Topic: Military history/Military biography
Agent 355 (died after 1780) was the code name of a female spy during the American Revolution, part of the Culper Ring. Agent 355 was one of the first spies for the United States, but her real identity is unknown. The number, 355, could be de-crypted from the system the Culper Ring used to mean "lady."
- "Agent 355" | 2019-07-04 | 115 Upvotes 10 Comments
Sir Basil Zaharoff, GCB, GBE, born Vasileios Zacharias (Greek: Βασίλειος Zαχαρίας Ζαχάρωφ; October 6, 1849 – November 27, 1936), was a Greek arms dealer and industrialist. One of the richest men in the world during his lifetime, Zaharoff was described as a "merchant of death" and "mystery man of Europe". His success was forged through his cunning, often aggressive and sharp, business tactics. These included the sale of arms to opposing sides in conflicts, sometimes delivering fake or faulty machinery and skilfully using the press to attack business rivals.
Zaharoff maintained close contacts with many powerful political leaders, including British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos and Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II; he served as a primary inspiration for Ian Fleming's fictional James Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
- "Basil Zaharoff" | 2014-06-22 | 30 Upvotes 9 Comments
Grace Brewster Murray Hopper (née Murray December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral. One of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, she was a pioneer of computer programming who invented one of the first linkers. She popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, an early high-level programming language still in use today.
Prior to joining the Navy, Hopper earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale University and was a professor of mathematics at Vassar College. Hopper attempted to enlist in the Navy during World War II but was rejected because she was 34 years old. She instead joined the Navy Reserves. Hopper began her computing career in 1944 when she worked on the Harvard Mark I team led by Howard H. Aiken. In 1949, she joined the Eckert–Mauchly Computer Corporation and was part of the team that developed the UNIVAC I computer. At Eckert–Mauchly she began developing the compiler. She believed that a programming language based on English was possible. Her compiler converted English terms into machine code understood by computers. By 1952, Hopper had finished her program linker (originally called a compiler), which was written for the A-0 System. During her wartime service, she co-authored three papers based on her work on the Harvard Mark 1.
In 1954, Eckert–Mauchly chose Hopper to lead their department for automatic programming, and she led the release of some of the first compiled languages like FLOW-MATIC. In 1959, she participated in the CODASYL consortium, which consulted Hopper to guide them in creating a machine-independent programming language. This led to the COBOL language, which was inspired by her idea of a language being based on English words. In 1966, she retired from the Naval Reserve, but in 1967 the Navy recalled her to active duty. She retired from the Navy in 1986 and found work as a consultant for the Digital Equipment Corporation, sharing her computing experiences.
The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper was named for her, as was the Cray XE6 "Hopper" supercomputer at NERSC. During her lifetime, Hopper was awarded 40 honorary degrees from universities across the world. A college at Yale University was renamed in her honor. In 1991, she received the National Medal of Technology. On November 22, 2016, she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
- "Grace Hopper" | 2013-08-31 | 190 Upvotes 54 Comments
Iannis Xenakis (also spelt as Yannis Xenakis) (Greek: Γιάννης (Ιάννης) Ξενάκης [ˈʝanis kseˈnacis]; 29 May 1922 – 4 February 2001) was a Greek-French composer, music theorist, architect, performance director and engineer. After 1947, he fled Greece, becoming a naturalized citizen of France. He is considered an important post-World War II composer whose works helped revolutionize 20th-century classical music.
Xenakis pioneered the use of mathematical models in music such as applications of set theory, stochastic processes and game theory and was also an important influence on the development of electronic and computer music. He integrated music with architecture, designing music for pre-existing spaces, and designing spaces to be integrated with specific music compositions and performances.
Among his most important works are Metastaseis (1953–54) for orchestra, which introduced independent parts for every musician of the orchestra; percussion works such as Psappha (1975) and Pléïades (1979); compositions that introduced spatialization by dispersing musicians among the audience, such as Terretektorh (1966); electronic works created using Xenakis's UPIC system; and the massive multimedia performances Xenakis called polytopes, that were a summa of his interests and skills. Among the numerous theoretical writings he authored, the book Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition (French edition 1963, English translation 1971) is regarded as one of his most important. As an architect, Xenakis is primarily known for his early work under Le Corbusier: the Sainte Marie de La Tourette, on which the two architects collaborated, and the Philips Pavilion at Expo 58, which Xenakis designed by himself.
