History is full of interesting and exotic people who can help to populate your world. They can help illuminate the range of what people think is possible for your world (or you can consider them PCs run by players not in your game). This thread is a list of people who have a great deal to contribute to a campaign. This thread should be limited to real, historical, documentable figures. This eliminates mythic and fictional people from this particular thread.

It will be nice if you would write a little one to three line summary of your entry (more would be better) and including a link about the character would be nice as well. Mini "report summaries" have become popular in this thread and are greatly endorsed.

Many of you are saying, "These REAL people don't fit my world, it is a fantasy." To you I say, real history can be easily adapted to fit almost any world. If you have not read my epic piece on the subject, Mirror characters 1800 , do so. Then you can be freed from putting in as much work as you do to create complete and fleshed out NPCs and can utilize this thread.

Please note before posting, that you should, as much as possible, put the work in your own words. Simply cutting and pasting from wikipedia (or other site) could just be simplified by putting the link down. And if you are going to "borrow" much of the content, make sure to cite the site you are borrowing from.

The point of this thread is to take a historical figure, give you a little tidbit about the character, that would inspire a similar character for your world. (It is also here to show you that truth in history is stranger than anything your teacher or most authors made up.)

There are a lot of people out there. Each of you know a little history. You must know SOME historical figure that has the makings of a good NPC (or was a PC). This does not require you to do a "major history report", a short bit can be just as effective... as long as you do a person justice. So post something.

Need some inspiration? Take some Google-fu advice for inspiration

(Search for some key words like Adventurer, Sailor, Hero, Magician/ Occultist )



www.google.com for adventurers, explorers, interesting people.

Do not just cut and paste an article from elsewhere. One quick google search, some quick text reading, and then the time and effort to put it all together. My entries tend to be things pasted from two or three sites. I just adapted my old school skills (slapping together reports in short order) to this new purpose.

I would also like to thank the people at RPG.NET who inspired this thread

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Götz von Berlichingen

A knight, who, upon being besieged in his castle, allegedly coined the proverbial "Lecke mich im Arsch" (Kiss my a$$). In addition, the man had an exotic hand. http://www.karlofgermany.com/Goetz.htm

Ungern-Sternberg, the Mad Baron of Mongolia

Loony White Russian who managed to be simultaneously Buddhist and Orthodox, believed he was the reincarnation of Genghis Khan and the incarnate God of War, and tried to lead his Mongolian troops in a holy Buddhist crusade against Bolshevism. His men were so scared of him that, after his army was destroyed by the Reds, and having failed to kill him with three point-blank shots from a machine-gun, they ended up tying him up and leaving him in the desert, where he survived until being found by a Red patrol, leaving him to eventually be executed on Trotsky's orders.

His political ally was the Living Buddha, the equivalent of the Dalai Lama for Mongolia, a fat, blind monk who kept an extensive zoo and several motorcars, as well as a group of deaf-mute doctor-poisoners to off his political foes.

Nikola Tesla.

Google Him. It is fascinating.

Formerly of Serbia, immigrated to America. So brilliant was he, with such a powerful imagination, he could build devices and test them in his head before making them in reality. He's pretty much single-handedly responsible for our entire power-generation scheme (AC power transmission) and electric motors; many electrical devices you use are pretty much based on his designs. Also invented radio and even radio control, though he used it mostly for fun. Would put on 'Magic Shows' based in his technologies that everyone who was anyone would attend. In later life, slowly became more and more neurotic, until he couldn't bear any human touch or even looking upon spherical objects. At the end of his life, he died destitute with his only friends his beloved pigeons. In a fantasy world, he shows the progression of the powerful mage who goes mad towards the end of his life...

Dr. John Dee

He's like a Christian Mythos sorcerer, and he was, on the sly, the Court Conjurer of Elizabeth I. Commoners were afraid of him. If you want to learn a bit about real magic, there are a number of interesting books that revolve around him and his life. Google him as well. Note: He shows up as a 'guest star' character in Spider Robinson's later Callahan series of books.

Along the same veing, Le Comte de Saint-Germain (alleged immortal, alchemist, con man, magician) and Leonardo Da Vinci (smartest man to have ever lived).

Peter the Great

The Tsar of Russia, and he goes to Amsterdam to work as a laborer for the East India Company so he can learn shipbuilding.

Julie d'Aubigny

She was called La Maupin. Her story started that she ran away from her absent husband's house with a clerk, learned fencing and became a master of the blade. (Also an opera-singer and a cross-dresser). She seduced a young girl, whose parents sent their daughter to a convent; La Maupin followed, faked the girl's death, and proceeded to abandon her three months later. From there, it gets interesting. http://home.comcast.net/~brons/Maupin/LaMaupin.html

Francois Vidocq

Ex-con turned detective. Invented the science of criminology and the private detective agency (he employed only ex-criminals at first). Was the inspiration for Victor Hugo's Jean Valjean AND Javert in Les Mis (that's why they have such similar personalities), and probably for lots of other fictional detectives also.


An Athenian politician (450 BC - 404 BC) . They sent a whole fleet to kill him in 400 BC; a whole fleet for one man. The back story is just too long.

Here's a link; http://www.biographybase.com/biography/Alcibiades.html

Bartholomew Roberts

Here is a man who is a great NPC. While he was a Quaker, he was a great navigator for his time. He was also a pirate. He makes Solomon Kane look like a 4-year old girl, and I like Solomon Kane. At one point, while careening his ship on the coast of Africa, he wreaked such bloody havoc on the local population (in retaliation for their assaults on his men, even after he tried to peacefully settle the issue) that a derivative of his name is still purportedly in use as a synonym for "demon."

Tycho Brahe

He's an atronomer, he's a swordfighter, he's got a silver nose, he's his own item on the nation's budget!


Vasco Nunez de Balboa (1475-1519)

Vasco Nunez de Balboa was a Spanish conquistador and explorer who was the first European to see the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean (in 1513), crossing the Isthmus of Panama.

In 1500, Balboa sailed with Rodrigo de Bastidas from Spain to Colombia, South America. They searched for treasures (pearls and gold) along the northern coast of South America and in the Gulf of Uraba (near San Sebastian). They were forced to abandon their leaky ship in Hispaniola. The penniless Balboa tried, unsuccessfully, to farm for a living.

In 1510, Balboa and his dog Leoncico stowed away on a boat going from Santo Domingo to San Sebastian. When they arrived at San Sebastian, they discovered that it had been burned to the ground. Balboa convinced the others to travel southwest with him to a spot he had seen on his earlier expedition. In 1511, Balboa founded a colony, the first European settlement in South America - the town of Santa Maria de la Antigua del Darien.

Balboa married the daughter of Careta, the local Indian chief. Soon after, in 1513, he sailed with hundreds of Spaniards and Indians across the Gulf of Uraba to the Darien Peninsula.

Balboa headed an overland expedition west through very dense rainforests. Along the way they fought many local Indians and destroyed one Indian village, killing hundreds of Indians. Balboa (accompanied by his dog) was the first European to see the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean (in September 1513, from a peak in Darin, Panama). Balboa and his men (including Francisco Pizarro) then traveled to the ocean and claimed it and all the land that touched it for Spain. They spent about a month conquering Natives along the Pacific coast and stealing their gold.

Balboa was charged with treason against Spain (although he was innocent and had been framed by a friend, Arias de Avila). Francisco Pizarro arrested Balboa. Balboa was found guilty and was publicly beheaded in Acla in January, 1519.

Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) was a Norwegian polar explorer who was the first person to fly over the North Pole in a dirigible (May 11-13, 1926) and was the first person to reach the South Pole. Amundsen and his small expedition reached the South Pole on December 14, 1911, traveling by dog sled. Amundsen was also the first person to sail around the world through the Northeast and Northwest passages, from the Atlantic to the Pacific (in 1905). He was the first person to reach both the North and South Poles. Amundsen died in a plane crash attempting to rescue his friend, the Italian explorer Umberto Nobile who was lost in an airship.

I do not know how interesting Roald could be, but he could be used in a fantasy setting that has dirigibles. He could function as the mad inventor of different machinery, a sort of Leonardo.... which reminds me that I should post one on him as well. Maybe later If somebody doesnt beat me to it.

Erik the Red

This is a good one for any fantasy setting that has oceans or seas.

Eric the Red (950?-1003 or 1004?) was a Viking explorer who was the first European in Greenland. He sailed from Iceland in 982 and led a group of colonists to Greenland in 986.

Eric the Red (also called Erik Thorvaldson, Eirik Raude, or Eirik Torvaldsson) was born in Norway, but his family settled in western Iceland, after his father, Thorvald Asvaldsson, was banished for murdering a man. Eric later killed two men in Iceland and was banished from Iceland for three years.

After hearing of the discovery by Gunnbjorn Olfsson of some islands that lay west of Iceland, Eric decided to sail to these islands during his banishment. With a crew, he sailed due west from from the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in 982. He found Gunnbjorn's islands (off eastern Greenland near what is now Angmagssalik) and then landed on the coast of eastern Greenland. He named this harsh place Midjokull (which means 'middle glacier'). Eric then sailed south and rounded the southern tip of Greenland (Cape Farewell). He again landed on the southwestern coast (this area would later be called Eystribygd, meaning the Eastern Settlement). After spending the winter on 'Erik's Island,' he sailed up Erik's fjord. He spent the two following winters at the southern tip of Greenland, exploring the area.

In 985, Eric's banishment from Iceland was over, so he returned to Breidafjord, Iceland. He called this new land Greenland (even though it was covered with ice) to make it sound nicer than it was and encourage settlement (Eric was feuding with many people on Iceland and wanted to start a new settlement without his enemies). Eric and 400 to 500 settlers in 14 ships arrived to settle Greenland in 986. They settled in Brattahlid (now called Julianeh), the Eastern Settlement and Godthab (or Nuuk), the Western Settlement. After doing well for a while, the settlements experienced unusually cold weather. Some of the settlers returned to Iceland (the last recorded voyage between Iceland and Greenland was in 1410), but the rest of the settlers disappeared. It is thought that either the Inuit people attacked the settlers or they died from epidemics and starvation.

Eric had a daughter, Freydis, and three sons of which I can not remember the names or find in any book, the explorer Leif Ericsson, Thorvald, and Thorsteinn. Eric died sometime during the winter of 1003-1004.

P.S The Vikings used long wooden ships (called knorrs); these ships had a large, square sail on a central mast.

P.P.S This is a great thread, love it.

Colonel Daniel Boone

Colonel Daniel Boone (1734-1820) was an American pioneer, soldier, and explorer; he was born near Reading, Pennsylvania. Boone founded the first US settlement west of the Appalachian mountains.

A frontiersman and folk hero, Boone explored the Kentucky wilderness from 1769 to 1782. He traveled down the Ohio River, and trapped furs in the Green and Cumberland Valleys.

In 1773, Boone brought a group of settlers to Kentucky. As they traveled over the Cumberland Gap, Boone's oldest son and five other members of the party were killed by Native Americans. The settlers went home to North Carolina immediately; Boone and his family spent the winter in the Clinch River Valley, then returned home.

Determined to settle the rich land of Kentucky, a wealthy local businessman organized the Transylvania Company in order to buy land from Native Americans. Boone negotiated the price with the Cherokee Indians; their agreement is called the Watauga Treaty. In 1775, Henderson sent Boone and 28 settlers across the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky, along what is now called the Wilderness Trail. Boone built a fort on the Kentucky River in what is now Madison County.

Boone was captured by Shawnee Indians in 1778 and was given up for dead. After more attacks by Native Americans, he brought more settlers to Kentucky in 1779; among these settlers were Abraham Lincoln's grandmother and grandfather.

Boone was elected to the Virginia legislature in 1781. In later Indian attacks, his brother Edward and his son Israel were killed. These attacks prompted a major campaign against Native Americans by George Rogers Clark.

Boone lost all of his land claims, and spent the rest of his life moving - he lived in Ohio, West Virginia, and Missouri. Boone's book, called 'Adventures,' detailed his exploits and capture by the Shawnee Indians; it was published in 1784 to much public acclaim.

Saint Brendan

Also known as Saint Brendon, Brendan the Bold, and Brendan the Voyager (484 or 486-578) was an Irish abbot, monastery founder, and legendary sea voyager. Brendan sailed in the Atlantic Ocean, traveling to the Hebrides (islands off the west coast of Scotland), Scotland, and perhaps to Wales and Brittany (the northwestern coast of France along the English Channel). He may have also sailed to the Canary Islands (off the northwest coast of Africa), the Azores (islands far off the coast of Portugal), and Iceland. The Irish epic poem 'Voyage of Brendan' recounts his voyages.

This chap has been used by Don Rosa in a story about uncle Scrooge.


Hannu was an ancient Egyptian explorer; he made the first recorded exploring expedition. Hennu is said to have sailed down the Red Sea to explore the southeastern areas of the Arabian peninsula (called Punt) around 2750 B.C (during Egypt's 2nd dynasty). He sailed to what is now part of eastern Ethiopia and Somalia. He returned to Egypt with treasures, including myrrh (a spice) and precious metals. Hannu wrote of his exploration in stone. (Hannu is sometimes called Hennu, which is also the name of a sacred boat of Egyptian gods).

Cyrano De Bergerac!!

French soldier, satirist, and dramatist, whose life has been the basis of many romantic but unhistorical legends.

The real Cyrano de Bergerac had, in real life, very little in common with the hero of the Rostand play. He was born in Paris, and educated by a priest in the village of Bergerac. Later he was sent to the College de Beauvais. After acquiring fame as a dueller and Bohemian, he enlisted in the army at the age of 20. However, he was an individualist and had problems adjusting to discipline - Cyrano was an opponent of the war and death penalty. His humanitarian way of thinking was acknowledged by his contemporaries and the next generations. Le Doyen's portrait of him, made after Heince, shows a sceptically smiling man, with thin moustaches and a large nose... A nose he was embaressed of until his death...

Cyrano was severely wounded twice, once at a fight with a Gascon Guard, and the second time at the siege of Arras in 1640. There he was hit in the neck with a sword and he never fully recovered from the wound. In the following year he gave up his military career and started to study under the philosopher and mathematician Pierre Gassendi. Influenced by Gassendi's theories and libertine philosophy, he wrote stories of imaginary journeys to the Moon and Sun, and satirized views, which saw humanity and the Earth as the center of creation. He also mocked Descartes' idea that animals are soulless machines. In his trip to the Moon Cyrano took off from the Earth in an apparatus festooned with firecrackers.

Cyrano de Bergerac died in Paris on July 28, 1655. The cause of Cyrano's death was banal: a piece of plank dropped on his head.

Sir Walter Raleigh

Pirate, alchemist, explorer, gigolo and court schemer, just to name a few things. Brought tobacco to England. Founded the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island (of Croatan fame). Sailed across the Orinoco searching for El Dorado. Defying royal orders, he tried (unsuccesfully) to conquer the Guayana, which led to his execution. He also was allegedly a member of the School of Night, an occult society which also had Kit Marlowe and John Dee among its members.

