This Day in History

March 31


1146      Bernard of Clairvaux preaches in a field at Vézelay—inspires the Second Crusade   871
1492      The Alhambra Decree is issued by the joint Catholic Monarchs of Spain, Isabella I and Ferdinand II, ordering the expulsion of Jews   525
1596      French mathematician and philospher René Descartes born   421
1631      English poet John Donne dies, age 59   386
1732      Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn is born in Rohrau, Austria   285
1774      Boston Port Act becomes British law essentially closing the port of Boston by the Royal Navy and Army effective on June 1   243
1814      Armies of the Sixth Coalition enter Paris—first time Paris is conquered in over 400 years   203
1837      English landscape painter John Constable dies, age 60   180
1838      SS Great Western departs Bristol on her maiden voyage—initiates regular Atlantic steamship service   179
1855      English author Charlotte Brontë dies in Yorkshire, England, age 38   162
1889      Eiffel Tower is inaugurated   128
1906      National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is organized as the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS)   111
1913      American financier John Pierpont "J. P." Morgan dies in Rome, age 75   104
1917      German physiologist and the first Nobel laureate in Medicine Emil Adolf von Behring dies, age 63   100
1917      U.S. takes possession of the Danish West Indies from Denmark for $25 million—renamed U.S. Virgin Islands   100
1921      Royal Australian Air Force founded   96
1931      Notre Dame football head coach Knute Rockne dies in a plane crash in Kansas, age 43   86
1931      6.0 earthquake devastates Managua, Nicaragua—2000 die, 45,00 left homeless from resulting fire   86
1951      delivery of first commercially available computer Univac I by Remington Rand   66
1966      first probe to orbit moon, U.S.S.R. Luna 10 launched   51
1970      Explorer 1, U.S. first earth satellite, de-orbits   47
1980      American track and field athlete and four-time Olympic gold medalist James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens dies in Tucson, Arizona, age 66   37
1987      Kvant-1 launches—first expansion module to be docked with the Mir core module   30
1992      USS Missouri—last U.S. battleship decommissioned after six-year return to active duty   25
1997      American astrophysicist Lyman Spitzer dies in Princeton, New Jersey, age 82   20
2001      American physicist and Nobel laureate Clifford Glenwood Shull dies, age 85   16
2003      British-born Canadian geometer Harold Scott MacDonald "Donald" Coxeter dies in Toronto, age 96   14
2003      Calder Hall in Cumbria, England, the world's first nuclear commercial power station, closes, age nearly 47   14
2005      discovery of Kuiper Belt dwarf planet Makemake by team led by Michael Brown   12
2007      first Earth Hour was held in Sydney, Australia, at 7:00 pm   10
2008      NASA scientists announce discovery of smallest known black hole—3.8 solar masses   9
2013      IBM Roadrunner Supercomputer, first computer to exceed 1 petaflop, decommissioned, age 5   4
2016      partially built elevated highway collapses in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata killing 23 and injuring 90 others   1
2016      Iraqi-British architect Zaha Mohammad Hadid dies in Miami, age 65   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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