10 Trains That Changed the World

10 Trains That Changed the World

1. Liverpool and Manchester Railway

The opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in September 1830 marked the dawn of steam-powered rail travel. Prior to its construction, most railways were horse-drawn and used to haul freight such as coal over short distances. The 31-mile railroad linking Liverpool and Manchester was the first to carry both passengers and freight by means of steam-powered locomotives, which were designed by George Stephenson, winner of the railroad’s open design competition. Capable of traveling 30 miles per hour, Liverpool and Manchester Railway trains carried more than 500,000 passengers in the first year of operation, resulting in generous dividends to investors. Carrying cotton from the port of Liverpool to the mills of Manchester, the railroad spurred the development of England’s Industrial Revolution, and its legacy lives on as the distance between the Liverpool and Manchester’s rails chosen by Stephenson—4 feet, 8.5 inches—remains the industry’s standard gauge.

2. Baltimore & Ohio Railroad

In order to compete with the commercial boom experienced by New York City following the construction of the Erie Canal, leaders of the rival port of Baltimore proposed a 380-mile rail line linking the city with the Ohio River in Wheeling, West Virginia. In 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad became the first American company to be granted a charter to transport both passengers and freight, and it was the first American railway to employ steam locomotives to carry both passengers and freight on a regular schedule. President Andrew Jackson became the first commander in chief to ride the rails when he boarded a B&O train running from Ellicott’s Mills to Baltimore in 1833.

3. Panama Railway

Rail tracks linked the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for the first time when the Panama Railway was completed in 1855. The 50-mile railroad eased the arduous journey across the Panamanian isthmus for passengers who traveled by sea between the East and West Coasts of the United States, and it became popular with the tens of thousands of prospectors seeking riches from the California Gold Rush in the years before the completion of the transcontinental railroad in the United States. The Panama Railway, which transported cargo for steamship companies as well as U.S. mail, was the most intensively used freight rail line until the 1914 opening of the Panama Canal, which followed nearly the same route across the isthmus.

4. Lincoln Funeral Train

After departing Washington, D.C., on April 21, 1865, the black-draped train bearing the coffin of Abraham Lincoln spent nearly two weeks winding its way through 180 cities and seven states before reaching the assassinated president’s burial site in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. The need to keep Lincoln’s body preserved on the 13-day journey as hundreds of thousands of Americans paid their respects helped popularize the nascent industry of funeral embalming, and it also served as a publicity boon for George Pullman, who lent the use of his new, luxurious sleeping cars for the comfort of passengers traveling from Chicago to Springfield on the “Lincoln Special.” After Lincoln’s burial, orders took off for Pullman’s sleepers, which featured polished black walnut interiors, chandeliers and marble washstands and made overnight travel much more enticing for passengers.

5. Metropolitan Underground Railway

The railway age reached new heights when trains began to operate at unprecedented depths below the streets of London on January 10, 1863, with the inauguration of the Metropolitan Underground Railway. The world’s first subway operated on a four-mile-long line connecting Paddington Station with the city’s financial district and was a hit from its opening day when it carried more than 30,000 passengers who rode in gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives. The London Underground proved the effectiveness of mass transit and eased the horse-drawn traffic congestion that was clogging the streets of the British capital and stifling its prosperity.

6. Transcontinental Railroad

The United States truly became united when a sledgehammer pounded a ceremonial golden spike into the ground of Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869, to complete the country’s first transcontinental railway. Constructed over the course of seven years with the Central Pacific Railroad building east from Sacramento, California, and the Union Pacific Railroad building west from Omaha, Nebraska, the transcontinental railroad slashed the travel time for the 3,000-mile cross-country journey from months to less than a week. The transcontinental railroad contributed to the rapid westward expansion of the United States, bringing with it the rise of the Wild West and wars with Native American tribes who lived on those lands. It also made it economically feasible to extract the abundant resources of the West and transport them to the markets in the East.

7. Trans-Siberian Railway

Spanning eight time zones and 6,000 miles across treacherous sub-arctic terrain, the Trans-Siberian Railway was the longest and most-expensive railroad ever built when it was completed in 1916. By shortening from months to just eight days the time it took to travel from Moscow to Vladivostok, the Trans-Siberian allowed for greater government control over the world’s largest country. The project required so much money that it led to economic shortages and inadequate weaponry for the Russian military in World War I that contributed to the Russian Revolution in 1917. The Communists used the railroad to consolidate power during the civil war that followed the Russian Revolution and to rush fresh soldiers to the battlefront during World War II. The railroad sparked eastward migration and also permitted the movement of coal, lumber and other raw materials from Siberia to Russia’s major cities.

8. Holocaust trains

During World War II, the German National Railway oversaw the forcible deportation of Jews and other Holocaust victims from Nazi ghettos to concentration camps such as Treblinka and Auschwitz where six million people were systematically murdered. Deported Jewish people were herded so tightly into freight cars and cattle cars without food or water that many died even before arriving at the concentration camps. The Nazis could not have carried out the genocide on such a horrifying scale without the use of railroads, as Holocaust architect Heinrich Himmler alluded to in a January 1943 letter to the Nazi minister of transport: “If I am to wind things up quickly, I must have more trains for transports.”

