14 February 1929

Seven people, six of them gangster rivals of Al Capone’s gang, are murdered in Chicago in what became know as the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Fourmen dressed as police officers enter gangster Bugs Moran’s headquarters on North Clark Street in Chicago, line seven of Moran’s henchmen against a wall, and shoot them to death. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, as it is now called, was the culmination of a gang war between arch rivals Al Capone and Bugs Moran.

George “Bugs” Moran was a career criminal who ran the North Side gang in Chicago during the bootlegging era of the 1920s. He fought bitterly with “Scarface” Al Capone for control of smuggling and trafficking operations in the Windy City. Throughout the 1920s, both survived several attempted murders. On one notorious occasion, Moran and his associates drovesix cars past a hotel in Cicero, Illionis, where Capone and his associates were having lunch and showered the building with more than 1,000 bullets.

A $50,000 bounty on Capone’s head was the final straw for the gangster. He ordered that Moran’s gang be destroyed. On February 14, a delivery of bootleg whiskey was expected at Moran’s headquarters. But Moran was late and happened to see police officers entering his establishment. Moran waited outside, thinking that his gunmen inside were being arrested in a raid. However, the disguised assassins were actually killing the seven men inside.

The murdered men included Moran’s best killers, Frank and Pete Gusenberg. Reportedly Frank was still alive when real officers appeared on the scene. When asked who had shot him, the mortally wounded Gusenberg kept his code of silence, responding, “No one, nobody shot me.”

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre actually proved to be the last confrontation for both Capone and Moran. Capone was jailed in 1931 and Moran lost so many important men that he could no longer control his territory. On the seventh anniversary of the massacre, Jack McGurn, one of the Valentine’s Day hit men,was killed him in a crowded bowling alley with a burst of machine-gun fire.

McGurn’s killer remains unidentified, but was likely Moran, though hewas never charged with the murder. Moran was relegated to small-time robberies until he was sent to jail in 1946. He died in Leavenworth Federal Prison in 1957 of lung cancer.

13 February 1955

Israel gets four of the seven Dead Sea Scrolls.

On February 13, 1955, Israels prime minister, Moshe Sharett, held a press conference to announce that the country had acquired four more of the fabled Dead Sea Scrolls, an acquisition of sterling importance to scholars of ancient Judaism and early Christianity and a real coup for the fledgling states national pride.

The initial discovery of what came to be known collectively as the Dead Sea Scrolls — referring to whole documents and fragments of some 950 parchment scrolls, dating to the period between the 3rd century B.C.E. and the 1st century C.E. — was in 1946. Thats when three Bedouin of the Taamra tribe happened upon the first part of a cache of seven rolled-up pieces of parchment, stored for over 2,000 years in clay jars in a cave in the hills overlooking the western shore of the Dead Sea, adjacent to the site known as Qumran, north of Ein Gedi.

The Bedouin quickly recognized that these artifacts might be of significant historical value. One of the antiquities dealers with whom they consulted was in touch with an archaeologist at the American School of Oriental Research, today the Albright Institute, in Jerusalem. This contact soon led to a scientific expedition which surveyed a number of the caves in the area, in search of additional documents and information about the finds.

Unknown apocalyptic text

In December 1947, as the clouds of war were gathering over the region, Eliezer Lipa Sukenik, professor of archaeology at the Hebrew University, succeeded in purchasing three of those seven scrolls from a dealer in Bethlehem. They included a partial manuscript of the biblical Book of Isaiah, and two scrolls that were dubbed the Thanksgiving Scroll, and the War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness.

12 February 1961

The Soviet Union launches Venera 1 to fly to the planet, Venus.

Venera 1, the first spacecraft to fly past Venus, was launched by the Soviet Union on February 12, 1961.

It was the second attempt by the Soviet Union to launch a craft toward Venus that month. Its sister ship, Venera-1VA No.1, failed to leave Earth orbit when launched on February 4, 1961 due to a problem with its upper stage.

The Soviets were still moving at a good speed in the Space Race and had been enjoying accomplishments with the Sputnik and Luna programs. The February 4 failure would not hold them back.

