31 March, 2009

Otto Geist

Otto William Geist was an archaeologist, explorer, and naturalist who worked in the circumpolar north and for the University of Alaska for much of his adult life. The Otto William Geist Building, named in his honor, on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus houses the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

Geist was born in Kircheiselfing, Bavaria, to Franz Antone Geist and his wife. He had 14 brothers and sisters.

Geist came to Alaska in the early 1920s with his brother Josef, and worked for the Alaska Railroad, as an engineer on board the sternwheeler Teddy R., and as a miner in Bettles, Alaska. In 1925 he began collecting Native artifacts and in 1926 began collecting for the university, with support from university president Charles E. Bunnell.

During World War II, Geist helped to organize the Alaska Territorial Guard.

27 March, 2009

J.B.S. Haldane

John Burdon Sanderson Haldane was a British-born geneticist and evolutionary biologist. He was one of the founders (along with Ronald Fisher and Sewall Wright) of population genetics.

Haldane was born in Oxford to physiologist John Scott Haldane and Louisa Kathleen Haldane (née Trotter), and descended from an aristocratic intellectual Scottish family. His younger sister, Naomi, became a writer. His uncle was Richard Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane, politician and one time Secretary of State for War; his aunt was the author Elizabeth Haldane. His father was a scientist, a philosopher and a Liberal, and his mother was a Conservative. Haldane took interest in his father’s work very early in his childhood.

He was educated at Eton and New College Oxford and served in the British Army during the First World War in the Black Watch regiment.

Between 1919 and 1922 he was a Fellow of New College, Oxford, then moved to Cambridge University, where he accepted a Readership in Biochemistry at Trinity College and taught there until 1932. During his nine years at Cambridge, Haldane worked on enzymes and genetics, particularly the mathematical side of genetics. Haldane wrote many popular essays on science that were eventually collected and published in 1927 in a volume entitled Possible Worlds.

He then accepted a position as Professor of Genetics and moved to University College London where he spent most of his academic career. Four years later he became the first Weldon Professor of Biometry at University College London.

In 1923, in a talk given in Cambridge, Haldane, foreseeing the exhaustion of coal for power generation in Britain, proposed a network of hydrogen-generating windmills. This is the first proposal of the hydrogen-based renewable energy economy.

In 1925, G. E. Briggs and Haldane derived a new interpretation of the enzyme kinetics law described by Victor Henri in 1903, different from the 1913 Michaelis-Menten equation. Leonor Michaelis and Maud Menten assumed that enzyme (catalyst) and substrate (reactant) are in fast equilibrium with their complex, which then dissociates to yield product and free enzyme. The Briggs-Haldane equation was of the same algebraic form, but their derivation is based on the quasi steady state approximation, that is the concentration(s) of intermediate complex(es) do(es) not change. As a result, the microscopic meaning of the "Michaelis Constant" (km) is different. Although commonly referring it as Michaelis-Menten kinetics, most of the current models actually use the Briggs-Haldane derivation.

Haldane made many contributions to human genetics and was one of the three major figures to develop the mathematical theory of population genetics. He is usually regarded as the third of these in importance, after R. A. Fisher and Sewall Wright. His greatest contribution was in a series of ten papers on "A Mathematical Theory of Natural and Artificial Selection" which was the major series of papers on the mathematical theory of natural selection. It treated many major cases for the first time, showing the direction and rates of changes of gene frequencies. It also pioneered in investigating the interaction of natural selection with mutation and with migration. Haldane's book, The Causes of Evolution (1932), summarized these results, especially in its extensive appendix. This body of work was a component of what came to be known as the "modern evolutionary synthesis", re-establishing natural selection as the premier mechanism of evolution by explaining it in terms of the mathematical consequences of Mendelian genetics.

Haldane introduced many quantitative approaches in biology such as in his essay On Being the Right Size. His contributions to theoretical population genetics and statistical human genetics included the first methods using maximum likelihood for estimation of human linkage maps, and pioneering methods for estimating human mutation rates. His was the first to calculate the mutational load caused by recurring mutations at a gene locus, and to introduce the idea of a "cost of natural selection".

Haldane is also known for an observation from his essay, On Being the Right Size, which Jane Jacobs and others have since referred to as Haldane's principle. This is that sheer size very often defines what bodily equipment an animal must have: "Insects, being so small, do not have oxygen-carrying bloodstreams. What little oxygen their cells require can be absorbed by simple diffusion of air through their bodies. But being larger means an animal must take on complicated oxygen pumping and distributing systems to reach all the cells." The conceptual metaphor to animal body complexity has been of use in energy economics and secession ideas.

Haldane was a keen experimenter, willing to expose himself to danger to obtain data. One experiment involving elevated levels of oxygen saturation triggered a fit which resulted in him suffering crushed vertebrae. In his decompression chamber experiments, he and his volunteers suffered perforated eardrums, but, as Haldane stated in What is Life, "the drum generally heals up; and if a hole remains in it, although one is somewhat deaf, one can blow tobacco smoke out of the ear in question, which is a social accomplishment."

In 1952, he received the Darwin Medal from the Royal Society. In 1956, he was awarded the Huxley Memorial Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Among other awards, he received the Feltrinelli Prize, an Honorary Doctorate of Science, an Honorary Fellowship at New College, and the Kimber Award of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the Linnean Society of London's prestigious Darwin-Wallace Medal in 1958.

Haldane became a socialist during World War I, supported the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War and finally become a Communist. He was an enthusiastic, idealistic Marxist, and wrote many articles in the Communist Daily Worker. He was the chairman of the editorial board of the London edition for several years.

His vision of the Socialist principle can be considered pragmatic. In On being the right size, Haldane doubted that socialism could be operated on the scale of the British Empire or the United States or, implicitly, the Soviet Union: "while nationalization of certain industries is an obvious possibility in the largest of states, I find it no easier to picture a completely socialized British Empire or United States than an elephant turning somersaults or a hippopotamus jumping a hedge."

In 1937, Haldane became a Marxist and an open supporter of the Communist Party although not a member of the party. In 1938, he proclaimed enthusiastically that "I think that Marxism is true." He joined the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1942. The first edition of his children's book My Friend Mr. Leakey contained an avowal of his Party membership which was removed from later editions.

Events in the Soviet Union, such as the rise of anti-Mendelian agronomist Trofim Lysenko and the crimes of Stalin, may have caused him to break with the Party later in life, although he showed a partial support of Lysenko and Stalin. Pressed to speak out about the rise of Lysenkoism and the persecution of geneticists in the Soviet Union as anti-Darwinist and the denouncement of genetics as incompatible with dialectical materialism, Haldane shifted the focus to the United Kingdom and a criticism of the dependence of scientific research on financial patronage.

In 1941, Haldane wrote about the Soviet trial of his friend and fellow geneticist Nikolai Vavilov:

"The controversy among Soviet geneticists has been largely one between the academic scientist, represented by Vavilov and interested primarily in the collection of facts, and the man who wants results, represented by Lysenko. It has been conducted not with venom, but in a friendly spirit. Lysenko said (in the October discussions of 1939): 'The important thing is not to dispute; let us work in a friendly manner on a plan elaborated scientifically. Let us take up definite problems, receive assignments from the People's Commissariat of Agriculture of the USSR and fulfill them scientifically. Soviet genetics, as a whole, is a successful attempt at synthesis of these two contrasted points of view.'"

His ambiguous attitude toward the persecution of Vavilov was explainable by the atmosphere of the period, where the involvement in the Communist movement needed an all-or-nothing stand. His attitude changed dramatically at the end of World War II, when Lysenkoism reached a totalitarian influence in the Communist movement. He then become an explicit critic of the regime.

He left the Party in 1950, shortly after considering standing for Parliament as a Communist Party candidate. He continued to admire Stalin, describing him in 1962 as "a very great man who did a very good job."

The most famous of Haldane's many students, John Maynard Smith, shared his mixture of political and scientific interests to some extent, but broke away from the Communist Party in 1956.

Haldane's move to India, initially to the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) was influenced by a number of factors. Officially he stated that his chief political reason was in response to the Suez Crisis. He wrote: "Finally, I am going to India because I consider that recent acts of the British Government have been violations of international law." His interest in India was also due to his interest in biological research, belief that the warm climate would do him good and that India offered him freedom and shared socialist dreams.

At the ISI, he headed the biometry unit and spent time researching a range of topics and guiding other researchers around him. He was keenly interested in inexpensive research and he wrote to Julian Huxley about his observations on Vanellus malabaricus boasting that he made them from the comfort of his backyard. Haldane took an interest in anthropology, human genetics and botany. He advocated the use of Vigna sinensis (cowpea) as a model for studying plant genetics. He took an interest in the pollination of the common weed Lantana camara. The quantitative study of biology was his main focus and he lamented that Indian universities forced those who took up biology to give up on an education in mathematics. Haldane took an interest in the study of floral symmetry. His wife, Helen Spurway, conducted studies on wild silk moths. He was also interested in Hinduism and after his arrival he became a vegetarian. Unable to get along with the director, P.C. Mahalanobis, Haldane resigned in February 1961 and moved to a newly established biometry unit in Orissa.

Haldane became an Indian citizen.

Haldane was a famous science popularizer. His essay, Daedalus; or, Science and the Future (1924), was remarkable in predicting many scientific advances but has been criticized for presenting a too idealistic view of scientific progress. Haldane’s book shows the effect of the separation between sexual life and pregnancy as a satisfactory one on human psychology and social life. The book was regarded as shocking science fiction at the time, being the first book about ectogenesis (the development of foetuses in artificial wombs) - "test tube babies", brought to life without sexual intercourse or pregnancy.

Haldane was a friend of the author Aldous Huxley, who parodied him in the novel "Antic Hay" (1923) as Shearwater, "the biologist too absorbed in his experiments to notice his friends bedding his wife". Haldane's discourse in Daedalus on ectogenesis was an influence on Huxley's Brave New World (1932) which features a eugenic society.

C. S. Lewis wrote much of his three interplanetary space novels, The Space Trilogy, in response to Haldane, whom Lewis considered to be an immoral man. Lewis modelled the character Weston, featured in the first two books, Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, on Haldane.

Haldane was one of those, along with Olaf Stapledon, Charles Kay Ogden, I. A. Richards, and H. G. Wells, whom Lewis accused of scientism, "the belief that the supreme moral end is the perpetuation of our own species, and that this is to be pursued even if, in the process of being fitted for survival, our species has to be stripped of all those things for which we value it—-of pity, of happiness, and of freedom." Shortly after the third book of the Ransom Trilogy appeared, J. B. S. Haldane criticised all three of them in an article entitled "Auld Hornie, F.R.S.". The title reflects the sarcastic tone of the article, Auld Hornie being the pet name given to the devil by the Scots and F.R.S. standing for "Fellow of the Royal Society". Lewis’s response, "A Reply to Professor Haldane", was never published during his lifetime and apparently never seen by Haldane. In it, Lewis claims that he was attacking scientism, not scientists, by challenging the view of some that the supreme goal of our species is to perpetuate itself at any expense.

Haldane died on 1 December 1964.

26 March, 2009

Archie Cochrane

Professor Archie Cochrane was born in Kirklands, Galashiels, Scotland. He qualified in 1938 at University College Hospital, London, at University College London and joined the Medical Research Council's Pneumoconiosis Unit at Llandough Hospital, a part of Cardiff University School of Medicine in 1948. Here he began a series of studies on the health of the population of Rhondda Fach — studies which pioneered the use of randomised controlled trials (RCTs).

Archie Cochrane’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War, where he served as a member of a British Ambulance Unit, and later during World War II as Medical Officer at a number of prisoner of war camps, had a profound and lasting effect on his future practice of medicine.

In 1960 he was appointed David Davies Professor of Tuberculosis and Chest Diseases at the Welsh National School of Medicine, now Cardiff University School of Medicine and nine years later became Director of the new Medical Research Council’s Epidemiology Research Unit at 4 Richmond Road, Cardiff.

His 1971 Rock Carling monograph Effectiveness and Efficiency: Random Reflections of Health Services was very influential. These ideas and his advocacy of randomized controlled trials eventually led to the development of the Cochrane Library database of systematic reviews, the establishment of the UK Cochrane Centre in Oxford and the international Cochrane Collaboration.

R.A. Fisher

Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher was an English statistician, evolutionary biologist, and geneticist. He was described by Anders Hald as "a genius who almost single-handedly created the foundations for modern statistical science" and Richard Dawkins described him as "the greatest of Darwin's successors".

Fisher was born in East Finchley in London, England, to George and Katie Fisher. His father was a successful fine arts dealer. He had a happy childhood, being doted on by three older sisters, an older brother, and his mother, who died when Fisher was 14. His father lost his business in several ill-considered transactions only 18 months later.

Although Fisher had very poor eyesight he was a precocious student, winning the Neeld Medal (a competitive essay in Mathematics) at Harrow School at the age of 16. Because of his poor eyesight, he was tutored in mathematics without the aid of paper and pen, which developed his ability to visualize problems in geometrical terms, as opposed to using algebraic manipulations. He was legendary in being able to produce mathematical results without setting down the intermediate steps. He also developed a strong interest in biology, and, especially, evolution.

