In the year 1959...
- Fidel Castro takes power in Cuba when dictator Fulgencio Batista flees the country.
- In the face of mounting Chinese pressure, the Dalai Lama flees Tibet for India.
- Meanwhile, in China proper, the shortcomings of Mao Zedong's disastrous "Great Leap Forward" policy to hyper-accelerate Chinese industrialization and agricultural collectivization are becoming increasingly obvious, as millions die of starvation.
- Charles de Gaulle is inaugurated president of France's Fifth Republic.
- Singapore and Cyprus gain independence from Great Britain.
- The Cold War drags on. The Space Race continues to heat up as the Soviet Union launches a rocket with two chimpanzees on board while NASA announces 110 candidates for its first manned spaceflight and launches its first satellites - the Explorer and Vanguard series. Meanwhile, back on Earth, the US successfully tests its first Titan ICBM and launches its first nuclear missile-carrying submarine, the USS George Washington. US Vice President Soviet Richard Nixon visits the USSR in July and takes part in the so-called "Kitchen Debate" with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev on the merits of communism versus capitalism. Kruschchev visits the US in September, and has a relatively friendly meeting with US President Eisenhower at Camp David, but is incensed when he is barred from entering Disneyland.
- A typhoon batters Japan, killing more than 5,000.
- Mary Leakey discovers the skull of Australopithecus boisei, a 1.7 million-year-old early hominid, in Tanzania. Her husband Richard Leaky gets most of the fame and credit.
- Nature publishes a paper by Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison suggesting that terrestrial radiotelescopes are sensitive enough to detect radio signals from other stars. The paper ultimately spurs the launch of the SETI program to search for extraterrestrial life.
- The microchip, forerunner of the microprocessor, is invented by Jack Kilby and future Intel founder Robert Noyce.
- February 3 becomes known as "the day the music died" when rock and roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper all die in the same airplane crash outside Mason City, Iowa.
- The Guggenheim Museum opens to the public in New York City.
- The Barbie Doll goes on sale for the first time, and will eventually become the most successful toy line ever.
- The Ford Motor Company discontinues production of the unpopular Edsel after selling less than 110,000 cars.
- The soon-to-be-iconic red double-decker buses are introduced in London.
- Alaska and Hawaii become America's 49th and 50th states.
- Beat poet William Burroughs publishes "Naked Lunch" which will be banned in his native United States until 1966.
- The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music opens on Broadway.
- Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop form the legendary Rat Pack.
- Lee Petty wins the first running of the Daytona 500.
These people were born in 1959:
These people died in 1959:
These movies debuted in 1959:
1958 - 1959 - 1960