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10 Famous Birthdays to Celebrate in August

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Some of our favorite historical figures were born in the month of August. We couldn't possibly name them all, so here are just a handful of lives we'll be celebrating.

1. AUGUST 1, 1818: MARIA MITCHELL

Mitchell was the first female astronomer in the U.S. She discovered a comet in 1847; uncovered the true nature of sunspots; became the first woman member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as the American Association for the Advancement of Science; was the first person ever to be appointed to the faculty at Vassar College; and was then named the Director of the Vassar College Observatory. She was also a pioneer in equal pay: When Mitchell discovered she wasn’t making as much as her less experienced counterparts, she demanded a raise and got it.

2. AUGUST 4, 1901: LOUIS ARMSTRONG

Armstrong said his birthdate was July 4, 1900, but in 1988, music historian Thaddeus “Tad” Jones found baptismal records which stated that the icon’s actual birthday was August 4, 1901. It’s unclear why the musician fibbed about his birthday, but some believe he did it to join a military band, while others say he figured he'd have better luck getting gigs if he was over 18 years old.

3. AUGUST 5, 1930: NEIL ARMSTRONG

Armstrong’s most famous quotation ("That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”) is widely criticized for its grammatical shortcomings, but the astronaut had apparently meant to say "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." In fact, after Apollo 11, Armstrong claimed to have said it correctly all along. He cited static on the radio transmission as the reason for the article omission, which was then supported by NASA representatives. Later on, Armstrong listened to a copy of the quote, and regardless of the speed or volume, neither the “a” nor the supposed radio static was ever heard. Armstrong reportedly said: "Damn, I really did it. I blew the first words on the moon, didn't I?"

4. AUGUST 6, 1911: LUCILLE BALL

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Everyone loves Lucy, but she wasn’t just an adored actress, she was a powerful business woman. Ball was the first-ever female to head a major Hollywood production company, Desilu Productions. She became president of the company—which she founded with former husband Desi Arnaz—in 1962, and sold it five years later. In Desilu’s nearly two decade run, it produced series like Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables, and (naturally) I Love Lucy.

5. AUGUST 8, 1866: MATTHEW HENSON

Henson was the first African-American Arctic explorer. He traveled with Robert Edwin Peary as his “first man” for over two decades, and was part of the expedition that claimed to be the first to reach the Geographic North Pole in 1909 (an achievement disputed by many). Henson was a navigator, craftsman, and is well known for his relationship with the Inuit people. He learned the language and customs, and even earned a nickname, "Maripaluk," or "Matthew the kind one."

6. AUGUST 13, 1899: ALFRED HITCHCOCK

Hitchcock was a master of fright, but he had quite a few of his own real-life phobias, including chicken eggs, jail cells, and soufflé-making.

7. AUGUST 13, 1860: ANNIE OAKLEY

The famed sharpshooter gained notoriety while traveling with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and earned one of her best-known nicknames from Hunkpapa Lakota chief and holy man, Sitting Bull. He called Oakley "Watanya Cicillia" or "Little Sure Shot," and reportedly asked to adopt Annie after seeing the young performer shoot the ace of hearts out of a card at 30 paces.

8. AUGUST 15, 1912: JULIA CHILD

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Before she became history’s favorite television chef, Julia Child worked for the Office of Strategic Services—the predecessor to the CIA. One of the organization’s tasks during her time there was to develop a shark repellent to prevent attacks. The winning recipe—copper acetate mixed with black dye—never really worked, but was nevertheless employed by the Army and Coast Guard for about 25 years.

9. AUGUST 17, 1786: DAVY CROCKETT

When you think of this 19th century folk hero and frontiersman, a coonskin cap probably comes to mind, but Crockett’s historical image might differ from the one he actually donned. While he claimed not to care about fashion, for one portrait he asked artist John Gadsby Chapman to depict him rallying dogs during a bear hunt. Crockett even bought outdoorsy props and wanted to be shown holding up his famed cap. He reportedly did wear it sometimes in real life, but that too might have been more of a branding exercise than an authentic choice.

10. AUGUST 22, 1893: DOROTHY PARKER

The writer, known for her biting wit, has a bevy of fantastic one-liners (like: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”) but her best one might be her last. Her epitaph reads: “Excuse my dust.”

