This Day In History, May 14th

What happened on this day in history: The first smallpox vaccine is tested, Lewis and Clark begin their expedition of the American West, and more momentous events.

1796: Edward Jenner Tests History’s First Smallpox Vaccine

Edward Jenner tests his first smallpox vaccine. For centuries, smallpox devasted populations around the globe. Smallpox has killed 300 million people since 1900 alone, and its history dates as far back as 10,000 B.C. An English physician, Edward Jenner, took the first step in developing a smallpox vaccine after noticing that dairymaids who had been exposed to cowpox became immune to smallpox. He experimented by exposing a young boy to cowpox; once the boy recovered, Jenner exposed the boy to smallpox and noted that the disease did not develop. This experiment would set the foundation for later vaccines that would virtually eradicate smallpox globally.

1804: Lewis And Clark Begin Their Expedition Of The American West

Corps Of Discovery Lewis Clark

Amon Carter Museum of American ArtLewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia, by Charles Marion Russel, 1905.

Lewis and Clark begin their expedition of the American West. After U.S. President Thomas Jefferson called for the duo to explore the newly-purchased Louisiana Territory, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark created the Corps of Discovery, a group of 45 skilled men, and set out west. Lasting more than two years, the expedition was beset by harsh weather conditions, disease, difficult terrain, and more. The 8,000-mile expedition would ultimately prove successful and result in the collection of invaluable geographic and cultural information about North America.

1939: Lina Medina Becomes The Youngest Person To Ever Give Birth

At just five years old, a Peruvian girl named Lina Medina becomes the youngest person in history to give birth. After noticing Lina’s growing abdomen, her parents transported her to the hospital for examination, where doctors confirmed that she was seven months pregnant. Six weeks later, Lina gave birth to a healthy baby boy by caesarean section. The doctors noted that she had a fully mature reproductive system due to what’s known as precocious puberty. The biological father of the child was never revealed. Later in her life, Medina remarried and had another son.

1948: The State of Israel Is Founded

Declaration Of The State Of Israel In 1948

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs David Ben Gurion, who was to become Israel’s first Prime Minister, reads the Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948 in Tel Aviv.

The State of Israel is proclaimed at midnight. In 1917, Chaim Weizmann, a scientist and supporter of establishing the state of Israel, petitioned the British government to issue a statement favoring the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, resulting in the Balfour Declaration. After World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust, Jewish refugees fled to Palestine, and conflicts between the area’s Jewish and Arab populations intensified. In the end, with the backing of the United States, Britain, and the United Nations, Israel was recognized as a de-facto authority and granted independence.

1998: Frank Sinatra Dies

Frank Sinatra In The Studio

Public DomainKnown as “The Chairman of the Board” and “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” Frank Sinatra remains one of the most iconic entertainers of the 20th century.

Frank Sinatra dies of a heart attack in Los Angeles. Born in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1915, Frank Sinatra solidified his place among the musical icons of the 20th century. During his five-decade career, Sinatra released 59 albums, with some of his most notable tracks including “Fly Me to the Moon” and “My Way.” In his old age, Sinatra struggled with several health issues, including high blood pressure, pneumonia, bladder cancer, and dementia before ultimately dying of a heart attack at age 82. To this day, his voice remains one of the most recognizable in the history of music.