Pi Day Through Time: From Einstein to Linux to Steph Curry

March 14 is more than Pi Day. Its surprising history includes famous births, the death of physicist Stephen Hawking and a milestone for a daring dirigible.

Amanda Kooser
1 of 19 National Archives and Records Administration

1794: Cotton gin patent

March 14 (3/14) is a day for celebrating the mathematical constant of pi, which starts with the digits 3.14. Those numbers aren't the only reason to recognize this day. Join us as we stroll through history to revisit auspicious events that happened on Pi Days past.

Inventor Eli Whitney revolutionized cotton processing with his creation of the cotton gin, a machine that separates usable cotton fiber from seeds. Whitney got a patent for his invention on March 14, 1794. This patent drawing shows an illustration of the gin and includes the date on the right side.

2 of 19 Orren Jack Turner/Library of Congress

1879: Albert Einstein's birth

Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Albert Einstein arrived in the world on March 14, 1879, which probably makes him the most famous Pi Day baby of all time.

Later known for his crazy hair, Einstein rocked the science world with his theory of relativity and his oft-quoted E = mc2 equation. The physicist died on April 18, 1955, but only after making a lasting impression on the world.

3 of 19 Library of Congress

1883: The death of Karl Marx

German philosopher and socialist Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818, and died on March 14, 1883. Marx is famous for many reasons, but most people are familiar with his influential 1848 political pamphlet the Communist Manifesto and its exploration of class conflicts and issues with capitalist economic systems.

This undated wood engraving of Marx comes from the US Library of Congress archives.

4 of 19 Library of Congress

1885: The Mikado opens

The famous Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera The Mikado debuted on March 14, 1885, on a London stage and ran for hundreds of performances. The opera takes place in Japan and centers on a romantic triangle involving a reluctant executioner. You don't have to be an opera fan to recognize songs from the musical, including "Three little maids from school are we."

This particular poster dates back to between 1936 and 1941 and advertises a performance of the musical in a high school auditorium.

5 of 19 Library of Congress

1888: Great Blizzard

March 14, 1888, marked the end of a multiday snowstorm that left New York City covered in over 20 inches (51 centimeters) of snow. The event became known as the Great Blizzard of 1888, though it was also called the Great White Hurricane.

The storm buried most of the East Coast of the US and remains one of the fiercest US blizzards on record. This image shows the storm in action in New York City.

6 of 19 Ferdinand von Zeppelin

1899: Zeppelin patent issued

German inventor Ferdinand von Zeppelin received a US patent for his "navigable balloon" on March 14, 1899. The early airship design patent describes a skeleton of tubes with an outer shell of silk or a similar material.

7 of 19 Library of Congress

1900: US gold standard

This US presidential campaign poster for William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt dates back to 1900 and highlights one of McKinley's campaign pillars: the gold standard. This monetary system connects the value of currency to a set amount of gold, meaning a person can exchange paper currency for the precious metal.

The US Gold Standard Act was approved on March 14, 1900. Some rival politicians at the time also wanted silver as part of the country's currency system, which led to heated debates. McKinley and his support of the gold standard won out with his successful bid for reelection.

The US is no longer on the gold standard. President Franklin D. Roosevelt cut the ties between the US dollar and gold in 1933 to help stimulate the economy during the Great Depression.

8 of 19 Pacific Photo & Art Co./Library of Congress

1910: Lakeview gusher erupts

Oil-drilling technology has come a long way since 1910, when the Lakeview Oil Company unexpectedly released a massive fountain of oil from a drilling site in California. Millions of barrels shot out of the ground starting on March 14. A historical marker placed at the site describes it as "America's most spectacular gusher."

This image shows a detail of a photograph depicting members of the San Francisco Stock Exchange at the site in 1910.

9 of 19 Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

1933: Michael Caine's birth

Prolific English actor Michael Caine entered the world in London on March 14, 1933. Since then, Caine has been knighted and appeared in famous films ranging from Alfie to Get Carter and Hannah and Her Sisters.

