This Day In History : August 31

1962 United States

Communications Satellite Act of 1962

President John F. Kennedy signed the Communications Satellite Act into law on August 31, 1962. This legislation authorized the establishment of a commercial communications satellite system and created the Communications Satellite Corporation (Comsat) to develop and operate such a system. The act was instrumental in paving the way for the use of satellites for global communications.

Also on This Day in History August 31

Discover what happened on August 31 with HISTORY's summaries of major events, anniversaries,
famous births and notable deaths.

Births on This Day, August 31
  • 1870 Maria Montessori

    Italian physician and educator behind the Montessori Method of teaching

  • 1880 Wilhelmina

    Queen of the Netherlands

  • 1663 Guillaume Amontons

    French physicist who developed the air thermometer

  • 1874 Edward Thorndike

    American psychologist (father of modern educational psychology)

  • 1899 Paul E Garber

    American founder/1st curator of National Air & Space Museum

Deaths on This Day, August 31
  • 2012 Joe Lewis

    American actor and martial artist who has been voted twice as the greatest fighter in karate history

  • 1920 Wilhelm Wundt

    German physiologist, psychologist and philosopher

  • 1799 Nicolas-Henri Jardin

    French architect who introduced Neoclassical architecture to Denmark

  • 1949 André-Louis Debierne

    French chemist and physicist (discoverer of element actinium

  • 1688 John Bunyan

    English minister and author (The Pilgrim's Progress)


The Federation of Malaya gains its independence from the United Kingdom

On August 31, 1957, the Federation of Malaya gained independence from the United Kingdom after a long process of negotiations and agreements between the British colonial administration and local leaders. This milestone marked the end of British colonial rule and the beginning of self-governance for the Federation, which later became Malaysia after the inclusion of Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore.

Kyrgyzstan declares its independence from the Soviet Union

Kyrgyzstan declared its independence from the Soviet Union on August 31, 1991. This followed the failed coup attempt in Moscow in August 1991, which accelerated the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Kyrgyzstan's declaration of independence marked a historic moment as it joined other former Soviet republics in asserting its sovereignty and embarking on a path of independence.

The first U.S. earthquake on record with significant human consequence

The first recorded significant earthquake in the United States, with substantial human consequences, occurred on August 31, 1886, in Charleston, South Carolina. This earthquake, known as the Charleston earthquake, had a magnitude estimated between 6.6 and 7.3 and caused extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure in the city. It resulted in the deaths of more than 60 people and left thousands homeless.

Malaya gained independence from British rule

Malayan independence refers to the historic event on August 31, 1957, when the Federation of Malaya gained independence from British colonial rule. This marked the culmination of efforts led by political leaders such as Tunku Abdul Rahman, who became the country's first Prime Minister. The independence agreement was negotiated over several years, and the peaceful transition of power was celebrated with great enthusiasm across the country.
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