Félix Nadar was one of the most fascinating characters of the 19th century – bohemian, showman, caricaturist and proponent of powered flight though he was, he is best known as the world’s first great portrait photographer.
Nadar was born Gaspard-Félix Tournachon in Paris in 1820, the son of a printer and bookseller. The young Nadar was studying medicine when his father died and he was forced to give up his studies and seek work as a caricaturist and journalist for several newspapers. Read more ›››
Most national leaders suffer from self-delusion to some degree, but they pale in comparison with Joshua Abraham Norton who in 1859 declared himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.
Norton was born in England in 1818 but spent his early life in South Africa. Following the death of his parents, he then emigrated to San Francisco during the Gold Rush of 1849. Read more ›››
Two for the price of one in this week’s ABC Wednesday post in two remarkably brave and modest sisters – Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne.
They were born to an English father and Spanish mother, Jacqueline in Brighton in 1916 and Eileen in London in 1921 in London, but the family moved to France in 1923 and both became fluent French speakers. Read more ›››
Ruth Nichols was one of the many female pioneers in aviation history and was the first woman to simultaneously hold the altitude, distance and speed records before they were broken by the more famous Amelia Earhart.
Nichols was born to a well-to-do family in New York in 1901 and was privately educated at the Master’s School. When she graduated in 1919, her father’s gift to her was a private airplane ride with the World War One ace, Eddie Stinson, and it was this that sparked her life-long interest in flying. Read more ›››
I couldn’t let the centenary of the start of World War One go by without devoting an ABC post or two to some of those who took part, starting with John Norton-Griffiths.
We all know about the horrors of the stalemate that stretched for 400 miles from the French coast to the Swiss border, but less well-known is the war that took place below the trenches… Read more ›››
One of the essential elements of a successful hoax, apart from a credulous public, is to create a story that just might be true.
In 1894, the Russian journalist Nicolas Notovitch published La vie inconnue de Jesus Christ which purported to reveal that Jesus has spent many years as both teacher and scholar at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery… Read more ›››
John Newton led what you might consider an interesting life. He was a sailor, a slaver, a clergyman and author of arguably the most popular hymn of all time.
Born in 1725 in Wapping, London, Newton grew up at a time of religious turmoil. His father was ostensibly a Catholic, but had Protestant sympathies while his mother was a devout independent Anglican. Read more ›››
Although I generally plan my ABC Wednesday posts well in advance, sometimes there is a certain synchonisity or timely coincidence to them.
I had decided to write about Tenzing Norgay some time ago, but it coincides with the publication tomorrow of Everest 1953: The Epic Story of the First Ascent that sheds new light on exactly who was first to the summit – Edmund Hillary or Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Read more ›››