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- January 24 (O. S.) – Wallachia and Moldavia are united under Alexandru Ioan Cuza (Romania since 1866, final unification takes place on December 1, 1918; Transylvania and other regions are still missing at that time).
- January 28 – The city of Olympia is incorporated in the Washington Territory in the United States of America.
- February 4 – German scholar Constantin von Tischendorf rediscovers the Codex Sinaiticus, a 4th-century uncial manuscript of the Greek Bible, in Saint Catherine's Monastery on the foot of Mount Sinai in the Khedivate of Egypt.
- February 14 – Oregon is admitted as the 33rd U.S. state.
- February 17 – French naval forces under Charles Rigault de Genouilly capture the city and Citadel of Saigon in Vietnam, beginning the Siege of Saigon.
- February 27 – United States Congressman Daniel Sickles shoots Philip Barton Key (U.S. District Attorney) for having an affair with his wife.
- March 9 – The army of the Kingdom of Sardinia mobilizes against Austria, beginning the crisis which will lead to the Austro-Sardinian War.
- March 21 – The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issues the charter establishing the Zoological Society of Philadelphia, the first organization of its kind in the United States and founder of the nation's first zoo.
- March 26 – A French amateur astronomer, Edmond Modeste Lescarbault, claims to have noticed a planet closer to the Sun than Mercury – later named Vulcan.
- April 13 – The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art is founded by Peter Cooper, industrialist, inventor and philanthropist of New York.
- April 25 – Ground is broken for the Suez Canal.
- April 28 – The Pomona is wrecked off the English coast, with 424 dead.
- April 29 – Austrian troops begin to cross the Ticino River to Piedmont.
- April 30 – A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is published.
- May 4 – The Cornwall Railway opens across the Royal Albert Bridge, linking the counties of Devon and Cornwall in England.
- May 5 – Border Treaty between Brazil and Venezuela: The two countries agree their borders should be traced at the water divide between the Amazon and the Orinoco basins.
- May 22 – Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies is succeeded by his 23-year-old son Francis II of the Two Sicilies.
- May 26 – Austro-Sardinian War: Giuseppe Garibaldi's Hunters of the Alps confront Austrian forces led by Field Marshal-Lieutenant Carl Baron Urban at Varese.
- May 26 & June 2 – Geologist Joseph Prestwich and amateur archaeologist John Evans report (to the Royal Society and Society of Antiquaries of London, respectively) the results of their investigations of gravel-pits in the Somme valley and elsewhere, extending human history back to what will become known as the Paleolithic Era.
- May 30 – Battle of Palestro: The Sardinians defeat the Austrian army.
- May 31 – The Great Clock at the Palace of Westminster, London was started, and its bells ring for the very first time.
- June 4 – Austro-Sardinian War – Battle of Magenta: The French and Sardinians defeat the Austrians.
- June 6 – The British Crown colony of Queensland in Australia is created by devolving part of the territory of New South Wales (Queensland Day).
- June 8 – The discovery of the Comstock Lode in the western Utah Territory setting off the Rush to Washoe
- June 15 – The so-called Pig War border dispute between the Americans and the British on the San Juan Islands begins by the death of the namesake pig.
- June 17 – The only recorded simoom ever in North America hit Goleta, California and Santa Barbara, California.
- June 18 – Aletschhorn, second summit of the Bernese Alps, is first ascended.
- June 24 – Battle of Solferino: The Kingdom of Sardinia and the armies of Napoleon III of France defeat Franz Joseph I of Austria in northern Italy; the battle inspires Henri Dunant to found the Red Cross.
- June 30 – Charles Blondin crosses Niagara Falls on a tightrope for the first time.
- July 1 – The first intercollegiate baseball game is played, between Amherst and Williams Colleges.
- July 8
- July 11 – The chimes of Big Ben ring for the first time in London.
- July 11 – By the preliminary treaty signed at Villafranca, Italy, Lombardy is ceded to the French (who immediately cede it to Sardinia), while the Austrians keep Venetia and the French promise to restore the Central Italian rulers expelled in the course of the war. This brings the Austro-Sardinian War effectively to a close.
