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#26 2016-04-30 20:26:10

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Re: Significant Individuals (crème de la crème #2)

#31. Qin Shi Huang

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Qin Shi Huang (260 – 10 September 210 BC, literally "First emperor of Qin"), born Ying Zheng and also known as King Zheng of Qin, was born a prince of the state of Qin (r. 246–221 BC) and became China's first emperor after the Qin conquered all of the other Warring States. He eventually unified all of China in 221 BC. Rather than maintain the title of "king" borne by the previous Shang and Zhou rulers, he ruled as the First Emperor of the Qin dynasty from 220 to 210 BC. His self-invented title "emperor" (huángdì) would continue to be borne by Chinese rulers for the next two millennia.

During his reign, his generals greatly expanded the size of the Chinese state: campaigns south of Chu permanently added the Yue lands of Hunan and Guangdong to the Chinese cultural orbit; campaigns in Central Asia conquered the Ordos Loop from the nomad Xiongnu, although eventually causing their confederation under Modu Chanyu. Qin Shi Huang also worked with his minister Li Si to enact major economic and politic reforms aimed at the standardization of the diverse practices of the earlier Chinese states, traditionally said to have led to the banning and burning of many books and the execution of recalcitrant scholars. His public works projects included the unification of diverse state walls into a single Great Wall of China and a massive new national road system, as well as the city-sized mausoleum guarded by the life-sized Terracotta Army. He ruled until his death in 210 BC after a futile search for an elixir of immortality.

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#27 2016-04-30 20:33:09

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Re: Significant Individuals (crème de la crème #2)

#32. Genghis Khan

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Genghis Khan (c. 1162 – August 18 1227, born Temüjin, was the founder and Great Khan (emperor) of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death.

He came to power by uniting many of the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia. After founding the Mongol Empire and being proclaimed "Genghis Khan", he started the Mongol invasions that resulted in the conquest of most of Eurasia. These included raids or invasions of the Qara Khitai, Caucasus, Khwarezmid Empire, Western Xia and Jin dynasties. These campaigns were often accompanied by wholesale massacres of the civilian populations – especially in the Khwarezmian and Xia controlled lands. By the end of his life, the Mongol Empire occupied a substantial portion of Central Asia and China.

Before Genghis Khan died, he assigned Ögedei Khan as his successor and split his empire into khanates among his sons and grandsons. He died in 1227 after defeating the Western Xia. He was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in Mongolia at an unknown location. His descendants extended the Mongol Empire across most of Eurasia by conquering or creating vassal states out of all of modern-day China, Korea, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and substantial portions of modern Eastern Europe, Russia, and Southwest Asia. Many of these invasions repeated the earlier large-scale slaughters of local populations. As a result, Genghis Khan and his empire have a fearsome reputation in local histories.

Beyond his military accomplishments, Genghis Khan also advanced the Mongol Empire in other ways. He decreed the adoption of the Uyghur script as the Mongol Empire's writing system. He also practiced meritocracy and encouraged religious tolerance in the Mongol Empire while unifying the nomadic tribes of Northeast Asia. Present-day Mongolians regard him as the founding father of Mongolia.

Although known for the brutality of his campaigns and considered by many to have been a genocidal ruler, Genghis Khan is also credited with bringing the Silk Road under one cohesive political environment. This brought communication and trade from Northeast Asia into Muslim Southwest Asia and Christian Europe, thus expanding the horizons of all three cultural areas.

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#28 2016-04-30 20:39:41

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Re: Significant Individuals (crème de la crème #2)

#33. Max Planck

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Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, FRS (23 April 1858 – 4 October 1947) was a German theoretical physicist whose work on quantum theory won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.

Planck made many contributions to theoretical physics, but his fame as a physicist rests primarily on his role as an originator of quantum theory, which revolutionized human understanding of atomic and subatomic processes. However, his name is also known on a broader academic basis, through the renaming in 1948 of the German scientific institution, the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (of which he was twice president), as the Max Planck Society (MPS). The MPS now includes 83 institutions representing a wide range of scientific directions.


