This Day in History

March 21


717      Charles Martel defeats Chilperic II King of the Franks in the Battle of Vincy   1301
1421      Battle of Baugé ends with a Franco-Scottish victory over English forces   597
1556      English reformer Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, burned at the stake, age 66   462
1617      Rebecca Rolfe (Pocahantas) dies in Gravesend, Kent, England, age about 22   401
1656      Irish Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland James Ussher dies in Surrey, England, age 75   362
1684      astronomer Giovanni Cassini discovers Tethys and Dione, moons of Saturn   334
1685      Johann Sebastian Bach, composer, born   333
1762      French astronomer Nicolas Louis de La Caille dies in Paris, age 48   256
1768      French mathematician Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier born   250
1788      Great New Orleans Fire (1788)—856 of the 1100 structures in central New Orleans are destroyed   230
1795      Italian geologist Giovanni Arduino, "Father of Italian Geology," dies in Venice, age 80   223
1801      Britsh expeditionary corps under Ralph Abercrombie defeats the French army led by General Menou in the Battle of Alexandria in Egypt   217
1804      Code Napoléon is adpoted as French civil law   214
1814      Coalition forces defeat the Imperial French army led by Napoleon in the Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube in France   204
1844      epoch of Bahá'í calendar   174
1844      William Miller establishes this date as the latest for Christ's return—afterward revised to October 22, 1844   174
1857      earthquake in Tokyo leaves 100,000 dead   161
1859      Philadelphia Zoo chartered and becomes the first zoo in the U.S.—opening delayed until 1 July 1874 due to the Civil War   159
1893      first women's collegiate basketball game—Smith College   125
1925      Wolfgang Pauli publishes the Pauli exclusion principle   93
1928      English astronomer Edward Walter Maunder dies, age 76   90
1936      Russian composer Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov dies near Paris, age 70   82
1945      Japanese forces abandon Mandalay, Burma, to the Allies   73
1946      Los Angles Rams sign Kenny Washington—first African American player in American football since 1933   72
1962      Taco Bell is founded in Downey, California with opening of the first restaurant   56
1963      Alcatraz penitentiary closed after less than 30 years as a federal penitentiary as the last prisoners are transferred to other facilities   55
1965      NASA launches Ranger 9, last of the unmanned lunar probes before the Apollo missions   53
1980      season finale of Dallas leads to the phrase "Who shot J.R.?"   38
1997      English Anglican cleric and children's author, "Thomas the Tank Engine," Wilbert Vere Awdry (Reverend W. Awdry) dies, age 85   21
1999      first around the world nonstop balloon flight—Bertrand Picard and Brian Jones   19
2001      South Korean entrepreneur, businessman and the founder of Hyundai Chung Ju-yung dies in Seoul, age 85   17
2003      Indian Hindi magazine story writer Gaura Pant (Shivani) dies in New Delhi, age 79   15
2006      Twitter founded—the first tweet is published by Jack Dorsey   12
2013      Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe dies in Boston, age 82   5
2013      YouTube reaches one billion unique monthly viewers   5
2015      Charles Philip "Chuck" Bednarik (Concrete Charlie) last of the great two-way NFL players for the Eagles, dies, age 89   3
2015      Swiss graphic designer, painter, illustrator, engraver, and sculptor Hans Erni dies in Lucerne, age 106   3
2016      first of the twin pair of comets 252P/LINEAR and P/2016 BA14 in similar orbits makes its closest approach to Earth—3.2 million miles   2
2017      American game show creator, producer, and host Charles Hirsch "Chuck" Barris dies, age 87   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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