1931 – Basketball coaching legend Dean Smith born
On February 28, 1931, legendary college basketball coach Dean Smith is born in Emporia, Kansas. Smith retired in 1997 with 879 wins, making him the most successful coach in college basketball history.
A talented high school and college athlete, Smith attended the University of Kansas on an academic scholarship. He was a member of the Jayhawks team that won the 1952 national basketball championship under famed coach Forrest “Phog” Allen. After graduation, Smith served in the U.S. Air Force and later coached the Air Force baseball and golf teams. In 1958, he was hired as an assistant basketball coach at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and three years later became the head coach.
1953 – Watson and Crick discover chemical structure of DNA
On this day in 1953, Cambridge University scientists James D. Watson and Francis H.C. Crick announce that they have determined the double-helix structure of DNA, the molecule containing human genes.
Though DNA–short for deoxyribonucleic acid–was discovered in 1869, its crucial role in determining genetic inheritance wasn’t demonstrated until 1943. In the early 1950s, Watson and Crick were only two of many scientists working on figuring out the structure of DNA. California chemist Linus Pauling suggested an incorrect model at the beginning of 1953, prompting Watson and Crick to try and beat Pauling at his own game. On the morning of February 28, they determined that the structure of DNA was a double-helix polymer, or a spiral of two DNA strands, each containing a long chain of monomer nucleotides, wound around each other. According to their findings, DNA replicated itself by separating into individual strands, each of which became the template for a new double helix, and how it was possible for genetic instructions to be held inside organisms and passed from generation to generation.
1987 – Gorbachev calls for nuclear weapons treaty
In a surprising announcement, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev indicates that his nation is ready to sign “without delay” a treaty designed to eliminate U.S. and Soviet medium-range nuclear missiles from Europe. Gorbachev’s offer led to a breakthrough in negotiations and, eventually, to the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in December 1987.
Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan had been wrestling with the issue of nuclear arms reduction in Europe since 1985, when they first met face-to-face to discuss the matter.
1993 – Federal agents raid the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms raid the Branch Davidian cult compound in Waco, Texas, prompting a gun battle in which four agents and six cult members are killed. The federal agents were attempting to arrest the leader of the Branch Davidians, David Koresh, on information that the religious sect was stockpiling weapons. A nearly two-month standoff ensued after the unsuccessful raid.
2013 – Pope Benedict resigns
On this day in 2013, less than three weeks after making the unexpected announcement that he would step down, 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI officially resigns. Citing advanced age as the reason for giving up his post as the leader of the 1.2 billion-member Roman Catholic Church, Benedict was the first pontiff to relinquish power in nearly 600 years. Two weeks after Benedict resigned, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, was elected pope.