1852 was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar and a leap year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar, the 1852nd year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 852nd year of the 2nd millennium, the 52nd year of the 19th century, and the 3rd year of the 1850s decade. As of the start of 1852, the Gregorian calendar was 12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.
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- January 14 – President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte proclaims a new constitution for the French Second Republic.
- January 15 – Nine men representing various Jewish charitable organizations come together, to form what will become Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
- January 17 – The United Kingdom recognizes the independence of the Transvaal.
- February 3 – Battle of Caseros or Battle of Monte Caseros, Argentina: The Argentine provinces of Entre Rios and Corrientes, allied with Brazil and members of Colorado Party of Uruguay, defeat Buenos Aires troops under Juan Manuel de Rosas.
- February 11 – The first British public toilet for women opens in Bedford Street, London.
- February 14 – The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, London, admits its first patient.
- February 16 – The Studebaker Brothers Wagon Company, precursor of the automobile manufacturer, is established in South Bend, Indiana.
- February 25 – HMS Birkenhead sinks near Cape Town, British Cape Colony. Only 193 of the 643 on board survive, after troops stand firm on the deck, so as not to overwhelm the lifeboats containing women and children.
- March 1 – Archibald Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton is appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
- March 2 – The first American experimental steam fire engine is tested.
- March 4 – Phi Mu sorority is founded in Macon, Georgia.
- March 17 – Annibale De Gasparis discovers in Naples the asteroid Psyche from the north dome of the Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte.
- March 20 – Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, is published in book form in Boston.
- April 1 – The Second Anglo-Burmese War begins.
- April 18 – Taiping Rebellion: Taiping forces begin the siege of Guilin.
- May 19 – Taiping Rebellion: The siege of Guilin is lifted.
- June 12 – Taiping Rebellion: Taiping forces enter Hunan.
- July 1 – American statesman Henry Clay is the first to receive the honor of lying in state, in the United States Capitol rotunda.
- July 5 – Frederick Douglass delivers his famous speech, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?", in Rochester, New York.
- July 28 – Henry Clay steamboat disaster in Riverdale, Bronx, claims several lives, including Stephen Allen.
- August 3 – The first American intercollegiate athletic event, the Boat Race between Yale and Harvard, is held.
- September 19 – Annibale De Gasparis discovers in Naples the asteroid Massalia from the north dome of the Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte.
- September 24 – French engineer Henri Giffard makes the first airship trip, from Paris to Trappes.
- October 7 – After learning that U.S. President Fillmore has sent Commodore Matthew C. Perry, to open trade with Japan, Nicholas I of Russia sends Rear Admiral Yevfimy Putyatin to lead the Pallada on a similar mission (Putyatin arrives on August 21, 1853, one month after Perry).
- October 16 – After nearly five years' imprisonment in France, former Algerian Emir Abdelkader El Djezairi is released by orders of then-president Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte.
- October 23 – The conjecture of the four color theorem is first proposed, as student Francis Guthrie of University College London presents the question of proving, mathematically, that no more than four colors are needed to give separate colors to bordering shapes on a map (the theorem is not proven for almost 123 years, until 1976).
- October 31 – General Joaquin Solares of Guatemala leads an invasion of neighboring Honduras, beginning a war that lasts until February 13, 1856.
- November – Leo Tolstoy's debut novel Childhood is published under the initials L. N., in this month's issue of the Saint Petersburg literary journal Sovremennik (and later in book form).
- November 2 – U.S. presidential election, 1852: Democrat Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire defeats Whig Winfield Scott of Virginia.
- November 4 – Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour becomes the Piedmontese prime minister.
- November 11 – The new Palace of Westminster opens in London.
- November 21–22 – The New French Empire is confirmed by plebiscite: 7,824,000 for, 253,000 against.
- November 23 – The first roadside pillar boxes in the British Isles are brought into public use in Saint Helier, on Jersey in the Channel Islands, at the suggestion of English novelist Anthony Trollope, at this time an official of the British General Post Office.
- December – The Western Railroad is chartered to build a railroad from Fayetteville, North Carolina to the coal fields of Egypt, North Carolina.
- December 2 – Napoleon III becomes Emperor of the French.
- December 4 – The French capture Laghouat.
- December 23 – Taiping Rebellion: The Taiping army takes Hanyang and begins the siege of Wuchang.
- December 29 – Taiping Rebellion: The Taiping army takes Hankou.
