- January 3 - Britain seizes control of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic.
- September 29 - The infant Isabella II becomes Queen of Spain, under the regency of her mother, Maria Cristina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. Her uncle Don Carlos, Conde de Molina challenges her claim, beginning the First Carlist War.
- Charles Babbage described his Analytical engine. (see also History of computing)
- The dawn of biochemistry : discovery of the first enzyme, diastase, by Anselme Payen.
- Slavery is abolished in Great Britain's colonies in the West Indies.
- February 11 - Melville Weston Fuller 8th chief justice of the United States.
- February 28 - Alfred von Schlieffen, German field marshal (+ 1913)
- May 7 - Johannes Brahms, composer (+ 1897)
- October 21 - Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, creator of the Nobel Prize
- November 9 - Émile Gaboriau, writer (+ 1873)
- November 12 - Alexander Borodin, composer
- December 20 - Dr. Samuel Mudd, doctor to John Wilkes Booth
- Roy, Ram Mohan
- July 2 - Gervasio Antonio de Posadas, Argentine leader
- September 29 - King Ferdinand VII of Spain