A.D. 814: Charlemagne, the founder of the first empire in western Europe after the fall of Rome, dies at age 71 in his capital city of Aachen, now the westernmost city in Germany. He had taken to his bed a week earlier with pleurisy, an inflammation of the lining of the pleural cavity surrounding the lungs. Charlemagne (seen here to the right, mounted on a horse and wearing a crown) became king of the Franks, a Germanic tribe in present-day Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and western Germany, in A.D. 771 and worked to unite all Germanic people into one kingdom and to convert his subjects to Christianity. After Pope Leo III crowned him emperor of the Romans in A.D. 800, he encouraged the Carolingian Renaissance, a cultural and intellectual revival in Europe. During his 13-year reign as emperor, Charlemagne expanded his kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of western and central Europe, earning the nickname "Father of Europe."
1225: Saint Thomas Aquinas, considered the Roman Catholic Church's greatest theologian and philosopher, is born in Roccasecca, Kingdom of Sicily. He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology and much of modern philosophy was conceived in development or refutation of his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics and political theory.
1521: The Diet of Worms, an assembly of the Holy Roman Empire held in Worms, Germany, begins. It would prove most memorable for the Edict of the Worms issued on May 25, 1521, in which Protestant reformer Martin Luther was declared an outlaw by the Roman Catholic Church.
1547: King Henry VIII of England dies at the age of 55 in the Palace of Whitehall in London. His 9-year-old son, Edward VI became king, and the first Protestant ruler of England. Besides his six marriages, Henry VIII is known for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church.
1754: English art historian Horace Walpole coins the word "serendipity" in a letter to British diplomat Sir Horace Mann.
1813: Jane Austen's novel "Pride and Prejudice" is first published.
1820: A Russian expedition led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Petrovich Lazarev discovers the Antarctic mainland at a point with coordinates 69º21'28"S 2º14'50"W and witnesses ice-fields there.
1873: French novelist and performer Colette, best known for her novel "Gigi," which Lerner and Loewe would use as the basis the stage and film musical comedies of the same title, is born Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette in Yonne, France.
1878: Yale Daily News becomes the first daily college newspaper in the United States.
1892: Actor and filmmaker Ernst Lubitsch, who earned three Oscar nominations for Best Director for "The Love Parade" and "The Patriot" (both in 1930) and "Heaven Can Wait" in 1944, is born in Berlin, Germany. Lubitsch, who also directed movies such as "Ninotchka," "The Shop Around the Corner" and "To Be or Not to Be," received an Honorary Academy Award in 1947 for his distinguished contributions to the art of the motion picture. He died of a heart attack, his sixth, at age 55 on Nov. 30, 1947.
1896: Walter Arnold of East Peckham, Kent, England, becomes the first person to be convicted of speeding. He was fined 1 shilling, plus costs, for speeding at 8 miles per hour, thus exceeding the contemporary speed limit of 2 mph.
1901: Baseball's American League is formally organized as a "major league." By the time the 1901 season began in the spring, the league would consist of the Chicago White Stockings, Boston Americans, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Senators, Cleveland Blues and Milwaukee Brewers.
1912: Painter Jackson Pollock, a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement who was well known for his uniquely defined style of drip painting, is born in Cody, Wyo. He died at age 44 in a single-car drunken driving accident on Aug. 11, 1956, in Springs, N.Y. One of his passengers, Edith Metzger, was also killed in the accident.
1915: An act of the U.S. Congress creates the United States Coast Guard.
1916: Louis D. Brandeis is nominated by President Woodrow Wilson to the Supreme Court of the United States. After his Senate confirmation on June 1, 1916, following a bitter and drawn out confirmation process, he would become the high court's first Jewish member.
1922: Following a snowstorm lasting more than 28 hours, the roof of the Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington, D.C., collapses, killing 98 people and injuring 133.
1934: The first ski tow in the United States begins operation in Woodstock, Vt. Clinton Gilbert entered into a partnership with Bob and Betty Royce, proprietors of the White Cupboard Inn, to construct the device using the rear wheel of a Ford Model A to haul skiers up a 500-foot slope. Within five years, more than 100 tow ropes were operating in North America.
1936: Actor and filmmaker Alan Alda, best known for his roles as Hawkeye Pierce in the TV series "M*A*S*H" and Arnold Vinick in "The West Wing," is born in The Bronx, N.Y.
1938: The world land speed record on a public road is broken by driver Rudolf Caracciola in the Mercedes-Benz W195 at a speed of 268.9 miles per hour on the Reichs-Autobahn A5 between Frankfurt and Darmstadt, Germany.
1939: Irish writer William Butler Yeats, one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature, dies at the age of 73 in Menton, France. In 1923, he became the first Irishman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, with the Nobel Committee praising his "inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation." Some of Yeats' greatest works include "The Tower" and "The Winding Stair and Other Poems."
1955: Nicolas Sarkozy, who served as the 23rd president of the French Republic from 2007 until 2012, is born Nicolas Paul Stéphane Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa in Paris, France.
1956: Elvis Presley makes his first appearance on national television on "The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show."
