This Day in History

February 23


155      traditional date of the martyrdom of Polycarp by the Romans, age probably 86   1863
1455      traditional date of the publication of the Gutenberg Bible—first book printed with movable type   563
1603      French mathematician François Viète dies in Paris, age around 62   415
1633      English naval administrator and diarist Samuel Pepys born in London   385
1685      birth of composer George Frideric Handel in Halle, Duchy of Magdeburg   333
1778      Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben reports to Washington at Valley Forge—his training program makes an army   240
1792      English painter Joshua Reynolds dies, age 68   226
1821      English Romantic poet John Keats dies in Rome, age 25   197
1836      Mexican forces under Antonio López de Santa Anna enter San Antonio and begin the seige of the Alamo   182
1846      last time the Liberty Bell is rung   172
1847      U.S. forces under Zachary Taylor defeat a much larger Mexican army led by Antonio López de Santa Anna at Buena Vista   171
1848      John Quincy Adams, sixth U.S. president, dies in Washington D.C., age 80   170
1855      German mathematician and scientist Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss dies in Göttingen, age 77   163
1886      Charles Martin Hall produces the first samples of aluminum via his electrolytic process   132
1887      estimated 6.0 earthquake off the Mediterranean coast of French Riviera destroys villages and kills more than 2,000   131
1896      Leo Hirschfeld invents a chocolate tasting candy which he names after his daughter Clara "Tootsie" Hirschfeld—Tootsie Roll   122
1903      Cuba leases Guantánamo Bay to the U.S. 'in perpetuity'   115
1905      formation of the Rotary Club—Chicago   113
1909      Silver Dart—first flight in Canada   109
1911      Quanah Parker, last of the Comanche chiefs, dies   107
1927      Federal Radio Commission is established to regulate the use of radio frequencies in the U.S.   91
1931      Australian operatic soprano Nellie Melba (Helen Porter Mitchell) dies, age 69   87
1934      English composer Edward William Elgar dies, age 76   84
1934      Leopold III succeeds to the throne of Belgium following the death of his father King Albert I—reigns for 17 years   84
1941      Plutonium is first chemically identified by team led by Glenn Seaborg   77
1942      Japanese submarine I-17 fires artillery shells at the Ellwood Oil Refinery, California, on the Santa Barbara Channel—minimal damage   76
1944      Belgian-born American chemist and inventor of Bakelite Leo Henricus Arthur Baekeland dies, age 80   74
1945      U.S. flag raised on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima   73
1965      English comic actor, writer, and film director Stan Laurel (born Arthur Stanley Jefferson) dies, age 74   53
1976      English artist Laurence Stephen "L.S." Lowry dies in Derbyshire, age 88   42
1987      Supernova 1987a in the Large Magellanic Cloud is observed—first naked-eye supernova since 1604   31
1995      British veterinary surgeon and author James Alfred Wight (James Herriot) dies in his beloved Yorkshire, age 78   23
2008      U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber crashes at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam during takeoff—first operational loss of a B-2   10
2010      unknown criminals dump over 2.5 million liters of diesel oil and other hydrocarbons into the river Lambro in Northern Italy   8
2012      American physicist and computer pioneer David Sayre dies in Ashland, Oregon, age 87   6
2013      Indian feminist, social worker, educator, lawyer, and a pioneer in the field of women's rights in India Lotika Sarkar dies, age 90   5
2014      Prague-born Jewish pianist and music teacher Alice Herz-Sommer dies in London as the oldest known Holocaust survivor, age 110   4
2015      Australian-British writer and journalist Harold Edward James Aldridge dies in London, age 96   3

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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