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Encyclopædia Britannica presents people and events from this day in history.
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Independence for Sierra Leone: 27 April 1961 - This Day in History

Fri, 2012/04/27 - 7:29am

Sierra Leone—which for years had been a British colony and protectorate—achieved independence within the British Commonwealth; Sir Milton Margai served as the first prime minister.

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1828: The London Zoo opened in Regent's Park.

1791: Samuel F.B. Morse, an American painter and the inventor of an electric telegraph and the Morse Code, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

1521: Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan was killed during a fight with inhabitants of Mactan Island, Philippines.

1296: King Edward I of England, seeking suzerainty over the Scots, invaded Scotland and removed the coronation stone of Scone to Westminster, England.

Coretta Scott King: Biography of the Day

Fri, 2012/04/27 - 7:29am

Coretta Scott King

"There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about Martin. He was my source of inspiration.…Martin and I were soulmates. When he died, a part of me died.…The nation may have lost a great leader but I lost a husband. My children lost their father. We paid the ultimate price."

Coretta Scott King

Born this day in 1927 was Coretta Scott King—civil rights activist, wife of civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and, after her husband's assassination, the founder of a centre for nonviolent social change.

Chernobyl nuclear accident: 26 April 1986 - This Day in History

Thu, 2012/04/26 - 10:51pm

A devastating environmental catastrophe occurred early this morning in 1986 when an explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine released large amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere.

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1865: Twelve days after assassinating U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth was killed at a Virginia farm either by a Federal soldier or by his own hand.

1768: The prestigious English Royal Academy of Arts, led by its first president, Sir Joshua Reynolds, hosted its first art opening.

1607: The first permanent English settlers in North America landed at Cape Henry, Chesapeake Bay, and they later formed Jamestown.

1478: The Pazzi family of Florence led an unsuccessful plot to overthrow the ruling Medici family.

Ma Rainey: Biography of the Day

Thu, 2012/04/26 - 10:51pm

Ma Rainey

"Well I couldn't say she was a good looking woman, and she was stout, but she was one of the loveliest people I ever worked for or with."

Pianist Thomas A. Dorsey about Ma Rainey

The first great African American professional blues vocalist, Ma Rainey, was born this day in 1886 in Georgia and contributed greatly to the evolution and popularity of the blues form in the early 20th century.

Hubble Space Telescope sent into orbit: 25 April 1990 - This Day in History

Wed, 2012/04/25 - 10:52pm

The Hubble Space Telescope, a sophisticated optical observatory built in the United States under the supervision of NASA, was placed into operation this day in 1990 by the crew of the space shuttle Discovery.

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1926: Giacomo Puccini's uncompleted opera Turandot was performed posthumously at La Scala under the direction of Arturo Toscanini.

1809: The Treaty of Amritsar, which settled Indo-Sikh relations for a generation, was concluded between Charles T. Metcalfe, representing the British East India Company, and Ranjit Singh, head of the Sikh kingdom of Punjab.

1792: The first guillotine was erected, on the Place de Grève in Paris, to execute a highwayman.

1781: Petersburg, Virginia, was captured by British troops under William Phillips and Benedict Arnold during the American Revolution.

Al Pacino: Biography of the Day

Wed, 2012/04/25 - 10:52pm

Al Pacino

American actor Al Pacino, known for his intense, sometimes over-the-top acting style and for his gangster portrayals in The Godfather trilogy (1972–90) and Scarface (1983), was born in New York City this day in 1940.

Installation of Pope Benedict XVI: 24 April 2005 - This Day in History

Tue, 2012/04/24 - 10:51pm

On this day in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger), successor to John Paul II, formally assumed his position as the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church during a mass in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City.

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1967: Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov became the first man to die during a space mission when his spacecraft became entangled in its parachute during an attempted landing.

1916: Members of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army seized strategic points in Dublin during the Easter Rising, which heralded the end of British power in Ireland.

1898: Spain declared war on the United States.

1877: War broke out between Russia and the Ottoman Empire at the conclusion of the Serbo-Turkish War, resulting in independence for Serbia and Montenegro.

1792: French army officer Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle composed La Marseillaise, the French national anthem.

Barbra Streisand: Biography of the Day

Tue, 2012/04/24 - 10:51pm

Barbra Streisand

American entertainer Barbra Streisand—one of the most popular singers of her generation, a star of stage and screen (especially in musicals), and one of the most powerful women in show business—was born this day in 1942.

Voting for Eritrea's independence : 23 April 1993 - This Day in History

Mon, 2012/04/23 - 10:51pm

On this day in 1993, after a long history of foreign rule and decades of war, the small East African country of Eritrea began three days of voting on a referendum to make official its independence from Ethiopia.

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1998: James Earl Ray, convicted assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr., died in prison in Nashville, Tennessee.

1906: Russian Tsar Nicholas II promulgated the Fundamental Laws, which marked the end of unlimited autocracy but fell short of the reforms promised in the October Manifesto.

1858: German physicist Max Planck, who originated quantum theory, was born in Kiel.

1791: James Buchanan, the 15th U.S. president, was born near Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.

William Shakespeare: Biography of the Day

Mon, 2012/04/23 - 10:51pm

William Shakespeare

"To begin then with Shakespeare; he was the man who of all Modern, and perhaps Ancient Poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the Images of Nature were still present to him, and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily: when he describes any thing, you more than see it, you feel it too."

John Dryden, Of Dramatick Poesie, an Essay (1668)

William Shakespeare, the poet, dramatist, and actor who is regarded as the national poet of England and is perhaps the most famous dramatist of all time, died this day in 1616 in his native town of Stratford-upon-Avon.

First Earth Day: 22 April 1970 - This Day in History

Sun, 2012/04/22 - 9:51pm

First celebrated on this day in 1970 in the U.S., Earth Day—founded by American politician and conservationist Gaylord Anton Nelson—helped spark the environmental movement and quickly grew into an international event.

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1889: At noon, by federal decree, white settlers were allowed into Indian Territory, sparking a land rush involving tens of thousands in what became Oklahoma Territory.

1724: German philosopher Immanuel Kant was born in Königsberg, Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia).

1370: Construction began on the Bastille, the medieval fortress that came to symbolize French despotism.

1073: Gregory VII (later canonized) was elected by acclamation to succeed Alexander II as pope.

Miguel de Cervantes: Biography of the Day

Sun, 2012/04/22 - 9:51pm

Miguel de Cervantes

Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, who died this day in Madrid in 1616, has long been regarded as the most important figure in Spanish letters, largely for his novel Don Quixote, a classic of Western literature.

French elections held: 21 April 2002 - This Day in History

Sat, 2012/04/21 - 9:51pm

French President Jacques Chirac faced a reelection challenge on this day in 2002 from extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round of presidential voting but two weeks later handily defeated him to win a second term.

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1918: Manfred, Freiherr (baron) von Richthofen, Germany's top flying ace in World War I, was shot down and killed during a battle near Amiens, France.

1836: General Sam Houston led 800 Texans to victory over a Mexican army of 1,500 under General Antonio López de Santa Anna in the Battle of San Jacinto, ensuring the Texans' independence from Mexico.

1830: James Starley, an inventor and the father of the bicycle industry, was born in Albourne, Sussex, England.

1800: French forces under General Jean-Baptiste Kléber recaptured Cairo and initiated the brief French occupation of Egypt.

1782: Friedrich Froebel, German educational reformer and the founder of the kindergarten, was born in Oberweissbach, Thuringia.

Elizabeth II: Biography of the Day

Sat, 2012/04/21 - 9:51pm

Elizabeth II

"My Government will seek to restore confidence in the integrity of the nation's political system by upholding the highest standards of honesty and propriety in public life."

Elizabeth II, on the opening of Parliament, May 14, 1997

Born this day in 1926 was Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, who ascended the throne in 1952 at age 25 and is known to favour simplicity in court life and to take a serious, informed interest in government business.

Explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig: 20 April 2010 - This Day in History

Fri, 2012/04/20 - 9:51pm

On this day in 2010, an explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig—located in the Gulf of Mexico, some 41 miles (66 km) off the coast of Louisiana—leading to the largest oil spill in history.

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1920: U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens was born in Chicago.

1919: In an ongoing dispute over the possession of Vilnius, Polish forces drove out Russia's Red Army—which had previously ousted the newly established Lithuanian government—and occupied the city.

1871: Japan's first government-operated postal service opened between Tokyo and saka.

1840: French Symbolist painter Odilon Redon was born in Bordeaux.

1808: Napoleon III, president of the Second Republic (1850–52) and emperor of France (1852–70), was born in Paris.

1653: England's Rump Parliament was dissolved by Oliver Cromwell and later replaced by the nominated Barebones Parliament, which was dissolved in the same year, leading to the declaration of the Protectorate.

Adolf Hitler: Biography of the Day

Fri, 2012/04/20 - 9:51pm

Adolf Hitler

"I know, my comrades, it must have been difficult at times, when you were desiring change which didn't come, so time and time again the appeal has to be made to continue the struggle—you mustn't act yourself, you must obey, you must give in, you must submit to this overwhelming need to obey."

Adolf Hitler, speaking to SA and SS troops, January 30, 1933, the day he was appointed chancellor of Germany

Born this day in 1889 in Austria, Adolf Hitler became leader of the Nazi Party in 1920 and chancellor of Germany in 1933, created a formidable war machine, provoked World War II, and orchestrated the Holocaust.

American Revolution begun: 19 April 1775 - This Day in History

Thu, 2012/04/19 - 9:51pm

Launched this day in 1775 with the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the American Revolution was an effort by 13 British colonies in North America (with help from France, Spain, and the Netherlands) to win their independence.

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1995: In what was the worst act of terrorism in U.S. history up to that time, a truck bomb nearly destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, killing 168 and injuring more than 500 people.

1975: Aryabhata, the first unmanned Earth satellite built by India, was launched from the Soviet Union by a Russian-made rocket.

1956: American actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco, becoming Princess Grace.

1943: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, an act of resistance by Polish Jews under Nazi occupation, began this day and was quelled four weeks later, on May 16.

Charles Darwin: Biography of the Day

Thu, 2012/04/19 - 9:51pm

Charles Darwin

English naturalist Charles Darwin, who died this day in 1882, had a revolutionary effect on modern society when he published his theory of evolution by natural selection in his book On the Origin of Species (1859).

The midnight ride of Paul Revere: 18 April 1775 - This Day in History

Wed, 2012/04/18 - 9:51pm

Paul Revere, a renowned silversmith, is better remembered as a folk hero of the American Revolution who this night in 1775 made a dramatic ride on horseback to warn Boston area residents of an imminent British attack.

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1980: Zimbabwe achieved its independence from the United Kingdom.

1945: During the U.S. invasion of the Japanese island of Okinawa in World War II, American war correspondent Ernie Pyle was killed on nearby Ie Island by Japanese gunfire.

1506: Pope Julius II laid the first stone of the new St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

Albert Einstein: Biography of the Day

Wed, 2012/04/18 - 9:51pm

Albert Einstein

One of the most creative intellects in human history was Albert Einstein, who died in Princeton, New Jersey, this day in 1955 and whose advanced theories of relativity and gravitation revolutionized science and philosophy.