This Day in History – April 26

Today is the 116th day of 2021. There are 249 days left in the year.


1986: The world’s worst nuclear accident occurs at the Chernobyl plant in the Soviet Union when a reactor meltdown in a power plant exposes hundreds of thousands of civilians to dangerous radioactive material. Thirty-two people die immediately.


1478: Guiliano de Medici is killed during Mass at the cathedral in Florence in an unsuccessful coup attempt by the Pazzi family against the Medicis.

1532: Suleiman I, Sultan of Turkey, invades Hungary and advances toward Vienna.

1564: William Shakespeare is baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.

1607: Captain John Smith lands at Cape Henry, Virginia, with the first group of colonists to establish a permanent English settlement in America.

1777: During the American Revolutionary War, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington, the daughter of a militia commander in Dutchess County, New York, rides her horse into the night to alert her father’s men of the approach of British regular troops.

1798: France declares war on Austria.

1807: Russia and Prussia form alliance to drive France out of German states.

1828: Russia declares war on Turkey.

1860: Spain and Morocco sign peace agreement.

1865: John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, was surrounded by federal troops near Port Royal, Virginia, and killed.

1872: Civil war breaks out in Spain.

1885: Britain occupies Port Hamilton, Korea.

1886: Major powers send ultimatum to Greece to halt support for revolution against Ottomans in Eastern Rumelia, now in Bulgaria.

1933: Nazi Germany’s infamous secret police, the Gestapo, is created.

1937: In the Spanish civil war, German planes bomb the town of Guernica, killing between 1,000 to 1,650 people. Painter Pablo Picasso later immortalised their suffering in one of his masterpieces.

1945: Marshal Henri Philippe Petain, the head of France’s Vichy Government during World War II, is arrested.

1962: The first international satellite is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida – a US-British venture.

1964: The African nations of Tanganyika and Zanzibar merge to form Tanzania.

1966: Mt Kelud in Java, Indonesia, erupts, killing 1,000 people. It is the second eruption since 1919, when it claimed 5,000 lives.

1968: The United States explodes beneath the Nevada desert a 1.3 megaton nuclear device called “Boxcar”.

1971: The White House commission recommends that China be brought into UN, with Nationalist China (Taiwan) retaining its membership.

1977: The legendary nightclub Studio 54 has its opening night in New York.

1989: Chinese students march to central Beijing to protest government statements condemning their campaign for democracy. Actress-comedian Lucille Ball dies at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at age 77.

1992: Moscow residents celebrate first Russian Orthodox Easter in 74 years.

1994: Voting begins in South Africa’s first all-race elections, resulting in victory for the African National Congress and the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president. China Airlines Flight 140, a Taiwanese Airbus A-300, crashed while landing in Nagoya, Japan, killing 264 people (there were seven survivors).

1997: Banners of loyalty and life-size images of Saddam Hussein adorn Iraq’s capital as Iraqis begin seven days of festivities in celebration of his 60th birthday.

1998: Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera, a leading human rights activist in Guatemala, is bludgeoned to death two days after a report he compiled on atrocities during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war was made public.

1999: The Chernobyl computer virus, perhaps the most destructive so far, damages hundreds of thousands of computers around the world.

2000: Vermont Governor Howard Dean signs the US’s first Bill allowing same-sex couples to form civil unions.

2002: The UN Commission on Human Rights in its annual review of human rights censures Cuba’s human rights policies, but drops official condemnations of Russia and Iran.

2005: Syria’s last soldier in Lebanon walks across the border, a quiet end to a once indomitable 29-year military presence that was the key to Damascus’ control of its neighbour.

2006: European Union lawmakers announce findings that the Central Intelligence Agency has conducted more than 1,000 clandestine flights in Europe since 2001, and some of them secretly took away terror suspects to countries where they could face torture. Whitney Cerak and Laura Van Ryn, two students at Indiana’s Taylor University, are involved in a van-truck collision that killed five people. In a tragic mix-up that took five weeks to resolve, a seriously injured and comatose Cerak was mistakenly identified as Van Ryn, who had actually died in the crash and was buried by Cerak’s family.

2007: Thousands of Buddhist monks demonstrate outside the Thailand parliament building to demand that the country’s new constitution enshrine Buddhism as the official national religion.

2008: Zimbabwe’s electoral commission says a recount of votes for 10 parliamentary seats shows the opposition won six of them in last month’s elections, making it unlikely that Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party can wrest control of Parliament.

2009: World governments race to avoid both a pandemic and global hysteria as more possible swine flu cases surface from New Zealand to Canada and the US declares a public health emergency.

2010: Gunmen shoot and kill a Nigerian journalist at his home the same day two others die while attempting to cover fighting between Christians and Muslims in the nation’s restive central highlands, highlighting the daily dangers confronting local journalists in Africa’s most populous nation.

2012: Pakistani authorities deport Osama bin Laden’s three widows and his children to Saudi Arabia, less than a week before the first anniversary of the unilateral American raid that killed the al-Qaeda leader in his hideout in a military town.

2013: Unable to ignore air travellers’ anger, Congress overwhelmingly approves legislation to allow the Federal Aviation Administration to withdraw furloughs of air traffic controllers caused by budget-wide cuts known as the sequester, ending a week of coast-to-coast flight delays. Fire at a psychiatric hospital near Moscow kills 38 people; only three escaped. Rescuers dig through mangled metal and concrete in a collapsed garment factory building in Bangladesh and find more survivors but also more corpses, pushing the death total past 300.

2014: South Korea’s prime minister offers to resign over the Government’s handling of a deadly ferry sinking, blaming “deep-rooted evils” and societal irregularities for a tragedy that left more than 300 people dead or missing and led to widespread shame, fury and finger-pointing.

2015: Tens of thousands of Nepalese who spent the night under a chilly sky were jolted awake by strong aftershocks, while rescuers aided by international teams cleared rubble in search of survivors after a powerful earthquake killed nearly 2,000 people.

2017: Dismissing concerns about ballooning federal deficits, US President Donald Trump proposes dramatic tax cuts for US businesses and individuals. Trump tells the leaders of Mexico and Canada that he would not immediately pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, just hours after Administration officials said he was considering a draft executive order to do just that. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft survives an unprecedented trip between Saturn and its rings, sending back amazing pictures to show for it.

2018: Bill Cosby is convicted of drugging and molesting Temple University employee Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia mansion in 2004; it was the first big celebrity trial of the #MeToo era and completed the spectacular downfall of a comedian who broke racial barriers on his way to TV superstardom. (Cosby is later sentenced to three to 10 years in prison.) Mike Pompeo was sworn in as secretary of state, minutes after being confirmed by the Senate; he then flies immediately to Brussels for meetings at NATO headquarters. President Donald Trump’s White House doctor, Ronny Jackson, withdraws his nomination to be Veterans Affairs Secretary in the face of accusations of misconduct.


Leonardo da Vinci, Italian painter, engineer, sculptor and architect (1452-1519); David Hume, Scottish philosopher-historian-economist (1711-1776); Alfred Krupp, German metallurgist-industrialist (1812-1887); WF Massey, New Zealand politician (1856-1925); Carol Burnett, US actress (1933- ); Giancarlo Esposito, US actor (1958- ); Joan Chen, Chinese actress (1961- ); Jet Li, actor (1963- ); Tionne Tenese Watkins (T-Boz from TLC), rapper (1970- ); Melania Trump, former US first lady (1970- )

– AP

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