This Day In History : December 19

1962 United States

Transit 5A1, First Operational Navigational Satellite, Launched

On December 19, 1962, Transit 5A1, the first operational navigational satellite, was launched into orbit. Developed by the United States Navy, Transit 5A1 was part of a satellite navigation system designed to provide accurate positioning for military and civilian purposes, laying the groundwork for modern GPS technology.

Also on This Day in History December 19

Discover what happened on December 19 with HISTORY's summaries of major events, anniversaries,
famous births and notable deaths.

Births on This Day, December 19
  • 1943 William C. DeVries

    American heart surgeon who made the first human implant of a permanent artificial heart

  • 1903 George Davis Snell

    American geneticist (H-2 gene), known as the father of immunogenetics

  • 1852 Albert A. Michelson

    American physicist who accurately measured the speed of light

  • 1809 Pierre-Joseph van Beneden

    Belgian parasitologist and paleontologist who discovered the life cycle of tapeworms

  • 1849 Henry Clay Frick

    American industrialist who built the world's largest coke and steel operation

Deaths on This Day, December 19
  • 1997 Masaru Ibuka

    Japanese electronics industrialist, co-founder of Sony Corporation

  • 1997 David N. Schramm

    American astrophysicist

  • 1953 Robert Andrews Millikan

    American physicist (photoelectric effect), Nobel 1923

  • 1741 Vitus Bering

    Danish navigator and explorer who explored Bering Strait and Alaska coast

  • 1915 Alois Alzheimer

    German psychiatrist and neuropathologist (Alzheimer Disease)


Apollo 17 Returns Safely to Earth

On December 19, 1972, Apollo 17, the final mission of NASA's Apollo program and the sixth mission to land humans on the Moon, returned safely to Earth. Astronauts Eugene Cernan, Harrison Schmitt, and Ronald Evans completed their mission, marking the conclusion of an era in space exploration and lunar landings.

First Radio Broadcast from Outer Space Transmitted

On December 19, 1958, the first known radio broadcast from outer space was transmitted. The signal, known as Project Vanguard, was sent from a U.S. Navy satellite, Vanguard 1. This milestone marked a significant achievement in space communication, demonstrating the feasibility of transmitting signals from orbiting satellites.

The Williamsburg Bridge, was opened in New York City

On December 19, 1903, the Williamsburg Bridge was officially opened in New York City. Connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn across the East River, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world at the time of its completion. The Williamsburg Bridge has since become an iconic landmark and a vital transportation link for the city.

German Submarine U-574 Sinks

On December 19, 1941, German submarine U-574 was sunk in the North Atlantic Ocean. The submarine was attacked and destroyed by depth charges from a British Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Westcott, during World War II. This engagement was part of the broader naval warfare in the Atlantic during the early stages of the war.
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