At the end of the 1920s Bohr, Heisenberg and Pauli had worked out the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, but it was rejected by Planck, and by Schrödinger, Laue, and Einstein as well. Planck expected that wave mechanics would soon render quantum theory—his own child—unnecessary. This was not to be the case, however. Further work only cemented quantum theory, even against his and Einstein's philosophical revulsions. Planck experienced the truth of his own earlier observation from his struggle with the older views in his younger years: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it."

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#29 2016-05-01 22:55:42

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Re: Significant Individuals (crème de la crème #2)

#34. Ettore Majorana

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Ettore Majorana (born on 5 August 1906 – probably died after 1959) was an Italian theoretical physicist who worked on neutrino masses. He disappeared suddenly under mysterious circumstances while going by ship from Palermo to Naples. The Majorana equation and Majorana fermions are named after him. In 2006, the Majorana Prize was established in his memory.


"At Fermi's urging, Majorana left Italy early in 1933 on a grant from the National Research Council. In Leipzig, Germany, he met Werner Heisenberg. In letters he subsequently wrote to Heisenberg, Majorana revealed that he had found in him, not only a scientific colleague, but a warm personal friend." Majorana also travelled to Copenhagen, where he worked with Niels Bohr, another Nobel Prize winner, and a friend and mentor of Heisenberg.

The Nazis had come to power in Germany as Majorana arrived there. He studied with Werner Heisenberg in Leipzig, and worked on a theory of the nucleus (published in German in 1933) which, in its treatment of exchange forces, represented a further development of Heisenberg's theory of the nucleus. Majorana's last-published paper, in 1937, this time in Italian, was an elaboration of a symmetrical theory of electrons and positrons.

"In the fall of 1933, Majorana returned to Rome in poor health, having developed acute gastritis in Germany and apparently suffering from nervous exhaustion. Put on a strict diet, he grew reclusive and became harsh in his dealings with his family. To his mother, with whom he had previously shared a warm relationship, he had written from Germany that he would not accompany her on their customary summer vacation by the sea. Appearing at the institute less frequently, he soon was scarcely leaving his home; the promising young physicist had become a hermit. For nearly four years he shut himself off from friends and stopped publishing."

During these years, in which he published few articles, Majorana wrote many small works on several topics, from geophysics, to electrical engineering, from mathematics to relativity. These unpublished papers, preserved in Domus Galileiana in Pisa, recently have been edited by Erasmo Recami and Salvatore Esposito.

He became a full professor of theoretical physics at the University of Naples in 1937, without needing to take an examination because of his "high fame of singular expertise reached in the field of theoretical physics", independently of the competition rules.


Majorana did prescient theoretical work on neutrino masses, a currently active subject of research. He also worked on an idea that mass may exert a small shielding effect on gravitational waves, which did not gain much traction.

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#30 2016-05-02 06:55:14

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Re: Significant Individuals (crème de la crème #2)

#35. Henri Poincaré

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Jules Henri Poincaré (29 April 1854 – 17 July 1912) was a French mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and a philosopher of science. He is often described as a polymath, and in mathematics as The Last Universalist by Eric Temple Bell, since he excelled in all fields of the discipline as it existed during his lifetime.

As a mathematician and physicist, he made many original fundamental contributions to pure and applied mathematics, mathematical physics, and celestial mechanics. He was responsible for formulating the Poincaré conjecture, which was one of the most famous unsolved problems in mathematics until it was solved in 2002–2003. In his research on the three-body problem, Poincaré became the first person to discover a chaotic deterministic system which laid the foundations of modern chaos theory. He is also considered to be one of the founders of the field of topology.

Poincaré made clear the importance of paying attention to the invariance of laws of physics under different transformations, and was the first to present the Lorentz transformations in their modern symmetrical form. Poincaré discovered the remaining relativistic velocity transformations and recorded them in a letter to Dutch physicist Hendrik Lorentz (1853–1928) in 1905. Thus he obtained perfect invariance of all of Maxwell's equations, an important step in the formulation of the theory of special relativity.

