Category Archives: Today’s Birthday

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

Adlai Ewing Stevenson (1900)

Stevenson was an American politician and lawyer. After serving as assistant to the Secretary of the Navy during WWII and as a member of the US mission to the UN, he was elected governor of Illinois in 1949. Later in his career, he served as ambassador to the UN. Noted for his eloquence and wit, he was the Democratic candidate for president in 1952 and 1956 but lost to Eisenhower both times by a large margin. His grandfather of the same name served as vice president during whose administration? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Jaime Alfonso Escalante Gutierrez (1930)

The subject of the acclaimed 1988 film Stand and Deliver, Escalante was a math teacher who, with his unconventional teaching style, dedication, and complete faith in his students’ potential, created a successful advanced placement—or college level—calculus program at a high school in a poor East Los Angeles neighborhood. In 1982, when 18 of his students received perfect or near-perfect scores on a national exam, they were accused of cheating. What happened when 12 retook the test? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Titus (39 CE)

The son of Roman emperor Vespasian, Titus gained renown as a military commander and was given command of the Praetorian Guard after repressing the Jewish rebellion in Judea. Upon succeeding his father in 79 CE, he pursued a policy of conciliation and sought popular favor. A benevolent ruler, he halted prosecutions for treason and spent lavishly on subjects, a practice that earned him goodwill in Rome but caused his successor financial trouble. What two disasters struck during his reign? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Venustiano Carranza (1859)

After Mexican leader Porfirio Díaz was deposed in 1911, a protracted power struggle ensued. Carranza was the third person in as many years to assume executive power after Díaz’s ouster, but revolutionary leaders Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata objected and responded with force. Carranza prevailed, but his failure to implement key provisions of the liberal constitution of 1917 led to further unrest, and he was killed in 1920. What does carrancear, coined during Carranza’s tenure, mean? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Pío Baroja y Nessi (1872)

Considered the foremost Spanish novelist of his time, Baroja was part of the Generation of ’98, a group of writers who, in the face of defeat in the Spanish-American War, proclaimed a moral and cultural rebirth for Spain. He wrote almost 100 novels, including 11 trilogies and, perhaps his most ambitious project, a 22-volume cycle about a 19th-century insurgent. Baroja’s writings largely concern the intellectual and political climate of his homeland. What career did he give up to be a writer? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Manuela Sáenz (1797)

Until recently, Sáenz’s contributions to the South American independence movement were largely overlooked. For eight years, she dedicated herself to the cause—and to her lover, revolutionary leader Simón Bolívar, whom she once saved from an assassination attempt. For that, he nicknamed her Libertadora del Libertador, or Liberator of the Liberator. Bolívar’s death in 1830 left Sáenz vulnerable to his opponents, and she was exiled and left destitute. What honor was she accorded in 2010? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Mary Fairfax Somerville (1780)

Somerville became an accomplished science writer at a time when women’s involvement in the sciences was generally discouraged. She earned widespread recognition for her 1831 translation of Pierre-Simon Laplace’s five-volume Mécanique Céleste (Celestial Mechanics), a project she undertook for the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, which aimed to adapt scientific material for the rapidly expanding reading public. What term was coined in a review of one of her other works? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Mohammad Ali Jinnah (1876)

An Indian Muslim politician, Jinnah was the founder and first governor-general of Pakistan. Early in his career, he fervently supported the Indian National Congress and advocated Hindu-Muslim unity, but he eventually became convinced that a Muslim nation distinct from Hindu India was needed to protect Muslim interests in the dying days of the British Raj. Jinnah’s firm stand and widespread Hindu-Muslim riots forced the issue, and Pakistan was created in 1947. How long did he lead the new nation? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Georges-Marie Guynemer (1894)

A top French fighter ace during World War I and a national hero, Guynemer shot down 53 enemy planes and survived being shot down several times before he presumably died in a firefight on September 11, 1917. During an engagement that fateful day, Guynemer’s plane disappeared, reportedly shot down by a German pilot who was himself killed in action weeks later. To ease the blow of the loss of their young hero, French schoolchildren were taught that what had happened to him? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary