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Stephen Cole Kleene

was born in Hartford, Connecticut (1909). He helped to develop recursion theory, a field of mathematics that determines whether or not a problem can actually be solved...

Kenneth Brugger

in 1975, discovered where monarch butterflies from North America spend the winter. Scientists had been looking for the place for generations. They knew monarchs flew south to Mexico, but they had never been able to find out where they went. Brugger, a textile chemist who was living in Mexico City, saw an ad asking for help tracing the monarchs’ migratory path, and remembered driving through a storm of monarchs once on a vacation, in the mountains west of Mexico City. He had no luck there at first, but when he brought his wife Catalina, who was Mexican, the local farmers were less reluctant to tell them where they thought the butterflies might be. Finally, a farmer led them up the side of a remote mountain, through dense forests of fir, until they came to a meadow filled with millions of butterflies. The monarchs clung to the foliage in such profusion that the trees looked orange instead of green.

Noah Webster

was born in Hartford, Connecticut (1758). When he was 43 years old, he began writing the first American dictionary, which was published in 1806. Spelling and pronunciation were different in different parts of the country, and Webster wanted to standardize American English. He also wanted the American language to have its own rules rather than relying on British dictionaries like Samuel Johnson’s 1755 edition. He taught himself 26 languages to write the dictionary, including Anglo-Saxon and Sanskrit, and he was the first to document distinctively American words, such as skunk, stampede, and chowder. It’s thanks to Webster that the American and English spellings are different for words like “catalog,” “honor,” “theater,” and “center.”

Louis Reard

a French designer, who in 1946 introduced the bikini at a popular swimming pool in Paris. Reard was struggling to find a name for his new bathing suit a few days before he put it on display. He chose the name “bikini” after he read in the newspaper that the United States had exploded a nuclear weapon near several small islands in the Pacific known as the “Bikini Atoll.” In an advertising campaign Reard said that a two-piece bathing suit was not a bikini unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring. The bikini was banned in Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Decency leagues pressured Hollywood to keep it out of the movies. It finally became acceptable after Brigitte Bardot wore one in the French movie And God Created Woman (1956). In 1960, Brian Hyland wrote his hit song, “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” and a few years later the American movie Beach Party (1963) was released, featuring the bikini-clad Annette Funicello. Bikinis were finally safe enough for America.

Alfred Nobel

The Swedish inventor who founded the Nobel Prize. He was born in Stockholm (1833) and moved with his family to St. Petersburg, Russia when he was nine. His father was an engineer who made weapons for the Russian army. Alfred grew up thinking he might like to be a scientist too. As a young man, he moved back to Sweden and worked with his father at an explosives factory. But it was dangerous work. Just after he turned thirty, his younger brother died in a terrible explosion. So Alfred conducted experiments to try to find ways to make explosives safer. In 1867 he patented his greatest invention, which he called dynamite. Alfred became very wealthy and ran an international explosives empire. He continued to dream up new inventions all his life. He wrote, “If I come up with 300 ideas in a year, and only one of them is useful, I am content.” But he also thought about becoming a writer, and wrote a play called Nemesis that was finally published in 1991.

Nobel was known as a gloomy sort of person; he never married and he tended to keep to himself. He was called “a man nobody knew.” Even though he invented a powerful new weapon, he later became an advocate for world peace. He said, “I should like to be able to create a substance or a machine with such a horrific capacity for mass annihilation that wars would become impossible forever.” In 1888 his brother Ludvig died and a French newspaper mistakenly reported Alfred’s death instead. The obituary called him the “dynamite king.” He read that he was a “merchant of death” who spent his life finding new ways to “mutate and kill.” He was so upset to be leaving that kind of a legacy that he rewrote his will to establish a set of prizes celebrating the greatest achievements of mankind. The Nobel Prizes are awarded every year for chemistry, physics, economics, medicine, literature and peace. Nobel wrote, “I am a misanthrope yet utterly benevolent.” And he said he was “a super-idealist who digests philosophy more efficiently than food.”

Freidrich Nietzche

was born in the Prussian village of Röcken (1844). He was a philosopher who loved literature, and he experimented with different literary styles to express his philosophy. Some of his books are long lists of aphorisms, while others are written almost like novels or poetry. His most famous book, Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883), describes a prophet who comes down from the mountains to teach people about the coming of a new kind of super-man, but the people he speaks to only ridicule and laugh at him. Nietzsche spent most of his life suffering from debilitating headaches and deteriorating eyesight, and he eventually went crazy and spent his last years in an asylum. He’s perhaps best known for claiming that “God is dead,” but most people forget that he actually said, “God is dead . . . and we have killed him!” He thought that the absence of God from the world was a tragedy, but he felt that people had to accept that tragedy and move on. He wrote that God was like a star whose light we can see, even though the star died long ago. Much of his philosophy is about how people might live in a world without God and without absolute morality. At the time of his death on August 25, 1900, almost no one had heard of him, but after his work was republished, it had a huge impact on the philosophers of the twentieth century. He said, “I know my fate. One day my name will be tied to the memory of something monstrous—a crisis without equal on earth . . . I am no man, I am dynamite!”

Allen Ginsberg

in 1955, read his poem “Howl” at a poetry reading at Six Gallery in San Francisco. The poem begins, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.’’ Ginsberg’s friend and fellow writer Jack Kerouac sat on the side of the low stage, drinking from a jug of wine and shouting, “Go!’’ at the end of the long lines. When Ginsberg was done, the audience exploded in applause, and Ginsberg left the stage in tears. Many consider the event the birth of the Beat movement. “Howl” was initially printed in England, but customs officials seized its second edition as it entered the country. When Lawrence Ferlinghetti published the book out of his City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, he was arrested and tried for obscenity, but he was found not guilty, and City Lights became the center of the San Francisco poetry renaissance of the 1950s.

William the Conqueror of Normandy

defeated the British in the Battle of Hastings, and on Christmas day he was crowned King of England in Westminster Abby. One of the most important consequences of the Norman conquest of England was its effect on the English language. At the time, the British were speaking a combination of Saxon and Old Norse. The Normans spoke French. Over time, the languages blended, and the result was that English became a language incredibly rich in synonyms. Because the French speakers were aristocrats, the French words often became the fancy words for things. The Normans gave us “mansion”; the Saxons gave us “house.” The Normans gave us “beef”; the Saxons gave us, “cow.” The Normans gave us “excrement”; the Saxons gave lots of four letter words. The English language has gone on accepting additions to its vocabulary ever since the Norman invasion, and it now contains more than a million words, making it one of the most diverse languages on Earth. Writers have been arguing for hundreds of years about whether this is a good thing. Walt Whitman said, “The English language is the accretion and growth of every dialect, race, and range of time, and is both the free and compacted composition of all.” On the other hand, the critic Cyril Connelly wrote, “The English language is like a broad river ... being polluted by a string of refuse-barges tipping out their muck.” And the poet Derek Walcott, who grew up in a British colony in the West Indies, said, “The English language is nobody’s special property. It is the property of the imagination: it is the property of the language itself.”

Pablo Picasso

was born in Malaga, on Spain’s south coast (1881). He didn’t like school when he was a boy, except for art class. He painted his first oil painting when he was nine years old. It was a picture of a bull ring, inspired by the bullfights he often attended with his dad. Picasso went to art school in Barcelona and Madrid and eventually settled in Paris. He met people in the art world who supported him for a time until he made a name for himself with his “blue paintings,” a series of blue-hued paintings depicting dying clowns and acrobats. He did sculpture and drawings and lithographs, water color, ceramics, mosaics, etchings, and oils. He did still-lifes and landscapes and nudes. Along with Georges Braque, he invented the style of painting called Cubism, which broke up objects into fragments represented from different perspectives. Some say Picasso invented collage when he attached a real piece of imitation chair caning to a still life. André Malraux called Picasso “the archwizard of modern art.” He painted more than 6,000 pictures in his lifetime. He became very famous and rich, partly because he was a good bargainer and smart with money. He knew not to flood the market with his paintings, so he only released about 40 a year, and hoarded the rest in private studios and his various homes. He also gave several paintings to charity, and to old friends and lovers.

