2002 is a common year starting on Tuesday (see link for calendar). 2002 was the first palindromic year since 1991 and the last until 2112. 2002 was also designated:
- January 1 - Introduction of euro banknotes and coins in the European Union
- January 5 - Charles Bishop, a 15 year-old student pilot, crashes a light aircraft into a Tampa, Florida building, evoking fear of a copycat 9/11 terrorist attack.
- January 9 - The United States Department of Justice announces it is going to pursue a criminal investigation of Enron
- January 10 - Enrique Bolańos began his five-year term as President of the Republic of Nicaragua.
- January 13 - President George W. Bush faints after choking on a pretzel
- January 16 - A student shoots 6 people at the Appalachian School of Law, killing three.
- January 16 - John Ashcroft announces that American Taliban member John Walker Lindh would be tried in the United States.
- January 16 - The UN Security Council unanimously establishes an arms embargo and the freezing of assets of Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaida, and the Taliban
- January 17 - Eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, displacing an estimated 400,000 people
- January 18 - A Canadian Pacific Railway train carrying anhydrous ammonia derails outside of Minot, North Dakota, killing one.
- January 22 - AOL Time Warner brings a federal suit against Microsoft seeking damages. The suit alleges that the market for AOL's Netscape Navigator Internet browser was harmed when Microsoft started to give away a competing browser
- January 22 - Kmart Corp becomes the largest retailer in American history to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
- January 27 - Several explosions at a military dump in Lagos, Nigeria kills more than 1,000.
- May 6 - In the Netherlands, politician Pim Fortuyn is killed by Volkert van der Graaf.
- May 7 - Gay Canadian teenager Marc Hall is granted a court injunction ordering that he be allowed to attend his high school prom with his boyfriend.
- May 9 - The 38-day stand-off in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem comes to an end when the Palestinians inside agreed to have 13 suspected militants among them deported to several different countries. The standoff started April 2.
- May 9 - In Kaspiysk, Russia, a remote-control bomb explodes during a holiday parade, killing 43 and injuring at least 130.
- May 10 - FBI agent Robert Hanssen is sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for selling American secrets to Moscow for $1.4 million in cash and diamonds.
- May 12 - Former President Jimmy Carter arrives in Cuba for a five-day visit with Fidel Castro becoming the first President of the United States, in or out of office, to visit the island since Castro's 1959 revolution.
- May 15 - The Netherlands: elections for the Lower House
- May 20 - Restoration of East Timor independence
- May 22 - In Washington, DC, Chandra Levy's remains are found in Rock Creek Park.
- May 22 - American civil rights movement: 16th Street Baptist Church bombing: A jury in Birmingham, Alabama convicts former Ku Klux Klan member Bobby Frank Cherry of the 1963 murders of four girls.
- May 23 - First Eurovision Song Contest in a former Soviet country: Estonia
- May 25 - A China Airlines Boeing 747-200 breaks apart in mid-air and plunges into the Taiwan Strait, killing 225.
- May 26 - The Mars Odyssey finds signs of huge water ice deposits on the planet Mars.
- May 28 - Washington DC's medical examiner declares that Chandra Levy's death was the result of homicide.
- May 31 through June 30 - 17th Football World Cup in Japan and South Korea
- November 2 - Opening of sixth Gay Games in Sydney, Australia.
- November 5 - U.S. Elections: The Republican Party maintains control of the House of Representatives and regains control of the Senate.
- November 7 - Iran bans advertising of US products.
- November 8 - Iraq disarmament crisis: UN Security Council Resolution 1441 – The United Nations Security Council unanimously approves a resolution on Iraq, forcing Saddam Hussein to disarm or face "serious consequences".
- November 9 - In Los Angeles, California, television and film actor Merlin Santana is shot to death while sitting in the passenger seat of a friend's car parked on the 3800 block of Victoria Avenue.
- November 13 - Iraq disarmament crisis: Iraq agrees to the terms of the UN Security Council Resolution 1441.
- November 13 - The oil tanker Prestige sinks off the Galician coast and causes a huge oil spill.
- November 14 - Argentina defaults on a US$805 million World Bank payment
- November 15 - Hu Jintao becomes general secretary of the Communist Party of China.
- November 16 - A Campaign Against Climate Change march takes place in London from Lincoln's Inn Fields, past Esso offices to the United States Embassy.
- November 18 - Iraq disarmament crisis: United Nations weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix arrive in Iraq.
- November 21 - NATO invites Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia to become members.
