January 1 – Kurt Waldheim becomes Secretary-General of the United Nations.
January 2 – Pierre Hotel Robbery: Six men rob the safe deposit boxes of The Pierre hotel in New York City for at least $4 million.
January 3 – MGM's 1951 Show Boat is presented on television by NBC for the first time. This marks the first complete network telecast of any version of Show Boat (it had already been filmed as a part-talkie in 1929, and as a full-sound musical in 1936).
The first scientific hand-held calculator (HP-35) is introduced (price $395).
Rose Heilbron becomes the first woman judge at the Old Bailey in London.
January 5 – U.S. President Richard Nixon orders the development of a Space Shuttle program.
Iberia Airlines Flight 602 crashes into a 462-meter peak on the island of Ibiza; 104 are killed.
Howard Hughes speaks to the press by telephone to denounce Clifford Irving's hoax biography of him.
January 9 – The RMS Queen Elizabeth is destroyed by fire in Hong Kong harbor.
January 10 – Sheikh Mujibur Rahman returns to Bangladesh from Pakistan.
January 13 – Prime Minister of Ghana Kofi Abrefa Busia is overthrown in a military coup.
January 14 – Queen Margrethe II of Denmark succeeds her father, King Frederick IX, on the throne of Denmark.
January 19 – The Libertarian enclave Minerva on a platform in the South Pacific, sponsored by the Phoenix Foundation, declares independence. Soon neighboring Tonga annexes the area and dismantles the platform.
President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto announces that Pakistan will immediately begin a nuclear weapons program.
Fears are growing about the economy of the United Kingdom, where unemployment is now exceeding 1 million for the first time since World War II.
A New Delhi bootlegger sells wood alcohol to a wedding party; 100 die.
Tripura, part of the former independent Twipra Kingdom, becomes a full state of India.
January 24 – Japanese soldier Shoichi Yokoi is discovered in Guam; he had spent 28 years in the jungle.
January 25 – Shirley Chisholm, the first African American Congresswoman, announces her candidacy for President.
Yugoslavian air stewardess Vesna Vulović is the only survivor when her plane crashes in Czechoslovakia. She survives after falling 10,160 meters (33,330 feet) in the tail section of the aircraft.
The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is set up on the lawn of Parliament House in Canberra.
Bloody Sunday: The British Army kills 14 unarmed nationalist civil rights marchers in Derry, Northern Ireland.
Pakistan withdraws from the Commonwealth of Nations.
January 31 – King Birendra succeeds his father as King of Nepal.
A bomb explodes at the British Yacht Club in West Berlin, killing Irwin Beelitz, a German boat builder.
The German militant group 2 June Movement announces its support of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
Anti-British riots take place throughout Ireland. The British Embassy in Dublin is burned to the ground, as are several British-owned businesses.
The last draft lottery is held, a watershed event in the wind-down of military conscription in the United States during the Vietnam era. These draft candidates are never called to duty.
February 3 – February 13 – The 1972 Winter Olympics are held in Sapporo, Japan.
February 4 – Mariner 9 sends pictures as it orbits Mars.
U.S. airlines begin mandatory inspection of passengers and baggage.
Bob Douglas becomes the first African American elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
February 9 – The British government declares a state of emergency over a miners' strike.
President of Ecuador José María Velasco Ibarra is deposed for the fourth time.
Phonorecords are granted U.S. federal copyright protection for the first time.
February 17 – Volkswagen Beetle sales exceed those of the Ford Model T when the 15,007,034th Beetle is produced.
February 18 – The California Supreme Court voids the state's death penalty, commuting all death sentences to life in prison.
February 19 – Asama-Sansō incident: Five United Red Army members break into a lodge below Mount Asama, taking the wife of the lodge keeper hostage.
February 21 – The Soviet unmanned spaceship Luna 20 lands on the Moon.
February 21 – February 28 – U.S. President Richard M. Nixon makes an unprecedented 8-day visit to the People's Republic of China and meets with Mao Zedong.
Aldershot Bombing: An Official IRA bomb kills 7 in Aldershot, England.
Lufthansa Flight 649 is hijacked and taken to Aden. Passengers are released the following day after a ransom of 5 million US dollars is agreed.
February 23 – Angela Davis is released from jail. A Caruthers, California farmer, Rodger McAfee, helps her make bail.
February 24 – North Vietnamese negotiators walk out of the Paris Peace Talks to protest U.S. air raids.
A coal sludge spill kills 125 people in Buffalo Creek, West Virginia.
Luna 20 comes back to Earth with 55 grams (1.94 oz) of lunar soil.
February 28 – The Asama-Sanso incident ends in a standoff between 5 members of the Japanese United Red Army and the authorities, in which 2 policemen are killed and 12 injured.
The Thai province Yasothon is created after being split off from the Ubon Ratchathani Province.
The Club of Rome publishes its report The Limits to Growth.
Juan María Bordaberry is sworn in as President of Uruguay amid accusations of election fraud.
The Pioneer 10 spacecraft is launched from Cape Kennedy, to be the first man-made satellite to leave the solar system.
Jean-Bédel Bokassa becomes President of the Central African Republic.
March 3 – Sculpted figures of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson are completed at Stone Mountain in the U.S. state of Georgia.
Libya and the Soviet Union sign a cooperation treaty.
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference Charter is signed (effective 28 February 1973).
March 5 – Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis leaves the Greek Communist Party.
The United Kingdom and the People's Republic of China elevate diplomatic exchanges to the ambassadorial level after 22 years.
Clifford Irving admits to a New York court that he had fabricated Howard Hughes' "autobiography".
March 16 – The first building of the Pruitt–Igoe housing development in St. Louis is destroyed.
March 19 – India and Bangladesh sign the Indo-Bangladeshi Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace.
March 22 – The 92nd U.S. Congress votes to send the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the states for ratification.
The Godfather is released in cinemas in the United States.
The British government announces the prorogation of the Parliament of Northern Ireland and the introduction of 'Direct Rule' of Northern Ireland, after the Unionist government refuses to cede security powers.
March 25 – "Après toi" sung by Vicky Leandros (music by Klaus Munro & Mario Panas, lyric by Klaus Munro & Yves Dessca) wins the Eurovision Song Contest 1972 for Luxembourg.
An avalanche on Mount Fuji kills 19 climbers.
The last trolleybus system in the United Kingdom closes in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire after over 60 years of operation.
After 14 years, the last of Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts is telecast by CBS. This last concert is devoted to Gustav Holst's The Planets.
March 27 – The First Sudanese Civil War ends.
Vietnam War: The Easter Offensive begins after North Vietnamese forces cross into the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) of South Vietnam
The Parliament of Northern Ireland is suspended.
April 7 – Vietnam War veteran Richard McCoy, Jr. hijacks a United Airlines jet and extorts $500,000; he is later captured.
The U.S. and the Soviet Union join some 70 nations in signing the Biological Weapons Convention, an agreement to ban biological warfare.
Tombs containing bamboo slips, among them Sun Tzu's Art of War and Sun Bin's lost military treatise, are accidentally discovered by construction workers in Shandong.
A 7.0 Richter scale earthquake kills 5,000 people in the Iranian province of Fars.
The 44th Annual Academy Awards are held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.
April 12 – The X-rated animated movie Fritz the Cat is released.
April 13 – The Universal Postal Union decides to recognize the People's Republic of China as the only legitimate Chinese representative, effectively expelling the Republic of China administering Taiwan.
Apollo 16 (John Young, Ken Mattingly, Charlie Duke) is launched. During the mission, the astronauts achieve a lunar rover speed record of 18 km/h.
Vietnam War – Nguyen Hue Offensive: Prompted by the North Vietnamese offensive, the United States resumes bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong.
April 17 – The first Boston Marathon in which women are officially allowed to compete.
April 22 – Sylvia Cook and John Fairfax finish rowing across the Pacific.