Picasso had trouble getting out of bed in the morning, and usually spent the afternoon conversing with friends. It was at night that he did most of his work, usually in the dark, except for two spotlights shining directly on his canvass. He didn’t use a palate—he just had the cans of paint sitting on the floor, and he would dip the brushes right in and then wipe the excess off on newspapers. He stood up while he painted, often for three or four hours at a time. Then once in awhile he’d take an hour off to go sit on the other end of the room in a wicker armchair and stare at his painting, analyzing his work.

Ken Kesey

born in La Junta, Colorado (1935). He’s best known as the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962). He went to Stanford University, where he studied creative writing. He volunteered in a local hospital to observe patients of drug addiction, particularly LSD. He eventually decided to use the drug himself, and went off on a bus tour around the country with a group of misfits who called themselves “The Merry Pranksters.”

Ernest Hemingway

in 1952, came out with his last novel, The Old Man and the Sea. After he published his first two novels, The Sun Also Rises (1926) and A Farewell to Arms (1929), he was considered the best living American writer, and he was probably the most famous writer in the world. But he began to write less and less fiction in the 1930s. He went on long hunting and fishing expeditions. He became an intrepid journalist, covering the civil war in Spain. He moved to Cuba and organized a private spy network to uncover Nazi sympathizers. He patrolled the Gulf of Mexico in his fishing boat, looking for Nazi submarines, though he didn’t find any. He covered the invasion of Normandy on D-Day and the liberation of Paris, and he was one of the only armed journalists fighting alongside the other soldiers. After participating in the war, he had a hard time getting back to writing. He said, “[It’s] as though you had heard so much loud music you couldn’t hear anything played delicately.” He finally published his first novel in 10 years in 1950, Across the River and Into the Trees, about World War II. It got terrible reviews. Critics said that maybe he was overrated as a writer. Journalists started contacting him, asking to write his biography, as though he were already dead. Hemingway had been working on a long novel that he called The Sea Book, about different aspects of the sea. He got the idea for it while looking for submarines in his fishing boat. The book had three sections, which he called “The Sea When Young,” “The Sea When Absent,” and “The Sea in Being,” and it had an epilogue about an old fisherman. He wrote more than 800 pages of The Sea Book and rewrote them more than a hundred times, but the book still didn’t seem finished. Finally, he decided to publish just the epilogue about the old fisherman, which he called The Old Man and the Sea. He knew that the book was almost too short to be a novel, but he was tired of not publishing anything. The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize, and two years later Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He didn’t publish another novel in his lifetime.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

in 1837 delivered a speech titled “The American Scholar” to the Phi Beta Kappa society of Harvard University. Emerson wasn’t especially well known at the time. He was actually filling in for the orator Reverend Dr. Wainwright, who had backed out of the speaking engagement at the last minute. The speech was the first time he explained his transcendentalist philosophy in front of a large public audience. He said that scholars had become too obsessed with ideas of the past, that they were bookworms rather than thinkers. He told the audience to break from the past, to pay attention to the present, and to create their own new, unique ideas. He said, “I embrace the common, I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low.” The speech was published that same year. It made Emerson famous, and it brought the ideas of transcendentalism to young men like Henry David Thoreau. Oliver Wendell Holmes called “The American Scholar” “[The] intellectual Declaration of Independence.”


