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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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?
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.
Pierre Bourdieu would have turned 85 on 1 August 2015. Thirteen years after his death, the French sociologist remains one of the leading social scientists in the world. His work has been translated into dozens of languages (Sapiro & Bustamante 2009), and he is one of the most cited social theorists worldwide, ahead of major thinkers like Jurgen Habermas, Anthony Giddens, or Irving Goffman (Santoro 2008).
Today, 29 July 2015 marks the 125th anniversary of the death of Vincent Willem van Gogh, the legendary Dutch post-impressionist painter behind Starry Night and Café Terrace at Night. His talents went widely unrecognized until after his death. Van Gogh was a brilliant artist with a tormented soul suffering from a mental illness.
The idea of social networks is not new, nor is their range of importance: from shared intimacy, to commercial nicety, to revolutionary provocation. At no time do we see more of their range and variety and importance than in the letters of Colonial and Revolutionary America. Letters connected families and friends, facilitated commerce and legal disputes, and turned all of these into a porridge of political transformation. Not only can we read history as part of everyday life, we can see it expressed in language of considerable beauty, grace and virtue.
Award-winning director Liz Garbus has made a compelling, if sometimes troubling, documentary about a compelling and troubling figure—the talented and increasingly iconic performer, Nina Simone. The title, What Happened, Miss Simone?, comes from an essay that Maya Angelou wrote in 1970. In the opening seconds of the film, excerpts from Angelou’s words appear: “Miss Simone, you are idolized, even loved, by millions now. But what happened, Miss Simone?”
Most revered for his work on the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk was praised by the mainstream media but still struggled to earn the respect and adoration of the medical community. Accused of abusing the spotlight and giving little credit to fellow researchers, he arguably become more of an outcast than a “knight in a white coat.” Even so, Salk continued to make strides in the medical community, ultimately leaving behind a legacy larger than the criticism that had always threatened to overshadow his career.
The importance of Magna Carta—both at the time it was issued on 15 June 1215 and in the centuries which followed, when it exerted great influence in countries where the English common law was adopted or imposed—is a major theme of events to mark the charter’s 800th anniversary.