What Happened on August 20?

  • Hundreds of people were killed in anti-French rioting in Morocco and Algeria. (1955) The National Liberation Front (FLN) killed 123 people, including old women, children and 77 French nationals. The events sparked a riot and fueled political unrest.

  • NASA launched Voyager 2, which carried a phonograph record into space. (1977) The unmanned space probe carried the 12-inch (30-centimeter) copper record, which contained music, nature sounds and greetings in many languages. The probe also is the only probe to have flown by Uranus and Neptune.

  • The first around-the-world telegram was sent. (1911) The New York Times newspaper sent the telegram to test how fast a message could be sent around the world — it took 16 minutes, 30 seconds.

  • Professional football was first organized. (1920) Seven men — including football star Jim Thorpe — met in Canton, Ohio, and formed the American Professional Football Conference (APFC), the precursor to the National Football League (NFL).

  • Lou Gehrig hit career grand slam number 23, setting a new record. (1938) Gehrig played for the New York Yankees; his record still stands today.

  • The two Menendez brothers killed their parents. (1989) The two brothers, Lyle and Erik, shot their parents to death and then went to the movies to establish an alibi. They called 911 when they returned home from the movies to report the murders. Though they weren't initially suspected, the two brothers ultimately were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

  • US Postal worker Patrick Sherrill shot and killed 14 coworkers, and then himself. (1986) The shooting, which happened in Edmond, Oklahoma, is generally accepted as the event that spawned the "going postal" phrase.

  • The world's first commercial news radio station hit the airwaves. (1920) WWJ (AM), first known as 8MK, started its news broadcasts in Detroit, Michigan.

  • In northern India, two trains collided, killing 358 people. (1995) The accident was caused by unsafe railways and the presence of a cow on the tracks. One train hit the cow, damaging its brakes and disabling the train. The next express to come through didn't know there was a disabled train and wasn't able to stop in time. 358 people were killed and more than 400 were injured in India's worst train accident in history.

  • Darwin published his theory of evolution. (1858) Darwin's theory published in The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, right next to a similar theory purported by rival scientist Alfred Russel Wallace.

  • "Black Saturday," the worst day of the 1988 Yellowstone fires, occurred. (1988) The Yellowstone fires of 1988 were a series of fires that turned into the largest wildfire in the park's history. On "Black Saturday," fires burned more than 234 square miles (610 square kilometers) of the park. In total, the fires burned more than 35 percent of the park.

Discussion Comments


I've never been much of a football fan, but I didn't know that the history of football dates back to 1920, which is actually very interesting. Whether you're a fan of the sport or not, looking up the history of any sport can certainly give you second thoughts. The next time you're surfing on the web, why not check out the history of your favorite (or even least favorite) activity. You might learn something new.


Even though I don't remember hearing about the India train incident in 1995, reading the bullet point still caught my attention. What I find most interesting about it is how one animal can do so much damage to hundreds of passengers, and how even the smallest of incidents can be so devastating. It really shows that no matter what vehicle one is using, whether it's a car or boat, it's always good to take precautions. On a final note, though it happened years ago, hopefully we have learned something from our mistakes.


In relation to the second to last bullet point, we have learned several times in school about Darwin and the theory of evolution. Though I won't get into a debate about whether I believe him or not, his proposals and theories are pretty interesting regardless. Even though there are many scientists who share the same ideas, each one has something about their beliefs that makes them unique, and Darwin is no exception to this.

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