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15 Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Julie Andrews Quotes
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With her saccharine movies and sugary voice, it would be easy for Julie Andrews to cross the line from sweet to cloying. Yet for more than 60 years, the Oscar-winning actress/singer/author has managed to enchant audiences of all ages with her iconic roles in everything from Mary Poppins to The Sound of Music to The Princess Diaries.

Yet just because she sings about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens doesn’t mean that Andrews doesn’t have an edge. “I hate the word wholesome,” she once declared. In celebration of the beloved movie star’s 82nd birthday, we’ve assembled some of Andrews’s most memorable quotes on everything from being typecast to Mary Poppins's personal habits.

1. ON MAKING THE TRANSITION FROM STAGE TO SCREEN

Mary Poppins was the first movie I made and The Sound of Music was the third. I was as raw as I could be. God knows I did not have the right or the ability in those days to say anything like a mentor. The only thing I did feel was that I could contribute to helping the kids feel natural, making them laugh off the set so that they were easy with me on the set. We had some good times." — From a 2015 interview with HitFix

2. ON THE FRIGHTFUL NATURE OF SUCCESS

“Success is terrifying. Like happiness, it is often appreciated in retrospect. It’s only later that you place it in perspective. Years from now, I’ll look back and say, ‘God, wasn’t it wonderful?” — From a 1966 interview with This Week

3. ON SMILING THROUGH CHALLENGING TIMES

“I was raised never to carp about things and never to moan, because in vaudeville, which is my background, you just got on with it through all kinds of adversities.” — From a 2010 interview with The Telegraph

4. ON AVOIDING TYPECASTING

“I think the hardest thing in a career even as lovely as I’ve had is not to go on being typecast, to keep trying new things. As much as possible, I do try to do that.” — From a 2015 interview with HitFix

5. ON BEING A BADASS

“I’ve got a good right hook.” — From Julie Andrews: An Intimate Biography, by Richard Stirling

6. ON BEING GRATEFUL

“A lot of my life happened in great, wonderful bursts of good fortune, and then I would race to be worthy of it.” — From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

7. ON THE CHANGING DEFINITION OF “SUCCESS”

“You never set out to make a bad movie. You always hope that you’re making a good one. We’re sad about them, inasmuch as they damage the career. In those days it was important, but not as important as it is today, to keep making success after success after success. It’s terrifying today. You can maybe have one so-so movie but you’ve got to come back with another that’s huge, if possible, and that must be very, very difficult for young talent.” — From a 2004 interview with the Academy of Achievement

8. ON THE COLLABORATIVE NATURE OF FILMMAKING

“It is a collaborative medium. If you’re lucky, everyone wants to do just that. You never set out to make a failure; you want a success. In the case of The Sound of Music, everyone was willing to bond and make it work. That is the best kind of working conditions. You don’t want to go in feeling that something’s wrong or that you’re not connecting. Thus far I’ve been really blessed.” — From a 2015 interview with HitFix

9. ON HOW THE PROS DO IT

“Remember: the amateur works until he can get it right. The professional works until he cannot go wrong.” — From Julie Andrews’s autobiography, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years

10. ON BELIEVING IN MIRACLES

“I do think that’s true [that miracles are happening every day]. If you can take the time to look. It took me a while to learn that, though some children know it instinctively and they do have wonder when they are kids. But the trouble is, as we grow older, we lose it.” — Interview with American Libraries Magazine

11. ON LOSING CONTROL

“I can’t drink too much without getting absolutely silly. And drugs have, mercifully, never worked, so I think I’m far more frightened of being out of control.” — From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

12. ON FINDING INSPIRATION

"It comes from anyplace. Truthfully, once the antennae are kind of up I’m always thinking or looking or feeling." — From an interview with American Libraries Magazine

13. ON THE REALITY OF “HAPPILY EVERY AFTER”

"As you become older, you become less judgmental and take offense less. But marriage is hard work; the illusion that you get married and live happily ever after is absolute rubbish." — From a 1982 interview with The New York Times

14. ON LUCK AND LONGEVITY

“When careers last as long as mine—and it’s been a lot of years now—I’m very fortunate that I’m still around. All careers go up and down like friendships, like marriages, like anything else, and you can’t bat a thousand all the time. So I think I’ve been very, very lucky.” — From a 2010 interview with The Telegraph

15. ON HOW MARY POPPINS IS JUST LIKE US

“Does Mary Poppins have an orgasm? Does she go to the bathroom? I assure you, she does." — From a 1982 interview with The New York Times

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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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