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Births: Sir Edward Coke, Lord Chief Justice and writer, 1552; John Ford (Sean Aloysius O'Fearna), film director, 1895; William Clark Gable, actor, 1901.

Deaths: Rene Descartes, scientist and philosopher, 1650; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Godwin), author of Frankenstein, 1851; Buster Keaton, comedian, 1966.

On this day: Alexander Selkirk, the castaway, was discovered by Captain Thomas Dover on the island of Juan Fernandez, 1709; General Sherman began his march from North and South Carolina, 1865; the first volume of the Oxford English Dictionary was published, 1884; Manon Lescaut, the opera by Puccini, was first staged in Turin, 1893; La Boheme, the opera by Puccini, was first staged in Turin, 1896; the first British labour exchanges opened, 1910; the Soviet government was first recognised by Great Britain, 1924; the Austrian chancellor, Engelbert Dollfuss, dissolved all political parties except his own 'Fatherland Front', 1934; the British Air Training Corps was founded, 1941; Vidkun Quisling became prime minister of Norway, 1942; the United Arab Republic was formed by a union of Egypt and Syria, 1958; Ronald Biggs, train robber, who had escaped from Wandsworth Prison, was arrested in Rio de Janeiro, but extradition was refused, 1974; some 1,200 people were killed after an earthquake in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 1991.

Today is the Feast Day of St Bride or Brigid of Kildare, St Henry Morse, St John of the Grating, St Pionius, St Seiriol and St Sigebert III of Austrasia.