Florence Nightingale and Soviet Spies

Florence NightingaleOn this day in 1918, Julius Rosenberg was born. He was very clearly spying for the USSR, and our government put him and his wife Ethel to death to 1953. I hate this whole episode. First, it is far from clear that Ethel had anything to do with this case. Also, all the other conspirators were given prison sentences, rather than death. So why were these two killed? I really think they became a symbol of the evil Soviet Union infiltrating our country and our culture. What’s more, there was the whole idea that the Soviets weren’t smart enough to make an atomic bomb, they must have stolen it from us. So basically, the Rosenbergs paid the ultimate price to make Americans feel better about the Soviets getting the bomb. I’m sure if we could have, we would have made another Jewish couple pay for Sputnik 1. I used to think, “We are better than this.” Now I just think, “This is who we are.”

The great French composer Gabriel Faure was born on this day in 1845. It is hard to encapsulate his style. At his best, I think of him as pre-Debussy. And I mean that as a compliment; Debussy is often too impressionistic. Faure never loses focus on the music as you can see in this piano version of Sicilienne opus 78:

The great philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti was born on or about this day in 1895. I used to read him when I was a kid. I think I learned a bit from him, especially about the difference between affectation and a genuine response to the external world. I still struggle with that. But there is nothing affected about my crush on Katharine Hepburn who was born in 1907. Talk show host Tom Snyder was born in 1936. And comedian George Carlin was born in 1937.

The quotable Yogi Berra is 88 today. Burt Bacharach is 85. Steve Winwood is 65, so I guess we won’t be hearing anything from him in the future. Miller’s Crossing star Gabriel Byrne is 63. Ving Rhames is 54. And Emilio Estevez is 51.

The day, however, belongs to Florence Nightingale who was born on this day back in 1820. In general, her exploits during the Crimean War are believed to be newspaper hype. But she did go on to found a nursing school that effectively started professional nursing. She was also very important in the move to display statistical information in graphical form. Today we take this stuff for granted, but it was a huge leap forward in making information intelligible. Today, we see this kind of presentation of data in People.

Happy Birthday, Florence Nightingale!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Florence Nightingale and Soviet Spies

  1. As Susan Jacoby made perfectly clear in her book about Alger Hiss, ’50s redbaiting had nothing to do with finding spies. It had everything to do with demonizing New Deal intellectuals, whose supreme crime was that their policies actually worked. That can’t be allowed to happen.

  2. @JMF – That was when conservatives had to at least pretend that facts mattered. It’s interesting that David Greenglass, who was actually stealing the secrets from Los Alamos, only got 10 years. He just turned 91.

  3. As far as inventing how to understand data in science, I was intrigued to read elsewhere this week that Isaac Newton came up with averaging data. He had no conceptual basis for doing so; it just seemed useful in dealing with his noisy measurements.

    It’s interesting to consider a time when these grade-school level tools for managing numbers didn’t exist yet!

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