18 February 1954

The first Church of Scientology is established in Los Angeles.

The Church of Scientology is a controversial religious organization founded in the 1950s by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. The church’s teachings are based on Hubbard’s book “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health,” which outlines a self-help system aimed at achieving spiritual enlightenment and self-improvement.

Scientology believes in the existence of a supreme being, known as the “Eighth Dynamic,” but it does not require adherence to a specific deity. Instead, it focuses on the individual’s spiritual journey and the attainment of higher levels of awareness, or “Operating Thetan” levels, through a process called auditing.

Auditing involves a series of one-on-one counseling sessions in which a trained auditor uses a device called an E-meter to measure the electrical resistance in a person’s body while discussing emotional or traumatic experiences. The ultimate goal of auditing is to clear the individual of negative experiences, or “engrams,” and achieve a state of spiritual purity.

The Church of Scientology is known for its strict hierarchy and centralized control under the leadership of the “ecclesiastical leader,” currently David Miscavige. Members are expected to adhere to strict rules and codes of conduct, and criticism or dissent within the organization is often met with harsh consequences, including excommunication or expulsion.

Critics of Scientology have raised concerns about its practices, including allegations of financial exploitation, manipulation, and abuse of its members. The church has also faced legal challenges and controversies around its tax-exempt status, treatment of former members, and aggressive tactics against critics and journalists.

Despite its controversies, the Church of Scientology claims millions of members worldwide and operates numerous churches, missions, and affiliated organizations in countries around the world. It continues to be a subject of public interest and scrutiny due to its secretive nature and the controversies surrounding its beliefs and practices.

18 February 1943

World War II: The Nazis arrest the members of the White Rose movement.

The White Rose movement was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group active in Nazi Germany during World War II. The group was composed mainly of students and professors from the University of Munich, including siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl.

The White Rose movement was founded in June 1942, and its members were deeply opposed to the Nazi regime and its policies, including the persecution and extermination of Jews, the war, and the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler. The group produced and distributed six pamphlets that criticized the Nazi regime and called for resistance against it.

The members of the White Rose were eventually discovered and arrested by the Gestapo. Hans and Sophie Scholl, along with fellow member Christoph Probst, were executed by beheading on February 22, 1943. Other members of the group were also arrested and executed.

Despite its relatively short existence, the White Rose movement has become a symbol of resistance against tyranny and an inspiration to many people around the world.

18 February 1954

The first Church of Scientology is established.

L. Ron Hubbard established the first Church of Scientology in Los Angeles on February 18, 1954. Ever since, the religion has attracted a number of followers and has grown into a global institution. It also has its fair share of critics and whistleblowers.

L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology was born in 1911. Growing up, Hubbard took a keen interest in studying various classical systems of philosophy such as the ancient Greek religion and as the son of a naval officer traveled extensively across America, interacting closely with the natives of various regions. Hubbard studied Freud’s psychoanalysis and traveled across Asia, learning the various schools of thought that formed the spiritual basis of ancient Asian religions. Hubbard then started to form this theory – a self-help system that he called Dianetics. In May 1950, he published his first book about the system, slowly evolving it into a full-fledged religion over the next four years. On February 18, 1954, the first Church of Scientology opened in Los Angeles, California. Through the following decade, Scientology spread across the world to various regions and the number of church members started to swell. Apart from the US churches were opened in many parts of Europe, South Africa, and Australia. Scientology also faced its own set of challenges in many countries including France and Australia. With its growth in popularity critics have grown in numbers and criticism in strength. By 1966 Hubbard had relinquished his responsibilities at the Church of Scientology to a group of executives and oversaw the growth of the religion alone. He passed away on January 24, 1986.

The Encyclopedia of American Religions describes Scientology as a religion which is “concerned with the isolation, description, handling and rehabilitation of the human spirit.” The Church of Scientology, headquartered at the Church of Scientology International, Los Angeles, says one of the key purposes of the religion is to achieve certainty about one’s spiritual nature and discover the spiritual bond between each person and God, the ‘Supreme Being.’ Hubbard based the metaphysical foundations of Scientology on the principle that each human being is in essence a Thetan – an intelligent conscious being – moving through time and space, gathering spiritual experiences in the body. To achieve one’s full potential as a Thetan a number of ritual practices such as reliving past traumas and difficulties is practiced with other practitioners; this is called Auditing in Hubbard’s theory of Dianetics. Scientologists believe that a practice of their prescribed processes allow the mind to unlock hidden powers and grow beyond the ordinarily imagined goals of people.

