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Births: Rene Descartes, philosopher, 1596; Andrew Marvell, poet, pamphleteer and politician, 1621; Franz Joseph Haydn, composer, 1732; Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol, novelist and playwright, 1809; Edward Fitzgerald, translator of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1809; Alexander Nikolaievich Ostrovsky, playwright, 1823; William Morris Hunt, painter, 1824; Andrew Lang, scholar, poet and editor, 1844; Robert Hamer, film director, 1911.

Deaths: Francis I, King of France, 1547; John Donne, poet, 1631; John Constable, painter, 1837; Charlotte Bronte, novelist, 1855; John Pierpont Morgan, financier and philanthropist, 1913; Emil Adolf von Behring, bacteriologist, 1917; Jesse Owens, athlete, 1980; Enid Bagnold, novelist, 1981.

On this day: the first instalment of Charles Dickens's Pickwick Papers appeared as a monthly number, 1836; the Eiffel Tower in Paris was inaugurated, 1889; Whitcomb Judson, inventor, patented the first zip fastener, 1896; gold was discovered, at Klondike in Canada, 1897; in Switzerland, the Lotschberg Tunnel between Kandersteg and the Rhone Valley was completed, 1911; a Zeppelin raid took place in eastern and north-eastern England; 43 people were killed, but the Zeppelin L15 was destroyed, 1916; the US took possession of the Danish West Indies, renaming them the Virgin Islands, 1917; the Church in Wales was disestablished, 1920; British coal-miners went on strike, 1921; Britain and France agreed to support Poland if that country was invaded by Hitler, 1939; Germany began a counter-offensive against the British in North Africa, 1941; the US Congress passed the Marshall Aid plan, 1948; the USSR offered to join Nato, 1954; the Dalai Lama was granted political asylum by India, 1959; a Mexican airliner with 166 people aboard on a flight to Los Angeles crashed into a mountain 80 miles from Mexico city, killing all in the aircraft, 1986; Hampton Court Palace was badly damaged by fire, 1986.

Today is the Feast Day of St Acacius or Achatius, St Balbina, St Benjamin and St Guy of Pomposa.