9. Tōkaidō Shinkansen

Train travel entered a new era with the completion of a high-speed rail line between Tokyo and Osaka that sliced in half the travel time between the two cities. Opened just before the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the shinkansen (Japanese for “new main line”) streaked at speeds of up to 125 miles per hour. The pioneering bullet train served as a symbol of Japan’s reconstruction as a post-war industrial power and, after carrying 100 million passengers in the first three years, demonstrated that high-speed rail could be a commercial success. The engineering for the Tōkaidō Shinkansen—which included dedicated tracks, no level crossings and no sharp curves—served as a template for future high-speed rail projects around the globe.

10. Eurostar

When a rail tunnel under the English Channel opened in 1994, Great Britain was linked to the European mainland for the first time since the Ice Age. Built at a cost of $16 billion, the 31-mile tunnel between Folkestone, England, and Coquelles, France, allowed Eurostar passengers to travel between London and Paris in just two-and-a-half hours and without the need for ferry transport. Nicknamed the “Chunnel,” the world’s longest undersea tunnel was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

10 Christians Who Changed The World

Christianity has been one of the most influential and widespread religions since it was first adopted by the Romans and Greeks nearly two millennia ago. In 2,000 years of history, there have been great Christian leaders, prophets, scientists, politicians, and warriors, many of whom worked to change the world.

With billions of memorable Christians peppered throughout history, only a select few could be said to have changed the world. While many changed it for the better, there are those who did so in the opposite direction. Whether their impact on history was good or ill, these ten important Christians changed the world, and are listed in no particular order.

20 of your songs that changed the world

Fifty years ago, Barbara, a French singer of Jewish descent, wrote the song Goettingen about a German city she loved. Many believe her song helped build a new relationship between Germany and France. Here are some of the songs that you think also changed the world:

1. "For me and for my generation it was Free Nelson Mandela by The Specials (1984). I was born in 1960 and had no memory of Mandela being sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964. So when we heard the song on the radio, it was a case of who is this guy and what has he done? Before long I was a member of Anti-Apartheid Movement, taking part in boycotts whilst apartheid, Desmond Tutu, Winnie Mandela and Steve Biko all became household names and in the national news." Barry King, Walsall, UK

2. "I am a fan of Barbara, but feel you have made far too much of it. The important one is Jean Ferrat's Nuit et Brouillard, or Night and Fog (1963). It talks about the trains that took Jews, like his father, to the concentration camps and is very powerful. De Gaulle did not like it as it interfered with his rapprochement with Adenauer. Ferrat says let the young dance the twist if they like, but the world should know who you - the people in the trains - were." Irene Ball, London

3. "Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready (1965), a hymn of the civil rights movement and taken up in other places of struggle such as South Africa. The song has been covered by many, but the original still inspires, unites and reminds all of the human struggle for equality. It's also been used and played by many LGBT groups and causes." Cookie Schwartz, US

4. "It may be cheesy and too popular for consideration, but maybe Band Aid's Feed the World (1984) is important for just that reason. Until the song was released, with its videos of starving children, the plight of millions of African families was seen as just a footnote in the news. Live Aid generated revenue, but it was the song which caught people's imagination and made us realise that famine abroad was a problem for all of us to fight, not just the people suffering. The response to other subsequent disasters has been markedly different to before, and millions have benefitted as a result." Jamie, Aylesbury, UK

5. "Ben Kayiranga's Freedom was a daring song in 1997 right in the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda, not much for the bits of dancehall and reggae there, but the lyrics. It's not just that the lyrics were in Kinyarwanda, French and English either. But the message - freedom for people, freedom forever, freedom. The youth wants freedom, children want freedom. And maybe not the message either, because it was not that new in Rwandan music. But the moment, the timing - that fresh message of hope when a country is still mourning. The song gave a smile to a whole nation, so if Rwanda is the world, then that song changed the world." Rafiki Ubaldo, Knivsta, Sweden

6. "The anthem of the incredible movement that rescued almost two million Soviet Jews from oblivion and launched an effective human rights push that was the demise of the Iron Curtain was launched with a repetitive, easy Hasidic-style song that ignited people in Britain, the US and, most of all, the silenced Jews in post-Stalinist, atheistic USSR. In 1965, Shlomo Carlebach, an American Jewish rabbi/singer-songwriter, debuted the song Am Yisrael Chai (The People of Israel Live, the Father Lives). Almost a decade later, I was a student at UCLA in California, protesting the continued gulag internment of Jews and other human rights protestors, and we danced to that anthem. At the same time, in protest, young Jews were courageously gathering outside boarded-up synagogues across the USSR and danced too. A few years later, I married one of them!" Racelle Weiman, Charlotte, NC, US

7. "Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit (1939). There's racism in the world, but for many it's far too easy to mentally block out. This song kept it in your face, dangling from the tree, completely unable to be ignored. A brutal awaking to what was still transpiring in the southern parts of the United States long after the emancipation." Michelle, Iowa

