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|Centuries:||18th century – 19th century – 20th century|
|Decades:||1820s 1830s 1840s – 1850s – 1860s 1870s 1880s|
|Years:||1849 1850 1851 – 1852 – 1853 1854 1855|
- January 14 – President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte makes a new constitution for the French Second Republic.
- January 15 – Nine men from various Hebrew charitable organizations come together to form what will become the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
- January 17 – The United Kingdom recognizes the independence of the Transvaal.
- February 3 – Battle of Caseros or Battle of Monte Caseros, Argentina
- February 11 – The first British public toilet for women opens in Bedford Street, London.
- February 15 – The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, London, admits its first patient.
- February 16 – The Studebaker Brothers Wagon Company is started.
- February 19 – The Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity is founded at Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.
- February 25 – The HMS Birkenhead sinks near Cape Town, South Africa. Only 193 of the 643 on board survive.
- March 1 – Archibald William Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton is made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
- March 2 – The first American steam fire engine was tested.
- March 4 – Phi Mu Sorority is founded in Macon Georgia
- March 20 – Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe is published.
- April 1 – The Second Burmese War begins.
- April 18 – Taiping Rebellion: Taiping forces begin the siege of Guilin.
- May 19 – Taiping Rebellion: The siege of Guilin is lifted.
- June 12 – Taiping Rebellion: Taiping forces enter Hunan.
- July 1 – United States statesman Henry Clay is the first to have the honor of lying in state in the United States Capitol rotunda.
- July 4 – Frederick Douglass delivers his famous speech "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" in Rochester, New York.
- July 28 – Henry Clay steamboat disaster in Riverdale, Bronx, with several deaths including Stephen Allen.
- August 3 – The first Boat Race between Yale and Harvard, the first American intercollegiate athletic event, is held.
- September 24 – French engineer Henri Giffard makes the first airship trip from Paris to Trappes.
- November 2 – U.S. presidential election, 1852: Democrat Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire defeats Whig Winfield Scott of Virginia.
- November 4 – Count Cavour becomes the Piedmontese prime minister.
- November 11 – The new Palace of Westminster opens in Britain.
- November 21–November 22 – The New French Empire is confirmed
- December 2 – Napoleon III becomes Emperor of the French.
- December 23 – Taiping Rebellion: The Taiping army takes Hanyang and begins the siege of Wuchang.
- December 29 – Taiping Rebellion: The Taiping army takes Hankou.
- Justin Perkins, an American Presbyterian missionary, makes the first translation of the Bible in Assyrian Neo-Aramaic.
- The Devil's Island penal colony opens.
- In Hawaii sugar planters bring over the first Chinese laborers on 3 or 5 year contracts.
- Loyola College is chartered in Baltimore, Maryland.
- Germans are encouraged to move to Chile
- Gef's supposed birth
- Antioch College is started. Its first president is Horace Mann.
- Mills College is started.
- Leo Tolstoy's first novel, Childhood, is published in book form.
- January 8 – James Milton Carroll, Baptist pastor, leader, historian, and writer (d. 1931)
- January 11 – Konstantin Fehrenbach, Chancellor of Germany (d. 1926)
- February 16 – Charles Taze Russell (Pastor Russell), prominent Protestant reformer and evangelist (d. 1916)
- March 1 – Théophile Delcassé, French statesman (d. 1923)
- April 1 – Edwin Austin Abbey, American painter (d. 1911)
- April 13 – F.W. Woolworth, American merchant and businessman (d. 1919)
- April 22 – Guillaume IV, Grand Duke of Luxembourg (d. 1912)
- May 1 – Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Spanish histologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1934)
- May 4 – Alice Pleasance Liddell, inspiration for the children's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (d. 1934)
- May 31 – Julius Richard Petri, German scientist (d. 1921)
- June 25 – Antoni Gaudi, Spanish modernist architect (d. 1926)
- July 12 – Hipólito Yrigoyen, President of Argentina (d. 1933)
- August 23 – Clímaco Calderón, President of Colombia (d. 1913)
- August 30 – Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff, Dutch chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1911)
- September 10 – Hans Niels Andersen, Danish businessman, founder of the East Asiatic Company (d. 1937)
- September 12 – Herbert Henry Asquith, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1928)
- September 15 – Edward Bouchet, American physicist (d. 1918)
- September 28
- September 30 – Charles Villiers Stanford, Irish composer, resident in England (d. 1924)
- October 2 – William Ramsay, Scottish chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1916)
- October 9 – Hermann Emil Fischer, German chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1919)
- November 1 – Eugene W. Chafin, American politician (d. 1920)
- November 3 – Prince Mutsuhito of Japan, the future Emperor Meiji (d. 1912)
- November 11 – Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, Austro-Hungarian field marshal (d. 1925)
- November 22 – Paul-Henri-Benjamin d'Estournelles de Constant, French diplomat, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (d. 1924)
- November 26 – Yamamoto Gonnohyōe, the 16th and 22nd Prime Minister of Japan, an admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy
- December 15 – Henri Becquerel, French physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1908)
- December 19 – Albert Abraham Michelson, German-born physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1931)
- December 21 – George Callaghan, British admiral (d. 1920)
- January 1 – John George Children, British chemist, mineralogist and zoologist (b. 1777)
- January 6 – Louis Braille, French teacher of the blind and inventor of braille (b. 1809)
- May 3 – Sara Coleridge, English writer and translator (b. 1802)
- March 4 – Nikolai Gogol, Russian writer (b. 1809)
- April 17 – Étienne Maurice Gérard, Marshal of France and Prime Minister of France (b. 1773)
- June 7 – José Joaquín Estudillo, second alcalde of Yerba Buena (b. 1800)
- June 29 – Henry Clay, American statesman (b. 1777)
- July 20 – José Antonio Estudillo, early California settler (b. 1805)
- July 22 – Auguste Marmont, French marshal (b. 1774)
- September 4 – William MacGillivray, Scottish naturalist and ornithologist (b. 1796)
- September 14
- September 20 – Philander Chase, American founder of Kenyon College (b. 1775)
- October 13 – John Lloyd Stephens, American traveler, diplomat and Mayanist archaeologist (b. 1805)
- October 24 – Daniel Webster, American statesman (b. 1782)
- October 25 – John C. Clark, American politician (b. 1793)
- October 26 – Vincenzo Gioberti, Italian philosopher (b. 1801)
- November 2 – Pyotr Kotlyarevsky, Russian military hero (b. 1782)
- November 27 – Augusta Ada King (née Byron), Countess of Lovelace, early English computer pioneer (b. 1815)
- November 29 – Nicolae Bălcescu, Wallachian revolutionary (b. 1819)
- November 30 – Junius Brutus Booth, English-born actor (b. 1796)
- December 16 – Andries Hendrik Potgieter, Voortrekker leader (b. 1792)
- King, William T. (1896). History of the American Steam Fire-Engine.