Gleanings from the Past #92

Etymology of Peebles Dr. Dalgleish, minister of Peebles, in giving a statistical account of that parish for Sir John Sinclair’s immense compilation, simply stated, that the place must have derived its name from the pebbles which are found there in great quantity. The more elaborate antiquary George Chalmers, by a tolerable pun for a man […]

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A Witty Exchange

  George Bernard Shaw (left) and Winston Churchill (right) When playwright George Bernard Shaw started a new play, he invited Winston Churchill to attend the opening night. He thought of a witty message, then wired the following invitation to Churchill: Have reserved two tickets for my first night. Come and bring a friend, if you […]

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The Big Universe

In his book, The Book of Naturalists (1944), naturalist William Beebe related an interesting anecdote about him and his friend Theodore Roosevelt during his visits to Sagamore Hill, Roosevelt’s residence. Roosevelt and Beebe would go out after an evening of talk and dinner and search the night sky until they locate the faint spot of light-mist […]

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Gleanings from the Past #89

Default The credit department of the Hudson’s Bay Co. received this letter from a Canadian farmer: “I got your letter about what I owe. Now be pachant. I ain’t forgot you. When I have the money I will pay you. If this was the Judgment Day and you was no more prepared to meet your […]

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An Einstein Legend

Legend has it that an apple falling from a tree and then subsequently hitting Isaac Newton on the head is said to have provided Newton the idea of the gravitational force. This is a well-known and often told legend in physics. There is a lesser-known legend that explains Einstein’s discovery of his theory of the […]

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Short-Term Memory

Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784)  once boasted about his amazing memory prowess to his friend Bennet Langton (1736 – 1801). As a demonstration, he said that he can recite an entire chapter of The Natural History of Iceland, a 1758 translation of Niels Horrebow’s work. When asked to prove his claim, he said: Chap. LXXII. Concerning […]

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Deep Lines

T. S. Eliot (left) and Carl Sandburg (right) In the January 19, 1980 edition of the New York Times Book Review, editor T. O’Connor Sloane III told the following story: Many years ago, when Robert Giroux was editor-in-chief of Harcourt, Brace, he told me this little anecdote. He was expecting a visit from T. S. Eliot one […]

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Checks Written in Blood

Charles K. Feldman (left) and Alexander Korda (right) Film producer Charles K. Feldman (1905 – 1968) related this story: I lost at gin rummy with Alexander Korda one evening, and mailed him a check next day. It was written in red ink, and accompanied by this note: “Dear Alex: You will see that this check is written in […]

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“This Is Trivial” (Or Is It?)

There was a popular anecdote about mathematician G. H. Hardy (1877 – 1947) that goes like this: While conducting a lecture on Number Theory, he said that a certain mathematical notion was trivial. But after a little while, he hesitated and asked, “Is it trivial?” He then excused himself and went to his office. After […]

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Gleanings from the Past #79

Understanding Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy ready-made things in the shops. But since there are no shops where you can buy friends, men no longer have any friends. ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943 What Is a Mirror? Then the cow asked: “What is a mirror?” “It is […]

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