1642: English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist and theologian Sir Isaac Newton was born in Lincolnshire, England.
1643: Christmas Island was found and named by Captain William Mynors of the East India Company vessel, the Royal Mary.
1776: George Washington and the Continental Army crossed the Delaware River to attack Great Britain’s Hessian mercenaries in Trenton, New Jersey.
1821: Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was born in Oxford, Mass.
1868: U.S. President Andrew Johnson granted an unconditional pardon to all Civil War Confederate soldiers.
1899: Actor Humphrey Bogart was born in New York City.
1924: Rod Serling, producer of “Twilight Zone,” was born in Syracuse, N.Y.
1914: Known as the Christmas truce, German and British troops on the Western Front temporarily cease fire during World War I, “The Great War.”
1941: Admiral Chester W. Nimitz arrived at Pearl Harbor to assume command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The movie, You’re in the Army Now, was released. It featured the longest kiss in any film, lasting three minutes and six seconds, between actors Regis Toomey and Jane Wyman.
1946: Singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett and U.S. football player Larry Csonka were born this day. Also, U.S. comedian W.C. Fields died this day.
1954: Rhythm and blues recording star Johnny Ace, 25, died during a show he was giving in Houston. During a five-minute break, the singer was amusing himself backstage with a .22-caliber revolver he thought was unloaded and accidentally shot himself in the head. Scottish singer Annie Lennox and U.S. country singer Steve Wariner were born this day.
1977: Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin met in Egypt with President of Egypt Anwar Sadat.
1989: Nicolae Ceauşescu, former communist president of Romania and his wife, First-Deputy Prime-Minister Elena, were condemned to death and executed after a summary trial.
1990: The first successful trial run took place of the system that would become the World Wide Web.
1991: Ukraine’s referendum was finalized and Ukraine officially left the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as president of the Soviet Union (the union itself was dissolved the next day).
2006: Entertainer James Brown died in Atlanta, Ga., age 73.
2009: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “underwear bomber,” unsuccessfully attempted a terrorist attack against the U.S. while on board a flight to Detroit Metro Airport on Northwest Airlines Flight 253
1972: Harry S. Truman (33rd U.S. president, 1945-1953) died in Kansas City, Mo., at age 88.
1985: World renowned gorilla scientist Dian Fossey (born 1932) was hacked to death with a machete in the jungles of Rwanda. A fellow American researcher named Wayne McGuire (age unknown) was convicted in absentia of her murder by a Rwandan court.
1996: Six-year-old Jon Benet Ramsey, a precocious beauty pageant contestant, was found murdered in the basement of her parents’ home in Boulder, Colo. The case remains unsolved.
2004: A massive tsunami swept the Indian Ocean, killing over 200,000 people in several coastal countries.
1831: Charles Darwin embarked on his journey aboard the HMS Beagle, during which he began to formulate the theory of evolution.
1845: Ether anesthetic was used for childbirth for the first time by Dr. Crawford Long in Jefferson, Ga.
1922: Japanese aircraft carrier Hōshō became the first aircraft carrier in the world to be commissioned.
1927: Show Boat, considered to be the first truly American musical play, opened at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Broadway.
1932: Radio City Music Hall opened in New York City.
1945: The World Bank and International Monetary Fund were created with an agreement by 29 nations.
1966: The Cave of Swallows, the largest known cave shaft in the world, was discovered in Aquismón, San Luis Potosí, Mexico.
1978: Guitarist Chris Bell of the band Big Star died in a car wreck in East Memphis, Tenn., at age 27 joining the 27 Club.
1979: The Soviet Union invaded the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
1983: Pope John Paul II visited Mehmet Ali Ağca in prison near Rome and personally forgave him for the 1981 assassination attempt on him in St. Peter’s Square.
2007: Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in a shooting/bombing incident in Rawalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan.
1856: Thomas Woodrow Wilson (28th president, 1913-1921) was born in Staunton, Va.
1879: The Tay Rail Bridge in Dundee, Scotland, collapsed while a passenger train was crossing, killing 75 people. (The disaster was commemorated in 1880 in a poem, The Tay Bridge Disaster, by William Topaz McGonagall, and is considered to be the worst poem by the worst poet in the English language.)
1961: Edith Galt Wilson, first lady of President Woodrow Wilson, died at age 89 in Alexandria, Va.
1808: Andrew Johnson, 17th president, was born in Raleigh, N.C.