- November 21 - The Princess Royal is fined Ł500 at Slough magistrate court following her conviction of one of her dogs attacking two children in Windsor Great Park.
- November 22 - In Nigeria, more than 100 people are killed at an attack aimed at the contestants of the Miss World contest.
- November 25 - US President George W. Bush signs the Homeland Security Act into law, establishing the Department of Homeland Security in the largest US government reorganization since the creation of the Department of Defense in 1947 (the Senate passed the bill 90-9 on November 19).
- November 29 - Brian Henderson retires from reading the news at Sydney, Australia television station TCN-9. At his retirement he held the record for the longest-serving television news anchor ever, having hosted the weekend evening bulletins on the station from 1957 to 1964 and the weeknight evening news bulletins from 1964 to 2002.
For more deaths see: Deaths in 2002
- January 3 - Freddy Heineken, beer magnate (b. 1923)
- January 8 - Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's International (b. 1932)
- January 12 - Stanley Unwin, comedian
- January 12 - Cyrus Vance, former United States Secretary of State (1977-1980) (b. 1917)
- January 13 - Ted Demme, film and television director (b. 1963)
- January 16 - Michael Bilandic, mayor of Chicago, Illinois (b. 1923)
- January 16 - Bobo Olson, American boxer
- January 16 - Ron Taylor, American actor
- January 22 - Peggy Lee, American singer, actress
- January 23 - Pierre Bourdieu, French sociologist (b. 1930)
- January 23 - Robert Nozick, philosopher (b. 1938)
- January 28 - Dick "Night Train" Lane, American football, NFL Hall of Famer
- January 28 - Astrid Lindgren, Swedish children's book author (b. 1907)
- January 29 - Harold Russell, actor
- January 29 or January 30 - Daniel Pearl, journalist (b. 1963) (beheaded in Iraq)
- February 6 - Max Perutz, founder of molecular biology (b. 1914)
- February 9 - The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, sister of Queen Elizabeth II of England (b. 1930)
- February 10 - Harold Furth, American leader in plasma physics and nuclear fusion
- February 11 - Barry Foster, British actor
- February 12 - Theresa Ferber Bernstein, artist
- February 15 - Howard K. Smith, American TV journalist (b. 1914)
- February 15 - Kevin Smith, actor (b. 1963)
- February 16 - Walter Winterbottom, the first England football manager (b. 1913)
- February 21 - John Thaw, actor (b. 1942)
- February 22 - Sir Raymond Firth, British anthropologist
- February 22 - Chuck Jones, American animator
- February 22 - Jonas Savimbi, rebel leader
- February 24 - Leo Ornstein, composer and pianist (b. 1912)
- February 26 - Lawrence Tierney, actor
- February 27 - Spike Milligan, comedian, writer, poet (b. 1918)
- February 27 - Mary Stuart, soap opera actress
- February 28 - Helmut Zacharias, German violinist (b. 1920)
- March 1 - Doreen Waddell, vocalist of bands Soul II Soul and KLF
- March 14 - Cherry Wilder, author (b. 1930)
- March 15 - Sylvester Weaver, television executive
- March 18 - Gösta Winbergh, tenor
- March 25 - Kenneth Wolstenholme, British football commentator
- March 27 - Milton Berle, comedian, actor (b. 1908)
- March 27 - Dudley Moore, comedian, actor(b. 1935)
- March 27 - Billy Wilder, film screenwriter and director (b. 1906)
- March 30 - HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother of England (b. 1900)
- March 31 - Barry Took, British comedian and writer
- April 5 - Layne Staley, singer with band Alice in Chains
- April 8 - Maria Felix, Mexican actress
- April 9 - Leopold Vietoris, Austrian mathematician
- April 15 - Byron White, US athlete and Supreme Court justice
- April 16 - Franz Krienbühl, Swiss speed skater
- April 16 - Robert Urich, actor (cancer)
- April 18 - Thor Heyerdahl, Norwegian anthropologist
- April 25 - Indra Devi, yoga teacher to the stars
- April 25 - Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, rapper, member TLC
- April 27 - George Alec Effinger, science fiction author (b. 1947)
- April 27 - Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, Swiss ndustrialist and art collector
- April 28 - Alexander Lebed, Russian general and politician (b. 1950)
- April 28 - Ruth Handler, inventor of the Barbie doll (b. 1916)
- June 1 - Hansie Cronje, South African cricketer (b. 1969)
- June 4 - Fernando Belaunde Terry, Peruvian politician, president of Peru (1963-1968) (1980-1985)
- June 5 - Dee Dee Ramone, founding member of The Ramones (b. 1952)
- June 6 - Hans Janmaat, controversial far-right politician in the Netherlands
- June 7 - Mary Lilian Baels, Princess of Rethy, Belgium
- June 10 - John Gotti, imprisoned mobster
- June 11 - Robbin Crosby, guitarist of rock band Ratt
- June 12 - Bill Blass, fashion designer
- June 17 - Fritz Walter, football player, captain of 1954 World Cup winners.
