Everyone knows about Benjamin Franklin. His revolutionary electrical experiments made him famous, and the image of the kite-flying inventor spouting aphorisms has kept him so for more than two centuries. His Autobiography could be considered a founding document of the idea of America, the story of a poor but bright young indentured servant who eventually became so famous he appeared before kings and on our money.
Celebrated for his co-discovery of the principle of natural selection and other major contributions to evolutionary biology, Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) also wrote widely on the social, political, and environmental aspects of scientific and technological advance. These latter, if far less familiar, ideas constitute an astute critique of the Victorian concept of progress.
The Cuban revolution came out of the very history that it was determined to redress, a history profoundly shaped by the United States and into which the Americans had deeply inscribed themselves with pretensions to preponderant power. For vast numbers of Cubans, the revolution was about a people determined to reintegrate themselves into their history as subjects and enact historical narratives as protagonists,
On the cusp of what would have been John Cassavetes’ eighty-seventh birthday, it is not only possible to pause and imagine the work the man could have made throughout his sixties and seventies — think, for a moment, on Cassavetes as being alive and well, writing and directing films in a post-9/11 America — but also we can turn to his works for a lens onto a version of the world that, given the recent state of affairs on this planet, we could sorely use.
Donald Trump’s surprising victory in the 2016 US Presidential election demonstrated that celebrity is now a political force to be reckoned with. It would seem that this mix of celebrity culture and politics is a relatively new phenomenon, and indeed celebrity itself is often thought to be something distinctly modern. But there were celebrities long before that particular word identified them as such.
Few probably anticipated that the boy who was born on this day in 1928 would become one of the founding fathers of modern linguistics and one of the world’s foremost intellectuals. Noam Avram Chomsky’s foundational work has influenced, inspired, and divided scholars working on language for more than 60 years.
Gershom Scholem (1897-1982) is widely known as the founder of the academic study of Jewish mysticism or Kabbalah. In the nearly thirty-five years since his death, Scholem’s star has continue to shine brightly in the intellectual firmament and perhaps even more brightly now than in his lifetime.
In 2015 the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography introduced an annual research bursary scheme for scholars in the humanities. As the first year of the scheme comes to a close, we ask the second of the 2015-16 recipients—the early modern historian, Dr Emily Hansen—about her research project, and how it’s developed through her association with the Oxford DNB.
In 2015 the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography introduced an annual research bursary scheme for scholars in the humanities. As the first year of the scheme comes to a close, we ask the first of the 2015-16 recipients—the economic historian, Dr Helen Paul of Southampton University—about her research project, and how it’s developed through her association with the Oxford DNB.
Guglielmo Marconi is popularly known as “the inventor of radio,” a mischaracterization that critics and supporters of his many rivals are quick to seize upon. Marconi was actually the first person to use radio waves to communicate. His first patent was for “Improvements in Transmitting Electrical Impulses and Signals and in Apparatus Therefor,” and he considered what he was doing to be a form of wireless telegraphy.
Approximately 500 years ago a Polish lawyer, medical doctor, and churchman got a radical idea: that the earth was not fixed solidly in the middle of all space, but was spinning at a thousand miles per hour at its equator and was speeding around the sun at a dizzying rate. Unbelievable, critics said. If that were true, at the equator people would be spun off into space. And it would be much harder to walk west than east.
The Edinburgh Fringe is in full swing with over 3,000 arts events coming to the vibrant Scottish capital over the next few weeks. With the International Book Festival kicking off on the 13th, we’ve compiled our favourite bookish spots around the city for you to squeeze into your schedule.
Guppy, as a patent-holding female inventor, is a rare type for the early 19th century but one that we are clearly eager to hear about today. It is the kind of life that (mostly women) historians have been researching since the 1970s and, more recently, has been transformed into popular role model: the archetypical example is Ada Lovelace, whose name has been adopted for a day celebrating and encouraging women in science and technology.
From the goosebump-producing thrills of Wilkie Collins’s fiction and the melodramas on offer at the Royal Princess’ Theatre to the headlines blaring in the Illustrated Police News, the Victorians savoured the sensational. The attention-seeking title above is patently untrue, yet, for more than five decades, John Henry Newman (the Cardinal) was emotionally, spiritually, and textually connected with Maria Rosina Giberne, a wholly intriguing figure.
Despite the biographical clues that historical fact and fiction may afford in excavating Joshua’s life, the investigation itself rests on a set of assumptions that implicate literary studies of slavery and, in particular, the social and intellectual historiography by which we delineate the agency of slaves themselves. The attractive notion that we can access the life of Joshua by way of the literature of Paul betrays the complexity of that actual investigation.
The fourth of May marks the centenary of the birth of Jane Jacobs, patron saint of contemporary urbanism, at least for most urban planners, architects and local political officials in the US and for many of us who live in cities as well. Both by her writing and her activism, Jacobs promoted livable cities—walkable, enjoyable, sociable places where communities provide distinctive experiences and locals have a say in determining what goes on.