- February 11 - Corinne Shigemoto, US judo coach.
- July 11 - Suzanne Vega, US singer
- October 15 - Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York
- February 3 - rock and roll performers Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper, in a plane crash outside Mason City, Iowa.
- August 15 - Blind Willie McTell, blues singer
- October 14 - Errol Flynn, American actor.
- Raymond Chandler, American novelist.
- September 15 : Russian probe Luna 2 sends back first photos of the far side of the Moon.
- China annexes Tibet.
- Physics - Emilio Gino Segrè, - Owen Chamberlain
- Chemistry - Jaroslav Heyrovsky
- Medicine - Severo Ochoa, Arthur Kornberg
- Literature - Salvatore Quasimodo
- Peace - Philip J. Noel-Baker