1492 – 1st Spanish settlement La Navidad in the New World is founded by Christopher Columbus (modern Môle-Saint-Nicolas in Haiti)
1792 – Trial of French King Louis XVI, court hears the kings defense brought by Raymond Desèze
1825 – Decembrist uprising in Russia against Tsar Nicholas I begins [O.S. 14 December]
1982 – TIME’s Man of the Year is a computer
1985 – The slain body of American zoologist Dian Fossey—the world’s leading authority on the mountain gorilla—was found in Rwanda; it was widely suspected that she was killed by poachers.
1990 – Garry Kasparov defeats fellow Russian Anatoly Karpov to retain the world chess championship
1996 – The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification goes into force
1998 – Severe gales over Ireland, northern England, and southern Scotland cause widespread disruption and widespread power outages in Northern Ireland and southern Scotland
2001 – Crude oil prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) record one of their largest 1-day jumps of the year as traders become convinced that OPEC will follow through on production cuts
2004 – 9.3 magnitude earthquake creates a tsunami causing devastation in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Maldives and edges of the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000 people
2012 – China opens the world’s longest high speed rail route from Beijing to Guangzhou
2015 – Floods in Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay displace 150,000, blamed on El Nino
2019 – Annular solar eclipse visible from South and South East Asia
Births & Deaths:
1893 – Mao Zedong, chairman of the People’s Republic of China, was born.
2006 – American politician Gerald R. Ford—who was the 38th president of the United States (1974–77) and the country’s only chief executive who was not elected as either president or vice president—died in California.
Film & TV:
1940 – “The Philadelphia Story” film directed by George Cukor, based on the Broadway play of the same name, starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart, is released (Academy Awards Best Actor 1941)
1973 – The horror classic The Exorcist, an adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s book about a young girl possessed by the Devil, was released in the United States. The recipient of 10 Oscar nominations, including for director William Friedkin, it became one of the highest-grossing films of all time.
1963 – The Beatles’ single I Want to Hold Your Hand, with I Saw Her Standing There on the B-side, was first released in the United States; hugely successful, it helped launch Beatlemania.
1966 – Jimi Hendrix writes “Purple Haze” backstage at the Upper Cut Club, London
1860 – First ever inter-club football match between Hallam F.C. and Sheffield F.C. at Sandygate Road ground in Sheffield, England
Via Britannica / On This Day