View our new "On this day" sections for June.


1 June 

  • 1633 Birth of Geminiano Montanari, the first astronomer to record that the star β Persei, also known as Algol, varies in brightness over time

  • 1796 Birth of Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot, who developed the theory of heat engines, now known as the Carnot cycle after him
  • 1940 Birth of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, best known for his suggestion that, within the confines of general relativity, wormholes might be used for time travel

2 June 

  • 1966 Surveyor 1 becomes the first spacecraft to land on another extraterrestrial body when it touches down on the Moon

  • 2003 The European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft launches. It is the first European mission to another planet

3 June 

  • 1659 Birth of David Gregory, the astronomer and mathematician known for his development of infinite series in maths and for being among the first to teach the ideas in Isaac Newton’s Principia

4 June 

  • 1783 The first hot air balloon is demonstrated by the Montgolfier brothers

  • 1996 The first of the European Space Agency’s Ariane 5 rockets to be launched explodes after 20 seconds

5 June 

  • 1995 A Bose-Einstein condensate is created for the first time, at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics by Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman

  • 1819 Birth of John Couch Adams, known for predicting the existence and position of Neptune from differences between the predicted and observed orbit of Uranus
  • 1900 Birth of Dennis Gabor, who won the 1971 Nobel Prize for his invention of holography

6 June 

  • 1850 Birth of Karl Ferdinand Braun, who won a share of the 1909 Nobel Prize for "contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy"

7 June 

  • 1862 Birth of Philipp Lenard, who won the 1905 Nobel Prize for this work on cathode rays

  • 1879 Birth of Joan Voûte, the astronomer who used parallax measurements to show that Proxima Centauri is the same distance from Earth as the Alpha Centauri binary system
  • 1886 Birth of Henri Coandă, a pioneer of aerodynamics and the discoverer of the Coandă Effect in fluid dynamics

8 June 

  • 2004 A transit of Venus occurs – the first for 122 years

  • 1625 Birth of Giovanni Domenico Cassini, the astronomer who was first to observe four of Saturn’s moons as well as a division in its rings that is named after him, and credited as a co-discoverer of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter along with Robert Hooke.
  • 1724 Birth of John Smeaton, considered the “father of civil engineering
  • 1851 Birth of Jacques-Arsène d’Arsonval, known for inventing two types of devices to measure electrical current and for his studies of the effect of electricity on living organisms.
  • 1916 Birth of Francis Crick, the biophysicist who discovered the molecular structure of DNA along with James Watson; the two were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962.
  • 1936 Birth of Kenneth G Wilson, winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work on renormalisation in quantum field theory

9 June 

  • 1986 The report on the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger is released. The commission led by the former US Secretary of State William P Rogers finds that the accident was caused by a faulty seal on one of the solid rocket boosters and recommends improvements in engineering and organisation

  • 1781 Birth of George Stephenson, the engineer remembered for inventing a miners’ safety lamp to rival the better-known Davy lamp and for being the “father of railways”
  • 1812 Birth of Johann Gottfried Galle, one of the discoverers of Neptune
  • 1861 Birth of Pierre Duhem, known for his work on thermodynamics and on the philosophy of science
  • 1905 The journal Annalen der Physik publishes Albert Einstein’s paper on the photoelectric effect, which introduces the idea of quanta of energy and lays the foundations of quantum mechanics

10 June 

  • 2003 NASA launches the Spirit Rover towards Mars. It lands the following year and gathers data until 2010

11 June 

  • 1723 Birth of Johann Georg Palitzsch, the astronomer who confirmed Edmund Halley’s prediction of the return of his eponymous comet, observing it on 25 December 1758

  • 1867 Birth of Charles Fabry, known for his studies of interference fringes in the field of optics

12 June 

  • 1851 Birth of Oliver Lodge, the physicist who made important contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy

13 June 

  • 1983 The Pioneer 10 spaceprobe passes the orbit of Neptune, becoming the first man-made object to leave the solar system

  • 1831 Birth of James Clerk Maxwell, who is best known for uniting the phenomena of optics, electricity and magnetism into one theory of electromagnetism
  • 1911 Birth of Luis Alvarez, who was awarded the 1968 Nobel Prize for his contributions to elementary particle physics, and who hypothesised that the extinction of the dinosaurs was caused by the impact of a massive asteroid
  • 1911 Birth of Erwin Wilhelm Müller, the physicist who was the first to experimentally observe atoms

14 June 

  • 1822 Charles Babbage presents a paper to the Royal Astronomical Society describing his “difference engine” – an early mechanical computer

  • 1962 The European Space Research Organisation is founded. It will later become the European Space Agency.

15 June 

  • 763BC A solar eclipse is recorded by the Assyrians. Knowledge of its date is later used to determine the dates of other events in Mesopotamian history

  • 1752 Benjamin Franklin shows that lightning is an electrical discharge

16 June 

  • 1911 A 772-gramme meteorite hits a barn in Wisconsin

  • 1801 Birth of Julius Plücker, whose early investigations of cathode rays ultimately led to the discovery of the electron
  • 1888 Birth of Alexander Friedman, who discovered a solution of the field equations of general relativity corresponding to an expanding universe. His model was later confirmed observationally by Edwin Hubble

17 June 

  • 1969 The Soviet probe Venera 6 descends into the atmosphere of Venus and sends back what data it can before being crushed by pressure

  • 1983 The US Department of Energy releases documents describing the world’s largest mercury-pollution event at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, home to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the successor to the institution that hosted the Manhattan Project during the second world war

