1588: Philosopher Thomas Hobbes, one of the founders of modern political philosophy, is born in Westport, Wiltshire, England. His 1651 book "Leviathan" established the foundation for most of Western political philosophy from the perspective of social contract theory.
1614: In Virginia, English colonist John Rolfe marries Pocahontas, the daughter of the local Native American leader Powhatan.
1722: The Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen discovers Easter Island, which he names because it is Easter Sunday. He spent about a week on the island and estimated a population of 2,000 to 3,000 inhabitants.
1792: U.S. President George Washington exercises his authority to veto a bill, the first time the power was used in the United States. He vetoed the Apportionment Act, which would have fixed the size of the U.S. House of Representatives based on the 1790 census, on constitutional grounds.
1856: Educator and activist Booker T. Washington, who was the dominant leader in the African-American community in the United States from 1890 to 1915, is born in Hale's Ford, Va.
1858: Washington Atlee Burpee, the horticulturist who founded the world's largest mail-order seed company, W. Atlee Burpee & Company, now more commonly known as Burpee Seeds, is born in Sheffield, New Brunswick, Canada.
1883: Actor Walter Huston, best known for movies like "The Virginian," "Dodsworth," "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," is born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was the father of actor and director John Huston and the grandfather of actor Anjelica Huston. Huston was nominated for an Academy Award four times, winning in 1949 for "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," which also earned his son an Oscar for Best Director, making them the first father and son to win at the same ceremony.
1887: Anne Sullivan teaches Helen Keller the meaning of the word "water" as spelled out in the manual alphabet. The moment was a breakthrough for Keller and has famously been dramatized in the play and the film "The Miracle Worker."
1895: Playwright Oscar Wilde loses his criminal libel case against the Marquess of Queensberry. Queensberry, the father of his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, had accused Wilde of homosexual practices. The testimony at the trial led to a warrant for Wilde's arrest on charges of sodomy and gross indecency. After two more trials, Wilde was convicted and imprisoned for two years' hard labor.
1900: Actor Spencer Tracy, best known for movies such as "Captains Courageous," "Boys Town," "Father of the Bride," "Desk Set," "The Old Man and the Sea," "Inherit the Wind," "Judgment at Nuremberg" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," is born in Milwaukee, Wis. Tracy was nominated for nine Academy Awards for Best Actor and won two, sharing the record for nominations in this category with Laurence Olivier.
1901: Actor Melvyn Douglas, best known for his Academy Award-winning performances in 1963's "Hud" and 1979's "Being There," is born Melvyn Edouard Hesselberg in Macon, Ga. Douglas also starred in movies such as "Ninotchka" (as pictured here with Greta Garbo), "I Never Sang for My Father" and "The Candidate."
1908: Actress Bette Davis, best known for movies such as "Of Human Bondage," "Dangerous," "Jezebel," "Dark Victory," "The Letter," "All About Eve" and "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?", is born in Lowell, Mass. Davis won the Academy Award for Best Actress twice, for "Dangerous" and "Jezebel," and was the first person to accrue 10 Oscar nominations for acting.
1909: Movie producer Albert R. Broccoli, best known as the producer of the James Bond films, is born in Queens, N.Y. Broccoli, who was known by his nickname "Cubby," also produced the non-James Bond movies "Fire Down Below," "Call Me Bwana" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." He's seen here (center) in a still from the 2012 documentary "Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007."
1916: Actor Gregory Peck, best known for his Academy Award-winning role in "To Kill a Mockingbird," is born in La Jolla, Calif. Peck, who was nominated for another four Oscars, also starred in movies such as "The Yearling," "Gentleman's Agreement," "Twelve O'Clock High," "Roman Holiday," "Moby Dick," "The Guns of Navarone" and "How the West Was Won."
1926: Filmmaker Roger Corman, best known for his work on low-budget B movies, is born in Detroit, Mich. Corman's greatest acclaim as a director came with his Edgar Allan Poe cycle of movies, most starring Vincent Price, released between 1959 and 1964, including "House of Usher," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Raven" and "The Masque of the Red Death."
