1639: Harvard College was named for clergyman John Harvard.
1781: William Herschel discovered Uranus.
1901: 23rd President Benjamin Harrison died in Indianapolis at age 68.
1925: Tennessee outlawed the teaching of evolution.
1930: News of the discovery of Pluto was telegraphed to the Harvard College Observatory.
1971: Arlester “Dyke” Christian, leader of the influential black funk band Dyke & the Blazers, was shot to death in Phoenix, Ariz., at age 27, joining the 27 Club.
1993: Birmingham, Ala., received 13 inches of snow.
2013: Jorge Mario Bergoglio (born Dec. 17 1936) became Pope Francis after he was elected in the papal conclave to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned. He became the first pope from the Western Hemisphere, the first Hispanic pope (Argentina), and the first pope to use the name Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi.
1794: Eli Whitney was granted a patent for the cotton gin.
1879: Physicist Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany. (Died 1955.)
1903: The Hay-Herran Treaty, granting the United States the right to build the Panama Canal, was ratified by the U.S. Senate. Theodore Roosevelt issued an executive order making Pelican Island, in Florida, a “preserve and breeding ground for native birds,” marking the birth of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
1964: A jury in Dallas, Texas, found Jack Ruby guilty of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, the purported assassin of President John F. Kennedy.
1970: The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (a precursor to Monty Python’s Flying Circus) performed for the last time at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England.
1989: President George H. W. Bush banned the import of assault rifles into the United States.
1994: The free, open-source computer operating system, Linux version 1.0.0, was released.
2004: Pope John Paul II became the second-longest serving pope in history.
2012: The publishers of the Encyclopaedia Britannica announced that they would cease publishing a print edition after 244 years in business. (The company continued offering an on-line version for $70 per year.)
44 BC: Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by a gang of 60 political rivals on the steps of the Senate in Rome.
1767: Andrew Jackson, seventh president, was born in the Waxhaw district on the border of North Carolina and South Carolina. (Died 1845.)
1778: Martha Washington wrote a letter to a friend describing the harsh winter conditions at Valley Forge, which she called “The Great Valley.”
1820: Maine became the 23rd U.S. state.
1875: Archbishop of New York John McCloskey was named the first Roman Catholic cardinal in the United States.
1935: Born this day: evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, and actor Judd Hirsch.
1956: My Fair Lady received its premiere performance on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theatre.
1975: Born this day: rapper, producer and actor will.i.am, and actress/producer Eva Longoria.
1985: The first internet domain name was registered (symbolics.com).
1621: Samoset, a Mohegan, became the first Native American to make contact with the settlers of Plymouth Colony when he strolled into the encampment and said, “Welcome, Englishmen! My name is Samoset.”
1751: James Madison, fourth president, was born in Port Conway, Va.
1802: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was established to found and operate the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York
1912: Afflicted with gangrene and frostbite, Capt. Lawrence Oates, a member of Robert Falcon Scott’s doomed South Pole expedition, left his tent to die, saying, “I am just going outside and may be some time.”
1926: Robert Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket, at Auburn, Massachusetts.
1958: The Ford Motor Company produced its 50 millionth automobile, the Thunderbird, averaging almost a million cars a year since the company was founded in 1908.
1968: General Motors produced its 100 millionth automobile, an Oldsmobile Toronado. The My Lai Massacre occurred when U.S. troops led by Lt. William Calley killed between 347 and 504 Vietnamese men, women and children in two villages.
1996: The first Irish Fair, known then as the St. Patrick’s Day Irish Fair & Music Festival, was held in Libby, Mont. The day-long event included a parade on Mineral Ave., arts and crafts fair at Memorial Gym, corned beef and cabbage dinners at 20 restaurants in Libby and Troy, and an evening concert featuring several performers including Kevin Burke, an international recording star and Irish fiddler; the Regent Irish Step Dancers from Calgary, Alberta; Shaughnessy Hill Band from Libby; Walter Charm, an Irish uilleann pipe virtuoso from Seattle, and; Tannersøster Musikkompani Orkester, a 22-piece orchestra performing Irish jigs, reels, polkas and hornpipes.
493: St. Patrick died in County Down, Ireland.
1845: Rubber bands were patented by Stephen Perry.
1905: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (33rd president, 1933-1945) married Eleanor Roosevelt, his fifth cousin once removed and the niece of 26th President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909).
1941: The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., was officially opened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
1948: Benelux, France, and the United Kingdom signed the Treaty of Brussels, a precursor to the North Atlantic Treaty that established NATO.
1950: Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, announced the creation of element 98, which they named “californium.”
1969: Golda Meir became the first female prime minister of Israel.
1995: The first coordinated, town-wide St. Patrick’s Day celebration was held in Libby, Mont. It was the precursor to the annual St. Patrick’s Day Irish Fair & Music Festival that began the following year.
1837: Stephen Grover Cleveland (22nd and 24th president 1885-1889 and 1893-1897) was born in Caldwell, N.J.
1850: American Express was founded by Henry Wells and William Fargo.
1965: Cosmonaut Alexey Leonov left his spacecraft, Voskhod 2, for 12 minutes, to become the first person to “walk” in space.
1970: The U.S. postal strike of 1970 began, one of the largest wildcat strikes in U.S. history.
1990: In the largest art theft in U.S. history, 12 paintings, collectively worth around $300 million, were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Mass.
2010: A rare Sumatran tiger was born in the Sacramento Zoo, California.
1687: Explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle, searching for the mouth of the Mississippi River, was murdered by his own men.
1831: In the first bank robbery in the U.S., $245,000 was stolen from City Bank in New York.
1863: The SS Georgiana, said to have been the most powerful Confederate cruiser, was damaged on her maiden voyage out of Charleston, S.C., by Union Navy ships and scuttled, with a cargo of munitions, medicines and merchandise then valued at over $1,000,000.
1895: Auguste and Louis Lumière recorded their first footage using their newly patented cinematograph.
1918: The U.S. Congress established time zones and approved daylight saving time.
1931: Gambling was legalized in Nevada.
1962: Bob Dylan released his first album, Bob Dylan, on the Columbia Records label.
1965: The wreck of the SS Georgiana, valued at over $50,000,000 and said to have been the most powerful Confederate cruiser, was discovered by teenage diver (and later pioneer underwater archaeologist) E. Lee Spence (born 1947), exactly 102 years after it was attacked by the Union Navy and scuttled near Charleston, S.C.
1966: Texas Western became the first college basketball team to win the Final Four with an all-black starting lineup.
1979: The U.S. House of Representatives began broadcasting its day-to-day business via the cable television network C-SPAN.