BOB'S BITS

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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 16 Jan 2020, 12:49

"When I see the ways of others and thinks on you, I cannot but acknowledg myself most happie in so verteus a parson." Letter of William, duke of Hamilton, to his wife, the duchess of Hamilton.

Early modern Scotland produced a number of remarkable women, but one of the most remarkable was not born in Scotland at all. Lady Anne Hamilton was born at Whitehall Palace, London, on January 16, 1632. The Hamiltons were old and rich and possessed a good claim to the Scottish throne, but they never tried it out. That and their loyal service made them much loved by the Stuarts. Lady Anne, as a female, could not expect much but marriage, and that prospect was somewhat clouded by her very plainness and by the civil war that raged around her. But the same war would take her father the duke and then her uncle his successor, fatally loyal to Charles I and then Charles II, and since neither of them possessed a male heir she became Duchess of Hamilton suo jure in 1651, at the tender age of 19, and thus held the dukedom and the family’s extensive estates on the Scottish mainland and the Isle of Arran. In 1656 she married William Douglas, making him a duke (but a landless one). He renounced his Catholicism to gain her Presbyterian favor, and whatever his motives and her looks it became a love match. And it was also a business partnership. Together they paid off the punishing fines imposed by parliament. Then they successfully took on the mountainous debts of her father and uncle, transforming the Hamilton estates into a prosperous little kingdom. They peopled it too. In 16 years she birthed thirteen children, and enough of them (seven) survived to marry and further populate the peerage. In all this they were helped along by her success in recovering from the restored monarch, Charles II, his and his father’s debts to her father and uncle, as miraculous an accomplishment as any other. When William died in 1694, the duchess did the right thing by transferring the dukedom to her eldest son, but wisely (knowing his recklessness and fecklessness) she retained the estates in her own name. His death in a duel (1712) meant that when the Duchess died four years later she passed on intact both her titles and her lands, the final accomplishment of her life’s work. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 17 Jan 2020, 12:53

"My father Backhouse, lying sick, bequeathed to me the true Matter of the Philosophers Stone." Elias Ashmore, diary entry, 1653.

Today we draw sharp distinctions between science and ‘superstition’ but in the century that saw the origins of modern science, those boundaries were fuzzy if indeed they existed at all. Even the great Newton dabbled in astrology and alchemy (not to mention biblical prophecy). Others, like Elias Ashmole (the founder of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum) were more involved in occult realms. In this, Ashmole was encouraged by his landowner neighbor, William Backhouse, a Berkshire gentleman of uncertain but armigerous origins whose family motto (in archaic French) is best translated as “know to conceal”—certainly not a core principle of the ‘new’ science. Backhouse was born on the family estate, in Berkshire, at Swallowfield, on January 17, 1593. He may have inherited some occultish matter from his father, but he added much to it and in several fields, notably astrology, alchemy, and Rosicrucian texts and gadgets, and finally built a ‘long gallery’ onto his house to keep the stuff museum style. This excited the curiosity of his collector-neighbor, Ashmole (and may have found its way, eventually, into Ashmole’s hands) but also of people more usually identified with the ‘new’ knowledge such as Samuel Hartlib. Unlike many of his fellow ‘magicians’ Backhouse doesn’t seem to have published much, but his reputation as an adept spread far and wide and he exhibited his curiosities not only at home in Berkshire but in London too. He contributed an odd poem (“The magistery”) to one of Ashmole’s publications and (also for Ashmole) translated a couple of ancient alchemical texts, one of them in Greek. He pottered at other things, too, and may have invented, certainly improved, the odometer, which he charmingly called the “waywiser.” Backhouse was withal a substantial gentleman, one of some notoriety, and in 1662 he passed on his whole property to his daughter, Flower (speaking of charming names), who in 1670 wed Henry Hyde and thus, in 1674, became Countess Clarendon and oversaw the building of Hyde’s new country seat, known (charmingly) as Swallowfield Park House. It sits on the Backhouse estate, in its own way a fruit of the occult. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 18 Jan 2020, 13:05

"I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine." Emily Dickinson.

The original title of Roget’s Thesaurus was Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and to Assist in Literary Compilation. Think about it. By its publication in 1852, Roget had had plenty of time to think about it, for he’d started it in 1805. Its short title derives from the classical Greek for ‘treasure house’ (a transliteration is thisavrofylákio). Anyone who enjoys thinking about writing—and is OK with taking a detour or two before deciding exactly which word is almost exactly right—should enjoy this treasure house. Its classification scheme is said to be Aristotelian, but I’d give more credit to Carl Linnaeus (1707-78) and his revolutionary new way of classifying life forms, by how they were put together and by their affinities, too, their place in the natural scheme of things. Peter Mark Roget, born in London of Genevan Protestant stock on January 18, 1779, defies classification himself, unless perhaps by some Roget-an system, for he was a plural genius. We could celebrate him for his improvements in the slide rule, for his manifold contributions to medicine (the foundation of a medical school at Manchester, advances in epidemiology and anesthesiology). And he was one of the small crowd of founders of London University and then (to close the bargain) a co-designer of London’s sewage system. But we honor him (or should) for his words. His Thesaurus (which has grown with each succeeding edition) is not universally admired, and it can lead the unwary, or the gullible, or the too-clever-by-half into culs de sac or on long, winding paths with only a booby prize at the end. But it’s worth even those journeys. A special 150th anniversary edition was published in 2002, and I don’t yet have it. Of that, I am “ashamed,” possibly “mortified,” but I might find a better name for it under Roget’s “Words Relating to the Sentiment and Moral Powers.” As for “anniversary” itself, I might look amongst “Words Expressing Abstract Relations” subheading “Recurrent Time.” And so on, possibly ad infinitum, but certainly deeper and deeper into Peter Mark Roget’s treasure house. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 19 Jan 2020, 13:23

"I had an immense advantage inasmuch as I did not suffer from the general belief that whatever is, is right." Henry Bessemer.

