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GEORG CANTOR (March 3rd, 1845 – January 6th, 1918) German mathematician known as the man who tamed infinity. Main accomplishments:
  • Contributed to the explanation of Zeno's paradoxes.
  • Inventor of set theory, defined infinite and well-ordered sets and established the importance of one-to-one correspondence between members of two sets.
  • Invented theory of transfinite numbers, proved real numbers are more numerous than natural numbers, and defined cardinal and ordinal numbers and their arithmetic.
  • Awarded the Sylvester Medal in 1904 by the Royal Society.
EARLY LIFE Georg Cantor (1845–1918) was born in St Petersburg, Russia, to Georg Waldemar Cantor, a prosperous merchant, and Maria Bohm, a Russian musician. He was raised Protestant, his father's religion, and was an outstanding violinist, inheriting musical talent from his mother. As a small child, he was tutored at home, and then attended primary school in St Petersburg. In 1856, when Cantor was eleven, the family moved to Wiesbaden, Germany. Cantor attended the Gymnasium there until moving to Darmstadt, where he studied at the Realschule, graduating in 1860. During this time, he excelled in mathematics and trigonometry, which he studied at the University of Zurich. In 1863, one year into Cantor's studies, his father passed away. Cantor transferred to the University of Berlin where he specialized in math, physics, and philosophy, later studying at the University of Gottingen. He returned to Berlin to complete his dissertation, which was on number theory and received his doctorate in 1867. CAREER Cantor's first job out of university was at a girl's school in Berlin. He joined the Schellbach Seminar for math teachers and worked on his habilitation, which he presented to Halle when he was appointed in 1869. Here, he solved the problem of the uniqueness of representation of a function as a trigonometric series in 1870, and within the next two years had published papers on trigonometric series. In 1872, Cantor was promoted to Extraordinary Professor, the same year he published a paper defining irrational numbers in terms of convergent sequences of rational numbers and began a correspondence with Dedekind. The year after, he proved rational numbers are countable in one-one correspondence with natural numbers. He proved algebraic numbers are countable. He proved that real numbers were not countable by the end of the year, publishing it in 1874 in a paper that proved almost all numbers are transcendental. 1874 was also the year Cantor studied the unit square. In the spring, he got engaged to Vally Guttmann, and they went to Switzerland for their honeymoon, which Cantor spent partly visiting German mathematician Richard Dedekind. By 1877, their discussions led Cantor to the discovery that there is a one-to-one correspondence between points on the interval and points in p-dimensional space. This new knowledge affected geometry and ideas about the dimensions of space. He published a paper on it, crystallizing his concepts of one-to-one relationships as denumerable sets, sets of equal power and the concept of dimension. In 1879, he was promoted to full professor. Within the next five years, Cantor published a set of six papers discussing basic set theory. By 1884, he was suffering from depression, thought to be caused by a combination of stress from math and pressure from critics, and could not prove the continuum hypothesis. In 1886, he bought a house for his growing family of six children, and then was appointed president of the Deutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung. In 1893, he quit being president and wrote a paper on even numbers and the sum of prime numbers. His last major papers were published in 1895 and 1897, describing well-ordered sets and ordinal numbers. In 1897, at the first International Congress of Mathematicians in Zurich, Cantor discovered paradoxes in the theory of sets but by 1899, was too mentally ill to solve them. LATER LIFE When Cantor suffered mentally, he turned from mathematics to philosophy and studied Shakespearian theory. He published literary pamphlets in the late 1890s, but his mother passed away, soon followed by his brother. When his youngest son died in 1899, his depression increased, but he still studied and lectured on math, attending the International Congress of Mathematics in 1904. In 1905, he wrote about religious theory and then took some time off from teaching in 1909. He fully retired in 1913, and in June 1917, entered a sanatorium. He died of a heart attack on January 6, 1918.  

German mathematician Georg Cantor (1845–1918) was the creator of set theory and introduced the concept of transfinite numbers. Today his theories form the foundation of mathematics, but in his l...

FRIEDRICH WILHELM NIETZSCHE  (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) German philosopher and writer, one of the most influential thinkers of the 19th century. Main accomplishments:
  • Substantial influence on doctrines of perspectivism, existentialism, and nihilism.
  • His key philosophies include the “Death of God,” “Will to Power, “Life Affirmation,” “and “Ubermensch.”
  • Author of critical texts on religion, morality, culture, philosophy, psychology, and science, including The Gay Science(1882/1887), Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883–85), and Beyond Good and Evil (1886).
If there is a paradox to be gleaned from Nietzsche’s life, it is that this son of a Lutheran minister, who intended to become a clergyman himself, ended up challenging the foundations of Christianity. He saw religion as “slave morality,” hindering the free flow of ideas and preventing people from being masters of their own fate. Perhaps because it covers such diverse and often controversial subjects as morality, religion, and social criticism, Nietzsche’s philosophy has sparked passionate reactions—both praise and criticism. His ideas, as reflected in Nietzsche’s prolific writings, cannot be neatly arranged coherently and consistently. As he wrote in his autobiographical “Ecce Homo,” (1888), his philosophy evolved, so concepts he developed in earlier books were not necessarily present in later ones. This lack of systematic and cohesive thought - one of the reasons his doctrines are at times difficult to interpret - is perhaps best expressed in his assertion that “There are no eternal facts, as there are no absolute truths.” Some ideas that emerge from his books include perspectivism, a belief that truth could only be known in the context of our own perceptions and interpretations, as well as the concept of "life-affirmation,” which challenges all ideas—no matter how prevalent - that drain life's energies. Also, he argued that humans are more driven to accomplishment of their goals by “the will to power” than by a desire to experience pleasure or avoid pain. THE BIRTH OF IDEAS Born in Röcken, the Prussian province of Saxon, Nietzsche excelled in religious studies at a preparatory school. Even though in his 1862 essay “Fate and History,” he expressed his doubts about the Christian doctrine, he started to study theology at the University of Bonn, but eventually abandoned this field, focusing on classical philology instead. At only 24, he was offered the chair of the classical philology department at the University of Basel, Switzerland. His decade teaching there was interrupted by military service during the Franco-Prussian War (July 1870 – May 1871) and various health issues, including chronic migraine headaches, as well as dysentery, diphtheria, and possibly syphilis—all of which he reportedly contracted while serving as a medical orderly on the front. Although his health problems forced him to retire from the University at 35, Nietzsche’s time in Basel was far from idle. Not only had he published his first book, “The Birth of Tragedy,” but he also became a close friend of composer Richard Wagner (whom he previously met in Leipzig and greatly admired). Nietzsche eventually became estranged from Wagner; one of the reasons was the composer’s ardent German nationalism and avowed anti-Semitism, both of which Nietzsche abhorred. (It is perhaps ironic that, after his death, Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth, who was married to a prominent leader of an anti-Semitic movement, encouraged the association of her brother’s philosophy with the Nazi ideology). PROLIFIC IDEAS Having given up his Prussian citizenship in 1869, Nietzsche remained stateless for the rest of his life, which did not prevent him from traveling throughout Europe and becoming somewhat of a nomad. This period proved to be productive; between 1872 and 1888, he published nine books and worked on four others. The books published during this time, which turned out to be the last decade of his short life, provide insight into his philosophy. For example, “Gay Science ((1882) and later “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” (1883–85), contain one of Nietzsche’s most famous remarks: “God is dead.” These words should not be taken literally or in a purely theological context. They are meant to convey Nietzsche’s belief that the Judeo-Christian God is not a source of moral values. Even more symbolically, the “death of God” announces the advent of nihilism—the rejection of all religious and moral principles and the belief that life is senseless and meaningless. Also in “Thus Spoke Zarathustra,” Nietzsche developed the concept of “Ubermensch,” a superior being and creator of new values, who can face and overcome adversities in the real world, rather than in the “life beyond,” as preached by Judeo-Christian principles. UNTIMELY DEATH On January 3, 1889, Nietzsche suffered a mental breakdown, reportedly after witnessing the beating of a horse. He spent the last 11 years of his life living first with his mother and then with his sister as his health continued to deteriorate. He died in Weimar, Germany, after suffering a stroke in August 1900 at only 45 years of age. Despite the controversy surrounding Nietzsche's philosophy during his lifetime, his influence remains substantial among writers, philosophers, and scientists of the modern era—Thomas Mann, Herman Hesse, Albert Camus, Rainer Maria Rilke, Sigmund Freud, and Jean-Paul Sartre, among them. SUGGESTED READING [table id=40 /]

German philosopher of the late 19th century, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) boldly and daringly challenged the foundations of Christianity, traditional morality, and other prevalent social mores....