Catalina de Erauso, the Liutenant Nun:

Born in 1592, she ran away from the convent when she was fifteen. Posing as a man, she travelled to America and become a soldier, achieving the rank of liutenant. A notorious troublemaker with a penchant for gambling, brawling and duels, was sentenced to death after killing an officer, break out of prison, and got sentenced to death again. After her true gender was revealed, she got audience with the King of Spain and the Pope - who acknowledged her military career and exploits and gave her special dispensation to dress as a man.


Adventurer and author, born in Venice, NE Italy. By 1750 he had worked as a clergyman, secretary, soldier, spy, and violinist in various countries, and in 1755 was imprisoned for being a magician. He escaped in 1756, and for nearly 20 years wandered through Europe, visiting most of its capitals, and meeting the greatest men and women of the day. Alchemist, cabalist, and spy, he was everywhere introduced to the best society, and had always to "vanish" after a brief period of felicity. In 1785 he established himself as librarian with the Count of Waldstein, in Bohemia, where he died. His main work is his autobiography, first published in complete form in 1960. His seductions are the first things many think of in connection with his name.

Obviously a PC.

Kit Marlowe

Spy, adventurer, Playwright, probable bisexual, and political machinator. Friend of John Dee and Sir Walter Raleigh, so he was in the inner circles of power for his time. Generaly regarded as the best playwright in Elizabethen London, until he was assassinated - probably by a political rival.

Henry Morgan

Welsh by birth, this fellow found himself on a Caribbean island as an indentured servant (one step up from slavery). Shortly thereafter, he became a pirate - a wild one, from what I've heard, not a puppet of the English crown. He participated in some famous raids, became a feared captain, and then got captured and hauled back to England. A short time later, he was deputy governor of the Caribbean (albeit not allowed to set foot back in England); apparently someone realised he was good at his job, which was beating the other guy.

They named a rum after him some centuries later.

William Adams

Started life as a dockworker's child in London's docks (around the same time period, I think). Was a member of an expedition that rounded the Horn, and a short period later encountered weather problems. Eventually washed up in Japan - the first Englishman to ever reach those islands. Became involved in local politics, became a trusted advisor of Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa, was named a samurai, and died of disease many years later, leaving two families on opposite ends of the world having never returned to England. As an Anglican, he and his friends clashed with Jesuit monks, and all sorts of strange stuff went on.

Read Samurai William by Giles Milton to find out more. That's the book that made me realise that the main difference between adventurers in history and adventurers in D&D is the fact that the D&D adventurers don't have as many ships.

Ho Chi Minh

founder and president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Communist North.

An emaciated, goateed figure in a threadbare bush jacket and frayed rubber sandals, Ho Chi Minh cultivated the image of a humble, benign 'Uncle Ho.' But he was a seasoned revolutionary and passionate nationalist obsessed by a single goal: independence for his country. Sharing his fervor, his tattered guerrillas vaulted daunting obstacles to crush France's desperate attempt to retrieve its empire in Indochina; later, built into a largely conventional army, they frustrated the massive U.S. effort to prevent Ho's communist followers from controlling Vietnam. For Americans, it was the longest war and the first defeat in their history, and it drastically changed the way they perceived their role in the world.

The youngest of three children, Ho was born Nguyen Sinh Cung in 1890 in a village in central Vietnam. The area was indirectly ruled by the French through a puppet emperor. Its impoverished peasants, traditional dissidents, opposed France's presence; and Ho's father, a functionary at the imperial court, manifested his sympathy for them by quitting his position and becoming an itinerant teacher. Inheriting his father's rebellious bent, Ho participated in a series of tax revolts, acquiring a reputation as a troublemaker. But he was familiar with the lofty French principles of liberta Agalita, fraternity and yearned to see them in practice in France. In 1911 he sailed for Marseilles as a galley boy aboard a passenger liner.

In Paris, Ho worked as a photo retoucher. The city's fancy restaurants were beyond his means, but he indulged in one luxury, American cigarettes, preferably Camels or Lucky Strikes. Occasionally he would drop into a music hall to listen to Maurice Chevalier, whose charming songs he would never forget.

In 1919, Woodrow Wilson arrived in France to sign the treaty ending World War I, and Ho, supposing that the President's doctrine of self-determination applied to Asia, donned a cutaway coat and tried to present Wilson with a lengthy list of French abuses in Vietnam. Rebuffed, Ho joined the newly created French Communist Party. 'It was patriotism, not communism, that inspired me,' he later explained.

M.A.R. Barker

M.A.R. Barker is a retired professor of Urdu and South Asian Studies. In his youth, he created the world of Tekumel, a fantasy world based on Ancient India, the Middle East, the Aztecs and Mayans, and other non-European sources. Tekumel has spawned three professionally-published roleplaying games over the course of the years ('Empire of the Petal Throne', 'Swords & Glory' and 'Gardasiyal: Adventures in Tekumel'), as well as fan-produced rules ('Tirikelu' and others). A brand-new roleplaying game set in Tekumel is due to be published in November of 2003 by Guardians of Order, currently titled 'Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne'. Currently resides in Minneapolis, MN, USA..

M.A.R Barker has also written 5 novels set in the world of Tekumel Man of Gold and Flamesong were published in the 1980's by Daw Books and will be re-released in 2004 Within the last year two more books have been published By Zottola Publishing, Inc. www.zotpub.com Prince of Skulls and Lords of Tsamra a 5th novel Death of Kings is due out in September of 2003 all 3 of these books are in a 6x9 format with a true binding and include maps and some illistrations. preview not available. Click the link for more information.

Okay, he is not that exciting, but he is worth mentioning. he would be a great addition to a mythos kind of game, as he has said to 'Dream of this other place', almost living there in his dream. Maybe he travels like John Carter.

Bruce Lee

Actor, martial arts expert. Born Lee Jun Fan (Though his birth certificate say Bruce Lee), on November 27, 1940, in San Francisco, California. His father, a Hong Kong opera singer, moved with his wife and three children to the United States in 1939; his fourth child, a son, was born while he was on tour in San Francisco. Lee's mother called him "Bruce", which means "strong one" in Gaelic. His mother wanted a very "American" sounding name for her son.

In 1941, the Lees moved back to Hong Kong, then occupied by the Japanese. As a teenager, he became a member of a Hong Kong street gang, and in 1953 began studying kung fu to sharpen his fighting skills. Though Bruce spent much time as a child actor, he divided the rest of his time between dojo studies and street fights. It was the experience in practical combat rather than theoretical/ traditional martial arts that focused attitudes towards combat and served as the seeds for JKD. In 1959, after Lee got into trouble with the police for fighting, his mother sent him back to the U.S. to live with family friends outside Seattle, Washington.

Lee finished high school in Edison, Washington, and subsequently enrolled as a philosophy major at the University of Washington. He also got a job teaching the Wing Chun style of martial arts that he had learned in Hong Kong to his fellow students and others. Through his teaching, Lee met Linda Emery, whom he married in 1964. By that time, Lee had opened his own martial arts school in Seattle. He and Linda soon moved to California, where Lee opened two more schools in Los Angeles and Oakland. At his schools, Lee taught mostly a style he called Jeet Kune Do. Bruce was frequently at odds with the tradition and racially bound martial arts community, as he would teach those of any race and teach his own developed technique.

Jeet Kune Do--the literal translation is "way of the intercepting fist"--was conceived by Bruce Lee in 1967. Unlike many other martial arts, there are neither a series of rules nor classification of techniques which constitutes a distinct Jeet Kune Do (JKD) method of fighting. JKD is unbound; JKD is freedom. It possesses everything, yet in itself is possessed by nothing. Those who understand JKD are primarily interested in its powers of liberation when JKD is used as a mirror for self-examination.

Jeet Kune Do is not a new style of kung-fu or karate. Bruce Lee did not invent a new art composite style, nor did he modify a style to set it apart from any existing method. His concept was to free his followers from clinging to any style, pattern, or mold.

The total picture Lee wanted to present to his pupils was that above everything else, the pupils must find their own way to truth. He never hesitated to say, 'Your truth is not my truth; my truth is not yours'.

The expression of JKD is like DNA, similar to all humans but not exactly the same from person to person. The are as many expressions of Jeet Kune Do as there are practitioners. They all abide by the basic structure and guide lines set by Bruce Lee, but each adds his one individual twist to his form of Jeet Kune Do.

A very radical way of looking at things from the tradition bound world of the martial arts in the 50s and 60.

Lee gained a measure of celebrity with his role in the television series The Green Hornet, which aired from 1966 to 1967. Confronted with the dearth of meaty roles and the prevalence of stereotypes regarding actors of Asian heritage, Lee left Los Angeles for Hong Kong in 1971, with his wife and two children (Brandon, born in 1965, and Shannon, born in 1967).

Back in the city where he had grown up, Lee signed a two-film contract. Fists of Fury (its U.S. title) was released in late 1971, featuring Lee as a vengeful fighter chasing the villains who had killed his kung-fu master. Combining his smooth Jeet Kune Do athleticism with the high-energy theatrics of his performance in The Green Hornet, Lee was the charismatic center of the film, which set new box office records in Hong Kong. Those records were broken by Lee's next film, The Chinese Connection (1972), which, like Fists of Fury, received poor reviews from critics when they were released in the U.S. Though he had not yet gained stardom in America, he was poised on the brink with his second directorial feature and first major Hollywood project, Enter the Dragon.

On July 20, 1973, just one month before the premiere of Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee died in Hong Kong at the age of 32. The official cause of his sudden and utterly unexpected death was a brain edema, found in an autopsy to have been caused by a strange reaction to a prescription painkiller he was reportedly taking for a back injury. Controversy surrounded Lee's death from the beginning, as some claimed he had been murdered. He was also widely believed to have been cursed, a conclusion driven by Lee's obsession with his own early death.

The tragedy of the so-called curse was compounded in 1993, when Brandon Lee was killed under similarly mysterious circumstances during the filming of The Crow. The 28-year-old actor was fatally shot with a gun that supposedly contained blanks but somehow had a live round lodged deep within its barrel.

With the posthumous release of Enter the Dragon, Lee's status as a film icon was confirmed. Lee's legacy created a whole new breed of action hero - a mold filled with varying degrees of success by such actors as Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, and Jackie Chan.

Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley was born October 12th, 1875 at 36 Clarendon Square, Leamington, Warwickshire, England as Edward Alexander Crowley into a wealthy and religious family at the height of the Victorian era. Crowley despised and rebelled against his family at every turn, even renaming himself 'Aleister' to avoid sharing the same first name as his father, who passed away when Crowley was 11.

Crowley went on to attend Cambridge University, where he apparently studied alpine climbing, living in the manner of the privileged aristocracy and having a great deal of sex with both men and women. He also began working in the Diplomatic Service, but as Crowley himself said 'the fame of an ambassador rarely outlives a century', and Crowley wished to make a greater imprint on the world.

Having had this epiphany, he began searching for more lasting pursuits and in 1898, at age 23, Crowley began his path of magical enlightenment by joining The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Led by Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers other members included such notables such as William Butler Yeats, Maud Gonne, Constance Wilde, (the wife of Oscar Wilde), Arthur Machen, Moina Bergson, Arthur Edward Waite, Florence Farr, Algernon Blackwood and possibly, though records for their membership are shaky, Sax Rohmer and Bram Stoker. (These are some of the most notable esoteric figures in the last two centuries)

The Golden Dawn's contribution to the Western Magical Tradition is definitely worth noting, because it was their synthesis of the Kabbalah, alchemy, tarot, astrology, divination, numerology, Masonic symbolism, and ritual magic into one coherent and logical system which led them to influence countless occult organizations to come. Mathers adapted the system of magic outlined by Eliphas Levi, and through Levi, the spiritual ancestry of the Golden Dawn was traced to the Rosicrucian Brotherhood and from there, through the Kabbalah to Ancient Egypt. Mathers' authority was held in part by his link to the 'Secret Chiefs', the 'true leaders' of the Order, with whom Mathers could communicate with only through metaphysical means.

Adopting the magical name Frater 'Perdurabo', Latin for 'I Will Endure', Crowley advanced quickly through the ranks of the Golden Dawn, initially studying under Alan Bennett, who was Mathers' spiritual heir. Bennett left England in 1899 for health reasons, moving to Ceylon, what it now Sri Lanka, where he joined a buddhist monastery. Unfortunately, Crowley, left to his own devices, managed to severely fragment the order through sheer force of personality. In 1900, he completed the studies necessary in order to obtain the rank of Adeptus Minor, however the London controllers of the Order, disapproving of Crowley's homosexual dabblings, refused to advance him. Crowley travelled to Paris, where Mathers himself performed the ceremony, which only served to further outrage the London members.

The ensuing uproar caused several of the London members to resign, and Mathers was eventually expelled from the Order, specifically on the grounds that he had put its authority into jeopardy by revealing his suspicions that the founding documents linking them to an older occult order in Germany had been forged by another member (which they had been). Crowley attempted to obtain possession of the Order's property on behalf of Mathers, interrupting one of their rituals in full Highland regalia, wearing a black hood. As with any serious dispute between occultists, astral attacks ensued. Crowley reported that the rebels directed hostile magic against him as evidenced by the fact that his rubber raincoat burst spontaneously into flames and he found himself in a 'furious temper' for no reason, so extreme that horses ran away in fear at the sight of him. Crowley was expelled from the Golden Dawn, only 2 years after joining. While he was not the most popular member, he was prolific in his works and studies.

Crowley, understandably tired of all the fighting, chose to travel the world, visiting Mexico, India, France, Ceylon, where he reunited with Alan Bennett and studied Yoga. He also married Rose Kelly, later revealed to be clairvoyant, travelling with her to Egypt.

In fact it was in Egypt, in March of 1904, that Crowley had the most important experience of his life. Crowley had been trying for several years to contact his Holy Guardian Angel using the methods described in The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage with no success. However it was in Cairo that Crowley finally encountered an entity known as Aiwass, whom Crowley believed was his Holy Guardian Angel.

According to Crowley's own account, while (unsuccessfully) trying to summon sylphs for his wife's amusement, she began to receive a very powerful psychic message from the Ancient Egyptian god Horus. Skeptical of his wife's sudden clairvoyancy, Crowley demanded answers to a series of questions from her, of which she had no possible prior knowledge. Upon answering all things correctly, he took her to a museum, and after passing several images of Horus (which the still skeptical Crowley reports, he 'noted with silent glee'), she pointed across the room to a stele which could not be clearly seen from where they stood. When they examined the stele (now referred to as the Stele of Revealing, it was painted with the image of Horus, and to Crowley's further conviction, it was labelled as item number 666 in the museum catalog.

Crowley had himself adopted 666 as his personal moniker in rebellion to his religious upbringing many years before. After invoking Horus, Crowley made his fateful breakthrough. For three days Crowley took dictation from the entity identifying itself as Aiwass, the resulting text, Liber AL vel Legis, became what is now known as The Book of the Law.

