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1981

Related subjects Years

Centuries: 19th century - 20th century - 21st century
Decades: 1950s  1960s  1970s  - 1980s -   1990s   2000s   2010s
Years: 1978 1979 1980 - 1981 - 1982 1983 1984

Year 1981 (MCMLXXXI) was a common year starting on Thursday (link displays the 1981 Gregorian calendar).

Events of 1981

January

  • January - The subterranean Sarawak chamber is discovered in Borneo.
  • January 1 - Greece enters the European Community, which later becomes the European Union.
January
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  • January 1 - Palau becomes self-governing.
  • January 5 - Margaret Thatcher carried out a Cabinet reshuffle, sacking Norman St. John-Stevas.
  • January 6 - Brazilian double decker boat Novo Amapo capsized Amazon River, Belem de Cajari, Macapa, Brazil, 230 killed.
  • January 13 - Donna Griffiths, a schoolgirl in Pershore, Worcestershire, UK, begins an uncontrollable series of sneezes that end September 16, 1983 - after 978 days.
  • January 16 - Protestant gunmen shoot and wound Bernadette Devlin McAliskey and her husband.
  • January 17 - Former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos lifted Martial Law.
  • January 19 - United States and Iranian officials sign an agreement to release 52 American hostages after 14 months of captivity.
  • January 20 - Ronald Reagan succeeds Jimmy Carter, becoming the 40th President of the United States. Minutes later, Iran releases the 52 Americans held for 444 days, ending the Iran hostage crisis.
  • January 21 - The first De Lorean DMC-12 automobile, a stainless steel sports car with gull-wing doors, rolls off the production line in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland.
  • January 22 - Fowzi Nejad, sole survivor of the terrorists from the Iranian Embassy siege in London, pleads guilty to manslaughter of two hostages and gets jailed for life.
  • January 24 - The British Labour Party special conference at Wembley decides that leadership elections should be by electoral college.
  • January 25 - Four former Labour cabinet ministers ( Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, William Rodgers and David Owen) issue the Limehouse Declaration, leading to the formation of the Social Democratic Party.

February

February
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February 24: A powerful earthquake hits Athens.
February 24: A powerful earthquake hits Athens.
  • February 4 - Gro Harlem Brundtland becomes the Prime Minister of Norway.
  • February 8 - nineteen fans of Olympiacos FC and two fans of AEK Athens died and 54 injured after a stampede at the Karaiskaki Stadium in Pireus, possibly because Gate 7 did not open immediately after the end of the game.
  • February 9 - Polish Prime Minister Józef Pinkowski resigns and is replaced by General Wojciech Jaruzelski.
  • February 10 - A fire at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel- casino kills 8 and injures 198.
  • February 13 - Rupert Murdoch buys The Times and The Sunday Times for £12 million.
  • February 14 - Stardust fire: a fire at the Stardust nightclub in Artane, Dublin, Ireland in the early hours killed 48 and injured 214
  • February 14 - Australia withdraws recognition of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia.
  • February 23 - Antonio Tejero, with members of the Guardia Civil, enters the Spanish Congress of Deputies and stops the session where Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo is about to be named president of the government. The coup d'état fails thanks to King Juan Carlos.
  • February 24 - A powerful, magnitude 6.7 earthquake hits Athens, killing 16 people, injuring thousands and destroying several buildings, mostly in Corinth and the nearby towns of Loutraki, Kiato and Xylokastro.

March

March
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  • March 1 - Bobby Sands, a Provisional Irish Republican Army member, begins a hunger strike for political status in Long Kesh prison (he dies May 5, the first of 10 men).
  • March 6 - After 19 years hosting the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite signs off for the last time.
  • March 10 - Sir Geoffrey Howe announces the British budget, which raises taxes in the middle of a recession.
  • March 11 - Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet is sworn in as President of Chile for another 8-year term.
  • March 19 - Three workers are killed and 5 injured during a test of the Space Shuttle Columbia.
  • March 26 - The British Social Democratic Party was launched at the Connaught Rooms in London.
  • March 29 - The first London Marathon starts with 7,500 runners.
  • March 30 - U.S. President Ronald Reagan is shot in the chest outside a Washington, D.C. hotel by John Hinckley, Jr.. Two police officers and Press Secretary James Brady are also wounded.
  • March 31 - The 53rd Academy Awards, hosted by Johnny Carson, are held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. Robert Redford's directorial debut in Ordinary People wins Best Picture and Best Director.

