This Day in History

February 23


155      traditional date of the martyrdom of Polycarp by the Romans, age probably 86   1862
1455      traditional date of the publication of the Gutenberg Bible—first book printed with movable type   562
1633      English naval administrator and diarist Samuel Pepys born in London   384
1685      birth of composer George Frideric Handel in Halle, Duchy of Magdeburg   332
1778      Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben reports to Washington at Valley Forge—his training program makes an army   239
1792      English painter Joshua Reynolds dies, age 68   225
1821      English Romantic poet John Keats dies in Rome, age 25   196
1836      Mexican forces under Antonio López de Santa Anna enter San Antonio and begin the seige of the Alamo   181
1846      last time the Liberty Bell is rung   171
1847      U.S. forces under Zachary Taylor defeat a much larger Mexican army led by Antonio López de Santa Anna at Buena Vista   170
1848      John Quincy Adams, sixth U.S. president, dies in Washington D.C., age 80   169
1855      German mathematician and scientist Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss dies in Göttingen, age 77   162
1886      Charles Martin Hall produces the first samples of aluminum via his electrolytic process   131
1887      estimated 6.0 earthquake off the Mediterranean coast of French Riviera destroys villages and kills more than 2,000   130
1896      Leo Hirschfeld invents a chocolate tasting candy which he names after his daughter Clara "Tootsie" Hirschfeld—Tootsie Roll   121
1903      Cuba leases Guantánamo Bay to the U.S. 'in perpetuity'   114
1905      formation of the Rotary Club—Chicago   112
1909      Silver Dart—first flight in Canada   108
1911      Quanah Parker, last of the Comanche chiefs, dies   106
1927      Federal Radio Commission is established to regulate the use of radio frequencies in the U.S.   90
1931      Australian operatic soprano Nellie Melba (Helen Porter Mitchell) dies, age 69   86
1934      English composer Edward William Elgar dies, age 76   83
1941      Plutonium is first chemically identified by team led by Glenn Seaborg   76
1942      Japanese submarine I-17 fires artillery shells at the Ellwood Oil Refinery, California, on the Santa Barbara Channel—minimal damage   75
1944      Belgian-born American chemist and inventor of Bakelite Leo Henricus Arthur Baekeland dies, age 80   73
1945      U.S. flag raised on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima   72
1976      English artist Laurence Stephen "L.S." Lowry dies in Derbyshire, age 88   41
1987      Supernova 1987a in the Large Magellanic Cloud is observed—first naked-eye supernova since 1604   30
1995      British veterinary surgeon and author James Alfred Wight (James Herriot) dies in his beloved Yorkshire, age 78   22
2010      unknown criminals dump over 2.5 million liters of diesel oil and other hydrocarbons into the river Lambro in Northern Italy   7
2012      American physicist and computer pioneer David Sayre dies in Ashland, Oregon, age 87   5
2014      Prague-born Jewish pianist and music teacher Alice Herz-Sommer dies in London as the oldest known Holocaust survivor, age 110   3
2015      Australian-British writer and journalist Harold Edward James Aldridge dies in London, age 96   2

Dates are always somewhat ambiguous, the exact date depends on whether local time is used (and local time where) or Universal Time—for events on the surface of the Earth, local time is probably best but for an event that spans across the planet, it is not clear which local time to use!. For events in space it is more ambiguous. Further for dates after the original adoption of the Gregorian calendar but before it became accepted in different countries, the date given may be a Julian date or a Gregorian date depending upon where the event occurred. And, even the year may be different since the first of the year has not always been January 1 in all countries! The attempt is to use a date that is the one that is typically given.

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