On Groucho Marx’s quiz program, “You Bet Your Life,” contestants who failed to answer any of the first-round questions were offered, for a consolation prize, a question they could not get wrong. I remember, though, a contestant getting hers wrong, and much to Groucho’s irritation: “Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?” So, in steel making, who invented the Bessemer Process? On the face of it, that must have been Sir Henry Bessemer, born in Hertfordshire on January 19, 1813. Of course he wasn’t Sir Henry then. That honor was conferred upon him by Queen Victoria in 1879, in honor of his steel-making genius. But just like that old lady (not Victoria but a retired teacher, as I recall) at Groucho’s podium, you might beware of this as a trick question. The ‘bessemer’ process involves blowing air (nowadays doctored, I think, to add to its oxygen content) over and through molten pig iron. The air, far from cooling the iron, combusts and removes impurities. And out flows steel, more cheaply and more quickly and purer than ever before. It’s the sort of thing that might have been known before Henry Bessemer tried it out in 1855-56, for instance by foundry workers just messing about, and today it’s thought that maybe foundry workers did just that, not only those in Bessemer’s Sheffield works, but (for instance) the Chinese steelmakers who, bizarrely, had been shipped in to William Kelly’s Kentucky foundry. They’d (maybe) brought the secret with them from The Middle Kingdom. There were other claimants, too, including the Scottish ironmaster But such considerations—if they existed—did not stop Sir Henry Bessemer or “Pig Iron” Kelly from claiming their paternity (and their patent rights). Bessemer got a British patent, Kelly an American one, and by the 1870s the weather seemed set fair for civil suits that would have made a very few lawyers very much wealthier, but (to oversimplify) an American firm stepped in, bought both patents, and settled the issue by calling it The Bessemer Process. So if Groucho Marx, or his quizmaster shade, ever asks you that consolation question, you should feel free to give him a very long answer, or the wrong one. It’s up to you. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 20 Jan 2020, 11:51

"An adventurous life well-lived." From Brian Ketcham's obituary for his wife, Carolyn Konheim, December 2019.

What can you do to better the world if you’re just a young woman with a couple of history degrees (BA and MA), a school teaching job, a husband, and a school-age child? If you are Carolyn Konheim, the answer is—or was, for Ms. Konheim died only recently—quite a bit. Carolyn Konheim was born Carolyn Salminem, of immigrant parents, on January 20, 1938. She got her education, found a job and a husband, birthed a child, and settled down to her several responsibilities in New York City. One winter’s day, early 1963, walking in a city park with her son Alex, Konheim noticed that he was speckled in soot. A bit of research, or common knowledge, identified the culprit as one or another of the metro’s power plants, then in the habit of burning cheap, high carbon fuel. Having just read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Carolyn Konheim and her neighbor Hazel Henderson (another pesky immigrant, and an ecologist) joined up to make a committee of two, to form Citizens for Clean Air. Almost overnight, the two became a movement. It helped, too, that they tweaked the ear of John Lindsay, a liberal Republican shortly to be New York’s mayor, because otherwise—as Rachel Carson herself had been—they might have been accused of communism. Instead, Lindsay incorporated their anger into his campaign promises and then carried through on them, imposing what we would call today a carbon surtax. It was too late to avoid New York’s “killer smog” of Thanksgiving, 1966, but soon enough to begin the long process of cleansing the city, and for decades Carolyn Konheim was at the forefront, sometimes holding appointive public office (for the city, under the liberal Republican Lindsay, and then for the state, under the liberal Democrat Hugh Carey), sometimes at the head of this or that ginger group, sometimes raising a stink all by herself. Or not quite alone. In 1981 Carolyn and her new husband, Brian Ketcham, formed a consulting company, Community Consulting Services, just in order to help others decide that the world needed changing and then do something about it. In her mid 70s Carolyn Konheim fell prey to dementia and retired from active service. But Hazel Henderson is still changing things out in California. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 21 Jan 2020, 13:19

A story of two poets, the English woolens trade, a missing husband, and a Greek-English dictionary.

The Cockayne Scheme, or project, was one of the minor scandals of James I’s reign, a monopoly in the wool trade granted (in 1614) to try to take some of the processing profits (notably in dyeing) away from the Dutch. It was the brainchild of Sir William Cockayne, Lord Mayor of London who was also active in the Greenland and Eastland trade. It failed miserably, irritating everyone and profiting nobody, and I thought that was that with the Cockaynes, although the name did enter English as a shorthand for ill-designed investment schemes. But now enter Thomas Cockayne, very possibly a relative and certainly well-born (in Derbyshire, on January 21 1587). Thomas married well, too, a well-connected lady of the Stanhope clan (earls of Derby, Chesterfield, etc.), and they produced 7 children and a cornucopia of odd products (including asparagus) from their Derbyshire estates. But then, in about 1615, Thomas suddenly left it all and decamped to London. There Thomas was befriended by John Donne, poet and dean of St. Paul’s. Besides keeping Mrs. Thomas Cockayne apprised of her husband’s whereabouts, Donne preached Sir William Cockayne’s funeral sermon, in 1626. But whatever Thomas’s connections with Sir William and his get-richer-quicker project, he also went to London on a religious mission, and that may have been the Donne connection. Thomas Cockayne, who lived in London under an assumed name, wanted to get the Bible—especially the New Testament—just right, a task, he thought, of better translation. To do that he set about becoming one of England’s first lexicographers, though not of English. His Greek lexicon was published posthumously in 1658. He died in 1638. His wife, that Stanhope girl, never remarried, but went on producing asparagus, marrying her children off advantageously, and preserving—as family legends—affectionate stories of her eccentric husband. After her death in 1664 those stories were passed on to posterity by their son, Sir Aston Cockayne, landowner and poet, though not one of the quality of John Donne. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 22 Jan 2020, 13:54

"If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties." Francis Bacon, 1605.

