Filed: ABC Wednesday

C is for Bessie Coleman

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 ›››

B is for Alan Blumlein

Alan Blumlein was one of the most prolific inventors of the twentieth century filing 128 patents for electronic and audio engineering, but one we have to thank him for is ‘binaural sound’ or what we today would call stereo.

Blumlein was born in London in 1903, the son a German-born naturalised Britsh subject of Jewish descent. Read more ›››

A is for Mary Anderson

Mary Anderson was a remarkable woman. She was a real estate developer, cattle farmer and vineyard manager, but her real claim to fame is that she invented something we all rely on – the car windscreen wiper.

Anderson was born in 1866 in Alabama in the wake of the American Civil War. Her father died when she was four years old and she and her mother and sisters continued to live in Greene County on the proceeds of his estate. Read more ›››

Z is for Zazel

On 21st May this year, Ringling Bros and Barnum Bailey said a final sad farewell after almost a century of The Greatest Show on Earth, bringing to an end many of the acts unique to the circus world.

And of those acts, perhaps the bravest is the human cannonball, but who was the first person to be shot into the air? Step forward Rosa Matilda Richter, better known as Zazel. Read more ›››

Y is for Henry Yule

Henry Yule

English is a rather predatory language that snatches words and phrases from other tongues, making them its own. and few cultures have added more than India and the Asian sub-continent.

The man who chronicled the words loaned to the English language was the geographer, Orientalist and travel writer Sir Henry Yule whose Anglo-Indian dictionary has never been out of print. Read more ›››

X is for Xenophon

Xenophon

Another repeat of an earlier ABC Wednesday post in the soldier and philosopher, Xenophon, who wrote seven books, the most famous of which is Anabasis which tells the story of one of the great Greek military adventures.

The action took place in 480BC when Xenophon joined the 10,000 strong army of Greek mercenaries hired by Cyrus the Younger who planned to seize the throne of Persia from his brother after the death of their father, Darius II. Read more ›››

W is for Nancy Wake

This week I give you another of the remarkable women who operated in Europe during World War Two in the shape of Nancy Wake, also known as The White Mouse.

Wake was born in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1912, the youngest of six children. Two years later the family moved to Australia only for her father to return to New Zealand leaving his wife to raise the children alone. Read more ›››

V is for Erwin Van Haarlem

Espionage can be a dirty business of duplicity, double-crossing and general skullduggery but one case that stands out is that of Erwin Van Haarlem also known as the spy with no name.

His story begins in occupied Europe in 1944 when Johanna Van Haarlem gave birth to her son Erwin in the Netherlands. His father was a Polish Nazi who was killed soon after in the fighting around Caen. Read more ›››

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