NOTABLE FIRSTS IN 2020
Surprising Events That Happened
For The First Time Ever This Year

Above: A worker holds a gold brick at the ABC Refinery in Sydney, Australia. Gold prices hit $2,000 an ounce for the first time in August.

Gold prices top $2,000 per ounce
With traders looking for safer places to invest amid the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, gold prices reached a record high in summer 2020, topping out at more than $2,000 per ounce. Other precious metals, such as silver and platinum, have also seen surges in value.

Black photographer shoots Vanity Fair magazine cover
Dario Calmese, who took photographs of the actor Viola Davis for the July/August cover of Vanity Fair, became the first Black photographer to shoot the cover in the magazine’s history, according to its editor. The decision trailed the controversy surrounding August’s Vogue cover photo of Simone Biles, a decorated gymnast, shot by the celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. Critics said that the photographs of Ms. Biles were not flattering to her skin tone, suggesting that a Black photographer should have been hired instead of Ms. Leibovitz.

Above: The professional surfer Maya Gabeira surfed the biggest wave of 2020, measuring 73.5 feet, off the Portuguese coast.

Woman surfs the year’s biggest wave off the Portuguese coast
The Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira rode the biggest recorded wave of 2020, becoming the first female surfer with that distinction. The wave, off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal, measured 73.5 feet. Gabeira’s ride was certified by the World Surf League and the Guinness World Records.

Telescope’s pictures detail the surface of the sun
In January astronomers released the most detailed pictures of the sun to date, taken by the new Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, the world’s largest. The telescope was built in the Hawaiian volcano Haleakala, which appropriately means “house of the sun.”

Above: Keeping a social distance, people visit the Grand Mosque in Mecca as part of umrah, a form of Islamic pilgrimage, in October.

Hajj is canceled for first time in modern history
Saudi Arabia announced in June that pilgrims outside of the country would be barred from traveling to the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, effectively canceling the haji for what may be the first time in known history. Although war, treacherous travel conditions and previous plagues have affected the hajj , a pilgrimage that has happened since 632, this was the first time that an official travel ban upended the holy ritual.

The Pontiff says he supports same-sex civil unions
For the first time in his papacy, Pope Francis indicated support for same-sex civil unions. In an interview for the documentary Francesco, which premiered in October at the Rome Film Festival, Francis spoke about how gay people have the right to be in a family and described them as “children of God.” He is the first pontiff to voice support for civil unions.

Above: Louis Vuitton was the first luxury design house to release a face shield.

In a first for the luxury industry, Louis Vuitton debuts a face shield
While many fashion houses sold protective face masks in 2020, Louis Vuitton became the first to release a face shield, as part of its 2021 cruise collection. The item, which will cost $961 and features the luxury brand’s signature monogram design on its trim, can be worn with the shield flipped up or down depending on social distancing requirements.

Cancer discovered in dinosaur bone
Scientists at the Royal Ontario Museum and McMaster University identified osteosarcoma, a malignant bone cancer, in a specimen of Centrosaurus apertus, a herbivorous horned dinosaur that lived about 76 million years ago. It’s the first confirmed diagnosis of malignant cancer in a dinosaur, according to a paper published in the medical journal Lancet Oncology.

Above: The South Korean boy band’s song “Dynamite” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this year, a first for a K-pop band.

K-pop band tops the charts in the United States for the first time
BTS, a South Korean pop band that has been making tweens squeal since 2013, nabbed the No. 1 spot on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 singles chart ranking in September with “Dynamite,” a song sung in English.

Japanese flying car soars in test flight
The tech company SkyDrive completed the first successful public test of a flying car in Japan in August. The manned vehicle, named SD-03, circled the Toyota Test Field, home to the company’s development base, for four minutes. SkyDrive plans to make the car available to consumers by 2023.

Above: A honey vendor in Radad, Kenya, makes a video call in July after Alphabet began offering villagers commercial high-speed internet using high-altitude balloons.

Balloons deliver the internet in Kenya
High-altitude, solar-powered balloons were used to deliver internet service to Kenya, a first for Africa. A subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, launched 35 balloons in July to provide a 4G LTE network across most of the central and western parts of the country.

Scientists use gene-editing tool inside a human
In March a blind patient in the United States underwent a procedure using the gene-editing tool CRISPR. It was the first time the technology was used inside a human. In a bid to restore the patient’s vision, doctors injected microscopic drops containing the editing tool inside the eye of the patient, who has a rare genetic disorder that prevents the body from making a protein necessary to convert light into signals to the brain.