1930: Mahatma Gandhi ends a 24-day, 240-mile march to Dandi in the Salt Satyagraha by producing salt, which was then illegal to do so without paying a tax under the British salt monopoly in colonial India. He then continued down India's coast, producing salt and making speeches, before being arrested about a month later.
1933: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 6101 to establish the Civilian Conservation Corps, providing unskilled manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state and local governments. Over the course of nine years, 2.5 million young men planted nearly 3 billion trees, constructed more than 800 parks nationwide and upgraded most state parks, updated forest fire fighting methods, and built a network of service buildings and public roadways in remote areas.
1933: Actor and comedian Frank Gorshin, best known for playing The Riddler on the 1960s TV show "Batman," is born in Pittsburgh, Pa.
1936: An F5 tornado kills at least 233 in and around Tupelo, Miss., making it the fourth deadliest tornado in United States history. The storm was part of an outbreak of 17 tornadoes that killed at least 436 people in the Southeastern United States over two days.
1937: Colin Powell, who would go on to become a four-star general in the United States Army, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, and the 65th U.S. secretary of state, is born in New York City.
1943: During World War II, American bomber aircraft accidentally bomb a residential area in the Belgian town of Mortsel, killing 936 civilians, including 209 children, and injuring around 1,300 more. Their intended bombing target was the Minerva car factory, then used to repair Luftwaffe planes, about a mile away from the residential area.
1951: Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are sentenced to death for performing espionage for the Soviet Union. The couple, who had been convicted of passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union, would be executed on June 19, 1953, becoming the only two American civilians to be executed for espionage-related activity during the Cold War.
1958: The Johnny Mathis album "Johnny's Greatest Hits" is released, becoming the first "greatest hits" compilation ever released in the music industry. The album is a huge hit, spending an unprecedented 491 straight weeks on the Billboard album charts, and the format catches on quickly.
1964: Gen. Douglas MacArthur, was chief of staff of the U.S. Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II, dies of biliary cirrhosis at the age of 84 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. MacArthur retired in 1937, but was recalled to active duty in 1941 as commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East. He eventually became supreme commander of the Southwest Pacific Area and officially accepted Japan's surrender on Sept. 2, 1945. He oversaw the occupation of Japan following the war, enacting sweeping economic, political and social changes. He also led the United Nations Command in the Korean War until President Harry S. Truman removed him from command on April 11, 1951.
1964: Christopher "Kid" Reid (left), the rapper and actor best known as one half of the duo Kid 'n Play, is born in The Bronx, N.Y. He's seen here with Christopher "Play" Martin at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.
1965: The Beach Boys' single "Help Me, Rhonda" is released. The song would hit No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it would stay for two weeks.
1965: "Chim Chim Cher-ee," composed by The Sherman Brothers for the Disney musical "Mary Poppins," wins the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The movie's star, Julie Andrews, also won for Best Actor and the movie picked up three more Oscars, for its score, film editing and visual effects, in a ceremony that was otherwise dominated by "My Fair Lady's" eight wins, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor.
1968: Singer-songwriter Paula Cole, best known for the 1997 song "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" and "I Don't Want to Wait," is born in in Rockport, Mass.
1973: Rapper and music producer Pharrell Williams, best known for his work with the hip-hop/rock band N.E.R.D and the record production duo The Neptunes, is born Virginia Beach, Va. The Grammy-winner has produced hit singles for musical acts such as Justin Timberlake, Mariah Carey, Nelly, Gwen Stefani and Frank Ocean.
1976: Businessman, filmmaker and inventor Howard Hughes dies of kidney failure at the age of 70 in Houston, Texas. Hughes gained prominence in Hollywood from the late 1920s, making films like "The Racket," "Hell's Angels," "Scarface" and "The Outlaw." He also became one of the most influential aviators in history and one of the wealthiest people in the world, but is also remembered for his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle in later life.
