This Day in History

August 18


849      Frankish monk and theological writer Walafrid Strabo dies, age around 41   1168
1227      leader of the Mongols, Genghis Khan dies, age about 65   790
1308      Augustinian nun and abbess Clare of Montefalco dies, age around 40   709
1487      Castilian and Aragonese forces capture the city of Málaga from the Muslims after a seige of three months   530
1587      Virginia Dare, first birth to English parents in the colonies   430
1590      John White returns to Roanoke Island after 3 years to find it abandoned—no one knows what happened to the colonists   427
1612      trial of Pendle Witches begin in Lancaster, England—of the eleven, ten were found guilty and executed   405
1642      Italian artist of high-Baroque Guido Reni dies in Bologna, age 66   375
1685      English mathematician Brook Taylor born in Edmonton, Middlesex   332
1769      lightning ignites a gunpowder depot in Brescia, Italy, destroying one-sixth of the city and killing 3000   248
1783      bright meteor (bolide) is observed over England moving to the south—likely breaks up over France or Italy   234
1807      Robert Fulton's Clermont completes maiden voyage—New York to Albany   210
1838      the Wilkes Expedition, to explore the coast of Antarctica, departs from Hampton Roads   179
1846      Railway Regulation Act adopts the standard gauge of 4ft 8 ½in for Great Britain   171
1850      French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac dies in Paris, age 51   167
1868      helium discovered in the line spectrum of the sun by French astronomer Pierre Hules César Janssen   149
1870      Battle of Gravelotte—French win the battle but Prussians prevent a French advance to Verdun in the Franco-Prussian War   147
1877      American astronomer Asaph Hall discovers the Martian moon Phobos   140
1886      American inventor Eli Whitney Blake dies, age 91   131
1917      the Great Thessaloniki Fire destroys almost 10,000 buildings   100
1920      19th Amendment to U.S. Constitution guaranteeing women the right to vote is ratified   97
1938      Thousand Islands Bridge between the U.S. and Canada over the St. Lawrence River is dedicated   79
1945      Sukarno becomes the first President of Indonesia—in office 21 years   72
1945      last U.S. air combat casualty of World War II—Anthony J. Marchione, 19, during a photo reconnaissance run over Tokyo   72
1963      James Meridith becomes the first black to graduate from the University of Mississippi   54
1965      Battle of Van Tuong is first major offensive action conducted by a purely U.S. military unit during the Vietnam War   52
1976      Luna 24 lands on the moon—last lunar soft-landing in the 20th century   41
1981      American screenwriter, playwright and author Anita Loos dies in New York City, age 92   36
1985      JAXA launches Suisei on a mission to flyby Halley's Comet   32
1990      American psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner dies, age 86   27
2001      internationally recognised British toxicologist David Beaumont Peakall dies in London, age 70   16
2004      American composer Elmer Bernstein dies in Ojai, California, age 82   13
2005      cascading failure leads to an electrical outage affecting 100 million inhabitants in Bali and Java   12
2011      IBM researchers announce the development of new generation of computer chips that emulate a human brain—Cognitive Computing Chips   6
2012      Navajo painter Harrison Begay dies in Gilbert, Arizona, age 94   5
2015      Syrian archaeologist and the head of antiquities for the ancient city of Palmyra Khaled Mohamad al-Asaad is killed, age 81   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.

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