This Week in Awesome History Vol. 21

This week it's everything from captured dictators to star-studded christmas carols.  Have fun!

Nash Herringtonby Nash Herrington

December 12th, 1980: Da Vinci’s notebook sells for $5million


On this day in 1980 oil tycoon Armand Hammer bought a notebook at an auction belonging to Leonardo da Vinci for $5,126,000.

The book contained over 300 notes and drawings of da Vinci’s, all of which concerned water and its movement, and its price tag was the largest paid for a manuscript at that time. Historians now say that the notebook contains the foundations for the concept of da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa.

In 1994 the book – now given the name “Leicester Codex” – yet again went on sale, this time selling for another record price of $30.8million to an anonymous bidder. The bidder was later revealed to be Bill Gates.


December 13th, 2003: Saddam Hussein is finally captured


On this day in 2003, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s nine-month long run from the US military finally came to an end when he was discovered hiding in a hole just nine miles away from his hometown of Tikri, five months after his sons Uday and Kusay were killed in a raid in Mosul.

Following his capture, Saddam was put in Iraqi custody and charged with the deaths of nine villagers, the razing of farmlands, the wrongful arrest of almost 400 Dujail residents and the torture of women and children. He was sentenced to death.

He was executed on December 29th, 2006, with footage of his hanging promptly being circulated on Google Video and mobile phones worldwide.


December 15th, 1984: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” reaches number one

On this day in ’84 Bob Geldof and Midge Ure enlisted the aid of a whole host of famous musicians to record on the track “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, under the moniker of Band Aid. The track shot to the top of the UK charts, staying there for five weeks after shifting a massive 3.5million copies, with all proceeds going to the famine-stricken populace of Ethiopia.

The track featured the talent of artists such as David Bowie, Bono, Sting and George Michael, and paved the way for Geldof’s live charity concert “Live Aid” 7 months later. Live Aid was (and still is) the biggest charity event in history, being held simultaneously at both the London Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium, and reaching an audience of 1.9million across 150 nations. An estimated £150million was raised from the concerts.


December 15th, 1989: “The Wizard” wows audiences

On this day in ’89 The Wizard dropped into theatres, introducing us to the first footage of Super Mario Bros. 3 and one of the greatest antagonists in cinema history: Lucas. Watch the footage above if you don’t believe me. He’s so… bad.

Basically one long advert for anything and everything Nintendo-related, The Wizard centred around a talented young gamer as he ventured to California to take part in a video game tournament. However, none of that really mattered, as the only reason anyone turned up to watch this steaming pile of sh-nostalgia, was to catch a glimpse of the new Mario bros. game.

Despite being  a film based solely on video games, the writers predictably seemed to have little knowledge of gaming, with the grand reveal of SMB3 being greeted by one of the characters referring to a goomba as a mushroom. 20 years later and Mark Wahlberg is cast as Max Payne.


December 17th, 1979: Stuntman breaks the sound barrier

On this day in 1978 stuntman Stan Barrett broke the sound barrier, reaching an estimated top speed of 740mph. Unfortunately, the radar scanner malfunctioned, meaning that his accomplishment couldn’t be officially recorded.

Barrett was a stuntman for Paul Newman, who introduced him to auto racing. The car belonged to director Hal Needham, a land-speed record breaker himself, who loaned the $800,000 Budweiser Rocket to Barrett.

However, his achievement went unrecorded, as the radar speedometer on the ground malfunctioned, accidentally registering the speed of a passing truck moving at 38mph. The sound barrier was officially broken in October 1997.