This was a year of contradictions. The accelerating progress of scientific knowledge brought hope of relief from disease and drudgery – and Yuri Gagarin became the first man to go into space. The question was whether the human race would be around long enough to enjoy the fruits of all this knowledge and achievement.
In January, the burden of the American presidency fell on the shoulders of one of its youngest ever occupants, John F. Kennedy. It was not a fortuitous start, with the Bay of Pigs coup attempt proving a fiasco and the world seemingly creeping closer to nuclear conflict as East and West glared at each other over the Berlin Wall, that concrete symbol of a divided world.