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Births: Baruch (Benedict) de Spinoza, philosopher, 1632; Laurence Sterne, novelist, 1713; Zachary Taylor, 12th US president, 1784; Grace Horsley Darling, heroine of the wreck of the Forfarshire, 1815; George Augustus Henry Sala, journalist, 1828; Justin M'Carthy, politician, historian and novelist, 1830; Lilli Lehmann, operatic soprano, 1848; Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett, writer, 1849; Henri-Marie-Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec, painter, 1864; Scott Joplin, ragtime pianist and composer, 1868; Konstantin Alexandrovich Fedin, novelist, 1892; Herbert William Sutcliffe, cricketer, 1894.

Deaths: John Knox, religious reformer, 1572; William Lamb, second Viscount Melbourne, statesman, 1848; Sir Henry Havelock, soldier, 1857; Rev Dr George Croly, poet and romance writer, 1860; Albert F. Bellows, landscape painter, 1883; Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton, first Earl of Lytton ("Owen Meredith"), diplomat and poet, 1891; Robert Erskine Childers, Irish nationalist and novelist, executed 1922; Georges Clemenceau, statesman, 1929; Lord Craigavon (James Craig), statesman, 1940; Edgar Algernon Robert, first Viscount Cecil, a founder of the League of Nations, 1958; Ruth Chatterton, actress, 1961; Rodney Ackland (Bernstein), playwright, 1991; Freddie Mercury, rock singer, 1991.

On this day: the English Parliament decided that clergy were permitted to marry, 1548; Jeremiah Horrocks and William Crabtree first observed the transit of Venus, 1639; Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) was discovered by Abel Tasman, 1642; a frost fair was held on the frozen River Thames, 1715; a sudden eruption of Vesuvius occurred, 1759; Darwin's Origin of Species was published, 1859; the meat market in London was opened at Smithfield, 1868; Japan and Germany signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, 1936; Lee Harvey Oswald was shot while in police custody by Jack Ruby, 1963; a Greek archaeologist confirmed that a tomb found in Northern Greece was that of Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, 1977; in Czechoslovakia, the Communist party leader and Politburo resigned, as Alexander Dubcek returned to Prague, 1989.

Today is the Feast Day of St Chrysogonus, St Colman of Cloyne and Saints Flora and Mary.