It would be a gross overstatement, though not an absurdity, to say that the scientific revolution began with the birth of Francis Bacon on January 22, 1561. Born into a well-connected but not particularly rich family and educated at Cambridge, Bacon partly owed his ascent to his ability to find patrons and then, at the right moment, desert them (as with the traitor Essex in 1601). But there’s no doubt that he also rose in influence because of his own power, the command of knowledge he acquired through astonishingly wide reading, critical thinking, and a willingness to experiment. He owed his influence at the courts of Queen Elizabeth and then of King James mainly to his knowledge of the law, which in James’s reign brought him a knighthood, the attorney generalship, and finally a peerage (as Viscount St. Albans). As far as posterity is concerned, Bacon’s influence arises from what today we call science, and the scientific method, and it was here that his ambition ran riot. He would restore to man the mastery over nature enjoyed by Adam, before the Fall. In several works, notably The Advancement of Learning (1605) and The Great Instauration (1620), Bacon urged his fellows to escape what he called the four “idols” of contemporary thought (including, by the way, the idol of the marketplace) and embrace a more orderly, rational, and empirical discipline. This, he said, would involve experiment, and experiment would necessitate breaking nature and natural processes down into smaller, more manageable bits. Only by reduction, he counseled, could we discover the great truths. Such discoveries were to be sought because they would change, and improve, the wealth of the realm and the welfare of its people. Typically, Bacon himself died (in 1626) of a chill caught while experimenting to see whether packing with snow would better preserve dead flesh (not his own, but a chicken’s). Francis Bacon is cast by historians as the father of several things (law, medicine, modern industry, and some occultisms as well as “science”), but (sorry folks) he did not write all those plays and sonnets. That was William Shakespeare, after all. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 23 Jan 2020, 13:03

"Give me blood and I will give you freedom." Subhas Chandra Bose, July 1944.

Movements to liberate the oppressed are fated to develop factions, divisions between immediatism and gradualism, between advocates of violence and those of peaceful means. As for the oppressors, they exploit these divisions, often (whether ironically or purposefully) forcing shows of unity and common purpose in the liberation movement. The factional struggles within the Indian National Congress in the decades before independence illustrate these patterns, not least in the career of Subhas Chandra Bose, a man who went further than most in his desire for “independence now,” driven even into the arms of Hitler and Hirohito during WWII. Born into the family of a prosperous and high caste Bengali lawyer on January 23, 1897, Chandra Bose early showed his colors by participating in the beating of a British college instructor whose racism had proven particularly offensive. Bose’s defense (that he was only an observer) failed, and he was expelled, only to find another college, graduate with honors, and then sail to England to learn the law of the empire at Cambridge. At each stage this young radical enjoyed the patronage of the Indian elite, budding nationalists and servants of the empire alike, many of whom would never repent their respect for Bose even as they ran from his radicalism. This same cycle of conflict and consensus, anger and reconciliation, characterized Boze’s role within the Congress Party and his relationships with Gandhi and Nehru. Now and then expelled by the Congress and imprisoned by the British (in one prison spell he contracted tuberculosis), Bose would come back, win this or that election, and always maintain his base within the Bengali Congress. His military tactics and his militant bearing were particularly offensive for Gandhi, and with the coming of war for the British too, for Bose had already developed connections with European Naziism (and an Austrian wife), and held the view that the road to Indian independence ran through Berlin, latterly through Tokyo. This was the last straw for Gandhi and Nehru, but Bose’s strength in the Congress, and his charisma, kept them from publicly breathing sighs of relief when Bose died in a plane crash, in Taiwan, in 1945. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 24 Jan 2020, 12:32

"O fie, miss, you must not kiss and tell." William Congreve, Love for Love, 1695.

Not quite two centuries before Charles Darwin conclusively identified our primate kinship, William Congreve ‘confessed freely’ that he “could never look long upon a monkey without mortifying reflections.” But to our good fortune he chose humor rather than mortification to illustrate the point. William Congreve, playwright, was born in Yorkshire on January 24, 1670. His father became an officer (colonel) in the king’s Irish army, and it was in Ireland where William Congreve got his education (finishing at Trinity Dublin) and met his lifelong friend Jonathan Swift. Congreve moved back to England in the late 1680s, an exciting time politically, and quickly made his mark as a young man of literary talent. His five plays—only five—followed in rapid order: The Old Bachelor (1693), The Double Dealer (1694), Love for Love (1695), The Mourning Bride (1697), and The Way of the World (1700). All were hugely successful and made him the toast of the town (as he had brashly predicted when he was only 20). One was a tragedy (The Mourning Bride). The others, all comedies of manners, established Congreve as the master of “Restoration Comedy” (the real Restoration was in 1660, but literary eras are often adrift from historical ones). In all his plays he proved the master of witty dialogue, much of which has entered the language, if slightly altered, as in “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” (in The Mourning Bride). He did not retire from literature in 1700, turning to poetry and translations, but he did quit writing plays, for his income from civil service sinecures and from his drama royalties was more than sufficient to maintain a life of high style, enjoyment, and literary friends (not only Dryden and Swift but Pope, Gay, Addison, Steele, et cetera). And women too, whom William Congreve certainly did not scorn: one, the second Duchess of Marlborough (suo jure), became an especial favorite. When Congreve died, in 1726, Congreve left his considerable fortune to the duchess, probably to care for their daughter, the Lady Mary, who would herself become, in a world of manners, the Duchess of Leeds. ©.
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 25 Jan 2020, 13:55

"Omnia Omnibus Ubique." Corporate motto, Harrod's. (Roughly, "All things for all people, everywhere.")