The Poincaré group used in physics and mathematics was named after him.


Poincaré made many contributions to different fields of pure and applied mathematics such as: celestial mechanics, fluid mechanics, optics, electricity, telegraphy, capillarity, elasticity, thermodynamics, potential theory, quantum theory, theory of relativity and physical cosmology.

He was also a populariser of mathematics and physics and wrote several books for the lay public.

Among the specific topics he contributed to are the following:

algebraic topology
the theory of analytic functions of several complex variables
the theory of abelian functions
algebraic geometry
Poincaré was responsible for formulating one of the most famous problems in mathematics, the Poincaré conjecture, proven in 2003 by Grigori Perelman.
Poincaré recurrence theorem
hyperbolic geometry
number theory
the three-body problem
the theory of diophantine equations
the theory of electromagnetism
the special theory of relativity
In an 1894 paper, he introduced the concept of the fundamental group.
In the field of differential equations Poincaré has given many results that are critical for the qualitative theory of differential equations, for example the Poincaré sphere and the Poincaré map.
Poincaré on "everybody's belief" in the Normal Law of Errors
Published an influential paper providing a novel mathematical argument in support of quantum mechanics.


After defending his doctoral thesis on the study of singular points of the system of differential equations, Poincaré wrote a series of memoirs under the title "On curves defined by differential equations" (1881–1882). In these articles, he built a new branch of mathematics, called "qualitative theory of differential equations". Poincaré showed that even if the differential equation can not be solved in terms of known functions, yet from the very form of the equation, a wealth of information about the properties and behavior of the solutions can be found. In particular, Poincaré investigated the nature of the trajectories of the integral curves in the plane, gave a classification of singular points (saddle, focus, center, node), introduced the concept of a limit cycle and the loop index, and showed that the number of limit cycles is always finite, except for some special cases. Poincaré also developed a general theory of integral invariants and solutions of the variational equations. For the finite-difference equations, he created a new direction – the asymptotic analysis of the solutions. He applied all these achievements to study practical problems of mathematical physics and celestial mechanics, and the methods used were the basis of its topological works.

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#31 2016-05-02 19:45:27

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Re: Significant Individuals (crème de la crème #2)

#36. Robert Hooke

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Robert Hooke FRS (28 July [O.S. 18 July] 1635 – 3 March 1703) was an English natural philosopher, architect and polymath.

His adult life comprised three distinct periods: as a scientific inquirer lacking money; achieving great wealth and standing through his reputation for hard work and scrupulous honesty following the great fire of 1666, but eventually becoming ill and party to jealous intellectual disputes. These issues may have contributed to his relative historical obscurity.

He was at one time simultaneously the curator of experiments of the Royal Society and a member of its council, Gresham Professor of Geometry and a Surveyor to the City of London after the Great Fire of London, in which capacity he appears to have performed more than half of all the surveys after the fire. He was also an important architect of his time – though few of his buildings now survive and some of those are generally misattributed – and was instrumental in devising a set of planning controls for London whose influence remains today. Allan Chapman has characterised him as "England's Leonardo".

Robert Gunther's Early Science in Oxford, a history of science in Oxford during the Protectorate, Restoration and Age of Enlightenment, devotes five of its fourteen volumes to Hooke.

