Events, birthdays and anniversaries for 21 March
1801: French forces were defeated at Alexandria, Egypt, by British under Ralph Abercromby.
1803: French Civil Code – the Code Napoleon – was completed.
1829: Earthquake in Spain killed 6,000.
1859: The National Gallery of Scotland opened.
1884: France legalised trade unions.
1898: Lever’s toilet soap first went on sale.
1905: Britain and Persia signed agreement to counter Russian designs in Near East.
1919: Soviet Republic was proclaimed.
1919: A rise of two shillings a day was recommended for British coal miners by a government commission.
1921: Austen Chamberlain chosen as Conservative leader.
1922: Queen Mary opened Waterloo Station, London.
1923: French scientists announced that smoking was good for you as nicotine fought bacteria.
1939: Germany annexed Memel from Lithuania.
1952: Doctor Kwame Nkrumah became first black African prime minister south of the Sahara when he was elected premier of the Gold Coast, now Ghana.
1953: The Sudan achieved self-government.
1960: Police killed 57 when they fired on demonstrators against pass laws at Sharpeville in Transvaal, South Africa.
1961: Boxer Henry Cooper won his first Lonsdale Belt when he defeated Joe Erskine.
1963: Alcatraz prison in San Francisco Bay was closed.
1975: Military government in Ethiopia abolished royal position of Emperor.
1977: India’s prime minister, Indira Gandhi, resigned after losing her seat in parliamentary elections.
1988: Jordan’s King Hussein called on Muslim world to support Palestinian unrest in Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza.
1989: Chinese leaders announced new controls and taxes on private business, rural factories and free-market farming.
1990: Sterling, shares and gilts fell sharply in reaction to “saver’s Budget” produced by John Major previous day.
1991: Michael Heseltine, environment secretary, unveiled plan to replace poll tax with council tax.
1996: Britain’s beef industry was in crisis after five countries banned meat imports and schools took beef off menus following the disclosure of a likely link between BSE and its human equivalent, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
1999: Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones became the first to circumnavigate the Earth in a hot air balloon.
2002: Alain Baxter, the winner of Britain’s first Olympic ski medal, was stripped of the bronze he won at Salt Lake City after testing positive for methamphetamine, a drug he said was in a Vicks inhaler bought in a US supermarket.
2002: In Pakistan, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and three other suspects were charged with murder for their part in the kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
2006: Immigrant workers constructing the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) and a new terminal at Dubai International Airport rioted and caused $1 million in damage.
2013: First Minister Alex Salmond announced that the independence referendum would be held on
18 September, 2014.
Sir Jonathan Mills, former director, Edinburgh International Festival, 52; Matthew Broderick, actor, 53; Peter Brook CBE, theatre director, 90; Adrian Chiles, television and radio presenter, 48; Timothy Dalton, actor, 71; Caroline Harker, actress, 49; Lord Heseltine, MP 1966-2001, deputy prime minister 1995-7, 82; Alvin Kallicharan, West Indian cricketer, 66; Rosie O’Donnell, actress, 53; Gary Oldman, actor, 57; Mike Westbrook, jazz composer, 79; Mark Williams MBE, snooker player, 40.
Births: 1685 Johann Sebastian Bach, composer; 1835 Modest Mussorgsky, composer; 1862 Albert Chevalier, composer and singer; 1869 Florenz Ziegfeld, impresario and creator of Follies; 1893 Geoffrey Dearmer, war poet; 1921 Antony Hopkins CBE, British composer and conductor; 1932 Tom Watson, actor; 1936 Roger Hammond, British actor.
Deaths: 1556 Thomas Cranmer, first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, condemned as a traitor and heretic (burned at the stake in Oxford); 1729 John Law, Scottish economist and monetary reformer; 1843 Robert Southey, Poet Laureate; 1982 Harry H Corbett, actor; 1985 Sir Michael Redgrave, actor; 1991 Leo Fender, pioneer of electric guitar; 1995 Robert Urquhart, actor; 1997 Rev W Awdry, children’s author and creator of Thomas the Tank Engine; 1999 Ernie Wise, comedian; 2001 12th Duke of Argyll.