In summer 1971 I was on an extended research trip to London, and learned that my parents’ ancient neighbor Helen Tollefson was also to be there, touring. So I offered ‘Aunt Helen’ (as my sister called her) one day’s guide service. Hers wasn’t a long list, nor a surprising one, and Harrod’s was to finish the day off, especially (she said) Harrod’s famous Food Hall with its fine groceries and finer delicacies. Little did either of us know, then, that Harrod’s had begun as a grocery: founder Charles Henry Harrod (1799-1885) who moved the business to its current location (two rented storefronts, two clerks) in the 1840s. But the man who made Harrod’s famous was his son, Charles Digby Harrod, born on January 25, 1841. This younger Harrod (after an apprenticeship with a City grocery), bought the business in 1861 and built up such a trade that he’d paid his father off by 1864. His secrets were quality produce (still, then, groceries and tea), aggressive marketing, and attentive service. By 1880 Harrod’s was a department store employing 200 staff, in new quarters at 101-103 Brompton Road (and Harrod had purchased a whole block of adjoining land for future expansion). Where his competitors offered favorable credit to rich households (and bribes to household servants) for their custom, Harrod offered low prices and cash sales, with the additions of good service from well-paid staff, high quality, and free delivery. And when a fire destroyed the whole business at Christmastime 1883, all of London watched agape as Harrod moved his business across the road, rebuilt and expanded the old premises, fulfilled all his Christmas orders, paid his staff generous overtime, and covered the treatment of the one employee injured in the fire. London’s newspapers watched, too, and Harrod’s rose from the ashes, like a Phoenix, in fame and fortune. When Aunt Helen and I got there, I discovered that her whole design was not the Food Hall at all, but to have me buy something nice from Harrod’s for Paulette, alone in north Lancashire and taking care of house and baby while Helen and I gadded about London. Despite breakages, we still have elements of Aunt Helen’s Chinese soup set and remember the rest, ceramic spoons and all. It was expensive, but it was worth the day. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 26 Jan 2020, 12:55

"The Reluctant Jester." The title of Michael Bentine's third (1992) autobiography.

Everyone knows that Michael Bond named his bear ‘Paddington’ after finding him in the station’s Lost Bear Office, but why did Bond invent ‘darkest Peru’ as Paddington’s home ground? Some say it was because of Peru’s speckled bears, but except for a structural resemblance about the nose there’s not much in appearance—and nothing in color—to back that up. Another possibility is that Paddington’s Peru links the bear to the comedian Michael Bentine, born in Watford on January 26, 1922. Watford, of course, is not Peru, but Michael Bentine’s father Adan was Peruvian by birth, and his grandfather Don Antonio was Peruvian to his bootstraps, indeed at his death was president-elect of the republic. And by the time Michael Bond came to work at the BBC (as a ‘gopher’ and then as writer) Michael Bentine was not only a famous comic but also the Beeb’s leading prankster, on set, at Broadcasting House, and at Television Centre. Bentine once bombarded the houses of parliament with plastic cannonballs (from a Chinese junk anchored in the Thames). Another time he raided Television Centre with a crew of Red Indians (in, I gather, Boston Tea Party garb). And when Bentine mock-torpedoed the building he actually scorched some of the brickwork, leading to a policy memo dictating that “under no circumstances is the BBC Television Centre to be used for the purposes of entertainment,” which naturally became a favorite in-house joke. There were other plausible connections between Bentine, Bond, and Bond’s bear, but the notoriety of the BBC’s madcap Peruvian is enough for me. Besides being, plausibly, the inspiration for Paddington’s Peruvian-ness, Michael Bentine was in the original cast of BBC radio’s Goon Show. Bentine left the Goons after two foundational years, remaining as a BBC performer but moving also into scriptwriting and production, including classic children’s programs like Potty Time and The Bumblies. And all this after a really bad war, which included Bentine’s being one of the first allied officers into Bergen-Belsen. After that horror (he called it “the ultimate blasphemy”), Bentine’s best refuge (other than darkest Peru) was the unlikely, indeed insane comedy for which he is famous. It was either that or restoring Victorian paintings—at which Michael Bentine was also an adept. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 27 Jan 2020, 15:54

"The Anatomy of the Nerves yields more pleasant and profitable Speculations, than the Theory of any parts besides in the animated Body." Thomas Willis, in The Anatomy of the Brain and Nerves, 1664.

I still lecture annually in UMSL’s ‘science literacy’ course on those small knots of scholars in 17th-century Oxford who would in 1661 found the Royal Society and thus sped the ‘scientific revolution’ in England. Though many were Puritan-inclined, they were weary of theological hair-splitting (and blood-letting). They admitted outright royalists to their circle (not to mention foreigners), and preferred to argue about, and experiment with, things they could hope to resolve, like physical processes. Their number included names we all should know: John Locke, Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle, William Petty for instance. Among their more enthusiastic royalists was Thomas Willis, who’d treated King Charles I in Oxford during the Civil Wars. Thomas Willis was born in Wiltshire on January 27, 1621, a son of an estate steward, which may be why he was first drawn to mathematics. He went up to Christ Church, Oxford, where he became more interested in anatomy and medicine. There he also learned much from clever women, notably Canon Thomas Iles’s wife (“a knowing woman in physique and surgery”), Wren’s sister Susan, who was expert in the care and cure of wounds, and (perhaps) with Boyle’s sister Catherine, not a bad scientist herself. Willis became a fashionable doctor in London, treating some of the city’s elite including Anne, Countess Conway, and Archbishop Gilbert Sheldon. There Willis was a charter member of the Royal Society, and made important medical discoveries. He was the first to diagnose and describe diabetes mellitus, once known as Willis’s Disease. Like many of his kind, he also dabbled in alchemy. More importantly, he was one of those who began to think that it was in the brain and nervous system where we would find not only the physical source of our involuntary physical processes (those that kept us alive) but the founts of our individuality (those that made us human). Anne Conway, by the way, was another of Willis’s intellectual women friends, one whom we now recognize as an important philosopher. Willis failed to cure her headaches, but he did become her lover. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 28 Jan 2020, 12:50

"Things are only impossible until they're not." -- Captain Jean-Luc Picard, in Star Trek.

