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Births: Pierre de Fermat, mathematician, 1601; John Varley, water- colour painter, 1778; Davy Crockett, frontiersman, 1786; Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, diplomat, poet and traveller, 1840; Oliver St John Gogarty, writer, 1878; Mae West, actress, 1892.

Deaths: Fernand Leger, Cubist painter, 1955; Leonard Alfred George Strong, novelist, 1958; Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, architect, 1969; Conrad Potter Aiken, writer, 1973; Ira Gershwin (Israel Gershvin), lyricist, 1983; Walter Richard Rudolf Hess, Hitler's former deputy, 1987.

On this day: Cromwell's army was victorious at the Battle of Preston, 1648; the registration of births, deaths and marriages was introduced in Britain under the Registration Act, 1836; Wagner's opera Gotterdammerung was first performed, Bayreuth 1876; the French Panama Canal Company was established, 1879; gold was discovered in the Klondyke, Canada, 1896; a general railway strike started in Britain, 1911; the first London performance of the musical play Waltzes from Vienna was staged, 1931; Sicily was completely liberated by the Allies, 1943; the RAF raided the German rocket base at Peenemunde, Rostock, 1943; Indonesia was proclaimed an independent republic, 1945; building of the wall between East and West Berlin began, 1961; in the Philippines, earthquakes and tidal waves resulted in the deaths of more than 6,000 people, 1976.

Today is the Feast Day of St Clare of Montefalco, St Eusebius, pope, St Hyacinth, St Joan Delanoue, St Liberatus of Capua, St Mamas and St Rock or Roch.