Dead People I Would Invite for Dinner

History is replete with boors. Consider, for example, Alexander the (so-called) Great, Oliver Cromwell and Mao Zedong. Sit down with one of those and you’d get such an earful self-aggrandizement (Alex), theology (Oliver) or ideology (Mao) that you’d be comatose within five minutes.

Fortunately, there’s more to history than presidents, kings and despots. Dotted through the story of humankind are the creative souls who invented the tasty ideas that shape our lives and that we too often take for granted.

Think. Who invented the computer? How do governments make money from lotteries? Everyone thinks they know it, but what the hell is “correlation”? There have been a dozen or more films about him, but who wrote the original story of Frankenstein? Why does the mention of evolution drive half of Americans to foam at the mouth? What is impressionism?

Behind each of these questions there is an artist or scientist  n (sometimes two or three) who has more imagination and intelligence than all the political ideologues or military leaders combined. And it’s always been a fantasy of mine to pretend invite some of them over for drinks, dinner and conversation.

What I would like to do is to describe these folk and their personalities and accomplishments in a paragraph or two, and leave it to you to decide if you would join us — I may even describe the dinner — by following up on the links I will provide.

The main criterion for being my dinner guest is to be entertaining. But I’ll also describe some bright innovators I would strike off the invitation list. Geniuses are rarely tedious, but they can be very annoying. Such will not sit at my dinner table, but I will give them a couple of blog sentences, including links, so that you can do your own research.

I expect to publish one of these little biographies every two weeks. Approximately.

First up will be Giacomo Girolamo Casanova (1725-1798), actor, mathematician, musician, adventurer, seducer and the driving force behind the first modern lottery.

About aharmlessdrudge

Way back during the late Bronze age -- actually it was the 1950s -- all of us in high school had to take a vocational test to determine our interests and, supposedly, our future careers. I cannot remember the outcome, but I do recall one question that gave me pause. "If you were to win a Nobel prize, would it be in literature or in physics?" I hesitated over the question: although I enjoyed mathematics and science more than English class, I did have a couple of unfinished (and very bad) novels hidden away at home. I cannot remember what I chose back then, but the dilemma followed me to university, where I switched from mathematics to English and -- after a five-year stint in journalism -- back to mathematics. I recently retired as a professor of statistics. Retirement. What a good chance to revive my literary ambitions. I have finished a novel -- more about that in good time -- and a rubble of drafts of articles about mathematics and statistics is taking up space on my hard disk.
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1 Response to Dead People I Would Invite for Dinner

  1. Dear Alan I thoroughly enjoyed your blog; and I agree with a great deal of it.
    However “history is replete with Boors” may be true, but it is not what you meant. You meant to type “bores”!
    I look forward to talking to you face to face.
    Regards Ben

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