copyright 2014-2022, Jeff Napier
This book presents the most interesting biographical tidbits as amusement and insights for personal growth. What can you learn from scientists, politicians, philosophers, celebrities, artists and others?
Enjoy, Jeff Napier, author
Jeff Bezos, via Etech05: Jeff
Jeff Bezos was born in 1954 as Jeffrey Preston Jorensen, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to parents who divorced when he was one year old. When he was four, his mother married Miguel Bezos. Miguel had escaped Cuba on his own at age fifteen, worked his way through college, and became an engineer for Exxon.
Jeff grew up showing an early interest in science and technology. This was evident from the time he was a toddler when he took apart his crib with a screwdriver.
In his high school years, he worked summers on his uncle’s 25,000-acre ranch in Texas, mending fences, herding cattle, and all the things one does on a ranch. He probably picked up a solid work ethic in this activity with his uncle. While in high school, he got good grades, and won a science award.
His first business, created when he was still in high school, was The Dream Institute, an educational summer camp for children in fourth through sixth grade.
It was in high school that he was first exposed to computers. This was about ten years before home computers started appearing in significant numbers. He liked what he saw, and so he went on to Princeton, where in 1986 he earned a summa cum laude degree in computer science and electrical engineering.
From there, he took a number of jobs in New York consistent with his education, starting in computer engineering and within a eight years, he worked up to vice president of Bankers Trust. In the process, he learned a lot about computer networking, and started hearing more and more about this new thing called the World Wide Web.
It started with the US military. They built a web of interconnected computers called ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) so that the military could have the information they might need wherever they might need it in the event of an enemy attack. People in academics started finding this network very useful to share research, notes, and also personal messages. People started calling it the Internet. Netscape and other companies designed browsers making a major portion of the Internet useful and fun for ordinary people. This aspect of the Internet, consisting of files using HyperText Mark Up Language (HTML), better known as web pages, became the World Wide Web. Until then, there was no practical way to share pictures, sound, or even link to other articles on the web.
In 1994, hearing that Internet usage was growing by 2,300 percent per year, Jeff was one of the first to see an opportunity for online commerce.
He considered many possibilities for the first online retail products, and decided books suited the opportunity perfectly. So, why not provide a list of all available books, and provide a way for people to buy the books they want, then and there?
Jeff went to a booksellers’ convention in Los Angeles, where he discovered big booksellers already had compiled large databases of book titles. The biggest was a wholesaler called Ingram with a facility in Washington State.
Jeff was not the only person in the early nineties to imagine that this new network might be able to host commerce, but, unlike the others, he was willing to take big action.
In 1994, approximately a year after he married Mackenzie, also a Princeton graduate, he quit his job at a hedge fund, and ventured out as an entrepreneur.
He decided the State of Washington would be a good place to build his new business for three reasons. It was close to Ingram, where he could buy the books. Because of Intel and other high-tech companies, there were hundreds of computer experts that he could hire as needed. And, Washington had a small population. This was important because the Supreme Court had recently passed a ruling that online businesses were only required to collect sales tax from residents of states in which they had a physical presence, so there’d be less sales tax bookkeeping with Washington’s smaller customer base.
So, he and Mackenzie bought a two-bedroom house with a garage in Washington. They loaded up their car, and while she drove to Washington, he rode along typing up plans for Amazon.com on a laptop.
Why did he call it “Amazon?” According to Jeff, the business would be like the Amazon River, with seemingly endless tributaries.
When they arrived at their new home, he ran an extension cord out to the garage and set up three Sun workstations on tables made from doors laid across sawhorses. These workstations were computers somewhat more powerful than home computers of the era, capable of acting as web servers.
Jeff gathered $5 million from investors to start Amazon. These investors were brave souls, since Jeff told each and every one that he figured there was a seventy percent chance of failure. Among the investors were his mother and step-father. Their six percent of the company, which cost them $300,000, a major portion of their life savings, is now worth billions!
Once he completed the software, he asked three hundred friends and acquaintances to test the system. It worked well, so on July 16, 1995, he asked his beta testers to start talking up Amazon.com, and went live. Without doing anything else for publicity, or spending a penny on advertising, Jeff’s new business was already grossing $80,000 per month sixty days later. At the end of 1995, he had taken in $510,000 – just over a half-million dollars. This was not nearly enough to pay back investors yet, but it was a promising start. In fact, it took Amazon five years to make a profit.
Business continued to grow, and by 2011, he was taking in $17 billion per year. Amazon is the largest retailer on the Internet. And, as I’m sure you know, Amazon sells much more than books these days. You can buy anything from T-shirts to parts for industrial machinery at Amazon.com. Jeff says, “Our vision is the world’s most customer-centric company. The place where people come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
Jeff has also done with well with his Kindle, originally a tablet-like device to display ebooks. The Kindle has since become more and more tablet-like, utilizing the Android operating system. The latest high-end Kindle Fire tablets claim to have a higher resolution, lighter weight, and are thinner than the Apple iPad, and do everything a tablet can do – plus you can still read books on them, of course. Perhaps you are using one right now.
As you probably know, free Kindle software is available so you can read the same ebooks on pretty much any device from smart phones to Mac and Windows computers.
The sales of Kindle ebooks has gone particularly well. 85 percent of the world’s eBooks are in Kindle format. In 2010, sales exceeded all Amazon hardcover book sales. Soon, Jeff expects ebooks to top softcover sales as well. Even though billions of dollars are being made for authors and for Amazon in Kindle ebook sales, one can get free ebooks from the Kindle store as well. Four thousand new free titles are being added every day.
One would think this will eventually crush the market for paid books. Who would pay money for a book, when there will be something nearly the same for free? But no doubt Jeff sees something on the horizon for his next profitable stage in this rapid evolution.
What kind of manager is Jeff? Obviously, he is astute on business matters. People say that he is generally a happy-go-lucky guy, but can be very interested in details. The term “micro-manager” has been connected with his name more than once.
Jeff’s current net worth is estimated at $29 billion. Still living in Seattle, he, Mackenzie and their four children do not want for groceries. With the change left over, Jeff has done some imaginative things.
He enjoys shopping for toys online and in brick and mortar stores.
He purchased the Washington Post (Washington D.C.) newspaper company.
In 2000, he started Blue Origin, a company dedicated to bringing space travel to the masses. The company bought many acres in Texas as a launching facility. They have a prototype rocket with passenger seats called New Shepard. Jeff visualizes amusement parks, space hotels and colonies of millions orbiting earth. He has had this vision since he was eighteen years old. At one point he imagined an earth in which everyone has moved out to space, leaving the planet free to recover as a pristine park.
He has had conversations with billionaire Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic, and many other companies, to discuss cooperative space business opportunities, since one of Branson’s companies is Virgin Galactic, also dedicated to affordable space flight.
