Thursday, April 15, 2004

From Writer's Almanac: "It's the birthday of one of the most prolific mathematicians of all time, Leonhard Euler, born in Basel, Switzerland (1707). He published more than eight hundred papers and books, and his collected works take up nearly seventy volumes. He's best known for developing the methods of calculus on a wide scale, but he also made important contributions in geometry, algebra and physics. He had amazing powers of memory and concentration. He could recite Virgil's epic poem the Aeneid word for word; he had thirteen children and often did his work while they played in the same room; and he could perform calculations of incredible complexity in his head. When he lost the use of his right eye, he said, 'Now I will have less distraction.' "

It was on this day in 1755 that Samuel Johnson published the first edition of his Dictionary of the English Language. Johnson had been forced to abandon his studies at Oxford when his father's business went bankrupt. "He applied for the masters program at the University of Dublin, but he didn't get in, and so, to make some money, he was forced to take on the painstaking job of writing a dictionary. It took him almost ten years to finish, but when it came out everyone agreed that it was the best English dictionary that had ever been published," writes Garrison Keillor in Writers' Almanac.

The New Georgia Encyclopedia has been published and given some mention by Georgia Public Radio. I found some interesting articles, but nothing on my latest "find" in history, Eugene Talmadge. However, there is a good bio on one of Gene Talmadge's role models, Tom Watson(1856 -1922):

Issues at the forefront of the Farmers' Alliance platform included the reclamation of large tracts of land granted to corporations, the abolition of national banks, an opposition to paper money, an end to speculation on farm commodities, and a decrease in taxes levied on low-income citizens. On this platform he campaigned and won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Georgia's Tenth District, in 1890. In Congress he pushed for legislation to enact various Alliance goals, but he was successful only in instituting an experimental program of bringing free delivery of mail to rural areas.

The Farmers' Alliance itself was not well received by proponents of the New South. Atlanta Constitution managing editor Henry W. Grady and Georgia governor Alfred Colquitt opposed much of its platform. Watson presented the platform in terms of an idyllic pastoral country life contrasted with the evils of industrialization and urbanization. As these differences were publicized and his frustration with the indifference of Congress toward his legislative initiatives grew, Watson increasingly distanced himself from the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

There's much more to this man's life, even just how he changed so radically from a Populist statesman who defended the Negro's enfranchisement and property rights, to a demagogue who advocated white supremacy and anti-Semitism. Definitely worth the read, for this insight into a Georgia biography and history.


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