In 1564, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei was born in Pisa.
In 1898, the U.S. battleship Maine mysteriously blew up in Havana Harbor, killing more than 260 crew members and bringing the United States closer to war with Spain.
In 1933, President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt escaped an assassination attempt in Miami that mortally wounded Chicago Mayor Anton J. Cermak; gunman Giuseppe Zangara was executed more than four weeks later.
In 1944, Allied bombers destroyed the monastery atop Monte Cassino (MAWN’-tay kah-SEE’-noh) in Italy.
In 1952, a funeral was held at Windsor Castle for Britain’s King George VI, who had died nine days earlier.
In 1961, 73 people, including an 18-member U.S. figure skating team en route to the World Championships in Czechoslovakia, were killed in the crash of a Sabena Airlines Boeing 707 in Belgium.
In 1965, Canada’s new maple-leaf flag was unfurled in ceremonies in Ottawa.
In 1971, Britain and Ireland “decimalised” their currencies, making one pound equal to 100 new pence instead of 240 pence.
In 1982, 84 men were killed when a huge oil-drilling rig, the Ocean Ranger, sank off the coast of Newfoundland during a fierce storm.
In 1989, the Soviet Union announced that the last of its troops had left Afghanistan, after more than nine years of military intervention.
In 1994, just as his trial was about to start, drifter Danny Harold Rolling pleaded guilty to the 1990 murders of five college students in Gainesville, Fla. (Rolling was executed in Oct. 2006.)
In 2002, a private funeral was held at Windsor Castle for Britain’s Princess Margaret, who had died six days earlier at age 71.
Ten years ago: A pair of blazes in China killed at least 93 people. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500 on the same track where his father was killed three years earlier. The West defeated the East 136-132 in the NBA All-Star game. Actress Jan Miner, best known as “Madge the Manicurist” in Palmolive TV ads, died in Bethel, Conn., at age 86.
Five years ago: President Hugo Chavez (OO’-goh CHAH’-vez) of Venezuela won a referendum to eliminate term limits, paving the way for him to run again in 2012. The Western Conference beat the East 146-119 in the NBA All-Star game. Matt Kenseth won the rain-shortened Daytona 500.
One year ago: With a blinding flash and a booming shock wave, a meteor blazed across Russia’s western Siberian sky and exploded, injuring more than 1,000 people as it blasted out windows. Pressing his case in Chicago, the town that launched his political career, President Barack Obama called for the government to take an active, wide-ranging role in ensuring every American has a “ladder of opportunity” into the middle class. In a spectacular fall from political prominence, former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., and his wife, Sandra, agreed to plead guilty to federal charges growing out of what prosecutors said was a scheme to use $750,000 in campaign funds for lavish personal expenses. (Jackson is serving a 2 1/2-year prison term; because of the couple’s young children, Jackson’s wife will serve a yearlong sentence after her husband completes his.)