This Day In History : January 2

1959 Russian Federation

First Spacecraft to Leave Earth's Gravity : Luna 1 Launched

On January 2, 1959, the USSR launched Luna 1, also known as Mechta, marking a historic milestone as the first spacecraft to escape Earth's gravity. Although it did not impact the Moon as intended, it successfully reached the vicinity of the Moon and was placed into heliocentric orbit, making it the first artificial object to orbit the Sun. Luna 1's mission paved the way for future lunar and interplanetary exploration.

Also on This Day in History January 2

Discover what happened on January 2 with HISTORY's summaries of major events, anniversaries,
famous births and notable deaths.

Births on This Day, January 2
  • 1872 Albert C. Barnes

    Albert Coombs Barnes was an American chemist who invented the antiseptic Argyrol (1902).

  • 1822 Rudolf Clausius

    He was a German physicist and mathematician and is considered one of the central founding fathers of the science of thermodynamics.

  • 1803 Charles Thurber

    American inventor of an early form of typewriter.

  • 1729 Johann Daniel Titius

    Prussian astronomer, physicist, and biologist whose formula (1766) expressing the distances between the planets and the Sun was confirmed by J.E. Bode in 1772, when it was called Bode's Law.

  • 1765 Charles Hatchett

    He was an English mineralogist and analytical chemist who discovered the element niobium, for which he proposed the name "columbium".

Deaths on This Day, January 2
  • 1917 Edward Burnett Tylor

    English anthropologist regarded as the founder of cultural anthropology.

  • 1892 George Biddell Airy

    English astronomer and mathematician who became the seventh Astronomer Royal (1836-92).

  • 1972 Lillian Evelyn Gilbreth

    American efficiency expert, who as wife of Frank Bunker Gilbreth, contracting engineer, together developed the method of time-and-motion study.

  • 1974 Errett Lobban Cord

    U.S. automobile manufacturer, advocate of front-wheel-drive vehicles.

  • 1816 Baron Louis Bernard Guyton de Morveau

    French chemist who collaborated with Antoine Lavoisier and others to establish a systematic chemical nomenclature, helping to distinguish elements from compounds.


Monarch butterflies

In 1975, Kenneth C. Brugger discovered the long-unknown winter destination of the monarch butterfly in the mountains of Mexico.

Chicago canal

In 1900, the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was opened, marking a significant engineering achievement that connected the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River watershed.

Discovery of Hypothetical Planet Vulcan Announced

On January 2, 1860, French mathematician and astronomer Urbain Le Verrier announced the discovery of a new planet, which he named Vulcan. Believed to exist within the orbit of Mercury, Vulcan was hypothesized to explain peculiarities in Mercury's orbit. Despite numerous searches, the existence of Vulcan was never confirmed, and the anomalies in Mercury's orbit were later explained by Einstein's theory of General Relativity.

2 Women Enter India's Sabarimala Shrine After Historic Court Ruling

On January 2, 2019, two women made history by becoming the first to enter the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala, India, following a Supreme Court ruling that lifted the temple's longstanding ban on women of menstruating age. This landmark event sparked significant protests and controversy across the state.
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