Miscellany and Trivia

Anecdote Socrates – Classical Greek Athenian philosopher (468-399 BC)

Delphi was revered by the ancient Greeks as the site (at the “omphalos,” the navel or center of the world) where messages from Apollo were supposedly relayed through the Pythia (a kind of spokesperson whose trance-like utterances were interpreted as prophetic statements). The oracle was once asked to name the wisest man in Greece, and replied that Socrates, the Athenian philosopher, was truly wisest. Socrates was later told of the oracle's prophesy. "Since the gods proclaim me the wisest, I must believe it," he declared. "But if it is true, it must be because I alone, of all the Greeks, realize that I know nothing."

Anecdote Charles Robert Darwin – English naturalist (1809-1882) and author of The Origin of Species

After spending more than a decade developing his theory of evolution, but refusing to publish his controversial findings while he gathered more evidence, Charles Darwin was finally prompted (by the similarity of Alfred Wallace's work) to publish The Origin of Species in 1859. Darwin was not entirely pleased with the finished work, which was only one-fifth as long as the author had planned, and for the rest of his life he referred to it, disparagingly, as an "abstract." Even so, the book (whose original title, "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life," is also five times longer) ran to more than 500 pages. The book, which one reviewer called "so turgid, repetitive, and full of nearly meaningless tables, that it will only be read by specialists," became a bestseller in 1948.

Anecdote Margaret Thatcher - Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 until 1990

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was famed for her domineering manner. During a Cabinet meeting one day, Norman St. John-Stevas (leader of the House of Commons between 1979 and 1981) rose rather early to excuse himself. The Iron Lady promptly balked at his request. "I must leave now, Margaret," he insisted. "I'm going to Covent Garden [the opera] this evening." "Sit where you are, Norman," she ordered. "I, too, am going." "Ah, but Margaret," he smartly replied, "I take so much longer to dress than you do!"

Anecdote Sir Mick Jagger – British musician, singer-songwriter

Karma?
One day in 2002, Mick Jagger learned that his 18-year-old daughter, model Elizabeth Jagger was dating a 44-year-old man. The 60-year-old Jagger, who had often dated women more than 26 years his junior, reportedly went ballistic...

Anecdote Sigmund Freud – Austrian neurologist (1856-1939)

"The great question which I have not been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul," Freud once declared, "is 'What does a woman want?'"

Anecdote Leonard Bernstein - American composer and conductor (1918 – 1990)

Arriving at an airport one day, Bernstein was asked by a photographer if he would mind posing for a picture astride a motorcycle. Bernstein objected. "I don't ride a motorcycle," he said. "It would be phony." The photographer tried to persuade him. He showed him the controls, explaining briefly how to operate them. "I'm sure you could ride it if you tried," he said encouragingly. Bernstein climbed onto the machine and, to the horror of his colleagues, shot off at top speed across the airfield. After a few other maneuvers he returned, grinning broadly. "Now you can take your picture," he announced. "I'm a motorcycle rider."

Anecdote Desmond Tutu (1931–)

Desmond Tutu is the Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg, South Africa. With a smile and sly wit, he is able to make important points with a minimum of bitterness, which is perhaps why he was awarded the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize.

He demonstrated this skill in a recent speech in New York City, where he stated, "When the missionaries first came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said: 'Let us pray!' We closed our eyes. When we opened them, the tables had turned: we had the Bible and they had the land!"

Anecdote Agatha Christie (1891–1976)

Agatha Christie's second husband, Max Mallowan, was a distinguished archaeologist who made his name excavating in Mesopotamia. On her return with her husband from the Middle East, Agatha Christie was asked how she felt about being married to a man whose interest lay in antiquities. "An archaeologist is the best husband any woman can have," she said. "The older she gets, the more interested he is in her."

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