Fascinating Facts

  • Catch-22 author Joseph Heller is born today!

    Joseph Heller (May 1, 1923 – December 12, 1999) was an American satirical novelist, short story writer, and playwright. The title of one of his works, Catch-22, entered the English lexicon, to refer to a vicious circle, involving an absurd, no-win, contradictory choice, particularly in situations in which the desired outcome of the choice is a bureaucratic or legal impossibility; regardless of the chosen option, therefore, a paradoxically negative outcome is a certainty. (more…)

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  • American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson dies today in 1882

    Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and he disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.

    Emerson gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, formulating and expressing the philosophy of transcendentalism in his 1836 essay “Nature”. Following this groundbreaking work, he gave a speech entitled “The American Scholar” in 1837, which Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. considered to be America’s “intellectual Declaration of Independence.” (more…)

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  • Happy Birthday William Shakespeare, born today in 1564

    William Shakespeare (April 26, 1564 – April 23, 1616) was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet, and the “Bard of Avon.”

    His extant works, including collaborations, consist of approximately 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. (more…)

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  • Mark Twain Dies Today in 1910

    Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher and lecturer. Among his novels are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called “The Great American Novel”.

    Twain was raised in Hannibal, Missouri, which later provided the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. After an apprenticeship with a printer, Twain worked as a typesetter and contributed articles to the newspaper of his older brother, Orion Clemens. He later became a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River before heading west to join Orion in Nevada. (more…)

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  • Albert Einstein Dies Today: April 18, 1955

    Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics). He is best known in popular culture for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2 (which has been dubbed “the world’s most famous equation”). (more…)

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  • Benjamin Franklin Dies Today: April 17, 1790

    Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790) is one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A renowned polymath, he was a leading author in his day, as well as a printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions. He facilitated many civic organizations, including Philadelphia’s fire department and The University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution. (more…)

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  • Abraham Lincoln Dies Today: April 15, 1865

    Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American politician and lawyer who served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War—its bloodiest war and perhaps its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. (more…)

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  • Happy Birthday Leonardo da Vinci, born April 15, 1452

    Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519), more commonly Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. (more…)

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  • Happy Birthday to President Thomas Jefferson:

    April 13, 1743 — Thomas Jefferson is born today (died July 4, 1826). An American Founding Father, he was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and later served as the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he was elected the second Vice President of the United States, serving under John Adams from 1797 to 1801. (more…)

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  • British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher Dies Today: April 8, 2013

    Margaret Hilda Thatcher, (October 13, 1925 – April 8, 2013) was a British stateswoman who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and the Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century, and the first woman to have held the office. A Soviet journalist dubbed her The Iron Lady, a nickname that became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style. As Prime Minister, she implemented policies that have come to be known as Thatcherism. (more…)

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  • Happy Birthday Colin Powell: April 5, 1937

    Colin Luther Powell (born April 5, 1937) is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. Powell was born in Harlem as the son of Jamaican immigrants. During his military career, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989), as Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command (1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993), holding the latter position during the Persian Gulf War.

    Powell was the first, and so far the only, African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under U.S. President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, the first African American to serve in that position. (more…)

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  • Happy Birthday Booker T. Washington: April 5, 1856

    Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915) was an American educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African-American community, and was from the last generation of black American leaders born into slavery and became the leading voice of the former slaves and their descendants. They were newly oppressed in the South by disenfranchisement and the Jim Crow discriminatory laws enacted in the post-Reconstruction Southern states in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (more…)

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