April 26 – The Lockheed L-1011 TriStar enters service with Eastern Airlines.
The Burundian Genocide against the Hutu begins; more than 500,000 Hutus die.
A no-confidence vote against German Chancellor Willy Brandt fails under obscure circumstances.
April 29 – The fourth anniversary of the Broadway musical Hair is celebrated with a free concert at a Central Park bandshell, followed by dinner at the Four Seasons. There, 13 Black Panther protesters and the show's co-author, Jim Rado, are arrested for disturbing the peace and for using marijuana.
May 2 – Fire in a silver mine in Idaho kills 91.
May 5 – An Alitalia DC-8 crashes west of Palermo, Sicily; 115 die.
May 7 – General elections are held in Italy.
May 8 – U.S. President Richard Nixon orders the mining of Haiphong Harbor in Vietnam.
May 10 – Operation Linebacker and Operation Custom Tailor begin with large-scale bombing operations against North Vietnam by tactical fighter aircraft.
May 13 – A Fire in a nightclub atop the Sennichi department store in Osaka, Japan, kills 115.
Okinawa is returned to Japan after 27 years of United States occupation.
Governor George C. Wallace of Alabama is shot and paralyzed by Arthur Herman Bremer at a Laurel, Maryland, political rally.
May 16 – The first financial derivatives exchange, the International Monetary Market (IMM), opens on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
May 18 – Four troopers of the British Special Air Service and Special Boat Service are parachuted onto the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2 1,000 miles (1,600 km) across the Atlantic after a bomb threat and ransom demand which turn out to be bogus.
May 19 – Three out of 6 bombs explode in the Axel Springer AG media company offices in Hamburg, Germany, injuring 17; the Red Army Faction claims responsibility.
May 21 – In St. Peter's Basilica (Vatican City), Laszlo Toth attacks Michelangelo's Pietà statue with a geologist's hammer, shouting that he is Jesus Christ.
The Dominion of Ceylon becomes the republic of Sri Lanka under prime minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, when its new constitution is ratified.
Ferit Melen forms the new (interim) government of Turkey (35th government)
May 23 – The Tamil United Front (later known as Tamil United Liberation Front), a pro-Tamil organization, is founded in Sri Lanka.
Scottish Association football club Rangers F.C. win the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, defeating FC Dynamo Moscow 3-2 in the final at Camp Nou in Barcelona (Spain). A pitch invasion by their supporters leads to the team being banned from defending the trophy the following season.
A Red Army Faction bomb explodes in the Campbell Barracks of the U.S. Army Supreme European Command in Heidelberg, West Germany; 3 U.S. soldiers (Clyde Bonner, Ronald Woodard and Charles Peck) are killed.
The Magnavox Odyssey video game system is first demoed, marking the dawn of the video game age; it goes on sale to the public in August.
Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev sign the SALT I treaty in Moscow, as well as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and other agreements.
Wernher von Braun retires from NASA, frustrated by the agency's unwillingness to pursue a manned trans-orbital space program.
Willandra National Park is established in Australia.
May 27 – Mark Donohue wins the Indianapolis 500 in the Penske Racing McLaren–Offenhauser.
The Angry Brigade goes on trial in the United Kingdom.
Three Japanese Red Army members kill 24 and injure 100 in Lod Airport, Israel.
June – Iraq nationalizes the Iraq Petroleum Company.
June 2 – Andreas Baader, Jan-Carl Raspe, Holger Meins and some other members of the Red Army Faction are arrested in Frankfurt am Main after a shootout.
June 3 – Sally Priesand becomes the first female U.S. rabbi.
June 4 – Angela Davis is found not guilty of murder.
June 5 – June 16 – The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment is held in Stockholm, Sweden
Seven men and three women hijack a plane from Czechoslovakia to West Germany.
Vietnam War: Associated Press photographer Nick Ut takes his Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a naked nine-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc running down a road after being burned by napalm.
June 9 – The Black Hills flood kills 238 in South Dakota.
June 11 – Henri Pescarolo (France) and co-driver former World Drivers' Champion Graham Hill (Britain) win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Equipe Matra MS670.
June 14 – June 23 – Hurricane Agnes kills 117 on the U.S. East Coast.
June 14 – Japan Airlines Flight 471 crashes outside of New Delhi airport, killing 82 of 87 occupants.
June 15 – Ulrike Meinhof and Gerhard Müller of the Red Army Faction are arrested in a teacher's apartment in Langenhagen, West Germany.
June 15 – June 18 – The first U.S. Libertarian Party National Convention is held in Denver, Colorado.
June 16 – 108 die as 2 passenger trains hit the debris of a collapsed railway tunnel near Soissons, France.
Watergate scandal: Five White House operatives are arrested for burglarizing the offices of the Democratic National Committee.
The United States returns Okinawa, occupied and governed since the World War II Battle of Okinawa, to Japan.
Chilean president Salvador Allende forms a new government.
Staines air disaster: 118 die when a Trident 1 jet airliner crashes 2 minutes after take off from London Heathrow Airport.
West Germany beats the Soviet Union 3–0 to win Euro 72.
Hong Kong's worst flooding and landslides in recorded history with 653.2 millimetres (25.72 in) of rainfall in the previous 3 days. 67 people die due to building collapses in Mid-levels districts landslide and building collapses, with a further 83 due to flooding-related fatalities. It is the second worst fatality due to building collapses, and the worst flooding in Hong Kong's recorded history.
June 23 – Watergate scandal: U.S. President Richard M. Nixon and White House chief of staff H. R. Haldeman are taped talking about using the C.I.A. to obstruct the F.B.I.'s investigation into the Watergate break-ins.
June 26 – Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney co-found Atari.
June 28 – U.S. President Richard Nixon announces that no new draftees will be sent to Vietnam.
June 29 – Furman v. Georgia: The Supreme Court of the United States rules that capital punishment is unconstitutional.
June 30 – The International Time Bureau adds the first leap second (23:59:60) to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) at the end of the month.
July – U.S. actress Jane Fonda tours North Vietnam, during which she is photographed sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun.
The Canadian ketch Vega, flying the Greenpeace III banner, collides with the French naval minesweeper La Paimpolaise while in international waters, to protest French nuclear weapon tests in the South Pacific.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms becomes independent from the IRS.
July 2 – Following Pakistan's surrender to India in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, both nations sign the historic Simla Agreement, agreeing to settle their disputes bilaterally.
July 4 – The first Rainbow Gathering is held in Colorado.
July 8 – The U.S. sells grain to the Soviet Union for $750 million.
July 10 – India's news agency reports that at least 24 people have been killed in separate incidents, in the Chandka Forest in India, by elephants crazed by heat and drought.
July 10 – July 14 – The Democratic National Convention meets in Miami Beach. Senator George McGovern, who backs the immediate and complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Vietnam, is nominated for President. He names fellow Senator Thomas Eagleton as his running mate.
July 15 – The Pruitt–Igoe housing development is demolished in St. Louis, Missouri.
July 18 – Anwar Sadat expels 20,000 Soviet advisors from Egypt.
Bloody Friday: 22 bombs planted by the Provisional IRA explode in Belfast, Northern Ireland; nine people are killed and 130 seriously injured.
Comedian George Carlin is arrested by Milwaukee police for public obscenity, for reciting his "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television" at Summerfest.
A collision between two trains near Seville, Spain kills 76 people.
July 23 – The United States launches Landsat 1, the first Earth-resources satellite.
July 24 – King Jigme Singye Wangchuck succeeds his father Jigme Dorji Wangchuck as king of Bhutan.
July 25 – U.S. health officials admit that African-Americans were used as guinea pigs in the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.
July 27 – The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle makes its first flight.
July 28 – A national dock strike begins in Britain.
July 31 – The Troubles, Northern Ireland:
Operation Motorman 4:00 AM: The British Army begins to regain control of the "no-go areas" established by Irish republican paramilitaries in Belfast, Derry ("Free Derry") and Newry.
Claudy bombing ("Bloody Monday"), 10:00 AM: Three car bombs in Claudy, County Londonderry, kill 9. It becomes public knowledge only in 2010 that a local Catholic priest was an IRA officer believed to be involved in the bombings but his role was covered up by the authorities.
August 1 – U.S. Senator Thomas Eagleton, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, withdraws from the race after revealing he was once treated for mental illness.
Arthur Bremer is jailed for 63 years for shooting George Wallace.
Dictator Idi Amin declares that Uganda will expel 50,000 Asians with British passports to Britain within 3 months.
A huge solar flare (one of the largest ever recorded) knocks out cable lines in U.S. It begins with the appearance of sunspots on August 2; an August 4 flare kicks off high levels of activity until August 10.
August 10 – A brilliant, daytime meteor skips off the Earth's atmosphere due to an Apollo asteroid streaking over the western US into Canada.
August 14 – An East German Ilyushin airliner crashes near East Berlin; all 156 on board perish.
August 16 – As part of a coup attempt, members of the Royal Moroccan Air Force fire upon, but fail to bring down, Hassan II of Morocco's plane while he is traveling back to Rabat.
August 21 – The Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida renominates U.S. President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew for a second term.
Rhodesia is expelled by the IOC for its racist policies.
John Wojtowicz, 27, and Sal Naturile, 18, hold several Chase Manhattan Bank employees hostage for 17 hours in Gravesend, Brooklyn, N.Y. (an event later dramatized in the film Dog Day Afternoon).
In the Almirante Zar Naval Base, Argentina, 16 detainees are executed by firing squad in the Trelew massacre.
August 26 – September 11 – The 1972 Summer Olympics are held in Munich, West Germany.
Bobby Fischer defeats Boris Spassky in a chess match in Reykjavík, Iceland, becoming the first American world chess champion.
The Second Cod War begins between the United Kingdom and Iceland.
September 4 – The first episode of The Price Is Right is aired on CBS by Bob Barker. Gambit and The Joker's Wild also premiere.
September 5 – September 6 – Munich massacre: Eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich are murdered after 8 members of the Arab terrorist group Black September invade the Olympic Village; 5 guerillas and 1 policeman are also killed in a failed hostage rescue.
September 10 – The Brazilian driver Emerson Fittipaldi wins the Italian Grand Prix at Monza and becomes the youngest Formula One World Champion.
September 14 – West Germany and Poland renew diplomatic relations.
Uganda announces that there are Tanzanian troops in its territory.
The television series M*A*S*H begins its run on CBS.
September 18 – São Paulo Metro is inaugurated in Brazil.
September 19 – A parcel bomb sent to the Israeli Embassy in London kills 1 diplomat.
September 21 – Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos issues Proclamation No. 1081 placing the entire country under martial law.
September 24 – An F-86 fighter aircraft leaving an air show at Sacramento Executive Airport fails to become airborne and crashes into a Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour, killing 12 children and 11 adults.
September 25 – Norwegian EC referendum, 1972: Norway rejects membership in the European Economic Community.
September 28 – The Canadian national men's hockey team defeats the Soviet national ice hockey team in Game 8 of the 1972 Summit Series (French: La Série du Siècle, Russian: Суперсерия СССР — Канада), 6–5, to win the series 4–3–1.
September 29 – Sino-Japanese relations: The Joint Communiqué of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China is signed in Beijing, which normalizes diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China after breaking official ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan).
October – The government of former President of Somalia Mohamed Siad Barre formally introduces the Somali alphabet as Somalia's official writing script.
The first publication reporting the production of a recombinant DNA molecule marks the birth of modern molecular biology methodology.
Alex Comfort's bestselling manual The Joy of Sex is published.
October 2 – Denmark joins the European Community; the Faroe Islands stay out.
October 5 – The United Reformed Church is founded out of the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches.
October 6 – A train crash in Saltillo, Mexico kills 208 people.
A major breakthrough occurs in the Paris peace talks between Henry Kissinger and Lê Đức Thọ.
R. Sargent Shriver is chosen to replace Thomas Eagleton as the U.S. vice-presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.
October 12 – En route to the Gulf of Tonkin, an anti-war protest, the USS Kitty Hawk riot led by African-Americans and interpreted by some as a race riot involving more than 200 sailors, breaks out aboard the United States Navy aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk; nearly 50 sailors are injured.
October 13 – Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571: A Fairchild FH-227D passenger aircraft transporting a rugby union team crashes at about 14,000' in the Andes mountain range, near the Argentina/Chile border. Sixteen of the survivors are found alive December 20 but they have had to resort to cannibalism to survive.
A plane carrying U.S. Congressman Hale Boggs of Louisiana and 3 other men vanishes in Alaska. The wreckage has never been found, despite a massive search at the time.
Rioting Maze Prison inmates cause a fire that destroys most of the camp.
October 17 – Elizabeth II visits Yugoslavia.
The first female FBI agents are hired.
Belgian Eddy Merckx sets a new world hour record in cycling in Mexico City.
October 26 – Following a visit to South Vietnam, U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger suggests that "peace is at hand."
October 28 – The Airbus A300 flies for the first time.
October 29 – Lufthansa Flight 615 is hijacked and threats are made to be blown up if the three surviving perpetrators of the Munich massacre are not released from prison in West Germany. The demands are accepted, leading to fierce condemnation by Israel.
U.S. President Richard Nixon approves legislation to increase Social Security spending by US$5.3 billion.
A commuter train collision in Chicago kills 45, injures hundreds.
At a scientific meeting in Honolulu, Herbert Boyer and Stanley N. Cohen conceive the concept of recombinant DNA. They publish their results in November 1973 in PNAS. Separately in 1972, Paul Berg also recombines DNA in a test tube. Recombinant DNA technology has dramatically changed the field of biological sciences, especially biotechnology, and opened the door to genetically modified organisms.
The Nishitetsu Lions baseball club, part of the NPB's Pacific League, is sold to the Fukuoka Baseball Corporation, a subsidiary of Nishi-Nippon Railroad. The team is renamed the Taiheiyo Club Lions.
November 5 – A group of Amerindians occupies the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
November 7 – U.S. presidential election, 1972: Republican incumbent Richard Nixon defeats Democratic Senator George McGovern in a landslide (the election had the lowest voter turnout since 1948, with only 55 percent of the electorate voting).
November 11 – Vietnam War – Vietnamization: The United States Army turns over the massive Long Binh military base to South Vietnam.
November 14 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 1,000 (1,003.16) for the first time.
November 16 – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization adopts the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage
November 19 – Seán Mac Stíofáin, a leader of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, is arrested in Dublin after giving an interview to RTÉ.
November 22 – Vietnam War: The United States loses its first B-52 Stratofortress of the war.
November 28 – The last executions in Paris, France. Roger Bontems and Claude Buffet – the Clairvaux Mutineers – are guillotined at La Santé Prison by chief executioner André Obrecht . Bontems had been found innocent of murder by the court, but as Buffet's accomplice is condemned to death anyway. President Georges Pompidou, in private an abolitionist, upholds both death sentences in deference to French public opinion.
Atari kicks off the first generation of video games with the release of their seminal arcade version of Pong, the first game to achieve commercial success.
The "tea house" Mellow Yellow opens on the Amstel River in Amsterdam, pioneering the legal sale of cannabis in the Netherlands.
Vietnam War: White House Press Secretary Ron Ziegler tells the press that there will be no more public announcements concerning United States troop withdrawals from Vietnam, due to the fact that troop levels are now down to 27,000.
Cod War: British Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home says that Royal Navy ships will be stationed to protect British trawlers off Iceland.
December 2 – Edward Gough Whitlam becomes the first Labor Party Prime Minister of Australia for 23 years. He is sworn in on 5 December and his first action using executive power is to withdraw all Australian personnel from the Vietnam War.
Apollo 17 (Gene Cernan, Ronald Evans, Harrison Schmitt), the last manned Moon mission to date, is launched and "The Blue Marble" photograph of the Earth is taken.
The Provisional Irish Republican Army kidnaps Jean McConville in Belfast.
Imelda Marcos is stabbed and seriously wounded by an assailant; her bodyguards shoot him.
United Airlines Flight 553 crashes short of the runway, killing 43 of 61 passengers and 2 people on the ground.
Over $10,000 cash is found in the purse of Watergate conspirator Howard Hunt's wife.
International Human Rights Day is proclaimed by the United Nations.
December 11– Apollo 17 lands on the Moon.
December 14 – Apollo program: Eugene Cernan is the last person to walk on the moon, after he and Harrison Schmitt complete the third and final Extra-vehicular activity (EVA) of Apollo 17. This is the last manned mission to the moon of the 20th century.
The Commonwealth of Australia ordains equal pay for women.
The United Nations Environment Programme is established as a specialized agency of the United Nations.
The Constitution of Bangladesh comes into effect.
The Portuguese army kills 400 Africans in Tete, Mozambique.
December 19 – Apollo program: Apollo 17 returns to Earth, concluding the program of lunar exploration.
East Germany and West Germany recognize each other.
ZANLA troopers attack Altera Farm in north-east Rhodesia.
Australia establishes diplomatic relations with China and East Germany.
A peace delegation that includes singer-activist Joan Baez and human rights attorney Telford Taylor visit Hanoi to deliver Christmas mail to American prisoners of war (they will be caught in the Christmas bombing of North Vietnam).
A 6.25 Richter scale earthquake in Nicaragua kills 5,000–12,000 people in the capital, Managua; President Anastasio Somoza Debayle is later accused of pocketing millions of dollars worth of foreign aid intended for relief.
The Pittsburgh Steelers win their first ever post-season NFL game, defeating the Oakland Raiders 13–7, on a last second play that becomes known as The Immaculate Reception.
Swedish Prime minister Olof Palme compares the American bombings of North Vietnam to Nazi massacres. The U.S. breaks diplomatic contact with Sweden.
December 25 – The Christmas bombing of North Vietnam causes widespread criticism of the U.S. and President Richard Nixon.
December 26 – Former United States President Harry S. Truman dies in Kansas City, Missouri.
December 28 – The bones of Martin Bormann are identified in Berlin.
December 29 – Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 crashes into the Everglades in Florida, killing 101 of 176 on board. It is the first hull-loss of a wide-body aircraft.
Roberto Clemente dies in a plane crash off the coast of Puerto Rico while en route to deliver aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.
An extra leap second (23:59:60) is added to end the year.
The US ban on the pesticide DDT takes effect.
The International Year of the Book is designated by UNESCO.
The last major epidemic of smallpox in Europe breaks out in Yugoslavia.
The United Kingdom begin to train Special Air Service for anti-terrorist duties.
The first women are admitted to Dartmouth College in the United States.
Colombian looters find Ciudad Perdida but keep it a secret until the government reveals it in 1975.
The Yellow River dries up for the first time in known history.
Worship of Norse gods is officially approved in Iceland.
The Climatic Research Unit is founded by climatologist Hubert Lamb at the University of East Anglia.
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia bans the cultural organization Matica hrvatska, founded in 1842.
The German company SAP AG is founded.
Kadir Nurman introduces a sandwich made with döner kebab meat as a fast-food item in Berlin.
Burt Reynolds poses nude for the centerfold of the April edition of Cosmopolitan (magazine).
Film director Stanley Kubrick asks Warner Bros. to withdraw A Clockwork Orange from exhibition in the UK following death threats made against his family. The film does not receive a public viewing in the country for another 27 years.
Motown moves all of its operations from Detroit to Los Angeles in June.
Yoon Chan, South Korean actor
Jennifer Hale, American voice actress
Barron Miles, Canadian defensive back for the BC Lions in the CFL
Lilian Thuram, French football player
January 4 – Brad Zavisha, Canadian ice hockey player
Jang Seo-hee, South Korean actress
Sakis Rouvas, Greek recording, film and television artist; model; businessman and former pole vaulter
January 9 – Mat Hoffman, American BMX rider
January 10 – Thomas Alsgaard, Norwegian cross-country skier
January 11 – Amanda Peet, American actress
January 12 – Espen Knutsen, Norwegian hockey player
Nicole Eggert, American actress
Yukiko Iwai, Japanese voice actress
Vitaly Scherbo, Belarusian gymnast
Il Mi Chung, South Korean golfer
Claudia Winkleman, British television presenter
Yang Yong-eun, South Korean golfer
Ruben Bagger, Danish footballer
Ang Christou, Australian rules footballer
Dameon Clarke, Canadian actor and voice actor
Yuri Alekseevich Drozdov, Russian footballer
Ezra Hendrickson, Vincentian footballer
Salah Hissou, Moroccan long-distance runner
Joe Horn, American football player
Greg Page, Australian musician and actor
Alen Peternac, Croatian footballer
January 17 – Ken Hirai, Japanese singer and songwriter
January 18 – Mike Lieberthal, American baseball player
January 19 – Angham, Egyptian singer, record producer and actress
January 20 - Nikki Haley, Indian-American politician, Governor of South Carolina since 2010 and nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
January 21 – Billel Dziri, Algerian footballer
Gabriel Macht, American actor
Romi Park, Japanese voice actress
Ewen Bremner, Scottish actor
Marcel Wouda, Dutch swimmer
Wynne Evans, Welsh operatic tenor
Mark Owen, British pop singer (Take That)
Keith Wood, Irish rugby player
January 29 – Matt Brandstein, American writer
Dana International, Israeli transsexual singer, Eurovision Song Contest 1998 winner
Klára Dobrev, wife of Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány
Hendrick Ramaala, South African long-distance runner
Hisashi Tonomura, Japanese musician
February 3 – Jesper Kyd, Danish video game composer
February 4 – Giovanni Silva de Oliveira, Brazilian footballer
Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark
Koriki Chōshū, Japanese comedian
February 8 – Big Show, American professional wrestler
Crispin Freeman, American voice actor
Norbert Rózsa, Hungarian swimmer
Craig Jones, American musician
Steve McManaman, British footballer
Kelly Slater, American professional surfer
Drew Bledsoe, American football player
Rob Thomas, American singer-songwriter (Matchbox Twenty)
February 15 – Jaromír Jágr, Czech hockey player
February 16 – Jerome Bettis, American football player
Billie Joe Armstrong, American rock musician and lead singer/guitarist (Green Day)
Philippe Candeloro, French figure skater
Yuki Isoya, Japanese singer
Valeria Mazza, Argentinean model and businesswoman
February 18 – Olexandra Timoshenko, Ukrainian rhythmic gymnast
February 19 – Malky Mackay, Scottish footballer
February 21 – Seo Taiji, Korean musician
Michael Chang, American tennis player
Claudia Pechstein, German speed-skater
Pooja Bhatt, Indian actress
Richard Chelimo, Kenyan athlete (d. 2001)
February 25 – Jaak Mae, Estonian cross-country skier
February 26 – Keith Ferguson, American voice actor
Antonio Sabàto, Jr., Italian actor
Dave Williams, American musician and singer of Drowning Pool (d. 2002)
Saul Williams, American singer, poet and actor
March 3 – Darren Anderton, English footballer
Nocturno Culto, Norwegian musician
Pae Gil-su, North Korean gymnast
Ivy Queen, Puerto Rican-American actress, singer-songwriter and record producer
Jos Verstappen, Dutch race car driver
Shaquille O'Neal, African-American basketball player
Jaret Reddick, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
Ronald Cheng, Hong Kong singer and actor
Spencer Howson, Australian radio announcer
Travis Lane Stork, American emergency room physician and television personality
Takashi Fujii (Matthew Minami), Japanese television performer
Matt Kenseth, American race car driver
Michael Lucas, Russian gay pornographic actor and director
Timbaland, American record producer, songwriter and rapper
Leigh-Allyn Baker, American actress
Common, African-American rapper and actor
Trent Dilfer, American football player
March 15 – Mark Hoppus, American musician
Mia Hamm, American soccer player
Paige Hemmis, American television personality
March 18 – Dane Cook, American comedian
Chris Candido, American professional wrestler (d. 2005)
Derartu Tulu, Ethiopian long-distance runner
Shawn Bradley, American basketball player
Cory Lidle, American baseball player (d. 2006)
Elvis Stojko, Canadian figure skater
Joe Calzaghe, Welsh boxer
Judith Godrèche, French actress
March 26 – Leslie Mann, American actress and comedian
Ignacio Garrido, Spanish golfer
Charlie Haas, American professional wrestler
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Dutch footballer
Ben Richards, British actor, better known for his role in The Bill
Nick Frost, English actor, comedian and screenwriter
Eby J. Jose, Indian journalist and human rights activist
Hera Björk, Icelandic singer
Junichi Suwabe, Japanese voice actor
March 30 – Karel Poborský, Czech Republic football player
April 3 – Jennie Garth, American actress
Tag Adams, American pornographic film actor
Bastian Pastewka, German comedian and actor
Lisa Ray, Canadian model and actress
April 5 – Junko Takeuchi, Japanese voice actress
April 6 – Jason Hervey, American actor
Ariel Hernandez, Cuban boxer
Sung Kang, Korean actor
April 7 – Tim Peake, British astronaut.
