|Centuries:||19th century – 20th century – 21st century|
|Decades:||1900s 1910s 1920s – 1930s – 1940s 1950s 1960s|
|Years:||1934 1935 1936 – 1937 – 1938 1939 1940|
|1937 by topic:|
|Birth and death categories|
|Establishments and disestablishments categories|
|Works and introductions categories|
|Ab urbe condita||2690|
|British Regnal year||1 Geo. 6 – 2 Geo. 6|
|Chinese calendar|| 丙子年十一月十九日
— to —丁丑年十一月廿九日
|- Vikram Samvat||1993–1994|
|- Shaka Samvat||1859–1860|
|- Kali Yuga||5038–5039|
|- Ǹrí Ìgbò||937–938|
|Japanese calendar|| Shōwa 12
|Julian calendar||Gregorian minus 13 days|
|Minguo calendar||ROC 26
|Thai solar calendar||2480|
Year 1937 (MCMXXXVII) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar.
- January 1 – Anastasio Somoza García becomes President of Nicaragua.
- January 11 – The first issue of Look magazine goes on sale in the United States.
- January 19 – Howard Hughes establishes a record by flying from Los Angeles to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds.
- January 20 – Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes swears in Franklin D. Roosevelt for a second term. This is the first time Inauguration Day in the United States occurs on that date, on which it has occurred ever since; the change is due to the ratification in 1933 of the 20th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
- January 23 – In Moscow, seventeen leading Communists go on trial, accused of participating in a plot led by Leon Trotsky to overthrow Joseph Stalin's regime and assassinate its leaders.
- January 26 – The U.S. state of Michigan celebrates its Centennial Anniversary of statehood.
- January 31 – The USSR executes 31 people for alleged Trotskyism.
- February 5 – U.S President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposes a plan to enlarge the Supreme Court of the United States.
- February 8 – Spanish Civil War: Falangist troops take Málaga.
- February 8 – February 27 – Spanish Civil War – Battle of Jarama: Nationalist and government troops fight to a stalemate.
- February 11 – A sit-down strike ends when General Motors recognizes the United Automobile Workers Union.
- February 16 – Wallace H. Carothers receives a patent for nylon.
- February 19
- Airliner VH-UHH (Stinson) goes down over Lamington National Park, bound for Sydney, killing five people.
- Yekatit 12: During a public ceremony at the Viceregal Palace (the former Imperial residence) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, two Eritrean nationalists attempt to kill viceroy Rodolfo Graziani with a number of grenades. The Italian security guard fire into the crowd of Ethiopian onlookers. Authorities exact further reprisals, which include indiscriminately slaughtering native Ethiopians over the next three days, detaining thousands of Ethiopians at Danan and slaughtering almost 300 monks at Debre Libanos monastery.
- February 20 – Roberto Ortiz is elected president of Argentina.
- February 21 – The League of Nations Non-Intervention Committee prohibits foreign nationals from fighting in the Spanish Civil War.
- March – The first issue of Detective Comics is published in the United States. Twenty-seven issues later, Detective Comics introduces Batman. The magazine goes on to become the longest continually published comic book in American history; it is still published as of 2012.
- March 10 (dated March 14 ( Passion Sunday)) – The encyclical Mit brennender Sorge ("With burning concern") of Pope Pius XI is published in Germany in the German language. Largely the work of Cardinals von Faulhaber and Pacelli, it condemns breaches of the 1933 Reichskonkordat agreement signed between the Nazi government and the Catholic Church, and criticises Nazism's views on race and other matters incompatible with Catholicism.
- March 17 – The Atherton Report (private investigator Edwin Atherton's report detailing vice and police corruption in San Francisco) is released.
- March 18 – New London School explosion: In the worst school disaster in American history in terms of lives lost, the New London School in New London, Texas, suffers a catastrophic natural gas explosion, killing in excess of 295 students and teachers. Mother Frances Hospital opens in Tyler, Texas, a day ahead of schedule in response to the explosion.
- March 19 – The encyclical Divini Redemptoris of Pope Pius XI, critical of communism, is published.
- March 21 – The first successful flying car, Waldo Waterman's Aerobile, makes its initial flight.
- March 26
- In Crystal City, Texas, spinach growers erect a statue of the cartoon character Popeye.
- William H. Hastie becomes the first African American appointed to a federal judgeship in the United States.
- April 1 – Aden becomes a British crown colony. Bombing of Jaén, Spain by Nazi forces
- April 9 – The Kamikaze arrives at Croydon Airport in London; it is the first Japanese-built aircraft to fly to Europe.
- April 12 – NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel: The Supreme Court of the United States rules that the National Labor Relations Act is constitutional.
- April 17 – The animated short Porky's Duck Hunt, directed by Tex Avery for the Looney Tunes series, featuring the debut of Daffy Duck, is released.
- April 20 – A fire in an elementary school in Kilingi-Nõmme, Estonia, kills seventeen students and injures fifty.
- April 26 – Spanish Civil War: Guernica, Spain is bombed. In his report of the Falangist attack on Guernica, British journalist George Steer reports finding German bomb casings, connecting Luftwaffe planes with the attack.
- May 1 – A general strike occurs in Paris, France.
- May 6 – Hindenburg disaster: In the United States, the German airship Hindenburg bursts into flame when mooring to a mast in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Of the 36 passengers and 61 crew on board, 13 passengers and 22 crew die, as well as one member of the ground crew.
- May 7 – Spanish Civil War: The German Condor Legion Fighter Group, equipped with Heinkel He 51 biplanes, arrives in Spain to assist Francisco Franco's forces.
- May 12 – The coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) takes place at Westminster Abbey, London.
- May 21
- A Soviet station becomes the first scientific research settlement to operate on the drift ice of the Arctic Ocean.
- As one of the reprisals for the attempted assassination of Italian viceroy Rodolfo Graziani, a detachment of Italian troops massacres the entire community of Debre Libanos, killing 297 monks and 23 laymen.
- May 27 – In California, the Golden Gate Bridge opens to pedestrian traffic, creating a vital link between San Francisco and Marin County. The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushes a button in Washington, D.C., signaling the start of vehicle traffic over the Golden Gate Bridge.
- May 28 – Neville Chamberlain becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
- May 28 – In Germany Volkswagen Group is founded.
- May 30
- Spanish Civil War: Spanish ship Ciudad de Barcelona is torpedoed.
- The Chicago Police Department shoot and kill ten unarmed demonstrators in Chicago in what is known as the Memorial Day massacre.
- June 3 – Wallis Simpson marries The Duke of Windsor (the former Edward VIII), in France.
- June 8
- June 14 – Pennsylvania becomes the first (and only) of the United States to celebrate Flag Day officially as a state holiday.
- June 21 – The coalition government of Léon Blum resigns in France.
- June 28 – Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established in the United States, superseding the Emergency Conservation Work program.
- June – Picasso completes his painting Guernica.
- June/July – The Dáil Éireann debates and passes the draft new Constitution of Ireland, which is then submitted for public approval by plebiscite.
- July 1
- July 2
- July 4 – The Lost Colony outdoor drama opens on Roanoke Island in North Carolina.
- July 5 – The highest recorded temperature in Canada, at Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan, is 45°C (113°F).
- July 7 – Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Lugou Bridge (aka Marco Polo Bridge Incident): Japanese forces invade China (often seen as the beginning of World War II in Asia).
- Peel Commission proposes partition of the British Mandate of Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states.
- July 11 – American popular composer George Gershwin dies in Los Angeles of a brain tumor, age 38.
- July 20 – The Geibeltbad Pirna is opened in Dresden, Germany.
- July 21 – Éamon de Valera is elected President of the Executive Council (prime minister) of the Irish Free State by the Dáil (parliament).
- July 22 – New Deal: The United States Senate votes down President Franklin D. Roosevelt's proposal to add more justices to the Supreme Court of the United States.
- July 24 – Alabama drops rape charges against the so-called Scottsboro Boys.
- July 25– July 31 – Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Beiping-Tianjin, a series of actions fought around Beiping and Tianjin, resulting in Japanese victory.
- July 28 – The Irish Republican Army attempts the assassination by bomb of George VI in Belfast.
- July 29 – Tungchow Mutiny
- August 2 – The Marihuana Tax Act Pub. 238, 75th Congress, 50 Stat. 551 (Aug. 2, 1937), is a significant bill on the path that will lead to the criminalization of cannabis. It was introduced to U.S. Congress by Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger. (The Act is now commonly referred to using the modern spelling as the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act.)
