Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
September 27 is the 270th day of the year (271st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 95 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1922, Jean-François Champollion deciphered the hieroglyphs of the Rosetta Stone with the help of groundwork laid by his predecessors: Athanasius Kircher, Silvestre de Sacy, Johan David Akerblad, Thomas Young, and William John Bankes. Champollion translated parts of the Rosetta Stone, showing that the Egyptian writing system was a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs.
Thomas Young was one of the first to attempt decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphs, basing his own work on the investigations of Swedish diplomat Akerblad, who built up a demotic alphabet of 29 letters (15 turned out to be correct) and translated all personal names and other words in the Demotic part of the Rosetta Stone in 1802. Akerblad however, wrongly believed that demotic was entirely phonetic or alphabetic. Young thought the same, and by 1814 he had completely translated the enchorial (which Champollion labeled Demotic as it is called today) text of the Rosetta Stone (he had a list with 86 demotic words). Young then studied the hieroglyphic alphabet and made some progress but failed to recognise that demotic and hieroglyphic texts were paraphrases and not simple translations. In 1823 he published an Account of the Recent Discoveries in Hieroglyphic Literature and Egyptian Antiquities. Some of Young’s conclusions appeared in the famous article Egypt he wrote for the 1818 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.
When Champollion, in 1822, published his translation of the hieroglyphs and the key to the grammatical system, Young and all others praised this work. Young had indicated in a letter to Gurney that he wished to see Champollion acknowledge that he had made use of Young’s earlier work in assisting his eventual deciphering of hieroglyphics. Champollion was unwilling to share the credit even though initially he had not recognized that hieroglyphics were phonetic. Young corrected him on this, and Champollion attempted to have an early article withdrawn once he realized his mistake. Strongly motivated by the political tensions of that time, the British supported Young and the French Champollion. Champollion completely translated the hieroglyphic grammar based in part upon the earlier work of others including Young. However, Champollion maintained that he alone had deciphered the hieroglyphs. After 1826, he did offer Young access to demotic manuscripts in the Louvre, when he was a curator. Baron Georges Cuvier (1825) credited Champollion’s work as an important aid in dating the Dendera Zodiac.
489 – Odoacer attacks Theodoric at the Battle of Verona, and is defeated again.
1331 – The Battle of Plowce between the Kingdom of Poland and the Teutonic Order is fought.
1422 – after the brief Gollub War the Teutonic Knights sign the Treaty of Melno with the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania
1529 – The Siege of Vienna begins when Suleiman I attacks the city.
1540 – The Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) receives its charter from Pope Paul III.
1590 – Pope Urban VII dies 13 days after being chosen as the Pope, making his reign the shortest papacy in history.
1605 – The armies of Sweden are defeated by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the Battle of Kircholm.
1669 – The Venetians surrender the fortress of Candia to the Ottomans, thus ending the 21-year long Siege of Candia.
1777 – Lancaster, Pennsylvania is the capital of the United States, for one day.
1821 – Mexico gains its independence from Spain.
1822 – Jean-Francois Champollion announces that he has deciphered the Rosetta stone.
1825 – The Stockton and Darlington Railway opens, and begins operation of the world’s first service of locomotive-hauled passenger trains.
1854 – The steamship SS Arctic sinks with 300 people on board. This marks the first great disaster in the Atlantic Ocean.
1903 – Wreck of the Old 97, a train crash made famous by the song of the same name.
1905 – The physics journal Annalen der Physik published Albert Einstein’s paper “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?”, introducing the equation E=mc².
1908 – The first production of the Ford Model T automobile was built at the Piquette Plant in Detroit, Michigan.
1916 – Iyasu is proclaimed deposed as ruler of Ethiopia in a palace coup in favor of his aunt Zauditu.
1922 – King Constantine I of Greece abdicates his throne in favor of his eldest son, King George II.
1928 – The Republic of China is recognised by the United States.
1930 – Bobby Jones wins the U.S. Amateur Championship to complete the Grand Slam of golf. The old structure of the grand slam was the U.S. Open, British Open, U.S. Amateur, and British Amateur.
1937 – Balinese Tiger declared extinct.
1938 – Ocean liner Queen Elizabeth launched in Glasgow.
1940 – World War II: The Tripartite Pact is signed in Berlin by Germany, Japan and Italy.
1941 – The SS Patrick Henry is launched becoming the first of more than 2,700 Liberty ships.
1941 – Foundation of EAM (National Liberation Front) in Greece.
1942 – Last day of the September Matanikau action on Guadalcanal as United States Marine Corps troops barely escape after being surrounded by Japanese forces near the Matanikau River.
1944 – The Kassel Mission results in the largest loss by a USAAF group on any mission in World War II.
1949 – The first Plenary Session of the National People’s Congress approves the design of the Flag of the People’s Republic of China.
1954 – The nationwide debut of Tonight! (The Tonight Show) hosted by Steve Allen on NBC.
1956 – USAF Captain Milburn G. Apt becomes the first man to exceed Mach 3 while flying the Bell X-2. Shortly thereafter, the craft goes out of control and Captain Apt is killed.
1959 – Nearly 5000 people die on the main Japanese island of Honshu as the result of a typhoon.
1961 – Sierra Leone joins the United Nations.
1964 – The Warren Commission releases its report, concluding that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, assassinated President John F. Kennedy.
1964 – The British TSR-2 aircraft XR219 made its maiden flight from Boscombe Down in Wiltshire.
1968 – The stage musical Hair opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London, where it played 1,998 performances until its closure was forced by the roof’s collapsing in July 1973.
1977 – The 300 metre tall CKVR-TV transmission tower in Barrie, Ontario, Canada is hit by a light aircraft in a fog, causing it to collapse. All aboard the aircraft are killed.
1979 – The United States Department of Education receives final approval from the U.S. Congress to become the 13th US Cabinet agency.
1983 – Richard Stallman announces the GNU project to develop a free Unix-like operating system.
1988 – The National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi is founded.
1993 – The Sukhumi massacre takes place in Abkhazia.
1995 – The Government of the United States unveils the first of its redesigned bank notes with the $100 bill featuring a larger portrait of Benjamin Franklin slightly off-center.
1996 – In Afghanistan, the Taliban capture the capital city Kabul after driving out President Burhanuddin Rabbani and executing former leader Mohammad Najibullah.
1996 – The Julie N. tanker skip crashes into the Million Dollar Bridge in Portland, Maine spilling thousands of gallons of oil.
1997 – Communications are suddenly lost with the Mars Pathfinder space probe.
1998 – Google is founded.
2002 – Timor-Leste (East Timor) joins the United Nations.
2003 – Smart 1 satellite is launched.
2008 – CNSA astronaut Zhai Zhigang becomes the first Chinese person to perform a spacewalk while flying on Shenzhou 7.