- The semaphore line in France is superseded by the telegraph.
- Smith & Wesson is founded.
- The Devil's Island penal colony opens, in the colony of French Guiana.
- In Hawaii, sugar planters bring over the first Chinese laborers on 3 or 5 year contracts, giving them 3 dollars per month plus room and board for working a 12-hour day, 6 days a week.
- Germans are encouraged to immigrate to Chile.
- Loyola College is chartered in Baltimore, Maryland.
- Antioch College is founded in Yellow Springs, Ohio (its first president is Horace Mann).
- Mills College is founded as the Young Ladies Seminary in Benicia, California.
- The French Catholic De La Salle Brothers arrive from Europe in Singapore, aboard La Julie, and sail up to Penang in the Straits Settlements, to found the first Lasallian educational institutions in Asia.
- Justin Perkins, an American Presbyterian missionary, produces the first translation of the Bible in Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, which is published with the parallel text of the Syriac Peshitta, by the American Bible Society.
- January 8 – James Milton Carroll, American Baptist pastor, leader, historian, and author (d. 1931)
- January 11 – Constantin Fehrenbach, Chancellor of Germany (d. 1926)
- January 18 – Augustin Boué de Lapeyrère, French admiral (d. 1924)
- January 20 – José Guadalupe Posada, Mexican political printmaker, engraver (d. 1913)
- February 5 – Terauchi Masatake, 9th Prime Minister of Japan (d. 1919)
- February 16 – Charles Taze Russell (Pastor Russell), American Protestant reformer, evangelist, forerunner of Jehovah's Witnesses (d. 1916)
- February 26 – John Harvey Kellogg, American Adventist doctor, health reformer (d. 1943)
- February 26 – Felix von Winiwarter, Austrian physician (d.1931)
- February 29 – Frederic, one of the protagonists in Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta The Pirates of Penzance (date of death unknown)
- March 1 – Théophile Delcassé, French statesman (d. 1923)
- April 1 – Edwin Austin Abbey, American painter (d. 1911)
- April 13 – F. W. Woolworth, American merchant, businessman (d. 1919)
- April 22 – William IV, Grand Duke of Luxembourg (d. 1912)
- May 1 – Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Spanish histologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1934)
- May 4 – Alice Pleasance Liddell, inspiration for the children's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by English author Lewis Carroll (d. 1934)
- May 11 – Charles W. Fairbanks, 26th Vice President of the United States (d. 1918)
- May 14
- May 31 – Julius Richard Petri, German bacteriologist (d. 1921)
- June 13 – Anna Whitlock, Swedish women's right activist (d. 1930)
- June 25 – Friedrich Loeffler, German bacteriologist (d. 1915)
- June 25 – Antoni Gaudí, Spanish modernist architect (d. 1926)
- June 30 – Karl Petrovich Jessen, Russian admiral (d. 1918)
- July 12 – Hipólito Yrigoyen, President of Argentina (d. 1933)
- July 20 – Theo Heemskerk, Prime Minister of the Netherlands (d. 1932)
- July 31 – Charles Lanrezac, French general (d. 1925)
- August 4 – Catharine van Tussenbroek, Dutch physician (d. 1925)
- August 23 – Clímaco Calderón, President of Colombia (d. 1913)
- August 30 – Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff, Dutch chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1911)
- September 6 – Schalk Willem Burger, Boer military leader, lawyer, politician, and statesman, acting President of the South African Republic (1900-1902) (d. 1918)
- September 8 – Gojong, 26th king of the Korean Joseon dynasty, first emperor of Korea (d. 1919)
- September 10 – Hans Niels Andersen, Danish businessman, founder of the East Asiatic Company (d. 1937)
- September 12 – H. H. Asquith, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1928)
- September 15 – Edward Bouchet, American physicist (d. 1918)
- September 28
- September 30 – Charles Villiers Stanford, Irish composer, resident in England (d. 1924)
- October 2 – William Ramsay, Scottish chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1916)
- October 9 – Hermann Emil Fischer, German chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1919)
- October 16 – Carl von In der Maur, Governor of Liechtenstein (d. 1913)
- October 17 – George Egerton, British admiral (d. 1940)