This book was to become the central core of Crowley's philosophy. Crowley was named the Prophet of a New Aeon which would end the Age of Osiris and usher in the Age of Horus, a signal that a new era had begun for mankind, and that the old religions were to be swept aside.

The 3 key philosophical ideas outlined in the book are:

Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law

Love Is The Law, Love Under Will

Every Man And Every Woman Is A Star

After the encounter with Aiwass, in typical grandiose fashion, Mathers received a letter announcing that the Equinox of the Gods had come, and that Crowley had forged a new link with the Secret Chiefs, thus making him the supreme magical authority. This naturally resulted in a magical duel, which Crowley seems to have eventually won.

According to Crowley, Mathers reportedly sent one of his followers, a vampire, to him. She appeared to him in the guise of a 'young woman of bewitching beauty', but was able to defeat her, and she was 'transformed into hag of sixty, bent and decrepit'. Mathers then sent a 'current of evil' which struck Crowley's bloodhounds dead and caused his servants to fall ill. Crowley retaliated by summoning up the forces of the demon Beelzebub and his 49 attendant fiends. Following this effort, Mathers' magical assaults on Crowley ceased. Years later, when Mathers passed away of influenza, many felt that Crowley had murdered him with magic.

In 1907, Crowley formed the Argenteum Astrum, the Order of the Silver Star, a magical organization centered around his re-discovered Book of the Law manuscript. In 1909 he began publishing the Equinox, a biannual publication arriving on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, the official organ of the A:. A:., the majority of the writing contributed by Crowley himself.

In 1909, Crowley divorced his wife, on the grounds of her alcoholism. Living with him, this could be explained. The divorce enabled Crowley to indulge in his passions for magick, drugs, and women unchecked by the constraints of married life.

It might be interesting to note at this point that Crowley believed himself to be the reincarnation of the occultist Eliphas Levi who died the same year that Crowley was born. He had also determined that his past lives had included Count Cagliostro, an 18th century occultist, founder of 'Egyptian Rite Masonry', Alexander VI, the notorious Borgia Pope, and Edward Kelley (who along with John Dee were the Elizabethan court magicians who invented, err, deciphered Enochian, the language of the angels.)

In 1910, Crowley was contacted by the head of a German magical order known as the Ordo Templi Orientis, often referred to as the OTO, (alternately translated as either 'the Order of the Templars of the East' and 'the Order of the Temple of the Orient' in a variety of sources.) The OTO accused Crowley of having published the secret of their IXth degree. Crowley was mystified until a conversation revealed that a passage he published led the OTO to assume that Crowley was involved in sex magick which they used in their rituals. He join the order shortly thereafter, and in 1912, became the head of the English speaking branch of the Order.

In 1916, while living near Bristol, New Hampshire Crowley promoted himself to the rank of Magus through a ceremony of his own devising. According to Richard Cavendish, in History of Magic and The Powers of Evil in Western Religion, Magic, and Folk Belief (both currently out of print), this involved baptizing a toad as Jesus of Nazareth, then crucifying it. I've been chided by several acquaintances who are involved with the OTO for citing this 'utter fabrication'.

Crowley waited out the first World War in the United States, publishing a fair amount of Anti-British propaganda. He later claimed that the writing done supporting the German side was done satirically, however this did little to improve his already festering public image.

After the war, Crowley had a daughter, Poupee, with Leah Hirsig (AKA The Scarlet Woman), and in 1920 he set up the notorious Abbey of Thelema in Sicily.

The Abbey, however, was an 'unsanitary hovel'. Crowley's addiction to both heroin and cocaine raged out of control. The Abbey was the setting for Diary of a Drug Fiend, Crowley's hopeful novel about a couple struggling to free themselves of their drug addiction. Sadly, the truth was much more grim. Poupee died there, while Crowley was travelling between London, Paris and the Abbey. It was when one of the Crowley's undergraduates Raoul Loveday died from drinking impure water, that the Abbey's fate was finally sealed. Loveday's wife Betty May went back to England and sold her story to the London tabloid newspaper The Sunday Express.

The papers were filled with reports of black magic rituals and other scandalous acts allegedly performed at the Abbey. These reports came during the same time as the rise of the Mussolini regime and Crowley was quickly expelled from Sicily in 1923.

In 1925 he was elected World Head of the O.T.O., and 1929 saw the publication of his seminal work Magick: In Theory and in Practice.

In 1955, Kenneth Anger shot the documentary Thelema Abbey at the Abbey, which had been exorcised after Crowley's departure, painstakingly exposing the whitewashed walls to reveal paintings and other physical evidence of Crowley's occult activities.

After his expulsion from Italy, Crowley's life took a turn for the worse. His reputation as 'The Wickedest Man In The World' was now more than ever playing against him. Unable to find a reliable publisher for his writing, or for that matter, a reliable place of residence, he spent the remaining years as a wanderer, still addicted to heroin, desperately in need of both disciples and money.

Aleister Crowley died December 1st, 1947 at age 72. His last words are often reported to be 'I am perplexed', though since he died alone, this is patently false.

Most of this biography is from www.popsubculture.com, supplimented by different sources

Gustav II Adolph

Reign October 30, 1611-November 6, 1632

Coronation: October 12, 1617

Royal motto: "Cum Deo et victribus armis"

("With God and victorious arms")

Wife: Queen Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg

Royal House: Vasa

Place of Death: At the battle of Lutzen, Germany

Gustav II Adolph , also known under the Latin name Gustavus Adolphus or the Swedish form Gustav II Adolf, was a King of Sweden (the kingdom neighbouring Norway in the east). He is also known as Gustav Adolph the Great. He was born on December 9, 1594 in Stockholm, the son of Charles IX of the Vasa dynasty and Kristina of Holstein-Gottorp.

He was the king of Sweden from 1611, and as such one of the major players in the Thirty Years' War where he was styled as "The Lion of the North - Savior of Protestants". Gustav Adolf was married to the daughter of the elector of Brandenburg-Prussia, Maria Eleonora and chose Prussia's city of Elbing as base for his operations in Germany. He died in battle on November 6, 1632 at Lutzen in Germany.

During his reign, Gustav founded the city of Gothenburg as well as a number of smaller cities. He is also the founder of the University of Tartu in Tartu, Estonia, which then belonged to the kingdom of Sweden. In this time, the three largest cities in the kingdom were Riga (currently the capital of Latvia), Stockholm and Tallinn (capital of Estonia).

Gustavus Adolphus at the Battle of Breitenfield:

As a general, Gustav is famous for employing mobile artillery on the battlefield, as well as a very active tactic where attack was stressed over defense and mobility more important than in the usual linear tactic.

This was only part of the reason why Carl von Clausewitz and Napoleon Bonaparte idolized him as the general above all others. His character both of purpose and of amity with all his troops from commanding officers right down to the rank and file, earned him unassailably documented fame which most commanders in chief would gladly accept as mere joking anecdotes.

The king was an active participant in the battles, and was wounded several times, amongst them gunshot wounds to the throat and the abdomen. The war wounds led the king to adopt a flexible armour of hide instead of the customary metal cuirass, and this is what he wore in the Battle of Lutzen. Gustav's armour is currently on display in the Royal Swedish Armoury at the Royal Palace in Stockholm.

Gustav was killed in the renowned Battle of Lutzen where he was misled by dense fog and poor eyesight to charge into an enemy formation. After his death, his wife Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg initially kept his body, and later his heart, in her bedroom for the rest of her life. He now rests (including heart) in Riddarholmskyrkan in Stockholm.

In February 1633, following the death of the great king, the Swedish Riksdag of the Estates decided that his name would be accompanied by an accolade and that his name was to be styled Gustav Adolph the Great (or Gustav Adolf den Store in Swedish). Such an honor has not been bestowed on anyone else since.

Taken from:


Blood, Thomas, known as Colonel Blood

Irish adventurer. A parliamentarian during the English Civil War, he was deprived of his estate at the Restoration. He put himself (1663) at the head of a plot to seize Dublin Castle, but the plot was discovered and his chief accomplices executed. In 1671, with three accomplices he entered the Tower and stole the crown, while one of his associates took the orb. They were pursued and captured; but Blood was pardoned by King Charles, who took him to court and restored his estate.

Guiscard, Robert

Norman adventurer, the son of Tancred de Hauteville, who campaigned with his brothers against the Byzantine Greeks, and created a duchy comprising S Italy and Sicily. In 1059 the papacy recognized him as Duke of Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily. He ousted the Byzantines from Calbria by 1060, then conquered Bari (1071) and captured Salerno (1076). In 1081 he crossed the Adriatic, seized Corfu, and defeated the Byzantine Emperor, Alexius Comnenus, at Durazzo. He died at Cephalonia, while advancing on Constantinople. Those darn Normans found themselves everyhwere

Pocahontas, Matoaka

American-Indian princess, born near Jamestown, Virginia, USA, the daughter of Powhatan. An American folk heroine, she helped maintain peace between the colonists and Indians, and saved the life of English adventurer John Smith when he was at the mercy of her tribe. In 1612 she embraced Christianity and was baptized Rebecca. The following year she married John Rolfe, and in 1616 came with him to England, where she was received by royalty. She died of smallpox, and left one son; several Virginia families claim descent from her.

Smith, John

Explorer, adventurer, and colonist, born in Lincolnshire, E England, UK. After fighting the Ottoman Turks, he helped to found Jamestown in 1607, and became a member of the governing council. He was once captured by the Indians of Powhatan's tribe and rescued by the chief's daughter, Pocahontas. In 1608-9 he served as the president of the Jamestown colony, but he was plagued by constant bickering with other settlers, and following a severe injury he returned to England (1609). He returned to America in 1614 and explored the coast of what he called New England. He wrote several books on Virginia, the settlement at Jamestown, New England, and his earlier travels in Europe and Asia. The books induced many settlers to leave for the New England area.

Revere, Joseph Warren

US naval officer and army general, born in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. The grandson of Paul Revere, he was a true adventurer and joined the US Navy as a midshipman (1828). As a naval lieutenant, he raised the US flag at Sonoma during the Mexican War (1846). He resigned from the navy (1850), and while ranching and trading in California he organized the artillery of the Mexican army (1851-2). He rose to the rank of army general during the Civil War, but was dismissed for removing his men from the Battle of Chancellorsville (1863). Lincoln revoked his sentence and he was allowed to resign. In 1872 he published Keel and Saddle: A Retrospective of Forty Years of Military and Naval Service. There is a lot more to his life. I will probably expand this one.

Benjamin Franklin

Born January 17, 1706, in Boston, Massachusetts. The 15th child in his family, Franklin went to work at age 10 in his father's chandlery, then in a brother's printing house. Ambitious and intent on self-improvement, he became a skilled printer while reading widely and developing a writing style. In 1723, at age 17, Franklin left for Philadelphia. Starting with no capital, he advanced rapidly and, after a brief stint as a printer in London, had by 1730 become sole owner of a business that included the Pennsylvania Gazette.

In 1732, Franklin began compiling and publishing the annual Poor Richard's Almanac. With its pithy sayings espousing industry, frugality, and other homely virtues, it attracted a large readership and made Franklin's name a household word. Active in the community, Franklin founded a discussion group called the Junta (1727) that evolved into the American Philosophical Association and helped establish the first U.S. lending library (1731), as well as an academy (1751) that evolved into the University of Pennsylvania.

Appointed in 1736 as a clerk in the Pennsylvania Assembly, Franklin held a seat there from 1751 to 1764. He served as a city deputy postmaster (1737--53); subsequently, as joint deputy postmaster for the colonies (1753--74), he improved postal efficiency and made the postal service solvent.

It was durring this period that he was inducted into the FreeMasons.

In 1748, his business having expanded and flourished, Franklin retired, turning it over to his foreman in return for a regular stipend, thus gaining more time for scientific pursuits. In the early 1740s, he had developed the fuel-efficient Franklin open stove.

Later he conducted a series of experiments, described in his Experiments and Observations on Electricity (1751--53), which brought him international recognition as a scientist. In 1752, Franklin conducted his famous kite experiment, demonstrating that lightning is an electrical discharge; he also announced his invention of the lightning rod. A later invention for which Franklin is well-known was the bifocal lens (1760). His experimentation was not limited to science. He was said to be quite the occult experimenter as well. None of his works on the subject were publically published, but are said to be required reading for high level Freemasons.

Returning to statesmanship, Franklin represented Pennsylvania at the Albany Congress in 1754, called in response to the French and Indian Wars. From 1757 to 1762 and from 1764 to 1775, he pursued diplomatic activities in England, obtaining permission for Pennsylvania to tax the estates of its proprietors, securing repeal of the Stamp Act, and representing the interests of several colonies. He associated with eminent Britons and wrote political satires and pamphlets on public affairs. In 1776, Franklin went to France to help negotiate treaties of commerce and alliance, signed in 1778. Lionized there, he remained as plenipotentiary, won financial aid for the American Revolution, and then helped negotiate a peace treaty with Great Britain, signed in Paris in 1783. He is also one of the few people who manage to be both a Mason and a member of the Rosicrucian, who were at the time the premire occult organization of Europe.

Returning to the U.S. in 1785, Franklin served as a conciliating presence at the Constitutional Convention (1787). He also helped to found the First American Rosicrucian center in Philidelphia. In his last years he corresponded widely, received many visitors, and invented a device for lifting books from high shelves.

Eliphas Levi

Eliphas Levi (1810-75) (pseudonym for Alphonse-Louis Constant), French occultist and magus, who initiated the modern revival of magic as a spiritual path, and played a central role in the development of the esoteric Tarot. Through his activities and books, he significantly impacted other leading occultists, including Tarotists.


"What seek you, therefore, from the science of the magi? Dare to formulate your desire, then set to work at once, and do not cease acting after the same manner and for the same end; what you will shall come to pass. . . ."

- Dogme et rituel de la haute magie

Eliphas Levi, born Alphonse Louis Constant, (February 8, 1810 - May 31, 1875) was a French author and magician.

"Eliphas Levi", the name under which he published his books, was his attempt to translate or transliterate his given names "Alphonse Constant" into Hebrew.

Levi was the son of a shoemaker in Paris; he attended a seminary and began to study to enter the Roman Catholic priesthood. However, while at the seminary he fell in love, and left without being ordained. He wrote a number of minor religious works and radical political tracts after leaving the seminary, to no great success.

He was quickly attracted to an eccentric, old man named Ganneau, who said he was a prophet and the reincarnation of Louis XVII. Ganneau's was claimed she was the reincarnation of Marie Anntoinette. Constant became a follower of Ganneau and was drawn deeper into the worlds of magic and the occult.

He married Noemie Cadot, no older that 18, in 1846. The one daughter from the married died very young. The marriage broke up in 1853 and was annulled in 1865.

For a time Constant lived from his writings and giving lessons in the occult. It was during this time he took the name of Magus Eliphas Levi, the Hebrew equivalents of his first and middle names.