In 1909 he won a scholarship to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. There he formed many friendships and became enthralled with the heady intellectual atmosphere. At Cambridge, Fisher learned of the newly rediscovered theory of Mendelian genetics; he saw biometry—and its growing corpus of statistical methods—as a potential way to reconcile the discontinuous nature of Mendelian inheritance with continuous variation and gradual evolution. However, his foremost concern was eugenics, which he saw as a pressing social as well as scientific issue that encompassed both genetics and statistics. In 1911 he was involved in forming the Cambridge University Eugenics Society with such luminaries as John Maynard Keynes, R. C. Punnett and Horace Darwin (Charles Darwin's son). The group was active, and held monthly meetings, often featuring addresses by leaders of mainstream eugenics organizations, such as the Eugenics Education Society of London, founded by Charles Darwin's half-cousin, Francis Galton in 1909.

After graduating in 1912, Fisher was eager to join the army in anticipation of Great Britain's entry into World War I; however, he failed the medical examinations (repeatedly) because of his eyesight. Over the next six years, he worked as a statistician for the City of London. For his war work, he took up teaching physics and mathematics at a series of public schools, including Bradfield College in Berkshire, as well as aboard H.M. Training Ship Worcester. Major Leonard Darwin (another of Charles Darwin's sons) and an unconventional and vivacious friend he called Gudruna were almost his only contacts with his Cambridge circle. They sustained him through this difficult period. A bright spot in his life was that Gudruna matched him to her sister Eileen Guinness; they married in 1917 when she was only 17. With the sisters' help, he set up a subsistence farming operation on the Bradfield estate, where they had a large garden and raised animals, learning to make do on very little. They lived through the war without ever using their food coupons.

During this period, Fisher started writing book reviews for the Eugenic Review and gradually increased his interest in genetic and statistical work. He volunteered to undertake all such reviews for the journal, and was hired to a part-time position by Major Darwin. He published several articles on biometry during this period, including the ground-breaking "The Correlation Between Relatives on the Supposition of Mendelian Inheritance" , written in 1916 and published in 1918. This paper laid the foundation for what came to be known as biometrical genetics, and introduced the very important methodology of the analysis of variance, which was a considerable advance over the correlation methods used previously. The paper showed very convincingly that the inheritance of traits measurable by real values, the values of continuous variables, is consistent with Mendelian principles.

With the end of the war he went looking for a new job, and was offered one at the famed Galton Laboratory by Karl Pearson. Because he saw the developing rivalry with Pearson as a professional obstacle, however, he accepted instead a temporary job as a statistician with a small agricultural station in the country in 1919.

In 1919 Fisher started work at Rothamsted Experimental Station located at Harpenden, Hertfordshire, England. Here he started a major study of the extensive collections of data recorded over many years. This resulted in a series of reports under the general title Studies in Crop Variation. This began a period of great productivity. Over the next seven years, he pioneered the principles of the design of experiments and elaborated his studies of "analysis of variance". He furthered his studies of the statistics of small samples. Perhaps even more important, he began his systematic approach of the analysis of real data as the springboard for the development of new statistical methods. He began to pay particular attention to the labour involved in the necessary computations, and developed methods that were as practical as they were founded in rigour. In 1925, this work culminated in the publication of his first book, Statistical Methods for Research Workers. This went into many editions and translations in later years, and became a standard reference work for scientists in many disciplines. In 1935, this was followed by The Design of Experiments, which also became a standard.

In addition to "analysis of variance", Fisher invented the technique of maximum likelihood and originated the concepts of sufficiency, ancillarity, Fisher's linear discriminator and Fisher information. His 1924 article "On a distribution yielding the error functions of several well known statistics" presented Karl Pearson's chi-squared and Student's t in the same framework as the Gaussian distribution, and his own "analysis of variance" distribution z (more commonly used today in the form of the F distribution). These contributions easily made him a major figure in 20th century statistics.

In defending the use of the z distribution when the data were not Gaussian, Fisher introduced the "randomization test". According to biographers Yates and Mather, "Fisher introduced the randomization test, comparing the value of t or z actually obtained with the distribution of the t or z values when all possible random arrangements were imposed on the experimental data."

However, Fisher wrote that randomization tests were "in no sense put forward to supersede the common and expeditious tests based on the Gaussian theory of errors." Fisher thus effectively began the field of non-parametric statistics, even though he didn't believe it was a necessary move.

His work on the theory of population genetics also made him one of the three great figures of that field, together with Sewall Wright and J. B. S. Haldane, and as such was one of the founders of the neo-Darwinian modern evolutionary synthesis. In addition to founding modern quantitative genetics with his 1918 paper, he was the first to use diffusion equations to attempt to calculate the distribution of gene frequencies among populations. He pioneered the estimation of genetic linkage and gene frequencies by maximum likelihood methods, and wrote early papers on the wave of advance of advantageous genes and on clines of gene frequency. His 1950 paper on gene frequency clines is notable as the first application of computers to biology.

Fisher had a long and successful collaboration with E.B. Ford in the field of ecological genetics. The outcome of this work was the general recognition that the force of natural selection was often much stronger than had been appreciated before, and that many ecogenetic situations (such as polymorphism) were not selectively neutral, they were maintained by the force of selection. Fisher was the original author of the idea of heterozygote advantage, which was later found to play a frequent role in genetic polymorphism. The discovery of indisputable cases of natural selection in nature was one of the main strands in the modern evolutionary synthesis.

Fisher introduced the concept of Fisher information in 1925, some years before Shannon's notions of information and entropy. Fisher information has been the subject of renewed interest in the last few years, due to B. Roy Frieden's book Physics from Fisher Information, which attempts to derive the laws of physics from a Fisherian starting point.

Fisher was an ardent promoter of eugenics, which also stimulated and guided much of his work in the genetics of humans. His book The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection was started in 1928 and published in 1930. It contained a summary of what was already known to the literature. He developed ideas on sexual selection, mimicry and the evolution of dominance. He famously showed that the probability of a mutation increasing the fitness of an organism decreases proportionately with the magnitude of the mutation. He also proved that larger populations carry more variation so that they have a larger chance of survival. He set forth the foundations of what was to become known as population genetics.

About a third of the book concerned the applications of these ideas to humans, and presented what data there was available at the time. He presented a theory that attributed the decline and fall of civilizations to its arrival at a state where the fertility of the upper classes is forced down. Using the census data of 1911 for Britain, he showed that there was an inverse relationship between fertility and social class. This was partly due, he believed, to the rise in social status of families who were not capable of producing many children but who rose because of the financial advantage of having a small number of children. Therefore he proposed the abolishment of the economic advantage of small families by instituting subsidies (he called them allowances) to families with larger numbers of children, with the allowances proportional to the earnings of the father. He himself had two sons and six daughters. According to Yates and Mather, "His large family, in particular, reared in conditions of great financial stringency, was a personal expression of his genetic and evolutionary convictions."