Venera 1 was launched using a Molniya carrier rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The spacecraft’s 11D33 engine was the first staged-combustion-cycle rocket engine, and also the first use of an ullage engine.

Three successful telemetry sessions were conducted that gathered solar-wind and cosmic-ray data near Earth, at the outer limit of Earth’s magnetosphere, and at a distance of 1,900,000 km. After discovering the solar wind with Luna 2, Venera 1 provided the first verification that this plasma was uniformly present in deep space.

Unfortunately, just a week after making this discovery, Venera 1’s next scheduled telemetry session failed to occur and communication was lost. It is believed that the failure was due to the overheating of a solar-direction sensor.

On May 19 and 20, 1961, Venera 1 passed within 100,000 km of Venus. With the help of a British radio telescope, some weak signals from Venera 1 may have been detected in June but, overall, communication with the spacecraft was considered ended and any data transmitted at that point is considered lost.

11 February 1942

The Battle of Bukit Timah is fought in Singapore during World War II.

The Battle of Bukit Timah, which took place on the 11 February 1942, was part of the final stage of the Japan Imperial of Singapore during World War Two. By 10 February, the Japanese had landed on Singapore. They controlled the entire western region of Singapore and much of the north. Their next target was Bukit Timah and the capture of vital water, food, ammunition, and vehicles, machine parts and other supplies. Now, full with success, the Japanese again advanced in full strength.

Japanese troops assaulting Bukit Timah hill

On the night of 11 February 1942, the Japanese 5th Division, supported by tanks, advanced down Choa Chu Kang Road. The 12th Indian Brigade and some British troops under Major Angus MacDonald and Captain Mike Blackwood blocked the road and opened fire with an anti-tank gun, destroying one Japanese tank, but this was merely one of 40 tanks.
There followed some hand-to-hand combat, as well as bayonet charges from both sides. The poorly trained and equipped members of Dalforce were armed only with parangs, grenades, rifles and shotguns normally used for hunting, and suffered heavy injuries. By midnight, the Japanese had defeated the defenders and conquered Bukit Timah.
The British launched an attack the following morning with two brigades.However, faced with strong Japanese resistance, the attack failed.
The next day, the Japanese Imperial Guards advanced from the north, outflanking the British defenders and forcing them to retreat. In the ensuing battle, the Chinese members of Dalforce fought bravely, some to their deaths. Here, the Japanese suffered some of their heaviest casualties in the campaign to occupy Singapore.For revenge, they massacred Chinese men, women and children living in a nearby village.

10 February 1996

The IBM supercomputer, Deep Blue, defeats Garry Kasparov in chess.

Deep Blue and Kasparov played each other on two occasions. The first match began on 10 February 1996, in which Deep Blue became the first machine to win a chess game against a reigning world champion under regular time controls. However, Kasparov won three and drew two of the following five games, beating Deep Blue by a score of 4–2. The match concluded on 17 February 1996.

Deep Blue was then heavily upgraded and played Kasparov again in May 1997, winning the six-game rematch 3½–2½, ending on 11 May. Deep Blue won the deciding game six after Kasparov made a mistake in the opening, becoming the first computer system to defeat a reigning world champion in a match under standard chess tournament time controls.

The system derived its playing strength mainly from brute force computing power. It was a massively parallel, RS/6000 SP Thin P2SC-based system with 30 nodes, with each node containing a 120 MHz P2SC microprocessor, enhanced with 480 special purpose VLSI chess chips. Its chess playing program was written in C and ran under the AIX operating system. It was capable of evaluating 200 million positions per second, twice as fast as the 1996 version. In June 1997, Deep Blue was the 259th most powerful supercomputer according to the TOP500 list, achieving 11.38 GFLOPS on the High-Performance LINPACK benchmark.

The Deep Blue chess computer that defeated Kasparov in 1997 would typically search to a depth of between six and eight moves to a maximum of twenty or even more moves in some situations. David Levy and Monty Newborn estimate that one additional ply increases the playing strength 50 to 70 Elo points.