Hooke studied at Wadham College during the Protectorate where he became one of a tightly knit group of ardent Royalists led by John Wilkins. Here he was employed as an assistant to Thomas Willis and to Robert Boyle, for whom he built the vacuum pumps used in Boyle's gas law experiments. He built some of the earliest Gregorian telescopes and observed the rotations of Mars and Jupiter. In 1665 he inspired the use of microscopes for scientific exploration with his book, Micrographia. Based on his microscopic observations of fossils, Hooke was an early proponent of biological evolution. He investigated the phenomenon of refraction, deducing the wave theory of light, and was the first to suggest that matter expands when heated and that air is made of small particles separated by relatively large distances. He performed pioneering work in the field of surveying and map-making and was involved in the work that led to the first modern plan-form map, though his plan for London on a grid system was rejected in favour of rebuilding along the existing routes. He also came near to an experimental proof that gravity follows an inverse square law, and hypothesised that such a relation governs the motions of the planets, an idea which was subsequently developed by Isaac Newton. Much of Hooke's scientific work was conducted in his capacity as curator of experiments of the Royal Society, a post he held from 1662, or as part of the household of Robert Boyle.


In 1660, Hooke discovered the law of elasticity which bears his name and which describes the linear variation of tension with extension in an elastic spring. He first described this discovery in the anagram "ceiiinosssttuv", whose solution he published in 1678 as "Ut tensio, sic vis" meaning "As the extension, so the force." Hooke's work on elasticity culminated, for practical purposes, in his development of the balance spring or hairspring, which for the first time enabled a portable timepiece – a watch – to keep time with reasonable accuracy. A bitter dispute between Hooke and Christiaan Huygens on the priority of this invention was to continue for centuries after the death of both; but a note dated 23 June 1670 in the Hooke Folio, describing a demonstration of a balance-controlled watch before the Royal Society, has been held to favour Hooke's claim.

It is interesting from a twentieth-century vantage point that Hooke first announced his law of elasticity as an anagram. This was a method sometimes used by scientists, such as Hooke, Huygens, Galileo, and others, to establish priority for a discovery without revealing details.

Hooke became Curator of Experiments in 1662 to the newly founded Royal Society, and took responsibility for experiments performed at its weekly meetings. This was a position he held for over 40 years. While this position kept him in the thick of science in Britain and beyond, it also led to some heated arguments with other scientists, such as Huygens and particularly with Isaac Newton and the Royal Society's Henry Oldenburg. In 1664 Hooke also was appointed Professor of Geometry at Gresham College in London and Cutlerian Lecturer in Mechanics.

On 8 July 1680, Hooke observed the nodal patterns associated with the modes of vibration of glass plates. He ran a bow along the edge of a glass plate covered with flour, and saw the nodal patterns emerge. In acoustics, in 1681 he showed the Royal Society that musical tones could be generated from spinning brass cogs cut with teeth in particular proportions.

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#32 2016-05-07 05:24:13

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Re: Significant Individuals (crème de la crème #2)

#37. Napoleon

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Napoléon Bonaparte (born Napoleone di Buonaparte; 15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the Revolutionary Wars. As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814, and again in 1815. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. Often considered one of the greatest commanders in history, his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. He also remains one of the most celebrated and controversial political figures in Western history. Napoleon had an extensive and powerful impact on the modern world, bringing liberal reforms to the numerous territories that he conquered and controlled, especially the Low Countries, Switzerland, and large parts of modern Italy and Germany. He implemented fundamental liberal policies in France and throughout Western Europe. His lasting legal achievement, the Napoleonic Code, has been adopted in various forms by a quarter of the world's legal systems, from Japan to Quebec.

Napoleon was born in Corsica to a relatively modest family of noble Tuscan ancestry. Napoleon supported the French Revolution from the outset in 1789 while serving in the French army, and he tried to spread its ideals to Corsica but was banished from the island in 1793. Two years later, he saved the French government from collapse by firing on the Parisian mobs with cannons. The Directory rewarded Napoleon by giving him command of the Army of Italy at age 26, when he began his first military campaign against the Austrians and their Italian allies, scoring a series of decisive victories that made him famous all across Europe. He followed the defeat of the Allies in Europe by commanding a military expedition to Egypt in 1798, invading and occupying the Ottoman province after defeating the Mamelukes and launching modern Egyptology through the discoveries made by his army.

