History Book

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, March 25th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book.

Forty-five years ago Chinese farmers dig a well and unexpectedly uncover a cultural treasure. Plus, a coolant leak in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania exposes nearly 2 million people to radiation.

EICHER: But first, we begin with the birth of a Czechoslovakian educator, considered the “father of modern education.” Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: Jan Amos Comenius was born March 28th, 1592. His parents were devout members of the Moravian Church, an early protestant group descended from reformer John Hus.

Comenius began his education at age 14. And he was an excellent student and entered the ministry at age 24. He married, started a family, and began developing his ideas on Christian education.

He rejected rote memorization, offering careful and guided observation of the physical world instead. He was also a proponent of adapting instruction to childhood developmental stages. But the outbreak of the 30 Years War and the ensuing persecution of the Moravians in Czechoslovakia interrupted his work.

FILM: You must leave, it’s urgent…look at this, the mandate for your arrest. You are more than a heretic, you’re a marked man.

Comenius and his fellow Protestants fled to neighboring Poland in 1628. There he became headmaster of a small school and began implementing his new ideas:  

FILM: Look at the fire, it gives us warmth and light. Watch the iron in the fire…

Audio from a 1983 film, Jan Comenius.

Comenius published The Great Didactic in 1632, one of his most influential books. The title page boldly promises: “that the entire youth of both sexes shall quickly, pleasantly, and thoroughly become learned in the sciences, pure in morals, and trained to piety.” His life work was to find a system of instruction that harmonized all of human learning and divine revelation.

FILM: Your good friend Mr. Hartley, and parliament, invite you to London to setup a school of pansophy there. Your work is admired greatly in England, please come.

Comenius eventually wrote more than 150 books in his lifetime. He believed Christian education held the key to bringing lasting peace and ushering in the kingdom of God. He died at age 78.

Next, March 29th, 1974, 45 years ago this week. Chinese fruit growers suffering under a severe drought, begin digging a new well. A pick-axe hits something unexpected. Further digging reveals much more. Audio here from a 2013 BBC documentary: New Secrets of the Terracotta Warriors.

FILM: The farmers had made one of history’s most extraordinary discoveries. Bits of legs, headless bodies, and even broken horses.  

Over the next four decades, archeologists and preservationists painstakingly uncover and restore more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, and many non-military figures. The discovery and analysis of the Terracotta Army rewrites much of the murky history of China’s first emperor of the Qin dynasty.

Today, millions of tourists visit the enclosed site each year. No two figures are exactly alike—it’s one of the reasons many call the collection of clay warriors “the 8th wonder of the world.”

And finally, March 28th, 1979:

ABC NEWS: For many years there has been a vigorous debate in this country about the safety of the nation’s 72 nuclear energy power plants.

A coolant leak in a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island leads to a partial meltdown. Approximately 50,000 people evacuate the area.

ABC NEWS: A cooling pump broke down and the plant did just what it was supposed to do—shut itself off.

The safety system included a pressure valve to release steam in case of a cooling pump failure. The sudden discharge could be heard for miles around. ABC News spoke with William Widdick, an eyewitness living nearby.

ABC NEWS: I heard a very loud noise a huge release of steam, and I could see from the lights over there—that there was a geyser of steam that was raising up in the air.

President Jimmy Carter quickly sends federal U.S. safety personnel to the scene. They find raised radiation levels outside the powerplant, but far below established health concern levels. Pennsylvania governor Dick Thornburgh addresses the press 48 hours after the incident:

THORNBURGH: Our prime concern is the safety of the people of central Pennsylvania. And in order to assess what me must do to protect their safety we need accurate information…


The accident reinforces fears over nuclear power and leads officials to introduce many safety improvements and new emergency protocols.

Reactor number two at Three Mile Island never reopens. Reactor number one restarted in 1985 and is licensed to operate till 2034. But if state and federal funding isn’t approved to update the facility, the current owner announced last year it would close it once and for all in September of 2019.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book. I’m Paul Butler.

(Photo/USA Today)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “History Book

  1. Craig Williams says:

    Regarding the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, yes, it has been forty years, and the same misleading information is being cited:
    ABC NEWS (Eyewitness): “I heard a very loud noise a huge release of steam, and I could see from the lights over there—that there was a geyser of steam that was raising up in the air.”
    When a Pressurized Water Reactor plant such as TMI shuts down suddenly, there is almost always a release of steam, because the heat from the system has to go somewhere, and the turbine/generator — the normal path for all that heated steam — has just been isolated. But the released steam is pure water (plus a few chemicals). It comes from the secondary loop, which has zero radioactivity in it. There was zero release of radioactive steam from Three Mile Island.

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