February 21 is the 52nd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. There are 313 days remaining, 314 in leap years.
- 362 - Athanasius returns to Alexandria
- 1431 - The trial of Joan of Arc begins.
- 1440 - The Prussian Confederation is formed.
- 1543 - Battle of Wayna Daga - Combined army of Ethiopian and Portuguese troops defeat Muslim army led by Ahmed Gragn.
- 1613 - Mikhail I is elected unanimously as Tsar by a national assembly, beginning the Romanov dynasty of Imperial Russia .
- 1743 - The premiere in London of George Frideric Handel's oratorio, Samson
- 1804 - The first self-propelling steam locomotive makes its outing at the Pen-y-Darren ironworks in Wales.
- 1842 - John J. Greenough patents the sewing machine.
- 1848 - Karl Marx publishes the Communist Manifesto.
- 1874 - The Oakland Daily Tribune publishes its first newspaper.
- 1875 - Jeanne Calment was born. She then went on to live for 122 years 164 days, the longest confirmed lifespan for any human being in history.
- 1878 - The first telephone book is issued in New Haven, Connecticut.
- 1885 - The newly completed Washington Monument is dedicated.
- 1893 - Thomas Edison receives two U.S. patents for a "Cut Out for Incandescent Electric Lamps" and for a "Stop Device"
- 1916 - World War I: In France the Battle of Verdun begins.
- 1925 - The New Yorker publishes its first issue.
- 1937 - Initial flight of the first successful flying car, Waldo Waterman's Arrowbile .
- 1947 - In New York City Edwin Land demonstrates the first "instant camera", the Polaroid Land Camera, to a meeting of the Optical Society of America.
- 1948 - NASCAR is incorporated.
- 1952 - Language Martyrs' Day, marking language-revolution in the then East Pakistan (currently, the independent state of People's Republic of Bangladesh)
- 1952 - Churchill government in the UK abolishes Identity Cards to "set the people free".
- 1953 - Francis Crick and James D. Watson discover the structure of the DNA molecule.
- 1960 - Cuban leader Fidel Castro nationalizes all businesses in Cuba.
- 1965 - Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam.
- 1970 - Swissair Flight 330: A mid-air bomb explosion and subsequent crash kills 38 passengers and nine crew members near Zürich, Switzerland.
- 1972 - President Richard Nixon visits the People's Republic of China to normalize Sino-American relations.
- 1972 - The Soviet unmanned spaceship Luna 20 lands on the Moon.
- 1973 - Over the Sinai Desert, Israeli fighter aircraft shoot down a Libyan Airlines jet killing 108.
- 1974 - The long-running Japanese comic strip Sazae-san publishes its final installment in the Asahi Shimbun.
- 1974 - The last Israeli soldiers leave the west bank of the Suez Canal in carrying out a truce with Egypt.
- 1975 - Watergate scandal: Former United States Attorney General John N. Mitchell and former White House aides H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman are sentenced to prison.
- 1988 - Jimmy Swaggart, on his own televangelism program being tapped in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, confesses that he is guilty of an unspecified sin and will be temporarily leaving the pulpit.
- 1995 - Serkadji prison mutiny in Algeria; 4 guards and 96 prisoners killed in a day and a half.
- 1995 - Steve Fossett lands in Leader, Saskatchewan , Canada becoming the first person to make a solo flight across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon.
- 2000 - David Letterman returns to The Late Show over a month after having an emergency quintuple heart bypass surgery.
- 2003 - Over 100 concert goers die in a fire during a performance of the rock band Great White.
- 2004 - The first European political party organization, the European Greens, is established in Rome.
- 1688 - Reigning Queen Ulrike Eleonora of Sweden (d. 1741)
- 1728 - Peter III, Tsar of Russia, husband of Catherine the Great (d. 1762)
- 1791 - John Mercer , chemist and industrialist (d. 1866)
- 1844 - Charles-Marie Widor, organist and composer (d. 1937)
- 1867 - Otto Hermann Kahn, millionaire and benefactor (d. 1934)
- 1875 - Jeanne Calment (d. 1997, the longest confirmed lifespan for any human being in history.)
