On this day in 2004, Patriarch Petros VII of Alexandria, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and all of Africa (1994- 2004), died at the young age of 55. Patriarch Petros was born Petros Papapetrou in Kyrenia in what is today Turkish-occupied Cyprus. His tenure was marked by renewed missionary efforts in Kenya, Uganda, Madagascar, Cameroon and elsewhere across the African continent. Patriarch Petros died along with 16 others when the military helicopter in which he was traveling to the monastic enclave of Mount Athos crashed into the Aegean Sea. The cause of the crash remains unknown.
On this day in 1948, Dimitri Nanopoulos, the Greek physicist, was born in Athens. He studied Physics at the University of Athens and graduated in 1971, continuing his studies at the University of Sussex in England, where he obtained his Doctor of Philosophy in 1973 in High Energy Physics. He was made a Curie Fellow at Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, and a Research Fellow at Harvard University. In 1989, he was appointed Professor at the Physics Department of the Texas A & M University, where, since 1992, he has been a Distinguished Professor of Physics. He is one of the most regularly cited researchers in the world, cited more than 48,500 times over across a number of separate branches of science.
Also on this day in 1986, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit Kalamata. Although the quake was originally described as “moderately strong,” it caused heavy damage throughout the city, killed 20 people, and injured 330 others. Police officials said that the toll would have been higher, but hundreds of residents were attending a ceremony opening a new Kalamata ferry line when the quake actually hit. Following the severe damage, the local authorities and individuals strained their financial resources to bring a wind of change to the capital of the Messinia region of Greece. The southern port city was hit hard (destroying 112 houses and damaging 1,100 others), but the quake also demolished all but three of the 120 homes in the village of Elaiochori, 12 miles east of Kalamata.
On this day in 1910, Yiannis Latsis (a/k/a John Spyridon Latsis), the Greek shipping tycoon, was born in Katakolo, a fishing village in Greece. Latsis was a bold and surefooted businessman who became one of the richest men in the world. Working his way up from deckhand to captain, Latsis used his savings to begin buying his own ships and by the 1960s he owned a whole fleet. He continued to build the family fortune by establishing the Greek export-oriented refining company Petrola and then by setting up an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia. He built up a number of other business interests in the areas of real estate, construction, as well as banking and finance. By the late 1970s, he purchased the Banque des Depots in Geneva and founded EFG Private Bank and Trust Company in London and the Euroinvestment Bank (now Eurobank) in Athens. During his later years, he used his wealth for more philanthropic projects. Latsis eventually turned over the running of his various businesses to his son in 1999. The year of his death (2003), Forbes magazine ranked Latsis number 101 on its list of the world’s richest people – with a fortune estimated at $5.4 billion.