) was a common year starting on Sunday
(link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar
As MAD Magazine pointed out on its cover for the March 1961 issue, this was the first "upside-up" year—i.e., one in which the numerals that form the year look the same as when the numerals are rotated upside down—since 1881, and the last until 6009.
Events of 1961
- January 5 - Italian sculptor Alfredo Fioravanti marches into the U.S. Consulate in Rome, and confesses that he was part of the team that forged the Etruscan terracotta warriors in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- January 7 - Following a 4-day conference in Casablanca, 5 African chiefs of state announce plans for a NATO-type African organization to ensure common defense. The Charter of Casablanca involves the Casablanca Group - Morocco, the United Arab Republic, Ghana, Guinea, and Mali.
- January 8 - In France, a referendum supports Charles de Gaulle's policies on independence for Algeria.
- January 9 - British authorities announce that they have discovered a large Soviet spy ring in London.
- January 17
- January 20 - John F. Kennedy becomes the 35th President of the United States.
- January 24
- January 25 - In Washington, DC John F. Kennedy delivers the first live presidential news conference. In it, he announces that the Soviet Union has freed the 2 surviving crewmen of a USAF RB-47 reconnaissance plane shot down by Soviet flyers over the Barents Sea July 1, 1960. (see RB-47H shot down)
- January 25 - Acting to halt 'leftist excesses,' a junta composed of 2 army officers and 4 civilians takes over El Salvador, ousting another junta that had ruled for 3 months.
- January 26 - John F. Kennedy appoints Janet G. Travell to be his physician, the first woman to hold this appointment.
- January 30 - President John F. Kennedy delivers his first State of the Union Address.
- January 31 - Ham, a 37 pound male chimpanzee, is rocketed into space aboard Mercury-Redstone 2, in a test of the Project Mercury capsule, designed to carry United States astronauts into space.
- May 3 - French phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty dies, age 53, of a stroke, apparently while preparing for a class on Descartes.
- May 4 - Freedom Riders: 13 black and white students with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) leave Washington DC on 2 buses, to test integration laws in bus stations throughout the deep South.
- May 5 - Mercury program: Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space aboard Mercury-Redstone 3.
- May 6 - Tottenham Hotspur F.C. become the first team in the 20th century to win the league and cup double.
- May 8 - Briton George Blake is sentenced to 42 years imprisonment for spying.
- May 14 - American civil rights movement: A Freedom Riders bus is fire-bombed near Anniston, Alabama and the civil rights protestors are beaten by an angry mob.
- May 15 Heinrich Matthaei alone performed the Poly-U-Experiment and was the first human to recognize and understand the genetic code This is the birthdate of modern genetics Hans-Jörg Rheinberger - "Experimentalsysteme - Eine Geschichte der Proteinsynthese im Reagenzglas" Wallstein ISBN 3-89244-454-4
- May 16 - A military coup in South Korea - Park Chung Hee takes over.
- May 19 - Venera program: Venera 1 becomes the first man-made object to fly-by another planet by passing Venus (however, the probe had lost contact with Earth a month earlier and did not send back any data).
- May 21 - American civil rights movement: Alabama Governor John Patterson declares martial law in an attempt to restore order after race riots break out.
- May 24 - American civil rights movement: Freedom Riders are arrested in Jackson, Mississippi for "disturbing the peace" after disembarking from their bus.
- May 25 - Apollo program: President Kennedy announces before a special joint session of Congress his goal to put a man on the Moon before the end of the decade.
- May 27 - Tunku Abdul Rahman, Prime Minister of Malaya, holds a press conference in Singapore, announcing his idea to form the Federation of Malaysia, comprising Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo (Sabah).
- May 28 - Peter Benenson's article "The Forgotten Prisoners" is published in several internationally read newspapers. This will later be thought of as the founding of the human rights organization Amnesty International.
- May 30 - Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, totalitarian despot of the Dominican Republic since 1930, is killed in an ambush, putting an end to the second longest-running dictatorship in Latin American history.
- May 31
- December 1 - Netherlands New Guinea raises the new Morning Star flag and changes its name to West Papua.
- December 2 - Cold War: In a nationally broadcast speech, Cuban leader Fidel Castro declares he is a Marxist-Leninist, and that Cuba will adopt Communism.
- December 5 - U.S. President John F. Kennedy gives support to the Volta Dam project in Ghana.