In 1854, Levi visited England, where he met the novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who was interested in Rosicrucianism as a literary theme and was the president of a minor Rosicrucian order. With Lytton, Levi conceived the notion of writing a treatise on magic. This appeared in 1855 under the title Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, and was translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite as Transcendental Magic.

His first attempt at practicing necromancy came during a trip to London in 1854. A mysterious woman, claiming to be an adept, asked him to conjure the spirit of Apollonius of Tyana, a great, ancient magician. After much preparation, the great work was done, and the results were mixed.

His first and probably most important work was The Dogma and Ritual of High Magic. It was followed by A History of Magic, Transcendental Magic, The Key of Great Mysteries, and other occult books. His works followed from 1860-1865.

The imaginative criticism arose from the fact that Levi "believed in the existence of a universal `secret doctrine' of magic throughout history, everywhere in the world."

In The Dogma, Levi devoted 22 chapters to the 22 trump cards, or Major Arcana, of the tarot. He linked each to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and to aspects of God. Some experts called this a significant endeavor while others claimed it to be ignorant. Since most modern tarot books utilize the associations, and the aspect of divine language, he seems to be validated.

Levi also proclaimed a theory of astral light based on his belief in animal magnetism. In his theory, astral light was similar to either, a fluidic life force that fills all space and living beings. This concept was not original but held by others in the 19th century. Levi stated, "To control the astral light was to control all things; a skilled magician's will was limitless in power."

Levi stated he was influenced by an earlier writer and occultist Francis Barrettt. In turn he influenced another writer and occultist Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, with whom he visited in London in 1861. Bulwer-Lytton wrote The Last Days of Pompeii and other occult books helping to make magic fashionable to the last of the 19th century. They both became members of an occult group, which perhaps Bulwer-Lyttom may have organized, that studied scrying, magic, astrology, and mesmerism.

Levi's version of magic became a great success, especially after his death. His magical teachings were free from obvious fanaticisms, even if they remained rather murky; he had nothing to sell, and did not pretend to be the inititate of some ancient or fictitious secret society. He incorporated the Tarot cards into his magical system, and as a result the Tarot has been an important part of the paraphernalia of Western magicians. He had a deep impact on the magic of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and it was largely through this impact that Levi is remembered as one of the key founders of the twentieth century revival of magic.

Until his death Levi made his living from his occult writings and lessons that he taught. In his popularity he drew a cult following, influencing others to write their own books.

Note: The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, founded in London in 1888, adopted much of Levi's magic. Aliester Crowley, a former member, was born the year that Levi died and claimed to be the reincarnation of Levi

Sir Conan Arthur Doyle

This man had a very busy life. This listing only covers the biggest points of his life. This man combined the best and the worst traits of Holmes and Watson. He is said to have solved a few mysteries himself, and to have worked for The British Intelligence Community. He would of done more, but he occasionally fell into 'funks' of self doubt. He has a fascinating life, one that should be reviewed further.

1859 Conan Doyle is born on May 22 in Edinburgh, Scotland to Charles and Mary Doyle.

1868 Conan Doyle is sent to Jesuit boarding school in England.

1876 Charles Doyle enters a nursing facility to receive treatment for his alcoholism. Conan Doyle attends the University of Edinburgh Medical School where he meets Dr. Joseph Bell, the person who inspired the character of Sherlock Holmes.

1879 Conan Doyle's work is published for the first time. The story is The Mystery of the Sasassa Valley.

1880 He serves as ship's surgeon on the Greenland whaler Hope.

1881 A Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery are awarded to Conan Doyle. He leaves from Liverpool to serve as shipboard medical officer on the steamer Mayumba.

1882 Conan Doyle leaves for Portsmouth to establish is own medical practice.

1883 He joins the Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society.

1885 On August 5th, Conan Doyle marries Louisa 'Toulie' Hawkins.

1887 A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes story, is published.

1889 Mary, the first child of Conan Doyle, is born. Micah Clarke is published.

1890 The Sign of Four is published.

1891 Conan Doyle gives up his medical practice in favor of writing. The White Company is published.

1892 Louisa gives birth to Arthur Allyne Kingsley. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is published.

1893 Conan Doyle visits Reichenbach Falls. Louisa is diagnosed with tuberculosis. Conan Doyle's father, Charles, dies. Conan Doyle takes Louisa to Switzerland because of her health. Conan Doyle joins the British Society for Psychical Research. The Adventure of the Final Problem is published.

1894 The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is published.

1897 Conan Doyle meets Jean Leckie.

1899 A Duet with an Occasional Chorus is published.

1900 Serves in the Boer War.

1901 The Hound of the Baskervilles is published in The Strand magazine.

1902 The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Conduct is published. Conan Doyle is knighted for this publication.

1904 Conan Doyle is made a member of the Crimes Club. The Return of Sherlock Holmes is published.

1905 Sir Nigel is published.

1906 Louise dies at the age of forty-nine. Conan Doyle begins investigation of the George Edalji case.

1907 Conan Doyle marries Jean Leckie.

1909 Denis Percy Stewart Conan Doyle is born to Jean and Arthur. Conan Doyle writes The Crime of the Congo.

1910 Conan Doyle becomes involved in the Oscar Slater case. Adrian Malcom is born to Jean and Arthur.

1911 Conan Doyle and Jean participate in the Prince Henry Tour.

1912 The Lost World is published. Lena Jean Annette is born to Jean and Arthur. Conan Doyle argues with George Bernard Shaw about the Titanic.

1913 The Poison Belt is published.

1915 The Valley of Fear is published in book form.

1916 Conan Doyle declares his belief in Spiritualism in the Light magazine.

1917 Conan Doyle speaks publicly on Spiritualism for the first time. His Last Bow is published.

1918 His son, Kingsley, dies. His brother, Innes, also dies.

1920 Conan Doyle writes about the Cottingley fairies in the December issue of The Strand. Conan Doyle meets Houdini.

1921 Jean Conan Doyle discovers that she had the ability to do automatic writing.

1922 The Coming of the Fairies is published. Jean Conan Doyle attempts to contact Houdini's mother.

1925 The Lost World is made into a film. The Land of Mist is published.

1926 History of Spiritualism is published.

1927 The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes is published.

1928 Conan Doyle launches a five-month tour of Africa.

1930 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle dies on July 8. He is buried at the rose garden in Windlesham

Raleigh, Sir Walter

Sir Walter Raleigh (Rawley, Ralegh, and Rawleigh; although 'Raleigh' appears most commonly today, he himself used that spelling only once. His most consistent preferrence was for 'Ralegh'. The city of Raleigh, North Carolina takes its name from Sir Walter.)

Courtier, explorer, soldier, and writer, born in Hayes Barton, Devon, SW England, UK. He studied at Oxford before serving in the Huguenot army in France (1569). Raleigh's family had a fundamentally Protestant religious orientation and experienced a number of near escapes during the reign of the Catholic queen Mary I of England (1553 - 1558). During childhood, Raleigh developed a hatred of Catholicism, and proved quick to express it after the Protestant Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558.

By 1581, after a number of military and naval engagements in France, Ireland and elsewhere, he had become established as a military man, courtier, and as Elizabeth's favourite as well as the enemy A rival of the Earl of Essex. Note: The story that he once took off an expensive cloak and threw it over a mud puddle for Queen Elizabeth to walk across illustrates Raleigh's flamboyant manner. It might not be true, but it explains the kind of man he was.

His position of influence was greatly extended as he became one of Elizabeth's spymasters, along with Francis Walsingham, and was largely responsible for the uncovering of the Babington plot (1586), a Catholic plot to dethrone Elizabeth and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots; as a result of this Elizabeth granted Raleigh a 40,000 acre (160 km2) estate in Ireland. Mary became implicated in the Babington conspiracy and subsequently suffered execution (1587).

Raleigh was Governor of Jersey 1600-1603, responsible for modernising the defences of the island. He named the new fortress protecting the approaches to St. Helier Fort Isabella Bellissima, known thereafter in English as Elizabeth Castle.

In 1587 he explored from N Carolina to present-day Florida, naming the region Virginia in honour of Elizabeth, the 'Virgin Queen'. In 1587 Raleigh sent an ill-fated second expedition of colonists to Roanoake. Did he peeve off a wizardly Dee or someone else at court?

In 1588 he took part in the victory over the Spanish Armada. He led other raids against Spanish possessions and returned with much booty. Raleigh forfeited Elizabeth's favour by his courtship of and subsequent marriage to one of her maids-of-honour, Bessy Throckmorton.

Elizabeth's successor, James I, distrusted and feared Raleigh, charged him with treason and condemned him to death, but commuted the sentence to imprisonment in the Tower (1603). There Raleigh lived with his wife and servants, and wrote his History of the World (1614). Hoping, on his release, to recover his position, he led an abortive expedition to Guiana to search for El Dorado, a legendary land of gold (1616). Instead, he helped to introduce the potato plant and tobacco use in England and Ireland.

Against the king's undertaking to the Spanish, he invaded and pillaged Spanish territory, was forced to return to England without booty, and was arrested on the orders of the king. His original death sentence for treason was invoked, and he was executed at Westminster. A gifted poet, writer, and scholar, many of his poems and writings were destroyed. A pioneer of the Italian sonnet-form in English, he was a patron of the arts, notably of Edmund Spenser in his composition of The Faerie Queene (1589-96).

Again, note that famous and historical figures are all explorers and sailors, while your adventurers simple warriors and not famous. There is a lesson to be learned from this.

Benedict Arnold

Normally I will not just 'cut and paste' from someone's post to make one of these (copyright and all that), but this is the best explanation of Benedict Arnold that I have personally found.

Benedict Arnold was different: a military hero for both sides in the same war. He began his career as an American Patriot in May 1775, when he and Ethan Allen led the brigade that captured Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. Arnold's heroics continued in September, when he led an expedition of 1,150 riflemen against Quebec, the capital of British Canada. The American commander drove his men hard through the Maine wilderness, overcoming leaky boats, spoiled provisions, treacherous rivers, and near starvation to arrive at Quebec in November, his force reduced to 650 men.

These losses did not deter Arnold. Joined by General Richard Montgomery, who had arrived with 300 troops after capturing Montreal, Arnold's forces attacked the strongly fortified city, only to have the assault end in disaster. A hundred Americans were killed, including Montgomery; 400 were captured; and many were wounded, including Arnold, who fell as he stormed over a barricade, a ball through his leg.

Quebec was only the beginning. For the next five years Arnold served the Patriot side with distinction in one battle after another, including a dangerous assault against the center of the British line at Saratoga, where he was again wounded in the leg. No general was more imaginative than Arnold, no field officer more daring, no soldier more courageous.

Yet Arnold has gone down in history not as a hero but as a villain, a military traitor who, as commander of the American fort at West Point, New York, in 1780, schemed to hand it over to the British.

Of his role in this conspiracy there is no doubt. His British contact, Major John Andre, was caught with incriminating documents in Arnold's handwriting, including routes of access to the fort. Arnold, fleeing down the Hudson River on a British ship, defended his treason in a letter to Washington, stating that 'love to my country actuates my present conduct, however it may appear inconsistent to the world, who very seldom judge right of any man's actions.'

But judge we must. Why did Arnold desert the cause for which he had fought so gallantly and twice been wounded? Was there any justification for his conduct?

When the fighting began at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, Arnold was thirty-four, an apothecary and minor merchant in New Haven, Connecticutobut also a militia captain and ardent Patriot. 'Good God,' he had exclaimed at the time of the Boston Massacre, 'are the Americans all asleep and tamely giving up their Liberties'? Eager to support the rebellion, Arnold coerced the Town's selectmen into supplying powder and ball to his men and promptly marched them to Boston, which was under siege by the New England militia. On the way Arnold thought up the attack on Fort Ticonderoga (realizing that the fort's cannon could be used to force the British out of Boston) and persuaded the Massachusetts Committee of Safety to approve his plan and make him a colonel. That done, he raced to New York to take command so that the glory would be his and not go to Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys. The victory achieved, Arnold submitted an inflated claim for expenses (oe l,060 in Massachusetts currency, or about $60,000 today) and protested vehemently when the suspicious legislators closely examined each item.

These events illuminated Arnold's great strengths and fatal flaws and were prophetic of his ultimate fate. He was bold and creative, a man who sized up a situation and acted quickly. He was ambitious and extravagant, an egocentric man who craved power and the financial rewards that came with it. He was intrepid and ruthless, willing to risk his life 'and the lives of others' to get what he wanted.

Such men often are resented as much as they are admired, and so it was with Arnold. At Quebec some New England officers accused him of arrogance and tried to withdraw from his command, but Congress rewarded the intrepid colonel by making him a brigadier general. When Arnold again distinguished himself in battle in early I 777 'having his horse shot out from under him' Congress promoted him to major general and gave him a new horse 'as a token of their admiration of his gallant conduct.' But then, in the middle of the struggle at Saratoga, General Horatio Gates, the American commander, relieved Arnold of his command, partly for insubordination and partly because Gates considered him a 'pompous little fellow.' Washington rewarded Arnold nonetheless, appointing him commandant at Philadelphia in July 1778, after the British evacuation of the city.

By then Arnold was an embittered man, disdainful of his fellow officers and resentful toward Congress for not promoting him more quickly and to even higher rank. A widower, he threw himself into the social life of the city, holding grand parties, courting and marrying Margaret Shippen, 'a talented young woman of good family, who at nineteen, was half his age' and failing deeply into debt. Arnold's extravagance drew him into shady financial schemes and into disrepute with Congress, which investigated his accounts and recommended a court-martial. 'Having ... become a cripple in the service of my country, I little expected to meet such ungrateful returns,' he complained to Washington.

Faced with financial ruin, uncertain of future promotion, and disgusted with congressional politics, Arnold made a fateful decision: he would seek fortune and fame in the service of Great Britain. With cool calculation, he initiated correspondence with Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander, promising to deliver West Point and its 3,000 defenders for 2O,OOO sterling (about $1 million today), a momentous act that he hoped would spark the collapse of the American cause. Persuading Washington to place the fort under his command, Arnold moved in September 1780 to execute his audacious plan, only to see it fail when Andre, was captured. As Andre, was executed as a spy, Arnold received ce 6,000 from the British government and appointment as a brigadier general.

Arnold served George III with the same skill and daring he had shown in the Patriot cause. In 1781 he led devastating strikes on Patriot supply depots: In Virginia he looted Richmond and destroyed munitions and grain intended for the American army opposing Lord Cornwallis; in Connecticut he burned ships, warehouses, and much of the town of New London, a major port for Patriot privateers.

