Many inventions and discoveries perceived to be modern phenomena have been with us for a very long time. One sometimes stands in awe at how innovative, creative, and brilliant those who came before us had been—with limited knowledge and fewer resources.
Already well into the twentieth century, the year 1922 saw great people entering and exiting our world and brought us wonderful discoveries and inventions of notable value. Many that still have an influence a century later. Luxury developments from 1922 have paved the way for modern variants throughout the decades, while books and movies enjoyed then still draw attention today—with some films being made and remade many, many times (because is there any originality left in Hollywood?).
When pausing a moment from the constant expectation of new things to come, we find that there are quite a few big 100th anniversaries to be celebrated in 2022.
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Even when gone, some people have left legacies worth remembering, and their death dates are still being celebrated today. Legendary people who died in 1922 include Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach, chocolate mogul George Cadbury, South African Boer-General Christiaan de Wet, and Pope Benedict XV.
Irish-born Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, died just short of his 48th birthday on January 5, during his fourth attempt to reach the South Pole. Also, Alexander Graham Bell, Scottish inventor and discoverer to whom the invention of the telephone and the metal detector was accredited, died on August 2—from diabetes-related complications.
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, born in 1858 as Eliezer Perlman, was a lexicographer known for his work toward the phenomenal revival of the then-not-spoken-anymore Hebrew language. He died in Jerusalem on April 23 at age 64 from tuberculosis. On November 18, Parisian novelist and poet Marcel Proust died of pneumonia at age 51. He was an influential French writer famous for writing excessively long sentences—with his longest one being 958 words—which is by far not the longest sentence in a publication!
The world was collectively holding its breath to see if she was going to make it, but unfortunately, everyone’s favorite Golden Girl, Betty White, died on December 31, 2021, just 17 days shy of her 100th birthday. Incidentally, her co-star in the series, Bea Arthur, who died in 2009, was also born in 1922. Iconic American actor Christopher Lee, the most prolific actor of all time, cast in more than 244 films and TV movies, was born on May 27.
Among other famous over-achievers born this year a century ago was Professor Christiaan Barnard (November 8), the South African cardiac surgeon responsible for the world’s first heart transplant in December 1967. Yitzhak Rabin, army general and later the 5th Prime Minister of Israel, who was assassinated in 1995, was born on March 1. On April 13, Tanzanian anti-colonial activist and politician Julius Nyerere was born.
Some of the most useful inventions that are still in use today originated in 1922. The “upward-acting” garage door by C.G. Johnson and the electric blender, for which Stephen J. Poplawski is accredited, are two such inventions. These remain in everyday use in many households worldwide.
Raymond DeWalt invented the radial arm saw, an efficient power tool used for crosscuts of longboards and a standard tool still used today. And on a sweet note, Christian Kent Nelson receives a patent for the Eskimo Pie.
With his brother pulling him with a boat at 20 mph, the favorite vacation pastime and now popular water sport of waterskiing was created by Ralph Samuelson in mid-1922. Having experimented with two wooden boards and a clothesline as a towrope, Samuelson initially struggled to get on his feet in the water. He spent the next 15 years trying to perfect the skill of waterskiing—which he later taught others to enjoy.
7 Discoveries of Different Kinds
1922 saw the discovery of Vitamin E by Herbert McLean Evans and Katharine Scott Bishop. Also in 1922, Vitamin D was discovered by Elmer McCollum and other researchers while doing research on children with rickets. The condition—also known as English Disease—is an illness causing weak bones in children, which is now known to be triggered by a lack of Vitamin D.
After a long history filled with disputes and controversies, insulin was intravenously injected on January 11, 1922. Although it was an initial failure, this experiment has paved the way for successful insulin treatment for diabetes ever since.
On November 4, British archaeologist Howard Carter and his team found the entrance to King Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor in Egypt.
6 World Events
Egypt gained its independency in 1922 from the British Empire, although the Brits kept control over the Suez Canal in partnership with France. In 1956, after a tug of war between Egypt and the two European countries, the USA convinced the latter to surrender its control of the Suez Canal.
As a result of the 1917 Revolution, the U.S.S.R (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), also known as the Soviet Union, was established on December 30, 1922. The U.S.S.R. consisted of the Russian and Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republics, together with the Ukrainian and the (then-called) Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republics. It officially lasted until the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time on Christmas Day 1991 when countries previously absorbed into the union became independent again. An interesting celebration against the background of current events in the area.