- August 5 – The Soviet Union commences one of the largest campaigns of the Great Purge, to "eliminate anti-Soviet elements." Within the following year, at least 724,000 people are killed on order of the troikas, directed by Joseph Stalin. This was an offensive that targeted social classes (such as the kulaks), ethnic or racial backgrounds which were seen as non-Russian, and Stalin's personal opponents from the Communist Party and their sympathizers.
- August 6 – Spanish Civil War: Falangist artillery bombards Madrid.
- August 8 – Japan occupies Beijing.
- August 14 – The Battle of Shanghai.
- August 26 – Sino-Japanese War: Japanese aircraft attack the car carrying the ambassador of Great Britain during a raid on Shanghai.
- September 2 – The Great Hong Kong Typhoon kills an estimated 11,000 persons.
- September 5 – Spanish Civil War: The city of Llanes falls to the Falangists.
- September 7 – CBS broadcasts a two-and-a-half hour memorial concert nationwide on radio in memory of George Gershwin, live from the Hollywood Bowl. Many celebrities appear, including Oscar Levant, Fred Astaire, Otto Klemperer, Lily Pons, and members of the original cast of Porgy and Bess. The concert is recorded and released complete years later in what is excellent sound for its time, on CD. The Los Angeles Philharmonic is the featured orchestra.
- September 17 – Abraham Lincoln's head is dedicated at Mount Rushmore.
- September 19 – Swiss professional ice hockey club HC Ambrì-Piotta founded.
- September 21 – George Allen & Unwin, Ltd. of London publishes the first edition of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.
- September 25 – Sino-Japanese War: Battle of Pingxingguan: The Communist Chinese National Revolutionary Army defeats the Japanese.
- September 27 – The last Bali tiger dies.
- October 1
- October 3 – Sino-Japanese War: Japanese troops advance toward Nanking.
- October 4 – Rabotnicki Skopje is established as a football club .
- October 5 – Roosevelt gives his famous Quarantine Speech in Chicago.
- October 13 – Germany, in a note to Brussels, guarantees the inviolability and integrity of Belgium so long as the latter abstains from military action against Germany.
- October 15 – Ernest Hemingway's novel To Have and Have Not is first published.
- October 18– October 21 – Spanish Civil War: The whole Spanish northern seaboard falls into the Falangists' hands; Republican forces in Gijon, Spain, set fire to petrol reserves prior to retreating before the advancing Falangists.
- October 25 – Celal Bayar forms the new (ninth) government of Turkey.
- November 3 – Maurice J. Tobin resoundingly defeats former governor and mayor James Michael Curley in Boston's mayoral election.
- November 5
- November 6 – Italy joins the Anti-Comintern Pact.
- November 9 – Sino-Japanese War: Japanese troops take Shanghai.
- November 10 – Brazilian president Getúlio Vargas announces the Estado Novo ("New State"), thence becoming dictator of Brazil until 1945.
- November 11 – The Kogushi sulfur mine collapse, in western Gunma, Japan, kills at least 245 people.
- December 4 – The Dandy comic is first published in Scotland; it will still be running as of 2011.
- December 11 – Italy withdraws from the League of Nations.
- December 12
- USS Panay incident: Japanese bombers sink the American gunboat USS Panay.
- Mae West makes a risque guest appearance on NBC's Chase and Sanborn Hour, which eventually results in her being banned from radio.
- December 13 – Sino-Japanese War: The Battle of Nanjing ends. The Japanese soldiers killed over 300,000 Chinese in 3 months, it is called " Nanking Massacre".
- December 16 – The original production of the musical Me and My Girl opens at the West End Victoria Palace Theatre in London. A later revival of this musical would win an award.
- December 21 – Walt Disney's Snow White premieres in selected theaters.
- December 25 – At the age of 70, legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini conducts the NBC Symphony Orchestra on radio for the first time, beginning his successful 17-year tenure with that orchestra. This first concert consists of music by Vivaldi (at a time when he was still seldom played), Mozart, and Brahms. Millions tune in to listen, including U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
- December 29 – The new Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) comes into force. The Irish Free State becomes "Ireland", and Éamon de Valera becomes the first Taoiseach (prime minister) of the new state. A Presidential Commission (made up the Chief Justice, the Speaker of Dáil Éireann, and the President of the High Court) assumes the powers of the new presidency, pending the popular election of the first President of Ireland in June 1938. The new constitution prohibits divorce.
