Category Archives: Today’s Birthday

Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon (1930)

The younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret was a somewhat controversial member of the royal family, mainly as a result of her turbulent love life. She called off her first engagement, to a divorcee 16 years her senior, when it became clear that marrying him would mean renouncing her right of succession. A few years later, she wed photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, but rumors of her infidelities abounded, and they eventually divorced. With whom did she supposedly stray? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Raymond Poincaré (1860)

A career statesman, Poincaré ascended to the highest echelons of French government, serving as prime minister on several occasions and as president from 1913 to 1920. In the lead-up to World War I, Poincaré, a conservative and nationalist, worked to prepare France for possible hostilities, strengthening its military and its alliances with Russia and Britain. His efforts paid off, and Germany was defeated by the Allied Powers in 1918. What prompted him to send French troops into Germany in 1923? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Roman Vishniac (1897)

A Russian-American biologist, photographer, linguist, art historian, philosopher, and professor, Vishniac is best remembered for producing a photographic record of Central and Eastern European Jewish communities in the years preceding the Holocaust. His efforts were not without risk; he was imprisoned 11 times and forced to do hard labor in two concentration camps. He escaped to the US in 1940 and returned to his scientific roots, contributing to the development of what photographic techniques? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Liviu Librescu (1930)

A Holocaust survivor, Professor Liviu Librescu had seen more than his fair share of death before April 16, 2007—Holocaust Remembrance Day—when a gunman tried to enter his classroom at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, popularly known as Virginia Tech. Librescu jumped into action, blocking the door to give his students time to escape through the windows. His heroic actions cost him his life; he was shot five times by the gunman. How many of his students did he manage to save? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Marcus Garvey (1887)

Garvey was a Jamaican-born American proponent of black nationalism. His Universal Negro Improvement Association, established in 1914 to promote racial pride, quickly spread in black communities throughout the US, the Caribbean, and Central America, and Garvey became the most influential black leader of the early 1920s, with a following some two million strong. However, his movement foundered after his 1922 indictment for mail fraud. What religious movement considers Garvey one of its prophets? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Dame Mary Gilmore (1865)

Gilmore was a prominent Australian socialist poet and journalist who gained a reputation as a champion of the working class and the oppressed. In the late 1890s, she moved to the New Australia utopian socialist settlement in Paraguay, but she returned to Australia following its failure. In 1908, she became an editor of the Australian Workers’ Union newspaper, and she published her first volume of poems two years later. On what denomination of Australian currency does her image and poetry appear? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Virginia Clemm Poe (1822)

When she was just 13, Virginia Clemm married her first cousin Edgar Allan Poe, who was 14 years her senior. For years, scholars have debated about the nature of this relationship, which was cut short when Virginia tragically died of tuberculosis at 24. Edgar was clearly smitten by his young bride—and muse—and was devastated by her death. Still, some believe that the two were more like siblings than spouses and never actually consummated their marriage. What has led them to this conclusion? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Pope Pius VII (1742)

Pius VII became pope in 1800, at a time of turmoil for the Catholic Church. A decade earlier, during the early stages of the French Revolution, the National Assembly tried to subordinate the Church to the state. In 1801, Pius and Napoleon negotiated an end to the breach, but relations remained strained. In one notable incident, Napoleon took his crown from the pope’s hands during a ceremony and crowned himself. What unusual headgear did Pius VII allegedly wear during his own coronation and why? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Frederick Sanger (1918)

After earning his PhD at Cambridge University in 1943, British biochemist Frederick Sanger decided to continue conducting his research at his alma mater. He remained there for the entirety of his four-decade career, making discoveries about the structure of proteins, particularly insulin, as well as DNA sequencing that would earn him not one but two Nobel prizes. He is only the fourth person in history to have earned this distinction. Who are the other three two-time Nobel laureates? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

James Buchanan "Diamond Jim" Brady (1856)

Financier and philanthropist “Diamond Jim” Brady exemplified the American Dream. He started out as a bellboy and messenger before getting a job with the New York Central Railroad and then working his way up through the industry, eventually amassing a fortune selling railroad supplies. With his newfound wealth, he indulged in his two greatest weaknesses: food—one restaurant owner reportedly called him “the best 25 customers I ever had”—and jewels. What was supposedly a typical meal for Brady? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary