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 ›››
P. T. Selbit is hardly a household name and yet he was responsible for creating one of the great magical illusions that we are all familiar with – sawing a woman in half.
Selbit was born Percy Thomas Tibbles in Hampstead, London, in 1881. He was to take his stage name by reversing his surname, subtracting one of the Bs, but that was to come much later. Read more ›››
Remembrance Day rightly focussed on the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War but there were those who served with distinction in both world wars and one such was Herbert Sulzbach.
Sulzbach was born in Frankfurt in 1894 to a wealthy Jewish banking family. His grandfather Rudolf founded the Bankhaus Gebruder Sulzbach in 1855, the forerunner of the modern-day Deutsche Bank. Read more ›››
We live in an age of admiration for ‘strong women’ but the original strong woman was around many years ago in the shape of Katie Sandwina, ‘the strongest woman that ever lived’.
Sandwina was born Catherine Brumbach in Bavaria in 1884, the second eldest of fourteen children of a circus family. Both her parents performed feats of strength and it was little wonder that Sandwina should follow them. Read more ›››
There can be few people with a more unfortunate name as Clotworthy Skeffington, a cruel trick played on him by his parents, but one he tried hard to live up to.
Born in 1743, he was then the latest in a long line of Clotworthies, the family having adopted the first name from John Clotworthy, the Anglo-Irish politician who became the first Viscount Masserene whose title passed to his son-in-law, Sir John Skeffington. Read more ›››
Thomas Sopwith had a remarkable career as a pioneer of aviation, designing and producing the iconic planes for the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War, the Hurricane fighter plane in the Second and the world’s first jump-jet in the 1960s.
And if that wasn’t enough, Sopwith was also an accomplished yachtsman who challenged for the America’s Cup in the 1930s. Read more ›››
Regular readers will know of my admiration for the early pioneers of aviation, but this week’s remarkable subject was not so much a flyer as a faller – Dolly Shepherd: The Edwardian Lady Parachutist.
Shepherd was born in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, in 1886 and was always an adventurous sort. At the age of sixteen, she got a job as a waitress at the Alexandra Palace, North London, specifically so she could listen to the famous American Sousa Band as she couldn’t afford a ticket. Read more ›››
There can’t be many people unaware of Dr Seuss as the author and illustrator of some of the most popular children’s books, but what is less well known is his role as a political cartoonist and propagandist during World War Two.
He was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1904, the grandson of German immigrants. Read more ›››