April 9 – Bernard Ackah, Ivorian mixed martial artist and comedian
April 10 – Vincent Zhao, Chinese actor and martial artist
Balls Mahoney, American professional wrestler (d. 2016)
Jason Varitek, American baseball player
April 12 – Şebnem Ferah, Turkish singer and songwriter
April 13 – Mariusz Czerkawski, Polish ice hockey player
April 14 – Dean Potter, American free climber (d. 2015)
April 15 – Arturo Gatti, Canadian boxer (d. 2009)
April 16 – Conchita Martínez, Spanish tennis player
Tony Boselli, American football player
Jennifer Garner, American actress
Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lankan cricketer
Terran Sandwith, Canadian ice hockey player
April 19 – Rivaldo, Brazilian footballer
Lê Huỳnh Đức, Vietnamese footballer
Carmen Electra, American actress and singer
Željko Joksimović, Serbian singer, composer songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer
Marko Kon, Serbian composer, producer and singer
Stephen Marley, Jamaican-American musician
April 23 – Choky Ice, Hungarian porn actor
Chad I Ginsburg, American musician and record producer (CKY)
Chipper Jones, American baseball player
April 26 – Avi Nimni, Israeli footballer
April 29 – Fredrik Kempe, Swedish songwriter and opera and pop singer
April 30 – Takako Tokiwa, Japanese actress
May 1 – Julie Benz, American actress
Paul Adcock, English footballer
Dwayne Johnson, American professional wrestler and actor
May 3 – Vyacheslav Kozlov, Russian hockey player
May 4 – Mike Dirnt, American rock musician and bassist (Green Day)
May 5 – James Cracknell, British Olympic winning rower
Janne Blomqvist, Finnish swimmer
Martin Brodeur, Canadian hockey goaltender
Naoko Takahashi, Japanese long-distance runner
May 7 – Asghar Farhadi, Iranian film director
Darren Hayes, Australian musician
Ray Whitney, Canadian former NHL player
Lisa Ann, American pornographic actress
Daniela Silivaș, Romanian gymnast
Radosław Majdan, Polish goalkeeper
Katja Seizinger, German alpine skier
May 14 – Amma Asante, Dutch politician
May 15 – Richard Blackwood, English comedian, actor and rapper
Derek Mears, American actor/stuntman
Khary Payton, American actor
Tyson Cane, American gay pornographic actor
Roman Genn, Russian artist
Jenny Berggren, Swedish rock singer (Ace of Base)
Claudia Karvan, Australian actress
Stephanie Nadolny, American voice actress and singer
Andreas Lundstedt, Swedish singer and actor (Alcazar)
Busta Rhymes, African-American rapper and actor
The Notorious B.I.G., African-American rapper (d. 1997)
Kaoru Fujino, Japanese voice actress
Max Brooks, American horror author and screenwriter
Alison Eastwood, American actress
May 23 – Rubens Barrichello, Brazilian race car driver
Karan Johar, Indian film director, producer, and screenwriter
Jules Jordan, American pornographic movie director, actor, and producer
May 26 – Ahmad Dhani, Indonesian rock musician, songwriter, arranger, and producer
May 28 – Michael Boogerd, Dutch cyclist
May 29 – Stanislas Renoult, French singer
May 30 – Manny Ramírez, Dominican baseball player
Frode Estil, Norwegian cross-country skier
Dave Roberts, American baseball player
June 1 – Rick Gomez, American actor
Wayne Brady, African-American comedian
Wentworth Miller, American actor and screenwriter
Derian Hatcher, American ice hockey player
Debra Stephenson, English actress
Stoja, Serbian pop-folk singer
Mike Bucci, American professional wrestler
Paweł Kotla, Polish conductor
Chokoleit, Filipino comedian and actor
June 6 – Cristina Scabbia, Italian singer
June 7 – Karl Urban, New Zealand actor
June 8 – Chapman To, Hong Kong actor
June 10 – Steven Fischer, American film producer and director
June 14 – Matthias Ettrich, German computer scientist
June 15 – Andy Pettitte, American baseball player
June 16 – John Cho, Korean-American actor and musician
Iztok Čop, Slovenian rower
Rikrok, British-Jamaican singer
June 18 – Roger "Infernus" Tiegs, Norwegian black metal musician, original member of Gorgoroth
Jean Dujardin, French actor, comedian, and film director
Rayveness, American porn actress
June 20 – Shane Hamman, American Olympic weightlifter and powerlifter
June 21 – Irene van Dyk, South African–born netball player
June 22 – Miguel del Toro, Mexican baseball player
June 23 – Zinedine Zidane, French footballer
Robbie McEwen, Australian professional road bicycle racer
Denis Žvegelj, Slovenian rower
June 25 – Carlos Delgado, Puerto Rican baseball player
Maria Butyrskaya, Russian figure skater
Jon Heidenreich, American professional wrestler
Samantha Smith, American peace activist (d. 1985)
Nawal Al Zoghbi, Lebanese singer
June 30 – Molly Parker, Canadian actress
July 3 – Asha Gill, British-born television host
Alexei Shirov, Spanish chess Grandmaster
Craig Spearman, New Zealand cricketer
July 5 -- Robert Esmie, American Olympic athlete
July 6 – Mark Gasser, British concert pianist
Stoney Case, American football player
Lisa Leslie, American basketball player
July 8 – Sourav Ganguly, Indian cricketer
Sofía Vergara, Colombian actress and model
Tilo Wolff, German musician
Travis Best, American basketball player
Jake Wood, English actor
July 13 – Sean Waltman, American professional wrestler
July 14 – Masami Suzuki, Japanese voice actress
July 18 – Fredrik Åkesson, Swedish guitarist
July 19 – Daedalus Howell, American writer and filmmaker
July 21 – Catherine Ndereba, Kenyan long-distance runner
Andrew Holness, 9th Prime Minister of Jamaica
Keyshawn Johnson, American football player
July 23 – Marlon Wayans, American actor, comedian, producer, and screenwriter
July 26 – Nathan Buckley, Australian rules footballer
Takako Fuji, Japanese actress
Maya Rudolph, American actress, comedian
Takashi Shimizu, Japanese director
Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, Malaysian orthopaedic surgeon and the first commercial astronaut
Elizabeth Berkley, American actress
Yum Jung-ah, South Korean actress
July 29 – Wil Wheaton, American actor
July 31 – Tami Stronach, Iranian-born dancer and former actress
Marc Costanzo, Canadian musician
Devon Hughes, American professional wrestler
Chris Bender, American musician (d. 1991)
Kelly Richardson, Canadian contemporary artist
August 3 – Patrik Isaksson, Swedish singer and songwriter
August 6 – Geri Halliwell, British pop singer (Spice Girls)
Sarah Cawood, British television presenter
Karen Disher, American voice actress
Brad Patton, Swedish pornographic actor
August 9 – A-mei, Taiwanese singer
August 10 – Angie Harmon, American actress
August 11 – Jonathon Prandi, American model and actor
Demir Demirkan, Turkish rock musician and songwriter
Jonathan Coachman, American World Wrestling Entertainment announcer
August 13 – Kevin Plank, American entrepreneur (Under Armour)
Takako Honda, Japanese voice actress
Yoo Jae-suk, South Korean comedian and television comedy show host
Ed O'Bannon, American basketball player
Ben Affleck, American actor and film director
Mikey Graham, Irish singer (Boyzone)
Jonathan Slinger, British actor