WILLIAM JAMES (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) American psychologist and philosopher. Main accomplishments:
  • Considered the father of American psychology, he wrote "Principles of Psychology" (1890), one of the first comprehensive texts in the field.
  • Developed the idea of "stream of consciousness" and "radical empiricism."
  • His 1902 book "The Varieties of Religious Experience" examined the psychological origins of religious belief and influence on human behavior.
  • Considered a founder of the philosophical school of pragmatism, which holds that the truth of an idea is determined by its practical usefulness.
William James was one of the most prominent and influential figures in American psychology, philosophy, and religious studies during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He is often referred to as the "father of American psychology" for his pioneering work in the field, including his landmark text "Principles of Psychology" (1890). James also made important contributions to the development of the philosophical school of pragmatism and the study of religious experience. EARLY LIFE William James was born in New York City to a wealthy and socially prominent family. His father, Henry James Sr., was a noted philosopher and theologian, and his brother, Henry James, was a well-known writer. William was the oldest of five children and was raised in a cultured and intellectually stimulating household. He attended schools in the United States and Europe, but never graduated from college. Instead, he pursued a diverse array of interests including art, literature, and science. He even took a break from his studies to travel to Germany and Brazil, work as an artist's assistant, and serve as a volunteer during the American Civil War. CAREER BEGINNINGS James began his professional career as a teacher, first at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then at Harvard University. He taught a wide range of subjects including psychiatry, anatomy, and psychology. In 1875, he offered Harvard's first course in psychology. His work as a teacher and researcher eventually led to the publication of his seminal work "Principles of Psychology" in 1890. This multi-volume work was considered one of the first comprehensive texts in the field of psychology and established him as a leading figure in the discipline. In "Principles of Psychology," James tackled a wide range of topics, from the nature of consciousness and perception, to the functioning of memory and the emotions. He developed the idea of "stream of consciousness," which held that consciousness is a continuous flow of thoughts, sensations, and perceptions. He also advanced the concept of "radical empiricism," which posits that all knowledge is derived from direct experience. His ideas on consciousness, perception, and cognition continue to shape psychological research and theories to this day. James's philosophy, which he referred to as "pragmatism," focused on the practical usefulness of ideas and the role of experience in shaping knowledge. He argued that the truth of an idea is determined by its ability to solve problems and improve the human condition. He believed that the function of thought is to guide action, and that truth is not something that exists independently of the mind, but is rather a property of our beliefs and ideas that are useful for achieving our goals. He considered that our concepts and theories are useful instruments for understanding and manipulating the world. His work in pragmatism was influential in the development of the American school of thought known as instrumentalism. In 1902, James published "The Varieties of Religious Experience," in which he examined the psychological origins of religious belief and its influence on human behavior. The book was well-received and is considered a classic in the field of religious studies. He argued that religious experiences, rather than religious doctrines, are the most important aspect of religious life. He believed that religious experiences are subjective and personal and should be studied from a psychological perspective. He considered that the concept of God is a human construct, arising from our own needs and experiences, and that there is no objective, ultimate reality that can be known or understood through reason or science. LATER LIFE Throughout his life, James struggled with health problems and suffered from depression. Despite this, he continued to work and publish until his death in 1910. James had a wide-ranging influence on American thought and culture. His work continues to be studied and debated today, and his ideas continue to shape the fields of psychology, philosophy, and religious studies. He was a brilliant thinker, a skilled writer, and an influential thinker of his time. His legacy continues to shape the way we think of human consciousness, religious experience, and the nature of knowledge.  

WILLIAM JAMES (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) American psychologist and philosopher. Main accomplishments: Considered the father of American psychology, he wrote “Principles of Psychology...

MARK TWAIN (November 13th, 1835 – April 21st, 1910) American humorist, author, and journalist. Main accomplishments:
  • Penned over 50 novels, short story collections, non-fiction works, critical essays, and one play, including The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince And The Pauper (1881), and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn(1884), the latter of which has been hailed as the “first Great American Novel”.
  • Named influence of such writers as Ernest Hemingway, Arthur Miller, Kurt Vonnegut, and William Faulkner.
  EARLY LIFE Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri in 1835, two weeks after the passing of Hailey’s Comet. When he was four, the Clemens family moved to nearby Hannibal, and it was this small town on the Mississippi River that would shape Twain’s childhood and influence his writing, including his most famous novels, The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Indeed, it was Hannibal that inspired the name Mark Twain in the first place: “mark twain” was river slang for two fathoms, and Sam Clemens would later adopt the phrase as his pseudonym. Twain’s schooling ended at 11 when he became a printer’s apprentice to support his family after his father died of pneumonia. This early contact with the world of the printing press would awaken Twain’s dormant instincts as a writer, and he began to write for a newspaper published by his brother Orion. Later, a trip to New Orleans down the Mississippi River prompted Twain to become a steamboat pilot at the age of 22. This job, which continued until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, also inspired Twain’s 1883 memoir, Life on the Mississippi. Twain served in the Confederate Army for a scant two weeks before deserting, finding the life of a soldier not to his liking. He headed out west, trying his hand at a series of unsuccessful ventures—gold panning, silver mining, and logging, to name a few. Turning to humor for solace, Twain wrote a series of articles mocking his failures in both military and personal life. These articles eventually caught the notice of the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Virginia City, Nevada, which offered him a job. BURGEONING CAREER In 1864, Twain moved to San Francisco to write for the Morning Call. While working for the newspaper, a New York magazine, The Saturday Press, published his short story called “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” The story’s folksy, rustic style was a hit with readers, who began to pay more and more attention to Twain’s rising star. His work writing for various newspapers allowed him to travel to Europe and the Middle East, and the subsequent travelogues he wrote (including The Innocents Abroad) only served to further his growing popularity. In 1871, Twain and his new wife Olivia moved to Hartford, Connecticut. It was there that Twain’s writing talent and travel experience finally came together, and throughout the next 20 years, he wrote some of his most famous works, including A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, as well as his two seminal novels, The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. With these and other works, Twain enjoyed a reputation as the most famous writer in America, beloved by the reading public. LATER LIFE Sadly, Twain’s success was marred by significant difficulties in his personal life. Reminiscent of his early failed ventures in the West, Twain lost substantial amounts of money on failed projects such as his own publishing house and the infamous Paige typesetting machine; Twain invested heavily in the machine, but it had become obsolete before seeing mass production. He was forced to rely on the goodwill of creditors like his friend Henry H. Rogers, who helped him stay afloat. Although Twain was eventually able to come back from bankruptcy and pay back his debtors in full, his later years were marked by personal tragedy. After losing two beloved daughters and his wife to illness, Twain’s writing became bitter and cynical, producing such dark works as The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg (1899), Twain’s own health was failing as well, and he eventually died of a heart attack in 1910—the day after the return of the very same comet that had heralded his birth. Twain left behind a number of unpublished manuscripts, including The Mysterious Stranger, a gloomy tale (published in 1916) describing a visit by Satan to an Austrian village during the Middle Ages. This story is a stark departure from Twain’s commonly accepted image as a jovial humorist and shows his sometimes somber side.

Mark Twain (1835–1910), whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was a sometimes-controversial but prolific writer and humorist who authored 14 novels, including two major classics of American ...

EMILY DICKINSON (December 10th, 1830 – May 15th, 1886) American poet, as famous for her intense privacy as she was for her vastly prolific work. Main accomplishments:
  • Produced over 1,800 poems, including Because I could not stop for Death, A Bird came down the Walk, and I heard a fly buzz – when I died. Fewer than a dozen of her works were published during her lifetime.
  • One of the most influential poets of the American Romanticism movement.
EARLY LIFE Emily Dickinson was born to a prominent family in Amherst, Massachusetts, in a part of the state now known for its thriving academic community. Her grandfather had founded Amherst College, for which her father served as treasurer while also representing the region in Congress. Well educated for a woman of her time and well read by anyone’s measure, she rarely left her hometown, and, later in life, secluded herself in her bedroom. As a child, Emily was the well-behaved middle child, with an aptitude for music and the classical education so important to her father. She and her younger sister Lavinia were among the first female students at Amherst Academy. As a teenager, she was among the town citizens who participated in the 1845 religious revival, but her conversion to fervent Christianity turned out to be a passing phase, as she stopped attending church a few years later. Emily was sometimes a melancholic, depressed teenager, especially following the death of her friend and cousin Sophia, who spent her last weeks bedridden with typhoid fever. Her schooling was interrupted several times, both by her own illnesses (some of which may have been bouts of depression) and by a prolonged visit to family in Boston, where her parents sent her in an attempt to revive her spirits following Sophia’s death. Emily spent a year at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (a women’s college that became Mount Holyoke College, in nearby South Hadley), but disliked the religious outlook of the school. When she returned home, she became a homebody. A friend, local lawyer Benjamin Newton, further broadened her knowledge of literature. Melancholy soon struck again when the principal of Amherst Academy, who had become a friend, died. A few years later, Emily’s mother became bedridden with chronic illnesses, which kept her confined to her room until her death in 1882. Domestic chores became Emily’s responsibilities; her sister had an active social life, and her brother William had just married Emily’s close but difficult friend, Sue Gilbert. A RECLUSIVE GENIUS Emily began to withdraw from the world, occupying herself with the considerable task of keeping the Dickinson household running while working on her poetry and reading. Though it was no secret that she wrote, not until her death—and the discovery of her carefully maintained manuscripts—did anyone realize the extent and breadth of her work. She maintained many contacts through correspondence, in which she sometimes appeared grandiose, sometimes gnomic, and often dramatic—a great contrast to her secluded life. Even though she often wrote passionately about romance, there is no record of Emily ever having had a relationship. There are, however, some indications that she might have been in love with Samuel Bowles, editor of the Springfield Republican, as well as with her father’s old friend, Judge Otis Phillips Lord. By the late 1860s, Dickinson left the house very seldom, and when she did venture out,  she drew attention for dressing all in white. When visitors came to the house, she sometimes spoke to them only from behind the door. Her correspondence with various friends and acquaintances, however, picked up dramatically, and her family decided to respect her need for privacy, despite the way her eccentric behavior attracted town gossip. Her parents died within a few years of each other, and her brother’s marriage to Sue crumbled, particularly after the death of their youngest son, to whom Emily had been close. She became sick soon after and died of respiratory illness.

The “Belle of Amherst,” as Emily Dickinson (1830—1886) was known, was the reclusive, eccentric daughter of an academic New England family. Though known as a poet and prolific letter-writer in l...

LEO TOLSTOY (September 9th, 1828 – November 20th, 1910) Russian novelist, short story writer, playwright, essayist, and philosopher Main accomplishments
  • His two longest novels, War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877) are considered to be literary masterpieces.
  • A social reformer, he inspired scores of disciples to follow his teachings about morality, religion, and pacifism.
  Generally recognized as one of the greatest writers of all time, Leo Tolstoy led a life that was largely uneventful outwardly, while inwardly it was marked by deep emotions and a constant quest for meaning. This ferment was reflected not only in his journey from a privileged member of the nobility to a pacifist and ascetic, but also in his writing, which includes two of the world’s best-known novels. EARLY LIFE Leo Tolstoy was born in Tula Province, Russia, the fourth son of Princess Maria Volkonskaya and Count Nikolay Tolstoy. They lived south of Moscow in an ancestral estate in Yasnaya Polyana. In 1830, a fifth child was born, a daughter named Mariya, but Princess Maria died giving birth. A distant cousin of Count Nikolay, Aunt Tatyana, took over childrearing duties, as she had already been living with the family. Leo, Mariya, and their brothers, Nikolay, Sergey, and Dmitriy, grew up in the luxury of a high-class household; surrounded by gardens and orchards, they had many games, events, books, visitors, and horses to teach and entertain them. The siblings had German and French tutors until 1836 when they moved to Moscow for education. In 1837, their father passed away as well, and Aunt Tatyana became their guardian. However, she too died soon after, and the boys were passed on to Aunt Aline, their father's sister. These deaths, which also included Tolstoy's grandmother Pelagaya, caused young Leo to question his spirituality. In 1841, after Aline passed away, 13-year-old Tolstoy and his brothers moved to the city of Kazan to live with their Aunt and Uncle Yushkof. At 16, Tolstoy began studying at the University of Kazan, enrolling in an Oriental languages program. He studied Latin, Arabic, Turkish, English, German, and French, along with geography, history, literature and religion, but eventually switched to Law. He wasn’t, however, a good student. Leo moved out of his uncle's house to live with his brothers, and the siblings became frequent participants at social events, balls, and galas. They also drank, gambled, and visited brothels. In 1847, Leo dropped out of university. CAREER Tolstoy moved back to his parents' estate but pursued no occupation other than society events and drinking. He kept a diary, which included details of his sexual misconducts and the illegitimate child born to one of his servants. He attempted to set the estate affairs in order and become a farmer, but he was too often away on social trips to Tula or Moscow. In 1851, Leo joined his brother Nikolay in the army. They traveled around from the Caucus Mountains to the Ukraine, where they fought in the Crimean War in 1855. During his time as a soldier, Tolstoy produced his first work, an autobiographical novel Childhood (1852), which was published in a literary journal, The Contemporary. He also began working on The Cossacks(1862) and The Sevastopol Tales series. Childhood became very popular, and during the Crimean War Tolstoy composed its sequel, Boyhood (1854), completing the final piece of the trilogy, Youth, in 1857. When the war was over, Tolstoy moved to St. Petersburg. Active in literary circles, he corresponded with Russian intellectuals such as Ivan Turgenev, Nikolai Nekrasov, and Ivan Goncharov, and attended lectures by Gertsen and Charles Darwin in Europe. He lived in Paris for a time, gambling. When he ran out of money, he went home to Russia where he began writing his 12-part series, Yasnaya Polyana. In 1862, Tolstoy married Sofya Bers, the daughter of a doctor. They were reportedly in love, even though Tolstoy showed his new bride the diary documenting his long list of prior sexual encounters. Eventually, the marriage soured and, according to those who had known the couple, they developed a love-hate relationship, which nevertheless lasted nearly half a century. (It is not known whether Tolstoy’s famous opening line from Anna Karenina, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” was based on his own personal life). Still, despite their turbulent relationship, Sofya acted as her husband’s literary secretary and contributed to War and Peace (1863-69) and Anna Karenina (1873-77). She organized rough drafts, copied manuscripts, and helped schedule events. Tolstoy also worked on Confessions (1879), his first piece about Christianity, socialism, and spirituality—principles he embraced after a religious awakening he experienced in the 1870s. It centered on the Sermon on the Mount and an interpretation of Jesus' ethical teachings. The book was banned in Russia, as was a number of Tolstoy's later works. Tolstoy’s religious and philosophical doctrines, which stressed a simple, ascetic life and a passive resistance to autocracy, led to the formation of a like-minded social movement called Tolstoyism,  He worked with immigrants, denounced his aristocratic roots, and became a farmer. Pacifists praised his non-fiction work, The Kingdom of God is Within You (1894), which describes his thoughts about a society based on fundamental principles of Christianity; the book reportedly influenced Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent stance. LATER LIFE By 1900, Tolstoy was publishing criticisms of the Tsar that demanded the separation of Church and State. He was expelled from Orthodox Christianity, which led to severe depression and suicidal tendencies. In 1902, he wrote to the Tsar demanding social justice as the only prevention for civil unrest, and two years later, during the Russian-Japanese War, he composed a condemnation of war. In 1910, he left home to pursue asceticism, but caught pneumonia on the train and passed away that same year.

