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Bobby Fischer Dies

bobbyfischerOn January 17, 2008, chess legend Bobby Fischer died at the age of 64. He is regarded by many as the greatest chess player of all time.

Fischer was born in Chicago in 1943, but grew up in Brooklyn with his mother and sister, Joan. He began playing chess at age 6 after his sister and he bought a chess set from the candy store below their apartment. Both Joan and Fischer’s mother lost interest in the game, and Bobby began playing against himself and soaking up any chess literature he got his hands on. After playing in his first exhibition and losing within 15 minutes, a spectator and president of the Brooklyn Chess Club, Carmine Nigro, introduced Fischer to the club and began to mentor him. His skill level and love for the game increased rapidly and at age 12 he joined the Manhattan Chess Club which was the strongest chess club in the U.S.

After mentoring under chess grandmaster William Lombardy and learning total immersion in the game, Fischer made his first noticeable imprint in the chess community. At age 13, he won a “brilliancy” game, featuring sacrificial attacks and unexpected moves, against a leading chess master who was twice his age. The press dubbed it The Game of the Century.

He began playing in United States Chess Championships the next year, and would play in eight total during his lifetime. Fischer won every U.S. championship he played in, winning all of them by at least one point. He became the youngest chess grandmaster and the youngest person invited to play in a World Championship at age 15. He dropped out of high school when he was 16 to devote his life to pursuing chess full-time. In the sixth U.S. Championship he played at age 20, he scored a perfect 11/11 score, the only perfect score in the history of the tournament.

One of the most notable games in chess history was played between Fischer and Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union. Known as the “Cold War Confrontation,” this highly publicized 1972 match in Reykjavík, Iceland, is still credited with bringing worldwide attention and popularity to the game, and it gained more attention than any chess match before or since then. Fischer defeated Spassky and became the first American-born World Champion of chess.

chessgameAfter refusing to defend his World Champion title in 1975, his opponent Anatoly Karpov was declared the champion by default, and Fischer disappeared from the chess world for nearly 20 years. He spent time in the Phillipines and Hungary, sometimes appearing on radio shows and making outlandish comments attacking the United States. In 1992, he reappeared in the chess world to play a private unofficial rematch against Spassky. He once again defeated his opponent, but had violated U.S. sanctions by playing the match in Yugoslavia, which was under a United Nations embargo. Because of the criminal charges against him, his U.S. passport was revoked and he was detained in a Tokyo airport in 2004 and fought against his deportation. The chess-loving country of Iceland granted Fischer full citizenship, and he moved there in 2005. He remained there the rest of his life, becoming a U.S. fugitive.

Over the years, his reputation had drawn both fandom and hatred for his intense game play and outspoken nature. He died in Reykjavík, home of his most famous match, due to kidney failure in 2008 at the age of 64. Spoken of him by French chess expert Olivier Tridon, “Bobby Fischer has died at age 64. Like the 64 squares of a chess board.”

Sources: Wikipedia, Biography.com, ESPN, USA Today

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Coco Chanel Dies

Coco-Chanel-3On January 10, 1971, famed French fashion designer Coco Chanel died. Coco Chanel was the founder and original designer of the Chanel brand, most well-known for liberating women’s fashion from the “corseted silhouette,” and creating designs that were both stylish and comfortable. Some of her most celebrated works were her collarless fitted suits, the little black dress, and her iconic fragrance, Chanel No. 5.

The future designer was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel on August 19, 1883, in Saumur, France. Her mother was a laundrywoman and her father was a peddler, who traveled from town to town selling goods. At age 12, her mother died of bronchitis, and Chanel’s father sent her and her sisters to live in a convent which took in abandoned and orphaned girls. Later in her life, after her fame grew, Chanel tried to keep her past an enigma by starting rumors about her childhood. The most prominent rumor being that her father sailed to America to seek fortune after the death of her mother and she was sent to live with her two spinster aunts. It was in her real life at the convent, however, that she was taught to sew by the nuns who raised her. Little did she know that this skill would help her develop her life’s work.

