1856 1857 1858 - 1859 - 1860 1861 1862
| Decades: |
1820s 1830s 1840s - 1850s - 1860s 1870s 1880s
| Centuries: |
18th century - 19th century - 20th century
- January 2 - Erastus Beadle publishes The Dime Book of Practical Etiquette.
- February 14 - Oregon is admitted as the 33rd U.S. state.
- March 26 – French amateur astronomer claims to have noticed a planet closer to the Sun than Mercury – later named Vulcan
- April 25 - Ground is broken for the Suez Canal
- May 21 – The bell of Big Ben activated
- May 30 - Piedmontese defeat the Austrian army at Palestro
- June 4 - Battle of Magenta in Austro-Sardinian War - French defeat Austrians
- June 21/June 24 - [[Battle of Solf�rino]] (Battle of the Three Sovereigns) Sardinia and Napoleon III of France defeat Franz Josef I of Austria in northern Italy. Battle also reputedly inspires Henri Dunant to found Red Cross
- July 4 - Franco-Piedmontese War: The Battle of Magenta.
- July 6 - Queen Victoria signs Letters Patent making Queensland into a separate colony.
- July 11 - Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, faced with expensive war against Piedmont and revolution in Hungary, meets Napoleon III at Villfranca. Since the death of Metternich in 1858, he negotiates "personally". Hostilities ceases, partly due to Napoleon's fear of the Nationalism in Italy.
- August 27 - Edwin Drake drills the first oil well in the United States, near Titusville, Pennsylvania
- September 17 - Joshua A. Norton proclaims himself "Emperor of These United States"
- October 12 - Self-described "Emperor of the United States" Joshua A. Norton 'orders' the United States Congress to dissolve.
- October 16 - John Brown raids Harper's Ferry in Virginia, the signal for a general slave rebellion.
- October 18 - Federal Troops under Colonel Robert E. Lee overpower Brown at the Federal arsenal.
- November 1 - The current Cape Lookout, North Carolina, lighthouse was lighted for the first time. Its first-order Fresnel lens can be seen for nineteen miles.
- November 19 - Opera "Genevieve de Brabant", composed by Jacques Offenbach, debuts at the Theatre de Bouffes Parisians in Paris.
- November 24 - British naturalist Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species, a book which argues that organisms gradually evolve through natural selection (it immediately sold out its initial print run).
- December 2 - Militant abolitionist leader John Brown is hanged for his October 16th raid on Harper's Ferry.
- Island of Timor is divided between Portugal and the Netherlands
- Trinity College in Cambridge UK bans Origin of Species
- Paraguay mediates a truce between Buenos Aires government and the Argentinean Confederation
- Farmer introduces 24 rabbits to Australia - they multiply in huge numbers
- Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies is succeeded by his 13-year-old son Francesco I of the Two Sicilies
- Charles Blondel crosses Niagara Falls on a tightrope
- Karl XV succeeds Oskar I as Swedish King
- Codex Sinaiticus found by Constantin von Tischendorf on his third visit to the monastery of Santa Katerina, on Mount Sinai
- Bernhard Riemann formulates the Riemann hypothesis, one of most important open problems of contemporary mathematics
- Solar flares first observed on the Sun by English astronomer Richard Carrington.
- Brisbane declared the capital of newly-made-separate colony Queensland, Australia
- January 11 - George Nathaniel Curzon (Lord Curzon), British statesman († 1925)
- January 13 - Karl Bleibtreu, critic († 1928)
- January 27 - Wilhelm II of Germany, last German Emperor and Prussian king († 1941)
- February 1 - Victor Herbert, composer († 1924)
- February 3 - Hugo Junkers, industrialist and aircraft designer († 1935)
- February 6 - Elias Disney, American farmer and father of Walt Disney († 1941)
- February 14 - Henry Valentine Knaggs, English physician and author († 1954)
- February 28 - Florian Cajori, historian of mathematics; († 1930)
- March 2 - Sholom Aleichem, novelist († 1916)
- March 8 - Kenneth Grahame, author († 1932)
- March 26 - Alfred Edward Housman, English poet († 1936)
- May 15 - Pierre Curie, physicist and recipient of the Nobel Prize in physics 1903 († 1906)
- May 22 - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, British writer of the Sherlock Holmes novels († 1930)
- August 4 - Knut Hamsun, author († 1952)
- October 9 - Alfred Dreyfus, French military officer († 1935)
- October 18 - Henri Bergson, French philosopher and winner of the 1927 Nobel Prize in literature († 1941)
- October 21 - Francesc Maci�, President of Catalan Generalitat († 1933)
- December 15 - L. L. Zamenhof, Russo-Polish initiator of Esperanto († 1917)
- May 6 - Alexander von Humboldt, naturalist and geographer.
- May 22 - Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies.
- June 11 - Clemens Metternich, Austrian politician.
- September 15 - Isambard Kingdom Brunel, British engineer.
- November 28 - Washington Irving, American author.
- December 2 - John Brown, American abolitionist, hanged for treason.af:1859
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