A selection of events and deaths of varying degrees of importance from the month of January.
January 1st, 1984
The Nation of Brunei, a small state on the north cost of Borneo that, apart from its coastline on the South China Sea, is completely surrounded by Malaysia, become fully independent from Britain on this day. Britain gained effective control of the country in 1888, but partial independence was initially granted in 1971.
Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei at the time and still the current Sultan, became the head of state, the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Defence and Finance. He is also the world's second richest royal and has in the past been the richest person in the world.
January 2nd, 1882
Standard Oil was founded as a partnership in Ohio between John D. Rockefeller, William Rockefeller, Henry Flagler, Samuel Andrews, Stephen V. Harkness and Oliver Burr Jennings.
The Standard Oil Trust was created on January 2nd by combining the various companies owned by Rockefeller and his associates across multiple states into one giant trust, with the thirty-seven shareholders giving their shares "in trust" to the nine trustees of the enterprise.
January 3rd, 1521
Martin Luther was a Catholic priest and German monk who was to a large extent involved in what became known as the Protestant Reformation.
In 1517, Luther authored writings entitled Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences which became better known as The Ninety-Five Theses which protested clerical abuses and the sale of indulgences, which are pardons for sins, and were sold to those with the money to pay for them.
Luther's refusal to retract his writings as demanded by Pope Leo X resulted in his excommunication from the Catholic church on this day.
January 4th, 1877
Cornelius Vanderbilt was born in Staten Island, New York. During his life he built up a steamboat and water transportation empire, earning himself the nickname "Commodore" and an extensive railroad empire.
He died on this date leaving an estate worth $100 million which has led to him being considered either the second or third richest person in US history when considering his wealth as a share of the country's gross domestic product.
January 5th, 1919
On this date the German Workers' Party, Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or DAP, was founded in Munich by Anton Drexler in the hotel Fürstenfelder Hof. Drexler was a member of the occultist Thule Society, a group that named itself after the mythical land of Thule and had some strong beliefs regarding the Aryan race. The DAP was quite short lived, and was reorganised in 1920.
This was largely because, later in the year on September 12th, a German intelligence agent and enlisted soldier was ordered to infiltrate the party, but he found much there to please him. The party was reorganised partly by this army corporal as the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei - more infamously known as the Nazi Party, as the corporal was Adolf Hitler.
January 6th, 1066
Harold Godwinson, also known as Harold II, was the son of Godwin, the Earl of Wessex, a powerful Anglo-Saxon noble. He was related to King Cnut the Great, a former King of England and Denmark, as well as King Sweyn Forkbeard and King Sweyn II of Denmark. Harold's sister, Edith, was married to King Edward the Confessor of England.
After Edward died without a naming or having a successor, the Witenagemot ("meeting of wise men") elected Harold to the throne today - a position he wasn't to enjoy for very long, as he was killed during the invasion by William of Normandy, supposedly at the Battle of Hastings, later that year on October 14th, one of the shortest reigns of a UK monarch - his successor's reign was even shorter, being less than three months.
January 7th, 1989
Hirohito, known posthumously as Emperor ShÅwa in Japan, was the 124th Emperor of Japan, ascending to the throne in 1926.
He died on this date in 1989. Until after World War II, the Emperor was considered an incarnate divinity, or arahitogami. Hirohito had to resign his divinity after the end of the war, and his title changed from Imperial Sovereign to Constitutional Monarch.
January 8th, 1642
Galileo Galilei was an Italian scientist in the fields of physics, mathematics, astronomy and philosophy, although it is his work in astronomy that he is most widely remembered for.
During his lifetime he was a controversial figure, who was accused by the Inquisition of heresy, largely due to his arguments regarding heliocentrism, or the idea that the Earth revolved around the Sun, rather than the latter.
His telescopic observations confirmed that Venus had phases, like the Moon, and he identified the four largest satellites of Jupiter, known today as the Galilean moons. Both this observations contributed to the heliocentric viewpoint; the first because Venus's phases appeared to show that it was closer to the Sun than the Earth was, the second as the satellites revolved around Jupiter and not the Earth.
January 9th, 1972
The RMS Queen Elizabeth was a Cunard Line ocean liner launched in 1938. When the ship was retired in 1968 to be replaced by the Queen Elizabeth 2, she was sold to the California city of Long Beach.
In 1970, she was then sold to Hong Kong businessman Tung Chao Yung. In 1972 she was undergoing refurbishment in Hong Kong harbour when she mysteriously caught fire on this date - for one thing, the ship had cost its new buyer $3.5 million but was insured for $8 million.
The ship was scrapped where it lay after the fire, and later appeared in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun as an MI6 base.
January 10th, 1863
Built using the cut and cover method of tunnel making, where a trench is excavated to lay the lines and then covered over, as well as using tunnels and cuttings, London's Metropolitan Railway was the world's first underground railway.
