- February 11 - Kwame Nkrumah wins 1st parliamentary election on Gold Coast (Ghana).
- April 1 - Australia, New Zealand, United States security treaty signed in San Francisco.
- April 18 - Treaty of Paris adopted, establishing European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC); see EU.
- September 10 - Great Britain begins an economic boycott of Iran
- the release of "Rocket 88", a song by Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats. Some music historians consider this record to be the first rock and roll recording.
- Physics - Sir John Douglas Cockcroft, - Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton
- Chemistry - Edwin Mattison McMillan, Glenn Theodore Seaborg
- Medicine - Max Theiler
- Literature - Pär Fabian Lagerkvist
- Peace - Léon Jouhaux