This Day in History

December 15


533      Byzantine army decisively defeats Vandels in the Battle of Triacamarum near Carthage—eliminates the power of the Vandals for good   1485
1675      Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer dies, age 43   343
1778      French and British fleets engage off the island of St. Lucia as part of the American Revolutionary War—results in British victory   240
1791      with the ratification by Virginia the U.S. Bill of Rights goes into effect   227
1819      Scottish chemist Daniel Rutherford dies, age 70   199
1852      French physicist and Nobel laureate Antoine Henri Becquerel is born in Paris   166
1857      prolific English pioneer aeronautics engineer George Cayley dies in Yorkshire, age 83   161
1862      Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia ends when Union forces retreat after suffering terrible casualties   156
1864      Battle of Nashville begins—two-day battle results in Union forces destroying Confederate Army of Tennessee   154
1890      Lakota Sioux chief Sitting Bull dies, age 59   128
1923      American physicist Freeman Dyson born in Crowthorne, Berkshire, England   95
1933      21st amendment to the U.S. Constitution takes effect repealing the 18th amendment prohibiting alcohol after 13 years   85
1939      "Gone with the Wind" premiers at Loew's Grand Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia   79
1941      Germans troops kill over 15,000 Jews in the ravine Drobytsky Yar in Kharkiv, Ukraine   77
1944      American bandleader Glenn Miller's plane is lost over the English Channel while traveling to entertain troops—40 years old   74
1950      Indian barrister, statesman, and a founding father of the Republic of India Vallabhbhai Patel (Sardar Patel) dies, age 75   68
1955      Jens Olsen's mechanical astronomical World Clock in Copenhagen is started by Danish King Frederick IX   63
1958      physicist and Nobel laureate Wolfgang Ernst Pauli dies in Zurich, age 58   60
1965      first close rendezvous in space, Gemini 6A and Gemini 7   53
1966      Walt Disney dies in Burbank, California, age 65   52
1967      Silver Bridge, an eyebar-chain suspension bridge built in 1928, over the Ohio River collapses during rush-hour traffic—46 killed   51
1968      American boxer and a heavyweight champion of the world Jess Willard dies in Los Angeles, age 86   50
1970      Venera 7 becomes the first craft to land on Venus and transmit data—first successful soft landing on another planet   48
1970      South Korean ferry Namyong Ho capsizes in the Korea Strait killing more than 300 people   48
1971      French mathematician Paul Pierre Lévy dies in Paris, age 85   47
1976      oil tanker MV Argo Merchant runs aground off Nantucket Island—six days later breaks apart and empties entire cargo of fuel oil   42
1997      U.S. born Janet Rosenberg Jagan becomes first female president of Guyana   21
2000      last reactor, reactor 3, at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is shut down 14 years after the catastrophe with reactor 4   18
2003      American political cartoonist George Fisher dies, age 80   15
2006      first flight of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II   12
2009      American televangelist Granville "Oral" Roberts dies, age 91   9
2009      maiden flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner—first all-composite fuselage commercial airliner   9
2010      American film director, screenwriter and producer Blake Edwards (born William Blake Crump) dies, age 88   8
2010      American Major League Baseball pitcher Robert "Bob" William Andrew Feller dies in Cleveland, age 92   8
2010      2001 Mars Odyssey exceeds the record for an active spacecraft at Mars set by Mars Global Surveyor of 3339 days   8
2013      British-American actress Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland (Joan Fontaine) dies in Carmel Heights, California, age 96   5
2015      Israeli physicist and solar power engineer Harry Zvi Tabor dies, age 98   3
2015      Expedition 46 arrives at the International Space Station—ESA's Tim Peake is the ISS's first British astronaut   3
2016      American radio and television sports reporter Craig Graham Sager, Sr. dies in Atlanta, age 65   2
2016      Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) constellation of 8 satellites launched by an Orbital ATK Pegasus XL   2
2016      New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issues the first birth certificate in U.S. with "intersex" in the gender field   2
2017      Kenyan authority in the application of science and technology to sustainable development Calestous Juma dies in Boston, age 64   1
2017      girl born in the University of São Paulo School of Medicine is first child born from a transplanted womb from a deceased donor   1
2017      AOL Instant Messenger shuts down after 20 years   1
2017      SpaceX launches a supply craft to the ISS with previously flown Falcon 9 and Dragon—lands the Falcon 9   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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