After returning from Egypt, Napoleon engineered a coup in November 1799 and became First Consul of the Republic. Another victory over the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo in 1800 secured his political power. With the Concordat of 1801, Napoleon restored the religious privileges of the Catholic Church while keeping the lands seized by the Revolution. The state continued to nominate the bishops and to control church finances. He extended his political control over France until the Senate declared him Emperor of the French in 1804, launching the French Empire. Intractable differences with the British meant that the French were facing a Third Coalition by 1805. Napoleon shattered this coalition with decisive victories in the Ulm Campaign and a historic triumph at the Battle of Austerlitz, which led to the elimination of the Holy Roman Empire. In October 1805, however, a Franco-Spanish fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Trafalgar, allowing Britain to impose a naval blockade of the French coasts. In retaliation, Napoleon established the Continental System in 1806 to cut off continental trade with Britain. The Fourth Coalition took up arms against him the same year because Prussia became worried about growing French influence on the continent. Napoleon knocked out Prussia at the battles of Jena and Auerstedt, then turned his attention towards the Russians and annihilated them in June 1807 at Friedland, which forced the Russians to accept the Treaties of Tilsit.

Hoping to extend the Continental System, Napoleon invaded Iberia and declared his brother Joseph the King of Spain in 1808. The Spanish and the Portuguese revolted with British support. The Peninsular War lasted six years, noted for its brutal guerrilla warfare, and culminated in an Allied victory. Fighting also erupted in Central Europe, as the Austrians launched another attack against the French in 1809. Napoleon defeated them at the Battle of Wagram, dissolving the Fifth Coalition formed against France. By 1811, Napoleon ruled over 70 million people across an empire that had domination in Europe, which had not witnessed this level of political consolidation since the days of the Roman Empire. He maintained his strategic status through a series of alliances and family appointments. He created a new aristocracy in France while allowing the return of nobles who had been forced into exile by the Revolution.

Tensions over rising Polish nationalism and the economic effects of the Continental System led to renewed confrontation with Russia. To enforce his blockade, Napoleon launched an invasion of Russia in the summer of 1812. The resulting campaign witnessed the catastrophic collapse of the Grand Army, forcing the French to retreat, as well as leading to the widespread destruction of Russian lands and cities. In 1813, Prussia and Austria joined Russian forces in a Sixth Coalition against France. A chaotic military campaign in Central Europe eventually culminated in a large Allied army defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig in October. The next year, the Allies invaded France and captured Paris, forcing Napoleon to abdicate in April 1814. He was exiled to the island of Elba. The Bourbons were restored to power and the French lost most of the territories that they had conquered since the Revolution. However, Napoleon escaped from Elba in February 1815 and took control of the government once again. The Allies responded by forming a Seventh Coalition, which ultimately defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in June. The Royal Navy then thwarted his planned escape to the United States in July, so he surrendered to the British after running out of other options. The British exiled him to the remote island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic. His death in 1821 at the age of 51 was received with shock and grief throughout Europe. In 1840, a million people witnessed his remains returning to Paris, where they still reside at Les Invalides.

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#33 2016-05-07 05:31:54

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Re: Significant Individuals (crème de la crème #2)

#38. Henry Adams

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Henry Brooks Adams (February 16, 1838 – March 27, 1918) was an American historian and member of the Adams political family, being descended from two U.S. Presidents.

As a young Harvard graduate, he was secretary to his father, Charles Francis Adams, Abraham Lincoln’s ambassador in London, a posting that had much influence on the younger man, both through experience of wartime diplomacy and absorption in English culture, especially the works of John Stuart Mill. After the American Civil War, he became a noted political journalist who entertained America’s foremost intellectuals at his homes in Washington and Boston.

In his lifetime, he was best known for his History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, a 9-volume work, praised for its literary style.

His posthumously published memoirs, The Education of Henry Adams, won the Pulitzer Prize and went on to be named by The Modern Library as the top English-language nonfiction book of the twentieth century.


