March 14 (3/14) is a day for celebrating the mathematical constant of pi, which starts with the digits 3.14. But the numbering coincidence isn’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.
First published March 14, 2017. Updated March 13, 2018: Adds more March 14 events.
Caption byAmanda Kooser /Photo byNational Archives and Records Administration
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.
Caption byAmanda Kooser /Photo byOrren Jack Turner/Library of Congress
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.
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 around 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.
March 14, 1888, marked the end of a multi-day 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.
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.
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.
Caption byAmanda Kooser /Photo byPacific Photo & Art Co./Library of Congress
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 reboot films. Caine put his own spin on the role of Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred.
Caption byAmanda Kooser /Photo byScreenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET
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.
Caption byAmanda Kooser /Photo byPhillip Faraone/Getty Images for Celebrity Fight Night
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 pic in the NBA draft in 2009 and has led his team to two championships while also picking up the NBA Most Valuable Player award in 2015 and 2016.
Linux operating system creator Linus Torvalds first introduced his young 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.
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.
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.
Caption byAmanda Kooser /Photo byVideo screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET
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.
Now that you’ve traipsed through the history of previous Pi Days, it’s time to celebrate in 2017. 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.