1520: Martin Luther publicly burns the papal edict that demanded he recant or face excommunication over his written attacks on orthodox Catholic beliefs and his denial of the power of Rome to determine what is right and wrong in matters of faith. Luther would be formally expelled from the church in January 1521.
1799: France becomes the first country to adopt the metric system, with conversion being mandatory first in Paris and then across the provinces.
1817: Mississippi becomes the 20th U.S. state.
1830: Poet Emily Dickinson, whose work would mostly go unpublished during her life but is today considered to be a major American poet, is born in Amherst, Mass.
1851: Melvil Dewey, the American librarian famous for creating the Dewey Decimal Classification system, is born in Adams Center, N.Y.
1878: Henry Wells, the American businessman who co-founded Wells Fargo and American Express, dies two days short of his 73rd birthday in Glasgow, Scotland.
1884: Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is published for the first time, in the United Kingdom and Canada. The book would be published in America on Feb. 18, 1885.
1896: Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who used his fortune from his 350 patenting inventions, including dynamite, to posthumously institute the Nobel Prizes, dies of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 63 in Sanremo, Italy.
1898: The Treaty of Paris is signed, officially ending the Spanish-American War. The treaty resulted in Spain surrendering control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, parts of the West Indies, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States in exchange for a payment of $20 million.
1901: The first Nobel Prizes are awarded with Frédéric Passy, co-founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and Henry Dunant, the founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Other winners were X-ray discoverer Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (physics), Jacobus van't Hoff (chemistry), poet Sully Prudhomme (literature) and German physiologist and microbiologist Emil von Behring (medicine or physiology).
1906: U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt wins the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War, becoming the first American to win a Nobel Prize.
1907: Ruyard Kipling receives the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 41, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize, and to date he remains its youngest recipient.
1909: Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf becomes the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. In awarding her the prize, the Swedish Academy called out the "lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings."
1911: The first transcontinental flight across the United States is completed with Calbraith Perry Rodgers, who began the flight on Sept. 17, 1911, in Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., landing in Long Beach, Calif., and symbolically taxiing into the Pacific Ocean.
1914: Actress and singer Dorothy Lamour, best remembered for appearing in the "Road to…" movies, a series of successful comedies starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, is born Mary Leta Dorothy Slaton in New Orleans, La. Lamour died at her home in North Hollywood, Calif., on Sept. 22, 1996, at the age of 81.
1927: The phrase "Grand Ole Opry" is used for the first time on-air, during the broadcast of the "WSM Barn Dance" from Nashville, Tenn. The show itself, which had started in November 1925, would soon take on that name.
1928: Actor Dan Blocker, best known for his role as Eric "Hoss" Cartwright in the western TV series "Bonanza," is born in DeKalb, Texas. Blocker, who was also a Korean War veteran, died at age 43 of a pulmonary embolism following gallbladder surgery on May 13, 1972.
1936: King Edward VIII signs the Instrument of Abdication, giving up his throne to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who was divorced from her first husband and was pursuing a divorce of her second. Edward was succeeded as king by his brother Albert, from then on known as King George VI. He remains the only British monarch to have voluntarily renounced the throne since the Anglo-Saxon period.
1946: Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Walter Johnson, one of the most celebrated and dominating players in baseball history, dies of a brain tumor at the age of 59 in Washington, D.C. Johnson, who played his entire 21-year career for the Washington Senators, set several pitching records, some of which remain unbroken today. He still leads in all-time career shutouts with 110, is second in wins with 417 and fourth in complete games with 531. He also once held the career record in strikeouts with 3,508 and was the only player in the 3,000 strikeout club for more than 50 years until Bob Gibson joined him in 1974.
1946: American writer Damon Runyon, best known for his short stories celebrating the world of Broadway in New York City that grew out of the Prohibition era, dies of throat cancer at the age of 66 in New York City. Two of his stories, "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure," were used as the basis for the musical "Guys and Dolls."
1948: The United Nations General Assembly adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Palais de Chaillot, Paris. The Declaration arose directly from the experience of World War II and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. Pictured is first lady Eleanor Roosevelt with the Spanish version of the declaration.
1952: Actress Susan Dey, best known for her television roles as Laurie Partridge on "The Partridge Family" and lawyer Grace Van Owen on "L.A. Law," is born in Pekin, Ill.
1953: Hugh Hefner publishes the first Playboy magazine with an investment of $7,600. The first issue, which featured Marilyn Monroe on the cover and was undated because Hefner wasn't sure if there was going to be a second issue, sold for 50 cents.
1957: Actor Michael Clarke Duncan, best known for his Academy Award-nominated role in "The Green Mile," as well as for roles in movies such as "Armageddon," "The Whole Nine Yards" and "Daredevil," is born in Chicago, Ill. He died at age 54 on Sept. 3, 2012, nearly two months after suffering a heart attack that had left him hospitalized.
1960: Actor and director Kenneth Branagh, best known for acting in movies such as "Henry V," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and "My Week With Marilyn," and for directing movies like "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" and "Thor" (pictured), is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
1962: David Lean's epic adventure drama "Lawrence of Arabia" premieres in London, England. The movie, which starred Peter O'Toole as British Army officer T.E. Lawrence, depicts Lawrence's experiences in Arabia during World War I. It would go on to earn seven Academy Awards out of 10 nomination, including Best Picture and Best Director.
1964: In Oslo, Norway, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. accepts the Nobel Peace Prize. King was the youngest person to ever win the award, which was awarded to him for leading non-violent resistance to racial prejudice in the United States.
1964: Chef and restaurateur Bobby Flay, who has hosted several Food Network television programs, is born in New York City.
