May 20 in History Events, Birthdays, & News

To know what happened today in history, famous events occurred,  famous birthdays, death day, legend quotes, and historical news on May 20.


Events on May 20

1347 Popular Roman leader Cola di Rienzo, having gained the support of the people against the nobles, attempts to restore Rome as a republic.

1498 Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama arrives in Calicut, India, after sailing around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

1588 The Spanish Armada sets sail from Lisbon on its mission to conquer the English.

1609 The sonnets of William Shakespeare are published.

1802 France restores slavery and the slave trade in her colonies.

1867 Queen Victoria lays the foundation stone of the Albert Hall in London.

1895 In the USA, income tax is declared unconstitutional.

1939 Pan-American Airways began its first commercial flights between the USA and Europe.

1970 The Beatles film Let It Be premiered in London.

2002 East Timor celebrates its independence from Indonesia.

2006 The world’s largest hydro-electric dam, The Three Gorges Dam, is completed in China.

2010 Scientist Craig Venter announces the creation of the first synthetic organism.

Famous Birthdays on May 20

Tipu Sultan 1750, Indian ruler of Mysore, progressive and revolutionary freedom fighter.

William Thornton 1759, American architect who created the Capitol in Washington.

Honore de Balzac 1799, French novelist whose life’s work was the cycle La Comedie Humaine.

John Stuart Mill 1806, American co-founder of the freight-carrying company Wells Fargo.

James Stewart 1908, American actor whose many films include the Oscar-winning The Philadelphia Story.

Cher 1945, American singer and actress.

Historical News on May 20

Jet Travel Murders Orient Express

Jet travel murders orient express on May 20
Jet travel murders orient express

1961 The “King of trains and the train of kings”.

The once-luxurious Orient Express set off from Paris today on its final journey to Istanbul.

From its inauguration in 1883 until World War II stopped the service, the Orient Express was renowned as the epitome of luxury travel.

It was used as the background to Graham Greene’s Stamboul Train in 1932, and two years later was the setting for one of Agatha Christie’s famous murders.

Sadly, since the route reopened after the war.

The standard of services has not been that preferred by kings and these days they fly.

1823 An estimated 1,00,000 people jammed the Union Course on Long Island today to see a horse race with a difference and a purse of no less than $20,000.

Sir Henry, a top Southern horse, was the challenger against American Eclipse, the champion horse in the North, over three heats.

Sir Henry lost the first heat, won the second, and lost the third.

The result has caused widespread gloom in the Southern states.

World Fails to End as Comet Passes

1910 Thousands of people prepared for the world’s end today as the Earth passed through the fiery tail of Halley’s Comet. In America, “comet pills” have been on sale, claiming to offer protection against the comet’s effects, and miners refused to work, not wanting to die underground.

Many people stayed at home to meet the end with their families.

The comet lit up the night sky, passing its closest to the Earth today – 13 million miles away.

The comet was first observed in 1682 by the English astronomer Edmond Halley, who predicted it would return every 76 years.

China Crisis

1989 Martial law was declared in Peking today as huge demonstrations calling for reform continue to shake China.

Peking seemed to be in the control of the people as more than a million demonstrators gathered in support of pro-democracy student campaigners on a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square.

The campaign of mass defiance has spread to other major cities.

The demonstrations started last month following the death of former party chairman Hu Yaobang, who was seen to be in favor of reform.

Two days ago talks between leaders failed.

But so far the protests have been peaceful.

1979 A 23-year-old British nurse, Helen Smith, was found dead in Jeddah today, having apparently fallen six floors from the balcony of a flat.

A drinks party was being held there by surgeon Richard Arnot, in breach of Saudi law.

There are rumors that the death may not have been accidental.

Columbus Still Believed in Asia

Christopher Columbus still believed in Asia on May 20
Christopher Columbus still believed in Asia

1506 Christopher Columbus died today at Valladolid in Spain, virtually penniless, and still believing he had reached Asia.

He was 55.

The Spanish court, 14 years later, still had not paid him the royalties owed him from his discoveries in the New World.

Columbus spent seven years persuading Spain’s Queen Isabella to finance an expedition to search for a westward route to the Orient.

Three months after leaving Europe his three ships reached the Bahamas.

Columbus sailed back and forth across the Atlantic on three further voyages, none successful.

On the third voyage he was returned to Spain in chains for having seven rebellious settlers hanged, and on his last voyage, he was marooned in Jamaica for a year.

But he was a master mariner, his discovery of favorable winds in both directions opened up the New World to European exploitation.

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