The book was reviewed, among others, by physicist Charles Galton Darwin, a grandson of Charles Darwin's, and following publication of his review, C. G. Darwin sent Fisher his copy of the book, with notes in the margin. The marginal notes became the food for a correspondence running at least three years. Fisher's book The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection also had a major influence on the evolutionary biologist W. D. Hamilton and the development of his later theories on the genetic basis for the existence of kin selection.

Between 1929 and 1934 the Eugenics Society also campaigned hard for a law permitting sterilization on eugenic grounds. They believed that it should be entirely voluntary, and a right, not a punishment. They published a draft of a proposed bill, and it was submitted to Parliament. Although it was defeated by a 2:1 ratio, this was viewed as progress, and the campaign continued. Fisher played a major role in this movement, and served in several official committees to promote it.

In 1934, Fisher moved to increase the power of scientists within the Eugenics Society, but was ultimately thwarted by members with an environmentalist point of view, and he, along with many other scientists, resigned.

The interest in eugenics, and his experiences working on the Canadian farm, made Fisher interested in starting a farm of his own. In these plans he was encouraged by Gudruna, the wife of a college friend, and this led to him meeting Ruth Eileen Gratton Guinness, Gudruna's younger sister. Their father, Dr Henry Gratton Guinness, had died when they were young. Ruth Eileen was only sixteen years of age when she met Fisher. She knew that her mother would not approve of her marrying so young. As a result Fisher married Ruth Eileen at a secret wedding ceremony without her mother's knowledge, on 26 April 1917, only days after Ruth Eileen's 17th birthday. They had two sons and seven daughters, one of whom died in infancy. His daughter Joan married George E. P. Box and wrote a well-received biography of her father.

As an adult, Fisher was noted for his loyalty to his friends. Once he had formed a favourable opinion of any man, he was loyal to a fault. A similar sense of loyalty bound him to his culture. He was a patriot, a member of the Church of England, politically conservative, and a scientific rationalist. Much sought after as a brilliant conversationalist and dinner companion, he very early on developed a reputation for carelessness in his dress and, sometimes, his manners. In later years he was the archetype of the absent-minded professor.

He knew the scriptures well and H. Allen Orr describes him as "deeply devout Anglican who, between founding modern statistics and population genetics, penned articles for church magazines" in the Boston Review. But he was not dogmatic in his religious beliefs. In a 1955 broadcast on Science and Christianity, he said, "The custom of making abstract dogmatic assertions is not, certainly, derived from the teaching of Jesus, but has been a widespread weakness among religious teachers in subsequent centuries. I do not think that the word for the Christian virtue of faith should be prostituted to mean the credulous acceptance of all such piously intended assertions. Much self-deception in the young believer is needed to convince himself that he knows that of which in reality he knows himself to be ignorant. That surely is hypocrisy, against which we have been most conspicuously warned."

It was Fisher who referred to the growth rate r (used in equations such as the logistic function) as the Malthusian parameter, as a criticism of the writings of Thomas Robert Malthus. Fisher referred to "...a relic of creationist philosophy..." in observing the fecundity of nature and deducing (as Darwin did) that this therefore drove natural selection.

He received the recognition of his peers in 1929 when he was inducted into the Royal Society. His fame grew and he began to travel more and lecture to wider circles. In 1931 he spent six weeks at the Statistical Laboratory at Iowa State College in Ames, Iowa. He gave three lectures a week on his work, and met many of the active American statisticians, including George W. Snedecor. He returned again for another visit in 1936.

In 1933 he left Rothamsted to become a Professor of Eugenics at University College London. In 1937 he visited the Indian Statistical Institute (in Calcutta), which at the time consisted of one part-time employee, Professor P. C. Mahalanobis. He revisited there often in later years, encouraging its development. He was the guest of honour at its 25th anniversary in 1957 when it had grown to 2000 employees. In 1939, when World War II broke out, the University tried to dissolve the eugenics department, and ordered all of the animals destroyed. Fisher fought back, but he was then exiled back to Rothamsted with a much reduced staff and resources. He was unable to find any suitable war work, and though he kept very busy with various small projects, he became discouraged of any real progress. His marriage disintegrated. His oldest son, George, an aeroplane pilot, was killed in the war.

In 1943 he was offered the Balfour Chair of Genetics at Cambridge University, his alma mater. During the war, this department was almost entirely destroyed, but the University promised him that he would be charged with rebuilding it after the war. He accepted the offer, but the promises were largely unfilled, and the department grew very slowly. A notable exception was the recruitment in 1948 of the Italian researcher Cavalli-Sforza, who established a one man unit of bacterial genetics. He continued his work on mouse chromosome mapping and other projects. They culminated in the publication in 1949 of The Theory of Inbreeding. In 1947 he co-founded with Cyril Darlington the journal Heredity: An International Journal of Genetics.

Ronald Fisher was opposed to the UNESCO Statement of Race. He believed that evidence and everyday experience showed that human groups differ profoundly “in their innate capacity for intellectual and emotional development” and concluded that the “practical international problem is that of learning to share the resources of this planet amicably with persons of materially different nature,” and that “this problem is being obscured by entirely well-intentioned efforts to minimize the real differences that exist.” The revised 1951 statement titled "The Race Concept: Results of an Inquiry" was accompanied by Fisher's dissenting commentary.

He eventually received many awards for his work and was dubbed a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.

Fisher was opposed to the conclusions of Richard Doll and A.B. Hill that smoking caused lung cancer. He compared the correlations in their papers to a correlation between the import of apples and the rise of divorce in order to show that correlation does not imply causation.

To quote Yates and Mather again, "It has been suggested that the fact that Fisher was employed as consultant by the tobacco firms in this controversy casts doubt on the value of his arguments. This is to misjudge the man. He was not above accepting financial reward for his labours, but the reason for his interest was undoubtedly his dislike and mistrust of puritanical tendencies of all kinds; and perhaps also the personal solace he had always found in tobacco."

After retiring from Cambridge University in 1957 he spent some time as a senior research fellow at the CSIRO in Adelaide, Australia. He died of colon cancer there in 1962.

Ben Chifley

Joseph Benedict Chifley Australian politician and 16th Prime Minister of Australia, was one of Australia's most influential Prime Ministers. Among his government's accomplishments were the post-war immigration scheme under Arthur Calwell, the establishment of Australian citizenship in 1949, the Snowy Mountains Scheme, the national airline TAA, a social security scheme for the unemployed, and the founding of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). One of the few successful referenda to modify the Australian Constitution took place during his term.

Born in Bathurst, New South Wales, Chifley was the son of a blacksmith of Irish Roman Catholic descent. He was one of four brothers and between the ages of five and 14 was raised mostly by his grandfather, who lost all his savings in the bank crash of 1892: Chifley acquired his lifelong dislike of the private banks early. He was educated at Roman Catholic schools in Bathurst, and joined the New South Wales Railways at 15.

Ben Chifley became an engine driver. He was one of the founders of the AFULE (the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen) and an active member of the Labor Party. In 1914 he married Elizabeth Mackenzie. She was a Presbyterian; Chifley left the Roman Catholic Church to marry her and never returned. In 1917 he was one of the leaders of a prolonged strike which resulted in his being dismissed. He was reinstated by the Jack Lang New South Wales Labor government in 1920. He represented his union before industrial tribunals and taught himself industrial law.

In 1928, at his second try, Chifley won the Bathurst-based seat of Macquarie in the House of Representatives. He was in general a supporter of the James Scullin government's economic policies, and in 1931 he became Minister for Defence. At the 1931 general election, the Scullin government fell and Chifley lost his seat. During the Depression he survived on his wife's family's money and his part-ownership of the Bathurst newspaper the National Advocate.

In 1935 the Lyons government appointed him a member of the Royal Commission on Banking, a subject on which he had become an expert. He submitted a minority report advocating that the private banks be nationalised.

Chifley finally won his seat back in 1940, and the following year he became Treasurer (finance minister) in John Curtin's Labor government. Although Frank Forde was Curtin's deputy, Chifley became the minister Curtin most relied on, and he controlled most domestic policy while Curtin was preoccupied with the war effort. He presided over the massive increases in government expenditure and taxation that accompanied the war, and imposed a regime of economic regulation that made him very unpopular with business and the press.

When Curtin died in July 1945, Forde became (very briefly) Prime Minister, but Chifley defeated him in the leadership ballot and replaced him six days later. Once the war ended, normal political life resumed, and Chifley faced Robert Menzies and his new Liberal Party in the 1946 election, which Chifley comfortably won. In the post-war years, Chifley maintained wartime economic controls including the highly unpopular petrol rationing. He did this partly to help Britain in its postwar economic difficulties.

Feeling secure in power, Chifley decided it was time to advance towards Labor's objective of democratic socialism. In 1947 he announced the government's intention to nationalise the banks. This provoked massive opposition from the press, and middle-class opinion turned against Labor. The High Court of Australia eventually found Chifley's legislation to be unconstitutional.

In the winter of 1949 a prolonged and bitter strike in the coal industry caused unemployment and hardship. Chifley saw the strike as a move by the Communist Party to challenge Labor's place as the party of the working class, and he sent in the army to break the strike. Despite this, Menzies exploited the rising Cold War hysteria to portray Labor as soft on Communism.

These events, together with a perception that Chifley and Labor had grown increasingly arrogant in office, led to the sweeping Liberal election victory of December 1949. Chifley suffered a 48-seat swing--still the worst defeat of an incumbent government at the federal level in Australia. Chifley was now aged 64 and in poor health (like Curtin he was a lifelong smoker), but he refused to retire. Labor had retained control of the Senate, and Chifley took advantage of this to bring misery to the Menzies government at every turn. Menzies responded by introducing a bill to ban the Communist Party of Australia. He expected Chifley to reject it and give him an excuse to call double dissolution election. Menzies apparently hoped to repeat his "soft-on-Communism" theme to win a majority in both chambers. However, Chifley let the bill pass (it was ultimately thrown out by the High Court)

However, when Chifley rejected Menzies' banking bill a few months later, Menzies called a double dissolution election in April 1951. He succeeded in winning control of both Houses at the election.

A few weeks later Chifley died of a heart attack in his room at the Kurrajong Hotel in Canberra (he had lived there throughout his prime ministership, having refused to reside at The Lodge).

24 March, 2009

Dorus Rijkers

Theodorus "Dorus" Rijkers was a famous Dutch lifeboat captain and folk hero, most famous for his sea rescues of 487 shipwrecked victims over a total of 38 rescue operations, and at least 25 before joining the lifeboat-service.

Dorus received his nickname Grandpa (Dutch: Opa) while still a young man. He had married Neeltje Huisman, a fisherman's widow who already had 6 children. Shortly after the marriage, the oldest of Neeltje's daughters had a child of her own, and so at only 23 years old Dorus became known as Opa in Den Helder where he lived. Although the nickname began as a joke, Dorus soon started acting and looking like a grandpa, and from that time on he became primarily known by his nickname.

Dorus gained most of his fame as a result of his service to the Noord- en zuid-Hollandsche Redding Maatschappij (NZHRM), one of the two main Dutch lifeboat-societies at the time. The NZHRM would later become the Koninklijke Nederlandse Redding Maatschappij (KNRM).

However his life-saving career began in 1872 before he joined the NZHRM, while acting as captain of his own boat. While at sea, he saved all 25 crew members of the barque Australia from drowning at sea. Because of this incident, Dorus gained a reputation as a rescuer, which preceded his joining the NZHRM as a volunteer. On the basis of his reputation, he was granted the position of coxswain upon joining the NZHRM without having to prove his qualifications. His rank of coxswain entitled him to immediately command his own boat and crew.

Although Dorus joined the NZHRM as a volunteer, he worked so many hours that it precluded him from taking on other paid work. Dorus and all of his crew members received a sum for each trial and each service.

During his nearly 30 years service with the NZHRM, Dorus saved hundreds of people from drowning at sea, becoming legendary long before his retirement. In the waters where he served, he saved such large number of people with such effectiveness that the survival statistics increased dramatically. At the end of his career, although he remained active, his role became more symbolic in nature.[citation needed]

In 1888, Dorus Rijkers met King William III of the Netherlands after rescuing sailors from the German barque Renown. The King gave Dorus a gold medal of honor and smoked a pipe with him.

A 1911 list showing Dorus most important between 1872-1911 rescues (including the Renown-rescue). Note that his full name, Theodorus, is used here.

In 1911, Dorus retired at age 64, after which he received only a very small pension. He struggled to make ends meet by eating simple food and living plainly.

During an October 1922 interview with Dr. L.A. Rademaker, editor of the Hague newspaper 'Het Vaderland', Dorus complained about his situation. He claimed that he had been forced to sell the gold medal of honour in order to buy himself a bicycle. The Helden der Zee Fonds 'Dorus Rijkers' (Dorus Rijkers Fund for the Heroes of the Sea) was created after Dorus' plight and that of other retired life-savers were chronicled in 'Het Vaderland'.

In April 1928, Dorus Rijkers died at the age of 81. He was given a funeral that was so grand that it resembled a state funeral in size and style. There was music, a big parade, thousands who came to pay their last respects including a large number of Marine Officers, also high ranking government officials, among them representatives of the Ministry of the Navy. The grandeur of his funeral showed the great public esteem in which Dorus was held at the time.

Ginger Baker

Peter Edward "Ginger" Baker is an English drummer, best known for his work with Cream. He is also known for his numerous associations with New World music and the use of African influences and other diverse collaborations such as his work with the rock band Hawkwind.