Chanel stayed at the convent until the age of 18, and then moved to a Catholic boarding house in Moulins. She found work as a seamstress using the skills she had learned in the convent, but on the side, began singing at cabarets in Moulin and Vichy. She adopted the name “Coco” during her time performing, though the origin of her name remains somewhat of a mystery. It is speculated that she was given the nickname because of two songs she often performed and was thus associated with – “Ko Ko Ri Ko” and “Qui qu’a vu Coco.” Some say she began calling herself this as a nod to the french word for “kept woman,” cocotte. Whatever the reason, from then on, she was “Coco.” She clung to the idea of finding success through performing, and auditioned for stage shows frequently. Though people were drawn to her youthful beauty and her charming demeanor, her singing voice was lacking and she found difficulty booking gigs. Soon she realized her dreams of becoming a stage star would never pan out.

While living in Moulins, Chanel met Étienne Balsan, a young French ex-cavalry officer and wealthy textile heir. She became his mistress and lived in his chateau for three years, where he gave her a luxurious lifestyle filled with expensive jewelry and clothing and a lavish social life. While living with him, she began to dabble in millinery. Soon, she began having an affair with Balsan’s friend, Captain Arthur Edward ‘Boy’ Capel. The two men began trying to outbid each other for Chanel’s affection. Also part of the wealthy upper-class, Capel offered Chanel an apartment in Paris and offered to finance her fashion ventures by helping her open her first shop in the city. Although her love affair with Capel never became official because he never stayed faithful to Chanel, and eventually married an English aristocrat, Chanel was heavily influenced by the sartorial style of Capel, which was reflected in her designs. Eleven years after the beginning of their affair, Capel was killed in a car accident, and Chanel later in her life told a close friend, “His death was a terrible blow to me. In losing Capel, I lost everything. What followed was not a life of happiness, I have to say.”

In Chanel’s first shop, on Paris’s Rue Cambon, she started out selling hats, and began producing clothing after she opened two more shops in Deauville and Biarritz in the early 1900s. Producing clothing for the chilly weather out of jersey and tricot, which were typically only used to make men’s underwear, her fashions began to get noticed.

As the 1920s began, so did Chanel’s exploration into new fashion territories. With the success of her clothing line, she moved on to making accessories and fragrances. Perhaps one of her greatest legacies was the introduction of Chanel No. 5, the first perfume to include the designer’s name. She was once quoted in saying that perfume “is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion. . .that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure.” Chanel No. 5 has certainly kept Chanel’s name alive even after her departure, remaining one of the most popular perfumes in the world to this day.

littleblackdressIn 1925 came the invention of Chanel’s signature suit, featuring a menswear inspired look with a collarless jacket and fitted skirt. She was escaping the era of corsets and uncomfortable fashions and exploring a world where women could dress stylishly and comfortably. The 1920s also saw another iconic invention of Chanel’s – the little black dress. Turning a color that had always been associated with death and mourning into a new chic insert into the fashion world became a legacy of Chanel’s. Friends with several culturally important artists and literary minds like Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau, Chanel began designing costumes for ballets, plays, and movies.

Economic depression and the beginning of World War II, however, had a negative effect on Chanel’s business. She closed her business and her shops, claiming it was not a time for fashion. Thousands of workers who had found jobs under her growing fashion empire were fired. During the war, when Germany occupied France, Chanel began a relationship with a Nazi officer, through which she gained permission to continue living in her apartment in the Hotel Ritz in Paris. Looked down upon for her involvement with the German military officer and seen as betraying her country, she fled to Switzerland and lived there for several years, exiling herself from her home in France.

She eventually returned to Paris in 1954, and reignited her Chanel line after a 15 year absence. She thought the current fashion world which was being overtaken by male designers like Christian Dior and Cristóbal Balenciaga were creating “illogical” designs that women would soon rebel against. The new collection she created received unfavorable reviews from the French who believed her reputation had been tainted by her wartime actions, but British and American audiences soon became her loyal customers.

