Franklin Pierce (1804)

In 1852, the Democratic party of the US was split into hostile factions, none of which could muster sufficient strength to secure the presidential nomination. The charming and unobjectionable Pierce was nominated as a compromise candidate. He unexpectedly trounced his opposition in the general election despite being largely unknown beforehand. However, Pierce proved unable to mediate slavery-related political troubles. As a testament to his unpopularity, he was the first US president to do what? Discuss
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André Gide (1869)

A prolific and unconventional French writer, Gide was controversial for his confessional works, his frank defense of homosexuality, and his espousal of Communism—and subsequent disavowal of it after a visit to the Soviet Union. A champion of society’s victims, he spurred reform of French colonial policy in Africa with books such as Travels in the Congo. In one of his most famous quotes, Gide advised that one should believe those who seek the truth and reserve doubt for whom? Discuss
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Mollie Steimer (1897)

After immigrating to New York City from Russia as a teen, Steimer worked in the garment industry, where she became involved in workers’ rights and anarchism. After joining a Jewish anarchist collective, she began publishing leaflets that opposed US involvement in World War I. Arrested for distributing them, she was convicted under the Espionage Act and deported to Russia. She was soon forced to leave Russia, and later fled both Germany and France. Where did she spend the rest of her life?
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Alistair Cooke (1908)

Cooke was a British-American journalist and broadcaster. To British audiences, he was famous for his lively and insightful interpretations of American life and culture. His weekly Letter from America, which aired for 58 years, was one of the longest-running programs in radio. To American television audiences, he was the epitome of the elegant English gentleman, hosting public television’s Masterpiece Theater for 20 years. After he died, his bones were stolen and used for what? Discuss
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Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov (1711)

With an extraordinarily broad education, Lomonosov became a prominent figure of 18th-century Russia in many capacities. He was a poet, a language reformer, a chemistry professor, and founder of Moscow State University. He created the first colored-glass mosaics in Russia. He designed a telescope and hypothesized the presence of an atmosphere on Venus. He cataloged more than 3,000 minerals and explained the origin of icebergs. His experiments in physics contradicted what commonly accepted theory?
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