The Mercury

ON THIS DAY MAY 12

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1765 Lady Emma Hamilton, who became Admiral Lord Nelson’s famous mistress, is baptised. Hers was a genuine rags-to-richesto-rags story – thanks to the British nation ignoring their hero’s last wish.

1789 MP William Wilberforc­e makes his first major speech on abolition in the UK House of Commons, calling the slave trade morally reprehensi­ble and an issue of natural justice. 1820 British nurse and public health activist Florence Nightingal­e is born, in Florence, Italy. She improved hospital sanitary conditions and greatly reduced the death rate for wounded and sick soldiers. She received worldwide acclaim for her unselfish devotion to nursing, contribute­d to the developmen­t of modern nursing procedures, and emphasised the dignity of nursing as a profession.

1875 Cape Governor Sir Henry Barkly lays the cornerston­e of parliament in Cape Town. 1900 Lord Roberts enters Kroonstad and Orange Free State President MT Steyn proclaims Heilbron his new capital.

1926 Roald Amundsen’s airship, Norge, is the first vessel to fly over the North Pole.

1935 William Wilson founds Alcoholics Anonymous in Ohio, US.

1937 The Duke and Duchess of York are crowned King George VI and Queen Elizabeth following the abdication of King Edward VIII. 1941 Konrad Zuse presents the Z3, the world’s first working programmab­le, fully automatic computer, in Berlin.

1942 The tanker SS Virginia is torpedoed by a German submarine in the Mississipp­i River. 1988 A bus going to Mount Frere, Transkei, overturns near Cathcart, killing 31 people. 1991 Inkatha supporters rampage through a squatter camp on the West Rand, killing 22. 2008 An earthquake in China kills 87 000 people and injures 375 000.

2020 Russia’s confirmed cases of Covid-19 reach 232 000, the 2nd highest in the world, a day after President Vladimir Putin eased the country’s lockdown | THE HISTORIAN

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