On this day in 1820, the civil rights leader Susan B Anthony was born. She was an amazing woman who did a great deal, including organizing for women’s suffrage, starting the first women’s temperance movement, and founding the journal, The Revolution. She lived to be 86 years old, but unfortunately never saw women get the right to vote. I was fascinated with her when the United States government came out with a dollar coin with her on the face. It was a great coin because of the smaller size, replacing the totally ridiculous Eisenhower dollars. But a lot of people had a problem with it. How dare we celebrate a feminist on our money! What people actually said was that they confused it with the quarter. I don’t accept that; it is far more difficult to tell a dime from a penny by feel. Regardless, the coin was only minted from 1979 to 1981 and then in 1999. In its place, we now have the Sacagawea dollar which I love, partly because of the color. (One can do silver-copper coin tricks using the two dollars.) But no one today complains about the size of the dollar, even though it is exactly the same as the Anthony dollar. Regardless, here in California (and Florida, New York, West Virginia and Wisconsin), it is Susan B Anthony Day. So happy Susan B Anthony Day!
John Barrymore was born in 1882. He was one of the great actors. We especially know him for his Shakespearean acting. Here is a bit of a screen test of him performing Hamlet. At the beginning is Orson Welles talking about how great he was. Take my advice: never listen to Welles discuss Shakespeare. He was very good, but when he talks about Shakespeare, it’s drivel. But I think he is quite right about Barrymore. It is the best up to that time. Shakespearean acting has only gotten better, but this is still really good:
Other birthdays: French painter Charles-Andre van Loo (1705); philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748); Romanian painter Ion Andreescu (1850); great mathematician Alfred North Whitehead (1861); songwriter Walter Donaldson (1893); probably the least interesting of Les Six, Georges Auric (1899); actor Allan Arbus (1918); actor Harvey Korman (1927); actor Claire Bloom (83); screenwriter Troy Kennedy Martin (1932); singer-songwriter Melissa Manchester (63); actor Jane Seymour (63); Futurama creator Matt Groening (60); character actor Christopher McDonald (59); and journalist Josh Marshall (45).
The day, however, belongs to Galileo Galilei who was born on this day in 1564. I guess it is best to call him a scientist, although his most important work would now be called physics. I think mostly of his work on basic mechanics showing that gravitational acceleration is constant. This is because size of the gravitational force is proportional to an objects mass, but that is matched by its inertia. This is not a simple concept.
Galileo is probably better known for his enormous impact on astronomy. He was the first person to seriously apply the telescope to the field. And as a result, he saw things others did not, like the moons of Jupiter, the phases of Venus, and sun spots. He was also a big proponent of heliocentrism, which got him in a bit of trouble with the Church. And personally, I think if you live your whole life without angering the religious dogmatists, you really haven’t lived.
Happy birthday Galileo Galilei!