This article is about the year 1859.
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1859 (MDCCCLIX) was a common year starting on Saturday (dominical letter B) of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Thursday (dominical letter D) of the Julian calendar, the 1859th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 859th year of the 2nd millennium, the 59th year of the 19th century, and the 10th and last year of the 1850s decade. Note that the Julian day for 1859 is 12 calendar days difference, which continued to be used from 1582 until the complete conversion of the Gregorian calendar was entirely done in 1929.
- April 13 – The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art is founded by Peter Cooper, industrialist, inventor and philanthropist of New York.
- April 25 – Ground is broken for the Suez Canal.
- April 28 – The Pomona is wrecked off the English coast, with 424 dead.
- April 29 – Austrian troops begin to cross the Ticino River to Piedmont.
- April 30 – A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is published.
- May 4 – The Cornwall Railway opens across the Royal Albert Bridge, linking the counties of Devon and Cornwall in England.
- May 5 – Border Treaty between Brazil and Venezuela: The two countries agree their borders should be traced at the water divide between the Amazon and the Orinoco basins.
- May 22 – Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies is succeeded by his 23-year-old son Francis II of the Two Sicilies.
- May 26 – Austro-Sardinian War: Giuseppe Garibaldi's Hunters of the Alps confront Austrian forces led by Field Marshal-Lieutenant Carl Baron Urban at Varese.
- May 26 & June 2 – Geologist Joseph Prestwich and amateur archaeologist John Evans report (to the Royal Society and Society of Antiquaries of London, respectively) the results of their investigations of gravel-pits in the Somme valley and elsewhere, extending human history back to what will become known as the Paleolithic Era.
- May 30 – Battle of Palestro: The Sardinians defeat the Austrian army.
- May 31 – The Great Clock at the Palace of Westminster, London was started, and its bells ring for the very first time.
- June 4 – Austro-Sardinian War – Battle of Magenta: The French and Sardinians defeat the Austrians.
- June 6 – The British Crown colony of Queensland in Australia is created by devolving part of the territory of New South Wales (Queensland Day).
- June 8 – The discovery of the Comstock Lode in the western Utah Territory setting off the Rush to Washoe
- June 15 – The so-called Pig War border dispute between the Americans and the British on the San Juan Islands begins by the death of the namesake pig.
- June 17 – The only recorded simoom ever in North America hit Goleta, California and Santa Barbara, California.
- June 18 – Aletschhorn, second summit of the Bernese Alps, is first ascended.
- June 24 – Battle of Solferino: The Kingdom of Sardinia and the armies of Napoleon III of France defeat Franz Joseph I of Austria in northern Italy; the battle inspires Henri Dunant to found the Red Cross.
- June 30 – Charles Blondin crosses Niagara Falls on a tightrope for the first time.
- July 1 – The first intercollegiate baseball game is played, between Amherst and Williams Colleges.
- July 8
- July 11 – The chimes of Big Ben ring for the first time in London.
- July 11 – By the preliminary treaty signed at Villafranca, Italy, Lombardy is ceded to the French (who immediately cede it to Sardinia), while the Austrians keep Venetia and the French promise to restore the Central Italian rulers expelled in the course of the war. This brings the Austro-Sardinian War effectively to a close.
- July 30 – Grand Combin, one of the highest summits in the Alps, is first ascended.
- August 16 – The Tuscan National Assembly formally deposes the House of Habsburg-Lorraine; ending an ascendancy of 109 years.
- August 27 – Edwin Drake drills the first oil well in the United States, near Titusville, Pennsylvania, starting the Pennsylvania oil rush.
- August 28 – September 2 – The solar storm of 1859, the largest geomagnetic solar storm on record, causes the Northern lights to be visible as far south as Cuba and knocks out telegraph communication. (This is also called the Carrington event).
- September 17 – In San Francisco, Joshua Norton proclaims himself to be His Imperial Majesty Emperor Norton I, "Emperor of the United States" and "Protector of Mexico".
- January 6 – Hugh Rodman, American admiral (d. 1940)
- January 8 – Fanny Bullock Workman, American geographer, writer and mountain climber (d. 1925)
- January 11 – George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, British statesman and Viceroy of India (d. 1925)
- January 27 – Wilhelm II of Germany, last Emperor of Germany and King of Prussia (d. 1941)
- February 1
- February 3 – Hugo Junkers, German industrialist and aircraft designer (d. 1935)
- February 6 – Elias Disney, American farmer and father of Walt Disney (d. 1941)
- February 14
- February 19 – Svante Arrhenius, Swedish chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1927)
- February 26 – Louise DeKoven Bowen, American philanthropist and activist (d. 1953)
- February 28 – Florian Cajori, Swiss historian of mathematics (d. 1930)
- March 2 – Sholem Aleichem, Ukrainian Yiddish novelist (d. 1916)
- March 4 – Alexander Stepanovich Popov, Russian physicist (d. 1905)
- March 8 – Kenneth Grahame, English author (d. 1932)
- March 12 – Abraham H. Cannon, American Mormon apostle (d. 1896)
- March 26 – Alfred Edward Housman, English poet (d. 1936)
- April 3 – Reginald De Koven, American composer and music critic (d. 1920)
- April 8 – Edmund Husserl, Austrian philosopher (d. 1938)
- May 1 – Jacqueline Comerre-Paton, French artist (d. 1955)
- May 15 – Pierre Curie, French physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1906)
- May 22 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Scottish writer (d. 1930)
- June 9 – Doveton Sturdee, British admiral (d. 1925)
- June 21 – Henry Ossawa Tanner, American artist (d. 1937)
- July 6 – Verner von Heidenstam, Swedish writer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1940)
- July 11 (June 29 O.S.) – Peter Verigin, Doukhobor leader (d. 1924)
- August 4 – Knut Hamsun, Norwegian author, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1952)
- August 18 – Anna Ancher, Dansk painter (d. 1935)
- September 3 – Jean Jaurès, French socialist (d. 1914)
- September 16 – Yuan Shikai, Chinese dictator (d. 1916)
- September 18 – Lincoln Loy McCandless, Hawaiian politician and rancher (d. 1940)
- September 21 – Francesc Macià i Llussà, Catalan politician (d. 1933)
- October 9 – Alfred Dreyfus, French military officer (d. 1935)
- October 18 – Henri Bergson, French philosopher, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature (d. 1941)
- October 20 – John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist, and educator (d. 1952)
- October 21 – Francesc Macià i Llussà, President of the Catalan Generalitat (d. 1933)
- November 14
- November 19 – Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, Russian composer (d. 1935)
- November 22 – Fusajiro Yamauchi, founder of Nintendo (d. 1940)
- November 23 – Billy the Kid, American outlaw (d. 1881)
- November 24 – Cass Gilbert, American architect (Woolworth Building, United States Supreme Court building) (d. 1934)
- December 2 – Georges Seurat, French painter (d. 1891)
- December 5 – John Jellicoe, 1st Earl Jellicoe, British admiral (d. 1935)
- December 15 – L. L. Zamenhof, Russo-Polish initiator of Esperanto (d. 1917)
- December 17 – Paul César Helleu, French artist (d. 1927)
- July 8 – King Oscar I of Sweden and Norway (b. 1799)
- August 2 – Horace Mann, American educator and abolitionist (b. 1796)
- August 4 – John Vianney, French saint known as the Curé de Ars (b. 1786)
- August 15 – Nathaniel Claiborne, U.S. politician (b. 1777)
- August 28 – Leigh Hunt, British critic and essayist (b. 1784)
- August 28 – Sultan Abd al-Rahman of Morocco (b. 1788)
- September 15 – Isambard Kingdom Brunel, British engineer (b. 1806)
- September 19 – George Bush (biblical scholar), professor of Asian languages (b. 1796)
- September 28 – Carl Ritter, German geographer (b. 1779)
- October 4 – Karl Baedeker, German author and publisher (b. 1801)
- October 12 – Robert Stephenson, English civil engineer (b. 1803)
- October 22 – Louis Spohr, German violinist and composer (b. 1784)
- November 28 – Washington Irving, American author (b. 1783)
- December 2 – John Brown, American abolitionist (hanged) (b. 1800)
- December 8 – Thomas de Quincey, English writer (b. 1785)
- December 16 – Wilhelm Grimm, German children's writer (b. 1786)