One of the most acclaimed Russian writers of the 19th century, Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) was the author of novels—including War and Peace and Anna Karenina—as well as short stories and essays...

BERNHARD RIEMANN (September 17th, 1826 – July 20th, 1866) German mathematician. Main accomplishments:
  • Developed Riemann hypothesis (or the Riemann Zeta Function).
  • Developed the general theory of complex variables.
  • Wrote a paper titled “On the number of primes less than a given magnitude,” a pivotal point in the development of number theory.
EARLY LIFE Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann was born in Breselenz, in the Kingdom of Hannover (now a part of Germany), on September 17th, 1826. He was born second of six children to Charlotte Ebell and Friedrich Bernhard Riemann, a war veteran who settled down to be a Lutheran pastor in Quickborn. He also taught his children until they were about ten years old. After that, a local schoolteacher named Schultz taught Riemann until he was fourteen years old. In 1840, Riemann entered the Lyceum gymnasium prep school in Hanover, which he attended for two years before leaving to study at Johanneum in Luneburg. Though his interests lay in Hebrew and theology, a pronounced talent in mathematics emerged. His instructors encouraged this, lending him math books by Euler and Legendre (Theory of Numbers, an 800-word textbook, he mastered within a week). In 1846, Riemann left Luneburg to study philosophy and theology at the University of Gottingen. This choice was encouraged by his father, who wanted to see a father-son succession of his pastoral career. While there, Riemann attended math lectures and soon asked his father's permission to change his studies to math and science under Moritz Stern and Carl Gauss. CAREER In 1847, he moved to the University of Berlin, which had a better math program. Here, he had the opportunity to study under Einstein and Dirichlet. They worked on complex variables present in the elliptical function theory, which led to the completion of Riemann's general theory of complex variables. In 1849, Riemann moved back to Gottingen for a Ph.D. Wilhelm Weber was now the chair of the physics program, and Gauss helped Riemann develop his doctoral dissertation, which was on his complex function theory. During this time, he also worked on the philosophy of nature and experimental physics. Riemann received his doctorate in 1851. Riemann also worked as an assistant lecturer, earning his first stipend as a mathematician. His doctoral thesis topic was titled “Representation of a Function by Means of a Trigonometrical Series,” the hardest option given. However, Weber and Gauss were impressed by the depth of his research and presentation, which reflected the Fourier series (mathematical decomposition of periodic functions or signals). Riemann was never made a full professor because he struggled to lecture at a pace slow enough for the students, though in 1859 he was appointed to the chair of mathematics at Gottingen, a position which had been held previously by Dirichlet and Gauss. He was also appointed to the Berlin Academy of Sciences, for which he produced "On the number of primes less than a given magnitude,” a report that became the foundation of number theory. From this, he developed the Riemann Theory, which has never been proven, but is a powerful geometric equation that solved a number of mathematical problems. LATER LIFE In 1862, Riemann married Elise Koch, and a daughter was born to them. The same year, he caught a cold that developed into serious tuberculosis, from which he died in 1866 at the age of 39. SUGGESTED READING [table id=30 /]

Bernhard Riemann (1826–1866) is widely regarded as one of the leading mathematicians of the nineteenth century. He developed Riemannian geometry which is the basis for Einstein's theory of gravitati...

FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY (October 30th, 1821 – February 9th, 1881)
Russian novelist, essayist, short story writer, and philosopher.
Main accomplishments:
  • Published over twenty-five novels as well as short stories and essays.
  • Known as a great Russian writer who influenced existentialism and world literature and developed literary polyphony.
  • Award of Merit in the category of fiction, given posthumously, for The Insulted and Injured translation by Boris Jakem.
  EARLY LIFE Dostoevsky was born in Moscow on October 30th, 1821. He was very close to his older brother, as they were educated at home together early in their lives. They had five younger siblings. Their father, a former army doctor, worked at Mariinsky Hospital during their youth, and they lived on the same property very near the insane asylum, orphanage, and criminal cemetery. Though Dostoevsky was forbidden to talk to the patients, he often did, creating a foundation for his later philosophies. When Dostoevsky was nine, he had his first epileptic seizure, which also helped him form philosophical theories. Dostoevsky's family was middle class, but his father was a tyrant. Thought to have died of apoplexy, there are rumors that his serfs murdered him. Dostoevsky's mother was pious and mild, but passed away when he was a young teenager in 1837. Soon after, he enrolled in the Army Engineering College in St. Petersburg. In 1842, he was promoted to lieutenant—a position his father wanted for him, but in 1844, he resigned from his post as a military engineer to devote his time to writing. CAREER In 1846, Dostoevsky's first novel Poor Folk was published. He joined utopian socialists, mostly young intellects, who discussed literature and politics. They were called the Petrashevsky Circle, led by Mikhail Petrashevsky. In an attempt to support the expression of free thought, illegal in reactionary mid-nineteenth-century Russia, they were arrested in 1849 and sentenced to death. Called a mock execution, a firing squad lined up but were stopped by the changing of the sentence to four years of exile and labor in Siberia. While in prison, Dostoevsky devoted his time to philosophy and gained an intimate understanding of the Russia lower class and criminal mindsets. He grew spiritually because the Old Testament was the only reading allowed, which led him to reject his liberal views in favor of his new belief that redemption stems from suffering and faith. Dostoevsky was freed in 1854, only to be forced into active duty for the Siberian garrison. He married Maria Isaeva, a young widow, two years after. By 1859, he was finally allowed to return to St. Petersburg, where he resumed writing. His publications from this time were religiously based, expression social and political order based on spiritual values. The House of the Dead, The Insulted and Injured and Winter Notes on Summer Impressions were all published in 1860. Dostoevsky started two periodicals, writing articles and short fictions, but were closed by authorities because one article covered the Polish uprising. In 1864 and 1865, his wife and his brother passed away. His debts and new experiences made worse by a gambling addiction inspired more novels. Notes from the Underground (1864) and Crime and Punishment satirize society and politics, and his Underground Man, bitter and frustrated, embodied the creation of a new type of literary figure and spiritual nihilism. LATER LIFE In 1867, Dostoevsky was traveling around Europe to escape his debts. He married Anna Snitkina, who was twenty years old. He wrote Crime and Punishment in a hurry so he could have an advance payment from the publisher. By 1873, through 1881, he worked on the series Writer's Diary. He had a lung hemorrhage in 1881 and passed away on February 9.

A quintessential Russian writer of the 19th century, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s  (1821–1881) works explored the relation of the human psyche with social, spiritual and political forces of his time.

