Category Archives: Today’s Birthday

Grace Murray Hopper (1906)

A math professor, Hopper joined the US Navy during World War II. She was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard, where she worked on the first fully automatic calculator, the Mark 1. Made of 765,000 parts and using typewriters for output, it sounded, she said, like a thousand knitting needles. She later helped develop UNIVAC I—the first US commercial electronic computer—and high-level programming languages. What computer term did she popularize and possibly coin? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Camille Claudel (1864)

A skilled French sculptor in her own right, Claudel is best remembered for being a student, collaborator, model, and mistress of famed sculptor Auguste Rodin. The two had a tumultuous affair that began to crumble in the 1890s, and Claudel, who suffered from mental illness, became increasingly unstable and reclusive. She was committed in 1913 and remained institutionalized until her death 30 years later. Her work is highly valued by collectors, but little of it survives today. Why is this? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Gerard Peter Kuiper (1905)

The “father of modern planetary science,” Dutch-American astronomer Gerard Kuiper made many discoveries about the solar system, among them the presence of a methane atmosphere around Saturn’s satellite Titan and a carbon dioxide-rich one on Mars and the existence of Uranus’s satellite Miranda and Neptune’s satellite Nereid. He also proposed the existence of a disk-shaped region of minor planets and comets—now called the Kuiper belt—outside Neptune’s orbit. What did he help identify on the Moon? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Henry VI of England (1421)

Henry VI became king of England when he was not yet nine months old. That same year, the English proclaimed the infant the successor to the French throne, but France did not recognize this. The young monarch grew up to be a mild, honest, and pious man, a patron of literature and the arts. He was, however, also mentally unstable, weak-willed, and politically naive, and this created a power vacuum that his overly powerful ministers vied to fill, eventually resulting in what decades-long conflict? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Christina Rossetti (1830)

Christina Rossetti was one of England’s most important female poets of the Victorian era. It is little wonder that she became a poet, given her lineage. Her great-grandfather was a poet, her grandfather was a writer and scholar, and her father was the famous poet and scholar Gabriele Rossetti. Her three siblings followed similar paths. Religious themes dominate her poems, which run the gamut from romantic to devotional to children’s poetry. What popular Christmas carol did she pen? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Francisco Franco (1892)

A career army officer and skillful leader, Franco was appointed the Spanish army’s chief of staff in 1935. The next year, he joined the military uprising that precipitated the Spanish Civil War and became the leader of the Nationalist forces bent on overthrowing the republican government. Over the next few years, a bloody war was waged. The Nationalists emerged victorious, and from 1939 until his death in 1975, Franco served as virtual dictator of Spain. Whose aid helped secure Franco’s victory? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Ellen Richards (1842)

A Vassar graduate and the first woman admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—”it being understood that her admission did not establish a precedent for the general admission of females”—chemist Ellen Richards was one of the US’s foremost female chemists of her time and the founder of the country’s home economics movement. Yet, perhaps her greatest contributions were the advances she made in opening up science education and professions to women. What were some of her notable firsts? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Peter Carl Goldmark (1906)

A Hungarian engineer and inventor, Goldmark immigrated to the US in 1933 and went to work in the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) laboratories. There he developed the first commercial color television system, but it was not compatible with existing black-and-white television sets and was soon superseded by one that was. Later, he developed the system that would allow the US Lunar Orbiter to relay photographs from the Moon to Earth. What did he invent that revolutionized the recording industry? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Alexandra of Denmark (1844)

Though she was of royal blood, Princess Alexandra had a relatively normal upbringing. It was not until after she wed Prince Albert Edward of Wales in 1863 that her father, Christian IX, was crowned king of Denmark, and she did not ascend to the station of queen consort until many years after that. As queen, she devoted herself to charitable works and was beloved by the British public. She was held in such high regard, in fact, that society women adopted what physical impediment of hers? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Joan Ganz Cooney (1929)

Cooney worked as a newspaper reporter and television publicist before becoming a producer for a public television station in New York City. There, she developed the concepts for children’s programming that led to the incorporation of the Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) in 1968. Through innovative programs like Sesame Street and 3, 2, 1 Contact, CTW transformed children’s television and learning. What Emmy award-winning adult educational program did she help produce? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary