This Day in History

August 21


1157      Alfonso VII, King of León and Castile, dies after a reign of 31 years, age 52   860
1415      Portuguese forces capture Ceuta on the northern coast of Africa—beginning of the Portuguese Empire and European colonization in Africa   602
1627      French composer Jacques Mauduit dies in Paris, age 69   390
1680      Pueblo Revolt—Pueblo indians led by Popé capture Santa Fe from the Spanish   337
1689      Scottish government forces defeat a Jacobite Royalist army in the Battle of Dunkeld   328
1770      James Cook claims eastern Australia for Great Britain naming it New South Wales   247
1789      Augustin Louis Cauchy, French mathematician, born in Paris   228
1808      combined British and Portugeuse led by Arthur Wellesley decisively defeat the French on the Battle of Vimeiro in Portugal   209
1814      Anglo-American physicist Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford) dies in Paris, age 61   203
1821      Missouri is admitted as the 24th state   196
1831      Nat Turner leads slaves in a futile rebellion   186
1836      French engineer and physicist Claude-Louis Navier dies in Paris, age 51   181
1878      American Bar Association organizes   139
1888      William Seward Burroughs is issued a U.S. patent for the "calculating machine"—adding machine   129
1897      Olds Motor Vehicle Co. is founded by Ransom E. Olds—Oldsmobile brand ended in 2004   120
1911      Mona Lisa is stolen by a Louvre employee—recovered two years later   106
1940      Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is assassinated in Mexico, age 60   77
1945      Los Alamos physicist Harry Daghlian becomes first to suffer fatal radiation poisoning in a criticality accident   72
1947      Italian-born French automobile designer and manufacturer Ettore Arco Isidoro Bugatti dies in Paris, age 65   70
1957      U.S.S.R. successfully launches an R-7 on a flight of 6000 km—first intercontinental ballistic missile   60
1959      Hawaii admitted as the 50th state   58
1961      Motown releases "Please Mr. Postman" by The Marvelettes—its first #1 hit   56
1965      launch of Gemini 5—Gordon Cooper becomes first human to fly two orbital missions   52
1968      Warsaw Pact troops invade Czechoslovakia to halt the 'Prague Spring' political liberalization reforms   49
1978      American architect and designer Charles Ormond Eames, Jr. dies in Saint Louis, Missouri, age 71   39
1982      Sobhuza II, King of Swaziland, dies, age 83—reign of 82 years 254 days is longest known   35
1986      sudden carbon dioxide release from Lake Nyos in Cameroon kills about 1,800 people   31
1988      6.9 earthquake in eastern Nepal kills 709 and injures thousands   29
1995      Indian-born American astrophysicist and Nobel laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar dies in Chicago, age 84   22
1999      Hua Mei, first giant panda born in U.S. to survive to adulthood—San Diego Zoo   18
2003      British-born American artist, art writer, curator, and museum director John Rivers Coplans dies in New York City, age 83   14
2005      American inventor and pioneer of electronic music Robert Arthur "Bob" Moog dies, age 71   12
2012      American mathematician and Fields Medal winner William Paul Thurston dies in Rochester, New York, age 65   5
2013      NASA announces the reactivation of WISE after a hibernation over two years to hunt for Near Earth Objects—NEOWISE   4
2015      Kirsten Griest and Shaye Haver become the first women to graduate from the U.S. Army's Ranger School   2
2017      Great American Eclipse—total solar eclipse passes only over middle of U.S. from coast to coast   0

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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