KARL MARX (May 5th, 1818 – March 14th, 1883) German philosopher, economist, socialist, historian, journalist and political activist. Main accomplishments:
  • Published The German Ideology (1932) and The Communist Manifesto (1848).
  • With his comprehensive scholarly writings, laid the foundation for the politics of communism.
  • Developed, from anthropology and economics, philosophical anthropology that is the science of human beings in society.
EARLY LIFE  Karl Marx was a philosopher and political activist, a Jew by birth whose father converted to Lutheranism when Prussian law forbade the practice of law by Jews. Home-schooled until his teen years, Marx's legal studies went awry because of his youthful overindulgence in alcohol. He seemed to have little interest in being a lawyer, but his family didn't believe that his passion for poetry would lead to a productive adulthood. He earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1841 and joined the Young Hegelians, a group of radical journalists and philosophers, and in time took a job writing for the radical German-language (but Paris-based) newspaper the Vowarts. Living in Paris exposed Marx to the urban poor and working class with whom he'd had little contact, as well as introducing him to Friedrich Engels, who would remain his friend and collaborator. Engels inspired in Marx an interest in economics, and the two discussed communism, civil rights (especially as raised by "the Jewish question" and the legal treatment of Jews in Europe), history, and political ideology. When the Vowarts congratulated the attempted assassins of the King of Prussia, many of its staffers were forced to flee the country—Marx and Engels left for Brussels, where they began the work that would lead up to their Communist Manifesto. CAREER  Though the Communist Manifesto bore both their names, Engels and others have said that the substance of it and the bulk of the writing was Marx's. The Manifesto, originally published in German in London, addresses the fears Europe had of communism and radical socialism, before outlining Marx's theory of historical materialism (which states that "the nature of individuals depends on the material conditions determining their production") and the general demands which would need to be met in order to move Europe towards communist statelessness. Many institutions would need to be organized under the state in the interim, for instance, while private ownership of land would have to be abolished. Much of what Marx was concerned with was the transition from capitalism or socialism to communism. The Communist Manifesto claims that although the working class—the proletariat—may need to seize power in order to bring the communist revolution about, it will give up this power in the transition to communism. The Bolshevik Revolution and creation of the Soviet state is generally considered one example of that power being seized and not given up—but that was thirty years after Marx's death, and it's impossible to know how he would have commented. There were no successful communist revolutions in Marx's lifetime, in fact, so he remained a theorist. Radical revolutions swept across Europe with no real success, and Marx continued to work diligently on his political-economic theories, eventually published as the multiple volumes of Capital, which dealt with the exploitation of labor and the perceived failures of capitalism. He eventually moved to London, where he married the Jenny von Westphalen, the daughter of a Prussian baron, and had seven children, mostly girls. Jenny was well-educated and took over the editing of his books; both their families objected to the marriage, and despite the nobility of her birth, they lived in poverty until deaths in the von Westphalen family brought Jenny an inheritance that allowed them to move to the London suburbs. Only three of their children survived to adulthood. His marriage to a woman of wealthy birth, while living in poverty, undoubtedly contributed to Marx's understanding of class. While many thinkers—and indeed the common man in Europe—treated class as a sort of clique, a social phenomenon determined by your birth and family, your station, and your education, Marx saw class in entirely objective terms: the lower class were the ones with the fewest resources, and the upper class were the ones with the most at their command. Blue blood, family names, and education were completely irrelevant to this. What mattered was who had control over the means of production, and for this reason, the Industrial Revolution was as much a social revolution as it was a technological one—and the laws and institutions of the world had not yet caught up with it. The Industrial Revolution may have benefited from the capitalist system (and vice versa), but it also highlighted its flaws and sped up the world's progress towards the end of the capitalist state. More so than in earlier economies where a farmer may work his land primarily for the benefit of his family, the factory system alienated the worker from the fruits of his labor, a divorce Marx described as "commodity fetishism." In this system, things produced by labor—and labor itself—takes on a life of its own, cloaking the fact that all labor is the product of a person and relationships between people. LATER LIFE  Marx died in 1883 after a prolonged illness he developed just after Jenny's death, and few people attended his funeral except for a small number of family members and socialists. It was only in the coming decades that the impact of his legacy would be felt; he was in a sense one of the most significant figures of the twentieth century, despite never having seen it.

Political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, the German-born Karl Marx (1818-1883) is arguably the most influential socialist thinker of the 19th century. His Communist Manifesto, co-authored w...

WILHELM RICHARD WAGNER (May 22nd, 1813 – February 13th, 1883) German composer, theater director, conductor, and music theorist. Main accomplishments:
  • Influenced the style of late Romantic music.
  • Innovative use of chromatic scales in the tonal style of the time.
  • Composed and wrote the libretto of The Ring of the Nibelung(1876), an epic drama in four operas.
EARLY LIFE Richard Wagner's was born in Leipzig, Germany, to Johanna Rosine Wagner. Carl Friedrich Wagner, a police actuary who is widely accepted as Richard's father, died the same year Richard was born. His mother was remarried the next year to her lover, Ludwig Geyer, a painter and actor, which evidence suggests is Wagner's biological father. Wagner spent his years as a schoolboy in Dresden, writing his first opera at age 11. By age 16, he was working on serious music, composing two sonatas and a string quartet by 1830. The following year, Wagner began studying music at Leipzig University. CAREER Wagner's innovative ideas reinvented the opera experience. It was his idea to darken the auditorium during a performance, which eventually caught on everywhere and is now the standard. He also was the first to use a sunken orchestra pit, which was appreciated by the Jewish critic, Eduard Hanslick, with whom Wagner had a feud. 1832 was the first time Wagner wrote for the theater. His compositions appeared in Konig Enzio, a play written by Ernst Raupach. That spring, Wagner also debuted as a conductor performing his Symphony in C major. In 1833, he produced his first opera, Die Feen. In 1834, Wagner married the singer and actress Minna Planer. They lived out of their price range, always fleeing creditors. They left for Königsberg, where Wagner became the music director of the Magdeburg Theater. Here, he produced his second opera, Das Liebesverbot (1836), for which he composed the music and wrote the lyrics. In 1837, Wagner moved to Riga, Russia, where he found a new theater job as the music director. Here, he worked on composing Rienzi (1840), but he and Minna fled from their debtors first to London and then Paris in 1839. During this time, Wagner did not have a steady job but composed for odd jobs, such as vaudeville music. Wagner lived in Paris for three years before moving to Dresden. By 1843, he became the music director of the court, which stabilized his financial life. During this period, Wagner's anti-Semitic politics was becoming more well-known and controversial. Five years later, Wagner produced Lohengrin (1848). At this time, there was a revolution in Saxony, and because of his political opinion, Wagner was forced again to flee, this time to Zurich. He could not re-enter Germany for the next eleven years, and this was when he produced his article Judaism in Music (1850), among other anti-Semitic writings. Soon, young King Ludwig sent for Wagner. Always having been a big fan, Ludwig financed Wagner. Under this alliance, Tristan and Isolde (1865) developed. Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil, also supported Wagner during this time. He asked Wagner to write an opera for Rio de Janeiro, offering him safe residence in his palace. He also urged Wagner to finish Tristan and Isolde. LATER LIFE By 1862, Wagner was allowed to return to Germany. He and Minna separated because Wagner had had affairs with Mathilde von Wesendonck and Cosima Liszt, both of whom were younger than he, as well as married. Cosima became Wagner's second wife, and during this marriage, he had an affair with Judith Gautier. His only two children, Eva and Siegfried, were born to Cosima during the late 1860s. On February 13th, 1883, Wagner died of a heart attack in Venice. He was 69 years old.

Richard Wagner (1813–1883) was a German composer known for his mostly complex and lengthy dramatic operas. Though a controversial figure due to his nationalist beliefs and anti-Semitism, he is...