a Chinese philosopher, was born in 551 BC. Confucius taught his followers to love others, to honor one’s parents, to lead by example, and to treat others as you would like to be treated. He said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Mae West

an actress and playwright, was born in Brooklyn, New York (1892 or 1893). She got her start as a vaudeville dancer after winning a series of tap dancing contests, and she was the first woman to perform a dance called “The Shimmy” onstage. Her first play was called Sex (1926) and during one of the performances she was arrested and thrown in jail for a week for “corrupting the morals of youth.” The arresting officer testified that she not only revealed her navel but moved it up and down and side to side. The controversy made her a star. Mae West said, “When choosing between two evils, I always like to pick the one I never tried before.”

Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong

in 1969, were the first men to set foot on the moon. Neil Armstrong was the first to walk on the moon, because he was closest to the door of the tiny lunar module, which had landed in an area known as the Sea of Tranquility. When his feet touched the ground Neil Armstrong spoke the famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” He claims that he said “That’s one small step for a man” but the transmission cut out during the “a.” Buzz Aldrin called for a moment of silence shortly after the landing to give thanks for their survival. He took communion with a wafer and a tiny chalice of wine. When the crew took off their helmets after climbing back into the Eagle spaceship, they told the NASA people back in Houston that something smelled like “wet ashes in a fireplace” or “spent gunpowder.” It was the smell of moondust.

Douglas Corrigan

a pilot, who in 1938 asked permission from the Civil Aviation Authority to fly from New York City to Ireland. They denied his request, on the grounds that his plane was in poor condition. He seemed to accept the ruling, but when he took off for California, he banked sharply to the east and headed over the ocean. He landed in Ireland, and complained of a faulty compass. No one believed his excuse, and he lost his pilot’s license, but he was greeted as a hero back in New York. Over a million people came out for a ticker-tape parade honoring “Wrong Way” Corrigan.

J.D. Salinger

wrote The Catcher in the Rye, which was published in 1951. Salinger worked on it over a period of ten years, in between writing stories for magazines like The New Yorker. At one point, he had a 90-page version of the novel accepted for publication, but he thought it wasn’t good enough and continued to revise and add bits and pieces. The Catcher in the Rye is about a sixteen-year-old troublemaker named Holden Caulfield. He runs away from Pencey Prep School a few days before Christmas Break. He wants to head west to California, and live a quiet life in a log cabin, away from all the “phonies.” At one point, Holden says, “I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around-nobody big, I mean-except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff-I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.” Thirty years after its publication, The Catcher in the Rye was both the most banned book in America and the second most frequently taught book in public schools. The book has sold over sixty million copies around the world.

Harold Bloom

born in New York City in 1930, is one of the best-known literary critics in America, and one of the most controversial. Bloom is famous for his memory. Once, as an undergraduate, he recited Hart Crane’s long poem “The Bridge” backward, word by word, while drunk.

James Smithson

an English scientist, died in 1929. Even though he had never been to America, he left behind a will that said that if his only nephew died without any heirs, his whole estate should go to the United States of America, to found the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He left a fortune including 11 boxes of over 100,000 gold sovereigns. After the gold was melted down, it was worth well over $500,000. Today, the Smithsonian is composed of 18 museums and galleries around the world, including the National Museums of Natural and American History, the National Zoological Park, the National Portrait Gallery, and the National Air and Space Museum.

Casey Jones

legendary train engineer, died in a train wreck in 1900. He was known for his speed, and he often bragged that his trains always came in on time. He was driving the Cannon Ball express from Memphis, Tennessee, to Canton, Mississippi, trying to make up time because the train was overdue, when his fire man warned him that there was another train up ahead. He ordered his fireman to jump, but he stayed on the train, one hand on the break and the other on the whistle. Though the Cannon Ball crashed and Jones was killed, the passengers were saved because of his efforts to slow the train down. An engine wiper, Wallace Saunders, wrote the first ballad about him, followed by many others, including some versions in German and French.

