2006: From Beckett to Betjeman - a bumper crop of anniversaries

Ian Irvine surveys the year's anniversaries: births, deaths and a play that changed theatre for ever

But there are quite a few arguably lesser figures: Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (25 September), Irish playwright Samuel Beckett (13 April), film director Billy Wilder (22 June), novelists T H White (29 May) and Catherine Cookson (20 June), and poet John Betjeman (28 August), who all celebrate the centenaries of their birth. The painter Paul Cezanne and the playwright Henrik Ibsen both died in 1906.

It's 150 years since the birth of the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (6 May), and another Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw (26 July). Two hundred years offers only the birth of philosopher John Stuart Mill, the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and engineering Titan Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and the deaths of prime minister William Pitt and painter George Stubbs; 300 years has the birth of the omnicompetent Benjamin Franklin and the death of John Evelyn, diarist, author and arboriculturalist.

Fifty years ago saw the first performance of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger at the Royal Court and the publication of Colin Wilson's The Outsider - launching the media phenomenon of the Angry Young Man.

And, 100 years ago, San Francisco was almost destroyed by earthquake and fire. Expect to hear much more about these people and events in the coming year.

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