CHARLES DICKENS (February 7, 1812 – June 9, 1870) English novelist and the single most influential author of the Victorian era. Main accomplishments:
  • Author of over 50 novels, short story collections, plays, and nonfiction works, including A Christmas Carol (1843), Hard Times (1854), and Great Expectations (1860).
  • Used his work to vocalize his criticisms of English, social inequality, and the treatment of the poor.
  • Primarily responsible for the popularity of Christmas as a social holiday and for establishing many of the traditions associated with the day.
  EARLY LIFE Charles John Huffam Dickens was the second of eight children born to Navy clerk John Dickens and his wife, Elizabeth. He was born in Hampshire (England), but moved first to Kent and then to London when he was 10. It is London that looms large in his work, the London of the Industrial Revolution during which he lived. When he was young, his family was very well off, but throughout his life, he carried many poignant memories of his childhood. These memories would later be reflected in his work, which often lingers on the upbringing of his protagonists. Unfortunately, the elder Mr. Dickens spent money beyond his means in the interest of keeping up appearances, and wound up in debtors’ prison. Charles, like many other poor children of the era, was forced to go to work at the age of 12. He worked in a factory, endlessly affixing labels on jars of boot polish. The factory was owned by a relative of his mother’s, and he always resented her for keeping him at work, even once their financial troubles had eased. The resentment of working-class conditions would later spill over to much of Dickens’ work. Still, because of family connections, he was able to attain an education many of his workmates could not have hoped for, and after a few years, he left the factory for a job as a law clerk and then a court stenographer. CAREER BEGINNINGS At 22, Dickens became a journalist, traveling throughout Britain to report on political campaigns for the Morning Chronicle newspaper. A collection of his short articles was published a couple of years later, and was popular enough for him to serialize his first novel, The Pickwick Papers. Starting in March 1836, the newspapers would be responsible for much of his success, as a good part of his work was serialized there before later being collected in book form. Many modern readers note the episodic nature of his novels, designed to keep the audience riveted, waiting to see what will happen next. A couple of weeks after The Pickwick Papers’ serialization began, Dickens married his editor’s daughter, Catherine Thomson Hogarth, with whom he had 10 children. More novels soon followed: Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, Barnaby Rudge, all serialized before he turned 30. He lectured, traveled, wrote travelogues, and saw his popularity take another rise with the publication of A Christmas Carol in 1843. By 1856, he was successful enough to buy Gad’s Hill Place, the large manor in Kent, which he had walked past many times as a child (before the bad years in London) and had dreamed of living in. WORKS AND STYLE The most famous English author of the Victorian era, Charles Dickens entertained his audiences as a lecturer and novelist. His novels were serialized before being published as books, and so from his early 20s through most of his life, readers were kept on the edge of their seats from month to month or week to week, waiting for the next development. He indulged the impulses of popular entertainment while at the same time taking a firm and explicit stand on the social problems of his day (and to some extent, of all days). Known for his episodic structures, his vivid characters, and their sometimes cartoonish traits and names, Dickens was also a harsh critic of the conditions forced upon the working class. Most of his novels reflect this. The social realism of his work is undercut—deliberately, to some extent—by the sentimentality of some of his scenes and the unwavering goodness of some characters. He was vehemently opposed to the law and society’s treatment of the poor, a theme that repeats throughout his catalogue of works. Among his best-known, early novels are The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby. In his life, some of his most popular works were those that were serialized weekly, full of broad characters and cliffhangers: The Old Curiosity Shop, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations. The Old Curiosity Shop was so popular in the United States that when new shipments of Master Humphrey’s Clock (the periodical in which it was published) arrived on the docks, crowds would shout out, asking about the fate of Little Nell. But Dickens is maybe best known for A Christmas Carol, an effective Christmas story with a supernatural element and a down-to-earth condemnation of the industrial London society and its effect on working-class families. Carol is cited by many as the source of much of Christmas’s popularity in the Western world today. LATER YEARS As Dickens’ success grew, his marriage suffered for it. He separated from his wife, providing a house for her for the next 20 years; divorce was rare in Victorian times, especially among public figures. In 1865, Dickens was one of the passengers in a train crash, and avoided an appearance at the inquest—the inquiry into the circumstances of the crash—because he was traveling with his female friend (and possible lover, though it’s uncertain) Ellen Ternan, and was legally still married. The crash ended the prolific stream of his writing, though he didn’t suffer any injury. He finished Our Mutual Friend, the novel he had been working on at the time of the crash, but never finished his next manuscript, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. He died of a stroke five years to the day after the crash.

Charles Dickens (1812–1870) has been widely regarded as one of the greatest British writers of the 19th century. His novels, including A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, and A Tale of Two Citi...

FRANZ LISZT (October 22, 1811 – July 31st, 1886) Hungarian pianist, composer, and teacher. Main accomplishments:
  • Taught piano and composition to many students, including Julius Eichberg, Hermann Cohen, and Sophie Menter-Popper.
  • Inventor of the piano recital, the symphonic poem, and the masterclass.
  • Namesake of the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition and the Franz Liszt Academy of Music.
EARLY LIFE Liszt was born in the small village of Doborján, Hungary, in what was then called the Austrian Empire. His parents were Ádám and Anna Liszt, the former being the steward of the village. By all accounts, Liszt had a good relationship with his parents and a relatively happy childhood. His incredible talent for the piano became apparent at an incredibly early age. He began taking lessons from his father at the age of six and displayed such incredible talent that a group of wealthy patrons decided to sponsor his education. The Liszts traveled to Vienna, where Franz made his public debut at a concert in 1811- at the age of 11. While studying in Vienna, Franz received lessons from Carl Czerny and Antonio Salieri, and is reported to have received praise from Beethoven himself. MUSICAL CAREER In 1823, Liszt decided to journey to Paris, where he attended a concert by the virtuoso violinist Paganini. Liszt was captivated by the violin and became motivated to become the greatest pianist in the world. He was said to have practiced ten hours a day, and it was during this time that he began to start composing his own music. His first composition, Variation on a Waltz by Diabelli, was published in 1824. Utterly determined to perfect his skills as a pianist, Liszt began touring Europe and putting on concerts in Weimar, where he lived. Not only did Liszt spread the popularity of his own music, but he also championed the works of Berlioz and Wagner. PEAK Liszt was a popular musician and got on well with many other famous artists of the day, including Richard Wagner and Frederic Chopin. Although Liszt and Chopin started as friends, they eventually became rivals and bitter enemies. Whereas Chopin was a shy, reclusive genius, Liszt was an outgoing public figure and one of the world’s earliest major celebrities. In addition to being a genuinely talented musician, Liszt was a master of the public performance. “Lisztomania” was only beginning to take hold during the 1830’s and early 1840’s, but even then Liszt was considered a cultural icon. Young, handsome, and extremely intelligent, he captivated audiences and had more than a few love affairs. In the late 1830’s he lived with Marie Catherine Sophie de Flavigny, with whom he had two daughters and a son. His most prominent affair, however, was with the Polish Princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, with whom he lived until his death. The two were unable to marry by Vatican law as the princess had never obtained a divorce from her previous marriage—a fact that crushed Liszt. LATER YEARS Liszt’s international fame endured into the 1860’s, at which point the deaths of his son and daughter led him to retire in Rome. He joined the Franciscan order in 1857 and took to a monastic lifestyle in which his musical pursuits were focused almost entirely on church music. During the 1860’s and 70’s, he divided his time between Rome, Weimar, and Budapest, where he taught masterclasses to students. In 1886, Liszt died of pneumonia at the age of 74. He was buried in Bayreuth, Germany, and was succeeded by his daughter Cosima.

One of the most singularly talented pianists of all time, Franz Liszt (1811–1886) dominated the musical world of the 19th century. An unrivaled virtuoso who also composed his own music, Liszt laid t...

FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN (March 1st, 1810 – October 17th, 1849) Polish pianist and composer. Main accomplishments:
  • Composed over 200 piano pieces, which continue to be studied and performed by pianists today. These include his Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, which most people would recognize for the famous “funeral march” segment, as well as his "Minute" Waltz, Op. 64 no. 1.
  • Experimented with new playing techniques that revolutionized the use of the piano as an instrument; among these were his creative use of the damper pedal and new finger placements. Because Chopin wrote exclusively for the piano, he was able to exploit the instrument’s potential and to craft innovative compositions that the world had never before seen.
  • Was the first to apply the term “ballad” to a purely instrumental piece (for the piano, naturally). The concept of the instrumental ballad would later be adopted by such composers as Johannes Brahms, Franz Liszt, and Claude Debussy, among others.
EARLY LIFE Chopin was born in Zelazowa Wola, Poland, to a family of middle-class French immigrants- they later moved to Warsaw when he was seven months old. There is a measure of confusion over his actual birth date: his baptismal certificate marks it as February 22nd, but Chopin himself and his family later claimed that he was born on March 1st. His father Nicolas tutored Polish students in the French language, but otherwise kept no attachment to his French roots, and young Frédéric was raised inextricably Polish. His older sister Ludwika tutored him in the piano; the two remained close throughout his life. Like Mozart and Beethoven before him, Chopin’s musical genius became apparent at a very early age. In a family of talented musicians, Chopin stood out: he performed his first piano concert at the staggering age of 7, and shortly thereafter began to compose his own pieces. He was first tutored by the violinist Wojciech Żywny, then by Wilhelm Würfel, then by Józef Elsner. The latter would introduce him to the Warsaw Conservatory, a school he had founded, where Chopin spent his young adulthood. Elsner was insistent that Chopin be allowed to develop at his own pace, refusing to force the young pianist into traditional styles. RISING FAME After leaving the Conservatory as part of the Great Polish Emigration, Chopin made concert appearances in Vienna and his home in Warsaw before settling in Paris, where he would live the rest of his life. It was shortly after arriving in Paris in 1831 that Chopin began to struggle with his health: he suffered from tuberculosis, the disease that would eventually kill his father, his younger sister Izabela, and Chopin himself. Chopin’s poor health prevented him from touring on a grand scale, but the scope of his compositions ensured his fame in the Paris musical scene, and his work as a music teacher kept him amply supplied with funds. Throughout the 1830s, Chopin composed some of his most famous piano pieces, and his concert performances met with rave reviews. He became friends with fellow composers such as Franz Liszt and opera composer Vincenzo Bellini, additionally, Robert Schumann was an early fan of his, famously exclaiming “Hats off, gentlemen! A genius!” in response to Chopin’s 1831 performance of Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" for piano and orchestra, Op. 2. Schumann seems to have written to Chopin several times, but Chopin never reciprocated, as he was not a fan of Schumann’s music. Although Chopin never married, he was very popular with women. At one point he was engaged to 17-year-old Maria Wodzińska, but his poor health coupled with her young age led her parents to break off the engagement. The most famous of Chopin’s lovers, however, was the Baroness Dudevant, Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin- better known by her writing alias, George Sand. The two first met at a party hosted by Countess Marie d’Agoult, where Chopin was initially “repulsed” by the woman. The two soon warmed up to each other, though, and despite never marrying they dated for ten years. FINAL YEARS 1846 marked the end of Chopin’s relationship with Sands and the beginning of the end of his life. Sands was tired of having to nurse Chopin’s poor health, and when Chopin took the side of her daughter Solange in an argument regarding Solange’s romances, Sands ended the relationship. Although the breakup was quiet, it had a terrible effect on Chopin: his works suffered because of his depression, and his health took a turn for the worse. As his fame declined, so too did Chopin’s health: his final years saw him crippled with illness, and he finally died on October 17th, 1849 at the young age of 39. Per his request, Mozart’s Requiem was played at the funeral, and he was buried in the Pére Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Of all the great composers, perhaps none have worked the piano as elegantly or extensively as Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849). A Polish child prodigy, Chopin dominated the Romantic movement with hundr...

CHARLES DARWIN (February 12, 1809 - April 19, 1882) British naturalist and author. Pioneered the evolutionary theory and challenged the relationship between science and religion. Main accomplishments:
  • Wrote several essays and 25 books about the natural world, including On The Origin Of Species (1859), The Descent Of Man (1871), and The Expression Of Emotion In Man And Animals (1872).
  • Boarded the HMS Beagle in 1831 and developed the revolutionary theory of natural selection along the way.
  • The namesake of Darwin Day, over 120 species, several geographical landmarks and locations, the humorous Darwin Awards, and in 2000 replaced Charles Dickens as the image on England’s ten-pound note.
EARLY LIFE Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, the son of a doctor and the grandson of Erasmus Darwin, a famous scientist (or "natural philosopher" as they were called at the time) whose work Zoonomia had concerned some of the early ideas of the developing theory of evolution. Zoonomia compared the gradual change of a species over generations in the development of a tadpole into a frog. On his mother's side, Darwin was also the grandson of Josiah Wedgwood, a wealthy industrialist who had started the first ceramics factory (he's the Wedgwood for which Wedgwood china is named). The legacies of his two grandfathers converged in Charles. After his education, he apprenticed with his father and studied medicine, but didn't have the stomach for the gruesomeness of life as a surgeon. While a medical student, he became interested in natural history, and Lamarck's theory of evolution—in which acquired characteristics are passed on to offspring. Lamarckian evolution has been disproven—it was forwarded before the discovery of DNA and our current understanding of heredity—but provided a good starting point for discussions of evolution, in no small part because it was observable. Animals could be monitored to see if such acquired characteristics were, in fact, retained by their offspring. Charles began studying natural history and geology instead of medicine, to the dismay of his father, who saw no financial security in such a field—and probably feared that the young man would change his mind again. Dr. Darwin enrolled his son at Christ's College in Cambridge, to prepare him for the Anglican clergy—and again Charles became distracted from his studies, neglecting them in favor of recreational activities and courses in natural history. It was at Christ's College that Darwin first encountered the idea of what would now be called "intelligent design"—the idea that theories of evolution were compatible with, and even evidence of, the idea of a Creator God. The ability of a species to adapt to its environment and to survive in harsh conditions—whether deep-sea animals or plant life that thrives in tumultuous climates—was thought to be evidence of a divine force shepherding its creations. In any event, as Darwin pursued many of the same interests that his grandfather Erasmus had enjoyed, he was funded by Josiah Wedgwood's money, much of which had been left to Dr Darwin when Wedgwood died years before Charles was born. Though the doctor despaired that his son might not ever settle on a productive career, he continued to let him find his own way, and that way led to Charles enlisting in an unpaid position—sort of like a modern-day unpaid internship—on the H.M.S. Beagle, which was embarking on a multi-year voyage to chart the South American coast. JOURNEY ABOARD THE H.M.S. BEAGLE The voyage took five years, during most of which time the ship docked at various ports as the coastline was surveyed and Darwin conducted his investigations of local geology and wildlife while collecting and cataloging specimens. His exposure to so many different species—both living and in the fossil record—so soon after his natural history education furthered his belief of many species being related, and as he noticed that closely-related species were nevertheless notably different from island to island, he theorized that the isolation was the cause of those differences: that species evolved, in other words, not only in response to different phenomena (so that members of the same species on two separate islands would, in time, diverge) but to some extent at random. In time he began to formulate his own ideas to account for these phenomena, but he began his entrance into serious scientific society slowly -- the first major paper he presented after the voyage of the Beagle was on the elevation of the South American continent, which he had observed when he found embedded seashells in the rock far above sea level, confirming earlier theories about the shifting of land masses. His return to England—and subsequent move to London—also involved him in the scientific and intellectual social circles of the 1830s, where the rationalism that had been espoused in the Enlightenment-inspired ideas as various as the ban of procreation among the poor (in order to combat famine and social ills) and new approaches to religion that eschewed superstition in favor of a concept of God that was compatible with science. While not devoutly religious or spiritual, Darwin was certainly no atheist—he saw no need to disavow the existence of God to further his theories or those of others. CAREER AND THEORIES In looking over his notes from the voyage and the information provided to him by other natural historians, he began to make private theories about the evolutionary trees of the species on the Galapagos islands and elsewhere, charting what seemed to be the relations between species which had evolved and diverged—he used the word "transmutation" for the process, which in its usage in alchemy had implied an active external force—upon their arrival on separate islands. He conducted most of his transmutation work in private—at least, without publishing it or presenting it—while interviewing all the experts, he could find on the relevant subfields, working for the Geological Society (a prestigious intellectual society based in London), and presenting papers in other areas of natural history. The workload drove him to exhaustion, and he suffered frequent health problems. Some believe that he may have suffered from severe stress at the thought of the implications of his ideas. The theory of evolution did not originate with Darwin, it should be noted. The idea that one species would in time evolve to the point of becoming a separate species, and that this did not need to happen to all members of the species—accounting for the existence of both dogs and wolves, for instance, and the structural similarities between birds and dinosaur fossils (the idea of speciation, in short) had been bandied about for a long time. Darwin's contributions were enormous and twofold: first, with the theory of natural selection which he developed over a couple of decades and finally published in The Origin Of Species (1859), he argued that the development of species occurs primarily because among the set of heritable traits, the ones that most aid an organism in surviving and procreating become more common with each generation. Eventually, such selection of traits—the survival of the fittest—can result in an entirely new species, as well as in organisms well-adapted to specific conditions. The principle is fairly simple in theory: if having blue eyes makes a man more attractive to women, he has a better chance of having children, and if blue eyes can be inherited, then his children will have blue eyes. (In practice, not all traits are equally heritable, but the science of genetics did not yet exist—and indeed developed in large part because of Darwin's discoveries.) Likewise, an animal that has thick fur is more likely to survive in the Arctic, and more likely to pass on its genes; an animal that can trick its predators is more likely to pass on those genes. Natural selection is one of those rare scientific ideas that is almost entirely understandable to the layman, as it confirms both the way we understand the world to work and our observations. (A common observation is that the number of people wearing glasses has been increasing as better lenses have been developed—because having poor eyesight is no longer a deficit, and plays no part in an individual's survival or chances of procreation.) The anonymously written Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, a bestselling "popular science" book that dealt with extant theories of evolution among other topics, helped to convince Darwin to publish his notions. As he expected, they were received with controversy, though he was careful to avoid both the word evolution and any direct statement about the role of the human race. Though the Church of England condemned Darwin just as it had his fellows and predecessors, a group of theologians actually praised him as affirming the divine nature of the universe: representing a school of thought that mostly died off in the twentieth century as "evolutionism" and "creationism" came to be seen as antithetical enemies, these clergymen believed that superstition and belief in "miracles" were insults to God. God worked through laws, they argued, and any phenomenon that occurred could be explained by those laws—a "miracle" either simply hadn't been explained yet or didn't exist. Darwin's treatment of the origin of species, then, better demonstrated that the world is essentially non-random: that dogs and wolves exist not because a random universe spat out random animals, but because each evolved for different reasons, different purposes. An evolutionary world is an orderly and purposeful world. LATER LIFE  Darwin's illnesses continued, and it is assumed at this point that stress was a large factor. In 1871, he published his next major work and his second major contribution to the theory of evolution: The Descent of Man addressed the role of evolutionary principles in the human species, rejecting the racist notion that different "races" of man were separate species (a popular idea among supporters of slavery and imperialism, who argued that blacks and American Indians were as different from "white humans" as sheep were from wolves), emphasizing the role of sex in natural selection (the more attractive you are to a potential partner, the better your chances of passing on your genes), and dealing extensively with what is now called evolutionary psychology: the role of evolution in the history and development of the human brain. He later wrote further on this latter topic, dealing with the evolutionary origin of human emotions. It is only a slight overstatement to say that Darwin created a scientific subfield overnight. Psychology was in its early days in the 1870s—Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology, was still a teenager—which gave Darwin's notions just enough time to circulate among the scientific community in order to help to seed modern psychology and provide more tools with which to study the human condition. Few scientists, then or since, have managed to contribute so significantly to both biology and psychology—Darwin not only did so, but provided the discoveries and principles that have become cornerstones of the modern pursuit of both fields. He didn't seek controversy out. He continued to work on topics of much less interest to the public, as the role of earthworms in soil formation and the mechanics of fertilization among pollinating plants. When he died in 1882, just over a decade after the publication of The Descent of Man, he was given a state funeral and buried near Isaac Newton. 126 years later, the Church of England offered an official apology to Darwin, stating: “The Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still.”

