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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Passion and compassion: The people who created the words and numbers of environmental science

These are the images I carry in memory that form my understanding of passion and compassion in science: Rachel Carson waking at midnight to return to the sea the microscopic marine organisms she has been studying, when the tidal cycle is favorable to their survival; John Muir clinging to the upper branches of a tall pine during a violent storm, reveling in the power of natural forces.

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Let the people speak: history with voices

For 135 years the Dictionary of National Biography has been the national record of noteworthy men and women who’ve shaped the British past. Today’s Dictionary retains many attributes of its Victorian predecessor, not least a focus on concise and balanced accounts of individuals from all walks of national history. But there have also been changes in how these life stories are encapsulated and conveyed.

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Ringing in the new year with Who’s Who

As 2015 draws to a close, Who’s Who is already ushering in the new year with its latest cohort of changemakers from the United Kingdom. From government and media, to business and the arts, over 1,000 new entries provide a glimpse into the lives of the world’s most influential leaders.

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The phosphene dreams of a young Christian soldier

On a blustery St. Martin’s Eve in 1619, a 23-year-old French gentleman soldier in the service of Maximilian of Bavaria was billeted near Ulm, Germany. Having recently quit his military service under Maurice of Nassau, he was new to the Bavarian army and a stranger to the area.

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In search of Thomas Smith Grimké’s portrait

Most biographers would agree that it is difficult to write about someone whose face you have never seen. When I set out to write a biographical entry on Thomas Smith Grimké (1786-1834) for the American National Biography Online, I confronted that challenge.

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Admiral Nelson in letters

This year, on 21st October, marks the 210th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. This naval battle was between the British Royal Navy, led by Admiral Lord Nelson, and the combined French and Spanish fleets led by French Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve. The most decisive victory of the Napoleonic Wars, this battle ensured Nelson’s place as one of Britain’s greatest war heroes.

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Charles Williams: Oxford’s lost poetry professor

It was strikingly appropriate that Sir Geoffrey Hill should have focused his final lecture as Oxford Professor of Poetry on a quotation from Charles Williams. Not only was the lecture, in May 2015, delivered almost exactly seventy years after Williams’s death; but Williams himself had once hoped to become Professor of Poetry.

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Gershwin and color: how blue is the Rhapsody?

Everyone knows George Gershwin as a composer, songwriter, pianist and icon of American music. But few know of his connections to the world of paintings and fine art. As a practicing artist himself, Gershwin produced over 100 paintings, drawings, and photographs.

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James Baldwin and the fire this time

As the fires burned in Baltimore, following the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray in April 2015, protesters brandished placards with quotations from James Baldwin’s work, and thousands of blogs and twitter feeds invoked the legendary writer.

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60 years of Guinness World Records

On 27 August 1955, the first edition of the Guinness Book of Records–now Guinness World Records, was published. Through listing world records of both human achievements and of the natural world, what started as a reference book became an international franchise, gaining popular interest around the globe. In celebration of this anniversary of weird and wonderful world records, we’ve selected a few favourites from talented individuals featured in our online products.

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Max Planck’s debt

The great German physicist Max Planck once said, “However many specialties science may split into, it remains fundamentally an indivisible whole.” He declared that the divisions and subdivisions of scientific disciplines were “not based on the nature of things.”

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Commemorating Sri Aurobindo’s anniversary, the birth of a nation, and a new world

The fifteenth of August commemorates Sri Aurobindo’s birthday, and the birth of independent India, a historical landmark where he played a significant role. Aurobindo, the founder of Purna, or Integral Yoga, is a renowned and controversial poet, educationist, and literary critic, a politician, sociologist, and mystic whose evolutionary worldview represents a breakthrough in history. Nevertheless, what is the relevance of Aurobindo nowadays?

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Portrait of a lady – Episode 25 – The Oxford Comment

Much mystery surrounds Elizabeth I, the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty. It’s said that the beloved Queen, for centuries immortalized in private letters and state papers, portraits and poetry, remains more myth than memory in the canon of British history. How, then, can we begin to uncover the personal and political dimensions that made up Elizabeth’s life? And what is it like—as writers, students, and scholars of history—to attempt to understand a legend of the royal kind?

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William Lawrence Bragg and Crystallography

The history of modern Crystallography is intertwined with the great discoveries’ of William Lawrence Bragg (WLB), still renowned to be the youngest Nobel Prize in Physics. Bragg received news of his Nobel Prize on the 14th November 1915 in the midst of the carnage of the Great War. This was to be shared with his father William Henry Bragg (WHB), and WHB and WLB are to date the only father and son team to be jointly awarded the Nobel Prize.

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