Jan. 27, 2000


by Robert Winner

Broadcast Date: THURSDAY: January 27, 2000

Poem: "Mozart" by Robert Winner from The Sanity of Earth and Grass published by Tilbury House.

On this day in 1973, the United States and 3 other parties (South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Viet Cong’s Provisional Revolutionary Government) signed an agreement formally ending the Vietnam War. But it did not end the war; 12,000 more American troops, and uncounted Vietnamese, died in the next 2 years, before America’s eventual withdrawal (1975).

On this day in 1926, the first crude television apparatus was demonstrated in London. Scottish inventor John Logie Baird unveiled his homemade "Super-Sensitive Photo Cell" device at his lab on Frith Street, Soho. Images of human faces, complete with shading and some detail, were sent from one room to another. But Baird’s amazing apparatus could not be observed by the curious witnesses, because, fearing that his technology would be stolen, he had methodically shielded it with an assortment of screens—to block extraneous light, he claimed.

It’s the birthday of songwriter and composer Jerome Kern, born in New York City (1885).

It’s the birthday of chemist Dmitri (Ivanovich) Mendeleyev, born in Tobolsk, Russia (1834)—who devised the periodic table of chemical elements, with which he predicted the existence of several other elements yet to be discovered. Element # 101—mend elevium—is named for him.

It’s the birthday of mathematician and writer Lewis Carroll (Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), born in Daresbury, Cheshire, England (1832), the oldest of 11 children. The former Oxford don is chiefly remembered for his fantasy novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871). A shy man afflicted by a stammer, more confident with children than adults, he invented games and puzzles and developed new techniques of portrait photography. He also wrote the long nonsense poem "The Hunting of the Snark" (1876) and the novel Sylvie and Bruno (1899), which contains these lines: He thought he saw an Elephant, That practiced on a fife: He looked again, and found it was A letter from his wife. ‘At length I realize,’ he said ‘The bitterness of life!’

It’s the birthday of (Johann Chrysostom) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born in Salzburg, Austria (1756). The tales of his precociousness never end—at 3 he picked out thirds on the keyboard; at 5 he improvised minuets; at 6, with father Leopold and sister, Maria-Anna, called ‘Nannerl, ’ he toured the capitals of Europe, showing off his brilliance on clavier, organ, and violin. By his death at 35, he had written nearly 50 symphonies, 20 operas and 23 piano concertos.

On this day in 1302, Dante Alighieri [DAHN-tay ah-lee-GYEH-ree] was expelled from Florence when a group he opposed, the ‘Black Guelphs,’ seized control of the city. For the next 20 years he moved from place to place, and while in exile he wrote his masterpiece The Divine Comedy, which established his native Tuscan dialect as the literary language of Italy.

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