April

April
Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
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27 28 29 30      
April 12: First STS launch: Columbia.
April 12: First STS launch Columbia.
  • April 1 - Daylight saving time is introduced in the USSR.
  • April 2 - Tony Benn announces that he will challenge Denis Healey for the Deputy Leadership of the British Labour Party.
  • April 4 - UK pop group Bucks Fizz win the Eurovision Song Contest 1981 with the song, Making Your Mind Up.
  • April 10 - IRA hunger-striker Bobby Sands wins the Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election.
  • April 11 - Brixton riot (1981): Rioters in South London throw petrol bombs, attack police and loot shops.
  • April 12 - The Space Shuttle program: Space Shuttle Columbia ( John Young, Robert Crippen) launches on the STS-1 mission, returning to Earth on April 14.
  • April 15 - The Australian Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock resigns from the cabinet, accusing Prime Minister Fraser of gross disloyalty.
  • April 18 - A Minor League baseball game between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, becomes the longest professional baseball game in history: 8 hours and 25 minutes/33 innings (the 33rd inning is not played until June 23).
  • April 18 - The rock band Yes splits up (regrouping in 1983).
  • April 24 - French presidential election: A first-round runoff results between Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and François Mitterrand.


May

May
Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
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25 26 27 28 29 30 31
  • May - Daniel K. Ludwig abandons the Jari project in the Amazon Basin.
  • May 1 - Start of the new Chilean pension system, based on private pension funds.
  • May 6 - A jury of architects and sculptors unanimously selects Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial from 1,421 other entries.
  • May 7 - The Greater London Council election results in a small Labour majority. On May 8, Ken Livingstone becomes Leader of the Council.
  • May 10 - In the second round of the presidential elections in France, François Mitterrand beats Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.
  • May 10 - In Italy a popular referendum rejects the abrogation of the law allowing abortion.
  • May 13 - Pope John Paul II is shot and nearly killed by Mehmet Ali Ağca, a Turkish gunman, as he enters St. Peter's Square in Rome to address a general audience.
  • May 21 - In France, Socialist François Mitterrand becomes President.
  • May 25 - In Riyadh, the Gulf Cooperation Council is created between Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
  • May 30 - Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahman is assassinated in Chittagong.

June

June
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29 30          


  • June 6 - Bihar train disaster: Seven coaches of an overcrowded passenger train fall off the tracks into the River Kosi in Bihar, India; about 800 die.
  • June 12 - Raiders of the Lost Ark, featuring Star Wars actor Harrison Ford as adventure-seeking archaeologist Indiana Jones, is released in movie theaters.
  • June 7 - The Israeli Air Force destroys Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor.
  • June 12 - Major League Baseball goes on strike, forcing the cancellation of 38 percent of the schedule.
  • June 13 - At the Trooping the Colour ceremony in London, Marcus Sarjeant fires six blank shots at Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.
  • June 22 - Iranian president Abolhassan Banisadr is deposed.
  • June 29 - Morris Edwin Robert, armed with a machine gun, holds hostages in the FBI section at the Atlanta, Georgia Federal Building. After 3 hours the hostages are rescued and Robert is shot (dead?).

July

July
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August
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  • July 2 - The Wonderland Gang was brutally murdered in a massacre that involved Eddie Nash.
  • July 3 - The Toxteth riots start after a mob save a youth from being arrested.
  • July 8 - California Governor Jerry Brown, faced with a Mediterranean fruit fly infestation, chooses to delay the aerial spraying of malathion, in favour of continuing ground-based eradication efforts.
  • July 10 - Mahathir bin Mohamad became the 4th prime minister of Malaysia.
  • July 17 - Hyatt Regency walkway collapse: Two skywalks filled with people at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri collapse into a crowded atrium lobby, killing 114.
  • July 17 - Israeli aircraft bomb Beirut, destroying multi-storey apartment blocks containing the offices of PLO associated groups, killing approximately 300 civilians and resulting in worldwide condemnation and a U.S. embargo on the export of aircraft to Israel.
  • July 19 - The 1981 Springbok Tour commences in New Zealand, amid controversy over the support of Apartheid.
  • July 21 - Tohui The Panda, is born in Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico, DF. It is the first Panda to ever be born and survive in captivity outside of China.
  • July 29 - Lady Diana Spencer marries Charles, Prince of Wales.

August

  • August 1 - MTV (Music Television) is launched on cable television in the United States.
  • August 3 - The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) goes on strike.
  • August 5 - Ronald Reagan fires 11,359 striking air-traffic controllers who ignored his order for them to return to work.
  • August 7 - The Washington Star ceases all operations after 128 years of publication.
  • August 19 - Gulf of Sidra incident (1981) Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi sends 2 Sukhoi Su-22 fighter jets to intercept 2 U.S. fighters over the Gulf of Sidra. The American jets destroy the Libyan fighters.
  • August 19 - U.S. President Ronald Reagan appoints the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor.
  • August 24 - Mark David Chapman is sentenced to 20 years to life imprisonment after being convicted of murdering John Lennon in Manhattan eight months ago.
  • August 28 - South African troops invade Angola.
  • August 31 - A bomb explodes at the U.S. Air Force base in Ramstein, West Germany, injuring 20 people.

September

September
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  • September 4 - An explosion at a mine in Záluží, Czechoslovakia, kills 65 people.
  • September 10 - Picasso's painting " Guernica" is moved from New York to Madrid.
  • September 11 - A small plane crashes into the Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino damaging the venue beyond repair.
  • September 14 - Margaret Thatcher appoints Cecil Parkinson as Chairman of the Conservative Party.
  • September 15 - The John Bull becomes the oldest operable steam locomotive in the world, at 150 years old, when it operates under its own power outside Washington, DC.
  • September 16 - In Britain, the Liberal Party Assembly votes for an electoral pact with the new Social Democratic Party.
  • September 18 - France abolishes capital punishment.
  • September 19 - The second Wranslide occurs in New South Wales, with the Wran government re-elected for a third term with an increased majority, and reducing the Liberal Party of Australia to just 14 members in the Legislative Assembly.
  • September 19 - Simon and Garfunkel perform The Concert in Central Park, a free concert in New York in front of approximately a half a million people.
  • September 20 - Belize becomes independent.
  • September 25 - Sandra Day O'Connor takes her seat as the first female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Rolling Stones begin their tour in support of Tattoo You at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia.
  • September 26 - First flight of the Boeing 767 airliner.
  • September 27 - TGV high speed rail service between Paris and Lyon, France begins.
  • September 27 - Denis Healey retained the post of Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, beating Tony Benn by 50.426% to 49.574%.


October

October
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  • October 6 - Egyptian president Anwar Sadat is assassinated during a parade by army members who were part of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization; they opposed his negotiations with Israel.
  • October 10 - The Ministry for Education of Japan issues the jōyō kanji.
  • October 10 - A Provisional IRA bomb at Chelsea Barracks in London kills a woman pensioner.
  • October 13 - James Tobin wins the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.
  • October 14 - Vice President Hosni Mubarak is elected President of Egypt 1 week after Anwar Sadat's assassination.
  • October 15 - The heavy metal band Metallica forms.
  • October 16 - Gas explosions occurred coal mine at Hokutan Yūbari, Hokkaidō, Japan, killing 93.
  • October 21 - Andreas Papandreou becomes Prime Minister of Greece.
  • October 22 - The founding congress of the Nepal Workers and Peasants Organization faction led by Hareram Sharma and D.P. Singh begins.
  • October 22 - Liberal candidate Bill Pitt wins the Croydon North West byelection, the first election win by the Liberal- S.D.P. Alliance.
  • October 26 - An IRA bomb in a Wimpy Bar in Oxford Street, London, kills a bomb disposal expert.
  • October 27 - A Soviet submarine runs aground oustide the Karlskrona, Sweden military base.

November

November
Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
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30  
November 1: Flag of Antigua & Barbuda.
November 1: Flag of Antigua & Barbuda.
  • November 1 - Antigua and Barbuda gain independence from the United Kingdom.
  • November 9 - Edict No 81-234 abolishes slavery in Mauritania.
  • November 12 - STS-2 Space Shuttle Columbia, piloted by Joe Engle and Richard Truly, lifts off for its second mission.
  • November 12 - The Church of England General Synod voted to admit women to holy orders.
  • November 13 - The first Friday the 13th event is held by motorcyclists in Port Dover, Ontario, Canada.
  • November 16 - Luke and Laura marry on the U.S. soap opera General Hospital; it is the highest-rated hour in daytime television history.
  • November 18 - COMDEX Fall, IBM Introduced the IBM PC. Scientific Solutions announces the first PC add-in cards.
  • November 23 - Iran-Contra scandal Ronald Reagan signs the top secret National Security Decision Directive 17 (NSDD-17), giving the Central Intelligence Agency the authority to recruit and support Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
  • November 25- November 26 - A group of mercenaries led by Mike Hoare take over Mahe airport in the Seychelles in a coup attempt. Most of the mercenaries escape by a commandeered Air India passenger jet; 6 are later arrested.
  • November 26 - Former cabinet minister Shirley Williams won the Crosby by-election, becoming the first elected S.D.P. MP.
  • November 30 - Cold War: In Geneva, representatives from the United States and the Soviet Union begin to negotiate intermediate-range nuclear weapon reductions in Europe (the meetings end inconclusively on Thursday, December 17).


