Of the many people I write about, the ones who brighten up a dull world are the pranksters and there is probably none greater than serial hoaxer Alan Abel.
Abel was born in 1924 in Zanesville, Ohio, but grew up in nearby Coshocton where his father kept the local general store, teaching his son the value of hucksterism at an early age. Read more ›››
The name Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov may not mean much to you, but you have a lot to thank him for because he has also been called the man who saved the world.
Arkhipov was born to a peasant family near Moscow in 1926. He was educated at the Pacific Higher Naval School and served on board a minesweeper in the war with Japan in 1945. Read more ›››
I begin this latest round of ABC Wednesday with Mary Anning, a very ordinary woman who made the most extraordinary contribution to science and our understanding of prehistoric life.
Anning was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis on the south coast of England. She was the daughter of a carpenter who supplemented his income by mining the fossils that can be found in the nearby limestone cliffs and selling them to tourists. Read more ›››
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 ›››
Many of those who played an active part in World War Two refused to talk about their exploits which may be lost or come to light only after their death. One such is Hanns Alexander, the man who brought one of the most infamous war criminals to justice.
Alexander and his twin brother Paul were born in Germany in 1917. Their father was a doctor and the family lived in a splendid apartment in one of Berlin’s wealthy suburbs where they threw parties attended by well-known actors, artists and scientists, including Albert Einstein and Marlene Dietrich. Read more ›››
Jimmie Angel was an aviator, adventurer and stuff of legend, most of which he perpetuated himself. What is certainly true though is that Angel Falls in Venezuela, the highest in the world, is named after him.
Angel was born in Cedar Valley, Missouri, in 1899, but would spend most of his 57 years outside of America. He claimed to be mostly American Indian which at least had some basis in truth as his mother was part North Carolina Cherokee. Read more ›››
One of the pleasures of the comics of my youth was the small-ads for pocket-money priced practical jokes, from stink bombs to ‘dirty’ soap and hand-buzzers to snakes in a tin, all of which we owe to Soren Sorenson Adams, the father of the practical joke.
Born near Aarhus, Denmark in 1879, his family migrated to America when he was four years old and he grew up in New Jersey. He wasn’t to discover the the profitability of the novelty prank until 1904 when he worked for a chemical dye company and noticed that one of the ingredients used caused uncontrollable sneezing which his co-workers found hilarious. Read more ›››
One of the places I really wanted to visit when we were in America a couple of years ago was the atomic testing grounds about 65 miles north of Las Vegas.
Not your typical tourist trap I grant you, especially compared with the arcade machine attractions of The Strip, but then I’d rather risk radiation sickness than throw away my money at a blackjack table. Read more ›››