Baker gained fame as a member of the Graham Bond Organization, and then for becoming a member of the band Cream with Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton from 1966 until they disbanded in 1968. He later joined the group Blind Faith. In 1970 Baker formed toured and recorded with fusion rock group Ginger Baker's Air Force. He recorded Stratavarious in 1972, with the Nigerian pioneer of Afrobeat Fela Ransome-Kuti and the vocalist Bobby Tench from The Jeff Beck Group, an album released under his own name. Baker Gurvitz Army was formed in 1974 until its demise in 1976. Since then Baker has released many albums of ethnic fusion and jazz percussion and has recorded and toured with various jazz, classical and rock ensembles.

Baker's drumming attracted attention for its flamboyance, showmanship, and pioneering use of two bass drums instead of the conventional single bass kick drum. As a firmly established jazz drummer, he dislikes being referred to as a rock drummer. While at times performing in a similar way to Keith Moon from The Who, Baker also employs a more restrained style influenced by the British jazz groups he heard during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In his early days as a drummer he performed lengthy drum solos, the best known being the thirteen-minute drum solo "Toad" from Cream's double album Wheels of Fire. He is also noted for using a variety of other percussion instruments and for his application of African rhythms.

Baker formed and recorded with Ginger Baker's Energy and was involved in collaborations with Bill Laswell, jazz bassist Charlie Haden and jazz guitarist Bill Frisell. He was also member of Hawkwind, Atomic Rooster and Public Image. In 1994 he formed The Ginger Baker Trio and joined bassist Googe in Masters of Reality formed by producer, singer and guitarist Chris Goss.

Ginger Baker sat in for Fela Ransome-Kuti's drummer Tony Allen during recording sessions which were published in 1971 by the Regal Zonophone / Pathe Marconi label under the record title Live! and released through the Polydor label in 1972. Fela also appeared with Ginger Baker on Stratavarious alongside Bobby Gass, a pseudonym for Bobby Tench of The Jeff Beck Group, an album by Ginger Baker released on the Polydor label in the same year. Stratavarious was re-issued as a compilation along with the two complete Ginger Baker's Air Force albums entitled Do What You Like in 1998.

Baker and Bruce played together in the Graham Bond Organisation and Alexis Korner's ecletic Blues Incorporated before they accepted an invitation from Eric Clapton to join the band Cream in 1966. Cream disbanded during 1968 and in 1969 Baker joined Clapton along with Ric Grech and Steve Winwood in forming Blind Faith. Bruce and Clapton also played together near the end of Clapton's tenure with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. In 1994 Baker joined BBM (Bruce-Baker-Moore), a short-lived power trio with the lineup of Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Irish rock blues guitarist Gary Moore. During May 2005 Ginger Baker was reunited with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce for a Cream re-union at the Albert Hall in UK.

Nellie Fox

Jacob Nelson Fox was a Major League Baseball second baseman for the Chicago White Sox. Fox was born in St. Thomas Township, Pennsylvania. He was selected as the MVP of the American League in 1959. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

Fox began his career with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1947, though he was never a full-time starter during his three seasons with the team. Traded to the White Sox October 29, 1949, Fox's career took off. He spent 14 seasons with Chicago, making 10 All-Star teams. He played his final two seasons (1964-65) with the Houston Colt .45s and Astros.

With the White Sox, Fox played next to a pair of slick-fielding shortstops, Venezuelans Chico Carrasquel (1950-55) and Hall-of-Famer Luis Aparicio (1956-62), and was, year after year, a member of the best defensive infield in the League. Fox won Gold Gloves in 1957, 1959 and 1960.

Only 5-foot-9, he made up for his modest size and minimal power — he hit only 35 home runs in his career, and never more than six in a single season — with his good batting eye, excellent fielding, and base running speed. Fox was perennially one of the toughest batters to strike out, fanning just 216 times in his career, an average of once every 42.7 at-bats which ranks him 3rd all-time. He led the league in most at-bats per strikeouts a phenomenal 13 times in his career. Although not known as a great hitter (lifetime .288 batting average), he batted over .300 six times, with 2,663 hits, 355 doubles, and 112 triples. He also led the league in singles for seven straight years, in triples once, and in hits four times.

After his playing career, Fox was a coach for the Astros (1965-67) and the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers (1968-72).

Nellie Fox died of lung cancer in Baltimore, Maryland in 1975.

Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

Theodor Seuss Geisel was an American writer and cartoonist, most widely known for his children's books written under his pen name, Dr. Seuss. He published over 60 children's books, which were often characterized by imaginative characters, rhyme, and frequent use of trisyllabic meter. His most celebrated books include the bestselling Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Numerous adaptations of his work have been created, including eleven television specials, three feature films, and a Broadway musical.

Geisel also worked as an illustrator for advertising campaigns, most notably for Flit and Standard Oil, and as a political cartoonist for PM, a New York City newspaper. During World War II, he worked in an animation department of the U.S Army, where he wrote Design for Death, a film that later won the 1947 Academy Award for Documentary Feature.

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2, 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts to Henrietta Seuss and Theodor Robert Geisel. His father, the son of German immigrants, managed the family brewery and after Theodor was married, supervised Springfield's public park system. Geisel was raised in the Lutheran faith and remained a member of the denomination his entire life. Geisel attended Springfield's Central High School and entered Dartmouth College in fall 1921 as a member of the Class of 1925. At Dartmouth, Geisel joined the humor magazine Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern, eventually rising to the rank of editor-in-chief. While at Dartmouth, Geisel was caught throwing a drinking party, violating national Prohibition laws of the time. As a result, the school insisted that he resign from all extracurricular activities. In order to continue his work on the Jack-O-Lantern without the administration's knowledge, Geisel began signing his work with the pen name "Seuss"; his first work signed as "Dr. Seuss" appeared after he graduated, six months into his work for humor magazine The Judge where his weekly feature Birdsies and Beasties appeared. At Dartmouth he was encouraged in his writing by professor of rhetoric W. Benfield Pressey, a beloved teacher who took a keen interest in Geisel's emerging talent.

After Dartmouth, he entered Lincoln College, Oxford, intending to earn a D.Phil in literature. At Oxford he met his future wife Helen Palmer; he married her in 1927, and returned to the United States without earning the degree. The "Dr." in his pen name is an acknowledgment of his father's unfulfilled hopes that Geisel would earn a doctorate at Oxford.

He began submitting humorous articles and illustrations to Judge, The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Vanity Fair, and Liberty. One notable "Technocracy Number" made fun of the Technocracy movement and featured satirical rhymes at the expense of Frederick Soddy. He became nationally famous from his advertisements for Flit, a common insecticide at the time. His slogan, "Quick, Henry, the Flit!" became a popular catchphrase. Geisel supported himself and his wife through the Great Depression by drawing advertising for General Electric, NBC, Standard Oil, and many other companies. He also wrote and drew a short-lived comic strip called Hejji in 1935.