- June 17 - Willie Davenport, Olympic Games champion
- June 18 - Jack Buck, Major League baseball announcer
- June 22 - Esther Pauline Friedman, author of the Ann Landers column
- June 22 - Darryl Kile, Major League baseball player
- June 23 - Pedro 'El Rockero' Alcazar, Panamian boxer
- June 24 - Pierre Werner, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, "father of the euro"
- June 26 - Jay Berwanger, college football player, first winner of the Heisman Trophy
- June 27 - John Entwistle, bassist for The Who
- June 29 - Rosemary Clooney, singer, actress
- July 4 - Benjamin O. Davis Jr., African-American general
- July 5 - Katy Jurado, actress
- July 5 - Ted Williams, Baseball Hall of Fame member
- July 6 - John Frankenheimer, film director
- July 8 - Ward Kimball, Disney animator
- July 9 - Laurence Janifer, science fiction writer
- July 9 - Rod Steiger, actor
- July 13 - Yousuf Karsh, celebrity portrait photographer
- July 14 - Joaquin Balaguer, Dominican politician, president of Dominican Republic (1960-1962, 1966-1978, 1986-1996)
- July 16 - John Cocke, key figure in the development of RISC architecture
- July 19 - Alan Lomax, documenter of blues and folk songs
- July 23 - Leo McKern, actor
- July 23 - William Pierce, rocket scientist, neo-Nazi, author
- July 23 - Chaim Potok, author
- August 4 - Carmen Silvera, British actress
- August 4 - (approximate date) Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, child-murder victims
- August 5 - Josh Ryan Evans, actor (b. 1982)
- August 5 - Chick Hearn, pro-basketball announcer
- August 6 - Edsger Dijkstra, computer scientist
- August 12 - Enos Slaughter, baseball Hall of Famer
- August 14 - Dave Williams, the singer of Drowning Pool (found dead on the band's tour bus)
- August 16 - Abu Nidal, Palestinian terrorist
- August 23 - Hoyt Wilhelm, Baseball Hall of Fame member
- August 25 - Dorothy Hewett, Australian poet, playwright and novelist
- August 27 - Richard Ricci, Utah handyman and religious fanatic suspected of kidnapping 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart
- August 31 - Lionel Hampton, American jazz musician
- October 6 - Claus von Amsberg, husband of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands
- October 10 - Teresa Graves, actress
- October 12 - Ray Conniff, American musician and band leader
- October 13 - Stephen Ambrose, historian and Dwight Eisenhower biographer
- October 17 - Derek Bell, member of The Chieftans, harpist
- October 18 - Nikolai Rukavishnikov, cosmonaut
- October 24 - Harry Hay, US gay rights activist and Mattachine Society founder
- October 25 - Richard Harris, Irish actor
- October 25 - Paul Wellstone, U.S. Senator: A Democrat from Minnesota
- October 30 - Jam Master Jay, member of Run DMC
- December 3 - Glenn Quinn, actor
- December 5 - Ne Win, Burmese dictator
- December 6 - Father Philip Berrigan, priest, political activist
- December 6 - Charles Rosen, pioneer in artificial intelligence
- December 9 - Stan Rice, painter, educator, poet, husband of author Anne Rice
- December 18 - Ray Hnatyshyn, Canadian Governor-General (b. 1934)
- Peace: Jimmy Carter, 39th US president "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."
- Literature: Imre Kertész, Hungarian writer "for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history".
- Raymond Davis Jr. (Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA) and Masatoshi Koshiba (International Center for Elementary Particle Physics, University of Tokyo, Japan) "for pioneering contributions to astrophysics, in particular for the detection of cosmic neutrinos"
- Riccardo Giacconi (Associated Universities Inc., Washington DC, USA) "for pioneering contributions to astrophysics, which have led to the discovery of cosmic X-ray sources"
- Physiology or Medicine:
- Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel
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