Category Archives: Today’s Birthday

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960)

A 1980s art star whose rise and fall were rapid, dramatic, and emblematic of the era, Basquiat started out as a street artist before being “discovered” by the art establishment. He created vigorously spontaneous works in paint, collage, and crayon on unprimed canvas that featured crude, angry, rawly powerful figures and graffiti-like text. He died of an overdose at 27, just a few years after meeting with mainstream success and months after the death of what other artist, his friend and mentor? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Florence Griffith Joyner, AKA FloJo (1959)

“FloJo” was a US sprinter whose incredible speed and unique fashion sense left an indelible mark on the running world. She first turned heads at the 1984 Olympics, where her silver-medal performance was nearly overshadowed by her long, painted nails and flashy racing suits. By 1988’s Games, however, there was no denying her skill. She set one world record during the Olympic trials and another at the Games, where she also took three golds and a silver. Who is her similarly talented sister-in-law? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Sir Robert Gordon Menzies (1894)

A successful lawyer, Menzies gave up his practice to pursue a career in politics and eventually became Australia’s longest continuously serving prime minister. He started out in the House of Representatives in 1934 and served as attorney general until 1939, when he became leader of the United Australia party and prime minister. In 1941, his party lost the election, but in 1949 he again became prime minister and this time remained in office until his retirement in 1966, on what national holiday? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Carter Godwin Woodson (1875)

Born into a poor African-American family, Woodson had little formal schooling until he was in his late teens. Yet he went on to earn a PhD and become a prominent historian, author, and journalist. He devoted his life to promoting African-American education and history, founding the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and writing, editing, and publishing books and periodicals on African-American life, history, and culture. What nationwide annual observance did he establish? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Sir Joseph John "J. J." Thomson (1856)

One of the founders of modern physics, Thomson helped revolutionize the knowledge of atomic structure. He is known primarily for his discovery of the electron and his investigation of its charge and mass, his development of the mathematical theory of electricity and magnetism, and his role in the discovery of isotopes and invention of mass spectrometry. His research into the electrical conductivity of gases earned him a Nobel Prize in 1906. What did Thomson originally call electrons? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Gabrielle-Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, Marquise du Châtelet (1706)

The wife of a French marquis, du Châtelet defied convention in both her personal and professional life. She was a mathematician and physicist and wrote a number of scientific treatises as well as a translation of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica. She had several extramarital affairs—the most enduring of which was with philosopher and writer Voltaire, who once described her as “a great man whose only fault was being a woman.” How did she once think her way out of a gambling debt? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Margaret Mead (1901)

A prolific writer and avid speaker, anthropologist Margaret Mead was instrumental in popularizing the anthropological concept of culture in the US. Though many later anthropologists have questioned both the accuracy of her observations and the soundness of her conclusions, she remains highly regarded for her many contributions to the field. Over the course of her career, Mead made numerous field trips to observe the peoples of Oceania. What honor was awarded to her posthumously? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Ludwig Lazarus "L. L." Zamenhof (1859)

Born and raised in Bialystok, a city on the Polish-Russian border populated by Poles, Germans, and Belarusians, Zamenhof was profoundly affected by the ethnic conflict he witnessed all around him. In his estimation, the primary cause of such conflict was mutual misunderstanding. Thus, he reasoned, removing communication barriers would foster peace. To this end, the young doctor and linguist devoted himself to developing an international language called “Esperanto,” which means what? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

George VI, King of Great Britain and Ireland (1895)

The subject of the Academy Award-winning 2010 film The King’s Speech, George VI became king of the United Kingdom following the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII. George was an important symbolic leader of the British people during World War II, supporting the wartime leadership of Winston Churchill and visiting armies on the battlefield. He earned the respect of his people by scrupulously observing the responsibilities of a constitutional monarch and by overcoming what disability? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary

Emily Carr (1871)

Now considered an icon of Canadian art, Carr did not receive widespread recognition for her work until later in life. She primarily painted indigenous-themed or landscape scenes, and she was relatively unknown until her work was featured in a 1927 exhibition at the National Gallery, when she was in her 50s. Carr continued to paint thereafter but had to reduce her artistic output in her 70s due to health concerns. Instead, Carr began to pursue what other talent for which she is also remembered? Discuss

Source: The Free Dictionary