Tag Archives: philosopher

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 – June 02

1692 – Bridget Bishop was the first person to go to trial in the Salem witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts.

She wasaccused of bewitching five young women, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Jr., Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Elizabeth Hubbard, but  she may also have been accused because she owned one or more taverns, played shuffleboard, dressed in provocative clothing, and was outspoken.

She was hanged on June 10 1692.

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1740 – Marquis de Sade born. French aristocrat, revolutionary politician, philosopher and writer, famous for his libertine sexuality.

His works include novels, short stories, plays, dialogues and political tracts; in his lifetime some were published under his own name, while others appeared anonymously and Sade denied being their author.

 He is best known for his erotic works, which combined philosophical discourse with pornography, depicting sexual fantasies with an emphasis on violence, criminality and blasphemy against the Catholic Church.

He was a proponent of extreme freedom, unrestrained by morality, religion or law. The words “sadism” and “sadist” are derived from his name.

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2008 – Bo Diddley died. American R&B vocalist, guitarist, songwriter (usually as Ellas McDaniel), and rock and roll pioneer.

He was  known as The Originator because of his key role in the transition from the blues to rock, influencing a host of acts, including Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Velvet Underground, The Who, The Yardbirds, Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles, among others.

 He introduced more insistent, driving rhythms and a hard-edged electric guitar sound on a wide-ranging catalog of songs, along with African rhythms and a signature beat (a simple five-accent clave rhythm) that remains a cornerstone of rock and pop.

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Almanac – May 30

1593 – Christopher Marlowe died.  English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era.

Marlowe was the foremost Elizabethan tragedian of his day, and  greatly influenced William Shakespeare, who was born in the same year as Marlowe and who rose to become the pre-eminent Elizabethan playwright after Marlowe’s mysterious early death. Marlowe’s plays are known for the use of blank verse, and their overreaching protagonists.

He was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer. During an argument Marlowe snatched Frizer’s dagger and wounded him on the head. In the ensuing struggle, according to the coroner’s report, Marlowe was stabbed above the right eye, killing him instantly. The jury concluded that Frizer acted in self-defence, and within a month he was pardoned.

Marlowe was buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, Deptford immediately after the inquest, on 1 June 1593.

 

 

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1778 – Voltaire died. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit, his attacks on the established Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state.

 Voltaire was a versatile writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. He was an outspoken advocate, despite strict censorship laws with harsh penalties for those who broke them. As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma, and the French institutions of his day.

 

 

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1993 – Sun Ra died. Prolific jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, poet and philosopher known for his “cosmic philosophy,” musical compositions and performances.

“Of all the jazz musicians, Sun Ra was probably the most controversial,” critic Scott Yanow said, because of Sun Ra’s eclectic music and unorthodox lifestyle.

Claiming that he was of the “Angel Race” and not from Earth, but from Saturn, Sun Ra developed a complex persona using “cosmic” philosophies and lyrical poetry that made him a pioneer of afrofuturism. He preached awareness and peace above all.

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Almanac – May 18

1048 – Omar Khayyám born.  Persian polymath, philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and poet. He also wrote treatises on mechanics, geography, mineralogy, music, and Islamic theology.

Outside Iran and Persian speaking countries, Khayyám has had an impact on literature and societies through the translation of his works and popularization by other scholars.

The greatest such impact was in English-speaking countries; the English scholar Thomas Hyde (1636–1703) was the first non-Persian to study him.

The most influential of all was Edward FitzGerald (1809–83), who made Khayyám the most famous poet of the East in the West through his celebrated translation and adaptations of Khayyám’s rather small number of quatrains (Persian: رباعیات‎ rubāʿiyāt) in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

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1911 – Big Joe Turner born. American “blues shouter” (a blues-music singer capable of singing unamplified with a band) .

According to the songwriter Doc Pomus, “Rock and roll would have never happened without him.”

Although he had his greatest fame during the 1950s with his rock and roll recordings, particularly “Shake, Rattle and Roll”, Turner’s career as a performer endured from the 1920s into the 1980s.

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1913 – Charles Trenet born.  French singer and songwriter, most famous for his recordings from the late 1930s until the mid-1950s, though his career continued through the 1990s.

In an era in which it was exceptional for a singer to write their own material, Trenet wrote prolifically and declined to record any but his own songs.

While many of his songs mined relatively conventional topics such as love, Paris, and nostalgia for his younger days, what set Trenet’s songs apart were their personal, poetic, sometimes quite eccentric qualities, often infused with a warm wit. Some of his songs had unconventional subject matter, with whimsical imagery bordering on the surreal.

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1995 – Brinsley Le Poer Trench died. From 1956 to 1959 he edited the Flying Saucer Review and founded the International Unidentified Object Observer Corps.

In 1967, he founded Contact International and served as its first president. He also served as vice-president of the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA). He was an honorary life member of the now defunct Ancient Astronauts Society which supported the ideas put forward by Erich von Däniken in his 1968 book Chariots of the Gods?.

In 1975 he succeeded to the earldom of  Clancarty on the death of his half-brother, giving him a seat in the British House of Lords.

