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This Day in History - 17th December


1778 The birth, in Penzance, of Sir Humphrey Davy, English inventor of the safety lamp for miners which allowed miners to work safely in the presence of flammable gases. Davy refused to patent the lamp, and its invention led to him being awarded the Rumford medal in 1816. The medal has been awarded every alternate year since 1800 by the Royal Society for outstandingly important discoveries by a scientist working in Europe.

1843 A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, was published. 


1849 Thomas and William Bowler, felt hat makers, sold their first 'bowler' to William Coke, which he purchased at James Lock & Co. in London.


1917 Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, first English woman physician, died and was buried in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. She was the founder of the first hospital staffed by women and the first woman mayor in the United Kingdom.


1925 The death of Albert Neilson Hornby (A. N. Hornby), one of the best known sportsmen in England during the 19th century. Hornby was the first of only two men to captain the country at both rugby and cricket. He is also remembered as the England cricket captain whose side lost the Test match at home against the Australians in 1882 which gave rise to the Ashes.


1933 Members of the public were allowed to walk through the recently completed Mersey Road Tunnel, prior to its opening to traffic.


1936 The birth of Tommy Steele, English singer and actor. Most of Steele's 1950s recordings were covers of American hits, such as 'Singing the Blues' and 'Knee Deep in the Blues'.


1954 The British Petroleum Company (BP) was formed.


1967 Alec Rose, aboard Lively Lady, completed his solo 14,500 mile sail from Britain to Australia, having been at sea for 155 days. He returned successfully to Portsmouth on 4th July 1968 and was knighted the next day by the Queen.


1968 An 11-year-old girl (Mary Bell) was sentenced to life in detention after being found guilty at Newcastle Assizes of the manslaughter of two small boys. It was said that she strangled the boys, aged four and three, 'solely for the pleasure and excitement of killing'.


1976 Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates rejected Opec's recommended 15% oil price increase and chose to impose a lower price rise of 5%.


1986 Mrs Davina Thompson, in an operation performed at a Cambridge hospital, became the world’s first heart, lungs and liver transplant patient .


2003 Former school caretaker Ian Huntley was convicted of the murders of 10 year olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. The judge said that the killings did not meet the criteria for a 'whole-life tariff', but that the 40-year term offered 'little or no hope' of his release.


2004 The opening of 'The Sage - Gateshead,' a concert venue and centre for musical education, located on the south bank of the River Tyne.


2011 The Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton brought in children to play the seven dwarfs in its pantomime production of Snow White, apparently because dwarf actors were seen as too expensive. But in a statement, the producer said: 'This was a response to audience discomfort with what was considered by some to be exploitative casting.'


2013 Alex Salmond's ‘Team Scotland’ delegation to the Ryder Cup in Chicago spent spent almost half a million pounds during their short stay, according to official figures obtained by The Telegraph.


2012 The Queen's centenarian 'birthday card team' was expanded to cope with a surge of 100-year-olds. Figures showed a 70 per cent rise in just 10 years of people aged over 100 and how more than 104,000 First World War babies are still alive


2014 The Rev Libby Lane, a parish priest from Crewe, was chosen to be the Church of England’s first female bishop. Her appointment brought to an end 22 years of resistance to the promotion of female priests.


2014 Dominique Harrison-Bentzen (22) slept rough on the streets of Preston, Lancashire, to raise money for homeless man Robbie after he had offered her his last £3 for a taxi home when she lost her bank card. Dominique raised more than £21,000 to help him after she put posts on Facebook and Twitter, asking people to help raise money to give Robbie a home.


2014 Birmingham was named as one of the top 10 cities in the world by travel handbook company Rough Guide. It was the only UK location on the list. The list does not rank the chosen cities.


2018 On This Day, all tolls ceased on the Severn Bridges. The first bridge crossing opened in 1966 with tolls charged in both directions. The arrangements were changed in the early 1990s and the toll was collected on the English side and only for vehicles travelling westwards from England to Wales. People have had to pay to cross the Severn Estuary, with its treacherous tides, since Roman times, be it in a car, in a train or on a ferry.