On this day in 1647, the French philosopher Pierre Bayle was born. He is noted for arguing in favor of religious tolerance. But there’s an interesting aspect to words like “tolerance” and “diversity.” They are exclusive. Sure, we do want diversity in our culture. But if we are to have real diversity, we can’t think in terms of that. And with tolerance, there is an implied limit: we tolerate diversity up to a point. In Bayle’s case, he thought various kinds of protestants should be tolerant of each other. But Catholics? Not so much. And let’s not even start with Jews. Personally, I don’t want to be tolerated; I want a lot more.
The great playwright and and lyricist W S Gilbert was born in 1836. He is best know for his collaboration with the composer Arthur Sullivan. And now is as good a time as ever to watch Linda Ronstadt kill it in Pirates of Penzance:
Fox News host Megyn Kelly is 43. Normally, I wouldn’t even bring her up. But according to Joe Muto in An Atheist in the Foxhole, it’s all an act. He said that she was very funny and smart, and not especially conservative when he first worked with her. She went for the dumber host act to become a star at Fox News. I’m not sure what I think of that. Is it more evil to just play the part people pay you to? I tend to think that it is. News readers are nominally journalists; they aren’t actors. Their audiences believe them. Say what you will about Glenn Beck, I don’t doubt that he really believes what he says. So yeah, of all the women on Fox News, I would probably most like to hang out with Kelly. (Of all the people, it would be Shepard Smith, just because he’s such oddball.) But I think what she’s doing is vile.
Other birthdays: Scottish painter David Wilkie (1785); the great botanist Asa Gray (1810); physicist August Kundt (1839); writer Clarence Day (1874); painter Wyndham Lewis (1882); pollster George Gallup (1901); songwriter Johnny Mercer (1909); astronaut Alan Shepard (1923); trumpet player Don Cherry (1936); and actor Owen Wilson (45).
The day, however, belongs to the great physicist Louis Daguerre who was born on this day in 1787. He invented the Daguerreotype process, which was the first practical photographic process. If you’ve seen a photograph from the first half of the 19th century (for example, Edgar Allan Poe), it used this process. It isn’t that different from later processes. Basically, a lens focuses the image on a plate that was coated in silver. The chemistry is kind of complicated, as you can see in this excellent little video:
Happy birthday Louis Daguerre!