In what might be considered one of his most eccentric enterprises, Jeff Bezos spent $42 million for the construction of the “Clock of the Long Now.” This is a clock that is designed to last 10,000 years. It has some attributes to attempt to guarantee that it will be functioning a very long time from now. For instance, it must be maintainable with bronze age technology, must be fully transparent and understandable, and use a readily renewable energy source. After considering options, the decision was made that the Clock of the Long Now will be powered by a spring, wound by hand. All this will ensure that people of the future can keep it running even if they lose the technology we have today. It must be made from non-valuable materials, to discourage looting, yet keep very accurate time. Two small prototypes have been built. A full-scale prototype is being built on Jeff Bezos’ Texas ranch, and the final clock will be built in a remote location in Nevada.
The Clock of the Long Now
In December 2013 he made news again with an idea called Amazon Prime Air. He envisions a fleet of drones that can fly within ten miles (16 km) of an Amazon distribution center, carrying up to 5 pounds (2 kilograms) directly to customers within an hour of purchasing an item. He believes he can have Amazon Prime Air up and running within five years.
Jeff funded a project to find and recover original Apollo rocket engines from the ocean. His team has identified and retrieved an engine from Apollo 11, the first to land humans on the moon.
An interesting bit of Jeff Bozes trivia: He likes to buy four identical pairs of shoes at a time, and rotates them so they don’t wear out too soon.
His favorite books are Remains of the Day, a novel, and Built to Last, a business book.
Most recently, Jeff has been focusing on philanthropy. He tells us, “Giving away money takes as much attention as building a successful company,”
Nikola Tesla was born in On July 10, 1856 to a Serbian Orthodox priest, and the daughter of a piest, in what is now Croatia. His mother was known for an especially strong memory, which she used to recite long poems, and an ability to make inventive household gadgets.
When Nikola was five, he lost his older brother. Some say he fell off a horse. But there is some indication that young Nikola may have pushed him down a set of stairs.
In school, Nikola excelled, especially in math.
At the age of seventeen, he came down with cholera, which is a severe diarrhea that kept him bed bound for nine months, and nearly killed him. His father who originally wanted him to become a priest said he’d send Nikola to engineering school, if only he could recover from the illness. That may have been a motivating factor! As he began to recover, he was faced with being drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army. Instead, he ran away to a small community where he could disappear in the forest for a while. While there, he read many books, including some by Mark Twain. He later said that being close to nature, and Mark Twain’s books, were instrumental in his recovery.
At age nineteen, he was able to enroll in a technical school. He was once again an exceptional student for his first two years. Then, he discovered gambling, rapidly became addicted, and lost his tuition money. In time, he was able to recover his losses, and he then quit gambling once and for all. However, he did drop out of college, and was never able to complete his education.
He took a couple of jobs as a draftsman, then became the chief electrician in the Budapest Telephone Exchange. While there he invented many small improvements in telephone technology. From there, he moved to France, where he became a designer for the Continental Edison Company,
At the age of 24 he emigrated to the United States to take a job working directly under Thomas Edison. During his ocean crossing, his luggage was stolen. Upon arrival, he had a small pack, some poems, a letter of recommendation, and a total of four cents.
He and Thomas Edison didn’t get along well, and soon Tesla was on his own. Their primary disagreement seems to be over whether household electricity should be DC – Direct Current – or AC – Alternating Current. DC is easy to produce, regulate, and transport short distances. AC can be transformed to a high voltage for transporting over greater distances and then stepped back down to a more tame voltage for use. The oscillating nature of AC can be utilized to control speeds, time events and run motors without troublesome commutators and brushes. It is also less dangerous than DC, because the one-way nature of DC causes muscles to tighten and stay tight. So, a person who is accidentally exposed to DC current by holding a wire or device is often unable to let go.
By the time Tesla came along, Edison was heavily invested into DC technology, and was reluctant to change, even though his generators had to be near the items consuming the electricity. Edison even staged fraudulent public demonstrations in which he electrocuted dogs with AC, but they somehow were unharmed by DC.
Tesla was a strong advocate of AC; not only the sixty cycles per second low-frequency, but very high frequencies, in which he could even transport electricity without wires. There is a famous photograph of his friend Mark Twain holding a glowing lightbulb in his bare hands.
Mark Twain holding Tesla’s lightbulb without batteries or wires
With all the interest in AC, electricity flowing through the air and all that, experimenters of the era were very close to figuring out that they could send signals, maybe even emulating the vibrations of human voice, through the air.
According to some, Nikola Tesla invented radio transmission of audio signals. There is no doubt he was awarded a US patent for the invention of radio. However, the patent was later revoked. The story is that several financiers lined up to support Guglielmo Marconi in a fraudulent attempt to claim him as the inventor, and Tesla simply did not have the funds to fight the legal battle.
In the same way that historians are unclear as to whether Nikola Tesla invented radio, or whether it was Marconi, there is doubt about the invention of X-ray technology.
What we do know is that Tesla was very interested in X-rays. In fact, once he got an X-ray machine built, he spent up to 45 minutes a day X-raying his head, figuring that the radiation was actually good for his brain. His X-ray equipment wasn’t the ‘clean’ X-ray machines of modern times. His X-ray tube was not well-tuned, so it threw out a lot of potentially dangerous power, including X-rays and all sorts of other radiation.
We also know that he was a bit imbalanced in certain ways. Today’s diagnosis might be ‘functioning obsessive-compulsive.’ For instance, he could not bear to be in the same room with someone wearing pearls. He was also a step counter. These people have various forms of a need to count their footsteps. In Tesla’s case, he was once observed walking around a restaurant three times, so that upon entering it would be the right number of footsteps. But, these afflictions seemed to have begun many years before his interest in X-rays.
He was the perfect ‘mad scientist’ in many ways. He tended to live by himself in hotels, staying for years in New York’s Waldorf Astoria. Every year, on his birthday, he would hold a press conference announcing and sometimes demonstrating his latest breakthroughs. Being quite a showman, and having invented some rather marvelous although unrefined technologies, he became world famous.
He had a tendency to announce many things that he couldn’t quite pull off, sometimes as if they already existed in functioning prototype stage, such as transmission of mechanical energy over infinite distances, location of underground minerals, and vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft.
One of his unrealized inventions was a “peace ray” or a “death ray,” which he called a “teleforce.” This could destroy aircraft and land-based war machinery at a distance of hundreds of miles by projecting a beam of charged particles. Ayn Rand heard about this and utilized the idea in her book, Atlas Shrugged, calling it “Project X” or the “Thompson Harmonizer,” but based on sound waves.
In a typical Tesla statement about the peace ray, he said thirty-seven years after he announced it,
“But it is not an experiment . . . I have built, demonstrated and used it. Only a little time will pass before I can give it to the world.”
Being interested in high frequencies led him to the study of harmonics. He claimed he could make a device the size of a modern-day digital camera that when attached to the foundation of a building or bridge could shake it at just the right frequency to cause the structure to collapse.
To this day, people are intrigued with what he did, and what he might have done, if he had been given more money, assistance, and time. Many claims are made in the world of pseudo-science that relate back to Tesla in some way.
Some of his work, including his three hundred patents, brought him a big income. However, as much as he was an inventive genius, he was lacking in business skill. When he had money, he used every penny on additional experimentation. For instance, in Colorado Springs, he built a huge transmitter tower in an attempt to bounce radio signals around the world.
