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Births: Amerigo Vespucci, explorer, 1454; Honor-Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau, statesman, 1749; William Cobbett (``Peter Porcupine''), politician and author, 1763; Taras Grigoryevich Shevchenko, poet, 1814; Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky, composer, 1839; Sir William Hamo Thornycroft, sculptor, 1850; Ernest Goodrich Acheson, chemist, 1856; Ernest Bevin, statesman, 1881; Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov (Skryabin), politician, 1890; David Garnett, novelist, 1892; Victoria Mary Sackville-West, novelist, 1892; Howard Hathaway Aiken, mathematician and computer pioneer, 1900; Rex Ernest Warner, novelist, historian and translator, 1905; David Roland Smith, sculptor, 1906; Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, astronaut, 1934.

Deaths: David Rizzio, musician and secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots, murdered 1566; Samuel Jebb, physician and scholar, 1772; Ozias Humphry, painter, 1810; Anna Letitia Barbauld (Aikin), poetess, teacher and hymn- writer, 1825; Charles Knight, author and publisher, 1873; Arnold Toynbee, social philosopher, 1883; Wilhelm I, former Emperor of Germany, 1888; Imogen Clare Holst, musician, 1984; Bob Crosby (Robert George Crosby), dance bandleader, 1993.

On this day: Pope Gregory VII declared all married RC priests to be excommunicated, 1074; Napoleon Buonaparte married Josephine de Beauharnais, 1796; southern England was swept by great snowstorms, causing shipwrecks and great loss of life, 1891; the Defence of the Realm Act was passed, 1915; the capital of Russia was moved from Petrograd (Leningrad) to Moscow, 1918; Eamon de Valera became president of the Irish Free State, 1932; Archbishop Makarios was deported from Cyprus to the Seychelles, 1956; the USSR sent ``Laika'', the first dog into space, in Sputnik 9, 1961.

Today is the Feast Day of St Bosa, St Catharine of Bologna, St Dominic Savio, St Frances of Rome, St Gregory of Nyssa and St Pacianus.