- "Iannis Xenakis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia" | 2010-05-20 | 18 Upvotes 5 Comments
Ivan Mikhailovich Chisov (Russian: Иван Михайлович Чисов, Ukrainian: Іван Михайлович Чиссов; 1916–1986) was a Soviet Air Force lieutenant who survived a fall of approximately 7,000 meters (23,000 feet). Some references give the spelling of his last name as Chissov (Russian: Чиссов, Ukrainian: Чиссов).
- "Ivan Chisov" | 2019-10-04 | 69 Upvotes 31 Comments
John von Neumann (; Hungarian: Neumann János Lajos, pronounced [ˈnɒjmɒn ˈjaːnoʃ ˈlɒjoʃ]; December 28, 1903 – February 8, 1957) was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, engineer and polymath. Von Neumann was generally regarded as the foremost mathematician of his time and said to be "the last representative of the great mathematicians"; who integrated both pure and applied sciences.
He made major contributions to a number of fields, including mathematics (foundations of mathematics, functional analysis, ergodic theory, representation theory, operator algebras, geometry, topology, and numerical analysis), physics (quantum mechanics, hydrodynamics, and quantum statistical mechanics), economics (game theory), computing (Von Neumann architecture, linear programming, self-replicating machines, stochastic computing), and statistics.
He was a pioneer of the application of operator theory to quantum mechanics in the development of functional analysis, and a key figure in the development of game theory and the concepts of cellular automata, the universal constructor and the digital computer.
He published over 150 papers in his life: about 60 in pure mathematics, 60 in applied mathematics, 20 in physics, and the remainder on special mathematical subjects or non-mathematical ones. His last work, an unfinished manuscript written while he was in hospital, was later published in book form as The Computer and the Brain.
His analysis of the structure of self-replication preceded the discovery of the structure of DNA. In a short list of facts about his life he submitted to the National Academy of Sciences, he stated, "The part of my work I consider most essential is that on quantum mechanics, which developed in Göttingen in 1926, and subsequently in Berlin in 1927–1929. Also, my work on various forms of operator theory, Berlin 1930 and Princeton 1935–1939; on the ergodic theorem, Princeton, 1931–1932."
During World War II, von Neumann worked on the Manhattan Project with theoretical physicist Edward Teller, mathematician Stanisław Ulam and others, problem solving key steps in the nuclear physics involved in thermonuclear reactions and the hydrogen bomb. He developed the mathematical models behind the explosive lenses used in the implosion-type nuclear weapon, and coined the term "kiloton" (of TNT), as a measure of the explosive force generated.
After the war, he served on the General Advisory Committee of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, and consulted for a number of organizations, including the United States Air Force, the Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory, the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. As a Hungarian émigré, concerned that the Soviets would achieve nuclear superiority, he designed and promoted the policy of mutually assured destruction to limit the arms race.
- "John von Neumann" | 2015-06-26 | 20 Upvotes 3 Comments
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (; November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer. In a career spanning over 50 years, Vonnegut published fourteen novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five works of non-fiction, with further collections being published after his death. He is most famous for his darkly satirical, best-selling novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969).
Born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, Vonnegut attended Cornell University but dropped out in January 1943 and enlisted in the United States Army. As part of his training, he studied mechanical engineering at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) and the University of Tennessee. He was then deployed to Europe to fight in World War II and was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge. He was interned in Dresden and survived the Allied bombing of the city by taking refuge in a meat locker of the slaughterhouse where he was imprisoned. After the war, Vonnegut married Jane Marie Cox, with whom he had three children. He later adopted his sister's three sons, after she died of cancer and her husband was killed in a train accident.
Vonnegut published his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952. The novel was reviewed positively but was not commercially successful. In the nearly 20 years that followed, Vonnegut published several novels that were only marginally successful, such as Cat's Cradle (1963) and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1964). Vonnegut's breakthrough was his commercially and critically successful sixth novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. The book's anti-war sentiment resonated with its readers amidst the ongoing Vietnam War and its reviews were generally positive. After its release, Slaughterhouse-Five went to the top of The New York Times Best Seller list, thrusting Vonnegut into fame. He was invited to give speeches, lectures and commencement addresses around the country and received many awards and honors.