British biologist Charles Darwin (1809–1882) laid the foundations of the theory of evolution and transformed the way we think about the natural world. Few books have influenced human thought more ...

JANE AUSTEN (December 16th, 1775 – July 18th, 1817) 
English novelist of romantic fictions.
Main accomplishments:
  • Author of four novels during her lifetime, Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), and Emma (1815).
  • Author of two novels, Northanger Abbey (1817) and Persuasion(1817), published directly after her death by her brother Henry.
  • Author of three volumes of Juvenilia, including Memoirs of Mr. Clifford, Love and Friendship, and The History of England 
  Though relatively unknown during her lifetime, Jane Austen is among the most widely read novelists in English literature. Her literary classics, such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, bridge the gap between romance and realism. EARLY LIFE 
Jane Austen was born in Hampshire, England, as the seventh of eight children. Her parents were George and Cassandra Austen, both of whom had ties to the aristocracy. George Austen was a clergyman at Steventon Rectory, who taught live-in students and had an extensive library, which were Austen’s primary sources of education. Austen only had one sister, Cassandra, and they were inseparable friends throughout their lifetimes. She died on July 18, 1817, at the age of 41, and was outlived by all of her immediate family members except her father, who died in 1805.
Austen’s parents encouraged her and her siblings to read from the library, and as children, they wrote and conducted plays and charades. Her family always supported her writing. In 1783, she, her older sister Cassandra, and their cousin Jane Cooper were sent to Mrs Cawley’s boarding school in Oxford, where they learned to sew and speak French. Austen’s father needed the extra rooms in their house and the profit they made from his live-in students. Their formal education here ended after a little over a year when they caught typhus. After a year recuperating at home, the girls were again sent to boarding school, this time with Madame La Tournelle at Reading Ladies’ Boarding School in what used to be Abbey Gateway. Here, they learned spelling, needlework, and French. They stayed for less than two years before Austen’s father removed them from the school because he felt she could learn more at home. Thus ending her formal education permanently.
Austen lived in Steventon, Hampshire until 1801, when she was 25. She moved with her mother, father, and sister to Bath, where they lived until George Austen passed away four years later. Each unable to own property during this period were forced into an unstable lifestyle of constant moving between the houses of family members. By 1809, her brother Edward, who had been adopted by wealthy relatives to inherit their fortune, settled them into Chawton Cottage in Hampshire where Austen wrote and published most of her works.
Austen learned much from her brothers. James, the firstborn who was ten years older than her, organized and directed plays, modeling playwriting for her. She kept notebooks in which she wrote her early works, now referred to as the Juvenilia.
Austen filled three volumes with Juvenilia between 1787 and 1793. These include Love and Freindship (intentionally misspelled as a parody), a satire titled History of England, and Lady Susan, an epistolary that her brother Henry renamed Catherine. Her notebooks also included sketches of what was to become Sense and Sensibility. One now resides in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, while the other two are on display in the British Museum in London.
By 1775, Austen was working on First Impressions (that became Pride and Prejudice), and Northanger Abbey, a satire on Gothic literature. Her most productive time for writing was while she was living at Chawton Cottage, which is when she published her first four books. Austen chose to publish anonymously, a standard for women in the early 19th century.
In 1795, Austen fell in love with Tom Lefroy, a neighbor’s nephew studying to be a barrister in London. The Lefroy family separated them because they were supporting him during his studies and found the romance impractical. Afterward, Jane and Tom were kept apart every time he came back to Steventon. In 1801, Austen experienced a new romance. Harris Bigg-Wither, a wealthy Oxford graduate and family friend, proposed to her. Austen agreed but rescinded the next day, and later in a letter to a niece gave the advice not to wed if affection is not present, a reflection of the characters in her novels. If Austen had married Bigg-Wither, it would have made her independent of her family’s finances, helped her mother and sister after their father’s death, and benefited her brothers’ careers. While living in Chawton Cottage during her 30s, Austen began publishing her works anonymously. In 1816, she was afflicted with what biographers believe to be Addison’s disease and named her sister Cassandra as her heir. She continued to write, working on The Elliots and beginning Sanditon, which was never completed. Austen died July 18, 1817, at age 42, and her grave mentions nothing of her being an author. The first collected edition of Austen’s novels were published in 1833 by Richard Bentley, and they have never since been out of print.
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Though relatively unknown during her lifetime, Jane Austen (1775–1817) is among the most widely read novelists in English literature. Her literary classics, such as Pride and Prejudice and Se...