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6 Things Lincoln and Darwin Had In Common

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On February 12, 1809, two of the most revolutionary men of the 19th century were born. Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin had a lot more in common than a knack for growing epic beards. For example...

1. Both Men Loved Shakespeare

As a young man, Darwin particularly enjoyed the Bard’s historical dramas, although he became tired of the playwright as he grew older. Lincoln, meanwhile, recited Shakespeare’s work extensively throughout his life. In an eerie coincidence, Honest Abe quoted the following line from Macbeth mere days before his assassination: “After life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well.” 

2. Neither Rose to National Prominence Until Their Late Forties

Talk about late bloomers! Although both men had previously enjoyed modest professional success, neither turned into a household name in their youth. For Lincoln, that all changed in 1858, when the Lincoln-Douglas debates helped him secure nationwide recognition and, eventually, the presidency. The following year, Darwin became one of the most famous scientists in history when On the Origin of Species was published after a lengthy gestation period.

3. Both Lost Their Mothers Early In Life

Susannah Wedgwood Darwin lost her battle with an unknown disease on July 15, 1817. As for Nancy Hanks Lincoln, she died of milk sickness on October 5, 1818, at the age of 34

4. Both Suffered Through the Death of a Very Young Child

As if the grim reaper hadn’t hounded their families enough, Edward Lincoln died shortly before his fourth birthday, while Anne Elizabeth Darwin succumbed to an unknown illness at the age of ten (her devastated parents kept a box full of keepsakes which went undiscovered until 2000).

5. Both Loved Music, But Neither Could Sing

Lincoln adored opera, while Darwin enjoyed listening to church choirs, classical concerts, and his wife’s piano-playing. Despite this affinity, the former man refused to sing around others and the latter was tone-deaf.

6. Both Were Abolitionists

“If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong,” Lincoln once wrote. The “great emancipator’s” role in passing the thirteenth amendment, which officially eradicated slavery in the United States, speaks for itself, but Darwin, too, loathed the practice. While aboard the HMS Beagle (a voyage that inspired his theory of natural selection), Darwin frequently encountered “those atrocious acts which can only take place in a slave country.” He even weighed in on the American Civil War in a letter to New England botanist Asa Gray, writing “[I wish] that the North would proclaim a crusade against slavery … Great God, how I should like to see the greatest curse on earth, slavery, abolished.”

And Here’s One Critical Difference:

Lincoln was an avid cat-fancier, while Darwin preferred dogs.

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6 Memorable Letters From Neil Armstrong
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Neil Armstrong, who would have turned 87 years old today, is remembered as both a "reluctant American hero" and "the spiritual repository of spacefaring dreams and ambitions." He was a man of few words, but those he chose to share were significant and, occasionally, tongue-in-cheek. Here are some notable letters and notes written by the first man on the moon.

1. ITS TRUE BEAUTY, HOWEVER, WAS THAT IT WORKED.

There was little certainty about what to expect once Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the relative safety of the Apollo 11 spacecraft. This was not lost on Armstrong, who sent a letter of thanks to the crew who designed his spacesuit.

2. AMERICA MUST DECIDE IF IT WISHES TO REMAIN A LEADER IN SPACE.

It's no secret that NASA's budget has all but disappeared in recent years. Neil, along with James Lovell and Eugene Cernan, had a few things to say about that. The three wrote an open letter to President Obama, urging him not to forfeit the United States' progress in space exploration and technology. It ends with a sobering prediction, and some advice:

For The United States, the leading space faring nation for nearly half a century, to be without carriage to low Earth orbit and with no human exploration capability to go beyond Earth orbit for an indeterminate time into the future, destines our nation to become one of second or even third rate stature. While the President’s plan envisages humans traveling away from Earth and perhaps toward Mars at some time in the future, the lack of developed rockets and spacecraft will assure that ability will not be available for many years.

Without the skill and experience that actual spacecraft operation provides, the USA is far too likely to be on a long downhill slide to mediocrity. America must decide if it wishes to remain a leader in space. If it does, we should institute a program which will give us the very best chance of achieving that goal.

(Here's the letter in full.)

