"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Birthdays Today

Solid but unspectacular birthdays today, sort of like a 20-13 Packers victory over the Bears.
First, it's Edouard Manet's birthday, born in 1832.   Manet is one of my favorites from the French Impressionists; here is one of the most famous, and most beautiful.

It's also the birthday of David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematician ever, born in 1862.  Hilbert is perhaps best known for a talk he gave in 1900 in which he laid out 23 problems that at that time were unsolved as problems that mathematicians in the 20th Century should work toward solving; the most famous of which, the Riemann Hypothesis ("The real part of any non-trivial zero of the Riemann zeta function is 1/2."), has never been solved.   John Derbyshire of National Review has written a terrific book about efforts to solve the Riemann Hypothesis through the years, called Prime Obsession.

It's also the great Django Reinhardt's birthday, born in 1910.   Django (like Madonna, he really only needs one name) was the greatest jazz guitarist ever, even though he only played with two fingers. Here he is, playing with Stefan Grappelli, the violinist:

Finally, today is the birthday of the comedian Ernie Kovacs, born in 1919.   Kovacs was huge in the late 1950s.... sort of an intellectual's Sid Caesar.   Here is one of his most famous bits, Percy Dovetonsils, the "famous" poet.

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