At 87 years old, Chanel died in her apartment at the Hotel Ritz where she had resided for 30 years on January 10, 1971. Her influence on women’s fashion has had a lasting impression on the designers who followed her. After her death, her company was taken over by designer Karl Lagerfeld, who has continued the Chanel legacy. The thriving business which retains her namesake accrues hundreds of millions in sales every year.

Sources: Wikipedia, Biography.com, Telegraph UK

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Hank Williams, Sr. Dies

hank williamsOn January 1, 1953, Hank Williams, Sr. was found dead in the back of his Cadillac. He is regarded as one of the most prolific country music singers of all time, known for hit songs like “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Hey, Good Lookin’.”

Born Hiram King Williams in Alabama in 1923, he began playing guitar after learning from a black street performer named Rufus Payne, who would trade him guitar lessons for meals. Thinking his name was unfit for a career in country music, he soon changed it to “Hank.” He started to pursue his career in 1937 when he moved to Montgomery. Here he scored a gig performing on and hosting his own 15-minute radio show for WSFA radio station. While he was here, he formed the Drifting Cowboy band and dropped out of school to further pursue his musical career.

Williams was born with an undiagnosed case of  spina bifida occulta, which caused him lifelong pain in his spinal column. This led Williams to the abuse of prescription drugs and alcohol to ease his pain. Williams’ alcoholism and his inability to replace several of his band members who left to serve in World War II caused him to be fired by the radio station. In 1944, Williams married Audrey Sheppard, who managed his career and helped him get back on track to success. He again started working for WSFA and auditioned for the Grand Ole Opry, but was rejected. After his first recording session with Sterling Records, his songs “Never Again” and “Honky Tonkin’” became popular and he was signed by MGM in 1947. He eventually joined the Grand Ole Opry and recorded 11 Billboard number one songs between 1948 and 1953.

In 1951, after falling during a hunting trip in Tennessee, Williams old back pains worsened, and his abuse of drugs and alcohol grew. Because of his unstable state and frequent drunkeness, Williams was eventually dismissed from the Grand Ole Opry and divorced from Audrey. Physically, Williams began to look older and more tired, and his performances began to suffer as well.

Williams was scheduled to perform in Charleston, West Virginia, but had to skip the performance due to a severe ice storm. His next performance was scheduled in Canton, Ohio for New Year’s, and he hired a college student named Charles Carr to drive him to this appearance. The two stopped at the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee on their way to Canton from Montgomery. While at the hotel, Carr called a doctor for Williams who was not feeling well after the combination of  chloral hydrate and alcohol he had consumed along the way. The doctor gave Williams two shots of B12 which also contained morphine.

Carr again stopped in Bristol, Virginia at a restaurant where he asked Williams if he was hungry. Williams replied that he was not hungry – words that would be his last. Carr’s last stop was in Oak Hill, Virginia, where he stopped at a gas station for fuel. The young driver soon discovered that Williams’ unresponsiveness was not due to him being asleep in the backseat, but dead. The police were called to the scene where they found several empty beer cans and unfinished song lyrics in the backseat. An autopsy concluded that Williams had died due to ”insufficiency of the right ventricle of the heart.” At the place where Williams was to perform in Canton, the audience at first did not believe the news of his death and began to laugh, thinking it was just another excuse for his recent poor performances. It wasn’t until other performers started singing “I Saw The Light” in his memory that the news sunk in, and the crowd joined in singing.

Though he only lived for a very short 29 years, Williams recorded 35 Top 10 hits, 11 of which went to number one. A legend in the world of country music, perhaps more so because of his young untimely death, Williams has been inducted into several hall of fames and his songs are covered often by other artists who were inspired by the music he created.

Sources: Wikipedia, Biography.com

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Harry Truman Dies

Harry S. Truman holding up a copy of the Chicago Tribune with the incorrect headline after the won the presidential election.

