- July 18 - Nelson Mandela, South African prisoner of conscience and president.
- December 11 - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Russian writer
- Frederic Sanger (molecular biologist)
- Ingemar Bergman Swedish film director
- World War I ends.
- Poland gains its independence.
- Iceland becomes an independent state, under the Danish crown, with foreign affairs handled by Denmark.
- Finnish Civil War between the Reds and the Whites, January - April.
- March 6 - Finnish Airforce founded. The blue swastika is adopted as its symbol as a tribute to the Swedish explorer and aviator Eric von Rosen who donated the first plane. Von Rosen had painted the buddhist symbol on the plane as his personal lucky insignia.
- Russia adopts the Gregorian calendar, which has the bizarre consequence that the anniversary of the Russian Revolution, previously October, now falls in November.
- Change of emperor of the Ottoman Empire from Mehmed V (Resad) (1909-1918) to Mehmed VI (Vahdettin) (1918-1922)
- August - Influenza pandemic begins, over twenty-five million people die in the following six months (three times as many as died during the war).
- December - New voting laws in Sweden. Votes no longer dependent on taxable assets. One person, one vote.
- Physics - Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck
- Chemistry - Fritz Haber
- Medicine - not awarded
- Literature - - not awarded
- Peace - not awarded