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Births: Gerhardus Mercator (Gerhard Kremer), cartographer, 1512; William Oughtred, mathematician and inventor, 1575; Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, painter, 1696; James Madison, fourth US President, 1751; Sir Charles Wyville Thomson, zoologist, 1830; Rosa Luxemburg, Spartacist agitator, 1871; Herbert Farjeon, critic and playwright, 1887; Heitor Villa-Lobos, composer, 1887; Sir Rex Carey Harrison, actor, 1908.

Deaths: Antonio Allegri da Correggio, painter, 1534; Thomas Augustine Arne, composer ('Rule, Britannia'), 1778; Flora Macdonald, Jacobite heroine, 1790; Franz Anton Mesmer, physician and founder of 'animal magnetism', 1815; Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev, composer, 1953; Joseph Stalin, Russian leader, 1953; William Cameron Menzies, film director, 1957; Anna Akhmatova (Anna Andreyevna Gorenko), poet, 1966; Tito Gobbi, baritone, 1984; William Powell, actor, 1984.

On this day: the foundation stone of New College, Oxford, was laid, 1397; Lee De Forest demonstrated an experimental radio broadcast from New York, 1907; the Nazis made large gains in the German general election, 1933; Winston Churchill made a speech referring to an 'Iron Curtain' across Europe, 1946.

Today is the Feast Day of Saints Adrian and Eubulus, St Eusebius of Cremona, St Gerasimus, St John Joseph of the Cross, St Kieran of Saighir, St Phocas of Antioch, St Piran and St Virgil of Arles.


Births: Michelangelo (Michelagniolo Buonarroti), painter, sculptor and poet, 1475; Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac, novelist and playwright, 1619; Elizabeth Barrett Browning, poet, 1806; George Louis Palmella Busson du Maurier, caricaturist and novelist, 1834; Bronson James Albery, theatrical manager, 1881; Ringgold Wilmer Lardner, humorous writer, 1885; Lou Costello (Louis Francis Cristillo), actor and comedian, 1906; Frankie Howerd (Francis Alex Howard), comedian, 1922.

Deaths: Davy Crockett, frontiersman, killed at the Alamo 1836; Jean-Baptiste Girard (Pere Gregoire), priest and educationist, 1850; William Whewell, philosopher and author, 1866; Louisa May Alcott, novelist, 1888; Gottlieb Daimler, mechanical engineer, 1900; William Worrell Mayo, a founder of the Mayo clinic, 1911; Alfred von Tirpitz, naval commander and statesman, 1930; John Philip Sousa, bandmaster and composer, 1932; David Ivor Novello (Davies), composer and playwright, 1951; George Formby (William Hoy Booth), singer and comedian, 1961; Herbert Stanley Morrison, statesman, 1965; Zoltan Kodaly, composer, 1967; Donald Maclean, former diplomat and Soviet agent, 1983.

On this day: the Battle and Siege of the Alamo, Texas, ended, when there were only six survivors left of 155 Texans, 1836; Verdi's opera La Traviata was first performed, Venice 1853; Serbia was proclaimed a kingdom, 1882; King Milan of Serbia abdicated, and his 13- year-old son, Alexander, acceded to the throne, 1889; British soldiers were granted the right to wear spectacles on or off duty, 1902; the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon- Avon was destroyed by fire, 1926; frozen food was first put on sale by the Birdseye company, 1930the US Air Force began daylight bombing raids on Berlin, 1944; Constantine II succeeded Paul I as King of the Hellenes, 1964.

Tomorrow is the Feast Day of Saints Balred and Bilfrid, St Cadroe, St Chrodegang of Metz, St Colette, Saints Cyneburga, Cyneswide and Tibba, St Cyril of Constantinople, St Fridolin, St Ollegarius or Oldegar and Saints Perpetua and Felicity.