Centuries: 19th century - 20th century - 21st century
Decades: 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s - 1980s - 1990s 2000s 2010s 2020s 2030s
Years: 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 - 1986 - 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991
- January 1 - Spain and Portugal enter the European Community
- January 1 - Aruba gains increased autonomy from the Netherlands and is separated from the Netherlands Antilles.
- January 1 - Alfredo Binda, Italian cyclist
- January 9 - After losing a patent battle with Polaroid, Kodak leaves the instant camera business.
- January 12 - Space shuttle Columbia takes-off with the first Hispanic-American[?] astronaut, Dr. Franklin R. Chang-Diaz[?].
- January 20 - The United Kingdom and France announce plans to construct the Channel Tunnel.
- January 20 - The first federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
- January 24 - Voyager 2 space probe makes first encounter with Uranus
- January 28 - Space Shuttle Challenger disaster
- February 7 - 28 years of one-family rule end in Haiti, when President Jean-Claude Duvalier flees the Caribbean nation.
- February 11 - Human Rights[?] activist Anatoly Scharansky[?] is released by USSR, leaves the country.
- February 19 - The Soviet Union launches the Mir space station
- February 19 - After waiting 37 years, the United States Senate approves a treaty outlawing genocide.
- February 25 - President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines flees the nation after 20 years of rule.
- February 26 - After exiled President Ferdinand Marcos leaves the Philippines, Corazon Aquino[?] is inaugurated president.
- February 27 - The United States Senate allows its debates to be televised on a trial basis.
- February 28 - Swedish prime minister Olof Palme is shot dead on his way home from the cinema, his wife the only witness.
- March 2 - Corazon Aquino[?] is inaugurated as President of the Philippines[?].
- March 9 - United States Navy divers find the largely intact but heavily-damaged crew compartment of the Space Shuttle Challenger. The bodies of all seven astronauts were still inside.
- April 3 - IBM unveils the PC Convertible, the first laptop computer.
- April 26 - In the Ukraine, one of the reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear plant explodes creating the worlds worst nuclear disaster[?]. 31 are killed directly by the the incident and many thousands more were exposed to significant amounts of radioactive material.
- April 27 - Captain Midnight[?] (John R. MacDougall) hijacks HBO's satellite and transmits his own message to HBO viewers.
- May 25 - "Hands Across America[?]"
- May 26 - The European Community adopts the European flag.
- July 5 - The Statue of Liberty is reopened to the public after an extensive refurbishing.
- August - Apple Lisa discontinued by Apple.
- August 21 - The Lake Nyos Tragedy occurs, killing nearly 2000 people.
- December 31 - A fire at the Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, kills 97 and injures 140.
Art, Culture & Fashion
- January 14 - Donna Reed[?], actress
- January 24 - L. Ron Hubbard, science fiction writer, founder of Scientology
- January 24 - Gordon MacRae[?], actor, singer
- January 24 - Vincente Minnelli[?], director
- January 27 - Lilli Palmer[?], actress
- January 28 - Crew of Space Shuttle Challenger: Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Greg Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe.
- February 11 - Frank Herbert, science fiction author.
- February 27 - Jacques Plante, ice hockey star
- February 28 - Olof Palme, Swedish prime minister
- March 6 - Georgia O'Keefe[?], artist
- March 10 - Ray Milland, British actor
- March 30 - James Cagney, actor
- April 3 - Richard Manuel[?], musician ("The Band")
- April 14 - Simone de Beauvoir, feminist philosopher
- April 26 - Broderick Crawford, actor
- May 9 - Tenzing Norgay, mountaineer
- May 12 - Elisabeth Bergner, actress
- May 15 - Theodore H. White, writer
- May 23 - Sterling Hayden[?]
- May 25 - Chester Bowles, politician
- June 14 - Jorge Luis Borges, Argentine writer
- August 20 - Milton Acorn, Canadian poet, writer, and playwright
- August 31 - Henry Moore, sculptor
- December 28 - Andrei Tarkovsky, Russian movie director