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10 Great Scientists Who Were Also Jocks

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Brain and brawn have never been enemies; in fact, some of the most gifted scientists of all time were also dedicated athletes.

1. Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937)

As a young man, the “father of nuclear physics” played rugby for Nelson College and the University of Canterbury.

2. Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936)

When he wasn’t training dogs to salivate on cue, Pavlov excelled at the Russian sport of Gorodki. He also made weekly visits to a St. Petersburg gym with some of his fellow physicians while working at the Institute of Experimental Medicine.

3. Preston Cloud (1912-1991)

This geologist really packed a punch. After enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1930, Cloud became the Pacific Scouting Force’s bantamweight amateur boxing champion. Today, he’s best remembered for helping to change how we view the history of life and our planet itself.

4. Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)

Wikimedia Commons

Franklin’s contribution to DNA research was—criminally—never appreciated during her tragically short life. As a teen, she competed in tennis, cricket, and other sports while enrolled at St. Paul’s Girls’ School in London.

5. Meredith “Flash” Gourdine (1929-1998)

Cornell Library

One and a half inches stood between Gourdine and a gold medal. That was the distance which separated his leap from fellow American Jerome Biffle’s at the 1952 Olympic long jump competition. “I would have rather lost by a foot,” Gourdine later confessed. Despite this second-place finish, the man’s knack for experimentation secured his place in history. A prolific inventor, Gourdine held a PhD in engineering physics and over 30 patents before passing away from stroke-related complications at the age of 69.

6. Buzz Aldrin (1930- Pres.)

“[American] Football was my passion and homework was my nemesis” sounds like a pretty ironic statement coming from the man who piloted Apollo 11. Once a prolific high school quarterback, Aldrin eventually decided to put athletics on the back-burner and focus on his grades before applying to West Point.

7. Edwin Hubble (1889-1953)

Wikimedia Commons

The cantankerous Hubble telescope is named for a man who excelled at the shot-put and at dazzling recruiters. His biggest sporting achievement, however, came in 1909, when he helped the Chicago Maroons basketball team clinch its third consecutive national title.

8. Enrico Fermi (1901-1954)

Wikimedia Commons

Fermi, who won the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in radioactive isotopes, was noted for his tenacity. Physically strong and ferociously competitive, Fermi loved playing tennis and often defeated opponents by wearing them down into near-total exhaustion.

9. Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

As a lad, Sagan was the captain of his high school’s intramural basketball team and almost passed up his first meeting with Seymour Abrahamson—an Indiana University grad student who’d help the future astronomer nab his first laboratory job—because he wanted to go out and shoot some hoops instead.

10. Niels Bohr (1885-1962)

A key figure in the Manhattan project, this giant of twentieth-century science seemed remarkably down to earth. At least, the aforementioned Ernest Rutherford thought so. Rutherford categorically disliked theoretical physicists—whom he found snobbish—but said “Bohr’s different. He’s a football player!” Niels Bohr enjoyed a celebrated collegiate career as a goalkeeper at the University of Copenhagen. Harald Bohr, his younger brother, also adored football and even helped the Danish Olympic team win a silver medal in 1908.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images unless otherwise noted.

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You Can Now Rent the Montgomery, Alabama Home of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald Through Airbnb
Chris Pruitt, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The former apartment of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, perhaps the most famous couple of the Jazz Age, is now available to rent on a nightly basis through Airbnb, The Chicago Tribune reports. While visitors are discouraged from throwing parties in the spirit of Jay Gatsby, they are invited to write, drink, and live there as the authors did.

The early 20th-century house in Montgomery, Alabama was home to the pair from 1931 to 1932. It's where Zelda worked on her only novel Save Me the Waltz and F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote part of Tender Is the Night. The building was also the last home they shared with their daughter Scottie before she moved to boarding school.

In the 1980s, the house was rescued from a planned demolition and turned into a nonprofit. Today, the site is a museum and a spot on the Southern Literary Trail. While the first floor of the Fitzgerald museum, which features first-edition books, letters, original paintings, and other artifacts related to the couple, isn't available to rent, the two-bedroom apartment above it goes for $150 a night. Guests staying there will find a record player and a collection of jazz albums, pillows embroidered with Zelda Fitzgerald quotes, and a balcony with views of the property's magnolia tree. Of the four surviving homes Zelda and F. Scott lived in while traveling the world, this is the only one that's accessible to the public.

Though the Fitzgerald home is the only site on the Southern Literary Trail available to rent through Airbnb, it's just one of the trail's many historic homes. The former residences of Flannery O'Connor, Caroline Miller, and Lillian Smith are all open to the public as museums.

[h/t The Chicago Tribune]

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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History
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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