1650: French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes, who has been called the father of both modern philosophy and analytical geometry, dies of pneumonia at the age of 53 in Stockholm, Sweden. He is perhaps best known for the philosophical statement "Cogito ergo sum," which translates to "I think, therefore I am."
1752: The Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital in America, opens in Philadelphia thanks to the efforts of Benjamin Franklin, who was involved in drafting the petition for its establishment and fund-raising. The hospital was chartered in May 1751 as a proposed hospital to include treatment of people with mental illness and received its first patient on Feb. 11, 1752, in temporary quarters in a mansion on Market Street. The hospital's permanent facility (pictured) opened on Dec. 17, 1756, accepting both mentally ill and general medical patients. Besides being the first hospital in America, it is also home to the first surgical amphitheater and first medical library in America.
1812: The term "gerrymandering" is born when Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry signs a redistricting law favoring his party.
1847: Inventor and businessman Thomas Edison, who developed the phonograph, the motion picture camera and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb, is born in Milan, Ohio.
1909: Film director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, best known as the writer-director of "All About Eve," is born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. "All About Eve" was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won six, including wins for Mankiewicz in the categories of Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. He also directed movies such as "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," "Julius Caesar," "The Barefoot Contessa," "Guys and Dolls," "Cleopatra" and "Sleuth," and won two additional Oscars for 1949's "A Letter to Three Wives," again for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. He died of a heart attack at age 83 on Feb. 5, 1993.
1917: Sidney Sheldon, who followed a successful career writing for the Broadway stage, movies and television by becoming a bestselling novelist, is born Sidney Schechtel in Chicago, Ill. Sheldon won an Academy Award for writing the screenplay to 1947's "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer," a Tony Award for his musical "Redhead," and was nominated for an Emmy Award for his work on the sitcom "I Dream of Jeannie." He also worked on the screenplays for movies such as "Easter Parade" and "Annie Get Your Gun." During his 20-year career in television, he created, produced and wrote the series "The Patty Duke Show," "I Dream of Jeannie" and "Hart to Hart." He wrote his first novel, "The Naked Face," in 1969 and went on to write such bestsellers as "Master of the Game," "The Other Side of Midnight" and "Rage of Angels." Sheldon died at age 89 on Jan. 30, 2007, from complications arising from pneumonia.
1919: Actress Eva Gabor, best known for her role on the TV sitcom "Green Acres," is born in Budapest, Hungary. Gabor, the younger sister of fellow Hungarian-American actresses and socialites Zsa Zsa Gabor and Magda Gabor, also is known for voicing characters in the Disney films "The Aristocats," "The Rescuers" and "The Rescuers Down Under." She died of respiratory failure and pneumonia at age 76 on July 4, 1995.
1925: Virginia E. Johnson, the psychologist best known as the junior member of the Masters and Johnson sexuality research team, is born Mary Virginia Eshelman in Springfield, Mo. Along with William H. Masters, whom she eventually married in 1971, she pioneered research into the nature of human sexual response and the diagnosis and treatment of sexual dysfunctions and disorders from 1957 until the 1990s. Johnson died at age 88 on July 24, 2013.
1926: Actor Leslie Nielsen, best known for his comical roles in movies such as "Airplane!" and the "Naked Gun" series, is born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Nielsen, who also served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and worked as a disc jockey before breaking into acting, started out his career with more serious roles, including positively reviewed parts in "Forbidden Planet" and "The Poseidon Adventure." He died from pneumonia on Nov. 28, 2010, at the age of 84.
1928: Cousins Ed Shoemaker and Edward Knabusch invent the first La-Z-Boy reclining chair. The first version of the now iconic recliner was a folding wood-slat porch chair. In spring 1929, upholstered versions of the chairs were introduced for a year-round market.
1934: Actress Tina Louise, best known for her role as the movie star Ginger Grant on the 1960s TV sitcom "Gilligan's Island," is born Tatiana Josivovna Chernova Blacker in New York City.
1934: Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian general and dictator who was the country's military governor from 1983 to 1989 before being removed from power by a U.S. invasion, is born in Panama City, Panama. Noriega was tried on eight counts of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering in America in April 1992. He served 17 years in prison before being released and is now serving a 20-year sentence in Panama for human rights violations committed during his regime.
1935: Gene Vincent, who pioneered the styles of rock 'n' roll and rockabilly and is best remembered for his 1956 top 10 hit "Be-Bop-A-Lula," is born Vincent Eugene Craddock in Norfolk, Va. Vincent, who is a member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, died at age 36 on Oct. 12, 1971, from a ruptured stomach ulcer while visiting his father in California.
1936: Actor Burt Reynolds, best known for his roles in movies such as "Deliverance," "Smokey and the Bandit," "White Lightning," "The Longest Yard" and "Boogie Nights," is born in Lansing, Mich.
1937: A sit-down strike among automobile industry workers in Flint, Mich., ends after more than a month when General Motors recognizes the United Auto Workers Union.
1938: BBC Television produces the world's first ever science-fiction television program, an adaptation of a section of the Karel Capek play "R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots)," that coins the term "robot."
1942: The first gold record, originally presented to artists by their own record companies to publicize the achievement of 1 million in sales, is presented by RCA to Glenn Miller for "Chattanooga Choo Choo."
1948: Pioneering film director Sergei Eisenstein, best known for his silent films "Strike," "Battleship Potemkin" and "October," dies of a heart attack at the age of 50 in Moscow, Soviet Union.
