This Day In History : January 17

1995 Japan

The Great Hanshin Earthquake Devastates Kobe, Japan

On January 17, 1995, the Great Hanshin earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.9, struck the city of Kobe, Japan. The earthquake caused extensive damage, leading to the loss of over 6,400 lives and leaving tens of thousands injured. It remains one of Japan's most devastating natural disasters.

Also on This Day in History January 17

Discover what happened on January 17 with HISTORY's summaries of major events, anniversaries,
famous births and notable deaths.

Births on This Day, January 17
  • 1706 Benjamin Franklin

    US Founding Father, inventor, ambassador and writer

  • 1824 Hayward A. Harvey

    American inventor who discovered the modern method of strengthening armour plating

  • 1560 Gaspard Bauhin

    Swiss physician, anatomist and botanist who introduced a scientific binomial system of classification to both anatomy and botany

  • 1857 Eugene Augustin Lauste

    French inventor who invented the first sound-on-film recording

  • 1949 Anita Borg

    American computer scientist who founded the Institute for Women and Technology

Deaths on This Day, January 17
  • 1961 Patrice Lumumba

    Congolese politician, 1st Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • 1997 Clyde W. Tombaugh

    American astronomer who discovered Pluto

  • 1928 William Corless Mills

    American museum curator who excavated Indian remains in Ohio

  • 1927 Juliette Gordon Low

    American activist and founder of the Girl Scouts of America

  • 1911 Francis Galton

    British anthropologist and geneticist, pioneer of eugenics


The UN Security Council Holds Its First Session

On January 17, 1946, the United Nations Security Council convened for the first time at Church House, Westminster, London. As one of the principal organs of the UN, it was established to ensure international peace and security, marking a significant step in post-World War II diplomatic efforts.

Edwin Hubble Demonstrates Universe Expansion

On January 17, 1929, Edwin Hubble presented a groundbreaking paper revealing that the universe was expanding. This discovery provided pivotal observational evidence supporting the Big Bang theory and fundamentally changed our understanding of the cosmos.

Captain James Cook and his crew become the first Europeans to sail below the Antarctic Circle

On January 17, 1773, Captain James Cook achieved a significant milestone in Antarctic exploration. His ships, the Resolution and the Adventure, became the first European vessels to cross the Antarctic Circle. However, Cook ventured only a short distance inside the Circle before encountering heavy ice and retreating to the northeast.

US President Reagan signs secret order permitting covert sale of arms to Iran

On January 17, in 1986, President Reagan signed a secret intelligence finding authorizing the provision of arms to “moderate elements within and outside the Government of Iran,” with the goals of strengthening those elements, gaining intelligence and “furthering the release of the American hostages held in Beirut.” The finding was retroactive – the U.S. had already sent more than 500 missiles through Israel to Iran and secured the release of one hostage.
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