8. "The Japanese song Ue O Muite Aruko (I Will Walk Looking Up, 1961) - but inexplicably known in the US and UK as Sukiyaki (1963) - did as much or more to change the attitudes of Americans toward their former enemies as any policy or speech. I am not old enough to remember the song coming out in 1963, but many older Americans have said this song marked the first instance where they began to see Japanese people not just as a former enemy or some mysterious, exotic race, but as people with feelings no different from their own, and capable of expressing beautiful, tender emotions. The effect went both ways. I lived in Japan for about five years, and many older Japanese shared with me how moved they were at the reception this song received in America, and this made them feel more positive toward their former foes. It is still to this date the only Japanese song to ever top the American charts. I do think it helped accelerate the alliance between Japan and the US that has maintained peace in the Pacific for over 50 years." John Taylor, Washington, DC

9. "Former slave ship captain John Newton wrote Amazing Grace in 1772. He mentored William Wilberforce in his long fight to outlaw slave trading. The song took root in the US during the Second Great (religious protestant) Awakening in early 1800s. It became a standard hymn sung by all races but also a protest song associated with civil rights and with Martin Luther King. It remains a hymn, a freedom song and also has a life as a radio chart hit for performers as diverse as Mahalia Jackson, Judy Collins and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. It is the song most frequently sung on Martin Luther King Jr Day in the US. Unfortunately, people-trafficking and slavery still exist, so the song has not been entirely successful. Yet." Alison Ahearn, London

10. "Joan Baez's We Shall Overcome (1963), originally focused on the civil rights movement, was a powerful way to bring people of different races, classes, backgrounds, religions - but one shared value - together, and now has become the song any group trying to stand against old and needing-to-change practices uses. So I think it both changed, and continues to change, the world for the better. It is not usually a song performed by an artist for others to hear - it is a song everyone sings, to express unity in a good cause." Bev Noia, Denver, US

11. "How about Lili Marlene (1939), brought to the fore in the time of Rommel's Afrika Korps and gained popularity with Montgomery's Eighth Army? When Allied victory came, perhaps this quite arresting melody - and its background too - provided some foundation for the consolidation of nations in Europe (Churchill's United States of Europe) which was to be forged from the early 1950s onward." John Olszewski, Windhoek, Namibia

12. "I like to think that Glad to be Gay (1976) by the Tom Robinson Band made a big contribution to changing the world for gay people. It challenged everybody to confront their own prejudice and society's prejudice, and awakened people's awareness of the persecution of gay people by authority in the UK and US. After 300,000 people marched through Paris last week opposing gay marriage, perhaps a new version of the song should be released." Andi Ye, UK

13. "Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come (1963) was influential during the civil rights movement, particularly after Martin Luther King was killed. Some would say that it played a significant role in bringing white Americans to actively support the move towards equality." Peter Wilding, Sheffield

14. "Bob Dylan, inspired by the ravages of war and universal social injustice, wrote Blowin' in the Wind (1962). I first heard this song at a Scout camp in 1967. Before long, ALL of us were singing along - including those (like myself) who didn't speak English. One of its greatest merits is that it so simple. Over the decades, I have encountered this song - and the positive spirit that emanates from it - the world over. It ranks among the very few songs that are truly universal. Or, in a nutshell: Never before has so little given so much to so many." Siegmar Siegel, Gaufelden, Germany

15. "Nena's 99 Luftballons (1984) certainly cast an interesting light on the East/West Berlin division. The keyboardist, I believe, wrote the song after going to a Rolling Stones concert in Berlin where a bunch of balloons were released. He then wondered what people on the other side might think they were, if they floated over the Berlin Wall. It certainly gave me, as a young man, the idea to question what governments tell their people, and maybe it did for others too. In the song, a war takes place, because people in power used the balloons as a sign of provocation to start a war. In the end, she finds a balloon, releases it into the air, and thinks of someone she has lost, or is missing, or someone she hasn't seen in a while. A modern example might be North and South Korea." Clayton Dale, Anchorage, Alaska

16. "David Hasselhoff is on record as saying that he thought his song Looking for Freedom (1989) helped bring down the Berlin Wall. I disagree, but I haven't the heart to tell him." Paul Kachur, Oberheimbach, Germany

17. "U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday (1983) captured the raw emotion and feelings of many people in Ireland and the UK growing up in the early 1980s. The year after its release the IRA Brighton bomb-blast rocked the Tory leadership, and the Falklands War was still vivid in our memories. I have seen U2 perform this song live on several occasions and each time they turn the music down so just the audience can be heard singing: 'How long - must we sing this song'. Perhaps it simply shone a candle of hope for a while and made us all pause and draw in breath at the futility of war and violence." David Christman, Hove, East Sussex

18. "L'Internationale (late 19th Century). An anthem of revolution worldwide, a stirring and moving hymn and call to the oppressed everywhere to rise up against tyranny, the great rallying paean of the poor and downtrodden. Nothing to beat it as a world-changing song throughout modern history. Truly unites the human race." Terry Martin, Blairgowrie, Scotland

