On this day in 1657, the German Baroque composer Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer was born. He is thought to be one of the best composers of his time. Unfortunately, very little of his work has survived. Here is Chaconne, a very impressive piece for harpsichord:
The great scientist Luigi Galvani was born in 1737. He did a lot of stuff, but he is remember for only one thing. And it is about the coolest “man” thing ever done. He took a dead frog’s legs and applied an electric spark to them. And the legs twitched. This is actually very important. It showed that there were electrical signals in the body. But at this point, we mostly know it from grammar school science fairs and this really cool scene from Frankenweenie, which unfortunately, I had to create because no one seems to agree with me about what scenes are most important in films:
Film producer and lyricist (“Singing in the Rain”) Arthur Freed was born in 1894. Novelist James Hilton was born in 1900. He wrote the novels Lost Horizon and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Actor Cliff Robertson was born in 1923. The creator of the C programming language and one of the developers of unix, Dennis Ritchie was born in 1941. And the great singer and songwriter Otis Redding was born in 1941. He was only 26 when he died, but he still left a lot of great music. There isn’t a lot of video of him available. Here he is doing doing his own song “Respect,” which is still my favorite version:
Actor Hugh Grant is 53 today. Comedian Adam Sandler is 47. He seems to be incapable of doing anything but really stupid work now, regardless of how much talent he surrounds himself with. And actor Henry Thomas is 42.
The day, however, belongs to one of the greatest writers ever Leo Tolstoy who was born in 1828. Now obviously, I’ve never read him in Russian. But his voice comes across pretty clearly in translation. And Anna Karenina is amazingly affecting—literally a sob story for the reader. As a person, he doesn’t seem to have been so great. Paul Johnson referred to Tolstoy as “God’s elder brother.” I’m afraid that does sum him up, but Johnson (a conservative apologist for just about every atrocity ever) has little room to talk.
Happy 185th birthday Leo Tolstoy!