It’s Encyclopedia Day!

Denis DiderotOn this day in 1712, the great Venetian painter Francesco Guardi was born. The Venetian school emphasized the use of color over line, in contrast to Mannerism. But Guardi worked at the very end of the movement and so his link to the movement is somewhat tenuous. Still, in many ways you can see a clearer technical connection between Guardi and Leonardo da Vinci than you see with other members of the movement.

Opera composer Giuseppe Gazzaniga was born in 1743. His best known work is Don Giovanni Tenorio, a short opera based on the Don Juan legend. It tells the exact same story as Mozart’s Don Giaovanni. Gazzaniga’s version hit the theaters about six months earlier than Mozart’s. And it is quite a nice piece, although I am especially fond of the Mozart version. Here is the “Aria del Catalogo” from the opera:

There are two cartoonists’ birthdays today, although I’m not terribly fond of either. The first is Bil Keane, creator of The Family Circus, which I didn’t even find funny when I was a child. He was born in 1922 and only died a few years ago. The second is Bob Thaves, creator of Frank and Ernest, a better cartoon, but hardly great. He was born in 1924.

We also have two fun music birthdays today. First is Steve Miller who is 70 today. Here he is doing “The Joker”:

The second musician is Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats who is 62. Here he is doing “I Don’t Like Mondays”:

Other birthdays: the great physicist and rocket man Robert Goddard (1882); Israeli painter (who I really like) Nachum Gutman (1898); comedian Bernie Mac (1957); celebrity scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson (55); and actor Guy Pearce (46).

The day, however, belongs to the philosopher Denis Diderot, who would be 300 years old today if only he had eaten better and perhaps exercised a bit. He is best known today for being the main force behind the first real encyclopedia, the 28 volume Encyclopedie. And he is in the news as France debates whether they should dig the old man up and reinter him in Paris’ Pantheon. That would make him sort of an official hero of France. But there are some problems. Some people think France should do something about the fact that of the 72 people in the Pantheon all but two are men. Anne-Cecile Mailfert said, “Diderot is dead; he’s going to be dead in 50 years; so he can wait.” That may be true. But what cannot wait is celebrating this day.

Happy birthday Denis Diderot!

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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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