Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving Day

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Nature, Agriculture, Wildlife, History of Science

Ed Hessler

Thanksgiving has a long and complicated history and because the day's meal with family and often friends is a reminder on what we owe to biodiversity and human culture (ancient to modern, economics, trade), I the following includes the history of Thanksgiving as well as some notes about 1863 - an eventful year in American history, the establishment of an important science, engineering, and medicine institution and finally an image for Thanksgiving.

--Here is a presidential history of Thanksgiving from the Library of Congress (LOC) with photographs, illustrations and links. President Abraham Lincoln was the first to proclaim it in 1863. It was an encouragement for Americans to recognize "a day of Thanksgiving." The motivating force was Sarah Josepha Hale, an influential author and editor who petitioned five different presidents between 1846 - 1863 for its recognition. 

President Franklin Roosevelt contributed to making it a fixed holiday but his proposal that it be celebrated the last Thursday of November led to public outrage and the Congress passed a law (77 H. J. Resolution 41) on December 26, 1941 making the fourth Thursday in November a legal holiday, effective in 1942. Even the tradition of granting a presidential pardon to a turkey has a more complicated history than meets the eye. Minnesota doesn't have this tradition.

All is explained in the LOC history. 

--And from the history of the U. S. House of Representatives a much shorter history of the holiday and of H. J. Resolution 41.

--On March 3 of the same year President Lincoln signed a bill drafted by Senator Henry Wilson into law establishing the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The NAS was established as a private, honorific institution charged with providing independent advice on science and technology to the federal government." Here is a list of fifty scientists who were the incorporators of the NAS.

The American Institute of History provides a short history of the NAS. Membership in the NAS is a widely accepted mark of excellence in science and is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive. There are about 2500 members and Minnesota has had a variety of scientists nominated for membership.

--As you know in January of 1863, President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and July of that year marked what is considered the turning point of the Civil War: The Battle of Gettysburg. From the Library of Congress (LOC) is an annotated timeline of the war for 1863. 

--There is a turkey above us, way above as you can see from this magnificent image from Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD).

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