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Births: Jean-Francois Millet, painter, 1642; Edward Gibbon, historian, author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1737; Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, author and women's rights champion, 1759; Samuel Finlay Breese Morse, inventor of the Morse Code, 1791; Ulysses Simpson Grant, general and 18th US president, 1822; Maurice Baring, novelist, playwright and poet, 1874; Wallace Carothers, chemist and developer of nylon, 1896; Cecil Day Lewis, poet and novelist, 1904. Deaths: Gerrit van Honthorst, painter, 1656; William Charles Macready, actor- manager, 1873; Alexander Nikolaievich Scriabin, composer and pianist, 1915; Kwame Nkrumah, former president of Ghana, 1972.

On this day: the Order of St Michael and St George was founded, 1817; the London Zoological Gardens opened, Regent's Park 1828; Christina Rossetti, aged 12, produced her first book of poems, 1842; 1,450 people died when the Sultana steamboat exploded on the Mississippi, 1865; Germany was billed for pounds 650m for damage done by her forces in the First World War, 1921; the Carlton Theatre opened, London 1927; the Piccadilly Theatre opened, London 1928; Guernica was destroyed in bombing by German aircraft, Spain 1937; it was announced that men aged 20-21 would be conscripted, 1939; Georgi Malenkov became leader in the Soviet Union, 1954; Togo became independent, 1960; Sierra Leone became independent, 1961.

Today is the Feast Day of St Anthimus of Nicomedia, St Asicus or Tassach, Saints Castor and Stephen, St Floribert of Liege, St Maughold or Maccul, and St Zita.