In the end, Benedict Arnold's 'moral failure lay not in his disenchantment with the American cause' for many other officers returned to civilian life disgusted with the decline in republican virtue and angry over their failure to win a guaranteed pension from Congress. Nor did his infamy stem from his transfer of allegiance to the British side, for other Patriots chose to become Loyalists, sometimes out of principle but just as often for personal gain. Arnold's perfidy lay in the abuse of his position of authority and trust: he would betray West Point and its garrison 'and if necessary the entire American war effort' to secure his own success. His treason was not that of a principled man but that of a selfish one, and he never lived that down. Hated in America as a consort of 'Beelzebub ... the Devil,' Arnold was treated with coldness and even contempt in Britain. He died as he lived, a man without a country.


REPRINTED FROM James A. Henretta, Elliot Brownlee, David Brody, Susan Ware, and Marilynn Johnson, America's History, Third Edition, Worth Publishers Inc., 1997 Copyright: Worth Publishers Inc. (Available now: Call: 1-800-321-9299 for order; 1-800-446-8923 for desk copies).

Steinbeck, John

Have you noticed that writers are the most common type of adventurer we have in the modern world? It may be that they are not tied to a 'job' and can 'float about' doing things that are not common for most people. I am not sure if they are the best adventurers, or just that the get to become famous ones.

Writers, Explorers, and Sailors... these are adventurers.

John Steinbeck was born in the farming town of Salinas, California on February 27, 1902. His father, John Ernst Steinbeck, was not a terribly successful man; at one time or another he was the manager of a Sperry flour plant, the owner of a feed and grain store; the treasurer of Monterey County. His mother, the strong-willed Olive Hamilton Steinbeck, was a former teacher. As a child growing up in the fertile Salinas Valley-called the 'Salad Bowl of the Nation'-Steinbeck formed a deep appreciation of his environment, not only the rich fields and hills surrounding Salinas, but also the nearby Pacific coast where his family spent summer weekends. The observant, shy but often mischievous only son had, for the most part, a happy childhood growing up with two older sisters, Beth and Esther, and a much-adored younger sister, Mary.

Never wealthy, the family was nonetheless prominent in the small town of 3000, for both parents engaged in community activities. Mr. Steinbeck was a Mason, Mrs. Steinbeck a member of Eastern Star and founder of The Wanderers, a women's club that traveled vicariously through monthly reports. While the elder Steinbecks established their identities by sending deep roots in the community, however, their son was something of a rebel. Respectable Salinas circumscribed the restless and imaginative young John Steinbeck and he defined himself against 'Salinas thinking.' At age fourteen he decided to be a writer and spent hours as a teenager living in a world of his own making, writing stories and poems in his upstairs bedroom.

To please his parents, in 1919 he enrolled at Stanford University; to please himself he signed on only for those courses that interested him-classical and British literature, writing courses, and a smattering of science. From 1919 to 1925, when he finally left Stanford without taking a degree, Steinbeck dropped in and out of the University, sometimes to work closely with migrants and bindlestiffs on California ranches. Those relationships, coupled with an early sympathy for the weak and defenseless, deepened his empathy for workers, the disenfranchised, the lonely and dislocated-an empathy that is characteristic in his work.

After leaving Stanford, he briefly tried construction work and newspaper reporting in New York City, and then returned to his native state in order to hone his craft. In the late 1920s, during a three-year stint as a caretaker for a Lake Tahoe estate, he wrote several drafts of his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929). There he also met the woman who would become his first wife, Carol Henning, a San Jose native. After their marriage in 1930, he and Carol settled, rent-free, into the Steinbeck family's summer cottage in Pacific Grove, she to search for jobs to support them, he to continue writing.

During the decade of the 1930s Steinbeck wrote most of his best California fiction. By 1933, Steinbeck had found best voice and had claimed his people-not the respectable, smug Salinas burghers, but those on the edges of polite society. Steinbeck's California fiction, from To a God Unknown to East of Eden (1952) envisions the dreams and defeats of common people shaped by the environments they inhabit.

Undoubtedly his ecological, holistic vision was determined both by his early years roaming the Salinas hills and by his long and deep friendship with the remarkable Edward Flanders Ricketts, a marine biologist. Founder of Pacific Biological, a marine lab eventually housed on Cannery Row in Monterey. In addition, Ricketts was remarkable for a quality of acceptance; he accepted people as they were and he embraced life as he found it (ovciously another PC). He was Steinbeck's mentor, his alter ego, and his soul mate. Considering the depth of his eighteen-year friendship with Ricketts, it is hardly surprising that the bond acknowledged most frequently in Steinbeck's oeuvre is friendship between and among men.

Steinbeck's writing style as well as his social consciousness of the 1930s was also shaped by an equally compelling figure in his life, his wife Carol. She helped edit his prose, urged him to cut the Latinate phrases, typed his manuscripts, suggested titles, and offered ways to restructure.She also pushed him to communist meetings. Those communists in the area were creating worker's unions for the downtrodden farm workers. (Remember the roots of Communism had very laudable ideals, to protect the common worker.)

Toward the end of the 30s, he was a Pulitzer Prize winning author and commercially successful. The author abandoned the field for a while at this time, exhausted from two years of research trips and personal commitment to the migrants' woes, from the five-month push to write the final version, from a deteriorating marriage to Carol, and from an unnamed physical malady. He retreated to Ed Ricketts and science, announcing his intention to study seriously marine biology and to plan a collecting trip to the Sea of Cortez.

Steinbeck was determined to participate in World War II, first doing patriotic work and then going overseas for the New York Herald Tribune as a war correspondent. In his war dispatches he wrote about the neglected corners of war that many journalists missed-life at a British bomber station, the allure of Bob Hope, the song 'Lili Marlene,' and a diversionary mission off the Italian coast. These columns were later collected in Once There Was a War (1958). Upon returning to the states, Steinback began to write his 'nostalgic' novel Cannery Row.

Steinbeck often felt misunderstood by book reviewers and critics, and their barbs rankled the sensitive writer, and would throughout his career.His post war works were not received as well as his earlier works. Steinbeck faltered both professionally and personally in the 1940s. He divorced the loyal but volatile Carol in 1943. That same year he moved east with his second wife, Gwyndolyn Conger, a lovely and talented woman nearly twenty years his junior who ultimately came to resent his growing stature and feel that her own creativity had been stifled. With Gwyn, Steinbeck had two sons, Thom and John, but the marriage started falling apart shortly after the second son's birth, ending in divorce in 1948. That same year Steinbeck was numbed by Ed Ricketts's death. Only with concentrated work on a filmscript on the life of Emiliano Zapata for Elia Kazan's film Viva Zapata! (1952) would Steinbeck gradually chart a new course. In 1949 he met and in 1950 married his third wife, Elaine Scott, and with her he moved again to New York City, where he lived for the rest of his life.

During the 1950s and 1960s the perpetually 'restless' Steinbeck traveled extensively throughout the world with his third wife, Elaine. With her, he became more social. In the fiction of his last two decades, however, Steinbeck never ceased to take risks, to stretch his conception of the novel's structure, to experiment with the sound and form of language. Increasingly disillusioned with American greed, waste, and spongy morality-his own sons seemed textbook cases-he wrote his jeremiad, a lament for an ailing populace. The following year, 1962, Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

While he wrote no more fiction after 1962, the writer John Steinbeck was not silenced. As always, he wrote reams of letters to his many friends and associates. In the 1950s and 1960s he published scores of journalistic pieces: 'Making of a New Yorker,' 'I Go Back to Ireland,' columns about the 1956 national political conventions, and 'Letters to Alicia,' a controversial series about a 1966 White House-approved trip to Vietnam where his sons were stationed. In the late 1950s-and intermittently for the rest of his life-he worked diligently on a modern English translation of a book he had loved since childhood, Sir Thomas Malory's Morte d'Arthur; the unfinished project was published posthumously as The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976). Immediately after completing Winter, the ailing novelist proposed 'not a little trip of reporting,' he wrote to his agent Elizabeth Otis, 'but a frantic last attempt to save my life and the integrity of my creativity pulse.' In 1960, he toured America in a camper truck designed to his specifications, and on his return published the highly praised Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962).

In these late years, in fact since his final move to New York in 1950, many accused John Steinbeck of increasing conservatism. True enough that with greater wealth came the chance to spend money more freely. And with status came political opportunities that seemed out of step for a 'radical' of the 1930s: he initially defended Lyndon Johnson's views on the war with Vietnam (dying before he could, as he wished, qualify his initial responses). And true enough that the man who spent a lifetime 'whipping' his sluggard will felt intolerance for 1960s protesters whose zeal, in his eyes, was unfocused and whose anger was explosive, not turned to creative solutions. But it is far more accurate to say that the author who wrote The Grapes of Wrath never retreated into conservatism. He lived in modest houses all his life, caring little for lavish displays of power or wealth. He always preferred talking to ordinary citizens wherever he traveled, sympathizing always with the disenfranchised. He was a Stevenson Democrat in the 1950s. Even in the 1930s, he was never a communist, and after three trips to Russia (1937, 1947, 1963) he hated with increasing intensity Soviet repression of the individual.

In fact, neither during his life nor after has the paradoxical Steinbeck been an easy author to pigeonhole personally, politically, or artistically. As a man, he was an introvert and at the same time had a romantic streak, was impulsive, garrulous, a lover of jests and word play and practical jokes. As an artist, he was a ceaseless experimenter with words and form, and often critics did not 'see' quite what he was up to. He claimed his books had 'layers,' yet many claimed his symbolic touch was cumbersome. He loved humor and warmth, but some said he slopped over into sentimentalism. He was, and is now recognized as, an environmental writer. He was an intellectual, passionately interested in his odd little inventions, in jazz, in politics, in philosophy, history, and myth-this range from an author sometimes labeled simplistic by academe. All said, Steinbeck remains one of America's most significant twentieth-century writers, whose popularity spans the world, whose range is impressive, whose output was prodigious: 16 novels, a collection of short stories, 4 screenplays, a sheaf of journalistic essays-including four collections, a translation and two published journals (more remain unpublished).

Leonardo da Vinci

Here is a 'great man' and an obvious character to be inserted into a game as a great NPC. The man was not only one of the finest artists to grace the planet, he was a master engineer and inventor (inventing the first verifiable programable autonoman), a physicist, a natural historian, a philosopher, and occultist. He was also said to be an incredibly handsome man too. (Lets not mention his alleged associations with a variety of illuminated secret society groups.) With very little alteration, he could be dropped into a fantasy world.

Leonardo was born in Anchiano, near Vinci, Italy, April 15th, 1452. His father Ser Piero da Vinci was a well-off landowner or craftsman and his mother, Caterina, a peasant girl. It has been suggested that Caterina was a slave of middle eastern origin owned by Piero, but the evidence is scant.

He was illegitimate, but his father took custody of the little fellow shortly after his birth, while his mother married someone else and moved to a neighboring town. (They kept on having kids, although not with each other, and they eventually supplied him with a total of 17 half sisters and brothers).

Growing up in his father's Vinci home, Leonardo had access to scholarly texts owned by family and friends. He was also exposed to Vinci's longstanding painting tradition, and when he was about 15 his father apprenticed him to the renowned workshop of Andrea del Verrochio in Florence. Even as an apprentice, Leonardo demonstrated his colossal talent. Indeed, his genius seems to have seeped into a number of pieces produced by the Verrocchio's workshop from the period 1470 to 1475. For example, one of Leonardo's first big breaks was to paint an angel in Verrochio's 'Baptism of Christ,' and Leonardo was so much better than his master's that Verrochio allegedly resolved never to paint again. Leonardo stayed in the Verrocchio workshop until 1477 when he set up a shingle for himself.

In 1476 he was anonymously accused of homosexual contact with a 17-year-old model, Jacopo Saltarelli, a notorious prostitute. He was, together with three other young men, charged with homosexual conduct and acquitted because of lack of evidence. For a time Leonardo and the others were under the watchful eye of Florence's 'Officers of the Night' - a kind of Renaissance vice squad.

In search of new challenges (and the big bucks :) ), he entered the service of the Duke of Milan in 1482, abandoning his first commission in Florence, 'The Adoration of the Magi'. He spent 17 years in Milan, leaving only after Duke Ludovico Sforza's fall from power in 1499. It was during these years that Leonardo hit his stride, reaching new heights of scientific and artistic achievement.

The Duke kept Leonardo busy painting and sculpting and designing elaborate court festivals, but he also put Leonardo to work designing weapons, buildings and machinery. From 1485 to 1490, Leonardo produced a studies on loads of subjects, including nature, flying machines, geometry, mechanics, municipal construction, canals and architecture (designing everything from churches to fortresses). His studies from this period contain designs for advanced weapons, including a tank and other war vehicles, various combat devices, and submarines. Also during this period, Leonardo produced his first anatomical studies. His Milan workshop was a veritable hive of activity, buzzing with apprentices and students.

Alas, Leonardo's interests were so broad, and he was so often compelled by new subjects, that he usually failed to finish what he started. This lack of 'stick-to-it-ness' resulted in his completing only about six works in these 17 years, including 'The Last Supper' and 'The Virgin on the Rocks,' and he left dozens of paintings and projects unfinished or unrealized (see 'Big Horse' in sidebar). He spent most of his time studying science, either by going out into nature and observing things or by locking himself away in his workshop cutting up bodies or pondering universal truths.

Between 1490 and 1495 he developed his habit of recording his studies in meticulously illustrated notebooks. His work covered four main themes: painting, architecture, the elements of mechanics, and human anatomy. These studies and sketches were collected into various codices and manuscripts, which are now hungrily collected by museums and individuals

Note:Bill Gates recently plunked down $30 million for the Codex Leicester!

Back to Milan... after the invasion by the French and Ludovico Sforza's fall from power in 1499, Leonardo was left to search for a new patron. Over the next 16 years, Leonardo worked and traveled throughout Italy for a number of employers, including the dastardly Cesare Borgia. He traveled for a year with Borgia's army as a military engineer and even met Niccolo Machiavelli, author of 'The Prince.' Leonardo also designed a bridge to span the 'golden horn' in Constantinople during this period and received a commission, with the help of Machiavelli, to paint the 'Battle of Anghiari.'

About 1503, Leonardo reportedly began work on the 'Mona Lisa.' On July 9, 1504, he received notice of the death of his father, Ser Piero. Through the contrivances of his meddling half brothers and sisters, Leonardo was deprived of any inheritance. The death of a beloved uncle also resulted in a scuffle over inheritance, but this time Leonardo beat out his scheming siblings and wound up with use of the uncle's land and money.

In 1507 Leonardo met a 15 year old aristocrat of great personal beauty, Count Francesco Melzi. Melzi became his pupil, life companion, and heir.

From 1513 to 1516, he worked in Rome, maintaining a workshop and undertaking a variety of projects for the Pope. He continued his studies of human anatomy and physiology, but the Pope forbade him from dissecting cadavers. This ban stopped Leonardo for a time, but he just found inventive ways to smuggle in bodies, preserve them, and get them reburried before anyone noticed.

In 1515 Francis I of France retook Milan, and Leonardo was commissioned to make a centrepiece (of a mechanical lion) for the peace talks in Bologna between the French king and Pope Leo X, where he must have first met the king.