He used his new position to found a UFO Study Group at the  Lords, introducing Flying Saucer Review to its library and pushing for the declassification of UFO data.

Four years later he organised a celebrated debate in the House of Lords on UFOs which attracted many speeches on both sides of the question.

Trench also claimed to know a former U.S. test pilot who said he was one of six persons present at a meeting between President Eisenhower and a group of aliens, which allegedly took place at Edwards Air Force Base on April 4, 1954.

Clancarty reported that the test pilot told him “Five different alien craft landed at the base. Three were saucer-shaped and two were cigar shaped… the aliens looked something like humans, but not exactly.”

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1999 – Augustus Pablo died. Jamaican roots reggae and dub record producer, melodica player and keyboardist, active from the 1970s onwards.

He popularized the use of the melodica (an instrument at that time primarily used in Jamaica to teach music to schoolchildren) in reggae music, and was a committed Rastafarian.

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Almanac – May 03

1469 – Niccolò Machiavelli born.  Italian historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher, humanist and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. He was for many years an official in the Florentine Republic, with responsibilities in diplomatic and military affairs.

He was a founder of modern political science, and more specifically political ethics. He also wrote comedies, carnival songs, and poetry. His personal correspondence is renowned in the Italian language.

He was Secretary to the Second Chancery of the Republic of Florence from 1498 to 1512, when the Medici were out of power.

He wrote his masterpiece, The Prince, after the Medici had recovered power and he no longer held a position of responsibility in Florence.

His moral and ethical beliefs led to the creation of the word machiavellianism which has since been used to describe one of the three dark triad personalities in psychology.

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1932 – Charles Fort died. American writer and researcher into anomalous phenomena.

Today, the terms Fortean and Forteana are used to characterize various such phenomena. Fort’s books sold well and are still in print today.

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1940 – Conny Plank born.  German record producer and musician.  

His creativity as a sound engineer and producer helped to shape many innovative recordings of postwar European popular music, covering a wide range of genres including progressive, avant-garde, electronic music and krautrock. His immense catalog of work has greatly influenced modern studio production and engineering techniques.

As a musician, Plank is credited on albums by Guru Guru, Kraan, Cluster, Liliental and Os Mundi.

He collaborated with Dieter Moebius on five Moebius & Plank studio albums recorded between 1979 and 1986. The Moebius & Plank sound foreshadowed techno and electronica and influenced many later musicians.

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1963 – The police force in Birmingham, Alabama switched tactics and responded with violent force to stop the “Birmingham campaign” protesters. Images of the violent suppression are transmitted worldwide, bringing new-found attention to the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

The Birmingham campaign was a movement organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to bring attention to the unequal treatment that black Americans endured in Birmingham.

Led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, the spring 1963 campaign of nonviolent direct actions culminated in widely publicized confrontations between black youth and white civic authorities, and eventually led the municipal government to change the city’s discrimination laws.

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Almanac – April 27

1759 – Mary Wollstonecraft born. British writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights.

During her brief career, she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children’s book, though she   is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason.

Wollstonecraft married the philosopher William Godwin, one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement, while her daughter Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, later Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, would become an accomplished writer herself.

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1947 – Ann Peebles born.   American singer-songwriter who gained celebrity for her Memphis soul albums of the 1970s on the Hi Records label.

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1998 – Carlos Castaneda died. Peruvian author and student of anthropology.

Starting with The Teachings of Don Juan in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that describe his alleged training in shamanism. The books, narrated in the first person, relate his supposed experiences under the tutelage of a Yaqui “Man of Knowledge” named Don Juan Matus.

 His 11 books have sold more than 28 million copies in 17 languages. Critics have suggested that they are works of fiction; supporters claim the books are either true or at least valuable works of philosophy and descriptions of practices which enable an increased awareness.

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Almanac – April 23

1564 – William Shakespeare born. English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.

 His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, two epitaphs on a man named John Combe, one epitaph on Elias James, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

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1907 – Lee Miller born. American photographer. She was a successful fashion model in New York City in the 1920s before going to Paris, with the intention of apprenticing herself to the surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray. Although, at first, he insisted that he did not take students, Miller soon became his photographic assistant, as well as his lover and muse.

While she was in Paris, she began her own photographic studio, often taking over Man Ray’s fashion assignments to enable him to concentrate on his painting.In fact, many of the photographs taken during this period and credited to Man Ray were actually taken by Miller.

Together with Man Ray, she rediscovered the photographic technique of solarisation. She was an active participant in the surrealist movement, with her witty and humorous images.

 During the Second World War, she became an acclaimed war correspondent for Vogue, covering events such as the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris, and the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau.

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1965 – George Adamski died.  Polish-born American citizen who became widely known in ufology circles, and to some degree in popular culture, after he claimed to have photographed ships from other planets, met with friendly Nordic alien Space Brothers, and to have taken flights with them.

The first of the so-called contactees of the 1950s, he was called a “philosopher, teacher, student and saucer researcher“, though his claims were met with skepticism.

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1991 – Johnny Thunders died. American  guitarist, singer and songwriter. He came to prominence in the early 1970s as a member of the New York Dolls,  later played with The Heartbreakers and as a solo artist.

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