At the time it was built, steam locomotives were the only possible means of powering trains. Given that it was already known just how truly unpleasant it was running a coal fired steam train through a tunnel for the passengers, running (much) of an entire railway underground seemed madness.
New types of steam locomotives were used, first burning coke and later Welsh smokeless coal, but electrification of the system was a great boon.
January 11th, 1843
Born in 1779 in Maryland in the United States, Francis Scott Key was a lawyer, author and amateur poet. During the War of 1812, Key was negotiating the release of prisoners won the HMS Tonnant, when he was forced to remain aboard the ship, due to them having become too familiar with the British positions and strength, during the attack on Fort McHenry.
He was inspired by this to write a poem entitled Defence of Fort McHenry in 1814. Today, this tune is better known under the name The Star-Spangled Banner as the American national anthem.
He died today in Baltimore in the home of his daughter from pleurisy.
January 12, 1976
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According to her estate, she her books are the third most published in the world, after the works of William Shakespeare and the Bible, and have been translated into at least 103 languages - making her the most translated author - and have sold four billion copies. They have been adapted into many different formats.
She died on this date.
January 13th, 1941
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Another novel, Finnegan's Wake, is widely unread as it is considered to be one of the most difficult to read fictional works in the English language.
He died on this date in Zurich, after undergoing surgery for a perforated ulcer.
January 14th, 1814
The Treaty of Kiel, also known as the Peace of Kiel, was signed on this date in Kiel in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, the city being at that time a possession of the King of Denmark.
The treaty was signed between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Kingdom of Sweden on one side and the Kingdoms of Denmark and Norway on the other. This treaty concluded hostilities between the signing parties, regarding the ongoing Napoleonic Wars.
Denmark ceded the Kingdom of Norway to Sweden in exchange for Swedish Pomerania, a territory on the Baltic coast of modern day Poland and Germany, but Norway declared independence, and Sweden therefore refused to hand over Swedish Pomerania, which later became part of Prussia.
January 15th, 1559
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During the reign of her Catholic half sister, Mary I - "Bloody Mary" - the Protestant future queen was placed under house arrest. After Mary's death in 1558, she succeeded to the throne, and her coronation was on January 15th of the following year.
Considered to be one of the greatest English monarchs, she established a Protestant English church and England started truly exploring the world, under notable commanders such as Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh. English drama flourished under her reign, due to one of the greatest playwrights of all time, William Shakespeare, and the ill-fated Christopher Marlowe.
January 16th, 1794
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His greatest work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which he wrote over a twelve year period, covers the history of the Western world from the height of the Roman Empire to the fall of Byzantium. The book's relative objectivity and success led to Gibbon being called the first modern historian of ancient Rome.
He died in January 1794.
January 17th, 1773
HMS Resolution, originally the collier Marquis of Granby, was purchased by the Royal Navy in 1771. It was first renamed the HMS Drake and then the HMS Resolution.
In 1772 the ship set sail from Plymouth under Captain James Cook on his second voyage of exploration, and was later used on his third one too.
On January 17th, the Resolution crossed the Antarctic Circle, becoming the first ship to do so.
January 18th, 1871
Kaiser Wilhelm I, also known as William I, the grandfather of "Kaiser Bill," was the King of Prussia from 1861 until his death in 1888.
Under the leadership of him and his Minister President, Otto von Bismarck, the unification of Germany and the establishment of the German Empire was achieved. Wilhelm I became the first German Emperor, and was proclaimed as such on 18th January 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War, although he would have preferred the title Emperor of Germany.
January 19th, 1903
The Tour de France is a bicycle race held primarily in France over multiple stages. The race sometimes passes through neighbouring countries - including the UK, which will be the starting point of the 2014 Tour de France, even though there is a bit of water between the two countries.
The first race was held in 1903, and ran over six stages in July of that year, covering 1,509 miles (2,428 km). The race was set up and sponsored by the French newspaper L'Auto, and was announced on January 19th of that year.
January 20th, 1265
Simon De Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, was an English baronial leader, although a French nobleman, who led a rebellion against King Henry III of England during 1263-4 in the Second Barons' War.
He is known for two parliaments that he called, without the approval of the king, the first of which was held in 1265 and was considered the first true English parliament. This parliament stripped the king of unlimited power and, together with the second, resulted in de Montfort being considered one of the progenitors of modern parliamentary democracy.
January 21st, 1924
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Although a Marxist, he also contributed to the political philosophy, with his contributions known as Leninism and, together with Marxism, are collectively known as Marxist-Leninism.
He died on his estate at Gorki in 1924. The city of Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in his honour, and his body was embalmed and placed on display in Lenin's Mausoleum in Moscow on January 27th.
