Arthur Schopenhauer (1788)

An unhappy and solitary man, Schopenhauer was a German philosopher whose works earned him the title “the philosopher of pessimism.” The bias of his own temperament and experience was crucial to the development of his celebrated philosophy—reflections on the theory of knowledge and the philosophy of nature, aesthetics, and ethics—which he presented with such clarity and skill as to gain eventual recognition as one of the great philosophers. Schopenhauer was heavily influenced by what Hindu texts? Discuss

Andrés Segovia (1893)

Segovia was a Spanish guitarist whose transcriptions of early contrapuntal music, along with his concerts and recordings, were largely responsible for the 20th-century resurgence of interest in the guitar and its possibilities as a concert instrument. Almost entirely self-taught, he made his debut in Grenada in 1909 and by the 1920s was touring internationally. He continued to perform into his 90s. Which composers wrote works just for Segovia? Discuss

Kurt Cobain (1967)

Cobain formed the rock trio Nirvana in his hometown of Aberdeen, Washington, in 1986. The group’s second album, Nevermind, featured the iconic hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and was the first punk-oriented album to achieve popularity with a mainstream audience. However, Cobain railed against his fame in Nirvana’s next album, In Utero. Known for his self-destructive behavior and heroin use, he committed suicide in 1994. What tribute to Cobain is featured on a sign in his hometown? Discuss

André Breton (1896)

Breton was a French writer, critic, and editor. In 1919, he helped found the Dadaist review Littérature. Influenced by psychiatry and the Symbolist movement, he wrote poetry using the automatic-writing technique. In 1924, his Manifeste du surréalismeSurrealist Manifesto—provided a definition of Surrealism as “pure psychic automatism.” In 1938, he penned the manifesto Pour un art révolutionnaire indépendant with what one-time commander of the Red Army? Discuss

Hans Asperger (1906)

Asperger was an Austrian psychiatrist who, in 1944, published the first definition of what is now known as Asperger syndrome. Calling it “autistic psychopathy,” he described a disorder characterized by severe impairment of social skills and restricted interests and behaviors, features that he himself appears to have exhibited as a child. Despite his patients’ handicaps, Asperger believed that they would someday make valuable contributions to society. Which of his patients won a Nobel Prize? Discuss

Thomas John Watson, Sr. (1874)

After rising from clerk to sales executive in the National Cash Register Co., Watson became president of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co., which made scales, time clocks, and tabulators that sorted information using punched cards—all forerunners of mainframe computers. Watson renamed the company International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) in 1924 and became its chairman in 1949, widening IBM’s line to include electronic computers. What one-word motto did Watson promote at IBM? Discuss

Salvatore Phillip "Sonny" Bono (1935)

Bono was an American record producer, singer, actor, and politician. He began his music career working with legendary producer Phil Spector in the early 1960s and went on to write, arrange, and produce a number of hit singles like “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On,” which he performed with his then-wife Cher. The duo also hosted a popular television variety show in the 1970s. Later, Bono became involved in politics and served as a member of the US House of Representatives. How did he die? Discuss

Jeremy Bentham (1748)

Bentham was a British moral philosopher and legal theorist. A precocious student, he graduated from Oxford at age 15. In his writings, he became the earliest expounder of utilitarianism—the theory that the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its usefulness in bringing about the greatest happiness for all those affected by it. His work inspired much reform legislation, especially regarding prisons. What was done with Bentham’s body after his death, in accordance with his will? Discuss

Jack Benny (1894)

Benny made his vaudeville debut playing the violin in 1912. After discovering a talent for comedy while in the navy, he returned to vaudeville as a comedian. He made his film debut in 1927 and appeared in 18 films between 1930 and 1945. His weekly radio show—1932 to 1955—and TV show—1950 to 1965—won loyal audiences, and he became famous for a unique comic style characterized by subtle verbal inflection, meaningful pauses, and the stage image of a vain, stingy man. What was Benny’s real name? Discuss

Sir Joseph Banks (1743)

Banks was a British naturalist, botanist, and patron of the sciences. After inheriting a large fortune in his early 20s, he began traveling extensively, collecting plant and natural history specimens. He outfitted and accompanied James Cook’s voyage around the world, during which time he collected many biological specimens that had never before been classified. His herbarium, one of the most important in existence, and library are now at the British Museum. What plant genus was named after him? Discuss