Filed: Interesting People

V is for Vesna Vulovic

Vesna Vulović

Vesna Vulović has an unusual claim to fame – according to the Guinness Book of Records, she holds the world record for surviving the highest fall without a parachute, some 33,330 feet.

This unsought achievement happened on 26 January 1972 when Vulović was a flight attendant on Yugoslav Airline Flight 367 and a bomb exploded on board. Read more ›››

U is for Donald Unger

Donald L Unger

‘Mother, I know you can hear me. Mother, you were wrong! And now that I have your attention, can I stop eating my broccoli, please?’

Those are the words of Donald L Unger after he proved his mother wrong – that cracking your knuckles as a child does not cause arthritis in later life as she claimed. 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 and he is all but forgotten today.

Born in 1932 in Shepherd’s Bush, London, Tarrant, he was first abandoned by his father and then his mother died of TB during the war, 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 Gilbert Romme

Gilbert Romme

The French Revolution resulted in many ridiculous ideas, but perhaps the most risible was the French Republican Calendar devised by Gilbert Romme.

The thinking behind the new calendar was twofold. First that it should remove all religious references and second that time itself should embrace decimalisation. The result was a largely unworkable system. Read more ›››

Q is for Fred Quimby

Fred Quimby

It is a strange fact that the producer of one of the funniest and most enduring cartoons knew nothing about animation and little by way of a sense of humour.

Fred Quimby, whose name you will have seen on the credits for Tom and Jerry and other cartoons, was born in Minneapolis in 1886. Read more ›››

P is for Harry Pollitt

Pollitt with his Stalin portrait

Harry Pollitt is little known these days, but as General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain and a friend of Russia, he was a significant figure in the turbulent politics of pre- and post-war Britain and achieved a sort of immortality in a song sung by the Grateful Dead among others.

He was born in 1890 in Droylsden, not far from where I live now. Read more ›››

O is for Annie Oakley

You may not know the name Phoebe Ann Moses, but you will recognise her by her stage name – Annie Oakley, sharpshooter and star of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

Her name is synonymous with the world’s view of life in the American west, but she is also the subject of one of the more intriguing ‘what ifs’ of history. Read more ›››