This Day in History

August 17


1304      Emperor Go-Fukakusa of Japan dies after a reign of 14 years, age 61   714
1424      Battle of Verneuil in Normandy results in a decisive English victory over the forces of France and Scotland   594
1498      Cesare Borgia becomes the first person in history to resign the cardinalate   520
1560      Scottish parliament establishes the Confession of Faith Ratification Act with Protestantism established as the national religion   458
1585      settlers arrive on expedition organized by Walter Raleigh and led by Ralph Lane to colonize Roanoke Island—first colony   433
1601      French mathematician Pierre de Fermat born   417
1657      Robert Blake, chief founder of the Royal Navy's supremacy dies at sea off Plymouth, age around 59   361
1668      estimated 8.0 earthquake devastates Anatolia, Ottoman Empire—8000 deaths   350
1786      Frederick II (the Great), King of Prussia, dies in Potsdam after a reign of 46 years, age 74   232
1786      David Crockett, American frontiersman, born in Greene County, Tennessee   232
1862      Dakota War of 1862 is initiated when the Lakota decided to attack settlements throughout the Minnesota River valley   156
1896      Bridget Driscoll is killed by an automobile near the Crystal Palace in Surrey, age around 45—first pedestrian auto fatality   122
1907      Pike Place Market, the longest continuously-running public farmers market in the U.S., opens in Seattle   111
1908      first fully animated film Fantasmagorie by French caricaturist Émile Cohi is released—runs 80 sec   110
1942      regular combat missions against Germany begins for the U.S. Eighth Air Force based in England   76
1943      Allies complete the conquest of Sicily   75
1950      North Korean soldiers kill 42 U.S. Army prisoners of war—Hill 303 massacre   68
1953      first documented meeting of Narcotics Anonymous   65
1958      U.S. Air Force launches Pioneer 0 on the first mission beyond Earth orbit—launch vehicle breaks up 74 seconds after launch   60
1959      Quake Lake near Yellowstone National Park is formed by 7.5 earthquake causing rockslide to block the Madison RIver   59
1959      Kind of Blue by Miles Davis is released—highly influential best selling jazz recording   59
1965      U.S. Marines destroy a Viet Cong stronghold on the Van Tuong peninsula in the first major American ground battle of the war   53
1969      German physicist and Nobel laureate Otto Stern dies in Berkeley, California, age 81   49
1970      U.S.S.R. launches Venera 7 on its mission to Venus—would become first craft to land on another planet   48
1977      Soviet Union's icebreaker Arktika becomes first surface ship to North Pole   41
1978      Double Eagle II becomes first manned balloon to cross the Atlantic   40
1980      Azaria Chantel Loren Chamberlain, age 9 weeks, disappears on a camping trip to Uluru (Ayers Rock)—taken by a dingo   38
1982      first CD's roll off an assembly line near Hanover, Germany   36
1996      Claudie André-Deshays becomes the first French woman in space with the launch of Soyuz TM-24 to Mir   22
1999      7.4 earthquake strikes Izmit, Turkey, killing more than 17,000 and injuring 44,000   19
1999      Saturn probe Cassini encounters Earth for a gravity-assisted increase in speed about 2 years after launch   19
2004      Australian novelist and short story writer Thea Astley dies in New South Wales, age 78   14
2005      American astrophysicist John Norris Bahcall dies in New York City, age 70   13
2006      Bangladeshi poet, columnist, and journalist Shamsur Rahman dies in Dhaka, age 76   12
2008      Michael Phelps sets record by earning his eighth gold medal in a single Olympics   10
2009      turbine failure at Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam destroys Russia's largest power plant and kills 75   9
2012      American electronic and computer engineer Victor "Vic" Poor dies, age 79   6
2015      bomb explodes inside the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, Thailand killing 20 and injuring another 125   3
2016      HAV-304 Airlander 10, largest airship makes its maiden flight at Cardington Airfield in Bedfordshire, England   2
2017      van is driven into a crowd of people on the Las Ramblas avenue in Barcelona—13 killed, 100 others injured   1
2017      gravitational waves are detected from the merger of two neutron stars, GW170817, in NGC 4993 about 130 million light-years distant   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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