This Day in History – May 8

Today is the 128th of 2023. There are 237 days left in the year.


1794: Antoine Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry, is executed on the guillotine during France’s Reign of Terror.


1254: The University of Salamanca in Spain is granted a royal charter by Alfonso IX; it is the third-oldest university still operating and the oldest Hispanic educational institution.

1348: A ship from Bordeaux carrying the plague lands in Melcombe Regis (now Weymouth), Dorset; it marks the beginning of the Terrible Pestilence (Black Death) in England.

1429: Largely due to the efforts of Joan of Arc, English troops end their siege of the French city of Orléans and thus mark the military turning point of the Hundred Years’ War between France and England.

1657: English Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell refuses the English crown.

1784: The only known deaths by hailstones in the US occur in Winnsborough, South Carolina.

1787: The first US prison reform society — the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons — is formed and led by Dr Benjamin Rush.

1792: The US establishes the military draft.

1812: The US passes the first foreign aid Bill, authorising up to US$50,000 to assist victims of the Caracas, Venezuela, earthquake of March 26.

1819: Kamehameha I, the conquering king of Hawaii who united the Hawaiian islands and formally established the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1810, dies at the age of 81.

1840: Alexander Wolcott patents the photographic process.

1847: Robert Thompson, a Scot, patents the rubber tyre.

1886: The first Coca-Cola (containing cocaine), an invention of Dr John S Pemberton, is sold at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia.

1877: The first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (then the First Annual New York Bench Show of Dogs) begins; it is one of the oldest, continuously running sporting events in the United States, second only to the Kentucky Derby.

1902: Mount Pelee on the French West Indian island of Martinique erupts, wiping out the city of St Pierre and killing all but two of its 30,000 residents.

1921: Sweden abolishes capital punishment.

1942: In the Battle of the Coral Sea the USS Lexington becomes the first US aircraft carrier to be sunk during World War II.

1945: German forces surrender to the Soviets — who did not recognise the surrender to US General Eisenhower the previous day — and World War II ends in Europe.

1970: British rock group the Beatles releases Let It Be, their last original studio album to hit the record shops; this is a month after Paul McCartney announced that he had left.

1973: Militant Native Americans who held the South Dakota hamlet of Wounded Knee for 10 weeks, surrender.

1978: David R Berkowitz pleads guilty in a Brooklyn courtroom to the “Son of Sam” killings that had terrified New Yorkers.

1980: The World Health Organization announces smallpox has been eradicated; for centuries the acute infectious disease was one of the world’s most-dreaded plagues.

1984: The Soviet Union announces it will not participate in the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in retaliation for the American boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

1990: Estonia declares itself a republic and drops the words “Soviet Socialist” from its name.

1993: Disguising himself as a motorman, 16-year-old Keron Thomas takes the New York City subway train and 2,000 passengers on a three-hour ride.

1995: Gigantic celebrations mark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

1999: North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombs hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by mistake, killing three Chinese reporters; protesters in China retaliate by attacking US missions. Nancy Mace becomes the first woman to graduate from The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, South Carolina.

2003: The US Senate votes 96-0 to ratify the expansion of NATO to include seven former communist countries in Eastern Europe.

2005: Survivors, political dignitaries and others gather inside the Mauthausen Nazi concentration camp to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of what one speaker describes as “hell on earth”.

2006: South Africa’s former Deputy President Jacob Zuma is acquitted of rape in the country’s most politically charged trial since the end of apartheid.

2008: During the 2008 race for the White House, Senator Barack Obama gets a front-runner’s welcome back at the US Capitol where he is surrounded on the House floor by well-wishers calling him “Mr President” and reaching out to pat him on the back or shake his hand.

2010: Pakistan successfully test-fires two ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

2011: Relations between Egypt’s Muslims and Christians degenerate to a new low after riots overnight leave 12 people dead and a church burned, adding to the disorder of the country’s post-revolution transition to democracy.

2013: Italian prosecutors place the captain of the Jolly Nero cargo ship under investigation for alleged manslaughter after his vessel slams into the dock at Genoa’s busy port and topples the control tower, killing at least seven people.


Edward Gibbon, English historian (1737-1794); Henri Dunant, Swiss founder of International Red Cross (1828-1910); Harry S Truman, US president (1884-1972); Mordecai Anielewicz, Polish leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (1919-1943); David Attenborough, British television producer and naturalist (1926- ); Heather Little-White, Jamaican nutritionist and pioneer of popular TV series Creative Cooking (1952-2013); Melissa Gilbert, US actress (1964- ); Enrique Iglesias, Spanish singer of Latin pop (1975- )

– AP/ Jamaica Observer