1397 – Geoffrey Chaucer tells The Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of Richard II. Chaucer scholars have also identified this date (in 1387) as the start of the book’s pilgrimage to Canterbury.
1492 – Spain and Christopher Columbus sign the Capitulations of Santa Fe for his voyage to Asia to acquire spices.
1521 – Trial of Martin Luther over his teachings begins during the assembly of the Diet of Worms. Initially intimidated, he asks for time to reflect before answering and is given a stay of one day.
1524 – Giovanni da Verrazzano reaches New York harbor.
1861 – The State of Virginia’s secession convention votes to secede from the United States, becoming the 8th state to join the Confederate States of America.
1907 – The Ellis Island immigration center processes 11,747 people, more than on any other day.
1948 – United Nations Security Council Resolution 46 is adopted.
1961 – Bay of Pigs Invasion: A group of Cuban exiles financed and trained by the CIA lands at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba with the aim of ousting Fidel Castro.
1969 – Sirhan Sirhan is convicted of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy.
1970 – Apollo program: The ill-fated Apollo 13 spacecraft returns to Earth safely.
2014 – NASA’s Kepler confirms the discovery of the first Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of another star.
1497 – Pedro de Valdivia, Spanish conquistador
1837 – J. P. Morgan, American banker and financier
1937 – Ferdinand Piëch, Austrian-German engineer and businessman
485 – Proclus, Greek mathematician and philosopher (b. 412)
1790 – Benjamin Franklin, American inventor, publisher, and politician, 6th President of Pennsylvania (b. 1706)
1983 – Felix Pappalardi, American singer-songwriter, bass player, and producer (b. 1939)
1988 – Louise Nevelson, American sculptor and educator (b. 1900)
1997 – Chaim Herzog, Israeli general, lawyer, and politician, 6th President of Israel (b. 1918)
1998 – Linda McCartney, American photographer, activist, and musician (b. 1941)
2003 – John Paul Getty, Jr., American-English philanthropist (b. 1932)
2014 – Gabriel García Márquez, Colombian journalist and author, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1927)
Edited from various sources including historyorb.com, the NYTimes.com Wikipedia and other internet searches