1865: Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth dies: John Wilkes Booth is killed when Union soldiers track him down to a Virginia farm 12 days after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.
Twenty-six-year-old Booth was one of the most famous actors in the country when he shot Lincoln during a performance at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., on the night of April 14. Booth was a Maryland native and a strong supporter of the Confederacy. As the war entered its final stages, Booth hatched a conspiracy to kidnap the president. He enlisted the aid of several associates, but the opportunity never presented itself. After the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, Booth changed the plan to a simultaneous assassination of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward. Only Lincoln was actually killed, however. Seward was stabbed by Lewis Paine but survived, while the man assigned to kill Johnson did not carry out his assignment. More here
1954: Polio vaccine trials begin: On this day in 1954, the Salk polio vaccine field trials, involving 1.8 million children, begin at the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia. Children in the United States, Canada and Finland participated in the trials, which used for the first time the now-standard double-blind method, whereby neither the patient nor attending doctor knew if the inoculation was the vaccine or a placebo. On April 12, 1955, researchers announced the vaccine was safe and effective and it quickly became a standard part of childhood immunizations in America. In the ensuing decades, polio vaccines would all but wipe out the highly contagious disease in the Western Hemisphere. More here
1986: Nuclear explosion at Chernobyl: On this day in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear accident to date occurs at the Chernobyl nuclear plant near Kiev in Ukraine. The full toll from this disaster is still being tallied, but experts believe that thousands of people died and as many as 70,000 suffered severe poisoning. In addition, a large area of land may not be livable for as much as 150 years. The 18-mile radius around Chernobyl was home to almost 150,000 people who had to be permanently relocated. More here
1984: President Reagan visits China: On this day in 1984, President Ronald Reagan arrives in China for a diplomatic meeting with Chinese President Li Xiannian. The trip marks the first time a U.S. president had traveled to China since President Richard Nixon’s historic trip in 1972.
Reagan’s trip highlighted his administration’s desire to improve diplomacy with China in light of the growing economic relationship between the two nations. Other topics of discussion between the two leaders over the course of the six-day trip included the development of commercial nuclear power in China and China’s displeasure with continuing U.S. support for nationalists in Taiwan. More here
1989: The deadliest tornado in world history strikes Central Bangladesh, killing upwards of 1,300, injuring 12,000, and leaving as many as 80,000 homeless: The Daulatpur-Saturia, Bangladesh Tornado was an extremely destructive tornado that occurred in the Manikganj District, Bangladesh on April 26, 1989. It was the costliest and deadliest tornado in Bangladesh’s history. There is great uncertainty about the death toll, but estimates indicate that it killed around 1,300 people, which would make it the deadliest tornado in history. The tornado affected the cities of Daulatpur and Saturia the most, moving east through Daulatpur and eventually northeast and into Saturia. Previously, the area that the tornado hit had been in a state of drought for six months, possibly generating tornadic conditions. More here
1994: China Airlines flight 140 crashes at Nagoya Airport in Japan: China Airlines Flight 140 was a route from Taipei, Taiwan to Nagoya, Japan. On 26 April 1994, the Airbus A300 on the route was due to land at Nagoya Airport. The Airbus A300 was completing a routine flight and approach, however just before landing, the First Officer pressed the Takeoff/Go-around button (also known as a TO/GA) which raises the throttle position to the same as take offs and go-arounds.
Pilot Wang Lo-chi and copilot Chuang Meng-jung attempted to correct the situation by manually reducing the throttles and pushing the yoke downwards. The autopilot then acted against these inputs (as it is programmed to do when the TO/GA button is activated), causing the plane to have a very nose-high attitude. This nose-high attitude, combined with decreasing airspeed due to insufficient thrust, resulted in an aerodynamic stall of the aircraft. With insufficient altitude to recover from this condition, the subsequent crash killed 264 (15 crew and 249 passengers) of the 271 (15 crew and 256 passengers) people aboard. All passengers who survived the incident were seated at the starboard side of the aircraft in coach class. More here
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