- December 9
- December 10
- December 11
- The Vietnam War officially begins, as the first American helicopters arrive in Saigon along with 400 U.S. personnel.
- Adolf Eichmann is pronounced guilty of crimes against humanity by a panel of 3 Israeli judges.
- December 15 - An Israeli war crimes tribunal sentences Adolf Eichmann to die for his part in the Jewish Holocaust.
- December 17
- December 18 - India occupies Portuguese colonies of Goa, Damao and Diu
- December 19
- Goa is officially ceded to India after 400 years of Portuguese rule.
- Sukarno announces that he will take West Irian by force if necessary.
- December 21 - In Congo, Katangan prime minister Moise Tshombe recognizes the Congolese constitution.
- December 23 - Luxembourg's national holiday, the Grand Duke's Official Birthday, is set on June 23 by Grand Ducal decree.
- December 30 - Congolese troops capture Albert Kalonji of South Kasai (who soon escapes).
- December 31
- The Marshall Plan expires, after having distributed more than $12 billion in foreign aid to rebuild Europe.
- Ireland's first national television station, Telefís Éireann (later RTÉ), begins broadcasting.
- "Barbie" gets a boyfriend when the "Ken" doll is introduced.
- January 1
- January 2
- January 5 - Iris DeMent, American singer-songwriter
- January 8 - Calvin Smith, American athlete
- January 11 - Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen (Károly), Archduke, Prince Imperial of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary
- January 13 - Julia Louis-Dreyfus, American actress
- January 13 - Suggs, British singer (Madness)
- January 17 - Maia Chiburdanidze, Georgian chess player
- January 18 - Mark Messier, Canadian hockey player
- January 24 - Nastassja Kinski, German-born actress
- January 26 - Wayne Gretzky, Canadian hockey player ("The Great One")
- January 30 - Dexter Scott King, son of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- January 31 - Lloyd Cole, British singer and songwriter
- February 1 - Volker Fried, German field hockey player
- February 3
- February 8 - Vince Neil, American singer
- February 9
- February 10 - George Stephanopoulos, American political consultant and commentator
- February 11
- February 13
- February 14 - Latifa, Tunisian singer
- February 16 - Andy Taylor, British musician (Duran Duran)
- February 22 - Akira Takasaki, Japanese guitarist
- February 25 - Davey Allison, American race car driver (d. 1993)
- February 27 - James Worthy, American basketball player and analyst
- February 28 - Mark Latham, Australian politician
- March - Reggie Fils-Aime, American businessperson (Nintendo)
- March 4
- March 8 - Camryn Manheim, American actress
- March 9 - Rick Steiner, American professional wrestler
- March 10
- March 14 - Gary Dell'Abate, radio producer (The Howard Stern Show)
- March 16 - Brett Kenny, Australian rugby league player
- March 17 - Umayya Abu-Hanna, Palestine-born Finnish writer and politician
- March 21 - Lothar Matthäus, German footballer
- March 23 - Helmi Johannes, Indonesian television newscaster
- March 27
- March 28 - Byron Scott, American basketball player and coach
- March 29
- April 2 - Christopher Meloni, American actor
- April 3 - Eddie Murphy, American actor and comedian
- April 5 - Lisa Zane, American actress
- April 6 - Gene Eugene, Canadian actor and singer (Adam Again)
- April 7 - Thurl Bailey, American basketball player
- April 12 - Lisa Gerrard, Australian musician
- April 14 - Neil Dougherty, basketball coach
- April 17 - Frank J. Christensen, American labor leader
- April 18 - Jane Leeves, English actress
- April 20
- April 23 - George Lopez, American actor and comedian
- April 26 - Anthony Cumia, American radio personality (The Opie and Anthony Show)
- April 27 - Moana Pozzi, Italian porn actress (d. 1994)
- April 28 - Futoshi Matsunaga, Japanese serial killer
- April 29 - Fumihiko Tachiki, Japanese seiyuu
- April 30 - Isiah Thomas, American basketball player, coach, and team owner
- May 2 - Steve James, English snooker player
- May 5 - Hiroshi Hase, Japanese professional wrestler
- May 6 - George Clooney, American actor
- May 7 - Robert Spano, American conductor and pianist
- May 8
- May 12 - Billy (William H) Duffy, English guitarist (The Cult)
- May 13 - Dennis Rodman, American basketball player and actor
- May 14 - Tim Roth, English actor
- May 17 - Enya (Eithne Patricia Ní Bhraonáin), Irish musician
- May 27 - Peri Gilpin, American actress
- May 29 - Melissa Etheridge, American musician
- May 31
- June 1 - Paul Coffey, Canadian hockey player
- June 2 - Dez Cadena, American musician
- June 3 - Lawrence Lessig, Professor and Free Culture activist
- June 5
- June 6 - Tom Araya, Chilean-born musician (Slayer)
- June 9 - Michael J. Fox, Canadian actor
- June 10 - Kim and Kelley Deal, American musicians
- June 14 - "Boy George" O'Dowd, British musician and producer
- June 15
- June 18 - Andrés Galarraga, Venezuelan Major League Baseball player
- June 23
- June 25
- June 26 - Greg LeMond, American cyclist
- June 27 - Meera Syal, British-Indian comedian and actress
- June 28 - Jeff Malone, American basketball player
- June 29 - Greg Hetson American guitarist for Bad Religion and Circle Jerks, among others.