Also, on July 24, 1922, the then League of Nations approved the British Mandate of Palestine, which the Brits ruled from 1920 to 1948, whereafter the State of Israel was established.
The Japanese aircraft carrier, Hōshō (meaning: phoenix flying), became the first purpose-designed aircraft carrier to be commissioned. The Hōshō, different from later UK and U.S. aircraft carriers, was used during World War II. The design was used for the later Japanese fleet carriers—the Akagi, the Kaga, and the Ryūjō.
5 Movies Released
Various movies based on popular literature from the era were first released in 1922. A few films from that year that are still popular today include Robin Hood, Oliver Twist, Sherlock Holmes, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Rob Roy, Othello, With Stanley in Africa (the story of Dr. Stanley Livingstone), and David Copperfield.
Most of these films had seen remakes and remakes of remakes throughout the century. Yes, Hollywood knows how to redo. Take Robin Hood, for example. This 1922 film was just the beginning as we have seen numerous versions. Some of these include The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Robin and Marian (1976), Robin Hood (1991), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), Robin Hood (2010), and Robin Hood (2018). Oh and we can’t forget everyone’s favoriteRobin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). And that doesn’t even account for the many foreign, cartoon, or adult versions made. Sheesh.
4 Books Published
Many books and educational publications by writers whose work still has an influence today appeared in 1922. Albert Einstein’s The Meaning of Relativity: Four Lectures Delivered at Princeton University, May 1921, was published by Princeton University Press. And on February 2, James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses (containing a 4,391-word sentence), was published in Paris in time for his 40th birthday. And that’s still not the longest sentence in literature.
1922 was a good year for F. Scott Fitzgerald, writer of The Great Gatsby—as both his novel The Beautiful and Damned was published on March 4, while his short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was run in Collier’s Weekly magazine on May 27. Adaptations of Fitzgerald’s titles, including these two, found their way onto the stage and the silver screen through the last century.
Other well-known publications celebrating its centenary this year include The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot, England My England by D. H. Lawrence, and Doctor Doolittle by Hugh Lofting.
3 Automotive Firsts
Launched in 1922, the Lancia Lambda introduced many world’s firsts—the first monocoque chassis, the first independent (front) suspension, the first V4 engine, the first production aluminum engine block, and the first four-wheel brakes.
This year also saw dramatic increases in automobile production. September established a new monthly production record, with a total of 206,000 motor vehicles turned out of the factories. The Willys-Overland Company made a record during July, August, and September when it produced 37,000 vehicles.
The convertible made its appearance in the early 1920s, with the first practical retractable hardtop prototype, created by American Ben P. Ellerbeck, being introduced in ‘22.
2 Fashionable Trends
Not surprisingly, 1922 wasn’t only known as the year in which John and Mary were the most popular baby names in the U.S.—and probably in most other countries where English is spoken—but also brought along new fashion trends.
The years after World War I (ending in 1918) saw a huge change in society, and fashion didn’t escape this transformation. The pre-war extravagance and war modesty (and the scarcity of everything) were slowly being replaced by more androgynous (male and female neutral) trends that still influence the fashion industry today. Under the influence of designer Coco Chanel and suddenly freer to express themselves, women started wearing less jewelry, shorter hair, and more unisex clothes—with dress suits and even trousers and ties finding their way into everyday wear.
1922 was also the year Coco Chanel’s iconic Chanel No. 5 perfume—still a favorite today—was launched.
1 Sporty Moments
Mickey “Toy Bulldog” Walker defeated Jack Britton for the welterweight boxing title in 1922. It is believed that Ernest Hemingway based his short story, “Fifty Grand,” on the fight, as the plot and even the names of the main characters are quite close to the real event and the boxers’ names.
Slalom skiing, which would become an Olympic sport in 1948, celebrated competing with official rules in place for a century this year. Olympic swimmer, Johnny Weissmuller, broke the one-minute barrier in the 100-meter freestyle with a time of 58.6 seconds. He would eventually become famous (again) as the actor playing Tarzan in Tarzan, The Ape Man. The current record (Oct 2021) is held by Australia’s Kyle Chalmers with 44.84 seconds.
1922 was a big year for the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (popularly known as Wimbledon or the All England Club). It moved from its first home on Worple Road to where it is today on Church Street, London. Australian Gerald Patterson and Suzanne Lenglen from France won the first singles titles on this famous piece of lawn. It was also the first year that saw previous champions defending their titles from Round 1 on Day 1. Until then, champions only started competing after the main draw had been decided.