Illustration by John-Ross Boyce

1076–Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, is excommunicated for the first time by Pope Gregory VII for trying to depose Gregory. Henry would be excommunicated a second time by Pope Victor III in March of 1088.

1349–In the city Strasbourg, now in modern-day France, nearly two-thousand Jews were publicly burned to death in one of the worst ethnic massacres in Medieval history. Those who escaped being burned to death were forced out of the city.

1799–English explorer and cartographer James Cook is stabbed to death by native islanders near Kealakekua Bay on the Hawaii Islands after attempting to kidnap and ransom the King of Hawaii.


1876–Alexander Graham Bell applies for a patent for his invention of the telephone only a few hours before Elisha Gray applies for the same one. The United States Patent No. 174,465 was granted to Bell and is now recognized as the most significant patent in history, mainly for its contributions to phone sex companies.

1919–The Polish-Soviet War begins. The conflict between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine against the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People’s Republic will last two years and result in approximately 199,250 deaths total.

1929–Seven men, six of them members of the North Side Irish gang led by Bugs Moran, are gunned down near Lincoln Park in Chicago, Illinois. The murders are now known as the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.

1945–The Bombing of Dresden by the United States Army and British royal air force results in a firestorm that destroys over 15-square miles of the city center and kills an estimated 25,000 people.

1989–A fatwa is issued by Iranian spiritual leader Ruhollah Khomeini asking Muslims to execute Salman Rushdie for writing the book The Satanic Verses.

2005–Twenty-one people, including self-made Lebanese billionaire and business tycoon Rafik Hariri, are killed in front of the St. George Hotel in Beruit, Lebanon. An explosion equal to approximately 1,000 kg of TNT detonated as Hariri’s motorcade approached the hotel.

2008–In a lecture hall on the campus of Northern Illinois University, a gunman opened fire, shooting people at random. Six people were killed, including the gunman, and 18 were injured.