- Switzerland begins construction of its Border Line defences.
- The Vibora Luviminda trades union's sugar plantation strike on Maui island, Hawaii.
- Jimmie Angel lands his plane on top of Devil's Mountain; however, the plane gets damaged and he has to trek through the rainforest for help.
- Italian psychiatrist Amarro Fiamberti is the first to document a transorbital approach to the brain, which becomes the basis for the controversial medical procedure of transorbital lobotomy.
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is published.
- Soviet industry produces about four times as much as it had in 1928.
- January 1 – Anne Aubrey, British actress
- January 4
- Grace Bumbry, American opera singer
- Dyan Cannon, American actress
- January 6
- Nida Blanca, Filipina actress (d. 2001)
- Paolo Conte, Italian singer, Pianist and Composer
- Underwood Dudley, American mathematician
- January 8 – Dame Shirley Bassey, Welsh singer
- January 13 – George Reisman, American economist
- January 14 – Ken Higgs, English cricketer
- January 15 – Margaret O'Brien, American child actress
- January 18
- January 19 – Giovanna Marini, Italian singer-songwriter
- January 21 – Prince Max, Duke in Bavaria, heir to the Bavarian Royal House
- January 22 – Joseph Wambaugh, American author
- January 25 – Ange-Felix Patasse, former President of Central African Republic (d. 2011)
- January 27 – John Ogdon, English pianist (d. 1989)
- January 29 – Bobby Scott, American musician, producer and songwriter (d. 1990)
- January 30
- Vanessa Redgrave, English actress
- Boris Spassky, Russian chess grandmaster
- January 31
- Philip Glass, American composer
- Suzanne Pleshette, American actress (d. 2008)
- February 1
- Don Everly, American rock 'n' roll musician
- Garrett Morris, American comedian
- February 2
- Magic Sam, American musician (d. 1969)
- Remak Ramsay, American actor
- Tom Smothers, American musician and comedian
- February 3 – Billy Meier, Swiss Prophet
- February 4 – Magnar Solberg, Norwegian biathlete
- February 8 – Manfred Krug, German actor and singer
- February 9
- February 10 – Roberta Flack, American soul singer
- February 11 – Bill Lawry, Australian cricketer
- February 12 – Charles Dumas, American athlete
- February 13 – Rupiah Banda, President of Zambia
- February 20
- Robert Huber, German chemist; Nobel Prize laureate
- George Leonardos, Greek journalist and author
- Roger Penske, American race car driver
- Nancy Wilson, American singer
- February 21 – King Harald V of Norway
- February 25
- Tom Courtenay, English actor
- Bob Schieffer, American television journalist
- March 2 – Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Algeria
- March 4
- March 5 – Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria
- March 6 – Valentina Tereshkova, Russian cosmonaut, first woman in space
- March 8 – Juvénal Habyarimana, President of Rwanda (d. 1994)
- March 9 – Harry Neale, Canadian ice hockey coach and broadcaster
- March 17 – Frank Calabrese, Sr., American Gangster in the Chicago Outfit
- March 20 – Jerry Reed, American country musician (d. 2008)
- March 22 – Armin Hary, German athlete
- March 23 – Craig Breedlove, American race car driver
- March 27 – Thomas Aquinas Daly, American painter
- March 30 – Warren Beatty, American actor and director
- April 5 – Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State
- April 6
- Merle Haggard, American country musician
- Billy Dee Williams, American actor
- April 7 – Louise Faulkner, missing Australian woman
- April 9 – Valerie Singleton, English television presenter
- April 10 – Bella Akhmadulina, Russian poet (d. 2010)
- April 16 – George "The Animal" Steele, American professional wrestler
- April 17 – Ferdinand Piech, Austrian engineer and business magnate
- April 18
- Don Buchla, American electronic-instrument designer