- July 1
- July 2 - Michael Lindsay, Voice actor
- July 6 - Rick Price, singer/songwriter
- July 7 - Eric Jerome Dickey, American writer
- July 10 - Jacky Cheung, Hong Kong singer and actor
- July 12 - Ray Gillen, American singer (d. 1993)
- July 14 - Jackie Earle Haley, American actor
- July 17 - Jonathan Potts, Canadian actor
- July 19 - Maria Filatova, Soviet gymnast
- July 19 - Benoît Mariage, Belgian film director
- July 23 - Martin Gore, English musician and songwriter (Depeche Mode)
- July 26 - Keiko Matsui, Japanese pianist and composer
- July 30 - Laurence Fishburne, American actor
- August 3 - Nick Harvey, English politician
- August 4
- August 5 - Clayton Rohner, American actor
- August 7
- August 8
- August 14 - Susan Olsen, American actress
- August 18 - Bob Woodruff, American television journalist
- August 21 - Stephen Hillenburg, animation writer and artist
- August 25 - Billy Ray Cyrus, American singer and actor
- August 29 - Carsten Fischer, German field hockey player
- September 1 - Cécilia Rhode, Miss Sweden
- September 2
- September 5 - Karim Abdul Razak, Ghanaian footballer
- September 6
- September 11
- September 12 - Mylene Farmer, Canadian singer and songwriter
- September 13 - Dave Mustaine, former Metallica guitarist, frontman of Megadeth
- September 15
- September 18 - James Gandolfini, American actor
- September 22
- September 23 - William C. McCool, US Army Commander and astronaut (d. 2003)
- September 25 - Heather Locklear, American actress
- September 26 - Edward Kennedy Jr, son of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy
- September 27 - Andy Lau, Hong Kong actor and singer
- September 29 - Julia Gillard, Australian politician
- September 30 - Sally Yeh, Hong Kong singer and actress
- October 1
- October 2 - Edmond Yu, Chinese student (d. 1997)
- October 5 - Matthew Kauffman, American journalist and George Polk Award winner
- October 8 - Ted Kooshian, American jazz pianist
- October 11
- October 13 - Doc Rivers, American basketball player and coach
- October 16 - Randy Vasquez, American actor
- October 18
- October 24 - Dave Meltzer, American wrestling journalist
- October 25 - Pat Sharp, host of the British version of Fun House, radio DJ
- October 26 - Dylan McDermott, American actor
- October 29 - Randy Jackson, American musician
- October 31
- November 1 - Anne Donovan, American basketball player
- November 2 - k.d. lang, Canadian singer and songwriter
- November 4
- November 5 - Gina Mastrogiacomo, American actress (d. 2001)
- November 11 - Jan Kuehnemund, American guitarist, Vixen
- November 12 - Nadia Comaneci, Romanian gymnast
- November 13 - Klayton, musician
- November 14 - Jurga Ivanauskaitė, Lithuanian writer (d. 2007)
- November 15 - Ian Reid, Australian educator
- November 18 - Anthony Warlow, Australian singer
- November 19 - Meg Ryan, American actress
- November 20 - Dave Watson, English footballer
- November 22
- December 3 - Marcelo Fromer, Brazilian guitarist
- December 4 - Frank Reich, American football player
- December 8 - Ann Coulter, American author, political commentator and attorney
- December 11 - Dave King, Irish-American singer
- December 12
- December 15 - Karin Resetarits, Austrian journalist and politician
- December 16 - Bill Hicks, American comedian (d. 1994)
- December 19
- December 20 - Mohammad Fouad, Arab singer and actor
- December 21 - Francis Ng, Hong Kong actor
- December 25 - Ingrid Betancourt, Colombian senator
- December 26 - John Lynch, Northern Irish actor
- December 29 - Jim Reid, Scottish musician
- December 30
January - June
