Almanac – January 09

1890 – Karel Čapek born.  Czech writer, his  first international success was Rossum’s Universal Robots, a dystopian work about a bad day at a factory populated with sentient androids. The play was translated into English in 1922, and was being performed in the UK and America by 1923, and introduced to the world the word robot.

While it is frequently thought that he was the originator of the word, he wrote a short letter in reference to an article in the Oxford English Dictionary etymology in which he named his brother, painter and writer Josef Čapek, as its actual inventor. In an article in the Czech journal Lidové noviny in 1933, he also explained that he had originally wanted to call the creatures laboři (from Latin labor, work). However, he did not like the word, seeing it as too artificial, and sought advice from his brother Josef, who suggested “roboti”.

The word robot comes from the word robota, meaning literally serf labor, and, figuratively, “drudgery” or “hard work” in modern Czech (in Slovak, Russian, Polish, archaic Czech and other Slavic languages a similar word means simply “work”).

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1908 – Simone de Beauvoir born.  French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist, and social theorist.

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1911 – Gypsy Rose Lee born.  American burlesque entertainer famous for her striptease act. She was also an actress, author, and playwright whose 1957 memoir was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy.

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1918 – Battle of Bear Valley. A small engagement fought in 1918 between a band of Yaquis and a detachment of United States Army soldiers.

On January 9, 1918, elements of the American 10th Cavalry Regiment detected about thirty armed Yaquis in Bear Valley, Arizona, a large area that was commonly used as a passage across the international border with Mexico.

A short firefight ensued, which resulted in the death of the Yaqui commander and the capture of nine others. Though the conflict was merely a skirmish, it was the last time the United States Army engaged hostile native Americans in combat and thus has been seen as one of the final battles of the American Indian Wars.

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1925 – Lee Van Cleef born. American film actor who appeared mostly in Westerns and action pictures. His sharp features and piercing eyes led to his being cast as a villain in scores of films, such as Kansas City Confidential, High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

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1943 – Scott Walker born. American-British singer-songwriter, composer and record producer. He is noted for his distinctive baritone voice and for the unorthodox career path which has taken him from 1960s pop icon to 21st century experimental musician.

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