January 22nd, 1924
James Ramsay MacDonald is credited as one of being the three principal founders of the British Labour Party.
In the December 1923 General Election, the Labour Party had won 191 seats, not enough to win, but enough to create a hung government. MacDonald became the first Labour Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on January 22nd, although his government was quite short, ending in November of the same year, partly due to the alleged Communist threat surrounding a Socialist government.
23rd January, 1960
Jacques Piccard was a Swiss engineer and designer of underwater vehicles. He sought financial help from the U.S. Navy to develop them further, and demonstrated his bathyscaphe to them, which the navy purchased.
He and Lieutenant Don Walsh of the U.S. Navy descended into the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world's oceans, on this date to the floor at a depth of 10,916 metres in the Trench's deepest part, the Challenger Deep, although later measurements showed the floor to only be at 10,911 metres.
This is the greatest possible depth that can be achieved underwater.
January 24th, 1848
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On January 24th, Marshall discovered several shiny flecks in the water below the mill. These flecks were discovered to be gold. They were shown to be of the highest quality, and the California Gold Rush began. The mill failed when all the men who would have worked on it left to hunt for gold. Neither Sutter nor Marshall benefitted from his discovery.
January 25th, 1924
The Winter Olympic Games are an international sporting event held on a four yearly cycle. After their formation, and until 1992, the Winter Olympics were held on the same year as the Summer Games. After this point, the two games were held on different cycles, with the Winter Games held in 1994.
The first Winter Olympics, the I Olympic Winter Games, were held in Chamonix in France in 1924, starting on January 25th and ending on February 5th. the games had 16 nations competing in 16 events across nine sports.
January 26th, 1905
The Cullinan Diamond, the largest gem-quality diamond so far discovered at 3106.75 carats, was found in the Premier No. 2 mine near Pretoria in South Africa.
The diamond was cut into seven major stones and ninety-six smaller stones. The largest, the Cullinan I, was, until the Golden Jubilee Diamond was discovered in 1985, the largest polished diamond in the world at 530.4 carats, and is mounted in the Sceptre with the Cross. The Cullinan II, or the Second Star of Africa, is the fourth largest, and is set in the Imperial State Crown. Both of these items are in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.
January 27th, 1967
The Apollo program was NASA's plan to put a man on the surface of the Moon by the end of the decade, proposed by U.S. President John F. Kennedy on May 25th 1961 in a speech to Congress. In the run up to the Apollo program there were two other manned missions carried out, Mercury and Gemini.
The first manned mission of the program was Apollo 1. During a test on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, a cabin fire broke out, which killed all three members of the crew, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, the second American in space and the first NASA astronaut to fly into space twice, Edward H. White II, the first American to perform a spacewalk and Roger B. Chaffee.
January 28th, 1986
The second disaster in what is a very bad week for NASA (with a third in the same week at the beginning of February) was that of the Challenger.
73 seconds into flight, the Space Shuttle Challenger on the STS-51-L mission broke apart in the air, causing the death of all seven members of its crew. The accident happened when an O-ring seal in one of the solid rocket boosters failed, causing hot gas from the booster to damage both its attachment and the external tank. The shuttle itself broke apart in the air after the explosion, and the crew compartment impacted the ocean at too high a velocity to be survivable. Following this, shuttle escape systems were developed, something that had been missing prior to the accident.
January 29th, 1886
Karl Benz was a German car engineer and engine designer and a founder of the company Mercedes-Benz. Benz was working on internal combustion engines, as were fellow German contemporaries Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, who were working as partners. Benz was the first to patent his work, gaining his first engine patent in 1879, as well as subsequent patents that made the use of an internal combustion engine in a car possible.
In 1886 he was granted a patent for the Benz Patent Motorwagen, an "automobile fuelled by gas" according to the patent, and was the first car designed completely as such, rather than being a motorised horseless carriage or stage coach.
January 30th, 1649
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Charles I believed in the divine right of kings, governing without parliamentary consent, behaving like an absolute monarch and making himself generally unpopular with his subjects.
In 1642, the armies of the English and Scottish parliaments fought Charles in the English Civil War. He surrendered to the Scots in 1645 and was handed over to the English Parliament. There, he refused to agree to a constitutional monarchy, and escaped in 1647. He was recaptured and was tried for high treason in January of 1649, being found guilty and executed by beheading on January 30th.
His son, Charles II, ascended to the throne in 1660.
January 31st, 2000
Harold Shipman was found guilty of fifteen murders on this date. Shipman, a medical doctor and one of the most prolific serial killers in the world and Britain's worst convicted serial killer.
The doctor predominately killed older women, injecting them with dimorphine and then falsifying death certificates. The murders he was convicted of were only a sample, with him being held responsible for the deaths of 218 patients and with a possible death toll of 250, possibly more.
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