This Day In History : December 8

1990 United States

Galileo Spacecraft Flies Past Earth for the First Time

On December 8, 1990, NASA's Galileo spacecraft performed its first flyby of Earth, using the planet's gravity to gain speed for its journey to Jupiter. This maneuver allowed Galileo to adjust its trajectory towards the gas giant, marking a crucial step in its mission to study Jupiter and its moons.

Also on This Day in History December 8

Discover what happened on December 8 with HISTORY's summaries of major events, anniversaries,
famous births and notable deaths.

Births on This Day, December 8
  • 1947 Thomas Robert Cech

    American biochemist and molecular biologist who, with Sidney Altman, was awarded the 1989 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their discoveries concerning RNA (ribonucleic acid).

  • 1730 Jan Ingenhousz

    He is best known for discovering photosynthesis by showing that light is essential to the process by which green plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

  • 1865 Jacques-Salomon Hadamard

    French mathematician who proved the prime-number theorem (as n approaches infinity, the limit of the ratio of (n) and n/ln n is 1, where (n) is the number of positive prime numbers not greater than n).

  • 1795 Peter Andreas Hansen

    Danish astronomer whose most important work was the improvement of the theories and tables of the orbits of the principal bodies in the solar system.

  • 1765 Eli Whitney

    American inventor, mechanical engineer, and manufacturer, who invented the cotton gin and developed the idea and methods for mass-production of interchangeable parts.

Deaths on This Day, December 8
  • 1864 George Boole

    English mathematician and logician who helped establish modern symbolic logic and an algebra of logic, now called Boolean algebra.

  • 1955 Hermann Weyl

    Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl was a German-American mathematician whose widely varied contributions in mathematics linked pure mathematics and theoretical physics.

  • 1986 Harrison Brown

    Harrison (Scott) Brown was an American geochemist known for his role in isolating plutonium for its use in the first atomic bombs and for his studies regarding meteorites and the Earth's origin.

  • 2016 John Glenn Jr.

    He was an American astronaut and statesman who was the first American astronaut to orbit Earth, on 20 Feb 1962, making three orbits in about five hours aboard his Friendship 7 capsule.

  • 1818 Johan Gottlieb Gahn

    Swedish mineralogist and crystallographer who was born in an iron-ming town, and followed mining as a career.


1st cremation in US

Henry Laurens was aging and his illness was increasingly affecting his ability to travel. Henry had a fear of being buried alive that was inspired by the false declaration of death of his daughter Martha when she was a child. He created a solution to his fear and after passing on December 8, 1792, he was cremated. This marked the first cremation of a major political figure in the United States. His ashes were buried next to his son, John, at Mepkin Plantation.

Creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was created on December 8, 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It comprised most of the former Soviet republics, aiming to foster cooperation in economic and military spheres while respecting each member's sovereignty.

Romanian Constitution Comes into Force

On December 8, 1991, the new Romanian Constitution came into force, marking a significant moment in the country's transition from communism to democracy. The constitution established Romania as a republic and outlined fundamental rights and freedoms for its citizens, reflecting the nation's political reforms following the fall of the communist regime.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono was taken by photographer Annie Leibovitz

John Lennon and Yoko Ono was taken by photographer Annie Leibovitz on December 8th, 1980, on the day John Lennon was shot. It became one of the most iconic images in rock ‘n’ roll history. Not only was it the last photograph of Lennon, it was a symbol of couple’s love for one another. It was said that it perfectly described John and Yoko’s relationship: John in fetal position with Yoko clothed, looking distant.
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