In 1937, while Geisel was returning from an ocean voyage to Europe, the rhythm of the ship's engines inspired the poem that became his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.[citation needed] Geisel wrote three more children's books before World War II, two of which are, atypically for him, in prose.

As World War II began, Geisel turned to political cartoons, drawing over 400 in two years as editorial cartoonist for the left-wing New York City daily newspaper, PM. Geisel's political cartoons, later published in Dr. Seuss Goes to War, opposed the viciousness of Hitler and Mussolini and were highly critical of isolationists, most notably Charles Lindbergh, who opposed American entry into the war. One cartoon depicted all Japanese Americans as latent traitors or fifth-columnists, while at the same time other cartoons deplored the racism at home against Jews and blacks that harmed the war effort. His cartoons were strongly supportive of President Roosevelt's conduct of the war, combining the usual exhortations to ration and contribute to the war effort with frequent attacks on Congress (especially the Republican Party), parts of the press (such as the New York Daily News and Chicago Tribune), and others for criticism of Roosevelt, criticism of aid to the Soviet Union, investigation of suspected Communists, and other offenses that he depicted as leading to disunity and helping the Nazis, intentionally or inadvertently.

In 1942, Geisel turned his energies to direct support of the U.S. war effort. First, he worked drawing posters for the Treasury Department and the War Production Board. Then, in 1943, he joined the Army and was commander of the Animation Dept of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces, where he wrote films that included Your Job in Germany, a 1945 propaganda film about peace in Europe after World War II, Our Job in Japan, and the Private Snafu series of adult army training films. While in the Army, he was awarded the Legion of Merit. Our Job in Japan became the basis for the commercially released film, Design for Death (1947), a study of Japanese culture that won the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950), which was based on an original story by Seuss, won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film.

After the war, Geisel and his wife moved to La Jolla, California. Returning to children's books, he wrote what many consider to be his finest works, including such favorites as If I Ran the Zoo, (1950), Scrambled Eggs Super! (1953), On Beyond Zebra! (1955), If I Ran the Circus (1956), and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957). Although he received numerous awards throughout his career, Geisel won neither the Caldecott Medal nor the Newbery Medal. Three of his titles from this period were, however, chosen as Caldecott runners-up (now referred to as Caldecott Honor books): McElligot's Pool (1947), Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949), and If I Ran the Zoo (1950).

At the same time, an important development occurred that influenced much of Geisel's later work. In May 1954, Life magazine published a report on illiteracy among school children, which concluded that children were not learning to read because their books were boring. Accordingly, Geisel's publisher made up a list of 348 words he felt were important and asked Geisel to cut the list to 250 words and write a book using only those words. Nine months later, Geisel, using 236 of the words given to him, completed The Cat in the Hat. This book was a tour de force —it retained the drawing style, verse rhythms, and all the imaginative power of Geisel's earlier works, but because of its simplified vocabulary could be read by beginning readers. These books achieved significant international success and they remain very popular.

Geisel went on to write many other children's books, both in his new simplified-vocabulary manner (sold as Beginner Books) and in his older, more elaborate style. In 1982 Geisel wrote Hunches in Bunches. The Beginner Books were not easy for Geisel, and reportedly he labored for months crafting them.

At various times Geisel also wrote books for adults that used the same style of verse and pictures: The Seven Lady Godivas; Oh, The Places You'll Go!; and You're Only Old Once.

Though he devoted most of his life to writing children's books, Geisel never had any children himself.

Geisel died, following several years of illness, in San Diego, California on September 24, 1991. His ashes were scattered after he was cremated.

07 March, 2009

Daniel Schorr

Daniel Louis Schorr is an American journalist who has covered the world for more than 60 years. He is now a Senior News Analyst for National Public Radio (NPR). Schorr has won three Emmy Awards for his television journalism.

Schorr was born in the Bronx, New York City, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants Tillie Godiner and Gedaliah Tchornemoretz. He began his journalism career at the age of twelve, when he came upon a woman who had jumped or fallen from the roof of his apartment building. After calling the police, he phoned the Bronx Home News and was paid $5 for his information.

He attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the West Bronx, where he worked on the Clinton News, the school paper. He graduated from City College of New York in 1939 while working for the Jewish Daily Bulletin. During World War II, Schorr served in Army Intelligence at Camp Polk, Louisiana, and at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Following several years as a stringer, in 1953 he joined CBS News as one of the recruits of Edward R. Murrow (becoming part of the later generation of Murrow's Boys). In 1955, with the post-Stalin thaw in the Soviet Union, he received accreditation to open a CBS bureau in Moscow. In June 1957, he obtained an exclusive interview with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Communist party chief. It aired on CBS's Face the Nation, Schorr's first television interview. Schorr left the Soviet Union later that year, because of Soviet censorship laws. When he applied for a new visa, it was denied by the Soviets.

In January 1962, he aired the first examination of everyday life under communism in East Germany, The Land Beyond the Wall: Three Weeks in a German City, which The New York Times called a "journalistic coup". After agreeing not to foster "propaganda" for the United States, Schorr was granted the rights to conduct the interviews in the city of Rostock. By airing everyday life, Schorr painted a picture of the necessity for a Communist state to seal itself off from the West in order to survive.

CBS executives were not amused when Schorr reported—incorrectly—that Barry Goldwater was said to "travel to Germany to join-up with the right-wing there," and visit "Hitler's one-time stomping ground" in Berchtesgaden, immediately after he became the Republican nominee for president. For obvious reasons, this did not fare well with Goldwater, who demanded an apology for the "CBS conspiracy" against his campaign for president.

Schorr attracted the anger of the Nixon White House. In 1971, after a dispute with White House aides, Schorr's friends, neighbors, and co-workers were questioned by the FBI about his habits. They were told that Schorr was under consideration for a high-level position in the environmental area. Schorr knew nothing about it. Later, during the Watergate hearings, it was revealed that Nixon aides had drawn up what became known as Nixon's Enemies List, and Daniel Schorr was on that list. Famously, Schorr read the list aloud on live TV, surprised to be reading his own name in that context. Schorr won Emmys for news reporting in 1972, 1973, and 1974.

Schorr provoked intense controversy in 1976 when he received and made public the contents of the secret Pike Committee report on illegal CIA and FBI activities. Called to testify before Congress, he refused to identify his source on First Amendment grounds, risking imprisonment. This did not mollify CBS executives, and Schorr ultimately resigned from his position at CBS in September 1976.

On May 14, 2006, on NPR's Weekend Edition, Schorr mentioned a meeting at the White House that took place with colleague A. M. Rosenthal and president Gerald Ford. Ford mentioned that the Rockefeller Commission had access to various CIA documents, including those referring to political assassinations. Although scolded at first for his television report by former CIA director Richard Helms, Schorr was vindicated by the text of the Pike Committee, which he obtained from an undisclosed source and leaked to The Village Voice.

