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The h2g2 Calendar - 2 - February

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This is Candlemas Day, also known as the Feast of the Purification. This is a Christian Feast to commemorate the purification of the Virgin after the birth of Christ. On this day, in Lady Chapels, the image of the Virgin Mary is often taken down and snowdrops spread in its place.

  • 1141 - During the Battle of Lincoln, King Stephen is captured by a force led by Robert of Gloucester, half-brother of Queen Matilda, daughter of the late Henry I and rightful heir to the throne of England. On hearing of Stephen's capture, Matilda makes straight for London where she is proclaimed Queen of England. Her victory however, is short-lived, and the civil war resumes for another 10 years following Stephen's escape from detention later in the year.

  • 1882 - Birth of James Joyce, Irish novelist, whose works include Ulysses, which is published on the author's 40th birthday.

  • 1884 - First celebration of Groundhog Day in the USA with Punxsutawney Phil predicting the weather for the nation according to his ability to see his shadow.

  • 1899 - The Australian Premiers' Conference in Melbourne decides to locate the capital (Canberra) between Sydney and Melbourne.

  • 1901 - The children of Queen Victoria attend their mother's funeral.

  • 1933 - English comedian Les Dawson is born.


  • 1879 - Sir Joseph Swan gives the first public demonstration of the first useable electric light bulb in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Mosley Street, in the city centre, becomes the first street in the world to be lit by electric light. This small but important invention later inspired a series of jokes...

  • 1899 - English TV and stage actress Doris Speed is born. She would become best known for playing Annie Walker, the first landlady at the Rover's Return pub in the TV soap opera Coronation Street.

  • 1947 - The lowest temperature in North America is recorded in Snag, Yukon.

  • 1959 - A plane crashes near Mason City, Iowa, killing all those on board, including musicians Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens. Fans subsequently refer to the incident as 'The Day the Music Died', which was immortalised by Don McClean in the song 'American Pie'.


  • 1902 - Birth of Charles Lindbergh, who is the first man to fly solo and non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. But Lindbergh's fame takes on a tragic note after the kidnapping of his 20-month-old son. The events surrounding the 'Lindbergh Baby's kidnapping have inspired conspiracy theories ever since.

  • 1943 - The Battle of Stalingrad ends.

  • 1945 - Two people are killed and several are injured in a London rail disaster at King's Cross station.

  • 1983 - American pop singer Karen Carpenter dies after a long battle with the eating disorder anorexia. Together with her brother, Richard, she formed The Carpenters, whose hits include 'Rainy Days and Mondays', 'Yesterday Once More' and 'Close to You'.

  • 1997 - Four people are injured in a London rail disaster when the rear half of a freight train derails from atop a viaduct on the Dartford loop line near Bexley, badly damaging the viaduct.


  • 1782 - The Spanish defeat British forces and capture the island of Menorca.

  • 1936 - The Rivoli Theatre, Broadway, New York City, hosts the premiere of Modern Times, the latest film by Charlie Chaplin.

  • 1971 - In the Apollo 14 Mission, astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell land on the Moon at Fra Mauro formation.

  • 1977 - The Ebbelwei-Express, a special tram that runs through Frankfurt/Main, Germany which carries tourists and locals through the city, letting them sightsee and drink Ebbelwei, is opened.

  • 2001 - Hannibal, the film adaptation of the sequel to Thomas Harris' novel, The Silence of the Lambs, receives its premiere at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City. Directed by Ridley Scott, the film stars Anthony Hopkins as the serial killer Hannibal Lecter, and Julianne Moore as Clarice Starling.


  • 46 BC - Roman leader Julius Caesar defeats the combined army of Pompeian followers and Numidians under Metellus Scipio and Juba at Thapsus.

  • 1665 - Queen Anne, second daughter and fourth child of James II, is born.

  • 1804 - English Chemist Joseph Priestley dies quietly at his home in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, USA.

  • 1840 - The Treaty of Waitangi is signed by Maori leaders and Queen Victoria's representative, founding New Zealand.

  • 1952 - King George VI dies from a coronary thrombosis in Sandringham House, his birthplace.

  • 1958 - Eight players of Manchester United lose their lives in an air crash, along with the club secretary, chief coach, trainer, and eight journalists, at the Munich Air Disaster.


  • 1812 - The great British author Charles Dickens is born.

  • 1834 - Dmitri Mendeleev, creator of the periodic table, is born.

  • 1964 - The Beatles fly to America for the fist time, where they are met by ecstatic crowds at Kennedy airport, New York.

  • 1965 - Black civil rights campaigner Malcolm X is assassinated by Muslim extremists as he takes to the stage at the Audubon Ballroom on West 166th Street, New York.

  • 1999 - King Hussein of Jordan dies (b. 1935).