Harry S. Truman holding up a copy of the Chicago Tribune with the incorrect headline after the won the presidential election.

On December 26, 1972, Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States, died.

Truman was born in Missouri on May 8, 1884. He grew up on a farm, and worked a variety of jobs after high school from railroad timekeeper to bank bookkeeper, and never attended college. He went back to farming before volunteering for duty during World War I. This was an interesting move for Truman because he was already 33 years old (two years older than the draft age limit), and eligible for exemption due to his status as a farmer. During his service, he helped organized the National Guard regiment and was promoted to captain. He gained the respect of his men and led them through heavy fighting.

He married his childhood sweetheart, Elizabeth “Bess” Wallace, after returning from the war and unsuccessfully opened a hat shop in Kansas City with an associate. The Great Depression caused the business venture to fail, and Truman owed $20,000 to creditors, which he slowly paid back over the course of 15 years. During this time, Truman was approached by Thomas Pendergast or “Boss Tom,” who was a Democratic political boss in Kansas City. Pendergast’s nephew had served in the war with Truman, and Pendergast appointed Truman to be overseer of highways for Kansas City. He was soon after chosen by Pendergast to run for a few different county judge positions. He was finally elected as a presiding judge in 1926 and kept this position until he ran for senator.

In 1934, Truman was elected to the United States Senate and began paving his way to the presidency. He helped allocate tax money for railroads, shipping, and interstate transport under Franklin Delano Roosevelt‘s New Deal project. As the chair of a special committee investigating the National Defense Program, he helped to prevent unnecessary defense spending and war profiteering. This gained him much respect from his peers as well as from the general public.

For the 1944 presidential campaign, FDR chose Truman to run alongside him for Vice President over Henry Wallace, who was FDR’s Vice President during his first term. Speculation abounded that FDR would not survive this term, so the choice of the responsible and socially accepted Truman as his running mate was an important one. They won the election in 1944, and just 82 days after they took office together, FDR died of a stroke and Truman was sworn in as President of the United States on April 12, 1945.

In the midst of World War II, Truman started his term. His first six months of presidency were a whirlwind – he announced the German surrender from the war, dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and signed a charter sanctioning the United Nations. Though this war had come to an end, soon after tensions with the Soviet Union flared and the Cold War began.

After Republicans took control of the House and the Senate in 1946, reelection of Truman for a second term seemed unlikely. This unlikely reelection caused the Chicago Tribune to famously go to print with a headline reading “Dewey Defeats Truman,” stating that New York governor Thomas Dewey had won the election before all of the results were in. In a surprising turn of events, Truman won a second term.

His second term proved to be a challenging one. Initially, he set up a domestic policy called the Fair Deal to increase minimum wage, set up universal health care, provide more funding for education, and give equal rights under law to all citizens. Many had mixed feelings about the policy and parts of it were rejected. 1950 saw the beginning of the Korean War, and Truman sent in troops because he believed the invasion of South Korea by North Korea was effected by the Soviets and could potentially start another world war. This move was soon met with criticism and Truman changed his tactics to focus on preserving the independence of South Korea rather than trying to eliminate communism in North Korea.

Truman’s reputation was damaged further at home due to a labor dispute between the major steel mills and the United Steel Workers of America. A wage increase was requested by union workers, but mill owners did not want to provide more money to the workers unless the government allowed them to increase the prices of their consumer goods. Truman was not able to come to an agreement with mill owners and refused to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act which would have kept union workers from striking. He then seized the mills in the name of the government and was met with the companies filing a suit against the government which went to the Supreme Court. The steel mills won the case and Truman was once again viewed in an unfavorable way by the American public.

Since he no longer was seen in a positive light by Americans, Truman announced that he would not be running for reelection and returned to his home of Independence, Missouri. He spent his remaining years writing his memoirs and overseeing the construction of his presidential library. He died on December 26, 1972 after suffering from organ failure.