Frankie Boyle, Scottish comedian
Emily Robison, American country music performer (Dixie Chicks)
August 17 – Ken Ryker, American pornographic actor
August 18 – Leo Ku, Hong Kong actor and singer
August 19 – Sammi Cheng, Hong Kong singer and actress
August 20 – Chaney Kley, American actor (d. 2007)
August 23 – Anthony Calvillo, Canadian Football League quarterback
August 25 – Marvin Harrison, American football player
August 26 – Samar Kokash, Syrian actress and voice actress
Jimmy Pop, American musician
Mike Smith, Canadian actor
The Great Khali, (Dalip Singh Rana), Indian promoter, actor, powerlifter and professional wrestler
August 29 – Bae Yong-joon, South Korean actor
Cameron Diaz, American actress
Pavel Nedvěd, Czech footballer
September 2 – Sergejs Žoltoks, Latvian hockey player (d. 2004)
September 4 – Françoise Yip, Chinese-Canadian actress
Idris Elba, English actor
Martin Gooch, English filmmaker
Anika Noni Rose, American actress
September 7 – Sean Daley, American hip-hop musician (Atmosphere)
Lisa Kennedy Montgomery, American disc jockey and political satirist
Os du Randt, South African rugby player
Tomokazu Seki, Japanese voice actor
September 9 – Natasha Kaplinsky, English newsreader
Sara Groves, American Christian musician
Bledar Sejko, Albanian guitarist, composer, and singer
Ghada Shouaa, Syrian athlete
Rio Tahara, Japanese snowboarder
September 12 – Budi Putra, Indonesian journalist, writer and blogger
September 13 – Kelly Chen, Hong Kong actress and singer
Queen Letizia of Spain
Jimmy Carr, British comedian
Sprent Dabwido, Nauruan politician
Alessandro "Lord Vampyr" Nunziati, Italian singer, record producer and writer (Theatres des Vampires, Cain, Lord Vampyr's Shadowsreign)
Vebjørn Rodal, Norwegian Olympic athlete
September 17 – Bobby Lee, Asian-American comedian
Jim Druckenmiller, National Football League quarterback
Ashot Nadanian, Armenian chess player, theoretician and coach
Liam Gallagher, British singer (Oasis)
Jon Kitna, American football player
Dana Vespoli, American porn actress and director
Matthew Rush, American gay pornographic actor
Ana Marie Cox, American author and blogger
Karl Pilkington, English radio producer
September 24 – Karyn Bosnak, American author
September 26 – Shawn Stockman, American singer and musician (Boyz II Men)
Sylvia Crawley, American basketball player
Gwyneth Paltrow, American actress
September 28 – Dita Von Teese, American burlesque artist
September 29 – Robert Webb, comedian and actor
Ari Behn, Norwegian author
José Lima, Dominican baseball player (d. 2010)
Shaan, Indian singer
October 1 – Jean Paulo Fernandes, Brazilian footballer
October 2 – Konstantinos Papadakis, Greek pianist
Kim Joo-hyuk, South Korean actor
Guy Oseary, Israeli-American businessman
October 4 – Van Darkholme, Vietnamese-American gay pornographic actor, director, and photographer
Aaron Guiel, Canadian baseball player
Grant Hill, African-American basketball player
Anders Iwers, Swedish musician
Ko So-young, South Korean actress
J. J. Stokes, American football player
October 8 – Kim Myung-min, South Korean actor
October 9 – Etan Patz, missing American schoolboy
October 10 – Jun Lana, Filipino playwright and screenwriter
October 11 – Claudia Black, Australian actress
October 12 – Mechele Linehan, American murderer
October 15 – Sandra Kim, Belgian singer, Eurovision Song Contest 1986 winner
Eminem, American rapper and actor
Sharon Leal, American actress and director
Tarkan, Turkish singer
October 19 – Sayaka Aoki, Japanese voice actress
Evgeny Afineevsky, Russian-born American film director and producer.
Masakazu Morita, Japanese voice actor
Evhen Tsybulenko, Ukrainian professor of international law
D'Lo Brown, American professional wrestler
Saffron Burrows, British actress
Kim Ji-soo, South Korean actress
Scott Peterson, American convicted murderer
Pat Williams, American football player
Lee Clark, English footballer
Elissa, Lebanese singer
Marika Krook, Finnish singer (Edea)
Maria de Lurdes Mutola, Mozambican athlete
Brad Radke, American baseball player
Terrell Davis, American football player
Brad Paisley, American country music singer-songwriter
Takafumi Horie, Japanese entrepreneur
Tracee Ellis Ross, American actress
Gabrielle Union, American actress
October 31 – Matt Dawson, English rugby player and TV personality
Mario Barth, German comedian
Toni Collette, Australian actress, singer, and musician
Jenny McCarthy, American actress and model
Naoki Yanagi, Japanese voice actor
Vladimir Vorobiev, Russian ice hockey player
Samantha Womack, British actress
November 4 – Luís Figo, Portuguese footballer
November 5 – Krassimir Avramov, Bulgarian singer and songwriter
Adonis Georgiades, Greek historian and politician, Greek Minister of Health
Thandie Newton, British actress
Rebecca Romijn, American actress and model
November 7 – Danny Grewcock, British rugby player
Maja Marijana, Serbian pop-folk singer
Gretchen Mol, American actress
Eric Dane, American actor
Doug Russell, American sports media personality
Naomi Shindō, Japanese voice actor
Lou Brutus, American radio host, musician and photographer
Shawn Green, American baseball player
November 11 – Adam Beach, Canadian actor
November 13 – Takuya Kimura, Japanese actor
Matt Bloom, American wrestler
Josh Duhamel, American actor and model
November 15 – Jonny Lee Miller, English American actor
Aurelia Dobre, Romanian artistic gymnast
Missi Pyle, American actress and singer
Veronica Avluv, American porn actress
Alf-Inge Håland, Norwegian footballer
November 26 – Arjun Rampal, Indian actor
November 28 – Jesper Strömblad, Swedish musician
November 29 – Andreas Goldberger, Austrian ski jumper
November 30 – Christopher Fitzgerald, American actor
Marc Bator, German journalist and television presenter
Yūko Miyamura, Japanese voice actress, actress and singer
December 5 – Cole Youngblood, American pornographic actor
December 6 – Mónica Santa María, Peruvian model and TV host (d. 1994)
Hermann Maier, Austrian skier
Tammy Lynn Sytch, American wrestling manager and personality
Jason Winer, American actor, comedian, writer, director and producer
December 9 – Tré Cool, American rock musician and drummer (Green Day)
December 10 – Brian Molko, American musician (Placebo)
Daniel Alfredsson, Swedish-Canadian former ice hockey player
LaMont Smith, American Olympic athlete
Wilson Kipketer, Danish athlete
Brandon Teena, American murder victim (d. 1993)
December 13 – Chris Grant, Australian footballer
December 14 – Miranda Hart, British Comedian and Actress
Rodney Harrison, American football player
Lee Jung-jae, South Korean actor
Stuart Townsend, Irish actor
December 16 – Angela Bloomfield, New Zealand actress
John Abraham, Indian actor
Laurie Holden, American-Canadian actress and human rights activist
Alyssa Milano, American actress
Rosa Blasi, American actress
Warren Sapp, American football player
December 22 – Vanessa Paradis, French singer and actress
Morgan, Italian singer, composer, multi-instrumentalist and X Factor (Italy) judge
