Tag Archives: Renaissance humanist

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 – April 09

1553 – François Rabelais died. French Renaissance writer, doctor, Renaissance humanist, monk and Greek scholar.

He has historically been regarded as a writer of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes and songs. His best known work is Gargantua and Pantagruel. Rabelais is considered one of the great writers of world literature and among the creators of modern European writing.

There are diverging accounts of Rabelais’ death and his last words. According to some, he wrote a famous one sentence will: “I have nothing, I owe a great deal, and the rest I leave to the poor”, and his last words were “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.”

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1926 – Zip the Pinhead died. American freak show performer.

His unusual appearance caused many to believe that he was a “pinhead“, or microcephalic. Microcephaly patients are characterized by a small, tapering cranium and often have impaired mental faculty, although it is arguable that Zip was not mentally deficient – his  sister, Sarah van Duyne, claimed in a 1926 interview that her brother would “converse like the average person, and with fair reasoning power”.

Zip’s early performances were set against a background story. It was told to the audience that a tribe of “missing links” had been discovered in Africa (he was actually born in New Jersey), and that Zip was one of these.
 
In his later years Zip eschewed traveling in favor of displaying himself at Coney Island. One Sunday afternoon in 1925, Zip heard a little girl cry for help. He noticed the girl waving her arms in the ocean and swam out to rescue her.

At the time, the vigorous Zip was at least in his late 70’s and most probably early 80’s . All who witnessed cheered his valor, but he left the scene to avoid their accolades.

He is partly the inspiration for Bill Griffith’s comics character, Zippy the Pinhead, which initially appeared in underground publications during the 1970s.

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1938 – Rockin’ Sidney born.  American R&B, zydeco, and soul musician.

His credits include “No Good Woman”, “You Ain’t Nothing But Fine”, “Tell Me”, and his biggest hit, “My Toot Toot“, which became a worldwide hit.

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