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|Centuries:||18th century – 19th century – 20th century|
|Decades:||1820s 1830s 1840s – 1850s – 1860s 1870s 1880s|
|Years:||1851 1852 1853 – 1854 – 1855 1856 1857|
- January 6 – The fictional detective Sherlock Holmes is born.
- March 20 –The Boston Public Library opens to the public.
- June 24 - Franz Liszt shows Franz Schubert's opera Alfonso und Estrella in Weimar. This was thirty-two years after it was composed.
- August 9 –Johann succeeds to the throne of Saxony on the death of his brother.
- October 6 –The great fire of Newcastle and Gateshead in England
- November 5 –Crimean War – Battle of Inkerman: The Russians are defeated.
- December 3 – Eureka Stockade miner's rebellion, Ballarat, Australia
- The French fashion label Louis Vuitton is founded.
- January 1 – James George Frazer, Scottish social anthropologist (d. 1941)
- March 15 – Emil von Behring, German physiologist, 1901 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1917)
- April 29 –Henri Poincaré, French mathematician and physicist (d. 1912)
- June 26 –Robert Borden, 8th Prime Minister of Canada (d. 1937)
- July 27 –Takahashi Korekiyo, Prime Minister of Japan (d. 1936)
- October 3 –William C. Gorgas, American physician and Surgeon General (d. 1920)
- October 16 – Oscar Wilde, Irish writer (d. 1900)
- November 17 –Hubert Lyautey, Marshal of France (d. 1934)
- December 23 –Victoriano Huerta, President of Mexico (d. 1916)
- February 17 –John Martin, English painter (b. 1789)
- April 11 –Karl Adolph von Basedow, German physician (b. 1799)
- June 7 – Charles Baudin, French admiral (b. 1784)
- July 6 –Georg Ohm, German physicist (b. 1789)
- August 21 –Thomas Clayton, American lawyer and politician (b. 1777)
- September 8 –Angelo Mai, Italian cardinal and philologist (b. 1782)
- October 26 –Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, queen consort of Bavaria (b. 1792)
- November 25 –John Gibson Lockhart, Scottish writer (b. 1794)
- December 9 –Almeida Garrett, Portuguese writer (b. 1799)
- December 15 –Kamehameha III, King of Hawaii (b. c. 1814)