Two of the greatest female physicists of the 20th century were born on this day. First up, Marie Curie was born in 1867. She is known for the discovery of both polonium and radium. I’m sure you know all about her. Second up, Lise Meitner was born in 1878. She was one of the people responsible for the discovery of nuclear fission. Like Rosalind Franklin, she is one of the great examples of the sexism of the Nobel Prize committee. Curie probably wouldn’t have got one if she had been working alone.
Russian revolutionary and thinker Leon Trotsky was born in 1879. Was he a great guy? I wouldn’t say that. But we hold him in high esteem because he was the anti-Stalin. He’s most notable for being against Stalin’s non-aggression pact with Hitler. That was the last straw for most of the leftists who were still holding positive opinions about the Soviet Union. And then, of course, Stalin had Trotsky murdered.
Herman J. Mankiewicz was born in 1897. He was a major screenwriting hack in the 1930s and 1940s. But he is best known for co-writing Citizen Kane. In fact, he got an Academy Award for writing it—the only one the film received. That’s typical. All That Jazz lost to Kramer vs. Kramer. Pulp Fiction lost to Forrest Gump. Whatever.
Other birthdays: Baroque painter Francisco Zurbaran (1598); cartographer James Cook (1728); railroad builder Thomas Brassey (1805); philosopher Albert Camus (1913); nefarious Christer Billy Graham (95); trumpet player Al Hirt (1922); and pundit Lawrence O’Donnell (62).
Happy birthday Joni Mitchell!