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia

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Beatrix Potter Dies

beatrixpotter1On December 22, 1943, English writer, illustrator, and conservationist, Beatrix Potter, died. She is best known for her children’s tales and illustrations. The most notable of these is The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Potter was born in London in 1866 to a lawyer and a wealthy merchant. Both her parents had artistic talents, which they passed on to their daughter. She was always a very solitary person, even as a child because her only brother was sent to a boarding school as soon as he came of age. She cared for a variety of animals as a child including frogs, rabbits, and bats. Because she spent the majority of her time alone with her animals, she honed the artistic skills she learned from her parents and began to draw her pets. Natural history also became a notable interest of Potter’s, and she would spend several hours drawing things like flowers and fungi.

Her interest in science was something Potter wanted to pursue professionally for a brief period of time. For a while, she worked on developing a theory of spore germination to demonstrate that algae and fungus were of the same family. Her uncle, who was a well-known chemist, tried to help her enroll in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, but she was rejected for being female.

As Potter grew older, her parents tried to set her up with suitable men to marry, but she rejected all of them and stayed vehemently independent. She had no domestic aspirations because she thought her life would be too uneventful. Instead she stayed single and at home the majority of the time, working on her illustrations and developing them into children’s stories.

While still in her 20s, Potter made several attempts to get her stories published, but was unsuccessful for the most part. Frederick Warne & Company eventually took on Potter as a client. The company did not have high hopes for Potter’s stories, and turned the project over to Norman Warne, their youngest brother. They initially envisioned it to be a test for Norman, but he took on the project with a great amount of passion, and he developed a close relationship with Potter, carefully pouring over every detail of her book. Potter’s first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was published in 1902 when she was 36, and was very successful. By the end of the year, 28,000 copies of the book had been printed. An excellent business woman, Potter patented a Peter Rabbit doll in 1903 and continued to make a profit from it, adding to her new found wealth.

beatrixpotter2Norman Warne and Potter developed a close relationship the more they worked together, and were engaged to be married in 1906. Tragically, Norman passed away from leukemia just a few months after the two were engaged.

She was devastated by his death, but made a promise to herself that she would start fresh and be happy again. With her love for nature and animals still very much alive, Potter bought Hill Top farm, in Sawry, Cumbria and continued to live there for the rest of her life. The beginning of her time living here was her most prolific writing period. It was here that she created some of her most popular characters like Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail. She personified them by dressing them in human clothing and having them go through normal trials and tribulations most people experienced at one point or another in their lives.

In 1909, when she set out to buy the nearby Castle Farm, she met her future husband William Heelis, who helped her purchase her new land. She was 47 when they married.

In the following years, her eyesight began to diminish and so did the time she spent writing and creating new illustrations. She spent the majority of her time acquiring new land and raising sheep.

On December 22, 1943, she died due to complications from pneumonia and heart disease. Due to an inheritance she had received from her father and the wealth she made from selling her stories, she bought a large amount of land towards the end of her life. Upon her death, she left over 4,000 acres of land, sixteen farms, cottages and herds of cattle and Herdwick sheep to the National Trust. Her’s was one of the biggest legacies ever made.

Sources: Biography Online, Wordsworth Country

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Wassily Kandinsky Dies

kandinskyOn December 13, 1944, famous Russian painter and theorist, Wassily Kandinsky died. He is known for painting the first purely abstract pieces of art.

Kandinsky was born in Moscow in 1866 and had a close personal experience with art from a young age. With the perception that “each color lives by its mysterious life,” Kandinsky’s childhood artwork utilized very specific color combinations. Even though his inclinations toward making art were strong, stating that he felt as though drawing and painting lifted him out of reality, he pursued his parents’ wishes for him to attend law school. He married his first wife in 1892 and began working at the Moscow Faculty of Law, managing an art-printing works on the side.

Two events led to Kandinsky quitting his law work and turning his full attention toward creating art – seeing a French Impressionists exhibition, including Claude Monet‘s Haystacks, in Moscow and hearing Richard Wagner‘s Lohengrin at the Bolshoi Theatre. The powerful sense of color in Monet’s work and the way Wagner pushed the limits of music and melody beyond standard lyricism inspired Kandinsky to move to Munich to pursue studying and making art full-time.