19. "I think Paul Simons' Graceland (1986) changed the world as part of a whole movement protesting against apartheid in South Africa, which started to gather momentum during that decade. The album introduced a commercial element to world music and significantly raised the profile of African musicians and performers. I remember Paul Simon being criticised by some supporters of the anti-apartheid movement at the time for breaking the cultural boycott but perhaps he had a point. Musical appreciation spans boundaries and cultures and can overcome politics." Jane Jarvis, Buckfastleigh, Devon

20. "Imagine (1971) by John Lennon encouraged a dialogue about war, famine and religion, but in a respectful and calm way, to the point now where even contemporary religious figures like the Archbishop of Canterbury use it in religious performances. I am not a religious person myself, nor really a hippie, but I feel that this song is still relevant today and am happy to have grown up with my Indian/Pakistani father playing it in the car on my way to school." Sara, Waterlooville, Hants/Salem, MA, US

10 Days That Changed History

IT'S a badly kept secret among scholars of American history that nothing much really happened on Thursday, July 4, 1776.

Although this date is emblazoned on the Declaration, the Colonies had actually voted for independence two days earlier the document wasn't signed until a month later. When John Adams predicted that the "great anniversary festival" would be celebrated forever, from one end of the continent to the other, he was talking about July 2.

Indeed, the dates that truly made a difference aren't always the ones we know by heart frequently, they've languished in dusty oblivion. The 10 days that follow — obscure as some are — changed American history. (In some cases, they are notable for what didn't happen rather than what did.)

This list is quirky rather than comprehensive, and readers may want to continue the parlor game on their own. But while historians may argue endlessly about causes and effects — many even question the idea that any single day can alter the course of human events — these examples show that destiny can turn on a slender pivot, and that history often occurs when nobody is watching.

Anyway, happy Second of July.

JUNE 8, 1610: A Lord's Landfall

Three years after its founding, the Virginia Colony was a failure. A few dozen starving settlers packed some meager possessions and sailed from Jamestown on June 7, headed back toward England. The next morning, to their surprise, they spotted a fleet coming toward them, carrying a new governor, Lord De La Warr, and a year's worth of supplies.

If not for his appearance, Virginia might have gone the way of so many lost colonies. What is now the Southeastern United States could well have ended up in the French or Dutch empires. Tobacco might never have become a cash crop, and the first African slaves would not have arrived in 1619.

OCT. 17, 1777: Victory Along the Hudson

If one date should truly get credit for securing America's independence, it is when the British general John Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga.

The battle's significance was more diplomatic than military: shortly after news reached Paris, the French king decided to enter the war on the American side. "If the French alliance and funding hadn't come through at that moment, it's hard to say how much longer we could have held out," says Stacy Schiff, author of "A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France and the Birth of America." The American Revolution might have gone down in history as a brief provincial uprising, and the Declaration of Independence as a nice idea.

JUNE 20, 1790: Jefferson's Dinner Party

On this evening, Thomas Jefferson invited Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to dinner at his rented house on Maiden Lane in Lower Manhattan. In the course of the night, Jefferson recalled, they brokered one of the great political deals in American history. Under the terms of the arrangement, the national capital would be situated on the Potomac, and the federal government would agree to take on the enormous war debts of the 13 states.

Had that meal never taken place, New York might still be the nation's capital. But even more important, the primacy of the central government might never have been established, says Ron Chernow, the Hamilton biographer. "The assumption of state debts was the most powerful bonding mechanism of the new Union," he says. "Without it, we would have had a far more decentralized federal system."

APRIL 19, 1802: Mosquitos Win the West

Events that change America don't always occur within our borders. Consider the spring of 1802. Napoleon had sent a formidable army under his brother-in-law, General Charles Leclerc, to quell the rebellion of former slaves in Haiti.

On April 19, Leclerc reported to Napoleon that the rainy season had arrived, and his troops were falling ill. By the end of the year, almost the whole French force, including Leclerc himself, were dead of mosquito-borne yellow fever.

When Napoleon realized his reconquest had failed, he abandoned hopes of a New World empire, and decided to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States.

"Across a huge section of the American heartland, from New Orleans up through Montana, they ought to build statues to Toussaint L'Ouverture and the other heroes of the Haitian Revolution," says Ted Widmer, director of the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University.

JAN. 12, 1848: An Ill-Advised Speech

His timing couldn't have been worse: With the Mexican War almost won, a freshman congressman rose to deliver a blistering attack on President Polk and his "half-insane" aggressive militarism. Almost from the moment he sat down again, the political career of Representative Abraham Lincoln seemed doomed by the antiwar stand he had taken just when most Americans were preparing their victory celebrations.

Yet that speech saved Lincoln. "It cast him into the political wilderness," says Joshua Wolf Shenk, the author of "Lincoln's Melancholy." This insulated him during the politically treacherous years of the early 1850's — when Americans divided bitterly over slavery — and positioned him to emerge as a national leader on the eve of the Civil War. Lincoln's early faux pas also taught him to be a pragmatist, not just a moralist. "If he had been successful in the 1840's, the Lincoln of history — the Lincoln who saved the Union — would never have existed," Mr. Shenk says.