Following the death of his patron Giuliano de' Medici in March of 1516, he was offered the title of Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect of the King by Francis I in France. His last and perhaps most generous patron, Francis I provided Leonardo with a cushy job, including a stipend and manor house near the royal chateau at Amboise. He produced studies for the Virgin Mary from 'The Virgin and Child with St. Anne', studies of cats, horses, dragons, St. George, anatomical studies, studies on the nature of water, drawings of the Deluge, and of various machines.

Leonardo died on May 2, 1519 in Cloux, France. Legend has it that King Francis was at his side when he died, cradling Leonardo's head in his arms. According to his wish, 60 beggars followed his casket. He was buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert in the castle of Amboise.

A couple of additional notes

He was born before modern naming conventions developed in Europe. Therefore, his full name was 'Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci', which means 'Leonardo, son of Piero, from Vinci'. Leonardo himself simply signed his works 'Leonardo' or 'Io, Leonardo' ('I, Leonardo'). Most authorities therefore refer to his works as 'Leonardos', not 'da Vincis'. Presumably he did not use his father's name because he was an illegitimate child.

In addition to being just about the smartest person ever, Leonardo is reported to have been a strikingly handsome man with great strength and a fine singing voice. And unlike his fellow 15th-century Italians, he was a vegetarian and followed strict dietary rules. In fact, he loved animals so much that he would often buy caged animals at the market just to set them free.

In an era when left-handedness was considered the devil's work and lefties were often forced to use their right hand, Leonardo was an unrepentant southpaw. It has been suggested that this 'difference' was an element of his genius, since his detachment allowed him to see beyond the ordinary. He even wrote backwards, and his writings are easily deciphered only with a mirror.

That Leonardo was homosexual is generally accepted. His longest-running relationship was with a beautiful delinquent Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno, whom he nicknamed Salai (Little Devil), who entered his household at the age of 10. Leonardo supported Salai for twenty five years, and he left Salai half his vineyard in his will.

He was a vegetarian throughout his life.


Perhaps even more impressive than his artistic work are his studies in science and engineering, recorded in notebooks comprising some 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, which fuse art and science. He was left-handed and used mirror writing throughout his life. Explainable by fact that it is easier to pull a quill pen than to push it; by using mirror-writing, the left-handed writer is able to pull the pen from right to left.

His approach to science was an observatory one: he tried to understand a phenomenon by describing and depicting it in utmost detail, and did not emphasize experiments or theoretical explanations. Throughout his life, he planned a grand encyclopedia based on detailed drawings of everything. Since he lacked formal education in Latin and mathematics, Leonardo the scientist was mostly ignored by contemporary scholars.

He participated in autopsies and produced many extremely detailed anatomical drawings, planning a comprehensive work of human and comparative anatomy. Around the year 1490, he produced a study in his sketchbook of the Canon of Proportions as described in recently rediscovered writings of the Roman architect Vitruvius. The study, called the Vitruvian Man, is one of his most well-known works.

His study of human anatomy led eventually to the design of the first known robot in recorded history. The design, which has come to be called Leonardo's robot, was probably made around the year 1495 but was rediscovered only in the 1950s. It is not known if an attempt was made to build the device. It uses a system of Cams, Cogs, and springs to emulate human movement.

Being fascinated by the phenomenon of flight, he produced detailed studies of the flight of birds, and plans for several flying machines, including a helicopter powered by four men (which would not have worked since it would have rotated) and a light hang-glider which could have flown. On January 3, 1496 he unsuccessfully tested a flying machine he had constructed.

His notebooks also contain several inventions in the military field: machine guns, an armored tank powered by humans or horses, cluster bombs, having allegedly rediscovered 'Greek Fire' - a flame thrower, etc. Other inventions include a submarine, a cog-wheeled device that has been interpreted as the first mechanical calculator, and a car powered by a spring mechanism. This item has been determine to be 'programmed' by a set of cams and cogs to follow a preset path. In his years in the Vatican, he planned an industrial use of solar power, by employing concave mirrors to heat water.

In astronomy, Leonardo believed that the Sun and Moon revolved around the Earth, and that the Moon reflects the sun's light due to its being covered by water.

Leonardo did not publish or otherwise distribute the contents of his notebooks. Most scholars believe that Leonardo wanted to publish his notebooks and make his observations public knowledge. Those around him kept the contents secret, as some of his ideas were heretical and others were deemed 'too dangerous' for society if known (i.e. most of his weapons). They remained obscure until the 19th century, and were not directly of value to the development of science and technology.

While most of Leonardo's inventions were not realized, many were technologically feasible as it was demonstrated recently, e.g. his tank.


Leonardo is said to be a great occultist as well as artist and engineer. He was said to use meditative techniques to only sleep two or so hours a day. He had copies of (and well versed in) Greek occult/ philosophical works (Hermes Trigomes, and a few others). He has been linked to a large number of occult organization and secret societies. Groups claims Leonardo as a member are almost too numerous to be actually true. However solid links can be made to The Templars, Priory of Sion, The predecesors of the Rosocrutions, An Isis based group, and a few others of lesser renown. (Yes The DaVinci code is not off base about this). Of course, every intelligent free thinker of some wealth was inducted in most of said organizations at this time period. However, Leonardo did more than just join them to be part of the exclusive clubs. He was a questing mind searching for the answers as to how the universe worked. He was open minded enough to investigate every avenue without prejudice. There was rumored to be two folios full of occult information that were stolen soon after his death. Like many of his folios, Leonardo wanted to publish them immediately, but the people around him hid them for fear of retribution or the destruction of his name. The thefts were probably an attempt to keep even that information out of 'common hands'.

Abu Bakr Mohammad Ibn Zakariya al-Razi -

A major founder of modern medicine and Chemistry.

In Persian, Razi means "from the city of Rayy (Rages)" near Tehran, Iran, where he was born and (like Avicenna) did much of his work. Although scholars mostly agree on the year of Razi's death, his year of birth is not precisely known: many sources say 864, but some scholars such as William H. Brock give 850 while the historian/pharmacist Charles LaWall dates his birth as early as 841. Like many other Islamic figures, he is often, but incorrectly, said to be Arab in Western literature.

Before becoming a physician, Razi was interested in music; he was well versed in musical theory and is said to have been an exceptional performer. After serving for some time as the head of the first Royal Hospital at Ray, Razi moved to Baghdad where he was put in charge of its famous Muqtadari Hospital, and gathered the bulk of his clinical observations.

Razi suffered failing eyesight for several years, and though he eventually lost all vision he continued to provide medical consultations and often even lectured. The exact nature of his ocular disease is uncertain, though it is said that he refused to be operated on because his caregivers could not answer his questions concerning the anatomy of the eye.

Razi was a student of Hunayn Ibn Ishaq. Many claim that he was the first to say that the world is round, but this was known much earlier, at least as early as Ptolemy.

Medical Contributions:

As chief physician at the Baghdad hospital Razi formulated the first known description of smallpox:

This is acknowledged by the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911), which states: "The most trustworthy statements as to the early existence of the disease are found in an account by the 9th-century Arabian physician Rhazes, by whom its symptoms were clearly described, its pathology explained by a humoral or fermentation theory, and directions given for its treatment.".

Written by Razi, the al-Judari wa al-Hasbah was the first book on smallpox, and was translated over a dozen times into Latin and other European languages. Its lack of dogmatism and its Hippocratic reliance on clinical observation show Razi's medical methods:

(exceptionally nasty descriptions of a now-dead disease omitted. (thank you oh-so-very-much, Doctor al-Razi and those like you!))

Allergies and fever

Razi is known to have discovered allergic asthma, and was the first person to have ever written an article on allergy and immunology. In the Sense of Smelling he explains the occurrence of rhinitis when smelling a rose in the spring ("An Article on the Reason Why Abou Zayd Balkhi Suffers from Rhinitis When Smelling Roses in Spring"). In this article he talks of seasonal rhinitis, which is the same as allergic asthma or hay fever. Razi was also the first to realize that fever was a natural defense mechanism, the body's way of fighting disease.


Rhazes contributed to the early practice of pharmacy by compiling texts, but also in various other ways. Examples are the introduction of mercurial ointments, and the development of apparatus like mortars, flasks, spatulas and phials, as used in pharmacies until the early twentieth century.

Ethics of medicine

On the professional level, Razi introduced many useful, progressive, medical and psychological ideas. He also attacked charlatans and fake doctors who roamed the cities and the countryside selling their nostrums and 'cures'. At the same time, he warned that even highly educated doctors did not have the answers for all medical problems and could not cure all sicknesses or heal every disease. Humanly speaking, this is an impossibility. Nonetheless, to be more useful in their services and truer to their calling, Razi exhorted practitioners to keep up with advanced knowledge by continually studying medical books and exposing themselves to new information. He distinguished between curable and incurable diseases. On the latter, he cited advanced cases of cancer and leprosy which the doctor should not be blamed for if uncured. Then, on the humorous side, Razi pitied physicians caring for the well being of princes, nobility, and women, for they did not obey doctor's orders for restricted diet and medical treatment, thus making most difficult the task of being their doctor.

Razi was possibly the first Islamic doctor to deliberately write a home medical manual (remedial) directed at the general public. He dedicated it to the poor, the traveler, and the ordinary citizen who could consult it for treatment of common ailments when a doctor was not available. This book, of course, is of special interest to the history of pharmacy since books on the same theme continued to be popular until the 20th century. In its 36 chapters, Razi described diets and drugs that can be found practically everywhere in apothecary shops, in the market place, in well-equipped kitchens, and in military camps. Thus, any intelligent mature person can follow its instructions and prepare the right recipes for good results.

In Doubts about Galen, Razi rejects several claims of the Greek doctor, from the alleged superiority of the Greek language to many of his cosmological and medical views. He places medicine within philosophy, inferring that sound practice demands independent thinking. His own clinical records, he reports, do not confirm Galen's descriptions of the course of a fever. And in some cases he finds that his clinical experience exceeds Galen's.

He also criticized Galen's theory that the body was possessed by four separate "humors", liquid substances whose balance was the key to health and normal temperature; and that the sole means of upsetting such a system was to introduce into the organism a liquid of a different temperature, which would bring about an increase or decrease in bodily heat identical to the temperature of the particular fluid. In particular, Razi noted that a warm drink may heat the body to a degree much hotter than its own. Thus the drink must trigger a response from the body, rather than simply communicating its own warmth or coldness to it. (I. E. Goodman)

This line of criticism had the potential, in time, to bring down the whole of Galen's Theory of Humours, and the Aristotelian scheme of the Four Elements, on which it was grounded. Razi's alchemical experiments suggested other qualities of matter, such as "oiliness" and "sulphurousness", or inflammability and salinity, which were not readily explained by the traditional fire, water, earth, and air schematism.

Razi's challenge to the current fundaments of medical theory was quite controversial.

Razi believed that contemporary scientists and scholars, because of accumulated knowledge at their disposal are, by far, better equipped, more knowledgeable, and more competent than the ancients. Razi's attempt to overthrow blind reverence and the unchallenged authority of ancient sages encouraged and stimulated research and advances in the arts, technology, and the sciences.

Alchemy: - The Transmutation of Metals

Razi's interest in alchemy and his strong belief in the possibility of transmutation of lesser metals to silver and gold was attested half a century after his death by Ibn an-Nadim's book (The Philosophers Stone). Nadim attributed a series of twelve books to ar-Razi, then seven more, including his refutation to al-Kindi's denial of the validity of alchemy. Last come Razi's two best-known alchemical texts, which largely superseded his earlier ones: al-Asrar("The Secrets"), and Sirr al-Asrar ("The Secret of Secrets"), which incorporates much of the previous work.

Apparently Razi's contemporaries believed that he had the secret of turning iron and copper into gold. Biographer Khosro Moetazed reports in Mohammad Zakaria Razi that a certain General Simjur confronted Razi in public, and asked whether that was the reason for his willingness to treat patients without charging. "It appeared to those present that Razi was reluctant to answer; he looked obliquely at the general and replied:

"I understand alchemy and I have been working on the characteristic properties of metals for an extended time. However, it still has not turned out to be evident to me, how one can transmute gold from copper. Despite the research from the furthermost scientists that have undergone in the past centuries, there has been no reply. I very much doubt if it is possible..."

Chemical instruments and substances

Razi developed several chemical instruments that remain in use to this day. Rhazes is known to have perfected methods of distillation and extraction. This work led to his discovery of sulfuric acid (from the dry distillation of vitriol) and alcohol. These discoveries paved the way for the work of other Islamic alchemists, such as the discovery of several other mineral acids by Jabir Ibn Hayyam (known as Geber in Europe).


Razi's alchemy, like his medical thinking, struggles within the cocoon of hylomorphism. It dismisses the idea of potions and dispenses with an appeal to magic, if magic means reliance on symbols as causes.

But Razi does not reject the idea that there are wonders in the sense of unexplained phenomena in nature. His alchemical stockroom, accordingly, is enriched with the products of Persian mining and manufacture, and the Chinese discovery, sal ammoniac. Still reliant on the idea of dominant forms or essences and thus on the Neoplatonic conception of causality as inherently intellectual rather than mechanical, Razi's alchemy nonetheless brings to the fore such empiric qualities as salinity and inflammability-the latter ascribed to 'oiliness' and 'sulphurousness'. Such properties are not readily explained by the traditional fire, water, earth and air schematism, as al-Âhazali and other later comers, primed by thoughts like Razi's, were quick to note.

Quotes from Rhazes

"Let your first thought be to strengthen the natural vitality."

"Truth in medicine is an unattainable goal, and the art as described in books is far beneath the knowledge of an experienced and thoughtful physician."

Asked if a philosopher can follow a prophetically revealed religion, al-Razi openly retorts:

"How can anyone think philosophically while committed to those old wives' tales, founded on contradictions, obdurate ignorance, and dogmatism?"

"gentility of character, and nicety and purity of mind, are found in those who are capable of thinking deeply about abstruse matters and scientific minutiae."

"Man should hasten to protect himself from love before succumbing and wean his soul from it if he falls."

"The self-admirer, generally, should not glorify himself nor be so conceited that he elevates himself above his counterparts. Neither should he belittle himself to the extent that he becomes inferior to his counterparts or to those who are inferior both to him and to his counterparts in the sight of others. If he follows this advice, he will be free of self-admiration and feelings of inferiority, and people would call him the one who truly knows himself."

When asked of envy, Razi retorts: "It results from the gathering of niggardliness and avarice in the soul." "one of the diseases that cause grave harm to the soul."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Bakr_Mohammad_Ibn_Zakariya_al-Razi for source.


By rejecting common wisdom where it failed the test of logic, Al-Razi paved the way for the creation of modern clinical medicine and symptomatic treatment. By rejecting the Aristotlian view of the elements, he brought the world Sulphuric acid, the backbone of modern chemistry.

Powerfully moral and philosophical, men like al-Razi are easily capable of throwing down entire social orders, and creating new from the anarchy. And all it takes is words.

Augusta Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace & her more famous father, George Gordon, Lord Byron. Ada was instrumental in assisting Babbage with his early computer work. Byron's life reads like a well-thought pc background. His unorthodox lifestyle & facinating personality makes him an all-too-easy NPC to drop into any campaign.

Any of the old Greek inventors would make great NPC's for a number of different genres, from fantasy to sci-fi. Archimedes, Heron, Dionysis, Ctesibus, or many of their contemporaries are, in my opinion, far more interesting than the more famous philosophers that followed them a few centuries later. Early computers (including one that used a differential engine for the apparent reverse-motion of the moon & some planets), rapid-fire & multi-shot ballistae, catapults that could fire with greater range & accuracy than what cannon would achieve until late in the 19th century, devices that could fly under their own power, and deadly radiation weapons that could torch ships in seconds--and do so further out than archers could retaliate, and hundreds more inventions were created by these brilliant individuals.

I bring this article about Herman, father of the one person whose personality has inspired me the most; Bob Smith-Johannsen. I have never known anyone anywhere near as inspiring as Herman and Bob.

I think I will use Herman as a template for an incredibly healthy old NPC ranger.

(Cut and pasted from www.skicanadamag.com/SkiCanadaSpring02/ SkiCanadaSpring03/03Springp14-18ST_opt.pdf

Written by: Aileen Porter with notes from Skiing Legends and

The Laurentian Lodge Club, as well as Jackrabbit: His First Hundred Years)

Chief Jackrabbit: Herman Smith-Johannsen

Herman Smith-Johannsen known also as Chief Jackrabbit, Jackrabbit or, simply, The Chief lived for 111 years and skied nearly every one of them,becoming one of Canada's most famously healthy centenarians. But it was his simple take on life "live modestly and as close to nature as possible" that endeared him to Canadians and an entire ski nation.

Smith-Johannsen was born in Norway on June 15, 1875, and learned to ski at the age of two. When asked who gave him his first lessons, his reply was simple: "You never took lessons to learn to walk, you don't need any lessons to learn to ski. It comes naturally. All you need to do is imitate someone who's doing it a little better than you."

He arrived in Canada in the early 1900s as a machinery salesman for an American firm one of few salesmen willing to trek through the Canadian wilds to peddle heavy equipment to the Grand Trunk Railroad. He fished and hunted with the Cree, always mobile on a pair of cross-country skis. Eventually, because of his swiftness and agility, they nicknamed

him Chief Jackrabbit.

Jackrabbit's business interests failed during the Great Depression. At 56, an age when most Canadians are considering retirement, he was left with nothing. He moved his family to little more than a shack in Quebec's Laurentians and began skiing for a living. First, thanks to subsidies from the Quebec government, he cut at least 1,000 miles of trail for the Maple Leaf Trail linking Prevost to Lac Tremblant. He later helped map out runs for Joe Ryan, founder of Mont Tremblant. And still later he became a father figure for young, aspiring skiers, encouraging them to live life modestly and fully, with, of course, plenty of exercise.

Jackrabbit was a man of many homilies, mostly spun from a simple way of living and skiing. One of his favourites: "I live in the present". Never one to pass on a chance to sleep outdoors, he once told a hotel owner who offered him a bed, "No thanks, I'd rather sleep out in nature's great room". One of his favourite ancient slogans was "For breakfast eat like a king, for lunch like a prince, for dinner like a pauper". And in the early 1960s, when he was nearly 90, he lectured Nancy Greene Raine at a smoky party about the evils of after ski: "If you want to be a champion", he told her sternly, "you must avoid parties like this. You must not breathe this smoky air". At that same party, Greene Raine says, he walked on his hands the length of the head table.

Jackrabbit died January 5, 1987. He's buried in St. Sauveur next to his wife, Alice. "All my life I have been anxious to see what lies on the other side of the hill", he was known to repeat. "And at the same time to enjoy the scenery along the way. Climb your mountain slowly, one step at a time. And when at last you stand upon the summit, you can look beyond to the

farthest horizon".

Sir Richard Francis Burton

Sir Richard Francis Burton (March 19, 1821 - October 19, 1890), British consul, explorer, translator, and Orientalist, was born at Barham House, Hertfordshire, England.

During his childhood Burton was much among the Romany people (then known as Gypsies) and many felt his wild, resentful, and vagabond character reflected these early associations. He was much loved by the Romany, who considered him one of them. Later, still a boy, he travelled much in France and Italy learning much about languages and peoples and little about discipline.

He was ill-fitted for Oxford University, whence he was expelled for challenging a fellow undergraduate to a duel for mocking his military moustache. He joined the Army of the British East India Company not to be a soldier, but to study Oriental life and languages. He had begun Arabic on his own at Oxford and formally studied Hindustani in London. Once in India under the command of Charles James Napier, he gained astonishingly rapid proficiency in Gujarati, Marathi, and Hindustani, as well as Persian and Arabic. According to one count, he spoke 29 European, Asian, and African languages and countless dialects.

He was appointed to the Sind survey (a region of what is now Pakistan), which enabled him to mix with the people, and he frequently passed as a native in the bazaars and deceived his own native language teacher as well as his colonel and messmates. His wanderings in Sind were the apprenticeship for the pilgrimage to Mecca, and his seven years in India laid the foundations of his unparalleled familiarity with Eastern life and customs, especially among the lower classes. .

The pilgrimage to Mecca in 1853 made Burton famous. He had planned it whilst mixing disguised among the Muslims of Sind, and had laboriously prepared for the ordeal by study and practice (including being circumcised so as to further lower the risk of being discovered). No doubt the primary motive was the love of adventure, which was his strongest passion, but it was an explorer's passion, and Burton's journey was approved by the Royal Geographical Society. Although he intended to fill in a blank on the map, the area was at war, and his journey went no farther than Medina and Mecca.

He was the first Englishman to take the trip. He disguised himself as a Pathan to account for any oddities in speech, but he still had to demonstrate an understanding of intricate Islamic ritual, and a familiarity with the minutiae of Eastern manners and etiquette. And when he stumbled, he needed presence of mind and cool courage. The actual journey was less remarkable than the book in which it was recorded, The Pilgrimage to Al-Medinah and Meccah (1855).

Burton's next journey was to explore the interior of the Somali Country (modern Somalia), as British authorities wanted to protect the Red Sea trade. Though assigned assistants, he accomplished the most difficult part of the trip alone, a journey to Harrar, the Somali capital, which no European had entered. Burton vanished into the desert, and was not heard of for four months. When he reappeared, he had not only been to Harrar, but had talked with the King, stayed ten days there in deadly peril, and ridden back across the desert, almost without food and water, running the gauntlet of the Somali spears all the way.

In 1856, he returned to Africa, sent by the Foreign Office under the auspices of the Royal Geographical Society to search for the unknown sources of the Nile river. He was again accompanied by Speke and together they explored the lake regions of equatorial Africa. They found Lake Tanganyika in February 1858. Burton was ill and Speke continued exploring along lines indicated by Burton, eventually found the great Lake Victoria, or Victoria Nyanza. Speke's claims to a separate discovery of Lake Victoria led to a bitter dispute, but the discovery of the lakes under Burton's direction led to further explorations by Speke and James Augustus Grant, Sir Samuel Baker, and David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley.

In 1861, he formally entered the foreign service as consul at Fernando Po, the modern island of Bioko in Equatorial Guinea, and later served in Santos, Brazil, Damascus, and Trieste. He wrote books on all these locations. His service in Damascus led to his Unexplored Syria (1872), and would have seemed an ideal post, except that his quarrelsome nature led to a transfer to Trieste.

His numerous books of this period are filled with facts and sardonic asides aimed at his enemies, but had little popular success. As the Britannica put it, "Burton had not the charm of style or imagination which gives immortality to a book of travel."

In 1863 Burton co-founded the Anthropological Society of London with Dr. James Hunt. In Burton's own words, the main aim of the society (through the publication of the periodical Anthropologia) was "to supply travellers with an organ that would rescue their observations from the outer darkness of manuscript and print their curious information on social and sexual matters".

On February 5, 1886 he was knighted a KCMG by Queen Victoria.

By far the most celebrated of all his books is his translation of the Arabian Nights, published under his title of The Thousand Nights and a Night in 16 volumes, (1885-1888). As a monument to his Arabic learning and his encyclopaedic knowledge of Eastern life this translation was his greatest achievement. His scholarship and translation have been criticized, but the work reveals a profound acquaintance with the vocabulary and customs of the Muslims, not only the classical idiom but the vulgar slang, not only their philosophy, but their secret sexual lives as well. Burton's "anthropological notes", both earlier in India, and in the Arabian Nights, were considered pornography at the time they were published. His translation of The Perfumed Garden was burned by his widow, Isabel Arundel Gordon, because she believed it would be harmful to his reputation.

Other works of note included Vikram and the Vampire, Hindu Tales (1870) and his uncompleted history of swordsmanship, The Book of the Sword (1884). He also translated The Lusiads, the Portuguese national epic by Luis de Camoens, in 1880 and wrote a sympathetic biography of the poet and adventurer the next year. The book The Jew, the Gipsy and el Islam (available online on an anti-Semitic site), published in 1898, contains many anti-Semitic myths.

He died 69 years old.

Pierre Abelard (Peter Abelard)

Pierre Abelard (in English, Peter Abelard) or Abailard (1079 - April 21, 1142) was a French scholastic philosopher. The story of his affair with Heloise has become legendary.

He was born in the little village of Pallet, about 10 miles east of Nantes, in Brittany, the eldest son of a noble Breton family. The name Abaelardus (also written Abailardus, Abaielardus, and in many other ways) is said to be a corruption of Habelardus, substituted by Abelard himself for a nickname ('Bajolardus') given him when a student. As a boy, he learned quickly, and, choosing an academic life instead of the military career usual for one of his birth, acquired the art of dialectic, called a branch of philosophy, which consisted at that time chiefly the logic of Aristotle transmitted through Latin channels and which was the great subject of liberal study in the episcopal schools. The nominalist Roscellinus, the famous canon of Compiegne, claims to have been his teacher; but whether this was in early youth, when he wandered from school to school for instruction and exercise, or some years later, after he had already begun to teach, remains uncertain.

Abelard's travels finally brought him to Paris while still in his teens. There, in the great cathedral school of Notre-Dame de Paris, he was taught for a while by William of Champeaux, the disciple of Saint Anselm and most advanced of Realists. He was soon able to defeat the master in argument, resulting in a long duel that ended in the downfall of the philosophic theory of Realism, till then dominant in the early Middle Ages (to be replaced by Abelard's Conceptualism, or by Nominalism, the principle rival of Realism prior to Abelard). First, against opposition from the metropolitan teacher, while yet only twenty-two, Abelard set up a school of his own at Melun, then, for more direct competition, he moved to Corbeil, nearer Paris.

The success of his teaching was notable, though for a time he had to give it up, the strain proving too great for his constitution. On his return, after 1108, he found William lecturing in a monastic retreat outside the city, and there they once again became rivals. Abelard was once more victorious, and now stood supreme. William was only temporarily able to prevent him from lecturing in Paris. From Melun, where he had resumed teaching, Abelard went on to the capital, and set up his school on the heights of Montagne Sainte-Genevive, overlooking Notre-Dame. From his success in dialectic, he next turned to theology and attended the lectures of Anselm at Laon. His triumph was complete; the pupil was able to give lectures, without previous training or special study, which were acknowledged superior to those of the master. Abelard was now at the height of his fame. He stepped into the chair at Notre-Dame, being also nominated canon, about the year 1115.

Distinguished in figure and manners, Abelard was seen surrounded by crowds - it is said thousands of students, drawn from all countries by the fame of his teaching. Enriched by the offerings of his pupils, and entertained with universal admiration, he came, as he says, to think himself the only undefeated philosopher in the world. But a change in his fortunes was at hand. In his devotion to science, he had always lived a very regular life, enlivened only by philosophical debate: now, at the height of his fame, he encountered romance.

Living within the precincts of Notre-Dame, under the care of her uncle, the canon Fulbert, was a girl named Heloise, of noble birth, and born about 1101. She is said to have been beautiful, but still more remarkable for her knowledge, which extended beyond Latin, it is said, to Greek and Hebrew. Abelard fell in love with her; and he sought and gained a place in Fulbert's house. Becoming tutor to the girl, he used his power for the purpose of seduction, and she returned his devotion. Their relations interfered with his public work, and were not kept a secret by Abelard himself. Soon everyone knew except the trusting Fulbert. When he found out, they were separated, only to meet in secret. Heloise became pregnant, and was carried off by her lover to Brittany, where she gave birth to a son. To appease her furious uncle, Abelard proposed a secret marriage, in order not to mar his prospects of advancement in the church; but Heloise opposed the idea. She appealed to him not to sacrifice for her the independence of his life, but reluctantly gave in to pressure. The secret of the marriage was not kept by Fulbert; and when Heloise boldly denied it, life was made so difficult for her that she sought refuge in the convent of Argenteuil. Immediately Fulbert, believing that her husband, who had helped her run away, wanted to be rid of her, plotted revenge. He and some others broke into Abelard's chamber by night, and castrated him. The priesthood and ecclesiastical office were canonically closed to him. Heloise, not yet twenty, consummated her work of self-sacrifice at Abelard's jealous bidding that she never again share romantic love with another man, and became a nun.

It was in the abbey of Saint-Denis that Abelard, now aged forty, sought to bury himself as a monk with his woes out of sight. Finding no respite in the cloister, and having gradually turned again to study, he gave in to urgent entreaties, and reopened his school at the priory of Maisonceile (1120). His lectures, now framed in a devotional spirit, were once again heard by crowds of students, and all his old influence seemed to have returned; but he still had many enemies, against whom he could make less vigorous opposition. No sooner had he published his theological lectures (apparently the Introductio ad Theologiam) than his adversaries picked up on his rationalistic interpretation of the Trinitarian dogma. Charging him with the heresy of Sabellius in a provincial synod held at Soissons in 1121, they obtained through irregular procedures an official condemnation of his teaching, and he was made to burn his book before being shut up in the convent of St Medard at Soissons. It was the bitterest possible experience that could befall him. The life in his own monastery proved no more congenial than formerly. For this Abelard himself was partly responsible. He took a sort of malicious pleasure in irritating the monks. As if for the sake of a joke, he cited Bede to prove that Dionysius the Areopagite had been Bishop of Corinth, while they relied upon the statement of the Abbot Hilduin that he had been Bishop of Athens. When this historical heresy led to the inevitable persecution, Abelard wrote a letter to the Abbot Adam in which he preferred to the authority of Bede that of Eusebius of Caesarea's Historia Ecelesiastica and St Jerome, according to whom Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, was distinct from Dionysius the Areopagite, bishop of Athens and founder of the abbey, though, in deference to Bede, he suggested that the Areopagite might also have been bishop of Corinth. Life in the monastery was intolerable for Abelard, and he was finally allowed to leave. In a desert place near Nogent-sur-Seine, he built himself a cabin of stubble and reeds, and turned hermit. When his retreat became known, students flocked from Paris, and covered the wilderness around him with their tents and huts. When he began to teach again he found consolation, and in gratitude he consecrated the new Oratory of the Paraclete.