- 1880 - Waldemar Bonsels, writer (d. 1952)
- 1885 - Sacha Guitry, dramatist, writer, director, actor (d. 1957)
- 1893 - Celia Lovsky, actress (d. 1979)
- 1893 - Andrés Segovia, Spanish guitarist (d. 1987)
- 1895 - Henrik Carl Peter Dam Danish biochemist, winner of the 1943 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1976)
- 1903 - Anaïs Nin, writer (d. 1977)
- 1907 - W. H. Auden, English poet (d. 1973)
- 1910 - Douglas Bader, British fighter pilot (d. 1982)
- 1910 - Carmine Galante, gangster (d. 1979)
- 1915 - Ann Sheridan, American actress (d. 1967)
- 1925 - Sam Peckinpah, director (d. 1984)
- 1924 - Robert Mugabe First Prime Minister of Zimbabwe
- 1927 - Erma Bombeck, writer, humorist (d. 1996)
- 1927 - Hubert de Givenchy, fashion designer
- 1933 - Nina Simone, singer (d. 2003)
- 1933 - Bob Rafelson , American film director
- 1934 - Rue McClanahan, actress
- 1936 - Barbara Jordan, American politician from Texas (d. 1996)
- 1937 - King Harald V of Norway
- 1937 - Gary Lockwood, actor
- 1941 - James Wong, the famous composer of Hong Kong (d. November 23, 2004.)
- 1942 - Margarethe von Trotta, actor, film director, writer
- 1943 - David Geffen, record producer
- 1946 - Tyne Daly, actress
- 1946 - Alan Rickman, actor
- 1946 - Anthony Daniels, British actor
- 1946 - Tyne Daly, American actress
- 1947 - Olympia Snowe, American politician
- 1953 - William Petersen, actor
- 1953 - Christine Ebersole , American actress
- 1955 - Kelsey Grammer, American actor
- 1958 - Mary Chapin Carpenter, singer
- 1958 - Jack Coleman , American actor
- 1961 - Davey Allison, automobile racer (d. 1993)
- 1961 - Chuck Palahniuk, writer
- 1962 - David Foster Wallace, American author
- 1963 - William Baldwin, actor
- 1969 - Eric Wilson, American musician (Subline)
- 1970 - Michael Slater, Australian cricketer
- 1972 - Seo Taiji, Korean pop musician
- 1974 - Roberto Heras, Spanish cyclist
- 1975 - Affirmed, race horse (d. 2001)
- 1977 - Kevin Rose, co-host of Attack of the Show
- 1979 - Jennifer Love Hewitt, actress, singer
- 1986 - Charlotte Church, singer
- 1513 - Pope Julius II (b. 1443)
- 1543 - Ahmed Gragn, sultan of Adal
- 1824 - Eugène de Beauharnais, son of Napoleon's wife, Josephine (b. 1781)
- 1938 - George Ellery Hale, astronomer
- 1944 - Ferenc Szisz, Hungarian-born French race car driver (b. 1873)
- 1945 - Eric Liddell, Scottish runner
- 1965 - Malcolm X, Black Muslim Movement activist (b. 1925)
- 1967 - Charles Beaumont, writer (b. 1929)
- 1974 - Tim Horton, Canadian ice hockey player
- 1984 - Michail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov, Russian novelist
- 1985 - Nathan Pritikin , physician, founder of the Pritikin Diet
- 1991 - Dame Margot Fonteyn, ballet dancer
- 1994 - Luis Donaldo Colosio, Mexican politician
- 1995 - Calder Willingham , writer
- 2002 - John Thaw, actor (b. 1942)
- 2004 - Guido Molinari, Canadian abstract artist
- 2004 - John Charles, Welsh football player
Holidays and observances
February 20 - February 22 - January 21 - March 21 -- listing of all days
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