The Encyclopedia Britannica first saw the light of day on this date in 1768. It was the brainchild of Colin Macfarquhar and Andrew Bell and friends, all members of the Edinburgh ‘Society of Gentlemen in Scotland.’ They were inspired by Diderot’s Encyclopédie, which in turn was inspired by Chambers Cyclopedia of 1708.
The Britannica was Scottish until 1901, when it became American. At that point it was in its 9th edition and editor Horace Hooper brought out the 10th edition as mostly a supplement to the previous one. But Hooper got serious for the next version, enlisting experts in every field to write the entries. The 11th is still considered the nonpareil of encyclopedias – and lucky for us it’s available online for free.
Today, the Britannica – sold at a major discount in 1994 – is owned by billionaire Swiss banker Jacquie Safra, who also owns Merriam-Webster and funds Woody Allen movies.
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Some day someone will assemble the necessary data to prove this hypothesis: musicians live longer than other humans because they are constantly tuning all their cells harmonically. Many happy returns to the redoubtable Dave Brubeck, the Chopin of our time, who is celebrating 90 years today – I think he’d really enjoy this version of his ‘Unsquare Dance’:
And here is Himself with the London Symphony Orchestra in 2001: