- January 5 - Miyazaki Hayao, Japanese film maker
- February 11 - Glenn Randall Jr, stuntman.
- February 11 - Jeremy Mackenzie, general.
- Richard Dawkins, British scientist
- Bob Dylan, US poet and musician
- February 11 - Rudolf Hilferding, German economist/Minister of Finance.
- August 31 - Marina Tsvetaeva, aged 48, Russian poetess (suicide)
- February 11 - 1st Gold record presented to Glenn Miller for Chattanooga Choo Choo.
- February 11 - Lieutenant-General Erwin Rommel arrives in Tripoli.
- June 22 - Germany attacks the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa, Finland sees an opportunity and launches the Continuation War.
- December 7 - Japan attacks the United States fleet at Pearl Harbor, thus drawing the US into World War II.
- John Vincent Atanasoff and Clifford E. Berry developed the Atanasoff Berry Computer
- Ives and Stilwell prove that ions radiate at frequencies affected by their motion.
- In Sweden, Victor Hasselblad forms the Hasselblad camera company.
- Physics - not awarded
- Chemistry - not awarded
- Medicine - not awarded
- Literature - not awarded
- Peace - not awarded