Tag Archives: British

Almanac – June 06

1832 – Jeremy Bentham died. British philosopher, jurist, and social reformer. He is regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.

Bentham became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism.

He advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalising of homosexual acts.

He called for the abolition of slavery, the abolition of the death penalty, and the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children. He has also become known in recent years as an early advocate of animal rights.

He had continued to write up to a month before his death, aged 84,  and had made careful preparations for the dissection of his body after death and its preservation as an auto-icon.

After dissection, the skeleton and head were preserved and stored in a wooden cabinet called the “Auto-icon”, with the skeleton padded out with hay and dressed in Bentham’s clothes.

Originally kept by his disciple Thomas Southwood Smith, it was acquired by University College London in 1850. It is normally kept on public display at the end of the South Cloisters in the main building of the college; however, for the 100th and 150th anniversaries of the college, it was brought to the meeting of the College Council, where it was listed as “present but not voting”.

Bentham had intended the Auto-icon to incorporate his actual head, mummified to resemble its appearance in life. However, Southwood Smith’s experimental efforts at mummification, based on practices of the indigenous people of New Zealand and involving placing the head under an air pump over sulphuric acid and simply drawing off the fluids, although technically successful, left the head looking distastefully macabre, with dried and darkened skin stretched tautly over the skull.

The Auto-icon was therefore given a wax head, fitted with some of Bentham’s own hair. The real head was displayed in the same case as the Auto-icon for many years, but became the target of repeated student pranks. It is now locked away securely.

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Almanac – April 19

1791 – Richard Price died.  British moral philosopher and preacher in the tradition of English Dissenters, and a political pamphleteer, active in radical, republican, and liberal causes such as the American Revolution.

He fostered connections between a large number of people, including writers of the Constitution of the United States. He spent most of his adult life as minister of Newington Green Unitarian Church, where possibly the congregant he most influenced was early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who extended his ideas on the egalitarianism inherent in the spirit of the French Revolution to encompass women’s rights as well.

In addition to his work as a moral and political philosopher, he also wrote on issues of statistics and finance, and was inducted into the Royal Society for these contributions.

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1928 – Alexis Korner born.  Blues musician and radio broadcaster, who has sometimes been referred to as “a Founding Father of British Blues”

A major influence on the sound of the British music scene in the 1960s, he was instrumental in bringing together various English blues musicians.

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1933 – Jayne Mansfield born. American actress in film, theatre, and television, a nightclub entertainer, a singer, and one of the early Playboy Playmates. She was a major Hollywood sex symbol of the 1950s and early 1960s.

Frequent references have been made to Mansfield’s very high IQ, which she claimed was 163.  She spoke five languages, including English,  fluent French and Spanish, German that she learned in high school, and she studied Italian .

 Reputed to be Hollywood’s “smartest dumb blonde”, she later complained that the public did not care about her brains: “They’re more interested in 40–21–35,” she said.

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Almanac – April 03

1882 – Jesse James died.  American outlaw, gang leader, bank robber, train robber and murderer, and the most famous member of the James-Younger Gang. Already a celebrity when he was alive, he became a legendary figure of the Wild West after his death.

 He was killed by Robert Ford,  a member of the gang living in the James house,  who was hoping to collect a state reward on James’ head.

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1949 – Richard Thompson born. British songwriter, guitarist and recording and performing musician. Highly regarded for his guitar techniques and strange, darkly-funny lyrics, Thompson’s music has been consistently lavished with praise by critics and by his peers throughout his long career.

He made his debut as a recording artist as a member of Fairport Convention in September 1967, and continues to write and record new material regularly and performs live frequently throughout the world.

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1950 – Kurt Weill died.  German composer, active from the 1920s, and in his later years in the United States.

 He was a leading composer for the stage who was best known for his fruitful collaborations with Bertolt Brecht, with whom  he developed productions such as his best-known work The Threepenny Opera, a Marxist critique of capitalism, which included the ballad “Mack the Knife”.

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Almanac – March 29

1948 – Harry Price died. British psychic researcher and author, who gained public prominence for his investigations into psychical phenomena and his exposing of fake spiritualists.

He is best known for his well-publicized investigation of the purportedly haunted Borley Rectory in Essex, England.

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Almanac – February 27

1940 – Bill Hunter born.  Australian actor of film, stage and television, appearing in more than 60 films.

Of acting, Hunter said, “As long as the direc­tor told me where to stand and what to say, I was happy. Any­one who says there’s any more to it than that, is full of bullshit. … It’s a job. It is a craft, but there’s no art involved. What you need is com­mon sense and a rea­son­ably rough head. You put on the makeup and the wardrobe, and that is half the per­for­mance. That upsets the purists, but never mind, they don’t work as much as I do.”

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1968 – Frankie Lymon died. American rock and roll/rhythm and blues singer and songwriter, best known as the boy soprano lead singer of a New York City-based early rock and roll group, The Teenagers.

He was found dead from a heroin overdose, aged 25,  in his grandmother’s bathroom .

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2006 – Linda Smith died.  British stand-up comic and comedy writer. She appeared regularly on Radio 4 panel games, and was voted “Wittiest Living Person” by listeners in 2002.

Her style was described as beguiling, apparently vulnerable and whimsical, but often waspish. She excelled at deadpan diatribes about everyday irritations.

She died as a consequence of ovarian cancer at the age of 48.

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Almanac – February 15

1748 – Jeremy Bentham born. British philosopher, jurist, and social reformer. He is regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.

Bentham became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism. He advocated individual and economic freedom, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the decriminalising of homosexual acts.

He called for the abolition of slavery, the abolition of the death penalty, and the abolition of physical punishment, including that of children. He has also become known in recent years as an early advocate of animal rights.

 

 

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