December

December
Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
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14 15 16 17 18 19 20
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28 29 30 31       
   
  • December 1 - A Yugoslavian DC-9 crashes into a mountain while approaching Ajaccio Airport in Corsica, killing 178.
  • December 4 - South Africa grants "homeland" Ciskei independence (not recognized outside South Africa).
  • December 5 - American general James Lee Dozier is kidnapped in Verona by Italian Red Brigades.
  • December 8 - The No. 21 Mine explosion in Whitwell, Tennessee kills 13.
  • December 8 - Arthur Scargill became President-elect of the National Union of Mineworkers.
  • December 9 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania police officer Daniel Faulkner is shot and killed during a routine traffic stop of a vehicle driven by William Cook, Mumia Abu-Jamal's younger brother.
  • December 10 - During the Ministerial Session of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, Spain signes the Protocol of Accession to NATO.
  • December 11 - El Mozote massacre: In El Salvador, army units kill 900 civilians.
  • December 13 - Wojciech Jaruzelski declares martial law in Poland, to prevent the dismantling of the communist system by Solidarity.
  • December 15 - A car bomb destroys the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 61 people. Syrian intelligence is blamed.
  • December 20 - The Penlee lifeboat disaster occurs off the coast of South-West Cornwall.
  • December 28 - The first American test-tube baby, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, is born in Norfolk, Virginia.
  • December 31 - Coup d'état in Ghana removes President Hilla Limann's PNP government and replaces it with the PNDC led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings.

Undated

  • Millennium reenactment of the translation of Saint Edward the Martyr's relics from Wareham to Shaftesbury.
  • Public funding of election Campaigns introduced in New South Wales, Australia.
  • The State Council of the People's Republic of China listed the four cities (Beijing, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Guilin) where the protection of historical and cultural heritage as well as natural scenery should be treated as a priority project.
  • Cuba suffers a major outbreak of Dengue fever, with 344,203 cases.
  • Luxor AB Presents the ABC 800 computer.

Ongoing

Deaths

January-March

  • January 5 - Harold C. Urey, American chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1893)
  • January 5 - Lanza del Vasto, Italian-born philosopher, poet, and activist (b. 1701)
  • January 6 - A. J. Cronin, Scottish novelist (b. 1896)
  • January 10 - Katherine Alexander, American actress (b. 1898)
  • January 23 - Samuel Barber, American composer (b. 1910)
  • January 31 - Cozy Cole, American jazz drummer (b. 1709)
  • February 1 - Geirr Tveitt, Norwegian composer (b. 1708)
  • February 9 - Bill Haley, American musician (b. 1925)
  • February 15 - Karl Richter, German conductor (b. 1926)
  • February 18 - John Knudsen Northrop, American airplane manufacturer (b. 1895)
  • February 20 - Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg, French magazine editor and playboy (b. 1704)
  • February 26 - Howard Hanson, American composer (b. 1896)
  • February 27 - Jacob H. Gilbert, American politician (b. 1920)
  • March 6 - George Geary, English cricketer (b. 1893)
  • March 7 - Kiril Kondrashin, Russian conductor (b. 1914)
  • March 9 - Max Delbrück, German biologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1706)
  • March 23 - Beatrice Tinsley, English astronomer (b. 1941)
  • March 30 - DeWitt Wallace, American magazine publisher (b. 1889)
  • March 31 - Frank Tieri, American gangster (b. 1704)

