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Good InfoGood News in History, March 22

Good News in History, March 22

629 years ago today, the wisest sultan of the Timurids, Ulugh Beg, was born. Taking control of a murderous nation built out of Timur’s (Tamerlane) foolish attempt to re-establish the totality of the Mongol Empire, Ulugh Beg makes an appearance in this history column for his efforts to steer the Timurids from tribes of red-handed steppe conquerors into sophisticated and artistic rulers. There was no one in all of Islam’s nations at the time that could match Ulugh Beg’s knowledge of astronomy, and his observatory at the capital of Samarkand was probably the most advanced in the world at that time. READ more about this scientific ruler… (1394)

Portrait of Ulugh Beg – CC 4.0. Ulugh Beg Observatory (Copy)

In the same way that Genghis Khan’s grandson Kublai became the most enlightened ruler of the Mongol Empire, Ulugh Beg was the grandson of Tamerlane, as reputed as Genghis for his murderous cruelty. It’s impossible, even for a positive history column such as this, to ignore the steppe empires of the Middle Ages because of their remarkable sizes and impacts on the world, which undoubtedly brought about good things despite the evil they caused.

Ulugh Beg was a moniker—a Turkish word for “great leader”. Having been merely a series of rich caravan towns separated by bandit country, Central Asia was briefly transformed for the first and only time in history into a geographical center of arts and learning with the Ulugh Beg madrasas in cities like Samarkand and Bukhara, which focused much more heavily on mathematics and other sciences rather than Islamic instruction.

With the instruments located in the observatory in Samarkand, Ulugh Beg composed a star catalogue consisting of 1018 stars using dimensions from previous Arab astronomers and also new data and methods composed by himself. With it, he compiled the 1437 Zij-i-Sultani of 994 stars, generally considered the greatest star catalogue between those of Ptolemy in Classical Greece and Tycho Brahe.

Ulugh Beg later measured another more precise value of the tropical year as 365d 5h 49m 15s, which has an error of +25 seconds, making it more accurate than Copernicus’s estimate which had an error of +30 seconds.

During his reign which wasn’t long, he ordered the construction of many buildings which today remain as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as the madrasas and observatory mentioned before.

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • The Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony signed a peace treaty with the Wampanoags (1621)
  • The Spanish National Assembly in Puerto Rico abolished slavery (1873)
  • Auguste and Louis Lumiere showed the first moving pictures in Paris (1895)
  • The US re-legalized the sale of beer and wine (1933)
  • Please Please Me, the first Beatles album, was released (1963)
  • Congress sent the Equal Rights Amendment (for women) to the states for approval, although it failed to receive enough votes (1972)
  • A paralyzed British woman won the right to die naturally by discontinuing her ventilator (2002)
  • The militant Basque separatist group, ETA, declared a “permanent” ceasefire in Spain (2006)

Happy 80th birthday to jazz/R&B guitarist George Benson, born in Pittsburgh. A successful solo career, alternating between jazz, pop, R&B singing, and scat singing, turned super-successful after signing for Warner Bros.

George Benson performing at Montreux 1986 – CC Jean Fortunet

He had already recorded and released two singles with RCA at the age of nine, giving him the reputation as a child prodigy. His first album under the label, Breezin‘, was certified triple-platinum, hitting no. 1 on the Billboard album chart in 1976. The subsequent In Flight, Give me the Night, and In Your Eyes, were all certified platinum. He won 10 Grammys throughout his career, and Breezin’ remains one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time. (1943)


Happy 92nd Birthday to William Shatner, beloved as Captain James T. Kirk in the 60s series Star Trek and its subsequent blockbuster movies.

He has written a series of books chronicling his experiences as part of Star Trek, and life afterwards, including, Nimoy. Shatner’s also co-written several novels set in the Star Trek universe, and a series of science fiction novels called TekWar, that were adapted for television.

Shatner revealed in 2020 that he suffers from swollen joints and various age-related “aches and pains,” and uses CBD oil to treat his pain. LEARN about his love of horses… (1931)

In the 80s, Shatner also played the eponymous veteran cop in T. J. Hooker and hosted the reality-based television series Rescue 911 (1989–1996), which won a People’s Choice Award.

2011 by Jean from Shelbyville, Kentucky – CC license

In his spare time, the Canadian actor, author, producer, director, screenwriter, and singer enjoys breeding and showing horses. He rode one of his own mares from his 360-acre farm near Versailles, Kentucky (named Great Belles of Fire) in Star Trek Generations.

Today is the 30th annual World Water Day, inspired by the international goal of providing clean water for everyone.

water faucet Sun Star
Image by Sun Star

During the first 26 years of Water.org more than two billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources. Together, governments, the UN, and nonprofits have cut the number of people lacking safe water in half. (1993)

Happy 75th Birthday to another great composer and lyricist, British born Andrew Lloyd Webber, famous for Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Evita, and Jesus Christ Superstar. (1948)

And, speaking of theater… Happy 93rd Birthday to Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist who won an Academy Award, 8 Tonys (more than any other composer), 8 Grammys, and a Pulitzer Prize, for his contributions to musical theater.

His best-known works include West Side Story (1957); Gypsy (1959); A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962)—and later runs during the 80s like Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street; Sunday in the Park with George; and Into the Woods. (1930)

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