Deep Blue’s evaluation function was initially written in a generalized form, with many to-be-determined parameters. The optimal values for these parameters were then determined by the system itself, by analyzing thousands of master games. The evaluation function had been split into 8,000 parts, many of them designed for special positions. In the opening book there were over 4,000 positions and 700,000 grandmaster games. The endgame database contained many six piece endgames and five or fewer piece positions. Before the second match, the chess knowledge of the program was fine tuned by grandmaster Joel Benjamin. The opening library was provided by grandmasters Miguel Illescas, John Fedorowicz, and Nick de Firmian. When Kasparov requested that he be allowed to study other games that Deep Blue had played so as to better understand his opponent, IBM refused. However, Kasparov did study many popular PC games to become familiar with computer game play in general.

Writer Nate Silver suggests that a bug in Deep Blue’s software led to a seemingly random move which Kasparov misattributed to “superior intelligence”. Subsequently, Kasparov experienced a drop in performance due to anxiety in the following game.

9 February 1900

The Davis Cup competition is set up in tennis.

On February 9, 1900, the solid silver trophy known today as the Davis Cup is first put up for competition when American collegian Dwight Filley Davis challenges British tennis players to come across the Atlantic and compete against his Harvard team.

Davis, born in St. Louis, Missouri, won the intercollegiate tennis singles championship in 1899. In the summer of that year, he and his Harvard teammates traveled to the West Coast to play against some of California’s best players. Impressed by the enthusiasm with which spectators greeted the national competition, Davis decided to propose an international tennis event. He won the support of the U.S. National Lawn Tennis Association and personally spent $750 on the construction of an elegant silver trophy bowl, 13 inches high and 18 inches in diameter. In February 1900, Davis put the International Lawn Tennis Challenge Trophy up for competition.

Great Britain, regarded as the world’s leading tennis power, answered Davis’ challenge, and on August 8, 1900, three top British players came to the Longwood Cricket Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, to compete against Davis and his all-Harvard team.

Davis had devised a three-day format for the event that still exists today: two singles matches on the first and third days, and a doubles match on the second day. He was captain of the U.S. team and on August 8 received serve on the very first Davis Cup point, which he hit out. He ended up triumphing in the singles match, however, and the next day with Holcombe Ward defeated the British doubles team. Rain forced the cancellation of two of the singles matches, and the first Davis Cup ended with a 3-0 Harvard sweep.

Davis was famous for his powerful left-handed serve and concentrated on a risky net play strategy that won him brilliant victories and unexpected defeats. With Ward, he won the U.S. doubles title in 1900 and 1901, and he was ranked fourth nationally in 1902. That year, the British returned for a Davis Cup rematch in New York, and the star American doubles team succumbed to the ascendant Doherty brothers–Laurie and Reggie. The United States pulled ahead in singles, however, and kept the International Lawn Tennis Challenge Trophy with a 3-2 overall victory.

The next year, the Doherty brothers helped take the trophy back to England for the first time. In 1904, Belgium and France entered the Davis Cup competition, and soon after, Australia and New Zealand, whose players played collectively as Australasia. The trophy did not return to the U.S. until 1913 and then stayed only for a year before departing for Australasia.

After receiving a law degree, Dwight Davis returned to St. Louis and became involved in local politics. Beginning in 1911, he served as public parks commissioner and built the first municipal tennis courts in the United States. He fought in World War I and earned the Distinguished Service Cross for bravery. In 1920, he made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate but the next year traveled to Washington nonetheless as director of the War Finance Corporation. Beginning in 1923, he served as assistant secretary of war under President Calvin Coolidge and in 1925 was made secretary of war proper. In 1929, President Herbert Hoover appointed him governor-general of the Philippines, and he served in this post–which essentially made him the ruler of the Philippines–for the next four years.

Throughout his distinguished career as a statesman, Davis remained involved in tennis as both an avid recreational player and an administrator. In 1923, he served as president of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association. When the International Lawn Tennis Challenge Trophy ran out of room for names, he donated a large silver tray to go with the bowl.

Today, the Davis Cup, as the International Lawn Tennis Challenge Trophy is commonly known, is the premier trophy of international team tennis. Each year, dozens of nations compete for the right to advance to the finals. Shortly before his death in 1945, David said of the growing prestige of the Davis Cup, “If I had known of its coming significance, it would have been cast in gold.”