- July 30 – Grand Combin, one of the highest summits in the Alps, is first ascended.
- August 16 – The Tuscan National Assembly formally deposes the House of Habsburg-Lorraine; ending an ascendancy of 109 years.
- August 27 – Edwin Drake drills the first oil well in the United States, near Titusville, Pennsylvania, starting the Pennsylvania oil rush.
- August 28 – September 2 – The solar storm of 1859, the largest geomagnetic solar storm on record, causes the Northern lights to be visible as far south as Cuba and knocks out telegraph communication. (This is also called the Carrington event).
- September 17 – In San Francisco, Joshua Norton proclaims himself to be His Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, "Emperor of the United States" and "Protector of Mexico".
- October 16 – John Brown raids the Harpers Ferry Armory in Harper's Ferry, Virginia, in an unsuccessful bid to spark a general slave rebellion.
- October 18 – Troops under Colonel Robert E. Lee overpower Brown at the Federal arsenal.
- October 26 – The steamship Royal Charter is wrecked on the coast of Anglesey, Wales with 454 dead.
- November 1 – The current Cape Lookout, North Carolina, lighthouse is lighted for the first time (its first-order Fresnel lens can be seen for 19 miles).
- November 10 – The Treaty of Zürich, reaffirming the terms of the Treaty of Villafranca, brings the Austro-Sardinian War to an official close.
- November 15 – First Zappas Olympics open in Greece.
- November 24
- December 2 – Militant abolitionist leader John Brown is hanged for his October 16 raid on Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
- December 4 – The Mekteb-i Mülkiye School is founded in the Ottoman Empire.
- December 10
- District nursing begins in Liverpool, England, when philanthropist William Rathbone employs Mary Robinson to nurse the sick poor in their own homes.
- The island of Timor is divided between Portugal and the Netherlands.
- The Rancho Rincon de Los Esteros Land Grant is confirmed to Rafael Alvisa, (part of the present Santa Clara County, California).
- Bernhard Riemann formulates the Riemann hypothesis, one of the most important open problems of contemporary mathematics.
- Brisbane is declared the capital of newly separated colony Queensland, Australia.
- The University of Michigan Law School is founded.
- Marx publishes A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.
- Mary Institute is founded.
- The beginning of the Tidskrift för hemmet, the first women's magazine in the Nordic countries.
- January 6 – Hugh Rodman, American admiral (d. 1940)
- January 8 – Fanny Bullock Workman, American geographer, writer and mountain climber (d. 1925)
- January 11 – George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, British statesman and Viceroy of India (d. 1925)
- January 27 – Wilhelm II of Germany, last Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia (d. 1941)
- January 29 – Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, Parisian socialite and model for the painting Portrait of Madame X (d. 1915)
- February 1
- February 3 – Hugo Junkers, German industrialist and aircraft designer (d. 1935)
- February 6 – Elias Disney, American farmer and father of Walt Disney (d. 1941)
- February 14
- February 19 – Svante Arrhenius, Swedish chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1927)
- February 25 – Vasil Kutinchev, Bulgarian general (d. 1941)
- February 26 – Louise DeKoven Bowen, American philanthropist and activist (d. 1953)
- February 28 – Florian Cajori, Swiss historian of mathematics (d. 1930)
- March 2 – Sholem Aleichem, Ukrainian Yiddish novelist (d. 1916)
- March 4 – Alexander Stepanovich Popov, Russian physicist (d. 1905)
- March 8 – Kenneth Grahame, English author (d. 1932)
- March 12 – Abraham H. Cannon, American Mormon apostle (d. 1896)
- March 26 – Alfred Edward Housman, English poet (d. 1936)
- April 3 – Reginald De Koven, American composer and music critic (d. 1920)
- April 7 – Jacques Loeb, German–American physiologist and biologist (d. 1924)
- April 8 – Edmund Husserl, Austrian philosopher (d. 1938)
- May 1 – Jacqueline Comerre-Paton, French artist (d. 1955)