Christian Potenza, Canadian actor/voice actor
December 24 – Klaus Schnellenkamp, German-Chilean author
Josh Freese, American musician and drummer
Qu Yunxia, Chinese middle-distance runner
December 26 – Shane Meadows, English director
December 27 – Colin Charvis, Welsh rugby player
Patrick Rafter, Australian tennis player
Adam Vinatieri, American football player
December 29 – Jude Law, British actor
December 30 – Kerry Collins, American football player
December 31 – Joey McIntyre, American actor and singer (New Kids on the Block)
Imaani, English singer, Eurovision Song Contest 1998 runner-up
Marente de Moor, Dutch writer
Jakob Martin Strid, Danish cartoonist
Artur Żurawski, Polish cinematographer and director
January 1 – Maurice Chevalier, French entertainer (b. 1888)
January 6 – Chen Yi, Chinese communist military commander and politician (b. 1901)
January 7 – Emma P. Carr, American spectroscopist (b. 1880)
Edwin Hugh Lundie, American architect (b. 1886)
Kenneth Patchen, American poet and painter (b. 1911)
Wesley Ruggles, American film director (b. 1889)
January 9 – Ted Shawn, American dancer (b. 1891)
January 10 – Aksel Larsen, Danish politician (b. 1897)
January 14 – King Frederick IX of Denmark (b. 1899)
January 16 – Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., American record producer (Alvin and the Chipmunks) (b. 1919)
Rochelle Hudson, American actress (b. 1916)
Betty Smith, American writer (b. 1896)
January 18 – Clarence Earl Gideon, Defendant during civil rights court case (Gideon v. Wainwright) (b. 1910)
January 24 – Jerome Cowan, American actor (b. 1897)
January 25 – Erhard Milch, German field marshal and Luftwaffe officer (b. 1892)
January 26 – Mahalia Jackson, African-American gospel singer (b. 1911)
January 31 – King Mahendra of Nepal (b. 1920)
February 2 – Jessie Royce Landis, American actress (b. 1896)
February 3 – John Litel, American actor (b. 1892)
February 4 – Orlando Ward, American general (b. 1891)
February 5 – Marianne Moore, American poet (b. 1887)
February 7 – Walter Lang, American film director (b. 1896)
February 11 – Jan Wils, Dutch architect (b. 1891)
February 19 – John Grierson, Scottish documentary filmmaker (b. 1898)
Maria Goeppert-Mayer, German physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1906)
Walter Winchell, American journalist (b. 1897)
February 21 – Zhang Guohua, Chinese general and politician (b. 1914)
Tedd Pierce, American animator (b. 1906)
Dan Katchongva, Native American traditional leader (b. 1860)
February 27 – Pat Brady, American actor (b. 1914)
March 4 – Harold Barrowclough, New Zealand general, lawyer, and chief justice (b. 1894)
Fredric Brown, American science fiction and mystery writer (b. 1906).
Zack Wheat, American baseball player (Brooklyn Dodgers) and a member of the MLB Hall of Fame (b. 1888)
Len Ford, American football player (Cleveland Browns) and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (b. 1926)
Tony Ray-Jones, British photographer (b. 1941)
March 16 – Pie Traynor, American baseball player (Pittsburgh Pirates) and a member of the MLB Hall of Fame (b. 1898)
March 20 – Marilyn Maxwell, American actress (b. 1921)
March 21 – David McCallum, Sr., British violinist and father of actor David McCallum (b. 1897)
March 23 – Cristóbal Balenciaga, Spanish couturier (b. 1895)
Sharkey Bonano, American jazz musician (b. 1904)
M. C. Escher, Dutch artist (b. 1898)
March 29 – J. Arthur Rank, British industrialist and film producer (b. 1888)
Franz Halder, German general (b. 1884)
Gil Hodges, American baseball player (b. 1924)
April 3 – Ferde Grofé, American pianist and composer (b. 1892)
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., American politician (b. 1908)
Elsa Ratassepp, Estonian actress (b. 1893)
Stefan Wolpe, German-born composer (b. 1902)
Brian Donlevy, American actor (b. 1901)
Isabel Jewell, American actress (b. 1907)
April 6 – Heinrich Lübke, 6th President of Germany (b. 1894)
Betty Blythe, American actress (b. 1893)
Abeid Karume, President of Zanzibar (b. 1905)
August Zaleski, 2nd President of Poland (b. 1883)
April 9 – James F. Byrnes, United States Secretary of State and Justice of the Supreme Court (b. 1879)
April 11 – George H. Plympton, American screenwriter (b. 1889)
April 13 – Dorothy Dalton, American actress (b. 1893)
April 16 – Yasunari Kawabata, Japanese writer, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1899)
April 25 – George Sanders, British actor (b. 1906)
April 26 – Fernando Amorsolo, Filipino painter (b. 1892)
April 27 – Kwame Nkrumah, Ghanaian politician, 1st President of Ghana (b. 1909)
April 30 – Gia Scala, British actress (b. 1934)
May 2 – J. Edgar Hoover, American Federal Bureau of Investigation director (b. 1895)
May 3 – Bruce Cabot, American actor (b. 1904)
May 4 – Edward Calvin Kendall, American chemist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1886)
Martiros Saryan, Armenian painter (b. 1880)
Frank Tashlin, American film director (b. 1913)
May 6 – Deniz Gezmiş, Turkish revolutionary (b. 1947)
May 12 – Steve Ihnat, American actor (b. 1934)
May 13 – Dan Blocker, American actor (Bonanza) (b. 1928)
May 18 – Sidney Franklin, American film director (b. 1893)
Cecil Day-Lewis, British poet (b. 1904)
Dame Margaret Rutherford, English actress (b. 1892)
May 23 – Richard Day, Canadian art director (b. 1896)
Asta Nielsen, Danish silent film actress (b. 1881)
Ismail Yassine, Egyptian comedian and actor (b. 1912)
May 28 – The Duke of Windsor (the former King Edward VIII; b. 1894)
May 29 – Prithviraj Kapoor, Indian actor and director (b. 1901)
May 31 – Walter Freeman, American physician (b. 1895)
June 10 – Edward Milford, Australian general (b. 1894)
Saul Alinsky, American political activist (b. 1909)
Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Austrian biologist (b. 1901)
Edmund Wilson, American writer and critic (b. 1895)
Georg von Békésy, Hungarian biophysicist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1899)
Stephanie von Hohenlohe, Austrian-born German World War II spy (b. 1891)
Clyde McPhatter, American singer (b. 1932)
Felix Stump, American admiral (b. 1894)
June 18 – Milton Humason, American astronomer (b. 1891)
June 22 – Vladimir Durković, Serbian footballer (b. 1937)
June 25 – Jan Matulka, American painter (b. 1890)
July 2 – Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (b. 1876)
July 5 – Raúl Leoni, President of Venezuela (b. 1905)
July 6 – Brandon deWilde, American actor (b. 1942)
July 7 – King Talal of Jordan (b. 1909)
Ralph Craig, American athlete (b. 1889)
King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck of Bhutan (b. 1929)
July 22 – Max Aub, Mexican-Spanish novelist (b. 1903)
July 24 – Lance Reventlow, American playboy and race car driver (b. 1936)
Américo Castro, Spanish historian and philologist (b. 1885)
Oscar Elton Sette, American fisheries scientist (b. 1900)
July 27 – Count Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, Austrian-Japanese politician, geopolitician and philosopher (b. 1894)