1980: In Athens, Ga., rock band R.E.M., still nameless at the time, plays their first show, at a friend's birthday party held in a converted Episcopal church. Lead singer Michael Stipe (left) and guitarist Peter Buck (right) are seen here on stage in Ghent, Belgium, during R.E.M.'s 1985 tour.
1984: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar becomes the highest-scoring player in NBA history with 31,421 career points, breaking the record set by Wilt Chamberlain. Abdul-Jabbar, seen here in 2006, still holds the career record with with 38,387 points.
1987: The Fox Broadcasting Company debuts in primetime with the series "Married... with Children" and "The Tracey Ullman Show." The network added one new show per week over the next several weeks, with the series "21 Jump Street," "Mr. President" and "Duet" completing its Sunday schedule.
1992: The Siege of Sarajevo begins when Serb paramilitaries shoot and kill peace marchers Suada Dilberovic and Olga Sucic on the Vrbanja Bridge in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The siege, the longest of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, would go on through Feb. 29, 1996.
1992: Sam Walton, the businessman who founded the retailers Walmart and Sam's Club, dies of multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, at the age of 74 in Little Rock, Ark.
1994: Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain commits suicide with a shotgun at age 27 in his Seattle, Wash., home. His body was found three days later by an electrician who had arrived to install a security system.
1997: Poet Allen Ginsberg, one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s who is best known for his epic poem "Howl," dies of liver cancer at the age of 70 in New York City.
1998: In Japan, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge linking Awaji Island with Honshu, opens to traffic, becoming the longest suspension bridge in the world.
1999: In Laramie, Wyo., Russell Henderson pleads guilty to kidnapping and felony murder in the death of Matthew Shepard and agrees to testify against his friend and fellow suspect Aaron McKinney to avoid the death penalty. Both Henderson and McKinney would eventually be sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. The murder of Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten, robbed and left tied to a wooden fence post outside of Laramie in October 1998, brought national and international attention to the contention of hate crime legislation at the state and federal levels.
2000: American race car driver Lee Petty, one of the pioneers of NASCAR and one of its first superstars, dies of an abdominal aortic aneurysm at the age of 86 in in Greensboro, N.C. Petty was the winner of the inaugural Daytona 500 in 1959 and won the NASCAR Championship on three occasions. He was also the patriarch of the Petty racing family that included sons Richard (NASCAR's all-time race winner) and Maurice, grandson Kyle and great-grandson Adam, who became the first fourth-generation driver in NASCAR history before dying during a Busch Series practice session in May 2000.
2006: Singer-songwriter and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Gene Pitney, best known for songs such as "Town Without Pity," "(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance," "Only Love Can Break a Heart" and "It Hurts to Be in Love," dies of heart disease at the age of 66 in Cardiff, Wales. Besides his own hits, Pitney also wrote the early 1960s hits "Rubber Ball" by Bobby Vee, "He's a Rebel" by The Crystals, and "Hello Mary Lou" by Ricky Nelson.
2008: Actor Charlton Heston, known for his heroic roles in films such as "The Ten Commandments," "Ben-Hur" (for which he won a Best Actor Oscar), "El Cid" and "Planet of the Apes," dies of pneumonia at the age of 84 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Heston was also known for his political activism, including his involvement in the Civil Rights movement and a five-term stint as president of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003.
2010: Twenty-nine coal miners are killed in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, W.Va. The Mine Safety and Health Administration eventually concluded that flagrant safety violations contributed to a coal dust explosion in the mine. The accident was the worst in the United States since 1970, when 38 miners were killed in a mine explosion in Hyden, Ky.
2010: In a televised rescue, 115 Chinese coal miners are freed after spending eight days trapped in the flooded Wangjialing Coal Mine, surviving an accident that had killed 38. Here ambulances can be seen lining up at the entrance of the flooded mine to transport survivors.