This Day In History : July 31

1498 United States

Christopher Columbus is the first European to discover the island of Trinidad on his third voyage

Christopher Columbus first encountered the island of Trinidad on July 31, 1498, during his third voyage to the Americas. He named it "La Isla de la Trinidad," which means "The Island of the Trinity" in Spanish. This discovery marked the first recorded European sighting of the island.

Also on This Day in History July 31

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

Births on This Day, July 31
  • 1816 Thomas Jackson Rodman

    American Brevet Brigadier General (Union Army), inventor of the rodman gun and perforated-cake gunpowder

  • 1965 J.K. Rowling

    English author and film producer who created the Harry Potter series

  • 1923 Stephanie Kwolek

    American chemist and inventor (Kevlar)

  • 1858 Richard Dixon Oldham

    British geologist and seismologist who discovered evidence for the existence of the Earth's liquid core (1906)

  • 1803 John Ericsson

    Swedish-American inventor (screw propeller, rotating turret)

Deaths on This Day, July 31
  • 2000 Hendrik Christoffel Van de Hulst

    Dutch astronomer (correctly predicted the existence of the 21 cm hyper-fine line of neutral atomic hydrogen in interstellar space)

  • 1937 Charles E. Hires

    American pharmacist, inventor and manufacturer of the Hires Root Beer beverage

  • 1867 Benoît Fourneyron

    French engineer and inventor of the water turbine

  • 1972 Paul-Henri Spaak

    Belgian politician (Prime Minister of Belgium, Secretary-General of NATO, 1957-61)

  • 2023 Melaku Worede

    Ethiopian plant geneticist and agronomist (helped Ethiopia recover from 1984 famine)


The first narrow gauge mainline railway in the world opens at Grandchester, Australia

Grandchester is in fact home to the first narrow gauge mainline railway in the world. The first track opened to traffic on 31st July 1865 from Ipswich and terminated at this small town.

Apollo 15 astronauts take 6½ hour electric car ride on Moon

The Apollo 15 astronauts, David Scott and James Irwin, indeed took a 6½ hour electric car ride on the Moon during their mission in 1971. They used the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), also known as the moon buggy, to explore the lunar surface, covering a total distance of about 17 miles (27 kilometers) during their three EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activities).

Yuriko Koike is the first woman to be elected Tokyo Governor

Yuriko Koike made history on July 31, 2016, by becoming the first woman to be elected as the Governor of Tokyo. She ran as an independent candidate in the gubernatorial election and won in a landslide victory, defeating the incumbent and several other candidates.

The nation of Georgia joins the United Nations

On July 31, 1992, the Republic of Georgia officially became a member of the United Nations. This accession marked Georgia's entry into the community of nations recognized by the UN, granting it a platform to engage in international diplomacy, participate in UN programs, and contribute to global peace and development efforts.
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