He was accepted into a prestigious private painting school and went on to study at the Munich Academy of Arts. Though he was in school, his artistic studies were mostly self-taught, and during this time he started to become known as an art theorist as well as a painter. At first, his art was more conventional, but his spiritual studies and the connection he made between music and color triggered the art theories he became known for and displayed in his works. By the beginning of the 20th century, Kandinsky became known as the father of abstract art.

Harnessing his physiological gift of synaesthesia cognate which allowed him to hear color and see sound, Kandinsky began to use color as an expression of emotion rather than just a physical attribute of an object. He befriended several other artists of the time and often showed his work in exhibitions while also publishing his artistic theories and ideas.

In the early 1900s, he divorced his first wife and met art student Gabriele Münter with whom he traveled extensively. He also formed a group of artists that was fundamental to Expressionism called The Blue Rider with fellow artist Franz Marc. The group held two important exhibitions in 1911 and 1912. After returning to Russia and teaching art, he was influenced by the constructivist movement and began using more geometrical forms and hard lines in his work. He met and married Nina Andreevskaya and had a child with her, who only lived until the age of 3. Devastated by his son’s death, Kandinsky began to focus his restless energy on the reformation of art and government-run programs in Russia and helped establish Moscow’s Institute of Artistic Culture and Museum of Pictorial Culture. Kandinsky’s spiritual and artistic position was denounced and eventually his Soviet citizenship was revoked. He fled Russia in 1921 and joined the Bauhuas Movement in Weimer, Germany. Kandinsky was invited to teach at the Bauhaus, which was an innovative school of art and architecture. He taught classes on design, advanced color theory, and abstract painting and wrote plays and poems.

The Nazis shut down the Bauhaus in 1933 and many of Kandinsky’s works were confiscated after an exhibition. He fled to a small suburb of Paris called Neuilly-sur-Seine, but lived the rest of his life in seclusion, suffering from depression because his art was no longer selling well. Though Kandinsky didn’t think highly of himself, he was still known for being a controversial artist and theorist, and he became internationally known for his exhibitions, which he continued to do until his death. He gained an important fan in Solomon Guggenheim, a U.S. businessman and art collector, who began collecting Kandinsky’s works and later started his own foundation and museum which still holds art from some of the most important expressionist and surrealist painters of the 20th century.

Most of the work Kandinsky produced while he was in Russia did not survive, although most of his German works are still in existence. Kandinsky’s paintings are known for fetching a high price when they are put up to auction with most selling for over $20 million.

Kandinsky died on December 13, 1944 after suffering from cerebrovascular disease at his studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

Sources: Wikipedia, Biography.com, IMDB

 

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John Lennon Dies

johnlennonOn December 8, 1980, John Lennon, legendary musician and one of the founders of British rock band The Beatles, was shot and killed.

Earlier in the day, Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, were photographed for the last time together by Annie Leibovitz for Rolling Stone magazine in their New York City apartment. The iconic image covered the January 1981 issue of Rolling Stone along with articles and pictures in memory of Lennon’s life. He gave his last interview with DJ Dave Sholin for RKO Radio Network before heading to Record Plant Studio with Ono to mix a song they were working on together.

He was returning from the studio with Ono when Mark David Chapman took aim and fired five shots at John Lennon with a .38 Special revolver at 10:50 p.m. as he was entering his apartment building, The Dakota.  Lennon staggered up the five steps to the security and reception area of his building, muttering, “I’m shot. I’m shot,” before collapsing on the ground. He was rushed to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, just blocks away, but was pronounced dead on arrival due to hypovolemic shock, caused by the loss of more than 80% of blood volume. Meanwhile, outside The Dakota, the doorman had knocked the gun from Chapman’s hands and kicked it across the sidewalk. Chapman sat down on the ground awaiting the police, reportedly holding a copy of Catcher in the Rye. When asked by the doorman if he knew what he had just done, Chapman calmly replied, “Yes, I just shot John Lennon.”