APRIL 16, 1902: The Movies

Motion pictures seemed destined to become a passing fad. Only a few years after Edison's first crude newsreels were screened — mostly in penny arcades, alongside carnival games and other cheap attractions, the novelty had worn off, and Americans were flocking back to live vaudeville.

Then, in spring 1902, Thomas L. Tally opened his Electric Theater in Los Angeles, a radical new venture devoted to movies and other high-tech devices of the era, like audio recordings.

"Tally was the first person to offer a modern multimedia entertainment experience to the American public," says the film historian Marc Wanamaker. Before long, his successful movie palace produced imitators nationally, which would become known as "nickelodeons." America's love affair with the moving image — from the silver screen to YouTube — would endure after all.

FEB. 15, 1933: The Wobbly Chair

It should have been an easy shot: five rounds at 25 feet. But the gunman, Giuseppe Zangara, an anarchist, lost his balance atop a wobbly chair, and instead of hitting President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, he fatally wounded the mayor of Chicago, who was shaking hands with F.D.R.

Had Roosevelt been assassinated, his conservative Texas running mate, John Nance Garner, would most likely have come to power. "The New Deal, the move toward internationalism — these would never have happened," says Alan Brinkley of Columbia University. "It would have changed the history of the world in the 20th century. I don't think the Kennedy assassination changed things as much as Roosevelt's would have."

MARCH 2, 1955: Almost a Heroine

When a brave young African-American woman was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus, local and national civil rights leaders rallied to her cause. Claudette Colvin, 15, seemed poised to become an icon of the struggle against segregation. But then, shortly after her March 2 arrest, she became pregnant. The movement's leaders decided that an unwed teenage mother would not make a suitable symbol, so they pursued a legal case with another volunteer: Rosa Parks.

That switch, says the historian Douglas Brinkley, created a delay that allowed Martin Luther King Jr. to emerge as a leader. He most likely would not have led the bus boycott if it had occurred in the spring instead of the following winter. "He might have ended up as just another Montgomery preacher," Professor Brinkley says.

SEPT. 18, 1957: Revolt of the Nerds

Fed up with their boss, eight lab workers walked off the job on this day in Mountain View, Calif. Their employer, William Shockley, had decided not to continue research into silicon-based semiconductors frustrated, they decided to undertake the work on their own. The researchers — who would become known as "the traitorous eight" — went on to invent the microprocessor (and to found Intel, among other companies). "Sept. 18 was the birth date of Silicon Valley, of the electronics industry and of the entire digital age," says Mr. Shockley's biographer, Joel Shurkin.

AUG. 20, 1998: Just Missed

With most Americans absorbed by the Monica Lewinsky affair, relatively few paid much attention when the United States fired some 60 cruise missiles at Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Most public debate centered on whether President Clinton had ordered the strike to deflect attention from his domestic troubles.

Although the details of that day remain in dispute, some accounts suggest that the attack may have missed killing Osama bin Laden by as little as an hour. How that would have changed America — and the world — may be revealed, in time, by the history that is still unfolding.

3. Niels Bohr: The Structure of The Atom

The father of quantum mechanics, Niels Bohr, often spoke of the inspirational dream that led to his discovery of the structure of the atom.

The son of academic parents, Bohr got his doctorate in 1911 and gained notoriety for deciphering complex problems in the world of physics that had left his colleagues stumped.

In time, he set upon understanding the structure of the atom, but none of his configurations would fit. One night he went to sleep and began dreaming about atoms. He saw the nucleus of the atom, with electrons spinning around it, much as planets spin around their sun.

Immediately on awakening, Bohr felt the vision was accurate. But as a scientist he knew the importance of validating his idea before announcing it to the world. He returned to his lab and searched for evidence to support his theory.

It held true - and Bohr's vision of atomic structure turned out to be one of the greatest breakthroughs of his day. Bohr was later awarded a Nobel Prize for Physics as a result of this leap in creative thinking while asleep.

Clockwise from top left: Clarence Darrow by Photoquest/Getty Images, Adolf Eichmann by Gjon Mili/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images, Students in Brown v. Board by Carl Iwasaki/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images, Slobodan Milosevic courtesy of, Ellis Island courtesy of Library of Congress, Beheading of Charles I courtesy of Wikipedia, Trial of Karl Brandt courtesy of Wikipedia, Nelson Mandela by Jurgen Schadeberg/Getty Images, Susan B. Anthony courtesy of the Library of Congress, Adam and Eve courtesy of Wikipedia.

At their best, trials provide insight into the human condition while they illuminate principles of the law. And sometimes they even change the course of history.

Is it any wonder that, at least in the public’s mind, trial lawyers are the superstars of the legal profession?

From the beginning of human civilization, a core principle of the concept of justice has been the idea that individuals—and later, governments and corporations—should be able to bring their disputes before a neutral party who would seek a fair resolution by getting at the truth underlying the case. The Old Testament of the Bible, for instance, recounts how King Solomon settled a dispute between two women claiming the same baby by offering to split the infant in half, knowing that the real mother would give up the child rather than see it die.

As the law evolved, it also became more complex, to the point that procedure often is just as important as substance to the conduct of a trial. And drama often is buried under the weight of evidence. But one thing has not changed over the millennia. Trials still focus on seeking justice, and that search creates deeply compelling stories.