Later in his career, Vonnegut published several autobiographical essays and short-story collections, including Fates Worse Than Death (1991), and A Man Without a Country (2005). After his death, he was hailed as a morbidly comical commentator on the society in which he lived and as one of the most important contemporary writers. Vonnegut's son Mark published a compilation of his father's unpublished compositions, titled Armageddon in Retrospect. In 2017, Seven Stories Press published Complete Stories, a collection of Vonnegut's short fiction including five previously unpublished stories. Complete Stories was collected and introduced by Vonnegut friends and scholars Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefield. Numerous scholarly works have examined Vonnegut's writing and humor.
- "Kurt Vonnegut's rules for writing short stories" | 2009-10-08 | 46 Upvotes 14 Comments
Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov (Russian: Станисла́в Евгра́фович Петро́в; 7 September 1939 – 19 May 2017) was a lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Defence Forces who played a key role in the 1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident. On 26 September 1983, three weeks after the Soviet military had shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, Petrov was the duty officer at the command center for the Oko nuclear early-warning system when the system reported that a missile had been launched from the United States, followed by up to five more. Petrov judged the reports to be a false alarm, and his decision to disobey orders, against Soviet military protocol, is credited with having prevented an erroneous retaliatory nuclear attack on the United States and its NATO allies that could have resulted in large-scale nuclear war. Investigation later confirmed that the Soviet satellite warning system had indeed malfunctioned.
- "Happy Petrov day" | 2013-09-26 | 138 Upvotes 30 Comments
Subutai (Classical Mongolian: Sübügätäi or Sübü'ätäi; Tuvan: Сүбэдэй, [sybɛˈdɛj]; Modern Mongolian: Сүбээдэй, Sübeedei. [sʊbeːˈdɛ]; Chinese: 速不台 1175–1248) was an Uriankhai general, and the primary military strategist of Genghis Khan and Ögedei Khan. He directed more than 20 campaigns in which he conquered 32 nations and won 65 pitched battles, during which he conquered or overran more territory than any other commander in history. He gained victory by means of imaginative and sophisticated strategies and routinely coordinated movements of armies that were hundreds of kilometers away from each other. He is also remembered for devising the campaign that destroyed the armies of Hungary and Poland within two days of each other, by forces over 500 kilometers apart.
- "Subutai – Primary military strategist of Genghis Khan" | 2017-06-14 | 84 Upvotes 22 Comments
Tarrare (c. 1772 – 1798), sometimes spelled Tarare, was a French showman and soldier, noted for his unusual eating habits. Able to eat vast amounts of meat, he was constantly hungry; his parents could not provide for him, and he was turned out of the family home as a teenager. He travelled France in the company of a band of thieves and prostitutes, before becoming the warm-up act to a travelling charlatan; he would swallow corks, stones, live animals and a whole basketful of apples. He then took this act to Paris where he worked as a street performer.
At the start of the War of the First Coalition, Tarrare joined the French Revolutionary Army. With military rations, though quadrupled, unable to satisfy his large appetite, he would eat any available food from gutters and refuse heaps but his condition still deteriorated through hunger. He was hospitalised due to exhaustion and became the subject of a series of medical experiments to test his eating capacity, in which, among other things, he ate a meal intended for 15 people in a single sitting, ate live cats, snakes, lizards and puppies, and swallowed eels whole without chewing. Despite his unusual diet, he was of normal size and appearance, and showed no signs of mental illness other than what was described as an apathetic temperament.
General Alexandre de Beauharnais decided to put Tarrare's abilities to military use, and he was employed as a courier by the French army, with the intention that he would swallow documents, pass through enemy lines, and recover them from his stool once safely at his destination. Tarrare could not speak German, and on his first mission was captured by Prussian forces, severely beaten and underwent a mock execution before being returned to French lines.
Chastened by this experience, he agreed to submit to any procedure that would cure his appetite, and was treated with laudanum, tobacco pills, wine vinegar and soft-boiled eggs. The procedures failed, and doctors could not keep him on a controlled diet; he would sneak out of the hospital to scavenge for offal in gutters, rubbish heaps and outside butchers' shops, and attempted to drink the blood of other patients in the hospital and to eat the corpses in the hospital morgue. After being suspected of eating a toddler he was ejected from the hospital. He reappeared four years later in Versailles with a case of severe tuberculosis, and died shortly afterwards, following a lengthy bout of exudative diarrhoea.
- "Tarrare" | 2019-02-05 | 311 Upvotes 72 Comments