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- 211 – Roman Emperor Septimius Severus dies at Eboracum (modern York, England) while preparing to lead a campaign against the Caledonians. He leaves the empire in the control of his two quarrelling sons.
- 960 – The coronation of Zhao Kuangyin as Emperor Taizu of Song, initiating the Song Dynasty period of China that would last more than three centuries.
- 1454 – In the Thirteen Years' War, the Secret Council of the Prussian Confederation sends a formal act of disobedience to the Grand Master.
- 1703 – In Edo (now Tokyo), 46 of the Forty-seven Ronin commit seppuku (ritual suicide) as recompense for avenging their master's death.
- 1789 – George Washington is unanimously elected as the first President of the United States by the U.S. Electoral College.
- 1794 – The French legislature abolishes slavery throughout all territories of the French Republic. It will be reestablished in the French West Indies in 1802.
- 1846 – The first Mormon pioneers make their exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois, westward towards Utah Territory.
- 1859 – The Codex Sinaiticus is discovered in Egypt.
- 1936 – Radium becomes the first radioactive element to be made synthetically.
- 1941 – The United Service Organization (USO) is created to entertain American troops.
- 1945 – World War II: Santo Tomas Internment Camp is liberated from Japanese authority
- 1945 – World War II: The Yalta Conference between the "Big Three" (Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin) opens at the Livadia Palace in the Crimea.
- 1945 – World War II: The British Indian Army and Imperial Japanese Army begin a series of battles known as the Battle of Pokoku and Irrawaddy River operations.
- 1967 – Lunar Orbiter program: Lunar Orbiter 3 lifts off from Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 13 on its mission to identify possible landing sites for the Surveyor and Apollospacecraft.
- 1974 – The Symbionese Liberation Army kidnaps Patty Hearst in Berkeley, California.
- 1974 – M62 coach bombing: The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) explodes a bomb on a bus carrying off-duty British Armed Forces personnel in Yorkshire, England. Nine soldiers and three civilians are killed.
- 1992 – A coup d'état is led by Hugo Chávez against Venezuelan President Carlos Andrés Pérez.
- 1996 – Major snowstorm paralyzes Midwestern United States, Milwaukee, Wisconsin and ties all-time record low temperature at -26 °F (-32.2 °C)
- 2003 – The Bengali Hindus declares the independence of the Republic of Bangabhumi from Bangladesh.
- 2004 – Facebook, a mainstream online social networking site, is founded by Mark Zuckerberg.
- 1505 – Mikołaj Rej, Polish poet (d. 1580)
- 1646 – Hans Erasmus Aßmann, German poet and politician (d. 1699)
- 1677 – Johann Ludwig Bach, German violinist and composer (d. 1731)
- 1688 – Pierre de Marivaux, French author and playwright (d. 1763)
- 1725 – Dru Drury, English entomologist (d. 1804)
- 1746 – Tadeusz Kościuszko, Polish-American general (d. 1817)
- 1902 – Charles Lindbergh, American pilot and activist (d. 1974)
- 1941 – John Steel, English drummer (The Animals)
- 1947 – Dan Quayle, American politician, 44th Vice President of the United States
- 1975 – Natalie Imbruglia, Australian singer-songwriter and actress
- 1990 – Haruka Tomatsu, Japanese voice actress and singer (Sphere)