Events, birthdays and anniversaries for 17 April
National day of Syria
1421: More than 100,000 people drowned when the sea broke through dykes at Dort, in the Netherlands.
1491: Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain signed a contract with Christopher Columbus concerning his proposed voyage of discovery.
1521: Martin Luther, critical of the Roman Catholic Church, appeared before the Diet of Worms and was cross-examined by papal nuncio, Cardinal Alexander.
1824: Russia and the US defined respective rights in the Pacific Ocean and on the north-west coast of America.
1847: The Educational Institute of Scotland was founded “to promote sound learning and advance the interests of education in Scotland”.
1860: The first world title fight took place near Farnborough when Tom Sayers took on the American John Heenan at a time when boxing was still regarded as a breach of the peace. It lasted 37 rounds and both men were seriously hurt. The match was declared a draw.
1937: A British attendance record at a football match was set when 149,547 watched Scotland play England at Hampden Park, Glasgow.
1953: How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?, by Lita Roza, reached No 1 in the charts.
1957: Archbishop Makarios arrived back in Athens after an 13-month exile in the Seychelles.
1963: Greville Wynne, a British businessman, was found guilty in Moscow of spying. He was sentenced to three years in prison and five years in a labour camp.
1969: Bernadette Devlin became the youngest woman MP when elected for Mid Ulster, six days short of her 22nd birthday.
1980: Rhodesia became the independent nation of Zimbabwe.
1984: WPC Yvonne Fletcher was shot dead by terrorists outside the Libyan Embassy in London.
1989: Nigel Lawson, the chancellor, rejected proposals for economic and monetary union within the European Community.
1992: Russian lawmakers refused to approve arms control pact, setting up another confrontation with Boris Yeltsin.
1995: More than 300 passengers were rescued from a French catamaran ferry which hit a rock and began sinking off Jersey.
1996: The Duke and Duchess of York were granted a decree nisi, ending their ten-year marriage.
Victoria Beckham, fashion designer and former Spice Girl, 40; John Barrett MBE, tennis commentator, 83; Sean Bean, actor, 55; Damian Cronin, rugby player, 51; Clare Francis MBE, yachtswoman and novelist, 68; Bella Freud, fashion designer, 53; Jennifer Garner, actress, 42; Jan Hammer, Czech composer, 66; Nick Hornby, writer, 57; Henry Kelly, television game-show host, 68; James Last, bandleader, 85; Ian McDiarmid, Carnoustie-born actor, 70; Ricardo Patrese, racing driver, 60; Pete Shelley, singer/guitarist (Buzzcocks), 59; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, tennis player, 29.
Births: 1586 John Ford, dramatist; 1622 Henry Vaughan, poet; 1863 Augustus Love, geophysicist; 1882 Artur Schnabel, pianist; 1894 Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet leader; 1897 Thornton Wilder, American novelist and playwright.
Deaths: 1696 Marie de Sévigné, writer; 1790 Benjamin Franklin, scientist and statesman who helped draft United States Declaration of Independence; 1960 Eddie Cochran, American rock’n’roll singer (car crash); 1998 Lady (Linda) McCartney, photographer, businesswoman, musician (wife of Beatle Paul).