January 4th in History

Relative height of the Burj Khalifa compared to other buildings and structures (Credit: Astronaut, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Today in History

  • Samuel Colt sells his first pistol to the US government (1847)
  • Solomon Northrup regains his freedom, chronicled in his national bestseller Twelve Years a Slave (1853)
  • Utah is admitted as a US state (1896)
  • The elephant Topsy is electrocuted; the Edison film company chronicles it in the film Electrocuting an Elephant (1903)
  • Sputnik 1 falls to Earth (1958)
  • US President Richard Nixon refuses to hand over subpoenaed materials to the Senate Watergate Committee (1974)
  • Wrestler Jesse Ventura becomes governor of Minnesota (1999)
  • NASA’s Spirit rover lands on Mars (2004)
  • The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, opens in Dubai (2010)


  • Archbishop Ussher, calculated that the Creation took place October 23, 4004 BCE (1581)
  • Sir Isaac Newton, physicist and mathematician (1643 — O. S. 25 December, 1642*)
  • Jacob Grimm, mythologist (1785)
  • Louis Braille, inventor of Braille (1809)
  • General Tom Thumb, circus performer (1838)
  • James Bond, ornithologist, namesake of the fictional spy (1900)
  • Don Shula, football coach (1930)
  • Floyd Patterson, boxer (1935)
  • Dyan Cannon, actress (1937)
  • Matt Frewer, actor (1958)
  • Vanity, singer-songwriter, dancer, and actress (1959)
  • Michael Stipe, musician (1960)
  • Dave Foley, comedian, member of Second City (1963)

* Because of the conversion from the “old style” Julian calendar to the “new style” Gregorian calendar, some historical figures have the dates of their birth and death listed using both calendar systems.


  • Elizabeth Ann Seaton, nun and saint (1821)
  • Cornelius Vanderbilt, businessman (1877)
  • Albert Camus, novelist and philosopher (1960)
  • Erwin Schrödinger, physicist (1961)
  • T. S. Eliot, poet and playwright (1965)
  • Les Brown, bandleader (2001)

Holidays and Celebrations

  • The Eleventh Day of Christmas
  • Independence Day (Myanmar)
  • Day of the Fallen Against the Colonial Repression (Angola)
  • Day of the Martyrs (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
  • Dimpled Chad Day
  • Hwinukan Mukee (Okinawa)
  • Ogoni Day
  • World Braille Day

January 4 is the fourth day of the year. There are 361 days (362 in leap years) remaining until the end of the year.