This Day In History : October 17

1979 United States

The Department of Education is created from the Department of Education Organization Act

The Department of Education was created through the Department of Education Organization Act, which was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on October 17, 1979. Its primary mission is to establish policy for, administer, and coordinate most federal assistance to education, collect data on U.S. schools, and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights.

Also on This Day in History October 17

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

Births on This Day, October 17
  • 1956 Mae C. Jemison

    1st African American woman in space (STS 47)

  • 1820 Édouard Roche

    French mathematical astronomer who studied the internal structure of celestial bodies

  • 1966 Doug McMillon

    American businessman and CEO of Walmart (2014-)

  • 1833 Paul Bert

    French Zoologist, Physiologist and pioneer of aerospace medicine whose study of the effects of air pressure on the body, such as altitude sickness and 'the bends', made possible space and ocean exploration

  • 1935 Michael Eavis

    English farmer who founded the Glastonbury Festival

Deaths on This Day, October 17
  • 1963 Jacques-Salomon Hadamard

    French mathematician (proved the prime number theorem)

  • 1887 Gustav Robert Kirchhoff

    German physicist (spectroscopy, coined "black body" radiation)

  • 1780 William Cookworthy

    English chemist who pioneered the manufacture of porcelain in Britain

  • 1873 Robert McClure

    Irish explorer who discovered the Northwest passage

  • 2012 Stanford Robert Ovshinsky

    American inventor and scientist (nickel-metal hydride battery)


London Beer Flood

The London Beer Flood was a tragic industrial accident that occurred on October 17, 1814, in the St. Giles district of London, England. The disaster happened at the Horse Shoe Brewery on Tottenham Court Road. A large vat containing over 135,000 imperial gallons (610,000 liters) of beer ruptured, causing several other vats in the brewery to burst as well. This released a tidal wave of beer that demolished the brewery walls and surged into the surrounding streets and houses.

First UK nuclear power

The first nuclear power station in the UK was Calder Hall, which officially opened on October 17, 1956. Located at the Sellafield site in Cumbria, Calder Hall was the world's first nuclear power station to generate electricity on an industrial scale for a public grid. The station was initially intended for the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons, but it also generated electricity as a secondary purpose.

Bank of Italy (Bank of America) founded

The Bank of Italy, which would later become Bank of America, was founded by Amadeo Giannini and opened its doors on October 17, 1904, in Jackson Square, San Francisco. Giannini established the bank with the aim of providing financial services to immigrants and working-class citizens who were often neglected by other banks at the time.

England's 1st large scale nuclear power station opens

England's first large-scale nuclear power station, Calder Hall, was officially opened on October 17, 1956. Located at Sellafield in Cumbria, Calder Hall was the world's first nuclear power plant to generate electricity on an industrial scale. It marked a significant milestone in the development of nuclear energy, as it was designed not only to produce electricity but also to generate plutonium for the country's nuclear weapons program.
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