Nikola Tesla in his Colarado Springs laboratory
Tesla’s lab and tower in New York
Never completed, this tower was designed to transmit electricity wirelessly.
In 1915, it is said that the Nobel Prize in Physics was to be shared by Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, but at the last moment was awarded to two other scientists. This was because neither Edison or Tesla was willing to accept the prize after the other.
In the end, at age 86, he died penniless in a run down hotel room in New York City. Interestingly, agents of the US government came and confiscated all his notebooks immediately. According to a pbs.org article, one of the agents, after studying Nikola’s property for three days concluded:
“His [Tesla’s] thoughts and efforts during at least the past 15 years were primarily of a speculative, philosophical, and somewhat promotional character often concerned with the production and wireless transmission of power; but did not include new, sound, workable principles or methods for realizing such results.”
They found one box that was labeled as containing important parts of the “peace ray.” It turned out to contain nothing but a general-purpose variable resistor assembly.
Aeschylus, a Greek man born around 525 BC, lived for tragedy, and his death was an unusual tragedy. He is known by many scholars as the father of modern tragedy, having revolutionized the way plays were enacted on stage.
It is hard for us to understand from our modern perspective, but until then, plays were performed by the protagonist and a chorus only. In the case of ancient Greek plays, the chorus was a group representing the general population, and they functioned essentially as singing and dancing narrators. Evidently, the idea of having additional actors portraying antagonists never occurred to anyone until Aeschylus.
Although he came from a wealthy family, in his youth, he worked in a vineyard.
One day he had a vivid dream in which Dionysus, the god of the grape harvest, commanded him to start writing tragedies.
He had two sons, who followed him into the playwriting business.
At approximately 74 years of age, Aeschylus was killed when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his head. The bird was trying to break the shell on a rock. This is how eagles prepare their turtle lunch. The unfortunate guy was bald, and the eagle thought his head was a good turtle-breaking rock.
In the mid 1980s a man from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, became rather famous for riding his bicycle backward. At the age of thirteen, one of his friends said that riding a bike while sitting on the handlebar would be impossible. Tom Wooten proved his friend wrong. When he saw the way people reacted to seeing him ride that way, he decided it would be his career.
Wrong Way Wooten
In his late 20s, evidently after driving a tow truck for a while, and receiving a degree in psychology, he planned his first cross-country bike tour. Originally, he was going to ride with five other people, but they all backed out before he started. He relates, “I learned never to count on anybody for anything.”
he built a custom bike for his purpose. It was based on a Schwinn Varsity, which was a very heavy all-steel bike of the late 1970s. He put padded tape on the handlebar to make sitting more comfortable. He installed two mirrors on long arms so he could see where he was going. He removed the seat, and put a portable television in its place. He then somehow attached another ten-speed bike to the rear of his bike in order to carry more gear. There is no information as to how the bike was attached. There are conflicting reports as to how much the entire contraption weighed. The report that seem most believable says it was 160 lbs (72 kg). Other reports put it at “over 300 pounds” and some say it was 450 lbs.
He converted the bike to 21 speeds, quite rare in the 1980s, but left the shifters in their original position – on the handlebar stem. This meant that he had to reach between his legs to change gears. His bike had toe-clips, which were, of course, installed backward on the pedals.
Before his first trip to traverse the entire United States, he studied maps. Being independently wealthy (according to what little is written – and we don’t know how he attained that wealth) he then hired a small airplane to fly low, examining his route for overly steep hills, road construction and other such potential problems.
Tom, who legally changed his name to “Wrong Way Wooten,” then set out on his journey with a specific self-appointed mission. “The main reason I do what I do is to get people to realize that they have a responsibility to other people.” He represented several major charities including The American Cancer Society, The American Lung Society, The Heart Fund, the Jaycees, United Way, and March of Dimes, taking donations in person and also encouraging people to donate directly to their favorite charities. According to the legend, he criss-crossed the country several times totaling 28,000 miles (45,000 kilometers) over the next 17 years.
To some, it looked like what he was doing, riding around the country on a bike, would be limitless fun, but he cited some problems, such as flat tires, bad weather and racists who sometimes tried to run him off the road. “I can’t hate them, then I would be just like them.”
He did not recommend that other people should tour backwards. “One mistake, and you’re history.”
He planned on riding for twenty-five years. Unfortunately, in 2004, at age 47, he died of a massive heart attack. His credo was, “Bind yourself to nothing and seek harmony with all things. Only then can you be truly free.” People who remember him say he was a wonderful and very personable ambassador for kindness to others.
In 2006, Barack Obama won a Grammy Award. These are given to people in the entertainment business, not politics. So what is it that President Obama did that could possibly earn him a Grammy Award? It was for an audiobook recording he personally recorded of his memoir.
When running for President of the United States, Barack Obama promised his wife Michelle that he would quit smoking. He didn’t.
He has read all seven of the Harry Potter books. (There were eight movies, but only seven books. The last book was made into two movies.)
President Obama says that if he hadn’t gone into politics, he would have liked to become an architect.
Barack’s mother’s first name is Stanley. She holds a Ph.D in anthropology. Her research has been given much more attention since he became President.
Barack said of his childhood, “That my father looked nothing like the people around me – that he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk barely registered in my mind.”
Barack’s election as US President is not the first time he was a first black president. He was also the first black president of The Harvard Law Review.
Like 11.11 percent of the population, Barack Obama is left-handed.
A psychologist in Canada conducted some research that proved left-handed people are more accident-prone than right-handers. After studying 2,300 major-league baseball players who had died, he found that those older than 35 were two percent more likely to die than right-handers. In the group who had made it beyond eighty-five years old, there were very few left-handers.
Another study of Canadian college students found that 44 percent of the left-handers had been hospitalized within the last five years due to an accident, yet only 36 percent of the right-handers had been hospitalized for an accident. One hypothesis that may account for some of this is that the tools and machines of our modern world are designed for right-handers.
The southpaws also had higher incidence of immunological problems and sleep disorders. A hypothesis behind this phenomenon is that babies who would have normally been right-handers become lefties if they have problems at birth such as long labor or low birth weight.
In the mid 1770’s David Bushnell, an inventive guy, created the world’s first attack submarine. Using whiskey barrel technology, he made a watertight clamshell-shaped vehicle with barely enough room for one man. The thing, nicknamed the Turtle, was placed in New York Harbor one night containing Sgt. Ezra Lee, a 45-year-old man who was stronger than the frail inventor. He had two hand-operated propeller vanes, one for forward travel, the other for directional control.
A museum replica of Bushnell’s Turtle
Sgt. Lee cranked his way toward the British flagship of Admiral Richard Howe, called the Eagle. David Bushnell provided for instrument guidance in the underwater darkness, even though it was 1776 and electric lighting was still 100 years into the future. Inventor Bushnell’s solution was ingenious. He lit the primitive instruments, a compass and a depth gauge, with foxfire, a moss that glows in the dark. Still, navigation was difficult, because it was cold in the Turtle, and therefore the foxfire was dim. Ezra Lee missed the battleship entirely and cranked himself out to sea. Realizing his error just in time, he cranked furiously against the tide and finally arrived under the ship. Now it was time to do his dirty work.
