1571: German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, a key figure in the 17th century scientific revolution best known for his laws of planetary motion, is born at the Free Imperial City of Weil der Stadt (now part of the Stuttgart Region in the German state of Baden-Württemberg).
1822: Scientist Louis Pasteur, one of the most important founders of medical microbiology, is born in Dole, France. He is remembered for his breakthroughs in the causes and preventions of diseases. He also created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax, but is best known to the general public for inventing a method to stop milk and wine from causing sickness, a process that came to be called pasteurization.
1831: Charles Darwin embarks on his journey aboard the HMS Beagle, during which he will begin to formulate the theory of evolution.
1836: Stephen F. Austin, the businessman known as the Father of Texas, dies of pneumonia at age 43 outside of what is now West Columbia, Texas. Austin led the successful colonization of the region in the 1820s by bringing 300 families from the United States to what was then a Mexican province. In the process he formed what would develop into the Texas Rangers. The capital city of Texas is named after him.
1879: Actor Sydney Greenstreet, best known for his roles in "The Maltese Falcon" and "Casablanca," is born in Sandwich, Kent, England. He died of complications from diabetes at age 74 on Jan. 18, 1954.
1901: Actress and singer Marlene Dietrich, best known for movies such as "The Shanghai Express," "Desire" and "Destry Rides Again," is born in Schöneberg, German Empire. She died of renal failure at age 90 on May 6, 1992.
1904: James Barrie's play "Peter Pan" premieres in London. The play would be adapted and expanded somewhat as a novel, published in 1911 as "Peter and Wendy."
1922: The Japanese aircraft carrier Hosho becomes the first purpose built aircraft carrier to be commissioned in the world.
1923: Gustave Eiffel, the French engineer and architect who co-designed the Eiffel Tower, dies at age 91 in Paris, France.
1927: "Show Boat," considered to be the first true American musical, opens at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Broadway in New York City. The musical contributed such classic songs as "Ol' Man River," "Make Believe" and "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man."
1939: Erzincan, Turkey is hit by an earthquake, killing more than 30,000 people. So extensive was the damage to the city that its old site was entirely abandoned and a new town was founded a little further to the north.
1939: Actor John Amos, best known for his TV roles on "Good Times," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Roots" and "The West Wing," is born in Newark, N.J.
1941: College Basketball Hall of Fame coach Nolan Richardson, who led the University of Arkansas to an NCAA championship in 1994, is born in El Paso, Texas. He also led Western Texas College to a National Junior College Championship in 1980 and the University of Tulsa to a NIT title in 1981.
1947: The children's television program "Howdy Doody" makes its debut. The show, hosted by "Buffalo" Bob Smith, was a pioneer in children's television programming and set the pattern for many similar shows.
1948: Actor Gérard Depardieu, best known to American audiences for his roles in movies like "Green Card," "Cyrano de Bergerac," "1492: Conquest of Paradise" and "Life of Pi," is born in Châteauroux, Indre, France.
1966: The Cave of Swallows, the largest known cave shaft in the world, is discovered in Aquismón, San Luis Potosí, Mexico. The floor of the cave is a 1,092-foot freefall drop from the lowest side of the opening, with a 1,214-foot drop from the highest side.
1967: Bob Dylan's eight studio album, "John Wesley Harding," is released. The album, which saw Dylan return to acoustic music after three albums of electric rock music, would reach No. 2 on the U.S. charts and top the UK charts.
1967: After establishing his career as a poet and writer, Leonard Cohen releases his first album, "Songs of Leonard Cohen."
1968: Apollo 8 splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, ending the first orbital manned mission to the Moon.
1970: Professional wrestler, actress and model Chyna, who first rose to prominence after debuting in the World Wrestling Federation in 1997, is born Joan Marie Laurer in Rochester, N.Y.
1975: The Four Seasons' song "December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)" is released. It would hit No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart on Feb. 21, 1976, and repeat that feat on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 on March 13, 1976, remaining in the top spot for three weeks.
1979: After a Communist-led revolution in Afghanistan, Soviet forces enter the country by request of the new regime. The occupation was resisted by mujahideen opposition groups, which had already been rebelling against the pro-Soviet government. Due to the interminable nature of the decade-long war, the conflict in Afghanistan has sometimes been referred to as the "Soviet Union's Vietnam War."
1979: The prime-time soap opera "Knots Landing" premieres on television. The show, a spin-off of "Dallas," would run for 14 seasons before ending on May 13, 1993.
1981: Composer, singer and actor Hoagy Carmichael, best known for composing the music for "Stardust," "Georgia on My Mind," "The Nearness of You" and "Heart and Soul," four of the most-recorded American songs of all time, dies of heart failure at the age of 82 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
1985: Dian Fossey, the gorilla specialist whose book "Gorillas in the Mist," based off her extensive study of the species, was the inspiration for the movie of the same name, is found murdered by a machete in her cabin at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
1988: Film director Hal Ashby, best known for movies such as "Harold and Maude," "The Last Detail," "Shampoo," "Bound for Glory," "Coming Home" and "Being There," dies of pancreatic cancer at age 59 in Malibu, Calif. He earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Director for "Coming Home," which was also nominated for seven other Oscars, including Best Picture, winning Best Actor (Jon Voight), Best Actress (Jane Fonda) and Best Original Screenplay. Ashby started out as a film editor, earning an Oscar nomination for Film Editing in 1967 for "The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming" and winning in 1968 for "In the Heat of the Night."
1988: Rock singer Hayley Williams, the lead singer of the pop-punk band Paramore, is born in Meridian, Miss.
2000: Mario Lemieux, owner of Pittsburgh Penguins, returns to the NHL against the Toronto Maple Leafs after retiring in 1997. The game was nationally broadcast on ESPN2 in the U.S. and on Hockey Night in Canada. Lemieux proved that his scoring touch had not disappeared by scoring a goal and three points, including an assist 33 seconds into the first shift of his return. By returning to the ice, he also became the first owner/player in NHL history.
2000: The drama "Traffic," starring Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Dennis Quaid and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and directed by Steven Soderbergh, premieres in Los Angeles, Calif. The movie, an adaptation of a British miniseries, would go on to earn five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, winning four for Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for del Toro, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing.
2002: Film director George Roy Hill, best known for such films as "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Sting," "The World According to Garp" and "Slap Shot," dies of complications from Parkinson's disease at the age of 81 in New York City.
2002: The musical "Chicago," starring Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly, opens in the United States in limited release. The movie, adapted from the stage musical of the same name, explores the themes of celebrity, scandal, and corruption in Jazz Age Chicago. It would go on to earn $306 million worldwide and receive 13 Academy Award nominations, winning six, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Zeta-Jones.
2007: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is assassinated by a bomb blast in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, two weeks before the scheduled 2008 general election in which she was a leading opposition candidate.
2012: U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who was commander of the Coalition Forces in the Gulf War of 1991, dies from complications of pneumonia at age 78 in Tampa, Fla.