Some of the most famous people who are members of the Church of Scientology include the superstar Tom Cruise, actress Kirstie Alley, singer-entertainer Sonny Bono, the famous ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, actor Jeff Conaway, Nancy Cartwright who lent Bart Simpson her voice, and Priscilla Presley the wife of Elvis Presley. The author and poet William S. Burroughs, footballer John Brodie, author Neil Gaiman, and singer Lisa Marie Presley are among the celebrities who are erstwhile members of the Church of Scientology. Some of the people who left the faith have eventually become staunch critics of the church and its practices. Apart from the church at Los Angeles, the Church of Scientology has important offices in Sussex, England, Florida, and other parts of the world.

Scientology has faced the brunt of very severe criticism – most of it coming from the fact that it is far more a cult and a commercial enterprise than a religion. Scientologists need to pay for much of the reading/viewing material available to educate new initiates. Hubbard, the founder has also faced a number of accusations – some claim that he falsified many details about his background including education and his former occupation – setting up the church as a means to earn much money. Hubbard has been convicted of fraud in France, in absentia. Hubbard had outlined a Fair Game policy for dealing with enemies of the Church. According to Fair Game, such enemies “may be deprived of property or injured by any means…May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed”, bringing it under much criticism. A number of instances have also been cited by critics where Scientologists have been involved in murders and heists, whereby denouncing Dianetics as an effective tool for self-help.

18 February 1930

Clyde Tombaugh discovers Pluto.

Pluto, once believed to be the ninth planet, is discovered at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, by astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh.

The existence of an unknown ninth planet was first proposed by Percival Lowell, who theorized that wobbles in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune were caused by the gravitational pull of an unknown planetary body. Lowell calculated the approximate location of the hypothesized ninth planet and searched for more than a decade without success. However, in 1929, using the calculations of Powell and W.H. Pickering as a guide, the search for Pluto was resumed at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. On February 18, 1930, Tombaugh discovered the tiny, distant planet by use of a new astronomic technique of photographic plates combined with a blink microscope. His finding was confirmed by several other astronomers, and on March 13, 1930–the anniversary of Lowell’s birth and of William Hershel’s discovery of Uranus–the discovery of Pluto was publicly announced.

With a surface temperature estimated at approximately -360 Fahrenheit, Pluto was appropriately given the Roman name for the god of the underworld in Greek mythology. Pluto’s average distance from the sun is nearly four billion miles, and it takes approximately 248 years to complete one orbit. It also has the most elliptical and tilted orbit of any planet, and at its closest point to the sun it passes inside the orbit of Neptune, the eighth planet.

After its discovery, some astronomers questioned whether Pluto had sufficient mass to affect the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. In 1978, James Christy and Robert Harrington discovered Pluto’s only known moon, Charon, which was determined to have a diameter of 737 miles to Pluto’s 1,428 miles. Together, it was thought that Pluto and Charon formed a double-planet system, which was of ample enough mass to cause wobbles in Uranus’ and Neptune’s orbits. In August 2006, however, the International Astronomical Union announced that Pluto would no longer be considered a planet, due to new rules that said planets must “clear the neighborhood around its orbit.” Since Pluto’s oblong orbit overlaps that of Neptune, it was disqualified.

18 February 1930

Clyde Tombaugh discovers Pluto.

On February 18, 1930, amateur astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovered “Planet X” using an astrograph, which is essentially a space camera. Planet X was soon named Pluto, and the rest is a nerd battle of historical proportions.

Tombaugh started as a Kansas farm boy, and did not attend college until after he discovered Pluto. He had a knack for building things, particularly his own telescopes. This got him a job at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona starting in 1929. He earned the job after mailing in his own hand-drawn observations of the planets Mars and Jupiter, as observed using a hand-made nine-inch reflector telescope. Tombaugh sought Pluto based on a prediction made by Percival Lowell and William Pickering. They had observed wobble in the outer planets’ orbits, and hypothesized that it was caused by some as-yet-unknown planet in a trans-Neptunian orbit.

On one fateful February day, Tombaugh saw the tiny speck of Pluto on a photographic plate. He found it using a “blink comparator,” a device with which you flip between two images—each taken by the astrograph—and spot tiny dots that move in an unexpected way. It was a tremendous discovery, relying both on high technology and hard work. Tombaugh went on to college after his discovery (he got a scholarship to the University of Kansas). He continued to work in astronomy for decades, eventually becoming a professor at New Mexico State University. He discovered hundreds of objects (mainly asteroids) in the solar system, and took up writing in his later years.