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Births: Ludolf Backhuysen, painter, 1631; Charles Wesley, hymn-writer ('Jesu, Lover of My Soul'), 1707; Joseph Grimaldi, clown, 1779; Dr William Moon, inventor of a 'blind' alphabet, 1818; Sir Joseph John Thomson, physicist, 1856; Edward Alexander MacDowell, composer and pianist, 1860; Saki (Hector Hugh Munro), short-story writer, 1870; Dame Gladys Cooper, actress, 1888; Willy Brandt (Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm), former West German Chancellor, 1913; Betty (Elizabeth Ruth) Grable, actress, 1916.

Deaths: Abu Mohammed al-Ghazali, theologian, 1111; Veit Ludwig von Seckendorf, political writer, 1692; Dr Alexander Adam, classic scholar and teacher, 1809; Thomas Dunham Whitaker, topographer, 1821; Samuel Rogers, poet and banker, 1855; Louis Moreau Gottschalk, composer, 1869; George Edmund Street, architect, 1881; Sir Richard Owen, palaeontologist, 1892; Horatio Parker, composer, 1919; Sir William Hamo Thornycroft, sculptor, 1925; Hugo Henkel, chemist, 1952; Dorothy Leigh Sayers, detective-story writer, 1957; Robert Tyre (Bobby) Jones, champion golfer, 1971; Ben Travers, writer of farces, 1980; Marguerite Yourcenar (Marguerite de Crayencour), historical novelist, 1987.

On this day: the Scots were defeated at the Battle of Clifton Moor, 1745; New Jersey became the third of the United States, 1787; Thomas Paine, who had fled to France, was tried in his absence for his publication of The Rights of Man, 1792; the first stones of the piers of Blackfriars Railway Bridge, London, were laid, 1865; under the 13th Amendment, slavery was abolished in the United States, 1865; the underground railway from Stockwell to the City of London was opened, 1890; a treaty between the United States and Panama placed the Canal under US control for an annual rent, 1903; the French newspaper Le Monde was issued for the first time, 1944; after discussion in the House of Lords, the death penalty for murder was finally abolished in Britain, 1969.

Today is the Feast Day of St Flannan, St Gatian, Saints Rufus and Zosimus, St Samthan and St Winebald.


Births: Philip V, King of Spain, 1683; Sir William Edward Parry, Arctic explorer, 1790; Jean-Baptiste-Charles Dancla, violinist, 1818; Sir Stanley Unwin, publisher, 1884; Oliver Hazard Perry La Farge, author, 1901; Sir Ralph David Richardson, actor, 1902; Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, Soviet leader, 1906; Jean Genet, playwright and essayist, 1910; Edith Piaf (Edith Giovanna Gassion), singer, 1915.

Deaths: Anastasius I, Pope, 401; Matteo Maria Boiardo, poet, 1494; Vitus Jonassen Bering, navigator, 1741; Jean-Baptiste Vanloo, painter, 1745; David Hartley the younger, statesman and inventor, 1813; Emily Bronte, novelist, 1848; Joseph Mallord William Turner, painter, 1851; Sir Paul Gavrilovich Vinogradoff, lawyer and historian, 1925; Robert Andrews Millikan, physicist, 1953.

On this day: Huguenots and Catholics clashed when the Battle of Dreux was fought, 1562; during the American-British war of 1812, the Toronto parliament building was set alight, and Fort Niagara was taken by the British, 1813; the United States recognised the independence of Hawaii, 1842; in the New Hebrides, over 500 people were killed following a volcanic eruption, 1913; the British evacuated Penang, 1941; an air service between London and Moscow was begun, 1957; Ted Hughes was appointed Poet Laureate, 1984.

Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St Anastasius I of Antioch, St Gregory of Auxerre, St Nemesius of Alexandria and St Timothy.