  • 1587 - Queen of Scotland Mary Stuart is executed in Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire.

  • 1886 - Widespread rioting and looting takes place in Pall Mall, Piccadilly, and Oxford Street after a demonstration by the unemployed in Trafalgar Square. During the following days the general unrest caused shops to be boarded up and barricades to be erected in the streets.

  • 1932 - American composer John Williams is born. His theme for Star Wars has become a standard for school bands across the globe.

  • 1952 - Elizabeth II is proclaimed Queen of the UK.

  • 1974 - After 84 days in space, the crew of the first American space station Skylab return to Earth.


  • 1773 - William Henry Harrison, 9th President of the United States of America, is born in Virginia.

  • 1879 - The New York barque Alpheus Marshall, sailing from Nova Scotia to London, is blown by storm-force winds onto Atherfield Ledge, off the Isle Of Wight.

  • 1950 - Senator Joseph McCarthy accuses the US State Department of being filled with Communists.

  • 2000 - Later called the Millennium Tragedy, the heavens open up and unusually heavy rain falls across Southern Africa, destroying homes and crops.

  • 2002 - The Irish say goodbye to Irish Notes and Coins, on the last day they are legal tender.


  • 1840 - Queen Victoria marries her cousin Prince Albert at the Chapel Royal, St James's.

  • 1920 - The final border between Denmark and Germany is drawn up - as mentioned in h2g2's Entry on great dates in history.

  • 1998 - Voters in Maine, USA, repeal a gay rights law passed in 1997, becoming the first state to abandon that law.


  • 660 BC - Traditionally seen as the date Japan was founded by Emperor Jimmu.

  • 1938 - The BBC produces the world's first science fiction television programme, an adaptation of a section of the Karel Capek play R.U.R., which coined the term 'robot'.

  • 1858 - In the small town of Lourdes in the French Pyrenees, a 14-year-old girl called Bernadette Soubrious experiences the first of a series of visions.

  • 1956 - The Cambridge Spies are found in Moscow, bringing disgrace to the doorstep of England's revered educational establishment.

  • 1963 - Most of the Beatles' first album 'Please Please Me' is recorded on this single day.

  • 1976 - Margaret Thatcher becomes the leader of the Conservative Party, four years prior to her election as Prime Minister.

  • 1990 - Having served 27 years in prison, largely on account of trumped-up charges, civil rights activist and humanitarian hero Nelson Mandela is freed.


  • 1554 - Lady Jane Grey - known as the 'nine days queen' - is executed, an event depicted in the famous painting, 'The Execution of Lady Jane Grey' by Paul Delaroche.

  • 1809 - English naturalist Charles Darwin is born. The author of The Origin of the Species, his theories on natural selection inspired The Darwin Awards many years later.

  • 1809 - Abraham Lincoln, later to become the 16th President of the United States of America, is born in Larue County, Kentucky.

  • 1816 - The San Carlo, the oldest working opera house in Europe, is destroyed by fire.

  • 1980 - US actress Christina Ricci is born.

  • 2000 - Cartoonist Charles M Schulz, creator of the legendary Peanuts comic strips, dies of colon cancer, aged 77.

  • 2001 - The 'NEAR' (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) probe becomes the first spacecraft to land on an asteroid when NASA manages to successful down the probe on 'Eros'. Although the landing was not included in the probe's original mission plan, NASA decides it had nothing to lose in trying to attempt the feat. It survives the impact of landing and continues to transmit data to mission control.


  • 1692 - About 78 of the Macdonalds glan at Glen Coe, Scotland, are killed for not promptly pledging allegiance to the new king, William of Orange. It becomes known as the Massacre of Glencoe.

  • 1926 - Fires devastate the central highlands of Victoria, claiming 31 lives - just one of many tragic incidents in the history of bushfires in Victoria, Australia. The day became known as 'Black Sunday'.

  • 1970 - Heavy Metal band Black Sabbath release their eponymous debut album.

  • 1974 - Entertainer and former member of boy band Take That, Robbie Williams is born in Stoke-on-Trent.


  • Every year - Valentine's Day, a difficult day to survive if you are single...

  • 1927 - Canadian film & TV actress Lois Maxwell is born, best known for playing the original Miss Moneypenny in the James Bond films.

  • 1975 - Humourist PG Wodehouse dies in Long Island, aged 93.

  • 1984 - Nottingham ice skaters Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean score Olympic gold in Sarajevo. Their performance, to Ravel's Bolero, is watched by 24 million people.

  • 1998 - US authorities name Eric Robert Rudolph as a suspect in the bombing of an Alabama abortion clinic.

  • 2000 - The 'NEAR' (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) probe becomes the first manmade satellite to orbit an asteroid when it is successfully manoeuvred into orbit around the Eros-433 asteroid.