- Jan Kaplický, British architect of Czech origin
- April 19
- Elinor Donahue, American actress
- Joseph Estrada, former President of the Philippines
- April 20 – George Takei, American actor
- April 22 – Jack Nicholson, American actor
- April 24 – Rafi' Daham Al-Tikriti, director of the Iraqi Intelligence Service
- April 27
- Sandy Dennis, American actress (d. 1992)
- Robin Eames, Anglican prelate; Northern Irish clergyman and peace activist
- April 28 – Saddam Hussein, President of Iraq (d. 2006)
- April 29 – Jill Paton Walsh, English novelist
- May 1 – Una Stubbs, British actress
- May 2 – Gisela Elsner, German writer
- May 3
- Hans Cieslarczyk, German football player
- Frankie Valli, American musician
- May 4 – Ron Carter, American jazz musician
- May 5 – Tran Duc Luong, President of Vietnam
- May 6 – Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, American boxer
- May 8
- Carlos Gaviria Díaz, Colombian justice and politician
- Thomas Pynchon, American writer
- May 12 – George Carlin, American comedian (d. 2008)
- May 13
- Trevor Baylis, English inventor
- Roch Carrier, Canadian writer
- Roger Zelazny, American writer (d. 1995)
- May 15
- Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State
- Trini Lopez, American musician
- May 16 – Yvonne Craig, American actress
- May 17 – Hazel R. O'Leary, U.S. Secretary of Energy
- May 18 – Jacques Santer, Luxembourg politician, President of the European Council
- May 21
- Sofiko Chiaureli, Georgian actress (d. 2008)
- John Fairfax, British ocean rower
- Mengistu Haile Mariam, former President of Ethiopia
- May 24 – Roger Peterson, pilot who flew the plane on The Day the Music Died (d. 1959)
- June 1 – Morgan Freeman, American actor
- June 2 – Sally Kellerman, American actress (MASH)
- June 3
- June 4 – Gorilla Monsoon, American professional wrestler and announcer (d. 1999)
- June 7 – Neeme Järvi, Estonian conductor
- June 8 – Toni Harper, American child singer
- June 9 – Harald Rosenthal, German biologist
- June 10 – Luciana Paluzzi, Italian actress
- June 11 – Robin Warren, Australian pathologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
- June 15
- Waylon Jennings, American country singer (d. 2002)
- Alan Thornett, British Trotskyist activist
- June 16 – Charmian May, British actress (d. 2002)
- June 18
- Wray Carlton, American football player
- Vitaly Zholobov, Soviet cosmonaut
- June 23 – Martti Ahtisaari, President of Finland
- June 25 – Keizo Obuchi, Prime Minister of Japan (d. 2000)
- June 26 – Robert Coleman Richardson, American physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2013)
- June 28 – Ron Luciano, American baseball umpire and writer (d. 1995)
- July 3 – Richard Petty, seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion
- July 4 – Sonja Haraldsen, Queen of Norway and wife to King Harald V of Norway
- July 6
- Vladimir Ashkenazy, Russian pianist
- Ned Beatty, American actor
- July 7 – Tung Chee-Hwa, Hong Kong administrator
- July 9 – David Hockney, English-born artist
- July 12
- Bill Cosby, American actor and comedian
- Lionel Jospin, Prime Minister of France
- July 14 – Yoshiro Mori, Japanese politician
- July 18
- July 20
- Dick Hafer, American Christian cartoonist (d. 2003)
- Ken Ogata, Japanese actor (d. 2008)
- July 27
- Anna Dawson, British actress
- Don Galloway, American actor (d. 2009)
- July 29 – Daniel McFadden, American economist, Nobel Prize laureate
- August 2 – Coenraad Bron, Dutch Computer Scientist
- August 4 – David Bedford, American musician
- August 5 – Herb Brooks, American hockey coach (d. 2003)
- August 6 – Barbara Windsor, English actress
- August 8 – Dustin Hoffman, American actor
- August 14 – Alberta Nelson, American actress (d. 2006)
- August 16 – David Anderson, Canadian politician
- August 18
- August 20
- Jim Bowen, English stand-up comedian and TV personality
