P. D. Q. Bach

Peter SchickeleOn this day in 1698, the great French mathematician Pierre Louis Maupertuis was born. He invented the principle of least action. This later led to one of my very favorite things: the Hamiltonian formulation of mechanics. But because I am nothing if not merciful, I will spare you any further mention of it. Except that you could read the Wikipedia page on the subject, assuming that your differential equations and tensor calculus are strong. Yes, yes, moving on…

Later, but still in France, the great neoclassical painter Paul Delaroche was born in 1797. The American expressionist Lyonel Feininger was born in 1871. The great architectural photographer Berenice Abbott was born in 1898. Actor James Cagney was born in 1899. Comedian Phyllis Diller was born in 1917. She only died last year at the age of 95.

Gordon Gould, inventor of the laser, was born in 1920. Of course, it might have been Theodore Maiman who invented the laser. I’m sorry I missed his birthday, which was back on 11 July in 1927. These guys represent a good example of something I talk about all the time: ideas are in the air. That doesn’t mean that great people don’t discover them, but in most cases, the people who become rich and famous are not smarter or harder working than the people who did the same work—at times even earlier. What it really demonstrates is that our system for rewarding creative work is all screwed up. But I will leave that discussion to another time.

And jazz guitarist Mary Osborne was born in 1921. Here she is doing a medley:

Two fine actors are 78 today: Diahann Carroll and Donald Sutherland. David Hasselhoff is 61 today. I hate his work, but he still seemed like a nice guy when he was a judge on whatever show that was he was a judge on. There is nothing wrong with being a bit slow! The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel is 59. She isn’t evil the way, say, most Republicans are. But still, what she and Germany generally are doing in Europe is very bad. It makes me think, and this sounds worse than I intend, “Maybe that whole Nazi master race stuff wasn’t an outlier.” The truth is that Germany is pushing a lot of suffering on the rest of Europe, mostly because they think they deserve it. The Germans are just so much more noble than the other countries—forget all about those German bankers who made bad loans, it was all those poor borrowers who were to blame! I take it back. No birthday wishes for Merkel!

The day, however, belongs to composer Peter Schickele who is 78 today. He is best known for his comedy recordings as P.D.Q. Bach—itself a very funny name. Here he is with “New Horizons in Music Appreciation” that is incredibly funny:

Happy birthday Peter Schickele!

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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.

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