On this day in history, December 3

Published Dec 3, 2023


What happened today, back in the day

1586 Potatoes first arrive in England from Colombia.

1736 Astronomer Anders Celsius takes measurements that confirm Newton’s theory that the earth is an ellipsoid, not a sphere.

1857 Renowned Polish novelist Joseph Conrad is born in Ukraine. Although he could speak no English at age 20, he went on to become an outstanding novelist, best known for his tales of seafaring life, including Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim.

1910 Neon lighting is first demonstrated at the Paris Motor Show.

1943 The Battle of Monte Cassino – one of World War II’s fiercest – begins. The hilltop monastery guards the approaches to Rome. Many South Africans are involved.

1944 Britain’s Home Guard (aka Dad’s Army) is stood down at a special farewell parade.

1961 Dutchman Anton Geesink becomes the first non-Japanese judo world champion

1967 At Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital, Christiaan Barnard’s transplant team carries out the first successful heart transplant on a human. The patient, Louis Washkansky, 53, dies of pneumonia 18 days later.

1979 Christies auctions a thimble for $18 400.

1984 A gas leak at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, kills 3 000 people and injures more than 200 000.

1989 US and Soviet presidents George HW Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev end the Cold War.

1992 The tanker Aegean Sea runs aground off Spain, spilling its cargo of 80 000 tons of oil.

1993 Britain’s Princess Diana announces she is stepping out of the public spotlight, to escape the tabloid press and the paparazzi.

1995 England cricket wicket-keeper Jack Russell dismisses Clive Eksteen with his record 11th catch in the second Test v South Africa in Johannesburg.

2017 ‘Houston, I think we’ll have pepperoni!’ Italian International Space Station crewman Paolo Nespoli says he is missing his favourite food, so mission control sends the ingredients, which the astronauts prepare and throw the first pizza party in space – in zero gravity.

2018 Speaking at a UN climate summit in Poland naturalist David Attenborough warns that the collapse of civilisation and the natural world is on the horizon.