- February 11 - Jan Wils, architect
- May 2 - J. Edgar Hoover, FBI director
- October 24 - Jackie Robinson (Baseball Hall of Famer)
- December 31 - Roberto Clemente (baseball Hall of Famer)
- M. C. Escher - Dutch graphic artist
- Swedish prime minister Olof Palme compares the American bombings of North Vietnam to Nazi massacres. The US breaks diplomatic contacts with Sweden.
- February 21 - February 27 - President Richard M. Nixon makes an unprecedented eight-day visit to Communist China and meets with Mao Zedong.
- March 24 - In a bid for peace, Britain takes over direct rule of Northern Ireland.
- May 15 - Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama is shot by Arthur H. Bremer at a Laurel, Md., political rally.
- June 17 - Watergate break-in, Washington, D.C.
- Return of Okinawa from United States' control to Japan.
- June 29 - United States Supreme Court rules that the death penalty is unconstitutional
- September 5 - Eleven Israeli athletes at the Summer Olympic Games in Munich are killed after eight members of an Arab terrorist group invade Olympic Village; five guerrillas and one policeman are also killed.
- Physics - John Bardeen, Leon Neil Cooper, John Robert Schrieffer
- Chemistry - Christian B Anfinsen, Stanford Moore, William H Stein
- Medicine - Gerald M Edelman, Rodney R Porter
- Literature - Heinrich Böll
- Peace - Not awarded.
- Economics - John Hicks, Kenneth Arrow