Joan of Arc

was burned at the stake in Rouen, France in 1431. She was a peasant girl, born during the Hundred Years War, one of the worst wars in French history. During the Hundred Years War the population of France was cut in half. Joan was born into the middle of the war, and when she was thirteen, she started hearing heavenly voices in her garden. The voices told her to go to the city of Orleans, which was under siege, defeat the English, and give the disputed crown of France to the dauphin Charles. So that’s what she did. Somehow, this teenage peasant girl persuaded the authorities to give her an army, and a suit of specially made armor, and she marched to Orleans and led the battle, carrying a banner with Jesus’ name on it. She was shot in the chest with an arrow, but she continued fighting, and the English retreated from Orleans. She continued leading battles and her people came to believe she was an angel. After failing to take Paris, Joan was captured and sold to the English for ten thousand pounds, and they put her on trial for heresy. She was eighteen years old. On May 30, she was led barefoot to the marketplace to be burned alive. Twenty years later, she was pardoned by the king whom she helped to crown, and in 1920 she was canonized as a saint.

Robert Allen Zimmerman

better known as Bob Dylan, was born in Duluth, Minnesota (1941). After an uneventful childhood in Hibbing, he moved to Minneapolis in 1959 to study art at the University of Minnesota. It was there that he became interested in the music of Hank Williams and Woodie Guthrie. He listened to their music voraciously, neglected classes, and began to perform in coffee shops under the name “Bob Dylan.” In 1961, he dropped out of school and moved to New York, where he became a fixture in the famous folk music scene of Greenwich Village. He also made the acquaintance of his hero Woodie Guthrie, who was in the hospital with a rare disease of the nervous system. Dylan went to his bedside and performed Guthrie’s own songs for him. His performances in New York earned him a recording contract, but it wasn’t until his second album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963) that he became famous, with such songs as “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Bertrand Russell

British philosopher, was born in Trelleck, Monmouthshire, England in 1872. He wrote about mathematics, logic, ethics, and social issues, and was one of the most widely read philosophers of the twentieth century. He emerged as an important philosopher with The Principles of Mathematics (1903), which argued that the foundations of mathematics can be deduced from a few logical ideas. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950. He said, “It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.” And, “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

Nelson Mandela

in 1994 was sworn in as the first black president of South Africa. He had spent 27 years of his life as a political prisoner of the South African government. He spent the first 18 of those 27 years in a small cell without a bed or plumbing. He was forced to do hard labor in a quarry. He could write and receive a letter once every six months, and once a year he was allowed to meet with a visitor for 30 minutes. In his inauguration speech he said, “the time for the healing of the wounds has come.” As president, Mandela established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights violations under apartheid, and in 1996 he presided over the enactment of the new South African constitution.

Sigmund Freud

was born Sigismund Shlomo Freud, in what is now Pribor, Czechoslovakia (1856). He’s the founder of psychoanalysis. In 1899 he published his masterwork, The Interpretation of Dreams. He argued that dreams were the fulfillment of our wishes, and that neuroses could be traced back to repressed childhood experiences and desires. He’s responsible for everyday phrases like, “You’re being defensive,” and “You’re rationalizing,” and for the “Freudian slip.”

Joseph Pulitzer

was born in Budapest, Hungary (1847). In 1864, he sailed to the United States, where the Civil War was being fought. After the war was over, he and a friend went to a railroad ticket office, threw down all the money they had between them, and asked for tickets to as far West as their money would take them. Their destination turned out to be Saint Louis, where Pulitzer became a reporter and then a state legislator. He later moved to New York City and bought the New York World newspaper. He said, “There is room in this great and growing city for a journal that is not only cheap but bright, not only bright but large, not only large but truly democratic -- dedicated to the cause of the people rather than that of purse potentates -- devoted more to the news of the New than the Old World; that will expose all fraud and sham; fight all public evils and abuses; that will serve and battle for the people with earnest sincerity.” With his profits he endowed the Columbia School of Journalism as well as the annual Pulitzer prizes for journalism, literature, drama, music.

Rene Descartes

French scientist, mathematician, and philosopher, was born in La Haye, Touraine, France (1596). He has been called the father of both modern philosophy and modern mathematics. His writings on methodology and philosophy include Discourse on Method (1637) and Meditations (1641). His method focused on rationalistic thought, which is summed up with his famous phrase “Cogito, ergo sum,” “I think, therefore I am” (or, “Thinking, I am”). He said: “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”

Kenneth Rexroth

was born in South Bend, Indiana in 1905. He said that he wrote poetry to “seduce women and overthrow the capitalist system.” He was orphaned before he was twelve, got kicked out of high school, worked as a reporter, and served a prison term for owning a brothel. After he moved to California he began reading mystic texts, supported some of the early Beat poets, published his own poetry, and started translating poetry from Latin, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Italian and Spanish. He spent as much of the year camping in the mountains as he could, long before camping emerged as a counter-culture activity. He produced a comprehensive manual on woodcraft with detailed instructions on packing knapsacks and making pine-bough beds.

Frank Sinatra

Ol’ Blue Eyes, born in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1915. Sinatra grew up in Hoboken, the son of Italian immigrants. He knew early on that he wanted to be a singer, and his mother supported his decision to drop out of high school to sing in nightclubs. In 1935, he formed a group called the Three Flashes with three other young men from Hoboken. After a while, he decided his best chance to make it big was to sing alone, so he quit the group and went back to solo nightclub gigs. In 1939, a trumpet player named Harry James heard Sinatra singing on a local radio station, and James signed him for $75 a week. Sinatra made his first recording the next month. James said, “He’s never had a hit record, and he looks like a wet rag, but he says he’s the greatest.”

Etta James

book exerpt about her ma: “I call Dorothy the Mystery Lady. She was Miss Hip, a jazz chick, a let-the-good-times roller who wore midnight cologne and told me, when I was barely old enough to understand, that in a former life she had been a white woman with red flowing hair and bright freckles, a powerful and fearsome queen who had put some people to death. I believed her. But in this life she was a light-brown-skinned beauty who wore short skirts and fishnet hose and platform shoes with ankle straps. Her face was fabulous. Her body was voluptuous. Like the Billie Holiday song says, men flocked around her like moths to a flame. She adored the music of Billie Holiday and considered herself a jazz purist. No raunchy blues for the Midnight Lady. Nothing but jazz, fine and mellow, sweet and swinging progressive jazz.”

Carl Jung

born in Kesswil, Switzerland (1875). He was the founder of analytic psychology. He noticed that myths and fairytales from all kinds of different cultures have certain similarities. He called these similarities archetypes, and he believed that archetypes come from a collective unconscious that all humans share. He said that if people get in touch with these archetypes in their own lives, they will be happier and healthier.

Jack Kerouac

in 1957 wrote a letter to his old friend Ed White about his spring in France, after spending the winter in Morocco: “I tried to hitchhike through Provence, outside Aix, where Cézanne painted, ended up hiking 20 miles but it was worth it ... sat on side of hills and pencil sketched drawings of the Cézanne country, dull red rusty rooftops, blue hills, white stones, green fields, hasn’t changed in all these years ... mauve tan farm houses in quiet fertile farmer’s valleys, rustic, with weathered pink powder roof tiles, a grey green mild warmness, voices of girls, gray stacks of baled hay, a fertilized chalky garden, a cherry tree in white bloom (April), a rooster crowing at mid day mildly, tall Cézanne trees in back ... etc. just like Cézanne nein? Then a rattly old bus through Arles country, the restless afternoon trees of Van Gogh in the high mistral wind, the cypress rows tossing, yellow tulips in window boxes, a vast outdoor café with huge awning, and the gold sunlight ...”