1958: The Lego company patents the design of its Lego bricks, still compatible with bricks produced today, in Denmark.
1959: Filmmaker Frank Darabont, best known for directing the movies "The Shawshank Redemption," "The Green Mile" and "The Mist," is born in Montbéliard, France. Darabont has been nominated for three Oscars: two for "The Green Mile" and one for "The Shawshank Redemption." He also developed, executive produced and directed the pilot episode of the TV drama "The Walking Dead."
1968: Singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan, known for her emotional ballads and for founding the Lilith Fair tour, is born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Some of McLachlan's best known songs include "I Will Remember You," "Angel" and "Adia."
1976: Rapper Rick Ross, known for hit rap songs such as "Hustlin'," "The Boss," "Here I Am" and "Aston Martin Music," is born William Leonard Roberts II in Coahoma County, Miss.
1977: Singer Joey Fatone (left), best known as one of the members of the boy band 'N Sync, is born in Brooklyn, N.Y.
1978: The TV fantasy drama "Fantasy Island," starring Ricardo Montalban at the mysterious Mr. Roarke and Hervé Villechaize as his energetic sidekick, Tattoo, premieres. The show would run for seven seasons before ending on May 19, 1984.
1979: Actress Rosamund Pike, best known for her roles in movies such as "Die Another Day," "Pride and Prejudice," "Fracture," "Wrath of the Titans" and "Jack Reacher," is born in London, England.
1980: Six Americans who had managed to escape the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran, when Islamist students and militants seized the building and took hostages on Nov. 4, 1979, leave Iran using false Canadian diplomatic passports with the help of the Canadian government and the CIA. The Americans had been hiding at the Canadian embassy in Tehran and two CIA agents joined the six diplomats to form a fake film crew who were supposedly leaving Iran after scouting for an appropriate location to shoot a scene for non-existent sci-fi film named "Argo." Pictured is a fake movie poster created by the CIA as part of the cover story. The incident was dramatized in 2012 in actor/director Ben Affleck's Best Picture Oscar-winning movie "Argo."
1980: The USCGC Blackthorn collides with the tanker Capricorn while leaving Tampa Bay in Florida and capsizes, killing 23 Coast Guard crewmembers.
1980: Singer Nick Carter, best known for his time with the boy band Backstreet Boys, is born in Jamestown, N.Y. He's seen here, second from left, with the Backstreet Boys in 2009.
1981: Ronald Reagan uses an executive order to lift remaining domestic petroleum price and allocation controls in the United States, so that prices would be wholly determined by the free market in the U.S. The move, which was started under President Jimmy Carter, helped bring an end the 1979 energy crisis and begin the 1980s oil glut.
1981: Actor Elijah Wood, best known for his role as Frodo Baggins in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, is born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
1985: The supergroup USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa) records the song "We Are the World" in Los Angeles to help raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief. Most of the stars who came together to sing on the track, including Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Hall & Oates, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Paul Simon, Tina Turner and Bruce Springsteen, were in town for the American Music Awards. The song would be released on March 7, 1985, and instantly become a worldwide commercial success, topping music charts throughout the world, becoming the fastest-selling American pop single in history and earning three Grammys.
1986: The space shuttle Challenger breaks apart over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all seven astronauts on board, including school teacher Christa McAuliffe. The disaster, which occurred after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster failed at liftoff, would result in a 32-month hiatus in the shuttle program while it was investigated. Changes implemented before the next shuttle launch in September 1988 included various safety measures, solid rocket booster redesign and a new policy on management decision-making for launches.
1991: Football halfback Red Grange, a charter member of both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame, dies of Parkinson's disease at age 87 in Lake Wales, Fla. Grange, who played for the University of Illinois, the Chicago Bears and the short-lived New York Yankees, helped legitimize the NFL when he signed with the Bears in 1925. He won two NFL championships with the Bears in 1932 and 1933.
1994: Actor Hal Smith, best known for playing Otis Campbell, the town drunk on the TV sitcom "The Andy Griffith Show," dies of a heart attack at the age of 77 in Santa Monica, Calif.
1996: Writer Jerry Siegel, the co-creator of the DC Comics character Superman (along with artist Joe Shuster), first published in "Action Comics #1" in June 1938, dies at age 81 in Los Angeles, Calif. Siegel and Shuster sold all rights to the character to DC Comics for $130 in March 1938 and fought a number of legal battles over ownership of the superhero the rest of their lives, eventually gaining recognition for their roles in creating him.
2002: Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, best known for the "Pippi Longstocking" book series, dies at age 94 in Stockholm, Sweden.
2003: In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush states that Saddam Hussein had tried to acquire "significant quantities of uranium from Africa," citing British intelligence sources. That intelligence would later turn out to be substantiated only by forged documents.
2006: The roof of one of the buildings at the Katowice International Fair grounds in Katowice, Poland, collapses due to the weight of snow, killing 65 and injuring more than 170 others. The trade hall was hosting the 56th National Exhibition of Carrier Pigeons, with about 700 people in attendance, at the time of the collapse.