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As MAD Magazine pointed out on its first cover for the year, 1961 was the
first "upside-down" year - i. e., one that looked the same upside down -
since 1881, and the last until 6009.
* January 3 - President Dwight Eisenhower announced that the United
States had severed diplomatic and consular relations with Cuba.
* January 3 - An atomic reactor exploded at National Reactor Testing
Station in Idaho Falls, Idaho, killing 3 military technicians.
* January 7 - Following a four-day conference conference in Casablanca,
five African chiefs of state announced plans for a NATO-type African
organization to insure common defense. The Charter of Casablanca
involved were Morocco, the United Arab Republic, Ghana, Guinea, and
* January 12 - President Dwight Eisenhower gave his final State of the
Union Address to Congress.
* January 20 - John F. Kennedy becomes President of the United States
* January 25 - In Washington, DC John F. Kennedy delivers the first live
presidential news conference. In it, he announces that the Soviet Union
had freed the two surviving crewmen of a USAF RB-47 reconnaissance plan
shot down by Soviet flyers over the Barents Sea July 1, 1960. (see
RB-47H shot down)
* January 25 - Acting to halt 'leftist excesses,' a junta comprised of
two army officers and 4 civilians took over the rule of El Salvador,
ousting another junta that had ruled for three months.
* January 26 - John F. Kennedy appoints Janet G. Travell to be his
physician. This is the first time a woman held this appointment.
* January 30 - President John F. Kennedy delivered his first State of the
* January 31 - Ham, a 37 pound male chimpanzee, was rocketed into space
in a test of the Project Mercury capsule designed to carry U.S.
astronauts into space.
* February 5 - The Sunday Telegraph publishes its first issue.
* February 11 - Trial of Adolf Eichmann begins in Jerusalem
* February 14 - Discovery of the chemical elements: Element 103,
Lawrencium, is first synthesized (Berkeley, California).
* February 15 - A Boeing 707 crashes in Belgium killing 73, including the
entire United States figure skating team and several coaches.
* March 1 - President of the United States John F. Kennedy establishes
the Peace Corps.
* March 3 - Hassan II becomes King of Morocco
* March 8 - Max Conrad circumnavigates the earth in eight days, 18 hours
and 49 minutes setting a new world record.
* March 15 - South Africa withdraws from the British Commonwealth
* March 29 - The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution
is ratified, allowing residents of Washington, DC to vote in
* April 12 - Yuri Gagarin is the first human in space.
* April 17 - Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba begins, ending in failure April
* April 25 - Robert Noyce is granted the first patent for an integrated
* April 27 - Sierra Leone is granted its independence from the United
* May 14 - American civil rights movement: A Freedom Riders bus is
fire-bombed near Anniston, Alabama and the civil rights protestors are
beaten by an angry mob.
* May 19 - Venera program: Venera 1 becomes the first manmade object to
fly-by another planet by passing Venus (however the probe had lost
contact with earth a month earlier and did not send back any data).
* May 21 - American civil rights movement: Alabama Governor John
Patterson declares martial law in an attempt to restore order after
race riots break out.
* May 24 - American civil rights movement: Freedom Riders are arrested in
Jackson, Mississippi for "disturbing the peace" after disembarking from
* May 25 - Apollo program: President Kennedy announces before a special
joint session of Congress his goal to initiate a project to put a "man
on the moon" before the end of the decade.
* May 28 - Peter Benenson's article "The Forgotten Prisoners" is
published in several internationally read newspapers. This will later
be thought of as the founding of the human rights organization Amnesty
* July 21 - Mercury program: Gus Grissom piloting the Mercury 4 capsule
"Liberty Bell 7" becomes the second American to go into orbit around
* July 31 - At Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts, the first All-Star
Game tie in major league baseball history occurs when the game is
stopped in the 9th inning due to rain.
* August 13 - Construction of the Berlin Wall begins. Movement between
East Berlin and West Berlin remains restricted for the next 28 years,
until November 9, 1989.
* October 30 - Nuclear testing: The Soviet Union detonates a 58 megaton
yield hydrogen bomb over Novaya Zemlya (this is still the largest
nuclear device to ever be detonated).
* October 31 - In the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin's body is removed from
* December 31 - The Marshall Plan expires after having distributed more
than $12 billion in foreign aid to rebuild Europe.
* Change of US presidency from Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) to John
F. Kennedy (1961-1963)
* JFK begins the Apollo program of U.S. manned spaceflight
* The first quasar is discovered by Allen Rex Sandage at Mt Palomar,
* South Africa withdraws from the British Commonwealth and declares
itself an independent republic on May 31
Art, Culture & Fashion
* 1961 in film
o West Side Story
o The Guns of Navarone
o The Hustler
o Two Rode Together, starring Jimmy Stewart and Richard Widmark
* 1961 in literature
o The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
* 1961 in television
o January 5 - Mister Ed debuts.
o The Dick Van Dyke Show premieres
o John F. Kennedy holds the first live televised Presidential press
* January 5 - Suzy Amis, actress
* January 13 - Julia Louis-Dreyfus, actress
* January 21 - Blaise Cendrars, writer
* January 26 - Wayne Gretzky, Ice hockey player
* February 10 - George Stephanopoulos, political consultant, commentator
* February 11 - Mary Docter, American speed skater
* February 11 - Becky LeBeau, vocalist
* February 11 - Carey Lowell, actress
* February 13 - Henry Rollins, musician
* February 21 - Davey Allison, automobile racer (+ 1993)
* March 4 - Ray Mancini, boxer
* March 14 - Kirby Puckett, Baseball Hall of Famer
* March 15 - Fabio, model
* April 3 - Eddie Murphy, actor and comedian
* April 6 - Gene Eugene, actor, lead singer of Adam Again
* April 26 - Joan Chen, actress
* May 6 - George Clooney, actor
* May 13 - Dennis Rodman, basketball player, actor
* May 14 - Tim Roth, actor
* May 17 - Enya, singer, songwriter
* May 29 - Melissa Etheridge, rock musician
* June 26 - Greg LeMond, cyclist, three-time Tour de France winner
* July 1 - Diana, Princess of Wales (+ 1997)
* July 1 - Carl Lewis, athletics legend
* August 8 - The Edge, U2 guitarist
* September 2 - Carlos Valderrama, footballer
* September 25 - Heather Locklear, actress
* October 31 - Larry Mullen, Jr., U2 drummer
* November 2 - k.d. lang, singer, songwriter
* November 19 - Meg Ryan, actress
* December 30 - Douglas Coupland, author
* January 4 - Erwin Schrdinger, physicist
* January 10 - Dashiell Hammett, writer
* January 17 - Patrice Lumumba, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic
of the Congo
* January 21 - Blaise Cendrars, writer
* February 11 - Eduard R Verkade, Dutch actor/director
* February 11 - Patrice Lumumba, 1st premier of Congo (Kinshasa)?
* February 26 - King Mohammed V of Morocco
* March 3 - Paul Wittgenstein, pianist
* April 9 - Ahmet Zog, King of Albania
* May 13 - Gary Cooper, actor
* June 1 - Melvin Jones, founder of Lions Clubs International
* June 30 - Lee DeForest - inventor
* October 11 - Chico Marx, member of the Marx Brothers
* Physics - Robert Hofstadter, Rudolf Ludwig Mssbauer
* Chemistry - Melvin Calvin
* Medicine - Georg von Bksy
* Literature - Ivo Andric
* Peace - Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjld - awarded posthumously