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TODAY: Births: Jean de la Fontaine, poet and writer of fables, 1621; Joseph Chamberlain, statesman, 1836; John Davison Rockefeller, millionaire, 1839; Sir Arthur John Evans, archaeologist, 1851; Percy Aldridge Grainger (George Percy), composer and pianist, 1882. Deaths: Christiaan Huygens, physicist, 1695; Percy Bysshe Shelley, poet, at sea at Spezia, Italy, 1822; Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"), artist, 1882; Vivien Leigh (Vivian Mary Hartley), actress, 1967; Michael Wilding, actor, 1979. On this day: Vasco da Gama, navigator, set sail from Lisbon with four ships on a voyage to India, 1497; a French victory at Fort Ticonderoga stemmed the advance of the British upon Quebec, 1758; the Ziegfeld Follies opened for the first time, New York, 1907; Serbia declared war on Bulgaria, 1913; General Douglas MacArthur was appointed commander of United Nations forces in Korea, 1950. Today is the Feast Day of St Adrian III, pope, Saints Aquila and Prisca or Priscilla (husband and wife), St Grimbald, St Kilian and his Companions, St Procopius of Caesarea, St Raymund of Toulouse, St Sunniva and her Companions and St Withburga.

TOMORROW: Births: Henry Hallam, historian, 1777; Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing-machine, 1819; Nikola Tesla, electrician and inventor, 1856; Simon Marks, first Baron Marks of Broughton, a founder of Marks and Spencer, 1888. Deaths: Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1228; Jan van Eyck, painter, 1440; Philip V, King of Spain, 1746; George Frederick Samuel Robinson, first Marquess of Ripon, statesman, 1863; King Camp Gillette, inventor and manufacturer of the safety-razor, 1932. On this day: Henry VIII divorced Anne of Cleves, 1540; Holland was joined to France under Napoleon, 1810; a massacre of Christians in Damascus started, 1860; the Treaty of Versailles was ratified by Germany, 1919; the Bank of England issued pounds 20 banknotes (previous pounds 20 notes had been withdrawn in 1945), 1970. Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St Everild, St Nicholas Pieck and his Companions, The Martyrs of Gorcum (Holland) and St Veronica de Julianis.