It happened today – this day in history – August 24

79 AD: Vesuvius erupted, destroying the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing 2,000 people. Paradoxically, the eruption destroyed Pompeii but also preserved it for the rest of time.

1572: The St Bartholomew’s Day massacre took place in Paris when thousands of French Huguenots were killed by order of the Catholic French court.

1724: George Stubbs, portrait and animal painter (especially horses), was born in Liverpool.

1814: British troops under General Ross invaded Washington and set fire to the White House and the Capital. Both were rebuilt and enlarged.

1875: Matthew Webb, British merchant navy captain, became the first person to swim the English Channel, doing the breaststroke from Dover to Cap Gris Nez in 21 hours, 45 minutes.

1891: The motion picture camera was patented by Thomas Edison.

1916: Eight people died when Zeppelins raided the outskirts of London.

1965: The 450,000-year-old body of a man was found in a Hungarian limestone quarry.

2006: The International Astronomical Union (IAU) redefined the term “planet” such that Pluto was then considered a dwaf planet.

2008: Gordon Brown promised that the London Games would be “the best Olympics Ever” as the official handover to Mayor Boris Johnson took place in Beijing.

2014: A 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck Napa, California, in the northern San Francisco Bay area, it was the largest earthquake to strike northern

California since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

ON THIS DAY LAST YEAR: Thanks to the heatwave, experts revealed that the best and earliest harvest of late summer crops such as apples, plums, grapes, tomatoes and even olives, in years was on the way.

BIRTHDAYS: Antonia (AS) Byatt, writer, 83; Jean-Michel Jarre, composer, 71; Sam Torrance, golfer, 66; Stephen Fry, actor/writer/presenter, 62; Steve Guttenberg, actor, 61; Jared Harris, actor, 58; Chad Michael Murray, actor, 38; Rupert Grint, actor, 31.