  • 1946 - ENIAC, the first general-purpose electronic computer, is unveiled at the University of Pennsylvania, USA.

  • 1961 - The entire US figure skating team lose their lives in an air crash when approaching Bruxelles, due to failure of the flight controls.

  • 1988 - The first series of sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf commences broadcast, quickly attaining cult status and subsequently becoming one of the BBC's most popular comedy exports.


  • 1923 - Howard Carter unseals the burial chamber of Eyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun.

  • 1956 - Indian physicist Meghnad Saha dies suddenly of a heart attack at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics.

  • 1975 - Japanese singer Aikawa Nanase is born in Osaka on this day.

  • 1983 - Fires are burning from the Dandenongs to the Otway Ranges and on to the Adelaide Hills. 73 die, including six firefighters who perish after their truck is engulfed in flames - just one of the many tragic incidents in the history of Bushfires in Victoria, Australia. The day becomes known as 'Ash Wednesday'.


  • 1600 - Charged with heresy, the philosopher Giordano Bruno is burned alive at Campo de' Fiori in Rome.

  • 1874 - William Gladstone resigns as Prime Minister after his ruling Liberal Party lose the election.

  • 1934 - Hello Possums! Comedian Barry Humphries, well known for playing Dame Edna Everage, is born in Kew, Australia.

  • 1972 - Billie Joe, singer, guitarist and founding member of Green Day is born.

  • 1996 - 'NEAR' (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous), the first space probe designed to study an asteroid, blasted off from Cape Canaveral on its three-year mission. The £111m project was intended to travel 1.2 billion miles to reach the Eros-433 asteroid in 1999. From ten miles away it would measure the asteroid's form, mass and density.


  • 1294 - Kublai Khan, Mongol Emperor of China, dies. His grandiose life is depicted in the poem 'Kubla Khan' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

  • 1885 - Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is published for the first time.

  • 1930 - The planet Pluto (reclassified as dwarf planet in 2006) is discovered by American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh.

  • 1933 - Sir Bobby Robson is born in County Durham, England.

  • 1933 - Yoko Ono, the Japanese-born American musician and wife of John Lennon - is born.

  • 1965 - The Gambia is admitted to the Commonwealth as an independent state, with Queen Elizabeth II as its Head of State.

  • 1979 - Snow falls in the Sahara Desert in southern Algeria for the first and only recorded time.

  • 1991 - Another London rail disaster happens when an IRA bomb explodes by the barrier line to platforms 3 and 4.


  • 1674 - England and the Netherlands sign a treaty ending the Third Anglo-Dutch War. As part of the agreement, the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam is transferred to England, and renamed New York.

  • 1968 - The High Court awards compensation to 62 children born with thalidomide-induced deformities. The 'Children of Thalidomide' were just one of the world-shaping events featured in Billy Joel's song We Didn't Start the Fire.

  • 1985 - The first episode of the British soap opera  EastEnders is broadcast.

  • 1997 - China's reformist Deng Xiaoping dies at the age of 92, but his combination of official defence of Communism and de facto free market policies continue to mould Chinese history.


  • 1472 – James III of Scotland annexed Orkney and Shetland from DenmarkNorway.

  • 1927 - Roy Cohn, the brutal lawyer who put the Rosenbergs in the electric chair, is born on this day. His life was just one of the world-shaping events elements mentioned in Billy Joel's song We Didn't Start the Fire.

  • 1935 - Caroline Mikkelsen becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica.

  • 1962 - Astronaut, politician and pilot John Glenn becomes the first American in space when he pilots the Mercury capsule, better known as Friendship 7, around the Earth three times.


  • 1804 - The first ever steam engine, Richard Trevithick's unnamed locomotive manages to haul ten tons of iron, 70 passengers and five wagons from the ironworks at Penydarren to the Merthyr-Cardiff Canal.

  • 1917 - The sinking of RMS Mendi is one of the most tragic shipwrecks in the history of the Isle Of Wight. 650 South African labourers perish in the icy waters of the English Channel.

  • 1925 - The first issue of The New Yorker is published.

  • 1965 - Controversial black leader Malcolm X, who once called for a 'blacks-only' state in the US, is assassinated, aged 39.


  • 1732 - George Washington, the first president of the USA, is born (d. 1799).

  • 1923 - the first public appearance of the famous Great Northern Railway Class A1 Pacific steam locomotive Flying Scotsman.

  • 1953 - Actor Nigel Planer is born. His most famous creation remains Neil, the hapless hippy from BBC2's sitcom The Young Ones.

  • 1962 - Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin is born in Essendon, Victoria, Australia to parents Bob and Lyn.

  • 2002 - Legendary animator Chuck Jones dies.