In 1868, Henry Adams returned to the United States and settled in Washington, D.C., where he began working as a journalist. Adams saw himself as a traditionalist longing for the democratic ideal of the 17th and 18th centuries. Accordingly, he was keen on exposing political corruption in his journalism.

Adams said, "I think that Lee should have been hanged. It was all the worse that he was a good man and a fine character and acted conscientiously. It's always the good men who do the most harm in the world."

In 1870, Adams was appointed Professor of Medieval History at Harvard, a position he held until his early retirement in 1877 at 39. As an academic historian, Adams is considered to have been the first (in 1874–1876) to conduct historical seminar work in the United States. Among his students was Henry Cabot Lodge, who worked closely with Adams as a graduate student.

On June 27, 1872, he and Clover Hooper were married in Beverly, Massachusetts, and spent their honeymoon in Europe, much of it with Charles Milnes Gaskell at Wenlock Abbey in Shropshire, England. Upon their return, he went back to his position at Harvard, and their home at 91 Marlborough Street, Boston, became a gathering place for a lively circle of intellectuals. Adams was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1875. In 1877, he and his wife moved to Washington, D.C., where their home on Lafayette Square, across from the White House, again became a dazzling and witty center of social life. He worked as a journalist and continued working as a historian.

Adams's The History of the United States of America (1801 to 1817) (9 vols., 1889-1891) has been called "a neglected masterpiece" by Garry Wills, and "A history yet to be replaced" by C. Vann Woodward. It is a highly detailed history of the Jefferson and Madison administrations, with a focus on diplomacy. There is wide praise for its literary merit, especially the opening five chapters of volume 1, describing the nation in 1800. These chapters have also been criticized; Noble Cunningham states flatly, "Adams misjudged the state of the nation in 1800." In striving for literary effect, Cunningham argues, Adams ignored the dynamism and sophistication of the new nation.

In the 1880s Adams wrote two novels, starting with Democracy, which was published anonymously in 1880 and immediately became popular. (Only after Adams's death did his publisher reveal his authorship.) His other novel, published under the nom de plume of Frances Snow Compton, was Esther, whose heroine was believed to be modeled after his wife.

Adams was a member of an exclusive circle, a group of friends called the "Five of Hearts" that consisted of Henry, his wife Clover, geologist and mountaineer Clarence King, John Hay (assistant to Lincoln and later Secretary of State), and Hay's wife Clara. One of Adams's frequent travel companions was the artist John La Farge, with whom he journeyed to Japan and the South Seas. A long-time, intimate correspondent of Adams's was Elizabeth Cameron, wife of Senator J. Donald Cameron.

In 1894, Adams was elected president of the American Historical Association. His address, entitled "The Tendency of History", was delivered in absentia. The essay predicted the development of a scientific approach to history, but was somewhat ambiguous as to what this achievement might mean.

In 1904, Adams privately published a copy of his "Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres", a pastiche of history, travel, and poetry that celebrated the unity of medieval society, especially as represented in the great cathedrals of France. Originally meant as a diversion for his nieces and "nieces-in-wish", it was publicly released in 1913 at the request of Ralph Adams Cram, an important American architect, and published with support of the American Institute of Architects.

He published The Education of Henry Adams in 1907, in a small private edition for selected friends. For Adams, the Virgin Mary was a symbol of the best of the old world, as the dynamo was a representative of modernity. It was only following Adams's death that The Education was made available to the general public, in an edition issued by the Massachusetts Historical Society. It ranked first on the Modern Library's 1998 list of 100 Best Nonfiction Books and was named the best book of the twentieth century by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a conservative organization that promotes classical education. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1919.

In 1912, Adams suffered a stroke, perhaps brought on by news of the sinking of the Titanic, for which he had return tickets to Europe. After the stroke, his scholarly output diminished, but he continued to travel, write letters, and host dignitaries and friends at his Washington, D.C., home. Henry Adams died at age 80 in Washington, D.C. He is interred beside his wife in Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington.