The plan was to turn a crank mounted in the ceiling of the Turtle, which would screw an eye-hook into the underside of the Eagle. Attached to the hook was a bomb. After several attempts at attaching the bomb, Ezra finally realized it couldn’t be done. The ship was probably coated in copper plating to keep barnacles from growing on the ship, and the hook wouldn’t drill into the ship. (Historians are not sure about why the bomb couldn’t be attached, this is their theory.)
Dawn was coming, and Sgt. Lee had to get away quickly before he would be discovered. Again, he cranked furiously, but some sailors on the ship saw him. Realizing he was in trouble, he released the bomb, which floated to the surface and blew up harmlessly. But it saved his life. The ship’s men had never seen anything like the Turtle and weren’t even sure it was a human-invented thing. It might be a monster, or a monster’s creation. After the little explosion, they were truly afraid. And Ezra Lee cranked his way to harbor, his submarine was opened, and he was safe.
This was the first and last submarine voyage of the 18th century. David Bushnell was quite fascinated with inventions and explosive things in particular. He devoted his mental efforts to the war, but his creations never made any serious contributions. Once, some soldiers found a strange barrel floating in the water. They rowed out to it in a little boat and pulled it out of the water. On the contraption they found gears turning. This would be unusual by today’s standards, but truly weird back in 1776. At about the time they made this observation, the time bomb exploded, killing three of the men and injuring some others. It was supposed to have floated up to a place where several enemy ships were docked and blow them up, but the men intercepted it. This was the only one of Mr. Bushnell’s inventions that came anywhere close to working right.
Before the famous aviation pioneers, the Wright brothers, created a bicycle shop, they started a printing business, featuring their own newspaper. This was quite enterprising for two young men who did not have high school diplomas. Wilbur did complete four years, but the family moved just before he was to receive his diploma. Orville dropped out of school to run the print shop. (This is not recommended for modern kids. School is free. You might as well take as much as you can get!)
Wilbur and Orville Wright
Indicative of their engineering ability to come, they built their own printing press from scratch.
They were in the printing business during the time bicycle technology took a radical turn. Until then, in order to gain sufficient speed, bikes tended to have pedals attached directly to large wheels, making them cumbersome, hard to ride, and dangerous. Then the “safety” bike came out. Safeties had smaller wheels with a chain driving a small sprocket from a big one, so they could be geared high enough to go fast. This started a cycling craze, and the Wrights were observant enough to start a bike shop at just the right time. They didn’t buy their bikes from wholesalers. They made their bikes themselves.
Orville was more the hands-on guy, the one who did most of the inventing and building, while Wilbur, older by four years, was more the businessman, although they easily switched roles as needed.
Since the bike shop was doing well, they let their hired mechanic, Charles Edward Taylor, take on the management of the shop, while they spent increasingly more time on their hobby – experimenting to see if they could make a heavier-than-air flying machine. Lighter-than-air flying machines, also known as dirigibles, or blimps, which were filled with hydrogen or helium, had already been invented, but were problematic. They were huge, hard to control, especially in any sort of wind, slow, and not always safe.
The brothers built a wind tunnel and scientifically studied the effects of airflow across various shapes. They had Charlie Taylor build them an engine, since the only ones that could be purchased at that time were ridiculously heavy for their power output. Mr. Taylor used aluminum instead of steel (a fairly new and novel metal in the day), creating an engine weighing under 200 pounds (100 kilos) and generating twelve horsepower. He machined many of the parts himself, but had the crankcase cast by a local foundry.
The number four figures highly in Charlie’s engine. It was a four-stroke design, with four cylinders, each of which had a four-inch bore and a four-inch stroke. Modern engines can easily get a hundred horsepower out of an engine that size.
The brothers also needed propellers, so they designed and carved their own. Their propellers were up to 82% efficient, nearly as good as the best propellers today at 85% efficient.
First ever flight
The Wrights were not the first inventors to get a heavier-than-air craft in the air, but they were the first to make one that could be controlled in flight. Studying bird anatomy, sketches by Leonardo da Vinci, and contemporary inventors, they figured that warping the wings was the way to control flight. They invented three-axis control, which is how airplanes are still controlled today, although modern aircraft use flaps at the edges of wings rather than actually warping the wings.
For a few summers, their experiments, and finally their first successful flights were at Kitty Hawk, or more specifically Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Why did they transport all their stuff more than 600 miles from Dayton, Ohio all the way to the east coast? They felt the rather continuous winds were important. Their first flights took off into the wind. They also liked the idea of landing in soft sand when things went wrong, which they did from time to time.
They had to promise their father that they would not both fly in the same plane at the same time. This way, if a plane crashed, at least one would survive to carry on their experimentation. Only once in all their lives did they fly together. It was a six-minute hop. On one occasion, Orville took their 82-year-old father, Milton, on a short flight, which delighted him.
The Wright brothers were two of seven children, two of whom died at birth. They never married.
By 1909, the brothers had become the most famous people in the world.
“I can go back to when I was six years old. I was always getting in trouble for dreaming, and the things I got in trouble for dreaming about are the things I’m doing today.” – Michael Flatley
Michael Flatley really evidences the ‘can-do’ attitude. He was the original choreographer and male lead dancer in the world-famous Irish step dancing show Riverdance. He later became the founder of Lord of the Dance, Feet of Flames, and Celtic Tiger.
In 1975, at age seventeen, he won the World Championship for Irish dance. Having been born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, this was a particularly unusual win. The championship had never been won by anyone outside of Europe. In 2000, he was listed in Guinness Book for being paid $1,600,000 per week, more than any other dancer has ever made. What this biographer finds particularly fascinating about Michael Flatley is how much he has accomplished in addition to dancing. He has won numerous awards as a flute player, boxer (pugilist), and evidently as a chess master, too.
After high school, most kids go on to additional education or enter the workforce. Right out of high school, Michael Flatley started his own dance studio.
He has an estimated net worth of $650 million and owns homes in Barbados, Ireland, Beverly Hills and France and London.
Well into his fifties (born in 1958), he is still dancing.
Ben Franklin was born into a family of 19 in 1706. He
was one of the most amazingly productive people that have ever
lived on this earth. Not only is his list of accomplishments
impressive, but much of his humor in writing lives to this day.
He died in 1790 at the age of 83. He did not waste his time on
Most of us have come to think of Benjamin Franklin as a worldly-wise fellow, loved by his associates, and almost super-human in his ability to invent practical solutions. Some of his abilities may have come from his childhood. With 16 brothers and sisters, he probably had to learn to be quick-witted.
When it was time to decide on a national bird for the United States of America, Ben suggested a turkey. An eagle was chosen instead.
His armonica was a very weird musical instrument. After hearing a concert played by rubbing fingers on the rims of wine glasses tuned by filling with various amounts of water, Ben loved the sound so much that he got to thinking. This inspired him to up with a horizontal shaft on which were mounted glass bowls or disks. The musician would turn the shaft with a foot pedal, much like a treadle sewing machine. One could make beautiful haunting music by rubbing wet fingers on the rims of the glass disks. I believe, but don’t know for sure, that the shaft turned in a long pan of water, so the disks remained wet. Armonica means “harmony” in Greek. The Ben Franklin armonica is also called a glass harmonica.
The Franklin stove as we know it today is a fireplace with cast iron doors. This is not the woodstove that Ben invented. His version has disappeared from modern times. It was an airtight, which is more efficient than most of the stoves used at that time. But, his invention was so complex and awkward to light that it never gained much favor in American homes.
It looked somewhat like an egg on a pedestal. The air came in through vents in the top of the egg, passed downward through the wood fire, and was sucked out the bottom, which was connected to a chimney across the room through pipes running under the floor. This design caused almost total combustion of the wood, which most stoves cannot do, and the pipes under the floor warmed the floor, which was pleasant and efficient. The problem was that the system had to be warmed gradually in order to get the necessary draft or suction sufficient to avoid smoking up the whole house.
Ben claimed that the servants were too stupid to manage it. He was reluctant to say that maybe his design was just too cumbersome.
Here are some Franklin quotes: (Most of these were
first published in Poor Richard’s Almanac, which Franklin
A little neglect may breed great mischief… for want
of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was
lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost.
Necessity never made a good bargain.
Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut
When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.
Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for
that’s the stuff life is made of.
Little strokes, Fell great oaks.
Work as if you were to live a hundred years, Pray as
if you were to die tomorrow.
A word to the wise is enough, and many words won’t
fill a bushel.
To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.
Ben Franklin was responsible for the first paved
street in America, and the first department of sanitation, and
the first taxes to pay for sanitation.
Ben Franklin organized the first circulating library.
This club was called the Junto.
The first man-made oil slick on the ocean was created by – you
guessed it – in approximately 1750. Ben was attempting to calm stormy seas for
easier ships’ passage by spreading oil on the ocean. The experiment didn’t
Franklin was the first postmaster to put the US Post
Office into a profitable position. He was the first elected
Postmaster General. He was paid one thousand dollars per year,
which he donated to charity.
Ben Franklin, along with a friend, Thomas Bond, started
the first hospital in America.
When Ben Franklin saw a rotten, sprouting willow
basket in a stream he took it home and planted it, starting the
first willow tree in America.
When plans were required for a new house of
government, Ben Franklin was given a crack at the architect’s
job, but his design was rejected. It was just too offbeat. He had
planned to hook all the seats in the meeting room to the
fireplace chimney. The bottoms of the seats would have many small
holes. The draft from the chimney would create a slight suction
at these holes in the seats, carrying away what he called
Ben Franklin noticed that many printers, plumbers,
painters and potters were getting sick the same way. He then
looked for a common habit among them and found that they all
handled lead. He was the first to identify industrial lead
Ben Franklin’s eyesight was diminishing as his age
advanced. He had to carry two pairs of glasses, one for seeing
close and the other for distant viewing. Ben had a lens maker
modify his two pairs of glasses, putting parts of both sets of
lenses in one set of frames, creating the world’s first bifocals.
One of the reasons he was so famous in his own time were these
glasses. Photography had not yet been invented, artists’ drawings
in the newspapers were the only way people had of being
recognized. But Ben Franklin was very obvious with his glasses in
a time when very few people wore any glasses at all, and none
Ben Franklin was one of the first people to realize
that the common cold is contagious from one person to another. In
that time viruses were unknown, but at least Franklin refuted the
notion that getting your body cold was the cause.
Ben Franklin discovered the ocean currents. When on
ships he would take sightings and temperature readings and
eventually made valuable charts to help ships’ captains plot more
One of the few things Ben Franklin didn’t invent was
street lights, but he did improve them. Until he thought of a
better idea, they always had round globes. His improvement was to
use four separate flat panes of glass. This way, if one was
broken, only one inexpensive pane had to be replaced, not the
whole globe. Some gas lamps of this design are still in use
He also didn’t come up with the idea of volunteer fire
fighters, but did organize the fire fighters in Philadelphia into
the best outfit in the world.
On the Choice of a Mistress
by Ben Franklin
[he recommends choosing an older, not necessarily
1. Because they have more Knowledge of the world, and
their Minds are better stored with Observations; their
Conversation is more improving, and more lastingly agreeable.
2. Because when Women cease to be handsome, they study
to be good. To maintain their Influence over Men, they supply the
Diminution of Beauty by an Augmentation of utility. They learn to
do a thousand Services, small and great, and are the most tender
and useful of all Friends when you are sick. Thus they continue
amiable. And hence there is hardly such a thing to be found as an
old Woman who is not a good Woman.
3. Because there is no hazard of children, which
irregularly procured may be attended with much inconvenience.
4. Because through more Experience they are more
prudent and discreet in conducting an Intrigue to prevent
Suspicion. The Commerce with them is therefore safer with regard
to your reputation; and with regard to theirs, if the Affair
should happen to be known, considerate People might be rather
inclined to excuse an old Woman, who would kindly take care of a
young Man, form his manners by her good Councils, and prevent his
ruining his Health and Fortune among mercenary Prostitutes.
5. Because in every Animal that walks upright, the
Deficiency of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in
the highest Part. The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then
the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower parts continuing to
the last as plump as ever; so that covering all above with a
Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is
impossible of two Women to know an old one from a young one. And
as in the Dark all Cats are gray, the Pleasure of Corporal
Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal and frequently
superior; every Knack being by Practice capable of improvement.
6. Because the sin is less. The Debouching of a Virgin
may be her Ruin, and make her Life unhappy.
7. Because the Compunction is less. The having made a
young Girl miserable may give you frequent bitter Reflections;
none of which can attend making an old Woman happy.
8th & lastly. They are so grateful!!!”
This was Ben Franklin’s own epitaph:
“The body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer (like the
cover of an old book, its contents torn out and striped of its
lettering and gilding), lies here, food for worms; but the work
shall not be lost, for it will (as he believed) appear once more
in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the
Don’t drink and dive. Sam Patch was the man known throughout America in the 1820’s for leaping from the tops of bridges and waterfalls. He was a professional. Sam made his money like a street juggler or magician, by passing the hat. He created as much of a show of it as possible, sometimes jumping into the water with his pet bear. He successfully jumped Niagara Falls. Sam became a national sensation, and inspired a jumping craze. Farmers jumped over fences, retailers leaped over their sales counters.
Sam finally disappeared while attempting a second jump into Genesee Falls, a smaller but still spectacular waterfall in Rochester, NY. He jumped from a 100-foot high tower in November, just to make the feat more difficult. Over 6,000 people watched him jump, but none saw him return. Some folks reported that he had been drinking before his fatal dive. Finally, in March of the following year, his body was discovered encased in a block of ice.
After marrying a promising young physician in 1867, Carry Nation was horrified to see her husband destroy his career and his life after only two years. He drank himself to death. Mrs. Nation was so disgusted with alcohol that she smashed up more than thirty drinking establishments. This six-foot-tall woman armed with a hatchet would enter a bar and with such frenzy that all the male patrons ran in fright; she broke all the bottles and much of the furniture with rocks, bricks and hatchets.
Edgar Rice Burroughs is the author of the Tarzan series, The Land That Time Forgot, and many other books that were extremely popular in their time, and from which movies are still made. He was born in 1875, and lived 74 years. He wanted to be a military man, and attended the Michigan Military Academy. He failed to get into West Point, but served a short time in the 7th U.S. Cavalry (horse-mounted soldiers). He was soon discharged due to a mild heart condition.
Not quite knowing what to do, he became a bit of a drifter, working for a while in his father’s company, and later becoming a wholesale representative for pencil sharpeners. In his spare time, he enjoyed reading pulp fiction. In time, he figured he might try his hand at writing fiction. It wasn’t until he was 37 years old that had any significant success with writing, when he penned Tarzan of the Apes.
His inspiration for writing: “…if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines.”
In total, he wrote eighty novels, mostly in the science fiction and fantasy genres.
Jane Lynch, who was born in Dolton, Illinois in 1960, plays Sue Sylvester, an overbearing cheerleading coach who sometimes rises to the position of principal, in Fox Network’s smash hit Glee. She is the nemesis of the glee club, around which the show is centered. Glee is the third show in which she has been cast as a rough-around-the edges schoolteacher. She has an acerbic kind of comedy that in small doses can be funny, but in her huge, overblown way is fall-on-the-floor funny.
Jane Lynch, photo by vagueonthehow
Jane has been deaf in one ear since infancy.
When Martha Stewart, the world’s first female billionaire, with an empire including books, television shows, housewares, and even complete houses, was ten years old, she used to babysit the children of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and other famous baseball players.
Martha Stewart, photo by Rubenstein
Oprah Winfrey, is a billionaire who is regarded as the most influential woman in the world. She was born to a teenage single mother in poverty in a small town in Mississippi in 1954 when racism was still very active in the southern United States.
When Oprah was 14 years old, facing a life that up until then had consisted of sexual abuse and poverty, she tried to commit suicide by drinking laundry detergent. I think we are all glad that didn’t work out as planned.
Oprah’s real name on her birth certificate is Orpah after a biblical character. People consistently mispronounced her name, so she colloquially became Oprah.
Oprah learned to read at age three, which is somewhat common today because of the ubiquity of books, tablets and computers, but in 1957, reading at that age was quite rare.
Due to her oratory skill, she won a full college scholarship where she majored in communication.
Lea Michele plays Rachael Berry, a Jewish singer and actress with two fathers and no mother in the popular TV series, Glee. Her full name is Lea Michele Sarfati which would appear to be Italian, not Jewish. In fact her mother is Italian. Her father, a New York City delicatessen owner, is of Spanish Saphardic Jewish descent. Michele was brought up Catholic.
via JJ Duncan
Currently, she lives alone in a $1.4 million (US) home in Hollywood with her dog and cat.
Richard Branson, born in 1950, is the founder of over 400 companies, most of which start with the name “Virgin,” such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin, Virgin Mobile, and Virgin Blue. Virgin as a business name was suggested by one of his first employees as they built Virgin Records, because they were all new in business.
His first business was a magazine called Student that he created at the age of sixteen.
Richard has dyslexia, a learning disability that made reading and other academic activities much harder for him. His headmaster once said that he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire. With an estimated net worth of over 4.6 billion dollars (US), he seems to have learned how to work around the dyslexia quite nicely.
Justin Timberlake, who owns at least six Harley-Davidson motorcycles, says he is afraid of snakes, spiders, and a little bit scared by the stuffed animals fans throw on stage when he is performing.
Justin was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1981. His performing career started at eleven years of age on the television show Star Search. He then became a member of the Mickey Mouse Club. There, he met his first girlfriend, Britney Spears. Then he dated Cameron Diaz, and finally married Jessica Biel in 2012.
What would cause a girl who is an inspiration to millions to go from wearing a purity ring to performing a sexualized, raunchy act on television? That would be Miley Ray Cyrus we’re talking about, at the 2013 MTV Music Awards. You probably have seen the performance, but you may not know what a purity ring is. I didn’t, until I looked it up.
A purity ring, also known as a virginity ring, chastity ring, or abstinence ring is a reminder of a pledge a girl can take to abstain from sexual activity until marriage. This has become very popular in recent years, especially among Christians. Miley was brought up Christian and did get a purity ring in her high school years. Because of her performing career she didn’t spend much time in conventional school, instead being tutored on movie and TV sets. Her career started in earnest at age eleven when she auditioned for a supporting role in Hannah Montana, The audition went so well that she was cast for the lead role.
It certainly didn’t hurt her career that her father is Billy Ray Cyrus, a very successful country singer and actor, starring in the “Doc” TV series, and her mother is Leticia “Tish” Cyrus, also a successful performer. And, if that isn’t enough to assure her a place in the performing world, her godmother is Dolly Parton.
But she wasn’t provided with social status alone. There is no doubt she was taught, guided, coached, whatever you might like to call it, by her parents and friends of the family, from the earliest age, in the ways of singing and acting.
Plus she has natural talent. Is it genetic? Experts are still arguing whether performers inherit their ability or develop it on their own. Perhaps the way she got the name Miley is a telling trait. As a baby and toddler, she tended to smile more than average, so her parents started calling her “Smiley.” The nickname was eventually shortened to “Miley.”
So what turned her from a conservative teenager into a rebellious twenty-something? One theory is religion. While, as we all know, religion is a wonderful tool for conveying moral values, it can also be perceived as a constraint by some. Some of the wildest rebels in history came from very religious backgrounds. If one is brought up in an overly-formal environment, one might feel a need to test the limits, experience the other side, or try to find a middle ground, which from a limited perspective may look more like the far side.
Another possibility is too much ‘can-do’ attitude. No doubt her parents told her she can become great. After all, they have succeeded handily, and so they’d naturally expect it from their children. I mean, look at her name. As you know, she wasn’t born “Miley.” She was born as Destiny Hope Cyrus.
If a name like that isn’t a first step toward a can-do attitude, I don’t know what is. A ‘can-do’ attitude is also a wonderful thing, within reason. It allows one to excel in so many ways. The child who learns to dance carries that successful experience over into other learning activities. Even math becomes easier with a can-do attitude. That’s why so many great performers seem to be able to dance, sing, play instruments, act, and have remarkable hobbies such as writing or painting. However, Miley states that her favorite hobby is shopping.
So, what happens when one gets too much can-do? Right. The person feels they ‘can-do’ sex, drugs, belligerence, you name it, to excess. Considering her background, I believe she should be praised for her restraint. This biographer believes that after a few years of experimentation, she will settle down to be a great example indeed, just like her parents. These parents, probably exceptionally well-meaning individuals, may have contributed to the current rebellious attitude. Perhaps you can imagine being brought up by two people who realize they are examples to millions and so always do their very best to ‘act right.’ And, of course they’d be constantly imparting to their children that they have to act right also. Imagine the pressure!
Some miscellaneous Miley facts:
In her late teens, she was diagnosed with tachycardia – a non-fatal abnormal racing of the heartbeat which can exceed 100 beats per minute.
Miley was born left-handed. Her dad thought it would be a good idea to have her learn to write right-handed, so now, she does write with her right hand, but her left hand is dominant for everything else.
According to whosdatedwho.com, “When she was very young, Miley used to go onto the stage after her father had performed, and she’d help collect the flowers and homemade bracelets that people threw at him. Then they would go and donate everything to a local hospital.”
Her net worth is reportedly over $120 million.
When Thomas Edison was twelve years old, he had a job selling newspapers on a commuter train. He had set up a printing press to make his own newspapers, and thereby increase his profits. He also set up a chemistry lab, to indulge his already well-developed scientific curiosity. One day, as the train went around a particularly tight turn, some of Edison’s phosphorus fell on the floor and started a small fire. As the train came into the station, and the conductor discovered the problem, Tom tried to run away. The conductor pulled him back up into the train by his ears. “I felt something snap inside my head,” Edison said. From that time until his death, he was hard of hearing.
One of the most helpful people mankind has ever seen was Emile Coue (1857-1926) of France.
He told people to say to themselves 20 times in a row, twice a day: “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.” This actually cured thousands of people of an assortment of minor and major ills.
In French if you prefer, “Tous les jours, a tous points de vue, je vais de mieux en mieux.”
Try it, it can’t hurt you (unless somebody overhears, but then you can do it silently), and it might just work to get you over the flu, a toothache, aches and pains, whatever is bothering you.
This is a serious suggestion. Scientists have proven beyond doubt that people can improve their health with a positive mental attitude. In many hospitals, cancer patients are now being taught to mentally picture (or actually draw pictures of) their cells surrounding and dissolving tumors.
In 1905 Albert Einstein wrote his famous Special Theory of Relativity. It was published in a scientific journal that same year, but took many years to gain general acceptance. In fact, it was not proven by actual experiment until 25 years later.
Two years after that paper was published, Einstein wanted a job as assistant professor of mathematics. This job required the applicant to submit a thesis paper, so Einstein submitted his Special Theory of Relativity. The university rejected it.
Dr. Einstein was once taking some notes on some thoughts he was having while attending a lecture. Everyone stood up and started applauding, and so he stood up and started clapping also. Upon looking around to see who was being honored, he discovered it was he who they were all applauding.
He was asked to run for the office of President of Israel, but he declined.
“I have little patience with scientists who take a board of wood, look for its thinnest part, and drill a great number of holes where drilling is easy.” – Albert Einstein
“Knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein
Bill and Hilary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea, born in 1980, was named after the Joni Mitchell song “Chelsea Morning.” Chelsea is a vegetarian (“I’m a big health-food freak and a vegetarian devotee.”). Chelsea lives in a neighborhood of Manhattan called Chelsea.
Chelsea Victoria Clinton says her parents were “firm but fair.”
The Secret Service code name for Chelsea was “Energy.” She has also been nicknamed “CC.”
The first words Hilary Rodham said to her future husband, Bill Clinton, were: “If you’re going to keep staring at me, I might as well introduce myself.”
In what some may say is typical governmental paranoia, the White House asked Wellesley College to suppress Hilary Clinton’s senior thesis about political activist Saul Alinsky who specialized in somewhat left-wing, non-violent, social justice organization in Chicago and elsewhere in the 1930s to the 1960s.
After Hilary left the White House as First Lady, the 92-page document was made public in a limited way – it had to be read in person at the Wellesley library. Turns out it contains nothing subversive, nothing incriminating, nothing shocking.
The name Hilary means cheerful or happy in Latin.
“This is a trading world and men, women and children, who cannot live on gravity alone, need something to satisfy their gayer, lighter moods and hours, and he who ministers to this want is in a business established by the Author of our nature. If he worthily fulfills his mission and amuses without corrupting, he need never feel that he has lived in vain.” – P. T. Barnum, Nineteenth Century producer of shows, museums and circuses.
“Long ago I learned that to those who mean right and try to do right, there are no such things as real misfortunes. On the other hand, to such persons, all apparent evils are blessings in disguise.” – P. T. Barnum
The German OSS was no more fond of Adolf Hitler than the rest of the world. They cooked up a plan to put huge doses of estrogen (‘the female hormone’) in his food, hoping his characteristics would become more feminine. This might cause his followers to wonder what was happening or who was leading them. The drug seems to have had no effect on his political career. No one knows whether the kitchen help actually managed to sneak the drug into his food.
When Adolf Hitler saw a pile of bricks near the church of St. Matthew in Munich, Germany, he said, “That pile of stones will have to be removed.” Someone misunderstood him, thinking he was referring to the whole church. The church was demolished.
Time Magazine listed Adolf Hitler as “Man of the Year for 1938.”
People often wonder how Hitler, with all his crazy ideas and rough manners could become so popular a leader. A great deal of Hitler’s appeal to the masses was that he decided to control the automobile industry. He promised them Volkswagens, cars that every family could afford at a time when there was only one car for every 211 people in Germany. In America at that time, there was one car for every 5.7 people.
As you may know, Ferdinand Porsche designed the Volkswagen, and he considered it his greatest achievement. He rated this car more important than his winning race cars because this was a car every family could afford. It was a masterpiece of economical engineering for its time, as is evidenced by the fact that the basic design survived for over 30 years.
During World War II, Hitler commissioned Ferdinand Porsche to design the biggest, heaviest army tank possible. The thing was watertight and so could traverse water. It could cross a river, not by floating, but by crawling across the floor of the river, underwater. The problem with this tank is that it was so heavy it literally demolished the streets and foundations of nearby buildings as it passed due to its weight and vibration.
Ferdinand Porsche went to trade school to be trained as a factory foreman. He got the lowest grades in his class.
After World War II, Henry Ford was offered the Volkswagen factory for free by the English government, then in charge of Germany’s industries. They were looking for someone who could operate the plant, thereby creating hundreds of jobs. Ernest Breech, Ford’s chairman of the board, looked the plant over and said, “Mr. Ford, I don’t think what we are being offered here is worth a damn!”
He was right in a way. At that time the factory had not yet ever produced more than a few hand-crafted prototypes and the workers could only make cars when it wasn’t raining, because large areas of the roof were missing.
One of Henry Ford’s famous quotes came from this Volkswagen thing. When Ferdinand Porsche showed him the plans for Volkswagens, and Ford was asked about his concern of competition, he said, “If anyone can build a car better or cheaper than I can, that serves me right.”
Seventeen years later, Volkswagen was producing a car every eight eight seconds, and Ford could have owned the company.
That wasn’t Henry’s only mistake. When he was around twelve years old, he spent some time watching pots of boiling water on his mother’s wood cook stove. He noticed lids rattling over pots as the pressure of the steam raised them a bit. He figured that if the steam was raising the lids, and if you could trap the steam in a container, the whole container must rise up in the air, right? So, he found a clay teapot, put some water in it, jammed the spout with paper, securely fastened the lid. and placed it on the stove. Then, he sat back and watched, hoping to see the teapot rise into the air. But that’s not what he saw. The pressure in the teapot blew it up, showering the house with shrapnel. One piece broke a window, another broke a mirror. One hit Henry on the chin, leaving a permanent scar.
Fortunately, that did not put Henry off mechanical explorations. His mother warned his father than the boy ‘has to investigate everything,’ and that for his own safety, he should be kept away from farm machinery. Instead, by the time Henry was in his late teens, he had built engine-powered self-propelled wagons, the forerunners of farm tractors. Several years after becoming an adult, he built an automobile in a shed behind his house.
The rest of the story, you know. Henry did not invent the concept of automobiles, even though he made his first ones from scratch. What he invented was a series of ways to mass-produce automobiles. The most important concept being interchangeable parts. Until then, only guns and a few other items were made with all the parts being so identical that they could be assembled quickly.
German Count Von der Wense was asked by the Nazis to surrender his land for the government Volkswagen plant. They offered payment, however. He took the money and bought other land, but that land was conquered by Russia. Finally, after the war, he ended up with a low-paying job as tour guide of the Volkswagen facilities, on the very land he used to own.
Frank Tower was a ship worker who was on the Titanic when it sank, the Empress of Ireland when it sank, and the Lusitania when it sank. He escaped all three times.
“I trained as a surgeon. I found that the saying about surgeons is true: ‘If your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.’ That’s why surgeons always recommend surgery – what other tools do they have for making you well?” – Dr. Julian Whitaker
The guy who got the very first heart pacemaker implant in 1958, Arne H. W. Larsson, lived for 43 more years, until age 86 in 2001. That first one wasn’t his only pacemaker. It was replaced with 25 others, keeping him in good health until his last year.
Charles Lindbergh was not the first person to fly non-stop over the Atlantic Ocean. He was the sixty-seventh. He was, however, the first to do it solo.
After his famous flight, he pursued many other interests including environmentalism, with an interest in protecting endangered species. He also put considerable focus into developing an artificial heart. His heart never made it past prototype stage, but was the forerunner of modern heart-lung machines.
This is a biographical bit not about a person, but about a machine: A computer with the job of issuing traffic citations goofed in September 1989 and sent notices to 41,000 residents of Paris, France informing them that they were charged with murder, prostitution and illegal sale of drugs.
Bob Hail jumped out of an airplane. His main chute failed. His backup chute also failed. He smashed into the ground face first. In a moment he got up and walked away with only minor injuries.
A diver, Alexander Labret, found a great shipwreck. He was going to be rich! Every day he went down 162 feet to salvage the valuables. He went down 33 times. Divers are supposed to come up slowly to avoid the bends, a painful and dangerous condition in which bubbles of nitrogen appear in the blood and block circulation because of the rapid decompression of rising quickly from deep, high-pressure water. On his very last dive, Alex was excited and came up more quickly than he should have. He had $350,000, but he was paralyzed for life.
In 1949, Jack Wurm, an unemployed man, was aimlessly walking on a California beach when he came across a bottle that had floated up to the beach containing this message: “To avoid confusion, I leave my entire estate to the lucky person who finds this bottle and to my attorney, Barry Cohen, share and share alike. Daisy Alexander, June 20, 1937.” It was not a hoax. Mr. Wurm received over $6 million from the Alexander estate.
“Knowledge isn’t power until it’s applied.” – Dale Carnegie
“When we hate our enemies, we are giving them power over us; Power over our sleep, our appetites, our blood pressure, our health and our happiness.” – Dale Carnegie
“I am very fond of strawberries and cream, but I have found that for some strange reason, fish prefer worms. So when I went fishing, I didnít think about what I wanted. I thought about what they wanted. I didn’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangled a worm or grasshopper in front of the fish.” – Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnagie was born on November 22, 1888 on a farm in Maryville, Missouri.
One day while jumping over a fence along with his fellow students in the high school cross-country run, a ring on his finger got caught on the top of the fence, resulting in the instant loss of the finger along with about six inches of tendon. He said it was not particularly painful.
He was able to graduate State Teacher’s College while still living on his family’s farm, getting up to milk the cows at 4 a. m. before attending classes. After college he took jobs as a traveling salesman, first selling correspondence courses, then Armour soap and meat products.
In 1911, he quit his sales job to focus on becoming a Chautauqua lecturer. In those days, Chautauqua was a big thing. Started at Chautauqua Lake in New York, it evolved into hundreds of lecture venues throughout the United States, where the public could learn from and be entertained by a wide variety of speakers and performers. It was not unlike today’s TED Talks, but of course with the limited technology of the day, everyone attended these events in person. Chautauqua didn’t quite work out for Dale, and he found himself gravitating to the stage as an actor, rather than a lecturer. And that didn’t really work either. By 1912, he was living at the YMCA in New York City. In those days, many YMCAs were like lower class hotels for men. One could rent a room for very little money.
YMCAs of the era also offered adult education classes, as many still do today. Dale approached the manager of the Y and asked about a job as a teacher. The manager would only let him teach on a commission basis, figuring he may not get many students. In his first classes, he didn’t really know what to teach, and so experimented with some ideas in communication. He noted that when people are emotionally charged about a topic, they lose some of their fear of public speaking. Within two years, he had turned this finding and other discoveries from his sales and acting careers into a full course on public speaking and was making $500 per week, a spectacular sum back then, on a commission basis.
He continued to lecture to ever larger audiences and started writing books.
His last name was spelled Carnagey until he was 34 years old. He changed it to Carnegie in 1922 so his name would seem more like Andrew Carnegie, one of the most respected businessmen in America at the time.
Not long after, he packed Carnegie Hall for one of his lectures.
He wrote the massively popular book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” in 1936, at age 48. He also wrote “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” The books are still popular today. The Dale Carnegie Course in Effective Speaking and Human Relations is still being taught throughout the world with more than eight million graduates.
Dale died at the age of 66 from Hodgkins’ Lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells.
Gary Beacom on YouTube
Gary Beacom, born in 1960, started ice skating at age six. As an amateur, he placed third in the Canadian Nationals, and eleventh in the 1983-84 Olympics. He then went on to skate professionally for a number of years entertaining audiences around the world. He won the 1988 World Professional Championships.
Gary is known for amusing innovation, having performed things such as headstands on the ice and skating on his hands.
Unusual at his level of success as a skater, he was his own coach and choreographer.
As an income tax protester, he felt he should not have to pay US income tax, since he was a Canadian citizen performing in America. He spent almost two years in federal prison because the US government did not agree with him. After his incarceration, he wrote a book about his experience.
At the age of 41 (when your author last spoke with him), he had never had a skating injury severe enough to require surgery, which is very unusual for skaters. He attributed this to vegetarianism. He has been a vegan all his life. That’s a person who eats no meat, milk, eggs or food made with any kind of animal products. He is also fourth-generation vegetarian. Vegetarianism was started in his family by his great-grandmother.
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