The United Nations General Assembly and Unesco designated 2019 as the ‘International Year of the Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements’ to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the invention of the periodic system by Russian chemist Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev on February 17, 1869. The year of 2019 acknowledged the importance of the Periodic Table as one of the most important achievements in modern science. Academic institutions and chemistry societies celebrated the event by organising conferences, workshops and conventions in different countries, and a closing ceremony in Tokyo. Unesco conducted an online competition to test high school students' knowledge of the table.
The year 2019 marked the centenary of the infamous Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in which over 400 people were killed and around 1,000 injured. On April 13, 1919, the Baisakhi day, acting Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer had ordered troops of the British Indian Army to fire indiscriminately at thousands of unarmed and peaceful protesters in Jallianwala Bagh. One of the most horrifying incidents in the history of pre-independence India, the incident was recently termed a "shameful scar" by former British PM Theresa May. However, May stopped short of giving a formal apology demanded by British parliamentarians and Sikh activists to mark the anniversary of the massacre that affected scores of lives.
June 6: 75th anniversary of D-Day Landings and battle of Normandy
June 6 this year marked the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy. Troops from the US, UK, France, and Canada had attacked German forces on the coast of northern France on June 6, 1944, in the biggest-ever military naval, air and land operation. The operation also paved the way to start a campaign to liberate Nazi-occupied north-west Europe. On the D-Day, over 160,000 troops landed on five different beaches in Normandy. D-Day is a military term for the first day of an operation. In 2019, world leaders attended ceremonies in France to honour the sacrifice of those who fought and died during the D-Day landings. French President Emmanuel Macron and the then British PM Theresa May thanked veterans who had taken part in the June 1944 battle. US President Donald Trump called former American soldiers "the pride of the nation".
June 28: Centenary of the Treaty of Versailles
A century has passed since the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which contained the terms of peace agreed between the German and Allied powers at the time of the First World War. The treaty, signed on June 28 in 1919 at Paris Peace Conference, led to the end of hostilities in the World War I, but negotiations on the long-term peace settlement followed for a few months. The treaty ensured Germany took the responsibility for the war and legal liability for the damage caused to the country and its allies. However, the Treaty of Versailles burdened Germany's growing democracy. The pact required the country to pay billions in compensation, give up its colonies in Asia, Africa and the Pacific region, and to surrender 13 per cent of its territory to other nations.
July 20: 50th anniversary of the first landing on the Moon
Astronaut Edwin E "Buzz" Aldrin Jr poses for a photograph beside the US flag deployed on the moon
during the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969. Photo: Nasa
In 1969, Nasa's Apollo 11 had lifted off with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins for a journey to the moon
and back. On July 20 that year, they made their landing on the moon, in “one giant leap for mankind”. It took the Apollo 11 three days to get there, and astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin spent over 21 hours on the lunar surface, becoming the first humans to set foot there. The Apollo 11 became the first spaceflight that landed humans on the Moon.
September 1: 80th anniversary of the Second World War
It has been 80 years since Germany first attacked Poland on September 1, 1939. Two days later, Britain and France declared a war on Germany. It was estimated that Poland lost about a fifth of its population during the battle. At a commemoration ceremony on September 1 this year, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier sought forgiveness for his country for the suffering of the Polish people during World War II. The presidents, local officials and residents observed a minute of silence in the memory of the victims.
October 2: Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary
On October 2, 2019, India celebrated 150th birth anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Top political leaders, including PM Narendra Modi, Congress’ Sonia Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh, paid homage to the father of the nation at Rajghat. Congress workers organsied a mass oath to carry forward Mahatma Gandhi's vision. BJP chief Amit Shah flaged off the party's nationwide Gandhi Sankalp Yatra. The birth anniversary was celebrated across the country with film screenings, workshops, cleanliness drives, and making of a giant spinning wheel from plastic waste. India observes October 2 not only as Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary but also as the International Day of Non-Violence, based on an ideal for which Gandhi fought all his life.
November 9: 30th anniversary of the felling of the Berlin wall
On November 9, 1989, East and West Germany were united by the highly symbolic felling of the Berlin Wall, an event that ended a 40-year-old border dispute that had divided the country for years, separating families, neighbours and friends. Since 1949, a 45-kilometre concrete wall had symbolised a deep ideological divide between the Soviet bloc and West Berlin at the height of the Cold War. After the Communist German Democratic Republic declared the lifting of travel restrictions on East Germans, people on both sides stormed the concrete obstruction on November 9 in 1989. This year, Germany celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall
collapse, a crucial event in the downfall of communism in Eastern Europe.
November 12: Guru Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary
On November 12 this year, India celebrated the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, with great devotion and fervour. The government released commemorative postage stamps to mark the occasion. Days before Guru Nanak Jayanti, a sacred festival of the Sikh community, PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the Kartarpur corridor, linking Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district, and flagged off the first batch of over 500 Indian pilgrims.
November 17: 150 years of Suez Canal
In November this year, Egypt celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Suez Canal, which had been inaugurated on November 17, 1869, after 10 years of rigorous work. The Suez Canal is the fastest shipping route linking the Mediterranean and Red seas, and Europe and Asia. Since its inception, the canal has been the main gateway for global trade movements and a prime shipping destination due to its unique geographical position. Osama Rabea, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, attended a celebration in Ismailia and congratulated President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the Egyptian people, expressing pride in the canal’s role in the global trade movement and the shipping industry since its foundation in 1869.