Births: John Gay, poet and playwright, 1685; Tom Oliver, prize-fighter, 1789; Emile-Jean-Horace Vernet, painter, 1789; Friedrich Theodor Vischer, writer on art, 1807; Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, surgeon and botanist, 1817; Edward John Hopkins, composer and organist, 1818; Sir Stanley Spencer, sculptor, 1891; Harold Joseph Laski, politician and economist, 1893; Walter Ulbricht, East German leader, 1893; Susan Hayward (Edythe Marrener), actress, 1918.

Deaths: Montezuma II, Aztec emperor, killed 1520; Pieter van Laer (Laar), painter, 1642; Simon Vouet, painter, 1649; William Oughtred, mathematician and inventor of the slide rule, 1660; Alexander Brome, poet, 1666; Abraham Gottlob Werner, geologist, 1817; Robert Chester Ruark, novelist, 1965; Joan Rosita Forbes, traveller and writer, 1967; Nancy Freeman Mitford, author, 1973; Lillian Hellman, playwright, 1984.

On this day: the Royalists were victorious at the Battle of Atherton Moor, 1643; the English and Dutch fleets were defeated by the French under Tourville at the Battle of Beachy Head, 1690; the Duc de Vendome and the Duke of Marlborough's forces met at the Battle of Oudenarde, 1708; the use of the pillory was abolished by Parliament, 1837; the Stamp Tax on newspapers was abolished in Britain, 1855; Blondin, the acrobat, crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope with a man on his back, 1859; the first annual meeting of the British Association was held at Oxford, 1860; the comic opera The Nautch Girl was first produced, London 1891; Tower Bridge in London was officially opened, 1894; an enormous natural explosion - the largest in modern history - took place in Siberia, 1908; George Joseph Smith, the 'Brides in the Bath' murderer, was found guilty, 1915; the first International Power Conference was held at Wembley, 1924; the 'Night of the Long Knives' - Hitler's purge of the Nazis - took place when Von Schleicher, Roehm and others were killed, 1934; the novel Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell was first published, 1936; German forces occupied Guernsey, 1940; the musical show Oliver] was first produced, London 1960; Cardinal Montini was elected as Pope Paul VI, 1963; the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 11 returned to Earth but all three cosmonauts were found to be dead in their seats, 1971; the musical Singin' in the Rain was first produced, London 1983.

Today is the Feast Day of St Bertrand of Le Mans, St Emma, St Erentrude, St Martial of Limoges, St Theobald or Thibaud of Provins and The First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.

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