John Pemberton

in 1886 perfected a headache and hangover remedy he had cooked up over a fire in his backyard. It contained coca leaves and extract of kola nut, and he advertised it as an “Esteemed Brain Tonic and Intellectual Beverage.” He had been making something called “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca,” but Atlanta had just passed a prohibition law, and he had to come up with an alcohol-free formula. He sweetened the new elixir with sugar instead of wine, and his bookkeeper suggested he name the beverage “Coca-Cola.” The following year, the prohibition law was repealed; Pemberton sold off his interest in the formula and went back to making French Wine Coca.

Thomas Jefferson

born in Albemarle County, Virginia (1743). “Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much can be done if we are always doing.” And he certainly lived by those words. He wrote the Declaration of Independence for the fledging United States and then served as its minister of France, secretary of state, vice president, and president. But he was also — among other things — an inventor, philosopher, farmer, naturalist, astronomer, food and wine connoisseur, and musician. An early biographer, James Parton, described the young Jefferson a year before he helped write the Declaration of Independence: “A gentleman of 32 who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, dance a minuet, and play the violin.” Jefferson was an important force in American architecture. He was inspired by Andrea Palladio’s The Four Books of Architecture, which drew from classical Roman principles,and he determined to improve Virginia’s architecture, which he disliked. He designed his great estate, Monticello, as well as the University of Virginia, the Virginia State Capitol, and a number of federal buildings in Washington, D.C. — he is responsible for the neoclassical look of our Capitol. He read widely in architecture throughout his life, and he observed buildings as he traveled and brought back new ideas to incorporate into his designs. He loved to read about much more than architecture — he said, “I cannot live without books.” He wrote to John Adams, “I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus and Thucydides, for Newton and Euclid; and I find myself much the happier.” Jefferson said, “Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight.” Even as a scientist his interests varied widely. He knew physics, anatomy, botany, and geology. He was a talented astronomer who accurately predicted an eclipse in 1778. When he founded the University of Virginia in 1819, one of his main plans for its curriculum was astronomy, and he wanted to build the first planetarium and observatory in the country. He was also an enthusiastic naturalist and paleontologist. At one point, he had the East Room of the White House covered with potential mastodon bones. His talent for botany was evident in his Monticello gardens and farm. In the gardens, he grew 170 varieties of fruit, 330 varieties of vegetables, and ornamental plants and flowers. He grew Mexican varieties of peppers, beans collected by Lewis and Clark, broccoli from Italy. The English pea was his favorite vegetable, and he had a Garden Book in which he kept exhaustive notes on the states of his turnips, lettuces, artichokes, tomatoes, eggplants, and squash — when each variety was sown, when it was mulched and how, when the first leaves or fruits appeared, which varieties were tastiest. His household ate from the garden, and he said that he ate meat and animal products “as a condiment for the vegetables, which constitute my principal diet.” Some of the varieties that Jefferson cultivated at Monticello have been passed down as heirloom vegetables, and people still plant them in their backyard gardens. Overall, he had about 5,000 acres of farmland, planted mostly in wheat and other grains. The man who wrote “All men are created equal” defended the institution of slavery, and he was dependent on the labor of hundreds of slaves to keep his farms running. He spent a large part of his days supervising them; he wrote, “From breakfast, or noon at the latest, to dinner, I am mostly on horseback, Attending to My Farm or other concerns, which I find healthful to my body, mind, and affairs.”Jefferson loved music. He wrote to an Italian friend: “If there is a gratification which I envy any people in this world it is to your country its music. This is the favorite passion of my soul, and fortune has cast my lot in a country where it is in a state of deplorable barbarism.” He played the violin, and sometimes the cello and harpsichord, and sang. He walked around Monticello singing and humming to himself.Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after his Declaration of Independence had been adopted. He was 83 years old and wrote his own epitaph before he died. It didn’t mention anything about being president. It said: “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.”