This Day in History

February 17


306      Theodore of Amasea, Roman soldier and Christian martyr, is killed in Amasea, Turkey, age unknown   1713
440      Armenian theologian, linguist, and hymnologist Mesrop Mashtots, inventor of the Armenian alphabet, dies, age about 78   1579
1600      Giordano Bruno, Italian philosopher, burned at the stake in Rome for heresy   419
1621      Miles Standish is voted the first commander of the Plymouth Colony militia   398
1673      French playwright and actor Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (Molière) dies in Paris, age 51   346
1680      Dutch biologist and microscopist Jan Swammerdam dies in Amsterdam, age 43   339
1732      French Baroque organist, harpsichordist, and composer Louis Marchand dies, age 63   287
1801      electoral tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr broken by House of Representatives—Thomas Jefferson is elected president   218
1838      Weenen massacre—the Zula attack and kill over 200 Voortrekkers   181
1864      Confederate submarine Hunley sinks Union's USS HousatonicHunley is lost   155
1874      Belgian astronomer, mathematician, statistician and sociologist Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet dies in Brussels, age 77   145
1888      German physicist and Nobel laureate (1943) Otto Stern born   131
1890      American inventor of the typewriter using the QWERTY keyboard Christopher Latham Sholes dies, age 71   129
1904      Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini premieres at La Scala in Milan   115
1909      Apache leader Geronimo, dies at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, age 79   110
1932      James Chadwick publishes paper announcing discovery of the neutron   87
1933      first issue of Newsweek   86
1944      U.S. naval forces open attack against Japan's main base in the Pacific at Truk in the Caroline Islands   75
1944      Battle of Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands begins with a naval bombardment—marines land on Engebi Island the next morning   75
1946      pioneering American silent film actress, artist's model, singer and Titanic sinking survivor Dorothy Gibson dies, age 56   73
1959      Vanguard 2, first weather satellite, launched   60
1965      NASA launches Ranger 8 to photograph and impact the lunar surface   54
1968      Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame opens in Springfield, Massachusetts   51
1980      first winter ascent of Mount Everest by Polish climbers Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy   39
1982      Thelonious Sphere Monk, American jazz pianist and composer, dies in Englewood, New Jersey, age 64   37
1996      launch of NEAR Shoemaker—its mission to rendezvous with near-Earth asteroid Eros   23
1996      8.2 earthquake near Biak Island, Indonesia, generates a tsunami—166 dead and 423 injured   23
1998      Voyager 1 becomes the farthest man-made object from Earth, passing Pioneer 10 at 69 AU from the Sun   21
2004      Kuiper Belt object Orcus is discovered by team led by Michael Brown   15
2005      Irish-American actor Daniel "Dan" Peter O'Herlihy dies in Malibu, California, age 85   14
2006      massive rock slide-debris avalanche occurs in the Philippine province of Southern Leyte—death toll is 1,126   13
2006      Elle Macpherson appears a record fifth time on the cover of SI Swimsuit Edition   13
2007      NASA launches five THEMIS satellites via a single Delta II to track radiation as it moves through space   12
2008      Kosovo declares its independence from Serbia   11
2009      Chile-born Peruvian torera (female bullfighter) Concepción Cintrón Verrill (Conchita Cintrón) dies in Lisbon, age 86   10
2010      American actress and coloratura soprano Kathryn Grayson (born Zelma Kathryn Elisabeth Hedrick) dies in Los Angeles, age 88   9
2011      transmitter turned off on NASA's infrared survey satellite WISE placing it into hibernation   8
2012      Dutch mathematician Nicolaas Govert "Dick" de Bruijn dies in Nuenen, Netherlands, age 93   7
2013      English actor Richard David Briers dies in London, age 79   6
2013      Danica Patrick becomes the first woman to win the pole position for the Daytona 500 and for any race in NASCAR's top circuit   6
2015      stampede occurs during the Mardi Gras parade on Champ de Mars in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince—18 die and 78 others injured   4
2016      ABC names Channing Dungey as entertainment president—she becomes the first African American head of a broadcast network   3
2016      JAXA launches orbital X-ray astronomy telescope ASTRO-H—renamed Hitomi   3
2016      suicide car bomb detonates in Ankara, Turkey killing 30 and injuring 60 others   3
2017      American Catholic philosopher, journalist, novelist, and diplomat Michael Novak dies in Washington D.C., age 83   2

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.

day before yesterdayyesterday tomorrowday after tomorrow