Pope Innocent XI (1611)

In 1676, Benedetto Odescalchi was elected pope despite the strong opposition of Louis XIV of France, with whom he had a long, bitter quarrel over Gallicanism—a French Roman Catholic tradition of resistance to papal authority. He took the name Innocent XI. As Pope, Innocent lived very parsimoniously and sought to curb nepotism among the cardinals. He closed all of the theaters in Rome—deemed centers of vice and immorality—and brought a temporary halt to the flourishing tradition of what? Discuss

Pierre Curie (1859)

Pierre Curie was a chemist who studied crystallography, magnetism, piezoelectricity, and the emerging field of radioactivity, first observed by A. H. Becquerel in 1896. Pierre and his wife Marie worked to isolate polonium and radium. Working with a student, Pierre also discovered nuclear energy by identifying the continuous emission of heat from radium particles. In 1903, the Curies shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Becquerel. Three years later, Pierre died in what type of accident? Discuss

George Lucas (1944)

Lucas is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter famous for his epic Star Wars saga and the Indiana Jones film series. Though Lucas has become one of the American film industry’s most successful filmmakers, he initially aspired to be a racecar driver. A serious car accident in high school led him to rethink this, and he instead turned to moviemaking, channeling his passion for cars into his 1973 film American Graffiti. What was his first feature-length film? Discuss

Ole Worm (1588)

Worm was a Danish physician and antiquarian who was the personal physician of King Christian IV of Denmark and served Copenhagen during plague epidemics. Worm’s chief contributions to medical science were in embryology. As a natural philosopher, he assembled a vast collection of stuffed and mounted animals, fossils, and other curiosities. A collector of early Scandinavian literature and texts written in the runic alphabet, he wrote extensively on rune stones. What are the Wormian bones? Discuss

Florence Nightingale (1820)

Though Nightingale is considered the founder of modern nursing, she had limited formal nursing training. She became superintendent of a small London hospital in 1853. The next year, she organized a unit of 38 female nurses for service in the Crimean War, and her efforts made her legendary. With the testimonial fund collected for her war services, she established the Nightingale School and Home for training nurses at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London. Why was she called “The Lady with the Lamp”? Discuss

Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (1827)

Carpeaux was a French sculptor and painter whose works demonstrate his interests in movement and baroque art. Initially a student under Francois Rude, Carpeaux won the Prix de Rome in 1854 and then studied the works of Michelangelo, Donatello, and Verrocchio in Rome. In 1861, he made a bust of Princess Mathilde, which brought him several commissions from Napoleon III, and became a favorite of the court. Why did La Danse, his sculpture on the facade of the Paris Opera, create a scandal? Discuss

David O. Selznick (1902)

Selznick was an iconic producer during the early days of Hollywood. He worked for several Hollywood studios before founding his own Selznick International Pictures in 1936. He was renowned for intruding in his productions either through long detailed memos or by actually directing a few scenes. Selznick is best known for producing the epic film Gone with the Wind, which earned him an Oscar for Best Picture. The following year, he won a second consecutive Best Picture Oscar for what film? Discuss

J. M. Barrie (1860)

Barrie was a Scottish novelist and dramatist best known for his play Peter Pan, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Emotionally immature—likely due to his domineering mother—Barrie was prone to sentimentality in his writing. Yet his best works reveal a profound understanding of human nature and a capacity for irony and wit. His 1917 tragicomedy Dear Brutus is widely considered his best work. Why was Barrie disappointed with the statue of Peter Pan erected in Kensington Gardens, London? Discuss

Miyoshi Umeki (1929)

Umeki was an Academy Award-winning, Japanese-born actress best known for her roles as Katsumi in the 1957 film Sayonara and as Mrs. Livingston, the housekeeper, in the TV series The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. In 1958, she became the first Asian performer to win an Academy Award when she won an Oscar for her role in Sayonara. She also played the role of Mei Li in both the Broadway and film versions of Flower Drum Song. Where did Umeki begin her performing career? Discuss

Eva Perón (1919)

Eva Perón was an actress who became a political and cultural icon as the wife of Argentine president Juan Perón. When Juan entered office in 1946, Eva became a powerful though unofficial political leader alongside her husband. Commonly known by the affectionate diminutive “Evita,” she presided over the creation of a charitable foundation that gave the poor access to healthcare and built schools and whole communities for them. Why was Evita’s corpse hidden for 16 years after her death? Discuss