Events, birthdays and anniversaries for 18 December
1661: The ship Elizabeth, of Burntisland, was lost off the English coast with the Scottish state records aboard. They were being returned from London, to which they had been taken by Cromwell.
1780: The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland was founded.
1865: Slavery was finally abolished in United States.
1903: United States-Panama treaty placed Canal Zone in American hands in perpetuity for annual rent.
1912: Piltdown Man was discovered in Sussex by Charles Dawson. The skull fragment was hailed as “missing link” in human evolution, but in 1953 was proved to be a forgery, a 600-year-old human skull and the lower jaw of an orangutan.
1946: House of Commons voted to nationalise railways, road haulage and ports.
1956: Japan was admitted to United Nations.
1969: The death penalty for murder was formally abolished in Britain.
1970: Divorce law went into effect in Italy despite opposition by Roman Catholic Church.
1979: Stanley Barrett became the first man to break the sound barrier on land. He reached 739.6mph in California.
1985: Syria rejected plea by United States to remove newly deployed anti-aircraft missiles along its border with Lebanon.
1988: Bulgaria offered free holidays to anyone willing to catch field mice by hand, in an attempt to save winter wheat crops from the invaders without spraying dangerous chemicals.
1994: Russian tanks began shelling Grozny, capital of the rebel state of Chechnya, after its leader failed to meet Boris Yeltsin’s ultimatum to lay down arms.
1995: A prison inspection team was withdrawn from Holloway Prison, in London, halfway through an inspection because it was so appalled at conditions for the 500 female inmates.
1999: Nasa launched into orbit the Terra platform carrying five Earth Observation instruments.
2007: Nick Clegg, 40, was elected leader of the Liberal Democratic Party following the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell.
2010: Governmental protests began in Tunisia, beginning the 2010-2011 Middle East and North Africa protests.
Brad Pitt, actor, 51; Christina Aguilera, singer, 34; Frances Crook OBE, chief executive Howard League for Penal Reform, 62; Julie Fleeting MBE, football player, 34; Robson Green, actor and singer, 50; Katie Holmes, actress, 36; Rosemary Leach, actress, 79; Ray Liotta, actor, 60; Bill Nelson, musician, 66; Keith Richards, guitarist (Rolling Stones), 71; Steven Spielberg, film maker, 68; Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, tennis player, 43; Lizzie Armitstead, racing cyclist, 26; Nina Wadia, actress, 45; Michael Moorcock, science fiction author, 75.
Births: 1662 James Douglas, 2nd Duke of Queensberry, Scottish nobleman; 1778 Joseph Grimaldi, Joey the Clown; 1856 Sir Joseph John Thomson, physicist and discoverer of the electron; 1963 Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria; 1878 Joseph Stalin, leader of Soviet Union 1922-1953; 1879 Paul Klee, painter; 1916 Betty Grable, actress; 1946 Steve Biko, anti-Apartheid activist.
Deaths: 1737 Antonio Stradivari, violin-maker; Christopher Fry, dramatist, 97; 1993 Sam Wanamaker, actor and director; 2000 Kirsty MacColl, singer and songwriter.