Tag Archives: polymath

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 – April 15

1452 – Leonardo da Vinci born.  Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer.

His genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal. Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance Man, a man of “unquenchable curiosity” and “feverishly inventive imagination“.

 He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.

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1802 – William Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy saw a “long belt” of daffodils, on a walk around Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater, in the Lake District,  inspiring the former to pen I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud a couple of years later, inspired by Dorothy’s journal entry describing the walk –

When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side, we fancied that the lake had floated the seed ashore & that the little colony had so sprung up — But as we went along there were more & yet more & at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about & about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness & the rest tossed and reeled and danced & seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the Lake, they looked so gay ever dancing ever changing. This wind blew directly over the lake to them. There was here & there a little knot & a few stragglers a few yards higher up but they were so few as not to disturb the simplicity & unity & life of that one busy highway — We rested again & again. The Bays were stormy & we heard the waves at different distances & in the middle of the water like the Sea.

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1894 – Bessie Smith born. American blues singer. Nicknamed The Empress of the Blues, she was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s, and is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and, along with Louis Armstrong, a major influence on other jazz vocalists.

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1912 – The British passenger liner RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic at 2:20 a.m., two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg. Only 710 of 2,227 passengers and crew on board survived.

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1980 – Jean-Paul Sartre died. French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic.

He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism, and one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy and Marxism.

His work has also influenced sociology, critical theory, post-colonial theory, and literary studies, and continues to influence these disciplines.

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Almanac – January 18

1873 – Edward George Bulwer-Lytton died. English politician, poet, playwright, and novelist. He was immensely popular with the reading public and wrote a stream of bestselling novels which earned him a considerable fortune.

He coined the phrases “the great unwashed”,pursuit of the almighty dollar“, “the pen is mightier than the sword“, as well as the famous opening line “It was a dark and stormy night“.

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1932 – Robert Anton Wilson born. American author and polymath who became at various times a novelist, philosopher, psychologist, essayist, editor, playwright, poet, futurist, civil libertarian and self-described agnostic mystic.

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