19 May 1802

Napoleon Bonaparte founds the Legion of Honour.

The Legion of Honour (Légion d’honneur) is the highest French order of merit, both military and civil. It was established by Napoleon Bonaparte on May 19, 1802.

History and Foundation: The Legion of Honour was created during the First French Republic, but its origins can be traced back to the ancient traditions of chivalry and knighthood. Napoleon founded it as a way to recognize military and civilian achievements, consolidating the various revolutionary decorations into one unified order.

Structure: The order is divided into five classes:
Chevalier (Knight): The lowest rank, given to those who have rendered outstanding service.
Officier (Officer): Awarded for notable service, typically after having been a Chevalier for at least eight years.
Commandeur (Commander): For significant contributions and long service, typically after being an Officier for at least five years.
Grand Officier (Grand Officer): For exceptional service, awarded after being a Commandeur for at least three years.
Grand-croix (Grand Cross): The highest rank, reserved for those who have achieved the most distinguished service.

Eligibility: Membership is open to French nationals and foreign nationals who have served France or the ideals it upholds. It can be awarded for a variety of achievements, including military service, scientific advancements, cultural contributions, and acts of bravery.

Insignia: The insignia of the Legion of Honour includes a five-armed “Maltese Asterisk” decorated with a wreath of oak and laurel. Each class has a different insignia, with varying sizes and degrees of embellishment.

Administration: The order is managed by the Grand Chancery (Grande Chancellerie de la Légion d’honneur), based in Paris. The President of France serves as the Grand Master of the order.

Significance: The Legion of Honour is not only a mark of personal achievement but also a symbol of the values of the French Republic, including liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Famous Recipients: Numerous notable individuals have received the Legion of Honour, including scientists like Marie Curie, writers like Victor Hugo, and international figures like Dwight D. Eisenhower and Nelson Mandela.

19 May 1991

Croatians vote for independence in a referendum.

Croatia held an independence referendum on 19 May 1991, following the Croatian parliamentary elections of 1990 and the rise of ethnic tensions that led to the breakup of Yugoslavia. With 83 percent turnout, voters approved the referendum, with 93 percent in favor of independence. Subsequently, Croatia declared independence and the dissolution of its association with Yugoslavia on 25 June 1991, but it introduced a three-month moratorium on the decision when urged to do so by the European Community and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe through the Brioni Agreement. The war in Croatia escalated during the moratorium, and on 8 October 1991, the Croatian Parliament severed all remaining ties with Yugoslavia. In 1992, the countries of the European Economic Community granted Croatia diplomatic recognition and Croatia was admitted to the United Nations.

19 May 1802

Napoleon Bonaparte starts the Legion of Honour.

Legion of Honour, officially National Order of the Legion of Honour, French Ordre National de la Légion d’honneur, premier order of the French republic, created by Napoleon Bonaparte, then first consul, on May 19, 1802, as a general military and civil order of merit conferred without regard to birth or religion provided that anyone admitted swears to uphold liberty and equality.

Napoleon’s ideas for this order, which finally prevailed, aroused a certain amount of opposition, particularly from those who felt the Legion should have purely military qualifications. After becoming emperor, Napoleon presided over the first investiture into the Legion, which took place in 1804 at the Hôtel des Invalides, Paris. In 1805, schools were started for daughters of members; later, hospitals were maintained for sick and infirm legionnaires. During the Restoration, the Legion became a royal order, ranked below the restored military and religious orders of the ancien régime. Upon the downfall of the monarchy, the Legion once again became the highest-ranking order and decoration in France.

True to the stated ideals of Napoleon when founding the order, the membership of the Legion is remarkably egalitarian; both men and women, French citizens and foreigners, civilians and military personnel, irrespective of rank, birth, or religion, can be admitted to any of the classes of the Legion. Admission into this order, which can be conferred posthumously, requires 20 years of civil achievement in peacetime or extraordinary military bravery and service in times of war. Admission into the Legion for war services automatically carries with it the award of the Croix de Guerre, the highest French military medal.

During the Consulate and the First Empire, Napoleon served as the grand master of the order, while a grand council of seven grand officers administered the 15 territorial units, or “cohorts,” into which the order was divided. Currently, the president of France serves as grand master, and the order is administered by a civil chancellor with the help of a council nominated by the grand master. The Legion has five classes, listed in descending rank: grand cross, grand officer, commander, officer, and knight, or chevalier. Napoleon himself made some 48,000 nominations. Foreign recipients in the classes higher than chevalier are supernumerary. Promotion from a lower grade to a higher grade is done according to the service performed in the lower. However, extraordinary services may admit candidates at once to any rank.

The changes in design of the insignia reflect the vicissitudes of French history. Originally, the star of the order depicted a crown surrounded by oak and laurel wreaths with the head of Napoleon, while the other side displayed an eagle holding a thunderbolt with the motto emblazoned “Honneur et Patrie”. During the first Restoration, Louis XVIII, in 1814, replaced the head of Napoleon with that of King Henry IV of France, and on the other side introduced the royal fleur-de-lis emblem. Napoleon III, in 1870, restored the original design, although he replaced the head of Napoleon with the female head of the Republic. The badge of the Legion depicts this head with the inscription “République Française”; the reverse side has a set of crossed tricolours with the motto “Honneur et Patrie.”

19 May 1743

Jean-Pierre Christin developed the “centigrade” temperature scale.

Jean-Pierre Christin a French physicist, mathematician, astronomer and musician improved the Celcius scale thermometer. His proposal to reverse the Celsius thermometer scale from water boiling at 0 degrees and ice melting at 100 degrees, to water boiling at 100 degrees and ice melting at 0 degrees was widely accepted and is still in use today.

Christin was born in Lyon. He was a founding member of the Académie des sciences, belles-lettres et arts de Lyon and served as its Permanent Secretary from 1713 until 1755. His thermometer was known in France before the Revolution as the thermometer of Lyon. One of these thermometers was kept at Science Museum in London.

In 1742, Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius created a temperature scale which was the reverse of the scale now known by the name “Celsius”: 0 represented the boiling point of water, while 100 represented the freezing point of water. In his paper Observations of two persistent degrees on a thermometer, he recounted his experiments showing that the melting point of ice is essentially unaffected by pressure. He also determined with remarkable precision how the boiling point of water varied as a function of atmospheric pressure. He proposed that the zero point of his temperature scale, being the boiling point, would be calibrated at the mean barometric pressure at mean sea level. This pressure is known as one standard atmosphere. The BIPM’s 10th General Conference on Weights and Measures later defined one standard atmosphere to equal precisely 1013250dynes per square centimetre.