James W. McElhaney, the respected trial advocacy teacher who wrote the ABA Journal’s Litigation column for a quarter-century before retiring in 2012, insisted that good trial lawyers must be effective storytellers.

“Stories are how we understand the inter-relationship of events,” says McElhaney. “Stories are at the heart of how we learn because they create memories and provide details we want to know. Stories grab us in a way that no list of facts could ever do. So why would you make your story difficult to follow?”

In some cases, however, trials are more than compelling stories about the search for justice. They become the stuff of history through their impact on the law and society. While the full impact of these cases is difficult to measure at the moment they occur, it often is clear that their impact will be profound.

Edward W. Knappman, the editor of Great American Trials: From Salem Witchcraft to Rodney King, described in his preface the factors he considered in choosing the 200 cases covered in the book: historic significance, legal significance, political controversy, public attention, courtroom skills of the lawyers, and literary fame achieved by the trials.

For this package, the Journal invited 10 distinguished lawyers from around the world to identify and describe one historic trial each. We gave them free rein, and it shows. The list of cases is eclectic and thought-provoking. Are these the greatest trials in history? Probably not, at least under Knappman’s formula. But each case in its way has had an impact beyond the law and for most of them, the full extent of that impact has yet to be determined.

10 documents that changed history

We know documents run business. From sales proposals and contracts to employee offer letters, documents are at the core of every business transaction. But what about governments, schools, families, and even entire social movements? When you look at any defining changes or actions that have taken place throughout history, from the highest government levels all the way down to individual families, documents are at the core of each one.

We’re taking a look at ten monumental documents that have changed the course of history, from medieval ink on parchment, to the digital recordings of Supreme Court rulings.

Magna Carta, 1215

The first official document to broach the subject of human rights and liberties stems back to medieval England. The Magna Carta, which was created through negotiations between King John and his barons, included a famous clause that, for the first time, gave all “free men” the right to justice and a fair trial. And while that applied to very few people at the time—most people in 1215 were unfree peasants ruled by their landlords—this single clause has influenced governments, lawmakers, and rulers of all kinds in the centuries that followed. Both the United States’ Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights contain the ideals originated in the Magna Carta—the belief that everyone, including our leaders, must obey the law.

Gutenberg Bible, 1455

Religion aside, it’s an indisputable fact that the Bible is one of the most influential documents in our history. The Gutenberg Bible, named after its creator, Johannes Gutenberg, is the first complete book printed from movable type. This document set the stage for print production moving forward.

Declaration of Independence, 1776

Perhaps the most well-known document in American history, the Declaration of Independence was completed on July 4, 1776. This historical document granted Americans independence from the British Crown and to this day, American independence is still celebrated on July 4. The document is comprised of an introduction, a preamble, a body divided into two parts, and a conclusion, the contents of which bear great importance on human history. The Declaration of Independence marks the birth of a nation, with the threads of that nation’s history, its impact on the world and the growth of democracy all running back to this one single document.

Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights, 1787 & 1791

The Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation with a new form of government in 1787. It created a federal system with a national government composed of three separated powers, with principles covering checks and balances, individual rights, liberty, limited government, natural rights theory, republican government, and popular sovereignty. Not all states ratified the Constitution immediately, however. Many were calling for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties, which eventually led to the passing of the Bill of Rights in December of 1791 (which was, of course, inspired in part by the Magna Carta).

Emancipation Proclamation, 1863

While the American Civil War began as a conflict focused around the preservation of the Union, it eventually transformed into a battle for human freedom. Abraham Lincoln personally viewed slavery as abhorrent, and about a year into the war, abolition had become a sound military strategy. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, stating that in all states still in rebellion as of January 1, 1863, he would declare their slaves free.

While the Proclamation itself was an effective war measure, Lincoln recognized it might have no constitutional validity once the war was over, meaning the legal framework of slavery would still exist. Lincoln and the Republican party then committed to creating a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery. By December 18, 1865, the 13th Amendment was ratified, which ensured that forever after “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States.”

Treaty of Versailles, 1919

The signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919 officially ended World War I. The treaty was negotiated among the Allied powers, with little participation by Germany. The document was lengthy, consisting of 15 parts and 440 articles, which reassigned German boundaries, assigned liability for reparations, and reduced Germany’s armed forces to very low levels. Part I of the treaty created the Covenant of the New League of Nations, a diplomatic group created to solve disputes between countries before they escalated to war.

The 19th Amendment, 1920

The 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, giving women in the United States the right to vote for the first time in the nation’s history. The women’s suffrage movement actually began in 1848, but it would take another 50 years for Nineteenth Amendment to pass. This was the single largest extension of democratic voting rights in U.S. history, achieved peacefully, through democratic processes and set into action with the signing of one document.

Brown v. Board of Education, 1954

This milestone Supreme Court decision ended racial segregation of children in public schools, nearly 60 years after the “separate but equal” ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson. The decision, which found separation on the basis of race to be unconstitutional, served as a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s.

Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015

Another landmark civil rights Supreme Court case makes the list, with the ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. The court ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The ruling enforces the same terms and conditions, as well as all the accompanying rights and responsibilities, that apply to marriages of opposite-sex couples to apply also to the marriages of same-sex couples.

How the future of documents is transforming

The most important moments in history have been recorded, ratified, and overturned in documents, in one form or another. As technology continues to transform the way we document and consume information, it’s safe to assume that documents—even in digital formats—will remain at the core of all decisions.

Part of that is dependent upon the change agents in our organizations—those who drive the transformations, including the shift to digital documents. Agents of change have always been here, working behind the scenes and questioning the way things work. Many of the history-altering documents above surely stemmed from the ideals of change agents. And today, these free-thinking, problem-solving, and inspirational innovators are still vital to pushing business forward as they question the status quo. Learn more about how real companies are transforming in our latest eBook, How Agents of Change transform business: A real-life guide to conquering obstacles.

4 Michelangelo Started Off As An Art Forger

In 1492, Michelangelo was only a struggling young artist. To make ends meet, he traveled around Italy looking for new patrons. People kept ignoring Michelangelo&rsquos genius to buy old classical statues instead. Michelangelo hatched a plan: If people wanted to buy ancient Roman sculptures, he would just forge ancient Roman sculptures.

One of these forgeries was Sleeping Cupid. To pass it off as a newly discovered antiquity, he sculpted it, buried it in dirt, and roughed it up. Initially, the muddied-up sculpture successfully conned the man who bought it, Cardinal Riario. Michelangelo could have gotten away with it, but he was a better artist than forger. When returning to Cardinal Riario&rsquos house, he accidentally let it slip that he was the sculptor.

Riaro was mad that he had been swindled, but he was more impressed that Michelangelo could successfully replicate the works of the masters. He became Michelangelo&rsquos new patron. [7] With this new finical backing and fresh reputation, he made two of his most famous works, Bacchus and Pieta. From there, his career only blossomed into one of history&rsquos greats.

10 Photos That Changed the Course of History

History and photography have always been fickle bedfellows, and predicting what photos will ingrain themselves into the rich tapestry of world history can be tough. Some photos are conceived with long-lasting recognition in mind, while others find themselves slowly climbing to the top as historical values are analyzed and modern attitudes change.

The following photographs are examples of the power behind the moment how people, places, and experiences have come to shape the course of history with powerful messages and earth-shattering imagery. At the climax of their fame, these photos awed, inspired, and motivated people of all backgrounds, and documented some of the most powerful moments in history to date.

The Kiss

Taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt in New York on August 14, 1945, The Kiss (otherwise knowns as V-J Day in Times Square) captures the iconic moment a U.S. Navy sailor kissed a stranger on the streets of Times Square. Popularized by its publication in Life magazine, the photograph is a great example of the power of street photography in action.

Eisenstaedt had been present at Time Square for what is colloquially known as “Victory over Japan Day,” the day on which World War II ended with Imperial Japan’s surrender. The closing of the war incited nationwide celebrations, including a frenzy of festivities in Times Square where Eisenstaedt spotted the sailor kissing a stranger – a nurse, identified by her stark white uniform.

There’s a lot going in the photo that contributes to its iconic reputation. It feels both candid and posed – the shape and contours of the kissing couple feels proactive, alive, and passionate. The surrounding onlookers, giggling and ogling at the couple, frame them perfectly, and add a candid element to the photo. The photo feels like a symbol of celebration and has had a lasting cultural impact on American history.

Migrant Mother

An iconic representation of the Great Depression, Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother features an impoverished woman alongside her away-facing children. The photograph was taken sometime during 1936 while the Great Depression was still in full swing and is an extremely famous example of documentary photography.

The picture moved masses and just days after its publication, the pea-picker camp the woman and her family had been located on received 20,000 pounds of food from the federal government.

Its influence comes from the feelings Lange happened to capture. The woman in question, Florence Owens Thompson, and her unkempt children all look dramatically destitute. The backstory Lange provided, an affirmation of the family’s poverty, further drove the point in: people were suffering.

Migrant Mother is still impactful today, representing in part both the history and art of the Great Depression.

A Man on the Moon

Taken by Neil Armstrong on June 20th, 1969, A Man on the Moon showcases astronaut Buzz Aldrin as he takes some of his first steps across the moon’s surface.

Equipped with a 70mm lunar surface camera, Armstrong set out to document Apollo 11’s expedition through a series of photos detailing the crew-of-two’s first steps, and the placement of the American flag.

Immortalized from all of those photos is A Man on the Moon. In it, Aldrin stands alone with nothing but the vast expanse of the moon as his backdrop. With not a modicum of humanity surrounding him, Aldrin is swallowed by the great unknown of space, capitalizing on the feelings of loneliness and curiosity that, even today, drive us to find life beyond the fringes of earth. His singular presence in the photo also punctuates the whole point of the expedition: a man landed on the moon.


Famously created through the use of a camera with a false lens, the photo Blind captures a woman gazing off to the side, seemingly unaware of the fact that she is being photographed.

