhabited.

As the United States expanded westward in the early 1800s, Americans soon found themselves in competition with Russian explorers and traders. St. Petersburg, however, lacked the financial resources to support major settlements or a military presence along the Pacific coast of North America and permanent Russian settlers in Alaska never numbered more than four hundred.

Defeat in the Crimean War further reduced Russian interest in this region.

For three decades after its purchase the United States paid little attention to Alaska, which was governed under military, naval, or Treasury rule or, at times, no visible rule at all.

Seeking a way to impose U.S. mining laws, the United States constituted a civil government in 1884. Skeptics had dubbed the purchase of Alaska “Seward’s Folly,” but the former Secretary of State was vindicated when a major gold deposit was discovered in the Yukon in 1896, and Alaska became the gateway to the Klondike gold fields.

The strategic importance of Alaska was finally recognized in World War II. Alaska became a state on January 3, 1959.


American Revolutionary War: The siege of Yorktown comes to an end.

  • On October 19, 1781, British General Charles Cornwallis surrendered his army of some 8,000 men to General George Washington at Yorktown, giving up any chance of winning the Revolutionary War.


Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi killed by rebel forces

  • On October 20, 2011, Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi was killed by rebel forces following a revolt that received international military assistance.

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Thomas Edison perfects a workable electric light

  • On Oct. 21, 1879, Thomas Edison perfected a workable electric light at his laboratory in Menlo Park, N.J.

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