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TODAY: Births: Pierre de Fermat, mathematician, 1601; John III, King of Poland, 1629; Nicola Antonio Porpora, composer, 1686; Thomas Stothard, illustrator, 1755; William Carey, orientalist and missionary, 1761; Davy Crockett, frontiersman, 1786; Richard Lalor Sheil, playwright and politician, 1791; Pierre-Leonard Leopold Benoit, composer, 1834; Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, diplomat, poet and traveller, 1840; Sir Malcolm Morris, dermatologist, 1849; Franz Ponitz, harpist and composer, 1850; Oliver St John Gogarty, writer, 1878; Mae West, actress, 1892. Deaths: Robert Blake, admiral, 1657; Frederick II (the Great) king of Prussia, 1786; Honore de Balzac, novelist, 1850; Jose Francisco de San Martn, Argentinian revolutionary, 1850; Fernand Leger, Cubist painter, 1955; Sir John Hubert Marshall, archaeologist, 1958; Florent Schmitt, composer, 1958; Leonard Alfred George Strong, novelist, 1958; Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, architect, 1969; Conrad Potter Aiken, novelist and poet, 1973; Ira Gershwin (Israel Gershvin), lyricist, 1983; Walter Richard Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler's former deputy, 1987. On this day: the English defeated the Scots and French at the Battle of Verneuil, 1424; Cromwell's army was victorious at the Battle of Preston, 1648; Robert Fulton began operating his Clermont steamboat fron New York to Albany, 1807; the registration of births, deaths and marriages was introduced in Britain under the Registration Act, 1836; on the point of starvation, the Sioux Indian nation rebelled in Minnesota, killing over 800 soldiers and settlers, 1862; Wagner's opera Gotterdammerung was first performed, Bayreuth, 1876; the French Panama Canal Company was established, 1879; gold was discovered in the Klondyke, Canada, 1896; a general railway strike started in Britain, 1911; the first London performance of the musical play Waltzes from Vienna was staged, 1931; Sicily was completely liberated by the Allies, 1943; the RAF raided the German rocket base at Peenemunde, Rostock, 1943; Indonesia was proclaimed an independent republic, 1945; building of the Wall between East and West Berlin began, 1961; in the Philippines, earthquakes and tidal waves resulted in the deaths of more than 6,000 people, 1976. Today is the Feast Day of St Clare of Montefalco, St Eusebius, pope, St Hyacinth, St Joan Delanoue, St Liberatus of Capua, St Mamas and St Rock or Roch.

TOMORROW: Births: Virginia Dare, first child of English parents to be born in America, 1587; Antonio Salieri, composer, 1750; Meriwether Lewis, explorer, 1774; Pieter Lichtenthal, writer on music and composer, 1780; John Russell, first Earl Russell, statesman, 1792; Franz Josef I, Emperor of Austria-Hungary, 1830; Marshall Field, founder of Marshall Field's department store, 1834; Benjamin-Louis Paul Godard, composer, 1849; Otto Harbach, (Otto Abels Hauerbach), librettist and lyricist, 1873. Deaths: Genghis Khan, 1227; Guido Reni, painter, 1642; William Boyd, fourth Earl Kilmarnock, executed 1746; Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, 1765; James Beattie, poet, 1803; Andre-Jacques Garnerin, balloonist, 1823; Sir William Fairbairn, engineer and inventor, 1874; George J.S. Miller, sculptor, 1876; Anita Loos, screenwriter, novelist and playwright, 1981; Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, architectural historian, 1983. On this day: the Russians were defeated by Napoleon at Smolensk, 1812; US forces captured Santa Fe, 1846; the Treaty of Alliance forming the North German Confederation was signed, 1866; the Prussians were victorious over the French at the Battle of Gravelotte, 1870; the National Fire Service in Britain was established, 1941; the Tay Road Bridge was opened, 1966; the liner Queen Mary was sold to the town of Long Beach, California, 1967; in the Soviet Union, President Gorbachev, while on holiday in the Crimea, was seized and held prisoner, 1991. Today is the Feast Day of St Agapitus, St Alipius, St Beatrice or Brites da Silva, Saints Florus and Laurus and St Helena.