Jul. 15, 1999
Poem: "Pied Beauty," by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
In England today is celebrated as St. Swithin's Day, the day about which this poem was written: St. Swithin's Day, if thou dost rain, For 40 days it will remain; St. Swithin's Day, if thou be fair, for 40 days, 'twill rain nea mair.
It's the birthday of philosopher/linguist Jacques Derrida [deh-ree-DAH], born in el Biar, Algeria (1930)a leading light of the post-structuralist movement. Distrusting the search for meaning, the yearning for certainty, he analyzes texts ("deconstructs" texts) to show their alternative meanings.
It's the birthday of playwright-turned-director Ann Jellicoe, born in Yorkshire, England (1927), author of The Knack and The Sport of My Mad Mother (1958).
Today is the birthday of biochemist Bruce Merrifield, born in Fort Worth (1921), who was awarded the 1984 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for devising a simple, ingenious technique for synthesizing 'polypeptides' (chains of amino acids) in predetermined order. His process has greatly aided research on hormones and enzymes, and helped produce insulin.
Today is the 80th birthday of novelist and philosopher Dame Iris Murdoch, born in Dublin (1919), writer of many comic and macabre novels: A Severed Head (1961), The Black Prince (1973), The Message to the Planet (1989), and the subject of a book by her husband, John Bayley, an account of her decline into Alzheimer's and old age: Elegy for Iris (1999).
It's the birthday of adventure writer (Ralph) Hammond Innes, born in Horsham, Sussex (1913). Author of many best-selling swashbucklers, including The White South (1949) and The Wreck of the 'Mary Deare' (1956).
Today is the birthday of songwriter Dorothy Fields, born in Allenhurst, New Jersey (1905)who wrote many songs, including "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby," and "On the Sunny Side of the Street."
On this day in 1869, in Paris, margarine was patented by Hippolyte Mege-Mouries. His concoction was the only entry in a contest organized by Napoleon III for "a suitable substance to replace butter for the Navy and the less prosperous classes."
It's the birthday of America's first saint, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, born in Lombardy, Italy (1850). She was sent west by Pope Leo the 13th to help poor Italian immigrants in the slums of the United States.
It's the birthday of painter Rembrandt van Rijn [vahn RINE], born in Leiden [LIE- duhn], Holland (1606). In "The Night Watch," a huge group portrait representing a number of militiamen, the models paid to be included, those in front paying a higher rate than the dim figures behind.
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®