For this series of photos, photographer Paul Strand utilized a lens that was able to capture the opposite of what he aimed his camera at, conscious of the fact that people tend to act differently when aware of the camera lens. He endeavored to capture people as they acted naturally, and effectively helped to usher in the art of street photography.

Today street photography is a thriving, albeit, debatable art. Methods and approaches to the genre have been accused of being invasive. However, the art of street photography has undeniable beauty, and the potential to make powerful social and political statements.

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

One of the most iconic photos of World War II, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima by photographer Joe Rosenthal has been engrained nationwide into the minds of Americans as a symbol of victory and patriotism.

In the photo, Rosenthal snaps six American marines raising the U.S. flag on top of Mount Suribachi to mark its capture. The flag in question served as the commander-ordered replacement to a much smaller flag, and was hoisted up in order to inspire the troops present for the capture.

Rosenthal’s photo was published a mere two days after its capture, and immediately skyrocketed to fame. It became so famous, and so positively regarded, that Rosenthal eventually won a Pulitzer Prize in Photography for it.

Today the photograph continues to represent America’s role in World War II, and perseveres in inspiring feelings of victory and unity.


This eponymous photograph depicts Earth as it emerges from the darkness of space, with just a cheeky sliver of the moon decorating the photo’s foreground. Captured by astronaut William Anders during the Apollo 8 voyage, Earthrise was, and still is, a shocking reminder of our lonely existence in the vast expanse of space. And yet, shocking as it is, great beauty lies in the marble-like swirl of blue and white cropping out from the monotonous blackness of our galaxy.

The photo capitalized on the beauty of our planet during a time when we were looking for beauty beyond it, and rippled through the world in such a way that people have used the photo repetitively to exemplify why the preservation of the nature of Earth is worth it.

Afghan Girl

Known for her intense stare and bold green eyes, Afghan Girl came to symbolize the struggles of refugee women to the Western world. Taken by National Geographic Society photographer Steve McCurry during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Afghan Girl (whose real name is Sharbat Gula) managed to conceptualize everything about the struggles of refugee women all in the photo of one, tattered, gritty girl.

It is an undeniably well-framed portrait that conveys a world of emotion through one appearance Gula’s stare is intense, determined, and unafraid, and her clothing, bright red and ragged from wear, speak volumes about her struggles as a refugee. Today, Afghan Girl is still one of Nat Geo’s most famous issue covers.

Milk Drop Coronet

Taken in 1957 by Harold Edgerton, Milk Drop Coronet was a photo that helped change the mechanics of photography forever. The image, which captures the resulting splash of a milk drop striking the surface of milk, was the first of its kind to stop time.

Prior to its capture, photographers had struggled to photograph dark scenes and fast-passing moments. Harold Edgerton had set about to change that. His inventions and experiments helped to pave the way for cameras that were able to shoot in low lighting and capture scenes moving too fast for the human eye to perceive. A technical genius, Edgerton is accredited with offering great contributions to the field of stop-motion photography.

Power House Mechanic

In an effort to document industrialization, photographer Lewis Hine spent time photographing industrial workers and the environments they worked in. At the time, Hine’s work brought awareness to the conditions these workers tolerated, which were quickly diminishing in quality. While Hine’s photography is considered a form of documentary photography, the photos he chose to showcase were carefully posed and selected to leave the greatest audience impact possible. Hine’s work is a series which showcases the fact that a photo doesn’t necessarily have to be a candid or unexpected shot for it to work as a political or social statement.

View from the Window at Le Gras

And finally, perhaps one of the most historical photos of all time, View from the Window at Le Gras, by Nicéphore Niépce. Niépce, a French inventor, is often credited as the inventor of photography. View from the Window at Le Gras was the first permanent photo ever recorded as being taken. Niépce had used a technique he had created, heliography, to permanently capture the photo, using asphalt to engrain the image in metal.

The camera he used to capture the photo also bared very little resemblance to the ones we use today. Niépce used a camera obscura (otherwise known as a pinhole camera) to capture the image in question. There’s not much that needs to be said about this photo. The impact of the image doesn’t come from its art, which is severely lacking, but instead the milestone it represented in the history of photography. The first of any kind, it serves as a reminder of how far photography has come both technically and artistically.

What each of these pieces teach us is that photography intertwines deeply with history. These photos show that any sort of photo can become ingrained in history, whether they be candid, posed, technical, or some combination of methods.

Regardless of what path to fame was taken, these photos have made lasting historical impacts. They became famous for detailing and propagating the culture, politics, or marvels of their eras, and have continued to be influential to the modern world. They also show the power and worth of photography – the ability to freeze a moment in time and immortalize it for the pleasure and learning experience of future generations.

When 10-year-old Abigail Lupi visited her grandmother in a nursing home, she became aware of the silent struggle with loneliness many nursing home residents face. To support and comfort these residents, she founded the CareGirlz organization.

CareGirlz helps nursing home patients in New Jersey feel loved and less alone by matching them with young volunteers. “I like to brighten up people’s days and help them have a fun time,” said Abigail in an interview with The Inspire a Kid Podcast. “If I do my best, they’ll have a smile on their faces by the end.”

To share Abigail’s mission, play her podcast interview or contact a local nursing home to see how your class can support their residents.