- May 15 – Pierre Curie, French physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1906)
- May 22 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Scottish writer (d. 1930)
- June 9 – Doveton Sturdee, British admiral (d. 1925)
- June 21 – Henry Ossawa Tanner, American artist (d. 1937)
- July 6
- July 11 (June 29 O.S.) – Peter Verigin, Doukhobor leader (d. 1924)
- July 28 – Mary Anderson, American stage actress (d. 1940)
- August 4 – Knut Hamsun, Norwegian author, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1952)
- August 18 – Anna Ancher, Dansk painter (d. 1935)
- September 3 – Jean Jaurès, French socialist (d. 1914)
- September 7 – Margaret Crosfield, British palaeontologist and geologist (d. 1952)
- September 16 – Yuan Shikai, Chinese dictator (d. 1916)
- September 17
- September 18 – Lincoln Loy McCandless, Hawaiian politician and rancher (d. 1940)
- September 19 – Marshall Pinckney Wilder, American actor, humorist, comedian and monologist (d. 1915)
- September 21 – Francesc Macià, Catalan politician (d. 1933)
- September 24 – Radko Dimitriev, Bulgarian and Russian general (d. 1918)
- October 6 – Frank Seiberling, American inventor and founder (d. 1955)
- October 9 – Alfred Dreyfus, French military officer (d. 1935)
- October 18 – Henri Bergson, French philosopher, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature (d. 1941)
- October 20 – John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist, and educator (d. 1952)
- November 14
- November 19 – Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, Russian composer (d. 1935)
- November 22 – Fusajiro Yamauchi, founder of Nintendo (d. 1940)
- November 24 – Cass Gilbert, American architect (Woolworth Building, United States Supreme Court building) (d. 1934)
- December 2 – Georges Seurat, French painter (d. 1891)
- December 5 – John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, British admiral (d. 1935)
- December 15 – L. L. Zamenhof, Russo-Polish initiator of Esperanto (d. 1917)
- December 17 – Paul César Helleu, French artist (d. 1927)
- January 21 – Henry Hallam, English historian (b. 1777)
- January 28 – Frederick John Robinson, 1st Viscount Goderich, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (b. 1782)
- February 13 – Eliza Acton, English poet and cookery writer (b. 1799)
- February 27 – Philip Barton Key, U.S. District Attorney (b. 1818)
- April 16 – Alexis de Tocqueville, French historian (b. 1805)
- May 6 – Alexander von Humboldt, German naturalist and geographer (b. 1769)
- May 13 – Bakht Khan, commander-in-chief of Indian rebel forces in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (b. 1797)
- June 11 – Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, Austrian diplomat (b. 1773)
- June 13 – Angélique Brûlon, French soldier, first female Knight of the French Legion of Honour (b. 1772)
- June 23 – Maria Pavlovna of Russia, Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (b. 1786)
- July 8 – King Oscar I of Sweden and Norway (b. 1799)
- August 2 – Horace Mann, American educator and abolitionist (b. 1796)
- August 4 – John Vianney, French saint known as the Curé de Ars (b. 1786)
- August 15 – Nathaniel Claiborne, U.S. politician (b. 1777)
- August 28 – Leigh Hunt, British critic and essayist (b. 1784)
- August 28 – Sultan Abd al-Rahman of Morocco (b. 1788)
- September 15 – Isambard Kingdom Brunel, British engineer (b. 1806)
- September 19 – George Bush (biblical scholar), professor of Asian languages (b. 1796)
- September 28 – Carl Ritter, German geographer (b. 1779)
- October 4 – Karl Baedeker, German author and publisher (b. 1801)
- October 12 – Robert Stephenson, English civil engineer (b. 1803)
- October 22 – Louis Spohr, German violinist and composer (b. 1784)
- November 28 – Washington Irving, American author (b. 1783)
- December 2 – John Brown, American abolitionist (hanged) (b. 1800)
- December 8 – Thomas de Quincey, English writer (b. 1785)
- December 16 – Wilhelm Grimm, German philologist and folklorist (b. 1786)
- http://html.rincondelvago.com/venezuela_4.html Problemas Limítrofes de Venezuela (In Spanish)
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