Sep. 24, 2000

Dublin, 1959

by Eavan Boland

Broadcast date: SUNDAY, 24 September 2000

"Dublin, 1959," by Eaven Boland, from The Lost Land (W.W. Norton & Company).

It's the birthday of Irish poet Eavan Boland, born in Dublin (1945). She's the author of many collections of poetry, including The Journey (1983) and In a Time of Violence (1994).

It's the birthday of puppet wizard Jim Henson, born in Greenville, Mississippi (1936). He created the Muppets, stars of small and large screen, and personally operated Kermit the Frog, Ernie, and Guy Smiley, the game-show host.

On this day in 1934, Babe Ruth played his last game with the New York Yankees, at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. He had started his career 20 years earlier as a pitcher-outfielder for the Boston Braves. After his retirement from baseball, he lived another 14 years, and died at 53.

It's the birthday of novelist F(rancis) Scott (Key) Fitzgerald, born in St. Paul (1896). He left Princeton before graduating, joined the army (1917), and, during his service, began his first novel. Aided by Scribners editor Maxwell Perkins, Fitzgerald rewrote the novel, published in 1920 as This Side of Paradise. The book brought him early success--and also the hand of Zelda Sayre. He said later, "I had everything I wanted and knew I would never be so happy again." Moving to the Riviera, he wrote his most highly acclaimed novel, The Great Gatsby (1925), filled with mixed feelings about the American Dream in the years before the Crash. Tender Is the Night (1934) was a financial failure, and he moved to Hollywood to write screenplays. he recorded his subsequent despair in a series of magazine articles called The Crack-Up (1936). That same year he moved to Hollywood to be a screenwriter. While he was there he began writing a new novel, The Last Tycoon, about the movie industry. He died of a heart attack before finishing it, 3 months after turning 44.

It's the birthday of engineer Georges Claude, born in Paris (1870), who invented the neon light.

On this day in 1842, Branwell Brontė died of tuberculosis, as did his sisters Emily and Anne that same year. A painter, he is remembered for a portrait of his three famous sisters, as well as for being the model for the drunkard Hindley Earnshaw in his sister Emily's novel Wuthering Heights.

It's the birthday of the greatest mathematician of the sixteenth century, Gerolamo Cardano, born in Pavia, south of Milan (1501). After medical school he practiced in a small town outside Padua. Then he married, moved to Milan, and began lecturing on mathematics. His mastery of algebra was all the more impressive since in those days modern notation was unknown--all algebraic functions were done verbally.

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