18 June 

  • 1832 Birth of William Crookes, inventor of a vacuum tube, now named after him, in which electrons were first discovered

  • 1898 Birth of Carl Hermann, known for his invention of a standardised notation in crystallography
  • 1943 Birth of Burt Rutan, the aerospace engineer who designed Voyager, the first aircraft to travel around the world without stopping or refueling, and the privately funded spaceplane SpaceShipOne, the winner of the Ansari X-Prize

19 June 

  • 1623 Birth of Blaise Pascal, known for his contributions to hydrodynamics; the SI unit of pressure is named after him

  • 1922 Birth of Aage Bohr, winner of the 1975 Nobel Prize, along with Ben Mottelson and James Rainwater, "for the discovery of the connection between collective motion and particle motion in atomic nuclei and the development of the theory of the structure of the atomic nucleus based on this connection"

20 June 

  • 1840 Samuel Morse is granted a patent for his invention of the telegraph

  • 1877 The first commercial telephone service in the world is installed by Alexander Graham Bell in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada
  • 1990 Discovery of the asteroid 5261 Eureka, the first of a group of “Trojan” asteroids found that share an orbit with Mars, orbiting at its L5 Lagrangian point

21 June 

  • 2004 SpaceShipOne, built by Scaled Composites and operated by Mojave Aerospace Ventures, become the first privately funded vessel to reach space

  • 2006 Two newly discovered moons of Pluto are named Nix and Hydra by the International Astronomical Union
  • 1781 Birth of Siméon Denis Poisson, known for his many contributions to mathematical physics and perhaps best remembered for his eponymous equation used in Newtonian gravity, electrostatics and mechanical engineering
  • 1811 Birth of Carlo Matteucci, who proved that biological tissues generate electrical currents
  • 1876 Birth of Willem Hendrik Keesom, who invented a means of freezing liquid helium

22 June 

  • 1633 Galileo Galilei is forced to recant his heliocentric model of the solar system

  • 1934 Birth of James Bjorken, whose work led to the recognition of quarks as real elementary particles rather than theoretical constructs and to the development of the theory of quantum chromodynamics
  • 1612 Birth of André Tacquet, the mathematician whose work was built on by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz in the development of calculus

23 June 

  • 1912 Birth of Alan Turing, whose work in cryptography contributed to deciphering the Enigma codes during the Second World War and who is often considered to be the “father of computer science”

24 June 

  • 1982 A British Airways flight passes through a cloud of volcanic ash ejected by the eruption of Mount Galunggung near Indonesia, causing all four engines to fail; despite this, the plane lands safely in Jakarta

  • 1883 Birth of Victor Francis Hess, winner of the 1936 Nobel Prize for his discovery of cosmic rays
  • 1915 Birth of Fred Hoyle, the leader of a research group who first explained how heavy elements are produced in stars, and who first coined the term “Big Bang” – in an attempt to ridicule the rival theory to his own “steady state” hypothesis.
  • Annually The Inti Raymi festival of the winter solstice originally instituted by the Incas, suppressed by the conquistadores in 1535, revived in 1944 and celebrated throughout the Andes in South America.
  • 1927 Birth of Martin Lewis Perl, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for his discovery of the tauon – a lepton particle similar to the electron but with a much larger mass

25 June 

  • 1997 An unmanned Russian freighter spacecraft collides with Mir; one of the space station’s modules is left permanently depressurised and its solar panels have to be removed with a fire axe

  • 1894 Birth of Hermann Oberth, the pioneer of rocket propulsion
  • 1907 Birth of J Hans D Jensen, who shared the 1963 Nobel Prize with Maria Göppert-Mayer for their nuclear shell model of the atomic nucleus
  • 1928 Birth of Alexei Alexeyevich Abrikosov, who was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize, with Vitaly Ginzburg and Anthony James Leggett, for their “pioneering contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids"

26 June 

  • 1730 Birth of Charles Messier, the astronomer known for his extensive catalogue of distant celestial bodies

  • 1937 Birth of Robert Coleman Richardson, who was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize along with David Lee and Douglas Osheroff, for their discovery of superfluidity in Helium-3

27 June 

  • 1954 The first nuclear power station in the world begins operation near Moscow

  • 1931 Birth of Martinus J G Velt, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize along with his former student Gerard ‘t Hooft "for elucidating the quantum structure of electroweak interactions in physics"

28 June 

  • 1906 Birth of Maria Göppert-Mayer, who shared the 1963 Nobel Prize with J Hans D Jensen for their nuclear shell model of the atomic nucleus

  • 1912 Birth of Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, one of the discoverers of the carbon-nitrogen-oxygen process in stars – a catalytic cycle that converts hydrogen to helium – and a co-discoverer, along with Hans Bethe, of the semi-empirical mass formula, by which the mass of an atomic nucleus can be approximated

29 June 

  • 1818 Birth of Angelo Secchi, one of the first scientists to state that the Sun is a star

  • 1995 The NASA space shuttle Atlantis docks with the Russian space station Mir for the first time in an early example of international cooperation in space

30 June 

  • 1905 The journal Annalen der Physick receives Albert Einstein’s paper On the electrodynamics of moving bodies in which he sets out his special theory of relativity.

  • 1908 A meteorite several tens of metres across explodes in the air above Siberia releasing an energy equivalent to 5–30 megatons of TNT – it’s the biggest impact in recorded history.