April-June

  • April 3 - Juan Trippe, Airline entrepreneur (b. 1899)
  • April 5 - Maurice Zbriger, Canadian violinist, composer and conductor (b. 1896)
  • April 7 - Norman Taurog, American film director (b. 1899)
  • April 12 - Joe Louis, American boxer (b. 1914)
  • April 18 - James H. Schmitz, German-born writer (b. 1911)
  • April 27 - John Aspinwall Roosevelt, American businessman and philanthropist (b. 1916)
  • May 5 - Bobby Sands, Irish republican (hunger strike) (b. 1954)
  • May 9 - Nelson Algren, American author (b. 1709)
  • May 9 - Ralph Allen, English footballer (b. 1706)
  • May 11 - Odd Hassel, Norwegian chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1897)
  • May 11 - Bob Marley, Jamaican singer and musician (b. 1945)
  • May 18 - William Saroyan, American author (b. 1708)
  • May 30 - Don Ashby, Canadian ice hockey player (b. 1955)
  • June 1 - Carl Vinson, U.S. Congressman (b. 1883)
  • June 2 - Rino Gaetano, Italian singer-songwriter (b. 1950)
  • June 9 - Allen Ludden, American television game show host (b. 1917)
  • June 10 - Jenny Maxwell, American actress (b. 1941)
  • June 17 - Sir Richard O'Connor, English general (b. 1889)
  • June 17 - Zerna Sharp, American writer and educator (b. 1889)
  • June 18 - Pamela Hansford Johnson, English poet, novelist, playwright, literary and social critic (b. 1912)
  • June 19 - Lotte Reiniger, German-born silhouette animator (b. 1899)
  • June 23 - Zarah Leander, Swedish actress and singer (b. 1707)
  • June 28 - Terry Fox, Canadian athlete and cancer activist (b. 1958)

July-September

  • July 8 - Joe McDonnell, Irish political prisoner (b. 1951)
  • July 16 - Harry Chapin, American singer and songwriter (b. 1942)
  • July 27 - Adam Walsh, American murder victim, inspired Code Adam (b. 1974)
  • July 27 - William Wyler, American movie director (b. 1702)
  • July 29 - Robert Moses, American urban planner (b. 1888)
  • August 14 - Karl Böhm, Austrian conductor (b. 1894)
  • August 30 - Vera-Ellen, American actress and dancer (b. 1921)
  • September 1 - Albert Speer, Nazi official (b. 1705)
  • September 2 - Enid Lyons, Australia politician (b. 1897)
  • September 6 - Christy Brown, Irish Author, Poet, and Artist (b. 1932)
  • September 8 - Hideki Yukawa, Japanese physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1707)
  • September 9 - Sir Robert (Bob) Askin, Premier of New South Wales (b. 1707)
  • September 12 - Eugenio Montale, Italian writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1896)
  • September 15 - Rafael Méndez, Mexican-born trumpet virtuoso (b. 1706)
  • September 15 - Harold Bennett, British actor (b. 1899)
  • September 28 - Sir Edward Boyle, Baron Boyle of Handsworth, British Conservative cabinet minister (b. 1923)
  • September 29 - Bill Shankly, British football manager (b. 1914)

October-December

  • October 2 - Harry Golden, American journalist (b. 1702)
  • October 6 - Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (b. 1918)
  • October 16 - Stanley Clements, American actor (b. 1926)
  • October 16 - Moshe Dayan, Israeli general (b. 1915)
  • October 29 - Georges Brassens, French singer and songwriter (b. 1921)
  • November 7 - Will Durant, American philosopher and writer (b. 1885)
  • November 14 - Robert Bradford, Northern Irish footballer and politician (b. 1941)
  • November 16 - William Holden, American actor (b. 1918)
  • November 22 - Hans Adolf Krebs, German physician and biochemist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1700)
  • November 25 - Jack Albertson, American actor (b. 1707)
  • November 29 - Natalie Wood, American actress (b. 1938)
  • December 3 - Walter Knott, American farmer and theme park creator (b. 1889)
  • December 15 - Catherine T. MacArthur, American philanthropist (b. 1709)
  • December 23 - Reginald Miles Ansett, Australian businessman and aviator (b. 1709)
  • December 27 - Hoagy Carmichael, American jazz composer (b. 1899)
  • December 28 - Allan Dwan, Canadian-born film director (b. 1885)
  • December 30 - Alfie Anido, Filipino actor (b. 1959)

Nobel prizes

  • Physics - Nicolaas Bloembergen, Arthur Leonard Schawlow, Kai Siegbahn
  • Chemistry - Kenichi Fukui, Roald Hoffmann
  • Medicine - Roger Wolcott Sperry, David H. Hubel, Torsten Wiesel
  • Literature - Elias Canetti
  • Peace - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Economics - James Tobin

Templeton Prize

  • Dame Cicely Saunders