1967: Soul singer Otis Redding dies at age 26 when his tour plane crashes into Lake Monona in Madison, Wis. The crash also killed the pilot, Redding's manager and four members of Redding's tour band, the "Bar-Kays," with only band member Ben Cauley escaping alive. Redding's death came just three days after he recorded "(Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay," which would become his biggest hit and the first posthumous No. 1 record on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts.
1974: The all-star disaster film "The Towering Inferno" premieres in New York City. The film, whose cast included Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway and Fred Astaire, proved to be a critical success, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture and becoming the highest grossing film released in 1974.
1974: Drummer Meg White, best known as one-half of the rock duo The White Stripes with ex-husband Jack White, is born in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.
1976: The band Wings release their triple album "Wings Over America." The album would prove another success for Paul McCartney's band, reaching No. 1 in the United States in early 1977 (the last in a five-album stretch of consecutive No. 1 albums for Wings) and No. 8 in the United Kingdom.
1977: College basketball coach Adolph Rupp, who won 876 games in 41 years of coaching at the University of Kentucky, dies at the age of 76 in Lexington, Ky. Rupp is ranked fifth (behind Mike Krzyzewski, Bob Knight, Jim Boeheim, and Dean Smith) in total victories by a men's NCAA Division I college coach and second in all-time winning percentage. He's also known for coaching Kentucky in the 1966 NCAA Championship Game against Texas Western, which saw Kentucky's all-white starting five go up against Texas Western's all-black starting five during the height of the Civil Rights Era. When Texas Western won, 72-65, it was seen as a blow for equality and more enlightened coaching approaches.
1978: Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin and President of Egypt Anwar Sadat are jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Sadat and Begin are seen here in September 1978 following the announcement of the Camp David Accords.
1978: Filmmaker Edward D. Wood Jr., known for his low-budget films in the 1950s, including "Glen or Glenda" and "Plan 9 from Outer Space," dies of a heart attack at the age of 54 in Los Angeles.
1984: South African Bishop Desmond Tutu receives the Nobel Peace Prize. In recognizing Tutu, seen here in 2007, the Nobel Committee cited his "role as a unifying leader figure in the campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa."
1985: The drama "Out of Africa," starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford and directed by Sydney Pollack, premieres in Los Angeles, Calif. The movie would go on to earn 11 Academy Award nominations, winning seven, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Adapted Screenplay.
1985: Actress and singer Raven-Symoné, best known for her role in the Disney Channel series "That's So Raven," as well as the movies "Dr. Dolittle," "The Princess Diaries 2" and "College Road Trip," is born Raven-Symoné Christina Pearman in Atlanta, Ga.
1993: The crew of the space shuttle Endeavor deploys the repaired Hubble Space Telescope into Earth's orbit.
1996: Country singer Faron Young, whose best-known songs include "If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')," "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young," "Hello Walls" and "It's Four in the Morning," dies at the age of 64 in Nashville, Tenn., a day after he attempted suicide by shooting himself.
1998: Six astronauts from space shuttle Endeavour open the doors to the new international space station for the first time in orbit 250 miles above the Earth. The mission carried the U.S.-built Unity node and the crew mated it to the Russian Zarya module already in orbit before connecting power and data transmission cables between the two modules.
1999: Singer-songwriter, bassist and producer Rick Danko, best known as a member of The Band, dies of heart failure at age 56 in Marbletown, N.Y.
1999: Actress and comedian Shirley Hemphill, best known as wisecracking waitress Shirley Wilson on the sitcoms "What's Happening!!" and "What's Happening Now!!," dies of renal failure at age 52 in West Covina, Calif.
2001: "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," the first in a three-part film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy trilogy, premieres in London. The movie would be nominated for 13 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director for Peter Jackson and Best Supporting Actor for Ian McKellen, but would win only four, Best Original Score, Best Makeup, Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography. It also proved to be a box office success, making more than $870 million worldwide.
2002: Former President Jimmy Carter accepts the Nobel Peace Prize. When the award was announced in October, the Nobel Committee cited Carter's efforts "to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development" through The Carter Center. Carter formed The Carter Center in 1982 to advance human rights and alleviate unnecessary human suffering. Carter is the only U.S. president to have received the prize after leaving office.
2005: Politician Eugene McCarthy, a long-time member of the U.S. Congress from Minnesota who unsuccessfully sought the presidency five times altogether, dies of complications from Parkinson's disease at the age of 89 in Washington, D.C. He was most remembered for the 1968 presidential election, in which he was the first candidate to challenge incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic nomination, running on an anti-Vietnam War platform.
2005: Comedian and actor Richard Pryor, known for his concert movies and recordings and for movie roles such as "The Toy," "Silver Streak," "Brewster's Millions" and "The Wiz," dies of a heart attack at the age of 65 in Encino, Calif.
2006: Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who ruled from 1973 until transferring power to a democratically elected president in 1990, dies of congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema at the age of 91 in Santiago, Chile.
2007: Former Vice President Al Gore accepts the Nobel Peace Prize with a call for humanity to rise up against a looming climate crisis.
2007: Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick is sentenced to 23 months in prison for bankrolling a dogfighting operation and killing dogs that underperformed. He would serve 21 months in prison, followed by two months in home confinement, before being released. After his release from prison, Vick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and was reinstated in week three of the 2009 season.
2009: President Barack Obama accepts the Nobel Peace Prize, using his 36-minute acceptance speech to discuss the tensions between war and peace and the idea of a "just war."
2009: Director James Cameron's 3-D sci-fi film epic "Avatar" has its world premiere in London. The movie would go on to earn $2.7 billion, becoming the highest-grossing film of all time, surpassing Cameron's "Titanic," which had held the record for 12 years. It earned nine Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three, for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Best Art Direction.
2010: Bob Dylan's handwritten lyrics for his song "The Times They Are a-Changin" are sold at auction at Sotheby's, New York, for $422,500.