What Happened on May 21 in History?

by oaeen
Premiere of The Empire Strikes Back(1980)

May 21 has witnessed a series of significant historical events spanning centuries, continents, and various fields of human endeavor. From pivotal political occurrences and scientific advancements to cultural milestones and notable births and deaths, this date encapsulates a rich tapestry of human history. This article delves into some of the most remarkable happenings on May 21, providing an in-depth analysis of their contexts and impacts.

The Diet of Worms Concludes (1521)

The Diet of Worms, a critical event in the history of the Protestant Reformation, concluded on May 21, 1521. Convened by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, this imperial council sought to address the teachings of Martin Luther, whose 95 Theses had sparked widespread religious debate. Luther was called to recant his writings but refused, famously declaring, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” This defiance led to his excommunication and the Edict of Worms, which declared him an outlaw and heretic. The Diet’s conclusion marked a turning point in the Reformation, solidifying the schism within Western Christianity and influencing religious, political, and cultural landscapes across Europe.

The First Republic of Austria Proclaimed (1919)

On May 21, 1919, the First Republic of Austria was officially proclaimed, following the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I. The proclamation marked the establishment of a new political order in Austria, transitioning from a monarchy to a republic. This period was fraught with economic hardship, political instability, and territorial disputes. The Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, signed later in 1919, formally recognized Austria’s independence but imposed significant territorial losses and military restrictions, shaping the nation’s interwar period and its eventual path to Anschluss with Nazi Germany in 1938.

French Forces Capture the Chinese Forts at Taku (1858)

The capture of the Taku Forts by French and British forces on May 21, 1858, was a significant event during the Second Opium War. Located at the mouth of the Hai River near Tianjin, these forts were crucial to the defense of the Chinese capital, Beijing. Their capture allowed Western powers to advance further into China, leading to the Treaty of Tianjin. This treaty expanded Western trade rights, legalized the opium trade, and ceded more control to foreign powers. The event underscored the decline of the Qing Dynasty and highlighted the broader imperialistic pressures facing China during the 19th century.

First Flight of the American Rocket Society’s First Rocket (1933)

On May 21, 1933, the American Rocket Society (ARS) launched its first rocket, ARS-1, marking a milestone in the development of American rocketry. The ARS was a pioneering organization in the field of rocket science, contributing significantly to the theoretical and practical foundations of space exploration. The successful flight of ARS-1 demonstrated the feasibility of liquid-fueled rockets and laid the groundwork for future advancements in space technology. The society’s work would eventually influence key figures and projects in the U.S. space program, including the establishment of NASA and the Apollo missions.

Discovery of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) (1946)

On May 21, 1946, physicists Felix Bloch and Edward Mills Purcell independently discovered nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), a technique that would revolutionize chemistry, physics, and medicine. NMR involves the interaction of atomic nuclei with magnetic fields and radio waves, providing detailed information about molecular structure and dynamics. Bloch and Purcell’s work earned them the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1952. NMR has since become a fundamental tool in scientific research, leading to the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a critical technology in medical diagnostics.

Clara Schumann’s Birth (1819)

Clara Schumann, one of the most distinguished pianists and composers of the 19th century, was born on May 21, 1819. As a prodigious talent, Clara made her concert debut at the age of nine and went on to have a remarkable career that spanned over six decades. She was also a significant figure in the Romantic music movement, known for her interpretations of works by her husband, Robert Schumann, as well as Johannes Brahms and Felix Mendelssohn. Clara’s contributions to music extended beyond performance; she was a dedicated teacher, editor, and promoter of her husband’s compositions, helping to secure his legacy.

Founding of the American Red Cross(1881)

As mentioned earlier, the establishment of the American Red Cross on May 21, 1881, by Clara Barton had a profound impact on humanitarian work in the United States. Barton’s efforts to provide organized emergency assistance and disaster relief set the foundation for a legacy of service that continues to be vital in times of crisis. The American Red Cross’s contributions to public health, disaster response, and community support underscore the importance of volunteerism and organized humanitarian efforts.

Premiere of “The Empire Strikes Back”(1980)

“The Empire Strikes Back,” the second installment in the original Star Wars trilogy, premiered on May 21, 1980. Directed by Irvin Kershner, the film is widely regarded as one of the greatest sequels in cinematic history. It introduced key elements to the Star Wars saga, including the reveal of Darth Vader as Luke Skywalker’s father and the debut of Yoda. The film’s success reinforced the franchise’s cultural impact and its role in shaping modern science fiction and popular culture. “The Empire Strikes Back” remains a seminal work, influencing generations of filmmakers and fans.

Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi(1991)

Former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on May 21, 1991, by a suicide bomber from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during an election campaign in Tamil Nadu. Gandhi’s death underscored the intense ethnic and political conflicts in South Asia, particularly the Sri Lankan Civil War. His assassination had a significant impact on Indian politics, influencing national security policies and highlighting the persistent threats of terrorism and political violence in the region.

Resignation of Indonesian President Suharto(1998)

Indonesian President Suharto resigned on May 21, 1998, after 31 years in power. His resignation came amid a severe economic crisis and widespread protests demanding political reform. Suharto’s departure marked the end of his authoritarian regime and the beginning of Indonesia’s transition to democracy. This pivotal moment in Indonesian history led to significant political and social changes, including greater civil liberties and efforts to address past human rights abuses. The resignation highlighted the complexities and challenges of transitioning from autocracy to democracy in a diverse and populous nation.


May 21 stands out in history as a date marked by a diverse array of pivotal events, influential figures, and groundbreaking achievements. May 21 has been a day of profound historical significance across different eras and regions. The legacy of these occurrences continues to shape our understanding of history, offering valuable insights into the complexities of political power, cultural evolution, and scientific progress.

Related Articles


Welcome to FactinHistory.com! Embark on a journey through time with us as we uncover the fascinating stories behind significant events from around the globe. From groundbreaking discoveries to pivotal moments in human history, our platform is your window to understanding the past and its profound impact on our present and future.


Copyright © 2023 factinhistory.com