- October 25 – Byron Andrews, American journalist, statesman, author, and businessman (d. 1910)
- November 1 – Eugene W. Chafin, American politician (d. 1920)
- November 3 – Prince Mutsuhito of Japan, the future Emperor Meiji (d. 1912)
- November 7 – Johan Ramstedt, 9th Prime Minister of Sweden (d. 1935)
- November 11 – Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, Austro-Hungarian field marshal (d. 1925)
- November 22 – Paul-Henri-Benjamin d'Estournelles de Constant, French diplomat, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (d. 1924)
- November 26 – Yamamoto Gonnohyōe, 16th and 22nd Prime Minister of Japan, admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy (d. 1933)
- December 15
- December 19 – Albert Abraham Michelson, German-born physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1931)
- December 21 – George Callaghan, British admiral (d. 1920)
- January 1 – John George Children, British chemist, mineralogist and zoologist (b. 1777)
- January 6 – Louis Braille, French teacher of the blind, inventor of braille (b. 1809)
- February 10 – Samuel Prout, English watercolour painter (b. 1783)
- March 4 – Nikolai Gogol, Russian writer (b. 1809)
- April 17 – Étienne Maurice Gérard, Marshal and Prime Minister of France (b. 1773)
- May 3 – Sara Coleridge, English author, translator (b. 1802)
- May 15 – Louisa Adams, First Lady of the United States (b. 1775)
- June 7 – José Joaquín Estudillo, second Mexican alcalde of Yerba Buena (b. 1800)
- June 21 – Friedrich Fröbel, German pedagogue (b. 1782)
- June 29 – Henry Clay, American statesman (b. 1777)
- July 20 – José Antonio Estudillo, early California settler (b. 1805)
- July 22 – Auguste de Marmont, French marshal (b. 1774)
- August – Táhirih, Iranian Baha'i theologian, poet and feminist (b. 1814)
- August 14 – Margaret Taylor, First Lady of the United States (b. 1788)
- August 24 – Sarah Guppy, English inventor (b. 1770)
- September 4 – William MacGillivray, Scottish naturalist, ornithologist (b. 1796)
- September 8 – Anna Maria Walker, Scottish botanist (b. 1778)
- September 14
- September 20 – Philander Chase, American founder of Kenyon College (b. 1775)
- October 7 – Sir Edward Troubridge, 2nd Baronet, British admiral (b. ca. 1787)
- October 13 – John Lloyd Stephens, American traveler, diplomat and Mayanist archaeologist (b. 1805)
- October 15 – Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, German gymnastics educator (b. 1778)
- October 24 – Daniel Webster, American statesman (b. 1782)
- October 25 – John C. Clark, American politician (b. 1793)
- October 26 – Vincenzo Gioberti, Italian philosopher (b. 1801)
- November 2 – Pyotr Kotlyarevsky, Russian military hero (b. 1782)
- November 10 – Gideon Mantell, English geologist, palaeontologist (b. 1790)
- November 17 – Adam Karl August von Eschenmayer, German philosopher (b. 1768)
- November 18 – John Andrew Shulze, American politician (b. 1775)
- November 27 – Augusta Ada King (née Byron), Countess of Lovelace, early English computer pioneer (b. 1815)
- November 29 – Nicolae Bălcescu, Wallachian revolutionary (b. 1819)
- November 30 – Junius Brutus Booth, English-born stage actor, father of Edwin Booth and John Wilkes Booth (b. 1796)
- December 16 – Andries Hendrik Potgieter, Voortrekker leader (b. 1792)
- date unknown – Joanna Żubr, Polish soldier (b. 1770)
- King, William T. (1896). History of the American Steam Fire-Engine.
- Kimura, Hiroshi (2008). The Kurillian Knot: A History of Japanese-Russian Border Negotiations. California: Stanford University Press. p. 23.
- Chateaux of the Loire. Casa Editrice Bonechi. 2007. p. 10.
- MacKenzie, Donald (2004). Mechanizing Proof: Computing, Risk, and Trust. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. p. 103.
- Scheina, Robert L. (2003). Latin America’s Wars. I. Potomac Books, Inc. p. 1849.
- Farrugia, Jean Young (1969). The Letter Box: A History of Post Office Pillar and Wall boxes. Fontwell: Centaur Press. p. 27. ISBN 0-90000014-7.
- CommunicationSolutions/ISI, "Railroad — Western Railroad Company", North Carolina Business History, 2006, accessed 1 Feb 2010.
- "Samuel Prout (1783-1852)". artuk.org. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
- The Annual Register of World Events: A Review of the Year. London: Longman, Green. 1853. highly detailed coverage of events of 1852 in British Empire and worldwide.