On this day in history, December 23

An Iraqi fighter scores a first.

An Iraqi fighter scores a first.

Published Dec 23, 2023


Today back in the day

Vincent van Gogh

1888 Vincent van Gogh cuts off his left ear with a razor after arguing with fellow painter Paul Gauguin and sends the severed appendage to a friendly prostitute for safe keeping.


1947 The transistor is invented at Bell Laboratories by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley, who share the Nobel Prize for their invention, which sparks a worldwide revolution in electronics.

1948 Seven Japanese military and political leaders, including Hideki Tojo, Japan’s prime minister, are executed in Tokyo for war crimes.

1952 Biologist and physician Alain Bombard, 25kg lighter, arrives in Barbados after 65 days and 4 400km at sea, proving his theory that a shipwrecked person could survive with almost no provisions.

1954 The first successful kidney transplant is performed, in Boston.

1972 An earthquake strikes the Nicaraguan capital of Managua, killing more than 10 000.

The crash site where 73 harrowing days were spent.

1972 The remaining 16 survivors of the Andes flight disaster are rescued after 73 days trapped among the mountains, and having survived by cannibalism.

1985 Five civilians die and 40 are injured when MK cadre Andrew Zondo’s bomb explodes at an Amanzimtoti shopping centre near Durban.

Voyager, piloted by a crew of two, takes off from Edwards Air Force base on a record-breaking trip. Picture: AFP

1987 Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager set a new world record of 216 hours of continuous flight around the world without refuelling. Their aircraft, Voyager, travelled 40 211km at a speed of about 185km per hour.

Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager who piloted the experimental airplane "Voyager", smile and wave at a press conference in December 1986, at Edwards Air Force base. The ultra-light plane set a new around-the-world record without landing or refuelling. Picture: AFP

1996 Four women are ordained as priests in Jamaica – the first in Anglican history.

2002 A US Predator is shot down by an Iraqi MiG-25 in the first combat engagement between a drone and conventional aircraft.

2003 The PetroChina Chuandongbei natural gas field explosion, in Guoqiao, Kai County, Chongqing, China, kills at least 234 people.

2007 Officials agree to abolish the Kingdom of Nepal and replace it with a federal republic.

2008 A coup d’état occurs in Guinea hours after the death of President Lansana Conté.

2015 A bomb explodes at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport, killing an airport cleaner. Four days later, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks claim responsibility for the attack.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi celebrates. Picture: Reuters

2020 Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi scores his 644th goal for FC Barcelona during 3-0 win over Real Valladolid to break Pele's record for most goals for one club; Pele, 643 goals for Santos 1956-74.