3. ALL OF THIS KNOWLEDGE IS YOURS FOR THE TAKING.

In 1971, the children's librarian of Troy, Michigan's new public library wrote dozens of letters to notable figures across the globe, asking them to address the children of Troy and speak about the importance of libraries, books, and reading. Among the replies was this note from Armstrong:

Through books you will meet poets and novelists whose creations will fire your imagination. You will meet the great thinkers who will share with you their philosophies, their concepts of the world, of humanity and of creation. You will learn about events that have shaped our history, of deeds both noble and ignoble. All of this knowledge is yours for the taking… Your library is a storehouse for mind and spirit. Use it well.

4. I FIND THAT MYSTIFYING.

After NPR's Robert Krulwich wondered aloud on-air why the astronauts stayed so close to the landing site (less than 100 yards from their lander), a helpful Armstrong sent over a lengthy letter of explanation, which ended with a little insight about the importance of space exploration (emphasis added):

Later Apollo flights were able to do more and move further in order to cover larger areas, particularly when the Lunar Rover vehicle became available in 1971. But in KRULWICH WONDERS, you make an important point, which I emphasized to the House Science and Technology Committee. During my testimony in May I said, "Some question why Americans should return to the Moon. "After all," they say "we have already been there." I find that mystifying. It would be as if 16th century monarchs proclaimed that "we need not go to the New World, we have already been there." Or as if President Thomas Jefferson announced in 1803 that Americans "need not go west of the Mississippi, the Lewis and Clark Expedition has already been there." Americans have visited and examined 6 locations on Luna, varying in size from a suburban lot to a small township. That leaves more than 14 million square miles yet to explore.

I have tried to give a small insight into your question “Who knew?”

I hope it is helpful.

(Read the full transcript here.)

5. IT CERTAINLY WAS EXCITING FOR ME.

On the 40th anniversary of the Apollo landing, Armstrong wrote a personal letter of tribute to the Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex, which provided the communications between Apollo 11 and mission control. In part, it reads:

We were involved in doing what many thought to be impossible, putting humans on Earth’s moon.

Science fiction writers thought it would be possible. H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, and other authors found ways to get people to the moon. But none of those writers foresaw any possibility of the lunar explorers being able to communicate with Earth, transmit data, position information, or transmit moving pictures of what they saw back to Earth. The authors foresaw my part of the adventure, but your part was beyond their comprehension.

All the Apollo people were working hard, working long hours, and were dedicated to making certain everything they did, they were doing to the very best of their ability. And I am confident that those of you who were working with us forty years ago, were working at least that hard. It would be impossible to overstate the appreciation that we on the crew feel for your dedication and the quality of your work.

The full text is available on the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station website.

6. NEXT TIME, BUTT OUT OF OUR BUSINESS!

After a surprise appearance in "Mystery On the Moon," issue #98 of The Fantastic Four, wherein our intrepid explorers are saved by four mutants in space, this brief note arrived in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's mailbox. Was it real? Who knows. But the sentiment remains: We don't need your superheroes to get to the moon—we have science

This post originally appeared in 2012.

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Dallas Museum Sets Record for Most Frida Kahlo Impersonators in One Place
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Courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo may be the most recognizable face in the art world. More than 60 years after her death, her striking self-portraits and distinctive features (those eyebrows!) and style make her a figure ripe for imitation.

In honor of her 110th birthday (which was on July 6), the Dallas Museum of Art and the local Latino Center for Leadership Development celebrated Frida Fest, a day devoted to all things Frida. Most notable? More than 1000 people showed up to take part in the largest gathering of people dressed as Frida Kahlo in one place, as The Daily Beast reports.

The museum had a makeup artist on hand to give people complimentary Frida makeovers, in service to the museum's semi-strict rules for what exactly constitutes "dressing like Frida." Impersonators were required to have a unibrow, either drawn in makeup or made with fake (or, presumably, real) hair. They had to wear no less than three artificial flowers in their hair, wear a below-the-knee floral dress (no slits!), and don a red or pink shawl.

Three women and one man dressed up as Frida pose for a picture.
Courtesy Ashley Gongora/Kathy Tran

Thanks to the Frida lovers of all ages, races, and genders who came dressed up as the iconic artist, the museum thinks it will be able to secure a Guinness World Record for the feat. Museum staffers are about to send in the evidence—all the Frida look-alikes were registered and counted at the event—and they expect to hear back from Guinness within 12 weeks.

While the Dallas event might have the distinction of being the largest Frida look-alike event, Frida gatherings happen elsewhere, too. The San Antonio version is in its second year.

[h/t The Daily Beast]

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