On This Day

17th June

1579 – Sir Francis Drake claimed a land he called "Nova Albion" (modern California) for England.

1631 – Mumtaz Mahal died during childbirth. Her husband, Mughal emperor Shah Jahan I, then spent more than 20 years building her tomb, the Taj Mahal.

1882 - Igor Stravinsky, the Russian composer, was born.

1885 – The Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbour aboard the French ship Isere.

1939 – Last public guillotining in France took place. Eugen Weidmann, a convicted murderer, was guillotined in Versailles outside the prison Saint-Pierre.

1940 – The three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania fell under the occupation of the Soviet Union.

1944 – Iceland declared independence from Denmark and became a republic.

1947 - Pan Am Airways was chartered as the world's first worldwide passenger airline.

1950 - The first documented kidney transplant took place in Chicago, on Ruth Tucker, a 44-year-old woman with polycystic kidney disease. Unfortunately the patient's body rejected the kidney.

1953 – In East Germany, the Soviet Union ordered a division of troops into East Berlin to quell a rebellion.

1961 - Soviet ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev defected to the West while his troupe was in Paris.

1970 - Detectives investigating the disappearance of two children, Susan Blatchford, aged 11, and Gary Hanlon, aged 12, found a shallow grave on the edge of Epping Forest in Essex. The murders became known as "Babes in the wood" murders.

1974 - The IRA bombed the Houses of Parliament, causing extensive damage and injuring 11 people.

1991 – The South African Parliament repealed the Population Registration Act, which had required the racial classification of all South Africans at birth.

1994 – Following a televised low-speed highway chase, O.J. Simpson was arrested for the murders of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman.

2008 - Hundreds of same-sex couples got married across California on the first full day that gay marriage became legal by order of the state's highest court. (However, Californian voters later passed Proposition 8, once again banning gay marriage.)