1792: The Paris guillotine, newly improved by Dr Joseph Guillotin, was used for the first time, to behead a highwayman, Nicolas-Jacques Pelletier. Soon his invention was to become the hallmark of “The Reign of Terror” of 1793 and 1794, when the “humane and egalitarian” decapitation machine put thousands to death, including Queen Marie Antoinette and her husband.
1843: Royal yacht Victoria and Albert was launched at Pembroke, South Wales.
1859: Work began on the construction of the 100-mile-long Suez Canal, under the direction of Ferdinand de Lesseps. It was opened on 16 November, 1869.
1915: Gallipoli landing of Australian and New Zealand troops in the First World War.
1920: Supreme Allied Command assigned mandates of Mesopotamia and Palestine to Britain, and of Syria and Lebanon to France.
1945: Delegates of 45 nations met in San Francisco, California, to organise United Nations.
1969: The last of more than 5,400 episodes of the radio serial Mrs Dale’s Diary, about a country doctor’s wife, was broadcast. Her last words were: “I’m rather worried about Jim.”
1978: South Africa said it had accepted a western plan aimed at preparing South-west Africa for independence under black majority rule.
1983: In Germany, Stern magazine published the first extracts from the so-called Hitler Diaries, which were also published by the Sunday Times in Britain. Lord Dacre (formerly Hugh Trevor-Roper) said they were authentic, but they were later found to be forgeries by Konrad Kujau.
1986: Rioting broke out across Soweto, South Africa’s largest black township, after police blocked youths protesting against arrest of 15 students.
1988: Afghanistan president Mohammad Najibullah offered to withdraw Afghan army from posts near Pakistan’s border.
1990: Nicaraguan president Violeta Barrio de Chamorro was inaugurated amid uproar over decision to let Sandinistas keep control of army and security police.
1990: The Commons voted 409 to 152 in favour of reducing the abortion limit to 24 weeks.
1991: Soviet Union’s Communist Party plenum decided to keep Gorbachev as leader in spite of hours of harsh criticism that led him to offer to resign.
1992: Earthquake measuring 7.0 on Richter scale rocked northern California.
1993: Boris Yeltsin won a clear victory in a Russian referendum on his leadership and his reforms.
1994: Nine people died and 100 were injured in a car-bomb blast in Johannesburg as violence escalated in the run-up to South Africa’s first all-race elections.
2001: Motorola closed its Bathgate factory with the loss of 3,100 jobs.
2003: The Human Genome Project came to an end two and a half years earlier than anticipated.
2005: Bulgaria and Romania signed accession treaties to join the European Union.
2007: Boris Yeltsin’s funeral was the first to be sanctioned by the Russian Orthodox Church for a head of state since the funeral of Emperor Alexander III in 1894.
Fiona Bruce, TV presenter, 50; Andy Bell, musician (Erasure), 50; Eric Bristow, darts player, 57; Johan Cruyff, footballer and manager, 67; Fish (Derek William Dick), singer and actor, 56; Jason Lee, actor, 44; Sir Moir Lockhead OBE, former chief executive of FirstGroup, 69; Felipe Massa, Formula 1 driver, 33; Sir Ian McCartney, Kilmarnock-born MP (1987-2010), 63; David Moyes, football manager, 51; Al Pacino, actor, 74; Monty Panesar, cricketer, 32; William Roache MBE, actor, 82; David Shepherd CBE, artist, 83; Talia Shire, actress, 68; Björn Ulvaeus, musician (Abba), 69; Renée Zellweger, actress, 45; Len Goodman, dance judge, 70.
Births: 1284 King Edward II; 1599 Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England 1653-58; 1769 Sir Marc Isambard Brunel, engineer and inventor; 1792 John Keble, Anglican priest and founder member of the Oxford Movement; 1872 CB Fry, cricketer, footballer, athlete, novelist; 1873 Walter de la Mare, poet and novelist; 1874 Guglielmo Marconi, physicist and radio pioneer; 1895 Sir Stanley Rous, football administrator; 1908 Ed Murrow, broadcaster; 1917 Ella Fitzgerald, jazz singer.
Deaths: 1744 Anders Celsius, astronomer who devised centigrade temperature scale; 1878 Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty; 1972 George Sanders, actor; 1976 Sir Carol Reed, film director; 1982 Dame Celia Johnson, actress; 1995 Ginger Rogers, actress/dancer; 2001 Michele Alboreto, racing driver; 2009 Bea Arthur, American actress; 2010 Alan Sillitoe, writer Night and Sunday Morning).