Events, birthdays and anniversaries on 31 December
1687: The first Huguenots set sail from France for the Cape of Good Hope, to escape religious persecution. They took with them vines and created the South African wine industry.
1695: The window tax was imposed, which resulted in many being bricked up.
1857: Queen Victoria named Ottawa as the capital of Canada.
1879: American inventor Thomas A Edison gave the first demonstration of his electric incandescent light in New Jersey.
1911: Marie Curie received her second Nobel prize, unprecedented in the history of the award.
1915: Armoured cruiser Natal blew up and sank at her moorings in the Cromarty Firth. About 350 officers and men died along with 13 civilians, including children attending a Hogmanay party on board. Unstable cordite in her stern magazine was blamed for the explosion.
1917: Britain’s first food rationing began. It was for sugar and the allowance was 8oz per week.
1923: Chimes of London’s Big Ben were first broadcast.
1929: Seventy children were killed when panic broke out at a matinee in the Glen Cinema, in Paisley. The audience of children stampeded for the exit when some smoke from a smouldering film blew into the auditorium.
1931: Sergei Rachmaninov’s music was banned in Soviet Union as decadent.
1935: Charles Darrow patented his board game Monopoly, which he had first invented in 1933.
1938: First breath tests for drink drivers officially introduced – in the US – using a kind of breathalyser called a “drunkometer”.
1946: End of Second World War was proclaimed officially by US president Harry S Truman.
1948: A report entitled Sexual Behaviour Of The Human Male, by Professor Alfred Kinsey, stated 56 per cent of American men were unfaithful to their wives.
1958: Epidemic of serious defects in babies might have been caused by drug called Thalidomide prescribed for morning sickness, authorities acknowledged. About 7,000 babies born with characteristic defects of seriously malformed limbs, the majority of them in Germany.
1960: Last day of National Service call-up in United Kingdom.
1966: United States said it would halt bombing of North Vietnam when Hanoi agreed to discuss peace terms.
1968: Russia’s TU144 flew – the world’s first supersonic airliner.
1973: Three-day working week introduced in Britain as a measure to conserve fuel during miners’ strike.
1990: The old 5p piece ceased to be legal tender.
1991: Soviet Union formally ceased to exist at midnight.
1996: Former Beatle Paul McCartney, 54, received a knighthood in the New Year Honours List.
1996: A safety review of Edinburgh’s giant Hogmanay party was ordered after 600 people were treated in hospital when crash barriers collapsed. The 350,000 revellers left behind 100 tons of rubbish.
2004: The official opening of Taipei 101, the tallest skyscraper at that time in the world, standing at a height of 1,670ft.
2008: Sixty-two people died in a fire in a nightclub in the Thai capital, Bangkok.