This Day In History : December 31

1968 Russian Federation

Tupolev Tu-144 Makes Maiden Flight

The Tupolev Tu-144, a Soviet supersonic passenger airliner, made its first flight on December 31, 1968. Often compared to the Concorde due to its similar design and purpose, the Tu-144 was the world's first commercial supersonic transport aircraft to fly. This historic flight marked a significant achievement in aviation, showcasing Soviet technological prowess in the race to develop supersonic airliners during the Cold War era.

Also on This Day in History December 31

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

Births on This Day, December 31
  • 1864 Robert Grant Aitken

    American astronomer who specialized in the study of double stars, of which he discovered more than 3,000.

  • 1898 John Eric Sidney Thompson

    He was an English ethnographer who was a leading researcher of the Mayan people.

  • 1776 Johann Spurzheim

    German physician who popularized phrenology, a word he coined to describe the determination of character, personality traits, and criminality on the external shape of the skull (now discredited as a pseudoscience).

  • 1929 Jeremy Bernstein

    American physicist, educator and writer widely known for the clarity of his writing for the lay reader on the major issues of modern physics.

  • 1668 Hermann Boerhaave

    Dutch physician, botanist and chemist, who as professor of medicine taught medical students at the sickbed.

Deaths on This Day, December 31
  • 1679 Giovanni Alfonso Borelli

    Italian mathematician, physiologist and physicist sometimes called “father of biomechanics.”

  • 1905 Aleksandr Popov

    Russian physicist and electrical engineer acclaimed in Russia as the inventor of radio.

  • 1940 Arsène d'Arsonval

    Jacques-Arsène d' Arsonval was a French physician and physicist known for his pioneering researches in therapeutic use of electricity, heat, and light.

  • 1962 Charles Galton Darwin

    He was an English physicist who served as director of the National Physical Laboratory during the Second World War.

  • 1691 Robert Boyle

    Irish-English chemist and natural philosopher noted for his pioneering experiments on the properties of gases and his espousal of a corpuscular view of matter that was a forerunner of the modern theory of chemical elements.


Breath test

 In 1938, the “drunkometer,” the first breath test for car drivers, invented by Dr Rolla N. Harger of Indiana University School of Medicine, was officially introduced in Indianapolis.

Edison's light

In 1879, inventor Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

Gas lights in London

In 1813, Westminster Bridge in London was illuminated with gas lights. Soon after, the oil lights in the streets of St. Margaret's, Westminster, were replaced with gas lights.

Microsoft buys Hotmail email service and re-launches it as MSN Hotmail

In December 1997, Microsoft completed the acquisition of the Hotmail email service for approximately $400 million. Following the acquisition, Microsoft re-branded Hotmail as MSN Hotmail, integrating it into its MSN (Microsoft Network) suite of services. This move significantly expanded Microsoft's presence in the internet services sector, providing millions of users with web-based email capabilities under the MSN brand.
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