The killer had previously exhibited obsessive tendencies and had become fixated on John Lennon. Chapman had traveled to New York with intentions of murdering Lennon in October of 1980, but changed his mind and returned home to Hawaii. His disdain for Lennon was largely attributed to Lennon’s “more popular than Jesus” remark he first made in an interview in 1966. He thought Lennon’s comment and his songs “God” and “Imagine” were blasphemous. Despite his lawyer’s advice to plead insanity, Chapman made a guilty plea to second degree murder and sentenced to 20 years to life.  He has since been denied parole seven times.

lennon2The news of Lennon’s death was first reported during ABC’s Monday Night Football by broadcast team Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford.  Cosell interrupted his reporting of the game and said, “Remember this is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses. An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City. The most famous perhaps, of all of The Beatles, shot twice in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that news flash, which, in duty bound, we have to take.”

Fans all over the world began to grieve heavily. On December 14, 1980, Yoko Ono asked fans in New York City to convene in Central Park for 10 minutes of silence in remembrance of Lennon. Ono’s request was met by millions of fans worldwide gathering together to pay tribute to the late musician. The largest gathering of over 225,000 was in Central Park, near the scene of the shooting.

Since his death, countless memorials and tributes have been dedicated to Lennon including songs by other famous musicians, statues, and memorial sites. One of the most famous sites is Strawberry Fields in Central Park close to The Dakota, a place where Lennon used to walk often. Various countries donated trees to be planted in the area, and a mosaic reading “IMAGINE” was gifted by the city of Naples, Italy.

Though Lennon was killed over 30 years ago, his legacy will live on forever.

Sources: Wikipedia, ABC News

 

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James Naismith Dies

University of Kansas basketball team in 1899 with coach James Naismith.

University of Kansas basketball team in 1899 with coach James Naismith.

On November 28, 1939, James Naismith, better known as the inventor of basketball, died.

Naismith was born in Ontario, Canada in 1861. He attended McGill University in Montreal and became one of their all-star athletes, participating in Canadian football, lacrosse, soccer, rugby, and gymnastics for the school. After receiving his BA is Physical Education, he became McGill’s first Athletic Director, but left the school to become a physical education teacher at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891.

Because of the extremely cold New England winters, Naismith’s students were confined to the indoor gym and thus became too rowdy to handle. The head of the Springfield YMCA Physical Education gave Naismith 14 days to come up with a game that would occupy the students as an “athletic distraction” and would also keep track athletes in shape. He also specified that Naismith create a fair game that would not be as rough as other sports. Naismith was inspired in his game creation by a game he used to play as a child called, “duck-on-a-rock.” Players would throw a small rock at a “duck” placed on top of a larger rock in an attempt to knock the duck down. The three main components of the game were team spirit, marksmanship, and passing. He thought these three qualities would be a perfect way to distract the unruly students while maintaining a high level of physical activity.

The first game of basketball was played with two peach baskets fixed 10 feet above the ground, and a soccer ball. After making a few changes, like changing the baskets out for hoops with nets, Naismith wrote the 13 basic rules of basketball. Basketball was made international in 1893 by the YMCA movement. Naismith joined the faculty of the University of Kansas in 1898 and the men’s basketball program there started, just six years after Naismith wrote the official rules for the sport. Ironically, Naismith was Kansas’ only coach with a losing record in the game.

Basketball was introduced as an Olympic sport in 1936, and since then Naismith has received many awards and had basketball awards named after him. He retired from his duties at Kansas state in 1937, with almost 40 years as a member of the faculty and athletic direction under his belt. He died just 2 years later in 1939 from a brain hemorrhage in Lawrence, Kansas.

Sources: About.com, Wikipedia, Buzzle

 

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Alfred Anderson Dies

wwiOn November 21, 2005, Alfred Anderson died at age 109. He was Scotland‘s last known World War I veteran, the last member alive of the “Old Contemptibles,” the last known soldier who took part in the 1914 World War I Christmas truce, and Scotland’s oldest man for over a year.

Anderson was born on June 25, 1896, and joined the volunteer reserve of the British Army in 1912 when he was only 16 years old. Unbeknownst to him, he had volunteered to fight on the Western Front, which was where the German Army had invaded France through neutral Belgium shortly after the outbreak of WWI.

On December 24 and 25, 1914, when Anderson was 18 years old, he participated in the Christmas Truce. This odd occurrence involved British and German troops going through a ceasefire and celebrating Christmas in comradery by decorating their trenches, singing carols together, and even participating in soccer games together in the muddy No Man’s Land.  Over 80 years later, Anderson recalled these days saying,

I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence. All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machine-gun fire and distant German voices. But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted ‘Merry Christmas,’ even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.

During the war he was also briefly appointed to be a batman, or personal servant, to Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon, brother of the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. A brave and calm servant, Anderson would often go into No Man’s Land at night with Bowes-Lyon to listen for enemy activity. He continued to fight in France during the first World War until he was injured by a piece of shrapnel during one of his late-night outings with Bowes-Lyon.

In 1988, Anderson was awarded by the French Legion of Honor along with other WWI veterans who fought on French soil, and he was visited by Prince Charles in 2003 after news that Anderson was batman for the prince’s uncle, Bowes-Lyon, was brought to public attention.

A few weeks after being featured on the BBC One documentary The Last Tommy along with other WWI British Army vets, Anderson died in his sleep in Sweden. At the time of his death, he was the oldest man in Sweden.

Sources: Wikipedia, The New York Times

 

 

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Johannes Kepler Dies

Johannes Kepler Kopie eines verlorengegangenen Originals von 1610On November 15, 1630, German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer Johannes Kepler died in Regensburg, Germany. He is best known for his laws of planetary motion which influenced Isaac Newton‘s theory of universal gravitation.

Kepler was born in Weil der Stadt, Württemberg on December 27, 1571. His father was a mercenary who left his family when Kepler was five years old. His mother was an herbalist and healer who was tried for witchcraft later in her life. Kepler took an interest in mathematics and astronomy as a child, and these interests stuck with him throughout the rest of his life. In 1589, he received a scholarship to study theology at the University of Tübingen. While attending school, he studied under Michael Maestlin who was an advocate of the Copernican Theory, which stated that the sun was the center of the solar system rather than Earth. Nearly all scholars at this time still believed the rest of the solar system revolved around Earth. Though he had originally intended to be a minister, at the end of his studies, he was offered a position as a mathematics and astronomy teacher at Graz.

While teaching at Graz, Kepler wrote Mysterium Cosmographicum, an outspoken astronomical defense of the Copernican System and heliocentrism. During the Catholic Counter-Reformation, Kepler, who was Lutheran, was forced to leave. He moved to Prague where he began to work with renowned astronomer Tycho Brahe. Brahe had both the most exact measuring instruments and the most exact empiric data of his time, and from this data Kepler discovered that the orbit of Mars was an ellipse. He noted his discoveries in Astronomia Nova, which details his first two laws of planetary motion. This work was also the first time a scientist documented how to form an extremely accurate theory using imperfect data. This is known today as the scientific method.

In 1612, Kepler moved to Linz where he again became a teacher and astrological and astronomical adviser. He published Harmonice Mundi in 1619 in which he explained the astronomical and astrological proportions of the natural world in terms of music. He also explained what would come to be known as the third law of planetary motion.

During his lifetime, Kepler was never famous, but his articulations of the astrological and astronomical world led to many other great scientific discoveries that better allow us to understand the way the universe works. Suffering a fever, he died in Regensburg, Germany on November 15, 1630.

Sources: Wikipedia, Famous Scientists, kepler.nasa.gov, einstein-website.de

 

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