On this day, Feb. 20 …
1962: Astronaut John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the Earth as he flies aboard Project Mercury’s Friendship 7 spacecraft. The craft circles the globe three times in a flight lasting 4 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds before splashing down safely in the Atlantic Ocean, 800 miles southeast of Bermuda.
Also on this day:
- 1792: President George Washington signs an act creating the United States Post Office Department.
- 1862: William Wallace Lincoln, the 11-year-old son of President Abraham Lincoln and first lady Mary Todd Lincoln, dies at the White House, apparently of typhoid fever.
- 1905: The U.S. Supreme Court, in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, upholds, 7-2, compulsory vaccination laws intended to protect the public’s health.
- 1907: President Theodore Roosevelt signs an immigration act that excludes “idiots, imbeciles, feebleminded persons, epileptics, insane persons” from being admitted to the United States.
- 1938: Anthony Eden resigns as British foreign secretary following Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s decision to negotiate with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
- 1942: Lt. Edward “Butch” O’Hare becomes the U.S. Navy’s first flying ace of World War II by shooting down five Japanese bombers while defending the aircraft carrier USS Lexington in the South Pacific.
- 1950: The U.S. Supreme Court, in United States v. Rabinowitz, rules 5-3 that authorities making a lawful arrest do not need a warrant to search and seize evidence in an area that was in the “immediate and complete control” of the suspect.
- 1965: America’s Ranger 8 spacecraft crashes on the moon, as planned, after sending back thousands of photos of the lunar surface.
- 1971: The National Emergency Warning Center in Colorado erroneously orders U.S. radio and TV stations off the air; some stations heed the alert, which is not lifted for about 40 minutes.
- 1987: A bomb explodes behind a computer store in Salt Lake City, seriously injuring store owner Gary Wright. (Authorities would determine that the bomb was left by “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski.)
- 1999: Movie reviewer Gene Siskel of “Siskel & Ebert” dies at age 53 at a hospital outside Chicago from complications following brain surgery. He had been diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor the year before.
- 2003: A fire sparked by pyrotechnics breaks out during a concert by the group Great White at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., killing 100 people and injuring about 200 others.
- 2014: At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Canada beats the U.S. 3-2 in overtime to win its fourth straight Olympic women’s hockey gold. Adelina Sotnikova becomes Russia’s first gold medalist in women’s Olympic figure skating, defeating defending champion Yuna Kim of South Korea.