Anniversaries Births: Sir Edward Coke, Lord Chief Justice and author, 1552; Francesco Maria Veracini, violinist and composer, 1690; John Philip Kemble, actor, 1757; Robert Anderson, poet, 1770; Margaret Sarah Carpenter (Geddes), portrait painter, 1793; Maximilien-Paul Emile Littre, lexicographer and scholar, 1801; Louis-Auguste Blanqui, socialist, 1805; Adolf Schlosser, pianist and composer, 1830; Anna Nikolayevna Essipova, pianist, 1851; Victor Herbert, composer, 1859; Jacques-Emile Blanche, painter, 1861; Dame Clara Ellen Butt, contralto singer, 1872; Hugo von Hofmannsthal, playwright and poet, 1874; Louis Stephen St Laurent, prime minister of Canada, 1882; Yevgeny Vakhtangov, theatrical director, 1883; John Ford (Sean Aloysius O'Fearna), film director, 1895; Stephen Meredith Potter, author and "gamesman", 1900; William Clark Gable, actor, 1901; James Langston Hughes, poet, 1902; Sidney Joseph Perelman, humorous writer, 1904. Deaths: Rene Descartes, scientist and philosopher, 1650; Pope Alexander VIII, 1691; Charles Talbot, Duke of Shrewsbury, statesman, 1718; Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, 1733; Giacomo Insanguine, composer, 1795; John Lempriere, classical scholar, 1824; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Godwin), author of Frankenstein, 1851; Matthew Fontaine Maury, oceanographer, 1873; George Cruikshank, caricaturist and illustrator, 1878; Sir George Gabriel Stokes, mathematician, 1903; Oswald Achenbach, landscape painter, 1905; Carlos I, King of Portugal, and the Crown Prince, assassinated 1908; Prince Aritomo Yamagata, Japanese military commander and prime minister, 1922; Piet Mondrian, abstract painter, 1944; Buster (Joseph Francis) Keaton, silent film comedian, 1966.
On this day: Alexander Selkirk, the castaway, was discovered by Capt Thomas Dover on the island of Juan Fernandez, 1709; the first meeting of the US Supreme Court took place, 1790; Bell Rock lighthouse began operating, 1811; Mount Etna, Sicily, began violent eruptions, 1865; General Sherman began his march from North and South Carolina, 1865; the first volume of the Oxford English Dictionary was published, 1884; Puccini's opera Manon Lescaut was first staged, Turin 1893; Puccini's La Boheme was first staged, 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; clothes rationing ended in Britain, 1949; the United Arab Republic was formed by a union of Egypt and Syria, 1958; the first London performance of the musical show You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown was staged, 1968; in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 220 people died in a fire which raged in an office block, 1974; Ronald Biggs, train robber, who had escaped from Wandsworth Prison, was arrested in Rio de Janeiro, but extradition was refused, 1974; over 100 deaths resulted from blizzards which raged throughout the north-east of the United States, 1977; 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. Today is also the first day of Ramadan.