  • 2004 - Cliff Richard is named the Ultimate Pop Performer in a programme by Channel Four.


  • 1633 - Samuel Pepys, the English naval administrator, man of letters and posthumously famous diarist, is born (d. 1703).

  • 1685 - Composer George Frideric Handel is born in Germany. Later moving to England and being naturalised as an English subject, he is considered one of the greatest composers ever.

  • 1939 - at the 11th Academy Awards ceremony at the Biltmore Hotel, Hollywood, LA, the Best film Oscar goes to You Can't Take It With You, while its director Frank Capra bags Best Director. Best Actor goes to Spencer Tracy for Boys Town and Bette Davies wins Best Actress for Jezebel.

  • 1965 - Filming for the second Beatles' film, Help!, begins in the Bahamas.


  • 1500 - It's a boy! Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain, Archduke of Austria and last of the most powerful line of the Hapsburg family, is born. His coronation takes place 30 years later to the day.

  • 1711 - George Frideric Handel's 'Rinaldo', the first Italian opera to be written for the London stage, premieres.

  • 1955 - Future Formula 1 champion and team captain Alain Prost is born.

  • 1981 - Buckingham Palace ends months of speculation by officially announcing the news that the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer are to be married.

  • 2008 - Fidel Castro retires as president of Cuba after nearly 50 years.


  • 1943 - Famous for his role as the guitarist in The Beatles, yet always overshadowed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, George Harrison is born this day in Wavertree, Liverpool.

  • 1976 - South African rugby player Breyton Jonathan Paulse is born in the Koue Bokkeveld in the Western Cape province.

  • 2006 - Rioting breaks out in Dublin, Ireland, after counter-activists oppose a 'Love Ulster' march.


  • 1524 - English poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe is believed to have been born on this day. Famous for his plays The Jew of Malta and The Tragedy of Dr Faustus, Marlowe's death is surrounded in mystery and conspiracy theories.

  • 1802 - Victor Hugo, author of the novel Les Miserables, is born.

  • 1935 - Robert Watson-Watt carries out a demonstration near Daventry, UK, which leads directly to the development of radar.

  • 2004 - The Republic of Macedonia's President Boris Trajkovski dies in an air crash when his plane crashes into a mountain near Mostar airport, due to pilot error.


  • 1812 - The poet Lord Byron gives his first address as a member of the UK House of Lords, in defence of Luddite violence in his home county of Nottinghamshire.

  • 1939 - The 7th Academy Awards are held at the Biltmore Hotel, Hollywood, LA. It's the first time that films opening over a period of an entire year are covered (previously, the release dates fell from mid-year to mid-year). Frank Capra's It Happened One Night becomes the first film to win the 'top five' awards; Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Clark Cable) and Best Actress (Claudette Colbert).

  • 1941 - The 13th Academy Awards marks the first time that the results are kept in sealed envelopes, to prevent the Press from spoiling the surprise. The Oscar for Best Picture goes to Rebecca - the only time a film by Alfred Hitchcock would win an Oscar, although as that particular award goes to the film's producer, it was received by David Selznick, not Hitchcock. James Stewart won Best Actor for The Philadelphia Story, while Ginger Rogers won Best Actress for Kitty Foyle. An adaptation of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath wins Best Director for John Ford.

  • 2002 - Much-loved comedian Spike Milligan dies.

  • 2003 - In the UK, Rowan Williams is enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Church.


  • 1155 - King Henry II is told of the birth of his son Henry. The child is eventually crowned 'co-king' during his father's reign, though ultimately his father would outlive him.

  • 1940 - Basketball is televised for the first time.

  • 1975 - Over 40 passengers and the driver of a London Underground Northern City line train are killed when the train fails to stop at Moorgate station - a crash which is still a mystery to this day.

  • 1986 - Nearly 106 million people (77% of the American viewing public) tune in to watch the very last episode of the M*A*S*H TV Series.

  • 2000 - On this day, the first pet allowed into the UK with a Pet Passport is a dog called Frodo Baggins.

  • 2007 - Yours Truly, Angry Mob, the second album of Leeds rock band Kaiser Chiefs is released.

  • 2008 - Thaksin Shinawatra, former prime minister of Thailand, is arrested on corruption charges after returning from exile.


  • If you're reading this then there has clearly been an astronomical mismatch between the length of time it takes for the Earth to rotate around the sun and the time it takes for the Earth to rotate on its own axis. That's right - it's the extra day in a leap year.

  • 1792 - Composer Gioacchino Rossini is born in the Papal States, Italy.

  • 1908 - Pat Garrett, the US gunslinger who killed the outlaw Billy the Kid, dies hmself.

  • 1972 - In Vietnam, South Korea withdraws 11,000 of its 48,000 troops.

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