In 1979, Schorr was among the first hired by Ted Turner and Reese Schoenfeld to deliver commentary and news analysis on the fledgling Cable News Network (CNN). His contract was not renewed in 1985, one of the two times he stated he was "fired". He then took the position that he currently holds, as Senior News Analyst at NPR. In that position, he regularly comments on current events for programs including All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. He also wrote a column for the Christian Science Monitor for several decades.

In 1994, Schorr narrated the TV miniseries, Watergate. In the late 1990s, he appeared briefly as a newscaster in three Hollywood movies; The Game, The Net, and The Siege. In the 1997 film The Game starring Michael Douglas, Schorr spoke to the main character through his television. On NPR when asked if the media were biased to liberals and to Democrats, he said,"We only give the public what they want to hear!"

Schorr was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002.

06 March, 2009

Peter Lorre

Peter Lorre, born László Löwenstein, was a Hungarian- Austrian - American actor frequently typecast as a sinister foreigner.

He made an international sensation in 1931 with his portrayal of a serial killer who preys on little girls in the German film M. Later he became a popular featured player in Hollywood crime films and mysteries, notably alongside Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet, and as the star of the successful Mr. Moto detective series.

Lorre was born into a Jewish family in Rózsahegy (Hungarian)/Rosenberg (German), Kingdom of Hungary, part of Austria-Hungary, now Ružomberok, Slovakia. His parents were Alois and Elvira. When he was a child his family moved to Vienna where Lorre attended school. During his youth, Lorre was a student of Sigmund Freud. He began acting on stage in Vienna at the age of 17, where he worked with Richard Teschner, then moved to Breslau, and Zürich. In the late 1920s the young 5' 5" (1.65 m) actor moved to Berlin where he worked with German playwright Bertolt Brecht, most notably in his Mann ist Mann. He also appeared as Dr. Nakamura in the infamous musical Happy End by Brecht and composer Kurt Weill, alongside Brecht's wife Helene Weigel and other impressive co-stars such as Carola Neher, Oskar Homolka and Kurt Gerron. The German-speaking actor became famous when Fritz Lang cast him as a child killer in his 1931 film M.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Lorre took refuge first in Paris and then London where he was noticed by Ivor Mantagu, Alfred Hitchcock's associate producer for The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), who reminded the director about Lorre's performance in M. They first considered him to play the assassin in the film, but wanted to use him in a larger role, despite his limited command of English, which Lorre overcame by learning much of his part phonetically.

Eventually, Lorre went to Hollywood where he specialized in playing wicked or wily foreigners, beginning with Mad Love (1935), directed by Karl Freund. He starred in a series of Mr. Moto movies, a parallel to the better known Charlie Chan series, in which he played a Japanese detective and spy created by John P. Marquand. He did not much enjoy these films -- and twisted his shoulder during a stunt in Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation -- but they were lucrative for the studio and gained Lorre many new fans. In 1939, Peter was picked to play the role that would eventually go to Basil Rathbone in Son of Frankenstein. Lorre had to decline the part due to illness.

In 1940, Lorre co-starred with fellow horror actors Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff in the Kay Kyser movie You'll Find Out. Lorre enjoyed considerable popularity as a featured player in Warner Bros. suspense and adventure films. Lorre played the role of Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and portrayed the character Ugarte in the film classic Casablanca (1942).

Lorre demonstrated a gift for comedy in the role of Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace (filmed in 1941, released 1944). In 1946 he starred with Sydney Greenstreet and Geraldine Fitzgerald in Three Strangers, a suspense film about three people who are joint partners on a winning lottery ticket.

In 1941, Peter Lorre became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

After World War II, Lorre's acting career in Hollywood experienced a downturn, whereupon he concentrated on radio and stage work. In Germany he co-wrote, directed and starred in Der Verlorene (The Lost One) (1951), a critically acclaimed art film in the film noir style. He then returned to the United States where he appeared as a character actor in television and feature films, often spoofing his former "creepy" image. In 1954, he had the distinction of becoming the first actor to play a James Bond villain when he portrayed Le Chiffre in a television adaptation of Casino Royale, opposite Barry Nelson as an American James Bond. (In the spoof-film version of Casino Royale, Ronnie Corbett comments that SPECTRE includes among its agents not only Le Chiffre, but also "Peter Lorre and Bela Lugosi.") Also in 1954, Lorre starred alongside Kirk Douglas and James Mason in the hit-classic 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. In the early 1960s he worked with Roger Corman on several low-budgeted, tongue-in-cheek, and very popular films.

In 1956, both Lorre and Vincent Price attended Bela Lugosi's funeral. According to Price, Lorre asked him "Do you think we should drive a stake through his heart just in case?"

In 1959, Lorre appeared in the episode "Thin Ice" of NBC's espionage drama Five Fingers, starring David Hedison. In 1961, he was interviewed on the NBC program Here's Hollywood.

Lorre had suffered for years from chronic gall-bladder troubles, for which doctors had prescribed morphine. Lorre became trapped between the constant pain and addiction to morphine to ease the problem. It was during the period of the Moto films that Lorre struggled and overcame this problem.

Overweight and never fully recovered from his addiction to morphine, Lorre suffered many personal and career disappointments in his later years. He died in 1964 of a stroke at 59 years old. Lorre's body was cremated and his ashes interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood. Vincent Price read the eulogy at his funeral.

03 March, 2009

Monte Blue

Monte Blue whose real name was Gerard Montgomery Blue, was a movie actor who most of his career played the romantic leading man in the silent film era.

One of five children, Blue's father died in a car crash when he was eight and his mother could not raise five children alone. Along with another brother, they both admitted to the Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's Home.

When growing up, Blue built up his physique to become a football player. He not only played football, but he was also a fireman, railroad worker, coal miner, cowpuncher, ranch hand, circus rider, lumberjack, and finally, a day laborer at D.W. Griffith Studios.

In his first movie of 1915, The Birth of a Nation, he became a stuntman and an extra of the movie. In his next movie, he starred in another small part in the movie, Intolerance:Love's Struggle the ages. Gradually moving to supporting roles for both D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille, Blue earned his breakthrough role as Danton in Orphans of the Storm, starring sisters, Lillian Gish and Dorothy Gish. Then he rose to stardom as a rugged romantic lead along with top leading actresses such as Clara Bow, Gloria Swanson, and Norma Shearer. Things were looking up for one of Hollywood's leading men, when he became one of the few silent stars to survive the talkie revolution, when movies transformed from silent films to sound until in 1929, he lost his investment in 1929 during the stock market crash.

He rebuilt his career as a character actor, working until his retirement in 1954. One of his more memorable roles was the sheriff in Key Largo. During the later part of his life, Monte Blue was an active Mason and the advance man for the Hamid-Morton Shrine Circus.

While on business in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he had a heart attack, and died at age 76 on February 18, 1963.