A nine-year-old king and a space chimp: this week in history

Scottish independence, stem cell research and GDP are dominating the headlines at the moment. But what was going on during this week in history?


Michael Jackson burned in Pepsi ad (27 January 1984)


Singer Michael Jackson suffered serious burns to his head after his hair caught fire while filming a Pepsi Cola commercial in Los Angeles.

The 25-year-old was singing Billie Jean when a firework display covered him in sparks and set alight his hair. 

Jackson was treated in hospital for second degree burns.

Nine-year-old Edward VI succeeds Henry VIII (28 January 1547)

Edward VI became King of England upon the death of his father in the early hours of 28 January 1547.

The only son of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour, nine-year-old Edward stayed in the Tower of London until his coronation on 20 February.

The government was entrusted to his uncle, the Duke of Somerset, and then to the Earl of Warwick.

Thatcher snubbed by University of Oxford (29 January 1985)

Margaret Thatcher became the first Oxford-educated prime minister since World War II to be denied an honorary degree.

Academics led a campaign against honouring her, in protest against the government’s cuts in funding for education.

More than 1,000 members of the university attended a debate about plans to award Thatcher, and the vote against her was 738 to 319.

Thatcher graduated from Oxford in 1947. She achieved a second-class honours degree in chemistry.

Chimp returns safely after space flight (31 January 1961)

A chimpanzee sent into space in a rocket was recovered alive and well after travelling 155 miles above the Earth.

The animal, named Ham, travelled at 5,000 mph as part of a test to ensure that a human being could survive space flight and function outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

Ham was sent into space by the US, and was recovered 420 miles from the launching site in Cape Canaveral.

First venereal diseases clinic opens (31 January 1747)

January 1747 saw the opening of the world’s first venereal disease clinic in London, offering treatments for ‘genital pustulence’ and ‘cockpoxes’.

The clinic opened at London Lock Hospital.


The hospital later developed maternity and gynaecology services. It closed in 1952.