On this day in history, August 20

Significant and interesting moments in time with a South African angle, from this day in history

Misuzulu KaZwelithini becomes King of the Zulu Nation. Picture: Bongani Mbatha African News Agency

Published Aug 21, 2023


Significant and interesting moments in time with a South African angle, from this day in history

2AD Venus and Jupiter are in conjunction, which is a possible astrological explanation for Star of Bethlehem mentioned in the Bible.

636 At the Battle of Yarmouk, Arab forces take control of the Levant, marking the first great wave of Muslim conquests.

1858 Charles Darwin beats Alfred Wallace to the draw, and his theory of evolution is first published. It holds that new species arise by a process of evolution (natural selection), rather than having been created – forever immutable – by God. Widely accepted, it still rankles many Christians.

1911 The New York Times sends the first telegram around the world to see how long it takes. After being relayed by 16 different operators, it returns 16.5 minutes later.

1940 Exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded by an ice pick in the head in Mexico City. The heir apparent to Lenin as Soviet leader, he would lose out to Joseph Stalin – of whom Trotsky was openly critical.

1940 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously says of the Battle of Britain pilots: ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’

1955 Simultaneous attacks by Algerian rebels against French targets kill 500 people.

1960 The USSR recovers two dogs – they are the first living creatures to return from space.

1968 Warsaw Pact troops and tanks invade Czechoslovakia to crush the ‘Prague Spring’ uprising.

1977 Nasa launches Voyager II, an unmanned spacecraft, on which is a copper phonograph called Sounds of Earth.

1988 The Iran-Iraq War comes to an end after seven years.

1990 Iraq moves Western hostages to military places to be used as human shields.

1998 The US launches Operation Infinite Reach – missile strikes on al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan and a factory in Sudan in retaliation for al-Qaeda’s August 7 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

2015 In the US, 30 West Point Military Academy students are injured in a “pillow fight”.

2016 Middle-distance runner Caster Semenya retains her Olympic women’s 800m title in a time of 1:55.28 in the final in Rio de Janeiro.

2018 Pope Francis releases letter to all Catholics condemning sexual abuse atrocities and clerical cover-ups "We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them".

2022 22 million now at risk of starvation in Horn of Africa, up 9 million since January, according to the UN, after worst drought in 40 years [1]

2022 Misuzulu ka Zwelithini is crowned Zulu King at KwaKhangelamankengane Palace in KwaZulu-Natal.

2023 Russia's Luna 25 spacecraft has crashed into the moon according to Roscosmos, the country's space agency.

2023 Tropical Storm Hilary makes landfall on Mexico's Baja peninsula, the first tropical storm to hit the region for 84 years.