Archaeology and paleontology
- March 31 – The journal Nature reports the finding in Ethiopia of the first complete Australopithecus afarensis skull, significant in the study of human evolution.
- December 18 – Chauvet Cave discovered by Jean-Marie Chauvet and other speleologists near Vallon-Pont-d'Arc in the Ardèche department of southern France, containing some of the earliest known cave paintings of animals, as well as other evidence of Upper Paleolithic life.
- The Australopithecus skeleton "Little Foot" is identified in South Africa.
Astronomy and space exploration
- July 16–22 – The fragments of Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 impact the planet Jupiter.
- July 21 – R. Ibata, M. Irwin, and G. Gilmore discover the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, considered the closest galaxy to the Milky Way until 2003.
- October 12 – NASA loses contact with the Magellan spacecraft after a successful mission. The probe crashes into Venus shortly after.
- Asteroid 7484 Dogo Onsesn is discovered by Masahiro Koishikawa.
- 14032 Mego is discovered.
- 8C 1435+63 is discovered and at z=4.25 becomes the most distant known galaxy.
Biology and medicine
- September 10 – Wollemia (the 'Wollemi Pine'), previously known only from fossils, is discovered living in remote rainforest gorges in the Wollemi National Park of New South Wales by David Noble.
- October – First public demonstration of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
- December 15 – Publication of the "Fukuda" clinical description of chronic fatigue syndrome.
- The Dingiso or tree-kangaroo of Western New Guinea is first seen by scientists.
- Gilbert's potoroo is rediscovered in Australia having been thought extinct.
- Flora of China begins publication.
- The first gene linked to Alzheimer's disease is discovered. No new linked genes would be found until 2009.
- The BRCA1 gene is cloned by scientists at University of Utah, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and Myriad Genetics.
- The Western Hemisphere is declared free of polio.
- November 9 – Darmstadtium first detected at the Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung (GSI) in Darmstadt, Germany, by Peter Armbruster and Gottfried Münzenberg, under the direction of Prof. Sigurd Hofmann.
- December 8 – The first three atoms of Roentgenium are observed by an international team led by Sigurd Hofmann at the GSI in Darmstadt.
- January – Jerry Yang and David Filo create "Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web", a hierarchically-organised website, while studying at Stanford University; in April it is renamed Yahoo!
- April 12 – Husband-and-wife law partners Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel post the first massive commercial spam on Usenet in the United States.
- July 5 - Jeff Bezos launches Amazon
- December 3 – Sony release the PlayStation fifth generation home video game console in Japan.
- December 15 – Netscape launch the Netscape Navigator web browser, for which it creates HTTP Secure.
- Leonard Adleman describes the experimental use of DNA as a computational system to solve a seven-node instance of the Hamiltonian path problem, the first known instance of the successful use of DNA to compute an algorithm.
- Penguin Books offer Peter James' novel Host on two floppy disks as "the world's first electronic novel".
- December 21 – Mexico's Popocatépetl volcano, dormant for 47 years, resumes eruption.
- September 19 – Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem: English mathematician Andrew Wiles devizes a new approach to the final proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, sending his proof to colleagues on October 6 and submitting for publication on October 24.
- The tennis ball theorem is first published under this name by Russian mathematician Vladimir Arnold.
- Green fluorescent protein is successfully expressed in C. elegans, starting its career as a fluorescent marker.
- May 6 – The Channel Tunnel, which took 15,000 workers over seven years to complete, opens between England and France. It is now possible to travel between the two countries in 35 minutes.
- August 16 – The world's first smartphone, the IBM Simon, goes on sale.
- December 3 – The first PlayStation gaming console is released in Japan.
- The first high-brightness blue LED is achieved, an invention that earns the researchers a Nobel Prize in 2014.
- QR code invented by Japanese company Denso.
- Fields Prize in Mathematics: Efim Isakovich Zelmanov, Pierre-Louis Lions, Jean Bourgain and Jean-Christophe Yoccoz
- Nobel Prizes
- Turing Award – Edward Feigenbaum, Raj Reddy
- Wollaston Medal for Geology – William Jason Morgan
- January 25 – Stephen Cole Kleene (b. 1909), American mathematician.
- April 17 – Roger Wolcott Sperry (b. 1913), American neuropsychologist, neurobiologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
- May 12 – Erik Erikson (b. 1902), German American psychologist.
- July 29 – Dorothy Hodgkin (b. 1910), British biochemist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
- August 19 – Linus Pauling (b. 1901), American chemist.
- August 29 – Arthur Mourant (b. 1904), Jersiais hematologist.
- October 28 – Calvin Souther Fuller (b. 1902), American physical chemist at AT&T Bell Laboratories.
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