CONTEXT

April 15, 2011

A heads-up…

Just in case you missed it – taxes are NOT due today.  Everyone has the weekend because of a holiday in DC which falls tomorrow.  So tax returns are due Monday and that’s official.

* * *

This was the day the Paris Exposition of 1900 opened and unlike many such, it was highly successful – the French made seven million francs profit.

It introduced the world to a number of exciting innovations: the first working escalator open to the public, films that had sound added, the world’s largest refracting telescope, and Rudolph Diesel’s engine that ran on peanut oil.  Before it closed in November, the Paris Metro had opened and the Second Olympic Games had been held on the grounds.

Among the awards given out were one for champagne – which rather isurprisingly went to Russia – and another for a commercial food product. It went to the Campbell’s Soup Company which has proudly carried a replica of its gold medal on the label for 111 years.

 * * *

Finally, two birthdays of note.  The first, Leonardo da Vinci (b,1452), probably the greatest brain the world has ever known, both creatively and analytically. Wikipedia calls Leonardo a polymath and if you look up ‘polymath,’ there’s a picture of Leonardo.

Model of Leonardos parachute design.

Lady with an Ermine.

A polymath sounds like someone who knows all kinds of math, but it actually means a person who knows a lot about a lot of things, which pretty much describes Leo.  In his own time he was known for his scientific acumen as well as his artistic talent; it was later centuries that limited him to being mostly a painter.  Some of his inventions have entered the mainstream without crediting him, and others have been viewed as curiosities.  Lately, we’ve all begun to understand that his vision was phenomenal – his understanding of flight, armaments, architecture, shipping, optics and nature itself was almost a form of precognition.

At left, one of four portraits of women painted by Leonardo (and one must ask, What is happening with the lady’s hair under her chin?); below, his first known drawing.

Sigmund Freud probably said it best:

“Leonardo da Vinci was like a man who awoke too early in the darkness, while the others were all still asleep.”

Not a polymath, but a talent of the first rank, Emma Thompson is celebrating today as well – many happy returns.

Study of a Tuscan landscape, 1478.

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3 Comments »

  1. I love cultural strands! I have looked at Campbell’s soup cans all my life, and never knew the story behind the medal!! And kudos for taking on the near-impossible task of summing up Leonardo on one page!

    Comment by Celia Carroll — April 15, 2011 @ 7:14 am | Reply

  2. Dear Polymaath, nice to know about Campbell’s label. Ditto for polymath. According to definition it seems there are many polymaths out there and we shouldn’t knock Emma out of the running since we d on’t know all about her head.

    Comment by Carol — April 15, 2011 @ 10:19 am | Reply

  3. Polytively a great tell thank you Jean.

    Comment by avery — April 16, 2011 @ 4:30 pm | Reply


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