This Day in History

December 13


558      Frankish King of the Merovingian dynasty Childebert I dies after reign of 47 years, age about 61   1459
1048      Persian mathematician and scientist Abu al-Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni dies, age 75   969
1466      Italian Rennaissance artist and sculptor Donatello dies in Florence, age 80   551
1545      Council of Trent convenes   472
1557      Italian mathematician Niccolò Fontana Tartaglia dies, age around 57   460
1577      Francis Drake leaves Plymouth, England on his voyage that circumnavigates the world   440
1636      Massachusetts Bay Colony orders scattered militia companies be organized—origins of state militias and the National Guard   381
1642      New Zealand discovered by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman   375
1643      Parliamentary forces decisively defeat an outnumbered Royalist garrison in the Battle of Alton in Hampshire   374
1716      French painter Charles de La Fosse dies, age 80   301
1721      Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk, after being marooned for four years is the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe, dies, age about 45   296
1769      Dartmouth College is founded by the Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, with a Royal Charter from King George III   248
1783      Swedish astronomer and demographer Pehr Wilhelm Wargentin dies in Stockholm, age 66   234
1784      English writer Samuel Johnson dies in London, age 75   233
1862      Union army suffer extensive casualties by entrenched Confederate defenders in the Battle of Fredricksburg in Virginia   155
1868      German botanist and Brazil explorer Carl Friedrich Philipp von Martius dies, age 74   149
1887      Hungarian mathematician George Pólya is born in Budapest   130
1907      Nellah Keith born in Alabama   110
1908      Mt. Wilson's 60-inch telescope, first large modern reflector, sees first light   109
1909      Russian poet Innokentiy Fyodorovich Annensky dies in St. Petersburg, age 54   108
1919      German physicist Woldemar Voigt dies in Göttingen, age 69   98
1924      English-born labor union leader Samuel Gompers dies, age 74   93
1928      George Gershwin's An American in Paris is first performed in Carnegie Hall in New York City   89
1937      Japanese forces capture Nanking, capital of the Republic of China—following six weeks are filled with atrocities against the civilians   80
1939      Battle of the River Plate results in the scuttling of the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee 4 days later   78
1950      Hungarian mathematician Abraham Wald is killed in a plane crash in India, age 48   67
1961      American painter Anna Mary Robertson Moses (Grandma Moses) dies in Hoosick Falls, New York, age 101   56
1962      first active communications satellite, Relay 1, is launched by NASA   55
1978      U.S. Mint begins stamping the Susan B. Anthony dollar   39
1983      Detroit Pistons win 186-184 in triple-overtime over the Denver Nuggets—370 total is highest scoring NBA game   34
2004      British computer scientist and recipient of the first Ph.D. in computer science in 1951 David John Wheeler dies, age 77   13
2006      American sportsman and promoter of professional sports in the U.S. Lamar Hunt dies in Dallas, age 74   11
2009      American economist and Nobel laureate Paul Anthony Samuelson dies, age 94   8
2011      attacker kills 6 and injures 125 others in the city of Liège, Belgium, before killing himself   6
2012      closest encounter of China's Chang'e 2 with asteroid Toutatis   5
2012      NASA launches a sounding rocket Diffuse X-ray emission from the Local galaxy (DXL)—first mission with Earth in the helium-focusing cone   5
2014      after heavy rain for a number of days a landslide in Banjarnegara, Central Java, Indonesia, kills 93 with 23 people missing   3
2016      Canadian actor, songwriter, game and talk show host Alan Willis Thicke (born Alan Willis Jeffrey) dies in Burbank, California, age 69   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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