Linnaeus And The Art Of Classification

One of the great names of eighteenth century science is the botanist Carl von Linné, more commonly known as Carl Linnaeus.  His primary importance to history lies in his innovative classification system for living organisms.  Before him, there was a chaos of competing names and terms for the swelling corpus of knowledge about plants and animals; after him, there was something approaching order.

Continue reading

Wise Sayings Of The Poet Al-Tihami

The Arabic poet Abu al-Hasan Ali Ibn Muhammad al-Tihami (? – 1025) is said to have taken the name Tihami in one of two possible ways that may hint at his family’s origins, according to our trusted chronicler Ibn Khallikan.  Tihami was used both as an informal name for the city of Mecca, and as a name for the mountains between the Hijaz and Yemen.  But it is not clear which of these geographic references apply to our poet.

Continue reading

The Life Of Father António Vieira

One of the most compelling figures of Portuguese history–and surely one of the greatest practitioners of its prose–was Father António Vieira, a Jesuit missionary, orator, statesman, writer, and mystic.  His career illustrates that stimulating mixture of conservative and progressive thinking that would come to characterize the Jesuit order throughout much of its history.  He was born in Lisbon in 1608 and moved to Brazil (what is now the state of Bahia) in 1614 when his father received an appointment for a government post there.

Continue reading

Thomas Paine: Agitator And Revolutionary

paine

One figure in early American history has the unique distinction of being a significant actor in both the American and French revolutions.  Thomas Paine is not widely known today (or at least not as widely known as he should be), but his career shows him to have been a man of integrity and courageous conviction.  He was born in England and moved to the American colonies as a thirty-seven-year-old adult in 1774, just as the fires of revolution began to smolder.

[To read the rest of the article, click here.]

An Epitaph For Fidel Castro: The Failure Of Self-Mastery

fidel1

He was from youth a strong-willed and charismatic man, certain of the correctness of his ideas and the importance of his mission. It is probably true that in the beginning he genuinely wanted the best for his country, and he was possessed of a burning desire to right the wrongs he saw all around him. Cuba under his predecessors was little more than a huge plantation, exploited at will by corrupt elites and foreign powers.  His certitude gave him a charisma which the credulity of the commons mistook for leadership.

Continue reading

The Character Assassination Of Ty Cobb

cobb

By now everyone has been reminded that the media is not infallible.  It is composed of very fallible human beings who make mistakes with the same regularity as all the rest of us.  I was recently reading a bit about something in statistics called “Galton’s Problem,” an observational dynamic named after its discoverer, Sir Francis Galton.

[To read the rest of the article, click here.]

The Revolutionary Reforms Of Peter The Great

peter

Peter the Great (1672-1725) was one of the pivotal figures of Russian history.  His reforms were a product of his personality and his vision for what he wanted Russia to become; and sometimes in history, personality matters more than those vague “historical forces” that professional historians like to imagine as controlling the destinies of men.

[To read the rest of the article, click here.]