The millennium is ending. So is the century. And I, in passing 50 years, have
probably entered the last half of my life. I've now seen half a century.
That is sobering. I notice that the news people are now making lists of the
most significant events and/or people of the century and/or the millenium.
All such lists are, of course, subjective and therefore controversial.
So, to hold up my end of the controversy, I decided to make my own list.
But, for me, a century or a millennia is an artificial time period. What is
not artificial and does have meaning to me is my own lifetime from about the
end of the Second World War to the end of the twentieth century. Although,
not as old as my great aunt who was born in 1913, I think I have seen events
of immense significance in human history.
I grew up in a rural area of Kentucky in the 1950s. At that time we did
not have television or telephones and had just gotten electricity. There was
no Internet or computers or space travel or supersonic plane or microwave or
VCR or, at our house, indoor plumbing. There was no tupperware or wet wipes
or pampers or TV dinners or McDonalds. In spite of what today's young people
may think though, it was possible to survive and grow and thrive. We ate lots
of soup beans and cornbread and garden vegetables and chicken and beef and
pork and drank milk and buttermilk straight from the cow in the barn.
Here then are a few of my ideas. As with everything else on this internet
site you are encouraged to send me by
email your thoughts on this subject and, if they are substantive and well
presented, I will make them available here.
- Transistors and Computers - They led to so many revolutionary developments in electronics.
- Air conditioning and refrigeration - increased work productivity and variety in diet.
- Farm tractors and rural electrification - bought the benefits of city life to the farm and increased farm productivity.
- Robotics - increased efficiency in manufacturing.
- Space exploration - Sputnik, Mir, Neil Armstrong on the moon, the Hubble Space Telescope, the space shuttle, long range craft exploring our planetary system and sending back data.
- Nuclear energy - The promise of unlimited energy damped by environmental concerns.
- Psychology and Social Science
- Developments in mental health care, not just for the mentally ill, but counseling for everyday stress for many.
- Childhood protection from disease and abuse and hunger.
- Education more available for more people in much of the world.
- The aging of the world's population - longevity causing many changes in society.
- Population growth in the world causing increasing pressures on the environment and on the social structure due to overcrowding.
- Wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan showing the limits of superpowers.
- The civil rights struggle in South Africa
- The demise of the USSR.
- Civil Rights and individual freedom - not race relations as such but the idea that those in power have an obligation to respect the rights of and lend a helping hand to the unempowered.
- The environmental movement - Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" and many others.
- The establishment of the Peoples Republic of China by Mao Tse-tung.
- The establishment of the state of Israel and its impact on the history of the middle east.
- The prevention of nuclear war for over 50 years.
- The establishment of the United Nations.
- Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda and Bosnia and Kosovo and in other places.
- The Peace Corps and other methods of disseminating technology and democracy and empowerment of the impoverished.
- The use of Terrorism as a political tool.
- The Marshall Plan rebuilding Europe after WWII.
- The economic development of Japan, China and Asia
- The establishment and use of the World Bank and IMF to stabilize the world economy.
- The rise of the service economy, replacing the agricultural and the industrial economy.
- Increasing value of information technology leading to new economic models.
- Credit cards made significant changes in the use and views of money for better or worse.
- Fast food freeing millions of hours previously used in food preparation.
- Environmental pollution - land mines, pollution of seas, air, water, soil erosion, forest destruction, urban sprawl.
- Telephone systems and the Internet making this a truly global community.
- Communications satellites - ditto
- Television - bringing the world into the living room.
- Video and audio technology developments - VCRs, audio tapes, CD, digital recording
- Air Mail
- UPS, Fedex, Overnight delivery
- Interstate Highway system
- Medicine and biology
- DNA structure discovered
- Human genome project and genetic engineering of plants and animals
- Birth control technology and use.
- The spread of Aids
- Polio and Smallpox defeated - worldwide immunization programs.
- Control of tooth decay.
- Developments in medical techology including nuclear medicine, MRI, etc.
- Physics and Chemistry
- Relativity and quantum physics and astrophysics leading to a new consciousness of the nature of our universe.
Comments received from our visitors
my family is from Kentucky, and i think you have done a great job with
this webb page. the invention of the VCR has alimited the excuse for people to
say home from church, to watch a tv show or movie, or a ball game, they can
just record it now and go to church, and watch it when they get home, just
once less excuse, of course now they will come up with new ones.
Sender: Kid Kabbo
a.. Genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda and Bosnia and Kosovo.
I am enjoying your site, however, why no mention of the Holocaust when you
list genocide? Wasn't the systematic and deliberate murder of six million Jews
as a ends unto itself by a technologically sophisticated and effectively
organized society worthy of at least a mention? I am sure you have a reason,
Reply from Duane:
Actually the Holocaust would have been worth much more than just
a mention if I hadn't defined the page in the first two paragraphs as
the most significant events of my lifetime which was defined as the
last 50 years.
Last revised August 17, 2002.
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