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#34 2016-05-07 05:37:45

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Re: Significant Individuals (crème de la crème #2)

#39. Michelangelo

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Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (March 1475 – 18 February 1564), was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer of the High Renaissance who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. Considered to be the greatest living artist during his lifetime, he has since also been described as one of the greatest artists of all time. Despite making few forays beyond the arts, his versatility in the disciplines he took up was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with contemporary rival and fellow Florentine Medici client, Leonardo da Vinci.

A number of Michelangelo's works in painting, sculpture, and architecture rank among the most famous in existence. His output in every field of interest was prodigious; given the sheer volume of surviving correspondence, sketches, and reminiscences taken into account, he is the best-documented artist of the 16th century.

Two of his best-known works, the Pietà and David, were sculpted before the age of thirty. Despite his low opinion of painting, Michelangelo also created two of the most influential frescoes in the history of Western art: the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and The Last Judgment on its altar wall. As an architect, Michelangelo pioneered the Mannerist style at the Laurentian Library. At the age of 74, he succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of St. Peter's Basilica. Michelangelo transformed the plan,with the western end being finished to his design, and the dome being completed after his death, with some modification.

In a demonstration of Michelangelo's unique standing, he was the first Western artist whose biography was published while he was alive. Two biographies were published of him during his lifetime; one of them, by Giorgio Vasari, proposed that he was the pinnacle of all artistic achievement since the beginning of the Renaissance, a viewpoint that continued to have currency in art history for centuries.

In his lifetime he was also often called Il Divino ("the divine one"). One of the qualities most admired by his contemporaries was his terribilità, a sense of awe-inspiring grandeur, and it was the attempts of subsequent artists to imitate Michelangelo's impassioned and highly personal style that resulted in Mannerism, the next major movement in Western art after the High Renaissance.


Michelangelo, with Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, is one of the three giants of the Florentine High Renaissance. Although their names are often cited together, Michelangelo was younger than Leonardo by 23 years, and older than Raphael by eight. Because of his reclusive nature, he had little to do with either artist and outlived both of them by more than forty years. Michelangelo took few sculpture students. He employed Francesco Granacci, who was his fellow pupil at the Medici Academy, and became one of several assistants on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Michelangelo appears to have used assistants mainly for the more manual tasks of preparing surfaces and grinding colours. Despite this, his works were to have a great influence on painters, sculptors and architects for many generations to come.

While Michelangelo's David is the most famous male nude of all time and destined to be reproduced in order to grace cities around the world, some of his other works have had perhaps even greater impact on the course of art. The twisting forms and tensions of the Victory, the Bruges Madonna and the Medici Madonna make them the heralds of the Mannerist art. The unfinished giants for the tomb of Pope Julius II had profound effect on late-19th- and 20th-century sculptors such as Rodin and Henry Moore.

Michelangelo's foyer of the Laurentian Library was one of the earliest buildings to utilise Classical forms in a plastic and expressive manner. This dynamic quality was later to find its major expression in Michelangelo's centrally planned St Peter's, with its giant order, its rippling cornice and its upward-launching pointed dome. The dome of St Peter's was to influence the building of churches for many centuries, including Sant'Andrea della Valle in Rome and St Paul's Cathedral, London, as well as the civic domes of many public buildings and the state capitals across America.

Artists who were directly influenced by Michelangelo include Raphael, who imitated Michelangelo's prophets in two of his works, including his depiction of the great master in the School of Athens. Other artists, such as Pontormo, drew on the writhing forms of the Last Judgement and the frescoes of the Capella Paolina.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling was a work of unprecedented grandeur, both for its architectonic forms, to be imitated by many Baroque ceiling painters, and also for the wealth of its inventiveness in the study of figures. Vasari wrote: "The work has proved a veritable beacon to our art, of inestimable benefit to all painters, restoring light to a world that for centuries had been plunged into darkness. Indeed, painters no longer need to seek for new inventions, novel attitudes, clothed figures, fresh ways of expression, different arrangements, or sublime subjects, for this work contains every perfection possible under those headings."

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