The self-critical nature of science militates against the creation (or survival) of family dynasties, but among the few one might find the Piccard family stands out. Its nodal point, you might say, came on January 28, 1884 with the birth of twin brothers, Jean Felix Piccard and Auguste Antoine Piccard. This was in Basel, Switzerland, where their father Jules was Professor of Chemistry at the University of Basel. Jean and Auguste both went to Zurich instead, Jean in Chemistry and Auguste in Physics. Thereafter their careers varied somewhat, Jean’s mainly in the United States, Antoine’s mainly in Belgium, but there was a unifying theme, or perhaps two: besides being scientists, the Piccard brothers were inveterate adventurers whose exploits took them up and took them down. They rode their balloon gondolas into the stratosphere and their diving bathyscapes into the dark ocean depths. And, into the bargain, they designed their own vessels of exploration (indeed ‘bathyscape’ was Auguste’s coinage). Along their ways followed a passel of nephews and sons, I think one niece/daughter, and also Jean’s wife Jeannette Ridion Piccard (1895-1981) an American balloonist and scientist in her own right. In 1932 Jeannette was the first woman to reach the stratosphere) and was a feminist who later tried spiritual exploration as a pioneer female priest (of the Episcopal persuasion). And I’m told that there is a grandchild or two still pursuing these varied lines of scientific or religious exploration. Such family exploits can hardly be kept within the bounds of science, so both of these very odd—or at the least unusual—brothers live on in western culture. Antoine became the model for the character Professor Cuthbert Calculus in Hergé’s cartoon seriesThe Adventures of Tintin (a “mini Piccard,” Hergé said, for Auguste was too tall for a cartoon square). More familiar to American audiences is the Star Trek character Jean-Luc Picard, according to Gene Roddenberry a composite of these two very remarkable twins. And if Roddenberry says it, it must be so. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 29 Jan 2020, 13:31

"The creation of Physics is the shared heritage of all mankind." Muhammad Abdus Salam, Nobel acceptance speech, 1979.

When in the 1930s Abdus Salam was in school in a small town in the western Punjab (now Pakistan), his science teacher told his class that they “need not worry” about the new sciences. While gravity was everywhere, the teacher said, electricity had not yet reached Lahore and “the nuclear force” existed only in Europe. From this one deduces that the teacher was a Newtonian, but the pupil Salam would go beyond Newton (and for that matter, Einstein). In 1979 Salam shared the Nobel Prize in physics for his work (with Stephen Weinberg and Sheldon Glashow) in solving a particularly abstruse problem (having to do with the “weak force”) in quantum physics. And he would do much else, too. Muhammad Abdus Salam (as he later called himself) was born on January 29, 1926. His father was a minor educational official (and a smallholder), and had high hopes for his eldest son. Those began to be realized when Salam notched the highest score in the whole of Punjab in his school examinations and went off to study science at Cambridge. There he scored a double First (mathematics and natural sciences) and, in 1949, went to work in the famous Cavendish Laboratory. Finding experimental work tedious and frustrating, he turned to theory, and it was in theory (at Cambridge, London, Princeton, Pakistan and Trieste) that he made his most important scientific discoveries. Salam was also an advocate for spreading the peaceful use of science through the ‘third world,’ not least his native Pakistan, where he worked on a wide range of projects. But when his sect (the Ahmadiyya) was proclaimed heretical he returned to Europe to found (under United Nations auspices) the International Center for Theoretical Physics at Trieste. It’s now named after him for, among his other attributes, Muhammad Abdus Salam was a respected and loved friend and colleague. He was particularly intent on opening Muslim cultures to unhindered scientific inquiry, and fondly recalled the long centuries when science, mathematics and classical Greek philosophy found refuge only in the Islamic world. Salam died in 1996, in Oxford, where his second wife Louise Napier Johnson, was professor of molecular biophysics and a fellow at Corpus Christi College. His funeral and burial took place ‘back home’ at the home of the Ahmadiyya sect, where his cortege was accompanied by 35,000 mourners. He was survived by his two wives and all six of their children. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 30 Jan 2020, 12:34

Technology piracy: an American tradition? The interesting case of Traitor Slater.

The recent arrest of a Harvard science professor (ostensibly for tax evasion but really for unlicensed technology transfer to China) led to a lunchtime discussion with colleagues on the whole issue of innovation and international competition. The interesting point was made that, for a nation to really benefit from tech piracy, its culture had to be genuinely innovative. Mere copying won’t do the trick. The same problem the Chinese are struggling with faced the infant USA which, as with contemporary China, had perforce to play the pirate’s role. This was not only in copyright matters (as would testify, amongst many others, Charles Dickens and Frances Trollope) but in industry too. Take the case of Samuel Slater (“traitor Slater” as the British would call him) who in 1789 defied British law by taking plans for fabric manufacture to the USA not on paper (which would have been clearly illegal) but in his head. This technology piracy led to economic success for various reasons, not least that Slater had the good fortune (or was it good sense?) to run into a New England entrepreneur, Oziel Wilkinson, born in Pawtucket, RI, on January 30, 1741. Wilkinson, a Quaker, was born and bred to the blacksmithing trade, but ambition and inventiveness made him into a leading iron founder and a business partner of the wealthy Brown family, just the sort of person Samuel Slater needed to make the plans in his head work on the ground (or, rather, on the water power of the Blackstone River). Slater then showed further good sense by marrying (in 1791) Oziel’s daughter Hannah (1774-1812), who would in 1793 invent (and patent!!) the two-ply thread. Slater then partnered Oziel’s son David (and a few other Yankee entrepreneurs, including the Browns). Slater retained his share in the the Pawtucket mill to his death, but after Hannah died (in childbirth) in 1812, he built a larger mill at a riverside site in Massachusetts. He named his new town Webster, after the great Senator (and tariff champion) Daniel Webster. So might say that Slater made a good marriage between British technology and, in the shape of the Wilkinson family, American culture. He died one of our first millionaires, leaving an estate worth the equivalent of $40 million today. ©.

( Bob is quite right. Slater invented an improved version of the Arkwright System that later developed into Ring Spinning which was the basis of modern methods, making the later spinning mule obsolete. He tried to introduce it in Keighley but failed so went to the US.)
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 31 Jan 2020, 14:03

"Transform and Unfold." The company motto of the Melitta Group.