July 28 – Helen Traubel, American soprano (b. 1903)
Alfons Gorbach, Austrian politician, former Federal Chancellor (b. 1903)
Paul-Henri Spaak, Belgian statesman and diplomat, former Prime Minister and Secretary General of NATO (b. 1899)
Joi Lansing, American actress (b. 1928)
Tom Neal, American actor (b. 1914)
August 8 – Andrea Feldman, American actress (b. 1948)
August 11 – Max Theiler, South African virologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1899)
Oscar Levant, American pianist and actor (b. 1906)
Jules Romains, French poet and writer (b. 1885)
August 16 – Pierre Brasseur, French actor (b. 1905)
Rudolf Belling, German sculptor (b. 1886)
James Patterson, American actor (b. 1932)
August 20 – Harold Rainsford Stark, American admiral (b. 1880)
August 21 – Heinz Ziegler, German general (b. 1894)
August 24 – Jinichi Kusaka, Japanese admiral (b. 1888)
August 25 – Juan Carlos Paz, Argentine composer and music theorist (b. 1901)
August 26 – Francis Chichester, British sailor and aviator (b. 1901)
August 27 – Yung Fung-shee, Hong Kong philanthropist (b. 1900)
August 28 – Prince William of Gloucester (b. 1941)
August 29 – René Leibowitz, French composer (b. 1913)
September 1 – He Xiangning, Chinese revolutionary, feminist, politician, painter and poet (b. 1878)
September 2 – Ivan Yumashev, Soviet admiral (b. 1895)
September 5 (Munich massacre):
Yossef Romano, Israeli weightlifter (b. 1940)
Moshe Weinberg, Israeli wrestling coach (b. 1939)
September 6 (Munich massacre):
David Mark Berger, Israeli weightlifter (b. 1944)
Ze'ev Friedman, Israeli weightlifter (b. 1944)
Yossef Gutfreund, Israeli wrestling referee (b. 1932)
Eliezer Halfin, Israeli wrestler (b. 1948)
Amitzur Shapira, Israeli athletics coach (b. 1932)
Kehat Shorr, Israeli shooting coach (b. 1919)
Mark Slavin, Israeli wrestler (b. 1954)
Andre Spitzer, Israeli fencing coach (b. 1945)
Yakov Springer, Israeli weightlifting judge (b. c. 1921)
September 8 – Warren Kealoha, American Olympic swimmer (b. 1904)
September 11 – Max Fleischer, American animator (b. 1883)
September 12 – William Boyd, American actor (b. 1895)
September 14 – Lane Chandler, American actor (b. 1899)
Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury (b. 1887)
H. Kent Hewitt, American admiral (b. 1887)
Thomas L. Sprague, American admiral (b. 1894)
Akim Tamiroff, Russian actor (b. 1899)
September 19 – Robert Casadesus, French pianist (b. 1899)
September 21 – Henry de Montherlant, French writer (b. 1896)
Charles Correll, American radio actor (b. 1890)
Robert E. Dolan, American composer (b. 1906)
October 1 – Louis Leakey, British paleontologist (b. 1903)
October 5 – Ivan Yefremov, Soviet paleontologist and science fiction author (b. 1907)
Dave Bancroft, American baseball player (Cleveland Indians) and a member of the MLB Hall of Fame (b. 1891)
Miriam Hopkins, American actress (b. 1902)
October 16 – Leo G. Carroll, English actor (b. 1886)
October 18 – Esma Cannon, British actress (b. 1905)
October 20 – Harlow Shapley, American astronomer (b. 1885)
Jackie Robinson, African-American baseball player (Brooklyn Dodgers) and a member of the MLB Hall of Fame (b. 1919)
Claire Windsor, American actress (b. 1892)
October 26 – Igor Sikorsky, Russian aviation engineer (b. 1889)
October 28 – Mitchell Leisen, American film director (b. 1898)
October 29 – Victor Milner, American cinematographer (b. 1893)
November 1 – Ezra Pound, American poet (b. 1885)
November 3 – Harry Richman, American entertainer (b. 1895)
November 5 – Reginald Owen, English actor (b. 1887)
November 12 – Rudolf Friml, Czech composer (b. 1879)
Arnold Jackson, British Olympic athlete (b. 1891)
Margaret Webster, American actress (b. 1905)
November 14 – Martin Dies, Jr., American politician (b. 1900)
November 17 – Thomas C. Kinkaid, American admiral (b. 1888)
November 18 – Danny Whitten, American musician (b. 1943)
November 23 – Marie Wilson, American actress (b. 1916)
November 25 – Henri Coandă, Romanian aerodynamics pioneer (b. 1886)
November 28 – Havergal Brian, English composer (b. 1876)
November 29 – Carl Stalling, American composer (b. 1891)
November 30 – Hans Erich Apostel, Austrian composer (b. 1901)
Antonio Segni, Italian politician, 34th Prime Minister of Italy (1955–1957, 1959–1960), and 4th President of Italy (b. 1891)
Andreas Tzimas, Greek communist politician and Resistance leader (b. 1909)
Ettore Bastico, Italian field marshal (b. 1876)
José Limón, Mexican choreographer (b. 1908)
Yip Man, master of Wing Chun Kung Fu (b. 1893)
December 3 – Bill Johnson, American musician (b. 1872)
December 6 – Janet Munro, British actress (b. 1934)
William Dieterle, German film director (b. 1893)
Louella Parsons, American gossip columnist (b. 1881)
December 12 – Thomas H. Robbins, Jr., American admiral (b. 1900)
December 15 – Edward Earle, Canadian actor (b. 1882)
December 20 – Gabby Hartnett, American baseball player (Chicago Cubs) and a member of the MLB Hall of Fame (b. 1900)
December 21 – Paul Hausser, German Waffen SS general (b. 1880)
December 22 – Jimmy Wallington, American radio personality (b. 1907)
December 23 — Andrei Tupolev, Soviet aircraft designer (b. 1888).
Charles Atlas, Italian-American strongman and sideshow performer (b. 1892)
Gisela Richter, English art historian (b. 1882)
Daniel McVey, Australian public servant (b. 1892)
December 25 – C. Rajagopalachari, Indian politician and freedom-fighter. Last Governor-General of India (1948–50) (b. 1878)
December 26 – Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States (b. 1884)
December 27 – Lester B. Pearson, 14th Prime Minister of Canada, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (b. 1897)
December 28 – Link Lyman, American football player (Chicago Bears) and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (b. 1898)
December 31 – Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rican baseball player (Pittsburgh Pirates) and a member of the MLB Hall of Fame (b. 1934)
Physics – John Bardeen, Leon Neil Cooper, John Robert Schrieffer
Chemistry – Christian B. Anfinsen, Stanford Moore, William H. Stein
Physiology or Medicine – Gerald M. Edelman, Rodney R. Porter
Literature – Heinrich Böll
Peace – not awarded
Economics – John Hicks, Kenneth Arrow
Turing Award – Edsger W. Dijkstra
1972 (MCMLXXII) was a leap year starting on Saturday (dominical letter BA) of the Gregorian calendar, the 1972nd year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 972nd year of the 2nd millennium, the 72nd year of the 20th century, and the 3rd year of the 1970s decade.
Within the context of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) it was the longest year ever, as two leap seconds were added during this 366-day year, an event which has not since been repeated. (If its start and end are defined using mean solar time [the legal time scale], its duration was 31622401.141 seconds of Terrestrial Time (or Ephemeris Time), which is slightly shorter than 1908).