1957: Country singer Patsy Cline releases the song "Walkin' After Midnight." The song would become Cline's first major hit single, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard country music chart, and No. 12 on its pop chart.
1958: Ruth Carol Taylor becomes the first black woman to be a stewardess by making her initial flight on a Mohawk Airlines flight from Ithaca, N.Y., to New York City.
1962: Singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow, whose best known songs include "Leaving Las Vegas," "All I Wanna Do," "If It Makes You Happy," "Everyday Is a Winding Road" and "Soak Up the Sun," is born in Kennett, Mo.
1963: Author and poet Sylvia Plath commits suicide at age 30 by putting her head in an oven with the gas turned on. Plath, who had suffered from depression for much of her adult life, died of carbon monoxide poisoning. She is credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry and is best known for her two published collections, "The Colossus and Other Poems" and "Ariel." She also wrote "The Bell Jar," a semi-autobiographical novel published shortly before her death and won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for "The Collected Poems" in 1982.
1964: The Beatles play their first U.S. concert at the Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C., less than 48 hours after the band's first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
1964: Sarah Palin, the ninth governor of Alaska and the Republican vice presidential candidate in 2008, is born Sarah Louise Heath in Sandpoint, Idaho.
1967: Due to increasing public furor over the Monkees being a "manufactured" band, the group issues a statement saying they will hereby play their own instruments on all new releases. The group, which already was performing as a band live on stage, would stick to the promise for one album, 1967's "Headquarters." After that album, the Monkees started using a mixture of themselves playing along with other musicians, but they still wrote, sang, produced and played on their remaining albums.
1968: The new 20,000 seat Madison Square Garden officially opens in New York City. This was the fourth Garden, with two previous ones built on Manhattan's Madison Square and another about 20 blocks away from the fourth incarnation.
1969: Actress Jennifer Aniston, best known for the TV sitcom "Friends" and her roles in movies such as "The Good Girl," "Bruce Almighty," "The Break-Up," "Marley & Me" and "Horrible Bosses," is born in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
1971: Actor Damian Lewis, best known for the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers" and the Showtime drama "Homeland," is born in London, England.
1975: Margaret Thatcher becomes the first woman to head a major party in Britain when she is elected leader of the Conservative Party.
1979: Followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seize power in Iran, nine days after the religious leader returned to his home country following 15 years of exile.
1979: Singer and actress Brandy, best known for her role on the TV sitcom "Moesha" and for songs such as "I Wanna Be Down," "Baby," "The Boy Is Mine," "What About Us?," "Full Moon" and "Put It Down," is born Brandy Rayana Norwood in McComb, Miss.
1981: Singer Kelly Rowland, who rose to fame as one of the founding members of the R&B girl group Destiny's Child, is born in Atlanta, Ga. She's also known for her hit songs as a solo artist, including "Dilemma," "Stole," "Like This," Work," "Commander" and "Motivation."
1986: The single "Super Bowl Shuffle" by the Chicago Bears Shufflin' Crew is certified gold by the RIAA.
1986: American author Frank Herbert, best known for "Dune," the best-selling science fiction novel of all time, and its five sequels, dies of a massive pulmonary embolism while recovering from surgery for pancreatic cancer in Madison, Wis., at the age of 65.
1990: Nelson Mandela is released from Victor Verster Prison outside Cape Town, South Africa, after 27 years as a political prisoner.
1990: In Tokyo, Japan, James "Buster" Douglas knocks out the previously undefeated Mike Tyson in the 10th round to win the undisputed heavyweight championship.
1992: Actor Taylor Lautner, best known for playing Jacob Black in "The Twilight Saga" film series, is born in Grand Rapids, Mich. Lautner has also starred in such movies as "Cheaper by the Dozen 2," "The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D" and "Abduction."
1993: U.S. President Bill Clinton nominates Janet Reno to be the first female attorney general. She would be confirmed by the Senate a month later.
2006: In Texas, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shoots and wounds a companion, 78-year-old Texas attorney Harry Whittington, while participating in a quail hunt. Whittington suffered birdshot wounds to the face, neck, and upper torso, and would be hospitalized for a week.
2006: American author Peter Benchley, best known for his novel "Jaws," and for co-writing the screenplay for the summer blockbuster movie of the same name, dies of pulmonary fibrosis at the age of 65 in Princeton, N.J.
2007: The Dixie Chicks take home five awards during the 49th Grammy Awards. Their album "Taking the Long Way" won Album of the Year and Best Country Album, while the single "Not Ready to Make Nice" was awarded Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The wins tied them with U2 at the time for the third-most Grammys won by a group in one night.
2010: English fashion designer Alexander McQueen, known for having worked as chief designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001 and for founding his own Alexander McQueen label, is found having hung himself in his London apartment at the age of 40. His achievements in fashion earned him four British Designer of the Year awards (1996, 1997, 2001 and 2003), as well as the Council of Fashion Designers of America's International Designer of the Year award in 2003.
2011: The first wave of the Egyptian revolution culminates in the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and the transfer of power to the Supreme Military Council after 18 days of protests.
2012: Grammy-winning singer and actress Whitney Houston, who from the 1980s to the late 1990s was one of the world's best-selling artists, is found dead in her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, face down in 13 inches of water in the bathtub. She was 48. An autopsy later showed the troubled "I Will Always Love You" singer died of accidental drowning, though cocaine use and heart disease were also contributing factors.