Amalie Auguste Melitta Bentz was born in Dresden, Saxony, on January 31, 1873, into a family with a long history of business entrepreneurship, most notably in brewing and publishing. And it was with paper that she would make her mark. First she married Hugo Bentz, a department store manager in Dresden, and set about making a home, hausfrauing, you might say. Melitta, as she was known, was particularly proud of her kitchen, but—family legend runs—she could not make perfect coffee. Percolators overcooked it, espresso left grounds in the cup (or between one’s teeth), and bagging one’s coffee in linen was too messy for words. Melitta experimented, until one day she took an old brass pot, made nail holes in its bottom, and lined it with blotting paper from Horst’s (her eldest son’s) school exercise book. Melitta made further improvements, and in 1908 took the whole thing to the imperial patent office (for Saxony was now part of the Kaiser’s Germany) where one “M. Bentz” became the patentee for the paper filters through which one could make clear coffee, strong or weak, but never overcooked. By 1912 the Melitta company was in full swing with 12 employees. In 1929 they moved to Minden in Westphalia, which as fate would have it would be, in 1945, in Germany’s western sector, and Melitta continued to grow, famous not only for its coffee making but its “Melitta Aid” system for workers’ welfare (five-day week, annual bonuses, paid holidays, and a social fund for unforeseen disasters). As the “Melitta Aid” name indicates, Melitta Bentz kept her hand in the business until her death in 1950, although from 1930 her two sons did the day-to-day stuff. Amazingly, astonishingly, the Melitta Group is still family-owned in 2020, with over 5000 employees world-wide. It does a lot of business (>$1.6 billion). It runs itself nearer to carbon neutral, and uses very little water per ton of coffee filters (much less, I think, than gets poured through Melitta filters each day). And whether or not ‘Melitta Aid’ still functions, the average company tenure of all Melitta employees is 13 years. Since the world-wide average in industry is 4 years, one might conclude that Melitta is doing something right. Besides coffee, of course. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 01 Feb 2020, 15:43

"We cared about life and our future. But we knew that we had to do this one stand. We had to take on this one thing." Major-General Joseph MacNeil (US Army retired), speaking in 2010, recalling his memory of Feb 1., 1960.

It’s February 1, the beginning of Black History Month 2020, a celebration of American diversity and of the contributions to it of Americans of African descent. The month itself has a long history. It was begun in the mid-1920s by Carter Godwin Woodson (1875-1950) as ‘Negro History Week’ at Howard University. Woodson also founded (in 1916), the Journal of Negro History, then the only scholarly journal likely to view black history as central to our diverse past. But this isn’t about Carter Woodson. It’s about four black students who, on February 1, 1960, broke the law, put themselves at risk, by sitting down at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina and asking for service. They were Joseph McNeil (1942- ), Franklin McCain (1941-2014), William Smith (1941-1990), and Clarence Henderson (1942- ). The Greensboro Four, as they became known, were inspired by Mohandas Gandhi’s non-violent resistance to British rule in India and, closer to home, by the ‘Journeys of Reconciliation,’ the precursors to the 1960s Freedom Rides, and organized by our very own Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). It worked out better in Greensboro than it would, later, in other places, like Selma or Montgomery or Houston, or than it had before in the so-called ‘race riots’ that had, periodically, smeared our streets with blood. The Greensboro Four, and their friends at North Carolina A & T, had planned well, and had a sympathetic white sponsor in Ralph Johns, a local businessman. And, as it turned out in February 1960, in the Greensboro police who, called to the scene by the irate Woolworth’s manager, professed to find nothing criminal in the students’ action. It probably helped that the organizers had seen to it that the sit-down had plenty of media coverage. In the next few days, more sitters-down appeared, almost all of them—but not all—black, and by July Woolworths and other downtown Greensboro emporia had called it a day and dropped the curtain on segregation. So at the beginning of Black History Month 2020 let’s remember the Greensboro Four and their courage—and their success. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 02 Feb 2020, 13:16

"A Princess in her nation's service, she has gone among the poor and the weak, the mothers and the children, with hope and faith and action." From the honorary degree citation for Amrit Kaur, Princeton University, 1956.

When Harnam Singh converted to Christianity he lost his right of succession to the throne of Kapurthala, a small principality in the Punjab. But he continued in his family’s good graces, shared in its wealth, and lived in the palace compound or at his own princely dwelling in Simla. He also occupied important positions in the British Raj, and was knighted for his services. So his daughter the Princess Amrit Kaur, born February 2, 1889, grew up rich and familiar with politicians and power. She was educated in England, at the Sherborne School for Girls and then Oxford, but she never graduated from Oxford and was known for her sporting prowess in field hockey, cricket, and tennis. She returned to India in about 1910. She lived with her parents until their deaths, but she also became a leader in the independence movement, secretary to and confidante of Mohandas Gandhi, and most importantly an advocate for women’s rights, first within the independence movement and, after independence was achieved in 1947, in the Indian government. The roots of her feminism were various, an amalgam of her Christianity, her experience in England, and the fact that she grew up the only female in a family of eight siblings. Add her experience in the independence movement and the Congress Party, her role as a very self-conscious modernizer: all these circumstances energized her. While still ‘at home’ with her parents, she helped to found the All India Women’s Conference (1927). After their deaths, and as Gandhi’s secretary from 1936, she became more active, indeed a militant. She was imprisoned several times, injured by police in public demonstrations, and represented Indian nationalism at several international conferences. At independence she moved into government office and continued, until her death in 1964, to advance women’s rights and women’s status, but also to defend India’s minorities, attack its caste system, and to restrain its ethnic and religious bigots of all stripes. And she was, herself, notably quiet about her Christianity. Typically, in 1964, her funeral partook of both Hindu tradition and Christian rites. So it was that the Anglican Archbishop of Delhi presided in a private ceremony at her residence; but her brother lit her funeral pyre on the banks of the Jumna River. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 03 Feb 2020, 12:03

"The word Gene . . . expresses only the safely proved fact that in any case many properties of organisms are conditioned by separable and hence independent factors." Wilhelm Johanssen, 1909, writing in German.

The international, critical and ultimately cooperative nature of science is illustrated by the work of Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen, born in Copenhagen on February 3, 1857. His given names suggest an affinity with German culture, and that’s possible for he was born just a few years before the German-Danish war, but he did study in Germany and often wrote in German, which was becoming, in the 19th century, the language of science. But first Johannsen aimed at a career in pharmacy, qualifying in 1879. Careers often take a wrong turn, however, and his first ‘real’ job, in the Carlsberg Laboratory, found him working on the metabolism of seeds, which (he discovered) could be chemically manipulated to affect germination times. He also found that seed size and germination were in nature inherited characteristics, but they seemed almost random. This work moved him away from pharmacy and into botany and evolutionary biology, and a post (in 1892) at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University (now part of Copenhagen University). Johannsen concentrated on a particular bean species, and (following on the work of the Dutch scientist Hugo de Vries) he proved that inherited characteristics could mutate quickly, sometimes radically just between single generations. This seemed to challenge Darwin’s notion that evolution was, or had to be, gradual, but the 1900 ‘rediscovery’ of Gregor Mendel’s work on the sweet pea (in the 1860s, at Mendel’s Czech monastery) resolved this issue through its proof that inheritance was particulate, not “blended.” So the search was on for the ‘particles’ that governed inheritance. Today we know them as “genes,” and our knowledge about them owes to the work of a great many scientists in many countries; but the word ‘gene’ was itself a coinage of Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen who first used it in 1909, working from Darwin, Mendel, and de Vries, and from his own research. At the same time, Johannsen gave us ‘phenotype’ and ‘genotype,’ and thus we might say that the basic vocabulary of genetics is Danish. But of course (as it was in 1909) it is international. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 04 Feb 2020, 12:39

The Lion Tamer as Journalist. John Smith Clarke, 1885-1959.

One of my father’s favorite fictions was Mark Twain’s outrageous “Journalism in Tennessee” (1871). That, and dad’s stock of stories of editorial derring-do (e.g. the exploits of Frederick Bonfils and Henry Tammen in Kansas City and Denver), left me wondering what sort of training could possibly be appropriate to an editor’s career. Never would I have guessed lion tamer. But that was what John Smith Clarke was, both before and after he became the editor of The Socialist and The Reform Journal and reporter for papers of various stripes in Scotland and England. Except perhaps for the socialism, he could have been a Tennessee editor just like those portrayed by Twain, bullet holes and all. John Smith Clarke was born in County Durham, England, on February 4, 1885, the 13th (of 14) child of a couple of circus entertainers. He started young in the business, and by age 17 claimed, credibly, to be the youngest lion tamer in Britain. Round about 1905 he became a sailor, a rebellious one according to his “Roughing It” stories (1932) in the Sunday Mail (the running title possibly a tribute to Twain). Along the way he became quite literate, and after his marriage (1911) settled down to tame lions, write, become a leading campaigner against war, and avoid arrest. He developed a following in Glasgow, and was elected to represent Clydeside workers at the Second Communist International, 1920, held in Moscow in the middle of the Russian civil wars. Getting there and back was an adventure in itself, but he didn’t much like Lenin (or, later, Stalin) and veered towards moderation (or, possibly, anarchy) and the nascent Labour party. He served Labour as a councilor in Glasgow and as MP at Westminster, where he was mostly famous for pranks and for penning mock epitaphs of eminent MPs, especially when they offended him. Clarke became expert on art history and served on several Scottish art commissions (and as governor of the Glasgow School of Art). He wrote books, too, on Marxism, on Robert Burns, on satire, on his adventures in Russia. He wrote newspaper columns (for the mainline press and for radical journals like Forward and Plebs). And, yes, he edited The Socialist and, until late in life, tamed lions. He had the scars to prove it. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 05 Feb 2020, 13:57

"Practically speaking, your religion is the story you tell about your life." Father Andrew Greeley.

There have always been Catholic priests who, discontent, jumped ship. Some—notably Martin Luther—became Protestant heroes. Others went atheist. But there have been still others, many more, who stayed within, forming a sort of shadow college of critics—assuredly not a college of cardinals, for their dissent barred their ascent. This was the fate of Father Andrew Greeley, born in Oak Park, Illinois, on February 5, 1928. By the time he was eight, he felt a priestly vocation, and he steamed through several seminaries to his ordination in 1954. For the next ten years he was assistant pastor at Christ the King, but something else had bit him, too, and he studied sociology part time at the University of Chicago (MA 1961, PhD 1962). Still ‘Father’ Greeley, he moved out of the pastorate to become a professor and to research and write, mainly about the social experience of lay Catholics in contemporary America. His work was impressive enough that (despite his public criticism of the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae), the US bishops commissioned him to do a study of the priesthood; then they rejected his conclusions. He riposted that “the present leadership” of the church was “morally, intellectually, and religiously bankrupt.” After that, it was civil war between Andrew Greeley and the church he considered his spiritual home. In this Greeley played both the provocateur and the provoked, through both his academic work and his fiction. Greeley’s popular novel Cardinal Sins (1981) was seen by many as a not very well concealed attack on Cardinal John Cody. Cody thought so, too, but he had already denied Greeley a parish and beyond that there wasn’t much he could do short of defrocking. Greeley’s output in fiction and scholarship was stupendous (two books a year), but he also found time (6 to 9 AM daily, he said) for prayer and reflection, and he published several works of practical meditation. He donated most of his considerable earnings to the Chicago diocese—earmarked, of course, and Cody turned some down—or to poor parishes, and he endowed a chair in Catholic studies at Chicago. After contributing heavily to Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, Greeley suffered serious injuries in a car accident, from which he never fully recovered. He died in 2013, mourned by many (though not all) of the faithful. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 06 Feb 2020, 13:13

"I demand that a film express either the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema." Francois Truffaut.

At about the time became a serious student I decided I should also be serious about the arts, and although I never succeeded one of my first attempts was to see—in Philadelphia’s downtown ‘arts’ theater—François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim. It was all the rage, a flag carrier for France’s ‘New Wave’ cinema, and so I went. It was with subtitles, thank goodness, but today I can only remember Jeanne Moreau, who in it played the role Hollywood producers would call the “love interest” but in such a way as to redefine the concept. Otherwise I fear that my abiding memory of Truffaut is in his acting role as the concerned French scientist, Claude Lacombe, anxious to ensure that our species’ Close Encounter of the Third Kind (1977) should be, literally, a humane one. That casting, the scientist as would-be auteur, was probably Stephen Spielberg’s homage to Truffaut, and it came late in Truffaut’s life. He would die (brain tumor) in 1984, aged 52. François Truffaut was born in Paris on February 6, 1932. He never knew his biological father, who may have been a dentist, took the name of the man his mother later married, and experienced a childhood of loneliness, punishment, and petty crime. This would see light, later, as les Quatre Cent Coups (400 Blows, 1959), his first feature-length film that established him at the vanguard of “la Nouvelle Vague.” Truffaut followed up with Shoot the Piano Player (1960) and Jules and Jim (and, of course, Jeanne, 1962). Many critics say that those were his best films, not that it was all downhill from there, but that Truffaut did lose the sharpness that enabled him to translate his own life (and his paradoxical love for both American film noir and slapstick) onto film, realistically, sadly, and yet with a kind of chip-on-the-shoulder humor. His changed mood showed in his later films, in his personal homage to his grandmother (who, he said, had salvaged his childhood), and perhaps also in his falling-out with former New Wave colleagues, notably (spectacularly) with Jean-Luc Godard. Godard later remembered Truffaut fondly for his genius. As for most Americans, they will remember Truffaut as Claude Lacombe, and it’s possible that that would please him. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 07 Feb 2020, 12:56

"She made me so miserable as a child that I never got over it." Rose Wilder Lane on her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Common birthdates are mere coincidences, but sometimes strange ones. Take Laura Ingalls Wilder, born on the Wisconsin frontier on February 7, 1867, and Sinclair Lewis, born in Sauk Center, Minnesota, on February 7, 1865. Each would write about ‘their’ America, Wilder in the “Little House” books, Lewis the five masterworks that brought him the Nobel Prize (he was the first American author to win it) in 1930. There the coincidence ends, or so it would seem. Wilder romanced pioneer life; her books were marketed for young readers, adolescents, and accurately, too, if one thinks that what adolescents need is schooling in the homely virtues and in the just rewards of hard work in tough circumstances. Ronald Reagan loved the TV series that (much later) came out of the “little house” oeuvre, and much of America (including, apparently, Sarah Palin) loved him for it. Lewis’s fiction had nothing for that America but contempt: “a savorless people, gulping tasteless food . . . thoughtless . . . inane . . . mechanical . . . and viewing themselves as the greatest race in the world.” And yet Wilder and Lewis had some things in common. As Lewis made clear (for instance in his Nobel acceptance) he thought America both awful and inspiring, a place and a people of vast promise if, still, short on performance. As for Wilder, she had a secret life and a wild, resentful daughter (who also, strangely, served as Laura’s editor). Rose Wilder (1886-1968) was a smoker, a drinker, a lover, a bohemian wanderer, who would return home (by then ‘home’ was rural Missouri) to try to get her mother to reveal the rough, tough, distressing sides of her life. Not in the Little House books, true: but mother and daughter did, together, write an autobiography (at about the time Lewis won the Nobel). No one would publish it. It’s still not clear how much of the autobiography was Laura, and how much was Rose the editor, but when it finally came out (Pioneer Girl, in 2014, published by the South Dakota Historical Society), one can only say that it would have disappointed Ronald Reagan. And, speaking of coincidences, Rose Wilder Lane was, in the 1930s, bosom buddies with the writer Dorothy Thompson, at that time married to Sinclair Lewis. Literature, like politics, sometimes makes strange bedfellows. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by Stanley » 08 Feb 2020, 12:36

"Forty-six years ago I was born a Negro in America. For this, of course, I was not responsible, though I am proud of it." Harry McAlpin, radio broadcast, 1952.

The presidential press conference is not the norm in US history, and Donald Trump seems to be making that clear. It really started with Franklin Roosevelt, who called the press in not because it was “liberal” (by my standards, it has never been that) but because FDR knew a thing or two about politics; he entered the White House when the nation was in crisis, and he needed to reach the people, e.g. by making news. The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), founded only 20 years before, was happy to help. And those reporters understood their privilege and were not about to share it with all comers. Once the press conference had become a fixture, black newspapers rushed to say that they, too, should have reporters (at least one!!) present. But the WHCA stoutly opposed, on grounds easily seen as racist. Finally, President Roosevelt took action, probably cajoled into it by Eleanor Roosevelt, who had a particular interest in advancing black civil rights, by admitting one black reporter, Harry McAlpin, on February 8, 1944. McAlpin was no stranger to American racism. He was born in St. Louis, MO, in 1906, did well in the city’s segregated schools, and developed an ambition to be a reporter. But the state university’s flagship journalism school did not accept black students, so McAlpin graduated in journalism at Wisconsin, and soon he’d landed a plum job with a black newspaper in Atlanta (“white” papers wouldn’t have him), which was where he was credentialled when FDR gave him the nod (at the White House, McAlpin represented over SIXTY black newspapers). Still, the WHCA was not happy. It never did admit McAlpin to its “club,” and indeed before his first press conference the association’s president warned McAlpin that (if he did actually attend) an accident might happen. McAlpin, heedless and brave, ignored the implied threat. And when the president saw him (McAlpin was black and noticeable), he said simply, “McAlpin, glad to see you here.” It was ticket enough, on that day. 70 years later, during the Obama presidency, the WHCA admitted McAlpin to its ranks, or rather his ghost for he’d died in 1985, by establishing a journalism scholarship in his name. As for Harry McAlpin, he’d also picked up a law degree, and after Truman’s presidency he removed to Louisville, where as president of the local NAACP he employed his professional skills and his courage to bring freedom to Kentucky. ©
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Re: BOB'S BITS

Post by plaques » 08 Feb 2020, 14:48

One of Tripps spooky probabilities. Just reading 'Franklin D Roosevelt, A political life.'
Roosevelt himself was restricted by the ultra Conservatism anti Liberalism of American politics. His wife Eleanor was the driving force behind what we would call social programmes and did tireless work to promote the welfare of the poor and women's rights.

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