On this day back in 1625, Giovanni Domenico Cassini was born. The name probably sounds familiar because of NASA’s Cassini–Huygens spacecraft that they sent to Saturn. That’s because Cassini did some important early observations of the planet. He discovered four of its moons and also the division of Saturn’s rings. Christiaan Huygens did a lot of the same kinds of things at the same time. But it isn’t Huygens’ birthday. Cassini also made important discoveries about Jupiter. And most impressive from my standpoint, he calculated the distance to Mars. He did this by sending a colleague to French Guiana while he stayed in Paris. Then they each took simultaneous measurements and were able to get a rough approximation of the distance. Since scientists already knew the relative distances of most things in the solar system, this calculation established the distances for everything. Very cool!
Baroque composer Tomaso Albinoni was born in 1671. He is best known for his Adagio in G minor. I assure you that you’ve heard it, but if you really want to know, you can listen to a fine guitar arrangement for it by Peo Kindgren. At this point, I really don’t want to hear it again. But here is a much more fun performance of his Concerto for 2 Oboes in C Major:
Romantic composer Robert Schumann was born on this day in 1810. I fully admit that he was a great composer. I just don’t like him. British illustrator George Charles Haite of The Strand fame was born in 1855. The mind-blowing four-dimensional geometry mathematician Alicia Boole Stott was born in 1860.
The great and under-appreciated Flemish Symbolist painter Jan Frans De Boever was born in 1872. His work is, well, morbid. If Edgar Allan Poe had lived a hundred years later, and was a painter, he would have been De Boever. It is just the perfect combination of eroticism and death. Some might have a problem with that, but the connection to me is very strong. I will stay away from the obvious and just say that both highlight the decay of the flesh—the essential impurity of the material world.
Not completely irrelevant Abstract Expressionist Harry Holtzman was born in 1912. Biologist Francis Crick was born in 1916. Actor Robert Preston was born in 1918. I was very surprised to learn that he wasn’t gay. I clearly have a bias, because I had the same reaction to Joel Grey. Just because a man can sing and dance does not mean he’s gay. Anyway, here is Preston at his best:
And pop artist LeRoy Neiman was born in 1921. You know his work.
Barbara Bush is 88 today. Jerry Stiller is 86. I’ve always though his wife was funnier. They will celebrate their 60th anniversary next year. Joan Rivers is 80. Nancy Sinatra is 73. Boz Scaggs is 69. Bonnie Tyler is 62. The great guitarist and founder of Black Flag, Greg Ginn is 59. Unfortunately, I can’t find any good video of him. Cartoonist Scott Adams is 56. And comedian Keenen Ivory Wayans is 55.
What a day! With so many great people, who would rise to the top? Well, it isn’t that I think he is necessarily greater than Francis Crick or Robert Preston or even Scott Adams, but the day belongs to Frank Lloyd Wright who was born in 1867. Consider Fallingwater on the left. Or pretty much anything he did. It is all beautiful and smart work. I think sometimes people exaggerate his greatness in comparison to other architects. There was a lot of great architecture going on in the United States. And also Europe, even if Tom Wolfe doesn’t like it.
Here is the Guggenheim Museum, a perfect combination of form and function:
Happy birthday Frank Lloyd Wright!