On this day in 1709, British sailor Alexander Selkirk is rescued after spending five years marooned on a desert island at his own request. His adventure - which mostly consists of eating bugs, masturbating and screaming at the mocking blue sky - becomes the stuff of literary legend when it's fictionalized by Daniel DeFoe in his novel Robinson Crusoe.
On this day in 1790, in New York City, the Supreme Court of the United States convenes for the first time.
On this day in 1884, the first volume (A to Ant) of the Oxford English Dictionary is published.
On this day in 1920, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police begins operations.
On this day in 1929, one Charles Rigoulet successfully "clean and jerks" 401 lbs, 6 oz. It's the first time that more than 400 lbs is lifted overhead in a sporting competition. Nowadays, that happens every Thursday at Oprah Winfrey's house.
On this day in 1978, once-great film director Roman "the Tweenmaster" Polanski skips bail and runs away to France after pleading guilty to charges that he had sex with a 13-year-old girl in Jack Nicholson's hot-tub. Bad movies ensue.
On this day in 2002, American journalist and South Asia Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal Daniel Pearl, kidnapped January 23, 2002, is beheaded and mutilated by his captors.
On this day in 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia on mission STS-107 disintegrates during reentry into the Earth's atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard.
On this day in 2004, 251 people are trampled to death and 244 injured in a stampede at the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
On this day in 2004, Janet Jackson's breast is exposed during the half-time show of Super Bowl XXXVIII, resulting in US broadcasters adopting a stronger adherence to Federal Communications Commission censorship guidelines.