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17th December

1770 * Ludwig von Beethoven, German composer and pianist.

1778 * Sir Humphrey Davy, English chemist who invented the miner's safety lamp.

1843 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was published.

1892 The first performance of the ballet The Nutcracker was performed at St. Petersburg.

1903 The Wright brothers aircraft made its first flight which lasted just under a minute.

1908 * Willard Frank Libby, US chemist who developed radio-carbon dating.

1936 * Tommy Steele (Thomas Hicks), English singer and actor.

1939 The German battleship "Graf Spee" was sunk by British warships.

1942 Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden condemns the persecution of Jews by Germans in occupied Europe.

1944 German tanks, aircraft and paratroops crossed the Luxembourg and Belgian borders in massive counter-offensive.

1967 Yachtsman Alec Rose completed a solo 14,500 mile voyage, from Britain to Australia.

1968 An 11-year-old girl, Mary Bell was sentenced to life in detention at Newcastle Assizes for killing two small boys.

1971 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became the first Prime Minister of Pakistan.

1983 Three police officers and three members of the public were killed in a car bomb attack near Harrods in Knightsbridge.

1996 Six Red Cross aid workers were shot dead as they slept in a hospital in Chechnya.

1998 The US and UK governments launched massive air-strikes on Iraq in an aerial assault known as operation "Desert Fox".

2003 Former school caretaker Ian Huntley was convicted of the murders of Soham schoolgirls 10-year-old Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

xxxx * = Date of birth

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