On this day in history, December 11

‘Dr Dick’ rises to the occasion.

‘Dr Dick’ rises to the occasion.

Published Dec 12, 2023


What happened today, back in the day

1870 James Dube, a minor Zulu chief is ordained as a minister. He was the father of John Langalibalele Dube, the founding president of the South African Native National Congress, which went on to become the ANC in 1923.

1878 Under the flimsy pretext of a few minor border incursions into Natal by Cetshwayo’s followers, the Zulu king is given an impossible ultimatum – that the Zulu people disarm and Cetshwayo forsake his sovereignty.

1899 In the Battle of Magersfontein, the Boers defeat British who are trying to break the Siege of Kimberley. Apart from the dead and wounded, many hundreds, especially the kilted Scots, are rendered casualties through exposure and serious sunburn, from whence comes the term ‘rooinek’.

1901 The first transatlantic radio signal is transmitted by Guglielmo Marconi from Cornwall, England, to St John’s, in Newfoundland, Canada.

1941 A major turning point in World War II happens as Japan’s Axis partners – Italy and Germany – declare war on the US, which follows up with a declaration of war on them. US President Roosevelt then makes the defeat of Hitler the top priority, devoting nearly 90% of the US’s military might to the war in Europe.

1972 Apollo 17 becomes the sixth and last Apollo mission to land on the Moon.

1990 Fifty-two people are killed in large-scale attacks and counter-attacks in Tokoza.

1998 A passenger plane crashes in Thailand, killing all 101 people on board. The pilot flying the Airbus is thought to have suffered spatial disorientation.

2008 Bernie Madoff is arrested for securities fraud in a $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

2014 After a nine-hour operation, the world’s first penis transplant ends successfully at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town. The victim, 18, had been left with just 1cm of his penis after a botched circumcision caused gangrene. His new, fully functioning penis came from a recently deceased person. Urologist Andre van der Merwe who led the team, has since become known as ‘Dr Dick’. Tthe pioneering operation nearly didn’t take place because of what Van der Merwe said was “resistance from inside the transplant fraternity in South Africa" and he had to walk away from the idea four times, but the needs of patients eventually persuaded him to go ahead with it. Experts say South Africa has the greatest need for penis transplants in the world.