- Jean-Louis Petit, French composer, conductor and organist
- August 21
- August 26 – Gennady Yanayev, former Soviet leader (d. 2010)
- August 27 – Alice Coltrane, American jazz harpist, organist, pianist and composer (d. 2007)
- August 29 – James Florio, Governor of New Jersey
- August 30 – Bruce McLaren, Founder of McLaren Racing
- August 31 – Bobby Parker (guitarist), from USA
- September 4
- Dawn Fraser, Australian swimmer
- Mikk Mikiver, Estonian actor and director (d. 2006)
- September 5 – William Devane, American actor
- September 6
- Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada (Keith Gordon Ham), Hare Krishna guru
- Jo Anne Worley, American comedienne
- September 7 – Cüneyt Arkın, Turkish film actor
- September 11 – Paola Ruffo di Calabria, Queen of the Belgians
- September 15
- King Curtis Iaukea, American professional wrestler (d. 2010)
- Robert Lucas, Jr., American economist, Nobel Prize laureate
- Fernando de la Rúa, President of Argentina
- September 16 – Keith Bosley, British broadcaster (retired), poet and translator
- September 17 – Ilarion Ionescu-Galati Romanian conductor
- September 19 – Abner Haynes, American football player
- September 28 – Rod Roddy, American television announcer (d. 2003)
- October 2 – Johnnie Cochran, American attorney (d. 2005)
- October 4
- Jackie Collins, English author
- Franz Vranitzky, former Chancellor of Austria
- October 5 – Barry Switzer, American football coach
- October 10 – Bobby Charlton, English footballer
- October 15 – Linda Lavin, American actress (Alice)
- October 17 – Paxton Whitehead, English actor
- October 23 – Carlos Lamarca, Brazilian military turned guerrilla leader (d. 1971)
- October 24
- John Goetz, American professional baseball player (d. 2008)
- Rosaria Piomelli, Americans architecture
- October 28 – Lenny Wilkens, American basketball player and coach
- November 1 – "Whisperin" Bill Anderson, American country music singer-songwriter and game show host
- November 2 – Earl Carroll, American lead vocalist for The Cadillacs
- November 4 – Michael Wilson, Canadian politician and diplomat
- November 5
- Chan Sek Keong, Chief Justice of Singapore
- Harris Yulin, American actor
- November 6 – Joe Warfield, American actor
- November 8 – Paul Mackintosh Foot, British journalist
- November 10 – Zdenek Zikan, Czech football player
- November 11 – Stephen Lewis, Canadian politician and diplomat
- November 15 – Yaphet Kotto, American actor
- November 17
- November 20 – Ruth Laredo, American pianist (d. 2005)
- November 21 – Ingrid Pitt, Polish-born British actress (d. 2010)
- November 26 – Boris Yegorov, Russian cosmonaut (d. 1994)
- December 1
- Chuck Low, American actor
- Vaira Vike Freiberga, former President of Latvia
- December 3 – Bobby Allison, American race car driver
- December 7 – Kenneth Colley, English actor
- December 8
- December 9 – Darwin Joston, American actor (d. 1998)
- December 11 – Jim Harrison, American writer
- December 15 – Donald Goines, American novelist (d. 1973)
- December 17 – Kerry Packer, Australian businessman (d. 2005)
- December 21 – Jane Fonda, American actress and social activist
- December 26
- Professor John Horton Conway, mathematician
- Gnassingbe Eyadema, President of Togo (d. 2005)
- December 28 – Ratan Tata, Indian industrialist
- December 29
- Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President of the Maldives (1978–2008)
- Barbara Steele, British actress
- December 30
- Gordon Banks, English footballer
- John Hartford, American musician and composer (d. 2001)
- Jim Marshall, American football player
- Noel Paul Stookey, American singer ( Peter, Paul and Mary)
- December 31
- Avram Hershko, Israeli biologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
- Anthony Hopkins, Welsh actor
- Cathie Jung, owner of the smallest waist on a living person (measuring just 15 in.).
