On September 9, Queen Elizabeth II became the longest reigning British monarch in history, passing the record set by Queen Victoria. In her 63 years on the throne, she has seen the world move into the modern age politically, culturally, and scientifically. She may well go down in history as the technological Queen: her coronation in Westminster Abbey was the first ever to be broadcast on television, and her annual Christmas broadcast is now available on YouTube. She even wrote her first tweet last year about London’s Science Museum. The consequences of the events of 1952, the year she assumed the throne, still reverberate today. It was the year the University of Tennessee admitted its first black student and the year Britain announced the creation of its own nuclear weapons. Here are a few other cultural and technological milestones that are also contemporaries of the Queen.
Mr. Potato Head
The famous Mr. Potato Head made his debut in 1952 and was the first toy ever to be advertised on television. It wasn’t until the 1960s that he came with a body of his own, however. The initial box contained body parts and facial features to be inserted into a real potato.
Jonas Salk developed and first tested the polio vaccine at the University of Pittsburgh in 1952. When the vaccine was made public in 1955, it all but eliminated the dreadful disease that had affected thousands of children every year.
John Cage’s 4′33″
Pianist David Tudor premiered this historic work at a recital Woodstock, New York. The piece consists entirely of rests, meaning that the performer (or performers) sits on stage for exactly four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence. It was ground-breaking in the musical world, challenging the very concepts of music and performance.
The Today Show
The first morning news show of its format, The Today Show premiered in 1952 and has been running ever since. The show launched the careers of Tom Brokaw, Barbara Walters, and Katie Couric, among others. Maybe it’s time that the Queen herself make an appearance?
In May of this historic year, the illustrious Mr. T was born in Chicago, Illinois. He might make an excellent additional guest on the Queen’s Today Show episode!
In 1953, the first year of the Queen’s reign, the structure of DNA was famously discovered by James Watson and Francis Crick at Britain’s own University of Cambridge, leading to breakthroughs in medicine and biotechnology. And in 1979, the World Health Organization certified the eradication of smallpox, a disease that had tortured thousands around the globe.
After 61 years as a territory, Hawaii finally became the 50th state of the United States in 1959. This may or may not have mattered to the Queen in the seventh year of her reign, as she probably thinks of us all as “The Colonies” anyway.
The Moon Landing
In 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first human beings to ever set foot on the moon. Although the Americans left US flags on the surface, they may not survive, leaving the Queen plenty of room to plant the Union Jack in the 75th year of her reign in 2027.
A Succession of World Leaders
When the Queen ascended to her office, Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of England. Since then, she’s worked with 11 other prime ministers, 7 popes, and 12, the year she assumed the throne, US Presidents, including Truman, Kennedy, Reagan, and Obama.
Perhaps most important of all, the Queen’s tenure on the throne saw the rise of a band from Liverpool that changed pop music forever. The Beatles formed in 1960 when the Queen was a young monarch, and in 1965, she somewhat controversially named them all Members of the Order of the British Empire. We always knew she had good taste.
In a fitting gesture, search leader Google paid tribute to the Queen as she passed this milestone. When Buckingham Palace appears on the screen in Google Maps, the street view Pegman transforms into Peg Ma’am, an adorable miniature version of Her Majesty that can be dragged from place to place. It’s fun to watch her dangle and swing around, and looking at London street views is giving us the motivation to plan a trip and see it in person. We may even catch a glimpse of the lady herself. We can only hope that her future holds more royal tweets, corgis, and hats, as well as advances for a brighter and more beautiful tomorrow.