Sci-fi and comic book fans will know Caine from his appearances in the futuristic epic Interstellar, the mind-bending Inception and the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman films. Caine put his own spin on the role of Bruce Wayne's loyal butler, Alfred.

Celebrity Fight Night XXIV - Show
10 of 19 Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Celebrity Fight Night

1948: Billy Crystal arrives

Long before When Harry Met Sally and City Slickers, actor and comedian Billy Crystal was born in New York City on March 14, 1948. Crystal has famously hosted the Academy Awards nine times, second only to Bob Hope.

11 of 19 Harris & Ewing/LOC

1950: FBI's 10 Most Wanted list

The FBI launched its infamous 10 Most Wanted list on March 14, 1950, as way to publicize fugitives from justice. This list came about during J. Edgar Hoover's term as FBI director. Since it was created, 526 fugitives have graced the list, with 491 apprehended or located. 

12 of 19 James Martin/CNET

1988: Stephen Curry is born

Basketball great Stephen "Steph" Curry of the Golden State Warriors started off life on March 14, 1988, in Akron, Ohio. He was a first-round pick in the NBA draft in 2009 and led his team to three championships while also picking up the NBA Most Valuable Player award in 2015 and 2016.

13 of 19 Linux Foundation

1994: Linux kernel 1.0.0

Linux operating system creator Linus Torvalds introduced his open-source creation to the world in 1991, but the Linux kernel 1.0.0 release arrived on March 14, 1994. Think of the kernel as the core of the operating system. This release signaled a groundswell of development support from programmers.

Linux kernel 1.0.0 involved 176,250 lines of code. Compare that with 1991's version 0.01 with its 10,239 lines of code.

14 of 19 NASA

1995: 13 people in space

March 14, 1995, is a notable date in space history since it marks the first time 13 people found themselves in orbit at the same time. It took a combination of NASA space shuttle, Mir space station and Russian Soyuz spacecraft missions to get that many people in space simultaneously. This NASA photo shows the shuttle crew of seven astronauts from the STS-67 mission on board the Endeavour.

15 of 19 Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

1997: Simone Biles' birth

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil produced quite a few new stars, but US gymnast Simone Biles stood out for her dominating performances. Biles, who was born on March 14, 1997, in Columbus, Ohio, brought home five medals from Rio de Janeiro. She earned three individual gold medals with wins in the vault, floor exercise and all-around competitions.

You can watch Biles' high-flying floor exercise routine from the 2016 Olympics here.

Tom Waits
16 of 19 Jesse Dylan

2011: Tom Waits inducted into Hall of Fame

Quirky musician Tom Waits joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 14, 2011, along with fellow inductees Alice Cooper, Darlene Love, Neil Diamond and Dr. John. The gruff-voiced songwriter's first album came out in 1973, and his work has been covered by artists as diverse as Johnny Cash, Sarah MacLachlan and Rod Stewart.

17 of 19 NASA/Paul E. Alers

2018: Stephen Hawking's death

On March 14, 2018, famed theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking died at his home in Cambridge, England, at the age of 76. Hawking was a celebrity both in the science community and in the public eye. His 1988 book A Brief History of Time sold over 10 million copies.    

In this photo from 2008, Hawking delivers a speech titled "Why we should go into space" during a NASA lecture series.

18 of 19 Google

2019: A pi record

On Pi Day in 2019, Google announced that developer Emma Haraku Iwao set a record by calculating pi all the way to 31.4 trillion digits using the company's cloud technology. That feat has since been surpassed, but it highlights how there is still more to discover about the famous mathematical constant.

19 of 19 James Martin/CNET

Celebrate with salty and sweet

March 14 also marks National Potato Chip Day, a food holiday with a murky provenance. But who cares about that when you can honor 3/14 and everybody's favorite mathematical constant with a salty, crunchy snack? Just don't forget to have a pun-tastic slice of pie for dessert.

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