- January 2 – Ross Alexander, American actor (b. 1907)
- January 6 – André Besette, Canadian religious leader (b. 1845)
- January 17 – Richard Boleslavsky, Polish film director (b. 1889)
- January 21 – Marie Prevost, Canadian actress (b. 1898)
- February 5 – Lou Andreas-Salome, Russian-born writer (b. 1861)
- February 7 – Elihu Root, American statesman and diplomat, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (b. 1845)
- February 11 – Walter Burley Griffin, American architect and town planner (b. 1876)
- February 24 – Guy Standing, British actor (b. 1873)
- February 27 – Charles Donnelly, Irish poet (b. 1915)
- March 8 – Howie Morenz, Canadian ice hockey player (b. 1902)
- March 9 – Paul Elmer More, American critic and essayist (b. 1864)
- March 11 – Joseph S. Cullinan, American oil industrialist, founder of Texaco (b. 1860)
- March 12 – Charles-Marie Widor, French organist and composer (b. 1840)
- March 15 – H. P. Lovecraft, American writer (b. 1890)
- March 17 – Austen Chamberlain, English statesman, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (b. 1863)
- March 20 – Harry Vardon, English golf professional (b. 1870)
- March 22 – Alfred Dyke Acland, British military officer (b. 1858)
- March 29 – Karol Szymanowski, Polish composer (b. 1882)
- April 10 – Ralph Ince, American film director (b. 1887)
- April 19 – William Martin Conway, British art critic and mountaineer (b. 1856)
- April 21 – Saima Harmaja, Finnish poet (b. 1913)
- April 22 – Arthur Edmund Carewe, Armenian-American actor (b. 1884)
- April 24 – Lucy Beaumont, English actress (b. 1873)
- April 25 – Michał Drzymała, Polish rebel (b. 1857)
- April 27 – Antonio Gramsci, Italian Communist writer and politician (b. 1891)
- April 29 – William Gillette, American actor (b. 1853)
- May 1 – Snitz Edwards, Hungarian actor (b. 1868)
- May 6 – 35 victims of the LZ 129 Hindenburg disaster.
- May 4 – Noel Rosa, Brazilian songwriter (b. 1910)
- May 23 – John D. Rockefeller, American industrialist and philanthropist (b. 1839)
- May 25 – Henry Ossawa Tanner, American Artist (b. 1859)
- May 28 – Alfred Adler, Austrian psychologist (b. 1870)
- June 2 – Louis Vierne, French composer (b. 1870)
- June 7 – Jean Harlow, American film actress (b. 1911)
- June 10 – Robert Laird Borden, eighth Prime Minister of Canada (b. 1854)
- June 18 – Gaston Doumergue, French Prime Minister (b. 1863)
- June 19 – J. M. Barrie, Scottish novelist and dramatist (b. 1860)
- June 25 – Colin Clive, British actor (b. 1900)
- July 9 – Oliver Law, American labor organizer and Army officer (killed in battle) (b. 1899)
- July 11 – George Gershwin, American composer (b. 1898)
- July 13 – Victor Laloux, French architect (b. 1850)
- July 18 – Julian Bell, English poet (b. 1908)
- July 20 – Guglielmo Marconi, Italian-born inventor (b. 1874)
- August 11 – Edith Wharton, American writer (b. 1862)
- August 27 – Andrew W. Mellon, American banker and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (b. 1855)
- September 2 – Pierre de Coubertin, French founder of the modern Olympic Games (b. 1863)
- September 13 – Ellis Parker Butler, American humorist (b. 1869)
- September 14 – Tomas Masaryk, Czechoslovak president (b. 1850)
- September 21 – Osgood Perkins, American actor (b. 1892)
- September 22 – Ruth Roland, American actress (b. 1892)
- September 26 – Bessie Smith, African-American singer (b. 1894)
- September 29 – Ray Ewry, American athlete (b. 1873)
- October 16 – Jean de Brunhoff, French writer (b. 1899)
- October 17 – J. Bruce Ismay, English businessman (b. 1862)
- October 19 – Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, New Zealand physicist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (b. 1871)
- October 26 – Józef Dowbor-Muśnicki, Polish general (b. 1867)
- October 27 – John Goetz, American professional baseball player (b. 1937)
- November 6 – Johnston Forbes-Robertson, British stage actor (b. 1853)
- November 9 – Ramsay MacDonald, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (b. 1866)
- November 13 – Caroline Louise Dudley (aka Mrs. Leslie Carter), stage & screen actress (b. 1862)
- November 23 – Miklós Kovács Hungarian Slovene writer (b. 1857)
- November 17 – Jack Worrall, Australian cricketer and coach (b. 1860)
- November 23
- December 9 – Gustaf Dalén, Swedish physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1869)
- December 12 – Alfred Abel, German actor (b. 1879)
- December 20 – Erich Ludendorff, German general (b. 1865)
- December 21
- December 25 – Newton D. Baker, United States Secretary of War (b. 1871)
- December 28
- December 30 – Hans Niels Andersen, Danish businessman, founder of the East Asiatic Company (b. 1852)
- Paul Behncke, German admiral (b. 1869)
- The 300,000 Chinese in Nanking, the Capital of China.