1845: The United States annexed the Republic of Texas, following the doctrine of manifest destiny; the Republic of Texas, which had been independent since the Texas Revolution of 1836, was admitted as the 28th U.S. state.
1851: The first American YMCA opened in Boston, Massachusetts.
1890: The Wounded Knee Massacre took place on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation; 300 Lakota men, women and children were killed by the United States 7th Cavalry Regiment.
1937: The Irish Free State was replaced by a new nation called Ireland with the adoption of a new constitution.
1949: KC2XAK of Bridgeport, Connecticut, became the first ultra-high-frequency (UHF) television station to operate a daily schedule.
2003: The last known native speaker of Akkala Sami died, rendering the language extinct.
1813: British soldiers burned Buffalo, New York, during the War of 1812.
1853: The United States bought land from Mexico to facilitate building a railroad in the Southwest, in what became known as the Gadsden Purchase, the last expansion of U.S. territory in the 48 states.
1903: A fire at the Iroquois Theater in Chicago killed at least 605 people.
1906: The All-India Muslim League was founded in Dacca, East Bengal, British India. (It went on to become Pakistan.)
1914: Born this day: actor Bert Parks (Miss America host, died 1992); and actress Jo Van Fleet (East of Eden, Gunfight at OK Corral, died 1996)
1922: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed. (It dissolved in 1991.)
1927: The first subway line in Asia opened in Tokyo, Japan.
1934: Born this day: John N. Bahcall, American astrophysicist and astronomer, co-developed the Hubble Space Telescope (died 2005); actor, director, screenwriter Joseph Bologna (My Favorite Year, CSI); U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph P. Hoar; singer-songwriter Del Shannon (Runaway, died 1990); actor Russ Tamblyn (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers).
1935: Born this day: Major League Baseball pitcher Sandy Koufax, and actor Jack Riley (The Bob Newhart Show, Rugrats).
1937: Born this day: singer-songwriter John Hartford (Gentle on My Mind, died 2001); and singer-songwriter Paul Stookey (Peter, Paul and Mary).
1948: The Cole Porter Broadway musical, Kiss Me, Kate, opened at the New Century Theatre and became the first show to win the Best Musical Tony Award. (The show ran 1,077 times.)
1975: Serial murderer Theodore “Ted” Bundy escaped from jail in Salt Lake City, Utah. (A few months later, he was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List, and on February 15, 1978, he was finally captured. He eventually confessed to the murders of 28 women and was executed in Florida on Jan. 24, 1989.)
2006: Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging in Baghdad, Iraq.
2011: Because of a change of time zone, this day was skipped in Samoa and Tokelau.
406: The Vandals, Alans and Suebians crossed the Rhine and invaded Gaul (now France).
1695: A window tax was imposed in England, causing many householders to brick up windows to avoid the tax.
1759: Arthur Guinness (1725-1803) signed a 9,000-year lease at £45 per year and began brewing Guinness stout at St. James Gate in Dublin, Ireland.
1853: A dinner party was held inside a life-size model of an iguanodon created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and Sir Richard Owen in south London, England.
1857: Queen Victoria (1819-1901) chose Ottawa, a small logging town, as the capital of Canada.
1878: Karl Benz, working in Mannheim, Germany, filed for a patent on his first reliable two-stroke gasoline engine. (He was granted the patent in 1879.)
1879: Thomas Edison demonstrated incandescent lighting to the public for the first time, in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
1907: The first New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square (then known as Longacre Square) was held in New York, New York.
1923: The chimes of Big Ben were broadcast on radio for the first time by the British Broadcasting Corporation.
1952: U.S. singer and guitarist George Thorogood was born in Wilmington, Delaware.
1955: General Motors became the first U.S. corporation to make over $1 billion in a year.
1960: The farthing coin ceased to be legal tender in the United Kingdom.
1963: The Central African Federation officially collapsed and became Zambia, Malawi, and Rhodesia.
1983: The AT&T Bell System was broken up by the United States government.
1985: Singer Rick Nelson, age 45, and his band were killed in a forced plane landing of Nelson’s 1944 DC-3 after a fire broke out on board in flight from Guntersville, Ala., to a gig in Dallas, Texas.
1991: All official Soviet Union institutions ceased operations and the Soviet Union was officially dissolved.
1992: Czechoslovakia was peacefully dissolved in what became known as the Velvet Divorce, resulting in the creation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.