Today In History, 17 January: What Happened On This Day

What happened today in history (17 January): Muhammad Ali, Benjamin Franklin and Jim Carrey born, Birju Maharaj and Bobby Fischer passed away, the great Hanshin earthquake, debut of Popeye, first UN Security Council meeting, and more.
This day in history (17 Jan): The Birth of Muhammad Ali
This day in history (17 Jan): The Birth of Muhammad Ali

Today in History, 17 January: One must always keep learning and growing, or else risk becoming creatively stunted. A new year has begun, and with it come more responsibilities but also more opportunities to better yourself.

On that note, let’s take a look at the historical significance of the first month of the year. Today is 17 January, an apparently random day. However, 17th January holds a pivotal place in world history.

Dive in to find out what major events happened on this day (Jan. 17) in sports, politics and art, along with famous birthdays and deaths in world history.

Related: Today in History (15 January)

Historical Events On This Day

  • In 1377, Pope Gregory XI reached Rome and successfully moved the papacy back to Rome from Avignon after 67 years.
  • In 1773, British explorer and naval captain James Cook became the first person to cross the Antarctic Circle.
  • In 1811, an outnumbered Spanish force (6,000) defeated the nearly 100,000 Mexican revolutionaries in the Battle of Calderon Bridge during the Mexican War of Independence.
  • In 1871, American inventor Andrew Smith Hallidie received the first patent for the cable car.
  • In 1920, the prohibition took effect in the US after the adoption of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and the Volstead act.
  • In 1946, in London, the United Nations Security Council held its first meeting.
  • In 1991, the United States and the coalition commenced Operation Desert Storm in Iraq during the Persian Gulf War.
  • In 1995, a massive earthquake (6.9 magnitude) struck the Hanshin region in japan, claiming the lives of over 6000 people and destroying the city.
  • In 2017, the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was called off over the Indian Ocean after 3 years.

Sports Events Today

  • In 1997, the NBA indefinitely suspended Dennis Rodman for kicking a cameraman.
  • In 2012, Miami Heat’s LeBron James (28 years, 17 days) passed Kobe Bryant (29 Years, 122 days) to become the youngest player in NBA history to score 20,000 career points in a game against Golden State.
  • In 2013, celebrated cyclist and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong confessed to doping to Oprah Winfrey and was later stripped of all his titles.

Art and Culture Events Today

  • In 1904, famed Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre.
  • In 1929, the popular cartoon character Popeye, a sailor known for his love of spinach, first appeared on the daily King Features comic strip Thimble Theater.
  • In 1976, American rock band Blondie, headlined by Debbie Harry, released its debut single, "X Offender."
  • In 1984, the US Supreme Court ruled that private use of home VCRs to tape TV programs for later viewing did not violate federal copyright laws.

Notable Deaths On This Day

Sr No

Death Year




Theodosius 1, Roman emperor (379-95) who promoted Christianity during his rule and resolved conflicts with the Goths



Bobby Fischer, American chess prodigy and grandmaster who won his first US Championship at the age of 14 and registered the only perfect (11-0) score in the same in 1964



Suchitra Sen, Indian actress who worked in Bengali and Hindi cinema in popular films like Aandhi, Devdas and Saptapadi



Birju Maharaj, Indian dancer, composer, and singer who is considered one of the greatest Kathak dancers of India

Famous Birthdays On This Day

Sr No

Birth Year




Benjamin Franklin, American polymath who was a renowned writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, publisher, philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of America



Babu Gulabrai, Indian writer and a leading figure in Hindi literature



Al Capone, American mobster who gained notoriety during the prohibition era and remained a dreaded crime figure in Chicago till his conviction by the FBI in 1931



Betty White, beloved American actress and comedian known for her work in the acclaimed sitcom, The Golden Girls



James Earl Jones, American actor and voice actor, best known for voicing iconic villain Darth Vader in Star Wars saga and Mufasa in The Lion King



Muhammad Ali, American boxer who is widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time



Jim Carrey, Canadian-American actor and comedian known for his energetic slapstick performances in ‘90s films like Dumb and Dumber, Liar Liar, Ace Ventura and The Mask



Michelle Obama, American attorney and author  who was the first lady of USA from 2009 to 2017 with her husband, Barack Obama as President

Related | Today in History (16 January)

Related | Today in History (15 January)


What happened today in history (17 January)?

The first meeting of the United Nations Security Council and the Operation Desert Storm of the Persian Gulf War happened on this day (17 Jan).

Which famous personality was born on this day, 17 January?

American comedian and beloved actor Jim Carrey and the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali, were born today, 17th January.
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