- January 4 - Erwin Schrödinger, Austrian physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1887)
- January 9 - Emily Greene Balch, American writer and pacifist, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (b. 1867)
- January 10 - Dashiell Hammett, American writer (b. 1894)
- January 21 - Blaise Cendrars, Swiss writer (b. 1887)
- January 24 - Alfred Carlton Gilbert, American swimmer and inventor (b. 1884)
- January 26 - Stan Nichols, English cricketer (b. 1900)
- February 3 - Viscount Dunrossil, Australian governor-general (b. 1893)
- February 17 - Nita Naldi, American actress (b. 1897)
- February 20 - Percy Grainger, Australian composer (b. 1882)
- February 22 - Nick LaRocca, American jazz musician (b. 1889)
- February 26 - King Mohammed V of Morocco (b. 1909)
- March 3 - Paul Wittgenstein, Austrian-born pianist (b. 1887)
- March 6 - George Formby, British singer, comedian & actor (b. 1904)
- March 8
- March 17 - Susanna M. Salter, first woman mayor in the United States (b. 1860)
- March 23 - Valentin Bondarenko, cosmonaut (b. 1937)
- March 26 - Carlos Duarte Costa, founder of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church (b. 1888)
- April 6 - Jules Bordet, Belgian immunologist and microbiologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1870)
- April 7 - Vanessa Bell, English artist and interior designer (b. 1879)
- April 9 - Ahmet Zog, King of Albania (b. 1895)
- May 6 - Lucian Blaga, Romanian poet and philosopher (b. 1895)
- May 13 - Gary Cooper, American actor (b. 1901)
- May 14 - Albert Sévigny, Canadian politician (b. 1881)
- May 16 - George A. Malcolm, American jurist & educator (b. 1881)
- May 30 - Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic (b. 1891)
- May 31 - Walter Little, Canadian politician (b. 1877)
- June 2 - George S. Kaufman, American playwright (b. 1889)
- June 6 - Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist (b. 1875)
- June 16 - Marcel Junod, Swiss physician (b. 1904)
- June 17 - Jeff Chandler, American actor (b. 1918)
- June 30 - Lee DeForest, American inventor (b. 1873)
July - December
- July 1 - Louis-Ferdinand Céline, French writer (b. 1894)
- July 2 - Ernest Hemingway, American writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1899)
- July 6 - Woodall Rodgers, Mayor of Dallas, Texas (b. 1890)
- July 17 - Ty Cobb, baseball player (b. 1886)
- August 8 - Méi Lánfāng, Beijing opera star (b. 1894)
- August 20 - Percy Williams Bridgman, American physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1882)
- September 17 - Adnan Menderes, Turkish prime minister (executed) (b. 1899)
- September 18 - Dag Hammarskjöld, Swedish Secretary General of the United Nations, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (b. 1905)
- September 25 - Frank Fay, American actor (b. 1897)
- October 4 - Metropolitan Benjamin (Fedchenkov), Orthodox missionary and writer, Exarch of Russian Church in North America (b. 1880)
- October 11 - Chico Marx, American comedian (b. 1887)
- October 13 - Dun Karm Psaila, Maltese writer (b. 1871)
- October 14 - Harriet Shaw Weaver, English political activist (b. 1876)
- October 13 - Maya Deren, Russian-born filmmaker (b. 1917)
- November 1 - Mordecai Ham, American evangelist (b. 1877)
- November 2 - James Thurber, American humorist (b. 1894)
- November 16 - Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (b. 1882)
- December 20
- December 25 - Otto Loewi, German-born pharmacologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1873)
- December 29 - Sibyl Morrison, first female barrister in New South Wales, Australia (b. 1895)