1852 was a leap year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar).
- January 14 - President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte proclaims a new constitution for the French Second Republic.
- January 17 - United Kingdom recognizes independence of the Transvaal
- Devil's Island penal colony opens
- February 11 - First British public toilet for women opens in Bedford Street, London
- February 15 - Great Ormond St Hospital for Sick Children, London, admits first patient
- February 16 - Studebaker Brothers wagon company, precursor of the automobile manufacturer, is established
- February 19 - The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity is founded at Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
- March 1 - Archibald William Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
- April 1 - Start of Second Burmese War
- September 24 - French engineer Henri Giffard makes the first airship trip from Paris to Trappes
- November - Franklin Pierce defeats Winfield Scott in the U.S. presidential election
- November 4 - Count Cavour becomes Piedmont prime minister
- November 7 - President Bonaparte proclaimed Emperor Napoleon III of France
- November 11 - New Palace of Westminster opened in Britain
- November 21/November 22 New French Empire confirmed by plebiscite: 7,824,000 for, 253,000 against
- December 2 - Napoleon III becomes Emperor of France.
- 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, founder of Woolworth's (d. 1919)
- April 22 - William IV, Grand Duke of Luxembourg (d. 1912)
- May 4 - Alice Pleasance Liddell, inspiration for the novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (d. 1934)
- May 31 - Julius Richard Petri, German bacteriologist, inventor of Petri dish.
- July 12 - Hipólito Yrigoyen, President of Argentina (d. 1933)
- September 12 - Herbert Henry Asquith, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1928)
- November 3 - Mutsuhito of Japan, later the Meiji Emperor
- November 11 - Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, Chief of Staff of the Austro-Hungarian Army for much of World War I (d. 1925)
- December 15 - Henri Becquerel, French physicist
- January 6 - Louis Braille, teacher, developed writing system for the blind
- March 4 - Nikolai Gogol, writer (b. 1809)
- March 10 - Augusta Louisa Lyons (née Rogers), Novelist and wife of British Admiral, Sir Edmund Lyons (later 1st Lord Lyons)
- September 4 - William MacGillivray, naturalist and ornithologist
- September 14 - Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, British commander at the Battle of Waterloo and Prime Minister.
- September 20 - Philander Chase, founder of Kenyon College
- October 24 - Daniel Webster, American lawyer/speaker/Minister of Foreign affairs, dies at 70.
- November 30 - Junius Brutus Booth, English actor.
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