Category Archives: Today’s Birthday

John Quincy Adams (1767)

The son of a US president, Adams accompanied his father on diplomatic missions as a child and began his own political career at 14. A talented ambassador, he became secretary of state under President James Monroe. In 1824, he defeated Andrew Jackson in the presidential race, but he was unpopular in this role and lost to Jackson in the next election. He was then elected to Congress, where he served until his death. An outspoken opponent of slavery, he defended what famous mutineers in 1841? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Nikola Tesla (1856)

Tesla was an inventor and engineer known for his revolutionary contributions to the fields of electricity and magnetism. His inventions made possible the production of alternating-current electric power, and his Tesla coil is still used in radio technology. In 1912, he refused a Nobel Prize because he felt his co-recipient, Thomas Edison, was undeserving of the honor. He spent his final years caring for pigeons. What strange habits earned him a reputation as the quintessential “mad scientist”? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Michael Phelps (1985)

Phelps is an American swimmer who has won 16 Olympic medals, 14 of them gold. He started swimming as a child and competed in his first Olympics at 15. A year later, he became the youngest male ever to set a world swimming record, doing so in the 200-meter butterfly. In 2008, he set a record for most gold medals won at a single Olympiad—eight—while setting as many swimming records. Phelps has several unusual physical characteristics that may give him an edge in the sport. What are they? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Johnny Weissmuller (1904)

Weissmuller was a five-time Olympic gold medalist with 67 world records in swimming when, in 1932, he turned in his swimsuit for a loincloth and became Tarzan, the Ape Man. He starred in 12 Tarzan films and created the memorable “Tarzan yell” before being replaced by a younger actor in 1948. He then went on to star in a series of Jungle Jim movies adapted from comic books. Afterward, he ran his own swimming pool company. His face appears in the collage on the cover of what iconic record album? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Jennifer Marie Capriati (1976)

Capriati’s family moved to Florida when she was four years old so she could pursue a tennis career, and by 1990, the 14-year-old had earned over $6 million in endorsements. She became the youngest women’s tennis player to win a match at Wimbledon, to reach the semifinals in a Grand Slam event, and to rank in the top ten players. Personal problems—including an arrest—sidelined her as a teen, but she made a successful comeback in her 20s before injuries ended her career. What was she arrested for? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Samuel Houston (1793)

Houston was an American statesman whose political future was seemingly derailed after his wife left him in 1829. He resigned the governorship of Tennessee, began drinking heavily, and went to live with the Cherokee. Later, he joined the Texas Revolution and became commander of the revolutionary forces. He led them to victory and was elected president of the new Republic of Texas. After Texas joined the US, he served the state first as a senator and then as governor. What were his last words? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

James "Jimmy" Dorsey (1904)

Dorsey was a prominent jazz musician and big band leader. He began performing as a youth, first learning the trumpet before taking up his signature instruments, the clarinet and alto saxophone. He formed several bands with his brother, and the duo became so popular that they later starred in a fictionalized film biography, The Fabulous Dorseys. After they parted ways in 1935, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra had several number-one hits. What was the name of his first post-split hit record? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Alexander Hamilton (1755?)

Pictured on the US $10 bill, Hamilton was an American Founding Father and the first secretary of the treasury. Differences between Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson led to the rise of political parties, with Hamilton heading the Federalist Party and Madison and Jefferson leading the Democratic-Republican Party. In 1804, Aaron Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel, and though Hamilton opposed the practice and had even lost a son in a duel, he agreed and was mortally wounded. Why did Burr challenge him? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Joseph Smith, Jr. (1805)

Smith was the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In 1827, he claimed that an angel directed him to buried golden plates containing God’s revelation, which he translated as the Book of Mormon. He led converts to Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, and introduced the custom of polygamy. When in 1844 he announced his candidacy for the presidency of the US, he and his brother were thrown in jail, where they were killed by a lynch mob. What happened to the church after his death? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Karl Friedrich Hieronymus von Münchhausen (1720)

Münchhausen was a German baron who became legendary for his fantastic stories about his adventures as a hunter, sportsman, and soldier. Sent in his youth to serve as a page, he later joined the Russian military and served until 1750, taking part in two campaigns against the Ottoman Turks. Returning home, Münchhausen acquired a reputation as an honest businessman but also as a teller of tall tales. He claimed to have ridden cannonballs, travelled to the moon, and escaped a swamp by doing what? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary