Nicknamed the Black Eagle, the flamboyant Hubert Fauntleroy Julian was one of the early pioneers of aviation and parachuting and promoter of black civil rights.
Julian was born in 1897 in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the son of an affluent cocoa plantation manager. He emigrated to Canada in 1914 where he claimed to have learned to pilot an aeroplane and served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Read more ›››
The term ‘old soldier’ would suit no-one better than George Ives who, when he died in 1993 at the age of 111, was the last surviving veteran of the Boer Wars.
Ives was born in Brighton in 1881 although the family moved to Bristol to work for the Tidmarsh family. As a boy, Ives trained to be a jockey but then worked in his father’s workshop. Read more ›››
We tend to think of abstract art as a relatively recent phenomenon, something sprung from the psychedelia of the 1960s and yet one woman was a hundred years ahead of her time, the spiritualist artist Georgiana Houghton.
Houghton was born in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, in 1814, the seventh of twelve children of the merchant George Houghton and the family variously lived in London and Madeira, as well as the Canary Islands. Read more ›››
There are many who have risked their lives in war for the sake of freedom, but few have done what Ken Gatward did in 1942 – to put his neck on the line for the sake of a propaganda stunt.
Gatward was born in 1914 in Hornsey, London, the son of the local Chief Inspector of police. He joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in 1937 and when war broke out in 1939 he joined No 53 Squadron specialising in low-level raids. Read more ›››
When America initiated the Manhattan Project it relied on the talents of many brilliant scientists who were often eccentric and some of them politically compromised, none more so that the atomic spy Klaus Fuchs.
Fuchs was born in Germany in 1911, the third of four children of Lutheran pastor Emil Fuchs. His father held strong left wing views as a member Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and heavily influenced the younger Fuchs‘ political views. Read more ›››
Of all the occupations one might choose to follow, perhaps the strangest is that of executioner. What is it that might set you on that career path? Perhaps too many games of hangman as a child.
But when you look at the characteristics of the people who have become the state’s executioners, what is striking is their otherwise everyday ordinariness and one such was John Ellis. Read more ›››
Eccentric and naive he might have been, but Lord Timothy Dexter was also shrewd enough to sell coal to Newcastle, bed warmers to the West Indies and Bibles to India and managed to become a successful author despite being semi-literate.
Dexter was born in Malden Massachusetts in 1747 to a family of farm labourers when America was still a British colony. He had little or no schooling and was working in the fields at the age of eight. Read more ›››
The early days of flying was an age for pioneers and none more so than Bessie Coleman who was both the first woman of African-American descent and the first of Native American descent to hold a pilot’s licence.
Coleman was born in 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, the daughter of sharecropper George Coleman, who was mostly Cherokee and part African-American, and his African-American wife Susan. Read more ›››