Major world events that occurred during Queen Elizabeth II's historic 70-year reign

Queen Elizabeth II was the longest-reigning monarch in British history.

September 8, 2022, 6:55 PM

The late Queen Elizabeth II was the longest-reigning monarch in British history, claiming the throne for 70 years.

At 96, she also held the distinction of the longest-lived British monarch.

PHOTO: Britain's Queen Elizabeth tours the Foreign and Commonwealth Office during a visit to mark her Diamond Jubilee, London, December 18, 2012.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth tours the Foreign and Commonwealth Office during a visit to mark her Diamond Jubilee, London, December 18, 2012.
Alastair Grant/Reuters, FILE

She became queen on Feb. 6, 1952, at the age of 25, following the sudden death of her father, King George VI, and was coronated the following year at Westminster Abbey.

Presiding over seven decades, her reign has witnessed many significant moments that have shaped human history, from scientific breakthroughs to wars to financial crises.

On the occasion of her death, here's a look at some of the major worldwide events that happened since Elizabeth became Queen of England.

Major world events during Queen Elizabeth II's reign
Major world events during Queen Elizabeth II's reign
ABC News Photo Illustration

May 2, 1952 -- World's first commercial jet service begins

The world's first commercial jet service, with the national British carrier British Overseas Aircraft Corporation, takes passengers from London to Johannesburg, ushering in a new age of travel.

April 12, 1955 -- Polio vaccine declared safe

Jonas Salk's polio vaccine is declared "safe, effective, and potent" in one of the most significant biomedical advances of the century.

Oct. 4, 1957 -- Launch of Sputnik 1

The Soviet Union launches the first artificial Earth satellite, marking the beginning of the Space Age.

May 9, 1960 -- Birth control pill approved for use in US

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the world’s first commercially produced oral contraceptive -- the birth control pill Enovid-10 -- providing greater reproductive freedom.

May 16, 1966 -- China's Cultural Revolution begins

Communist leader Mao Zedong launches the so-called Cultural Revolution, which will last until his death in 1976 and impact the country for decades.

April 4, 1968 -- Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The civil rights leader is fatally shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, a shocking and pivotal moment during the Civil Rights Movement.

PHOTO: Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 mission commander, at the modular equipment storage assembly of the Lunar Module Eagle on the historic first extravehicular activity on the moon.
Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, Apollo 11 mission commander, at the modular equipment storage assembly of the Lunar Module Eagle on the historic first extravehicular activity on the moon.
HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images, FILE

July 20, 1969 -- Apollo 11 moon landing

Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first two humans on the moon.

January 1975 -- Altair 8800 launch

The Altair 8800, the first commercially successful personal computer, is released by Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems.

April 30, 1975 -- End of the Vietnam War

The Fall of Saigon marks the end of the Vietnam War after nearly 20 years of conflict.

PHOTO: LUSAKA:  Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher visit Zambia for the Commonwealth conference in 1979 in Lusaka, Zambia.
Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher visit Zambia for the Commonwealth conference in 1979 in Lusaka, Zambia.
Anwar Hussein/Getty Images, FILE

May 4, 1979 -- Margaret Thatcher becomes UK prime minister

Fifteen British prime ministers have served during the queen's reign, including Margaret Thatcher, the first female British prime minister and the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century.

May 8, 1980 -- Smallpox declared eradicated

The World Health Assembly declares the world free of smallpox, one of the biggest achievements in international public health.

June 5, 1981 -- AIDS first reported

The first report identifying the appearance of what would later become known as AIDS is published.

April 26, 1986 -- Chernobyl nuclear disaster

What's considered the world's worst nuclear accident occurs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine.

PHOTO: Revelers at the Brandenburg Gate stand on top of a remnant of the Berlin Wall, as they celebrate the first New Year in a unified Berlin since World War II on December 31, 1989 in Berlin, Germany.
Revelers at the Brandenburg Gate stand on top of a remnant of the Berlin Wall, as they celebrate the first New Year in a unified Berlin since World War II on December 31, 1989 in Berlin, Germany.
Thierry Monasse/Getty Images, FILE

Nov. 9, 1989 -- Fall of the Berlin Wall

The collapse of the Soviet Bloc begins, preceding the end of the Cold War in 1991.

April 27, 1994 -- Apartheid dismantled

Apartheid, the system of racial segregation in South Africa, ends after more than 40 years, with Nelson Mandela elected in the country's first free presidential election.

April 10, 1998 -- End to the Troubles in Northern Ireland

The deadly conflict in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles ends after some 30 years, with the Good Friday Agreement.

Sept. 11, 2001 -- 9/11 attacks

The deadliest terrorist attack in human history is carried out against the United States by al-Qaeda, killing 2,977 people and spawning the nation's war on terrorism.

2007-2009 -- The Great Recession

The burst of the U.S. housing bubble leads to the most severe economic recession since the Great Depression and an ensuing global financial crisis.

Jan. 3, 2009 -- Bitcoin launches

Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency ever created, launches, going on to become one of the most popular digital currencies.

Dec. 17, 2010 -- The start of the Arab Spring

The Arab Spring, a series of anti-government demonstrations throughout the Middle East, begins with protests in Tunisia and lasts for over 10 years.

June 23, 2016 -- Brexit referendum vote

By a slight majority, Britain votes to leave the European Union. The United Kingdom would formally withdraw in 2020.

March 11, 2020 -- COVID-19 declared a global pandemic

The World Health Organization declares the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. More than 6.4 million deaths from the virus worldwide have been reported to the WHO.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events