W is for James Wyld

James Wyld

James Wyld was an eminent Victorian geographer and map maker, Member of Parliament and businessman who also turned the world inside out with his ‘Great Globe’.

Wyld was born in 1812 and named after his father, the geographer royal James Wyld who had introduced the art of lithography to England, using it to create his maps for the quartermaster-general’s office. Read more ›››

V is for Vicki Van Meter

Vicki Van Meter

Vicki Van Meter is the youngest female pilot to have made a transatlantic flight when she was aged twelve, but despite a promising future before her, she was to die by her own hand when she was just 26.

Van Meter was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania in 1982 and became hooked on the idea of flying and space travel when NASA visited her junior school. Read more ›››

U is for James Ussher

James Ussher

The subject of my ABC Wednesday post this week is James Ussher, polyglot, prolific scholar, a man of the church and perhaps the man responsible for what we know today as ‘creationism’.

Ussher was born in 1581 to a well-to-do Anglo-Irish family living in the Pale of Dublin (that’s ‘pale’ as in the phrase ‘beyond the pale‘). Read more ›››

T is for John Tarrant

The Ghost Runner

John Tarrant was possibly the greatest athlete of his generation who could break long-distance running records at will and yet his achievements were never acknowledged because of the rules governing amateurism.

Born in 1932 in Shepherd’s Bush, London, Tarrant was first abandoned by his father and then his mother died of TB leaving her son to the not so tender mercies of a children’s home. Read more ›››

S is for B F Skinner

B F Skinner and pigeon

Burrhus Frederic Skinner was an inventor, author, social philosopher and poet but is best known for his work as a behavioural scientist. And his pigeon-guided missile.

Skinner was born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, in 1904 and became an atheist at an early age when a Christian teacher tried to explain the concept of hell as described by his grandmother. Read more ›››

R is for Charles à Court Repington

Charles Repington

In the centenary year of the end of the Great War, Charles à Court Repington answers a tricky question – exactly when did we start to refer to the horrors of the 1914-1918 conflict as ‘The First World War’?

There is a false assumption that it could not have been so named until after the start of World War Two, but it was Repington who first popularised the phrase in the title of his book The First World War published in 1920. Read more ›››

Q is for William Quantrill

William Clarke Quantrill

The turmoil of the American Civil War bred bands of guerilla fighters on both sides of the conflict and among the most notorious were Quantrill’s Raiders.

William Clarke Quantrill was born in Canal Dover, Ohio, in 1837, the son of school teacher Thomas Henry Quantrill. However, his father died of TB in 1854, and his mother was forced to open their home as a boarding house to make ends meet. Read more ›››