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TODAY: Births: John Philip Kemble, actor, 1757; Louis-Auguste- Blanqui, socialist, 1805; Dame Clara Ellen Butt, contralto singer, 1872; John Ford (Sean Aloysius O'Fearna), film director, 1895; William Clark Gable, actor, 1901. Deaths: Rene Descartes, scientist and philosopher, 1650; John Lempriere, classical scholar, 1824; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (Godwin), author of Frankenstein, 1851; Piet Mondrian, abstract painter, 1944; Buster (Joseph Francis) Keaton, comedian, 1966. On this day: the first meeting of the US Supreme Court took place, 1790; Mount Etna, Sicily, began violent eruptions, 1865; the first volume of the Oxford English Dictionary was published, 1884; the first British labour exchanges opened, 1910; clothes rationing ended in Britain, 1949; Ronald Biggs, train robber, was arrested in Rio de Janeiro, 1974. 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.

TOMORROW: Births: (Eleanor) Nell Gwynn, actress and mistress of Charles II, 1650; Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, statesman and diplomat, 1754; Henry Havelock Ellis, psychologist, 1859; James Augustine Joyce, author, 1882; Les (Leslie) Dawson, comedian, 1934. Deaths: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, composer, 1594; Bertrand Russell, third Earl Russell, philosopher, 1970; Alistair Maclean, novelist, 1987; Bernard Braden, broadcaster, 1993; Fred Perry (Frederick John Perry), tennis-player, businessman and broadcaster, 1995; Donald Pleasance, actor, 1995; Gene Kelly (Eugene Curran Kelly), dancer and singer, 1996. On this day: at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross, the Yorkists defeated the Lancastrians, 1461; Greece declared war on Turkey, 1878; bread rationing was introduced in Britain, 1917; in Uganda, Maj- Gen Idi Amin declared himself to be absolute ruler, 1971; a mob in Dublin burned down the British Embassy, 1972. Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St Adalbald of Ostrevant, St Joan de Lestonnac, The Martyrs of Ebsdorf and The Purification.