This Day in History

August 20


636      Battle of Yarmouk—Islamic forces take control of Syria and Palestine—beginning of major Muslim expansion out of Arabia   1381
917      Bulgarian forces decisively defeat the Byzantine army in the Battle of Achelous   1100
1643      Anne Hutchinson, leader of civil liberty and religious toleration, killed by Indians in what is now New York City, age 52   374
1775      Spanish establish a walled fortress, Presidio San Agustín del Tucácn—present day Tucson, Arizona   242
1779      Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius born   238
1804      Lewis and Clark Expedition suffers its only death when sergeant Charles Floyd dies, apparently from acute appendicitis   213
1852      steamboat Atlantic sinks after a collision with Ogdensburg on Lake Erie—estimate 250 die   165
1882      Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" debuts in Moscow   135
1896      dial telephone patented   121
1910      The Great Fire of 1910 starts—controlled two days later with over 3 million acres burned in Washington, Idaho, and Montana   107
1912      British Methodist preacher who founded The Salvation Army and became its first General, William Booth dies in London, age 83   105
1915      German scientist in the fields of chemotherapy and Nobel laureate Paul Ehrlich dies, age 61   102
1920      first licensed U.S. radio broadcasting begins—8MK (now WWJ) in Detroit, Michigan   97
1920      National Football League founded in Canton, Ohio as the American Professional Football Conference   97
1938      Lou Gehrig hits his 23th grand slam, major league record for 75 years   79
1960      U.S.S.R. recovers Sputnik 5 with first living animals from orbit   57
1961      American physicist and Nobel laureate Percy Williams Bridgman dies, age 79   56
1963      Dutch astronomer Joan George Erardus Gijsbertus Voûte dies in the Hague, age 84   54
1965      white Jonathan Myrick Daniels is murdered after pushing black Ruby Sales out of the way of a shotgun in Hayneville, Alabama, age 26   52
1975      Viking 1, Mars orbiter and lander, launched   42
1977      NASA launches the Voyager 2 spacecraft on its voyage to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune   40
1986      disgruntled postal worker opens fire on co-workers in Edmond, Oklahoma, shooting 20, killing 14, then killing himself—origin of "going postal"   31
1989      O-Bahn Busway in Adelaide, the world's longest guided busway (12 km), opens   28
1991      Estonia declares its formal independence   26
1997      American physicist and former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory Norris Edwin Bradbury dies, age 88   20
2001      English astrophysicist Fred Hoyle dies, age 86   16
2004      Regis Philbin sets a Guinness World Record for "Most Hours on Camera" with 15,188 hours on television   13
2006      American war photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner Joseph John Rosenthal dies, age 94   11
2011      The Astrophysical Journal Letters article reports discovery of geomagnetic trapped antiprotons by ESA's Pamela   6
2012      American actress and stand-up comedienne Phyllis Ada Driver (Phyllis Diller) dies in Los Angeles, age 95   5
2012      Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, admits its first women members   5
2013      American crime novelist Elmore John Leonard, Jr. dies in Bloomfield Village, Michigan, age 87   4
2013      English-American pianist and composer Margaret Marian McPartland dies, age 95   4
2014      Russian astrophysicist, columnist, and expert on transportation systems Anton Sergeevich Buslov dies, age 30   3
2014      landslides caused by a normal month's of rain falling in one day kill 74 in Japan's Hiroshima Prefecture   3
2016      adolescent suicide bomber kills 54, mostly children, at a wedding party in the Turkish city of Gaziantep   1

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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