Abelard, fearing new persecution, left the Oratory to find another refuge, accepting an invitation to preside over the abbey of Saint-Gildas-de-Rhuys, on the far-off shore of Lower Brittany. The region was inhospitable, the domain a prey to outlaws, the house itself savage and disorderly. Yet for nearly ten years he continued to struggle with fate before he left. The misery of those years was lightened because he had been able, on the breaking up of Heloise's convent at Argenteuil, to establish her as head of a new religious house at the deserted Paraclete, and in the capacity of spiritual director he often was called to revisit the spot thus made doubly dear to him. All this time Heloise had lived respectably. Living on for some time apart (we do not know exactly where), after his flight from the Abbey of St Gildas, Abelard wrote, among other things, his famous Historia Calamitatum, and thus moved her to write her first Letter, which remains an unsurpassed utterance of human passion and womanly devotion; the first being followed by the two other Letters, in which she finally accepted the part of resignation which, now as a brother to a sister, Abelard commended to her. He soon returned to the site of his early triumphs lecturing on Mount St Genevieve in 1136 (when he was heard by John of Salisbury), but it was only for a brief time: a last great trial awaited him. As far back as the Paraclete days, his chief enemy had been Bernard of Clairvaux, in whom was incarnated the principle of fervent and unhesitating faith, from which rational inquiry like Abelard's was sheer revolt, and now the uncompromising Bernard was moving to crush the growing evil in the person of the boldest offender. After preliminary negotiations, in which Bernard was roused by Abelard's steadfastness to put forth all his strength, a council met at Sens (1141), before which Abelard, formally arraigned upon a number of heretical charges, was prepared to plead his cause. When, however, Bernard had opened the case, suddenly Abelard appealed to Rome. Bernard, who had power, notwithstanding, to get a condemnation passed at the council, did not rest a moment till a second condemnation was procured at Rome in the following year. Meanwhile, on his way there to urge his plea in person, Abelard collapsed at the abbey of Cluny, and there he lingered only a few months before the approach of death. Removed by friends, for the relief of his sufferings, to the priory of St Marcel, near Chalon-sur-Saone, he died. First buried at St Marcel, his remains were soon carried off secretly to the Paraclete, and given over to the loving care of Heloise, who in time came herself to rest beside them (1164). The bones of the pair were moved more than once afterwards, but they were miraculously preserved even through the vicissitudes of the French Revolution, and now lie in the well-known tomb in the cemetery of Père Lachaise at Paris.

Abelard was an enormous influence on his contemporaries and the course of medieval thought, but he has been known in modern times mainly for his connection with Heloise. It was not till the 19th century, when Cousin in 1836 issued the collection entitled Ouvrages inedits d'Abelard, that his philosophical performance could be judged at first hand; of his strictly philosophical works only one, the ethical treatise Scito te ipsum, having been published earlier, namely, in 1721. Cousin's collection, besides giving extracts from the theological work Sic et Non ('Yes and No') (an assemblage of opposite opinions on doctrinal points, culled from the Fathers as a basis for discussion, the main interest in which lies in the fact that there is no attempt to reconcile the different opinions), includes the Dialectica, commentaries on logical works of Aristotle, Porphyry and Boethius, and a fragment, De Generibus et Speciebus. The last-named work, and also the psychological treatise De Intellectibus, published apart by Cousin (in Fragmens Philosophiques, vol. ii.), are now considered upon internal evidence not to be by Abelard himself, but only to have sprung out of his school. A genuine work, the Glossulae super Porphyrium, from which Charles de Rèmusat, in his classical monograph Abelard (1845), has given extracts, was published in 1930.

The general importance of Abelard lies in his having fixed more decisively than anyone before him the scholastic manner of philosophizing, with its object of giving a formally rational expression to the received ecclesiastical doctrine. However his own particular interpretations may have been condemned, they were conceived in essentially the same spirit as the general scheme of thought afterwards elaborated in the 13th century with approval from the heads of the church. Through him was prepared in the Middle Age the ascendancy of the philosophical authority of Aristotle, which became firmly established in the half-century after his death, when first the completed Organon, and gradually ail the other works of the Greek thinker, came to be known in the schools: before his time it was rather upon the authority of Plato that the prevailing Realism sought to lean. As regards his so-called Conceptualism and his attitude to the question of Universals, see Scholasticism. Outside of his dialectic, it was in ethics that Abelard showed greatest activity of philosophical thought; laying very particular stress upon the subjective intention as determining, if not the moral character, at least the moral value, of human action. His thought in this direction, wherein he anticipated something of modern speculation, is the more remarkable because his scholastic successors accomplished least in the field of morals, hardly venturing to bring the principles and rules of conduct under pure philosophical discussion, even after the great ethical inquiries of Aristotle became fully known to them.

Alan Turing

Alan Mathison Turing, (June 23, 1912 - June 7, 1954), was a British mathematician, logician, cryptographer, and war hero, and is widely considered to be the father of computer science.

Had it not been for Alan Turing's groundbreaking work, you would probably not have read this. At Bletchley Park during World War II, Turing was a pivotal player in breaking German cyphers, becoming the head of Hut 8, the group tasked with breaking Naval Enigma. After the war, he designed one of the earliest electronic programmable digital computers at the National Physical Laboratory and actually built another early machine at the University of Manchester. The Turing Award was created in his honour.

His parents enrolled him at St. Michael's, a day school, at six years of age. The headmistress recognized his genius early on, as did many of his subsequent educators. In 1926, at the age of 14, he went on to the Sherborne boarding school in Dorset. His first day of term coincided with a general strike in England, and so determined was he to attend his first day that he rode his bike unaccompanied over sixty miles from Southampton to school, stopping overnight at an inn - a feat reported in the local press.

Turing's natural inclination toward mathematics and science did not earn him respect with the teachers at Sherborne, a famous and expensive public school (a British private school with charitable status), whose definition of education placed more emphasis on the classics. His headmaster wrote to his parents: "I hope he will not fall between two schools. If he is to stay at Public School, he must aimed at becoming educated. If he is to be solely a Scientific Specialist, he is wasting his time at a Public School," (Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges, Walker Publishing Company edition (2000), p. 26).

But despite this, Turing continued to show remarkable ability in the studies he loved, solving advanced problems in 1927 without having even studied elementary calculus. In 1928, aged sixteen, Turing encountered Albert Einstein's work; not only did he grasp it, but he extrapolated Einstein's questioning of Newton's laws of motion from a text in which this was never made explicit.

Turing's hopes and ambitions at school were raised by his strong feelings for his friend Christopher Morcom, with whom he fell in love, though the feeling was not reciprocated. Morcom died only a few weeks into their last term at Sherborne, from complications of bovine tuberculosis, contracted after drinking infected cow's milk as a boy. Turing was heart-broken.

Alan Turing was widely successful in life; he was an accomplished marathon runner, only about 11 minutes slower than the Olympic champion of 1948. He was a war hero, breaking the german enigma code, and he is the father of modern computer science. Had it not been for Alan Turing, defeating the German navy would have been much harder and we would not have posted on Strolen's Citadel. Yes, he was that important.

Prosecution of Turing for his homosexuality crippled his career. In 1952, his male lover helped an accomplice to break into Turing's house and commit larceny. Turing went to the police to report the crime. As a result of the police investigation, Turing was said to have had a sexual relationship with a 19-year-old man, and charged with "gross indecency and sexual perversion." He unapologetically offered no defence, and was convicted. Following the well-publicised trial, he was given a choice between incarceration and libido-reducing hormonal treatment. He chose the oestrogen hormone injections, which lasted for a year, with side effects including the development of breasts.

In 1954, he died of cyanide poisoning, apparently from a cyanide-laced apple he left half-eaten. It is believed that his death was intentional, and his death was ruled a suicide. His mother, however, strenuously argued that the ingestion was accidental due to his careless storage of laboratory chemicals. Friends of his have said that Turing may have killed himself in this ambiguous way quite deliberately, to give his mother some plausible deniability.

Pyrrhus is a favourite of mine, and a general/King that all roleplayers should be familiar with. Note the term "Pyrrhic victory", a concept that you should explore in your setting's wars. The following is copied from Wikipedia, which, as always, provides a thorough version.

---------------------Wikipedia Cut-------------------

Pyrrhus (318 BC - 272 BC) (Greek, "the color of fire, reddish, red-blonde") was the king of Epirus in 306 - 301 BC and again in 297 - 272 BC.

Pyrrhus of Epirus

Prince of one of the Alexandrian successor states, Pyrrhus was dethroned at the age of 17 when he left his Kingdom to attend a wedding. In wars of the diadochi Pyrrhus fought beside his brother-in-law Demetrius I of Macedon in battle of Ipsus (301 BC). Later, he become hostage of Ptolemy I of Egypt in treaty between Ptolemy I and Demetrius. Pyrrhus married Ptolemy's I stepdaughter Antigone and in 297 BC restored his kingdom of Epirus. Next, he went to war against his former ally, Demetrius. By 286 BC he had deposed his former brother-in-law and took control over the Kingdom of Macedonia. Pyrrhus was driven out of Macedonia by Lysimachus, his former ally, in 284 BC.

In 281 the Greek city of Tarentum, in southern Italy, fell out with Rome, and was faced with a Roman attack and certain defeat. Rome had already made itself into a major power, and poised to subdue all the Greek cities in Magna Graeca or Southern Italy. The Tarentines begged Pyrrhus to intervene and save them from Roman conquest.

Pyrrhus was encouraged to aid the Tarentines by an oracle from Delphi. His goals were not, however, selfless. He recognized the possibility of carving out an empire for himself in Italy. He made an alliance with Ptolemy Ceraunus, King of Macedon and his most powerful neighbor, and arrived in Italy in 280 BC.

He entered in Italy with forces of 3,000 cavalry, 2,000 archers, 500 slingers, 20,000 infantry and 19 war elephants in a bid to subdue the Romans.

Due to his superior cavalry and his elephants he defeated the Romans in battle of Heraclea under their consul Publius Valerius Laevinus in 280 BC. Romans lost about 7,000 and Pyrrhus 4,000 soldiers. Several tribes (the Lucanians, Bruttians, and Messapians) and the Greek cities of Croton and Locri joined Pyrrhus. He then offered Romans a peace treaty, which was rejected. Pyrrhus spent winter in Campania.

When Pyrrhus invaded Apulia (279 BC), the two armies met in the Battle of Asculum (279) where Pyrrhus won a very costly victory. The Romans had lost 6,000 men and Pyrrhus 3,500.

In 278, Pyrrhus received two offers simultaneously. The Greek cities in Sicily asked him to come and drive out Carthage (with Rome, one of the two great powers in the Western Mediterranean). At the same time, the Macedonians, whose King Ceraunus had been killed by invading Gauls, asked Pyrrhus to ascend the throne of Macedon. Pyrrhus decided that Sicily offered him a greater opportunity, and transferred his army there.

Pyrrhus was proclaimed king of Sicily. He was already making plans for his son Helenus to inherit the kingdom of Sicily, and his other son Alexander to be given that of Italy. In 277 Pyrrhus captured Eryx, the strongest Carthaginian fortress in Sicily. This prompted the rest of the Carthaginian-controlled cities to defect to Pyrrhus.

In 276, Pyrrhus negotiated with the Carthaginians. Although they were inclined to come to terms with Pyrrhus, supply him money and send him ships once friendly relations were established, he demanded that Carthage abandon all Sicily and make the Libyan Sea a boundary between themselves and the Greeks. Meanwhile, he had begun to display despotic behavior towards the Sicilian Greeks, and soon Sicilian opinion became inflamed against him. Though he defeated the Carthaginians in another battle, he was forced to abandon Sicily and return to Italy.

Eventually, he was defeated at Beneventum (275 BC) in Sicily, being trumped by the discipline and new tactics of the Roman Republican Legions.

Pyrrhus abandoned the campaign in Italy and returned to Epirus. Attacking King Antigonus II Gonatas he won an easy victory and seized the Macedonian throne.

In 272, Cleonymus, a Spartan of royal blood but hated in Sparta, asked Pyrrhus to attack Sparta and place him in power. Pyrrhus agreed to the plan, intending to win control of the Peloponnese for himself, but unexpectedly strong resistance thwarted his assault on Sparta. He was immediately offered an opportunity to intervene in a civic dispute in Argos. Entering the city with his army by stealth, he found himself caught in a confused battle in the narrow city streets. During the confusion, an old woman watching from a rooftop threw a roofing tile and killed him.

While he was a mercurial and often restless leader, and not always a wise king, he was considered one of the greatest military commanders of his times, ranked by Hannibal himself to be the second greatest commander the world had seen after Alexander the Great. As a general, Pyrrhus' greatest political weaknesses were the failure to maintain focus and the failure to maintain a strong treasury at home (many of his soldiers were costly mercenaries).

His name is famous for the phrase "Pyrrhic victory" which refers an exchange after the Battle of Asculum. In response to congratulations for winning a costly victory over the Romans, he is reported to have said: "One more such victory and I shall be lost!"

------------------End Wikipedia Cut----------------------

I don't know about you guys, but to me, Pyrrhus is incredible. Talk about drama! He leaves his kingdom, and loses it. He is held hostage and he wages war on former friends and allies. In the end everyone seems to hate him, and he is killed by a roof tile thrown by an old woman.

He could easily have been a high level PC.

Grigori Alexandrovich Potyomkin/Potemkin

The man who gave us the term 'Potemkin village', a great administrator of a slightly evil bent. I didn't know myself those fake villages were actually fiction. Long live Wikipedia!



Grigori Alexandrovich Potyomkin/Potemkin (1739 - 1791) was a Russian general-field marshal, statesman, and favorite of Catherine II the Great. He is primarily remembered for his efforts to civilise the wild steppes of Southern Ukraine, which passed to Russia under the Treaty of Kuchuk-Kainarji (1774). Among the towns founded by Potemkin are Kherson, Mykolayiv, Sevastopol, and Dnipropetrovs'k.

Early life

He was born in Chizhovo village near Smolensk into the family of a minor army officer. After studying at the University of Moscow, he enlisted in the horse guards. He participated in the palace revolution in 1762 which ousted Peter III and enthroned Catherine II. He received the rank of second lieutenant of the Guards. Catherine needed reliable assistants and appreciated Potemkin's energy and organizational abilities. The biographical anecdotes relating to him during the next few years, such as his participation in the assassination of the deposed emperor, are obscure and mostly apocryphal.

Catherine II's lover

In 1774, their relationship took on a more intimate character. Potemkin became a favorite of the tsarina; he received a lot of awards, and was given the highest posts. During the next 17 years he was the most powerful person in Russia. Potemkin found pleasure in ostentatious luxury and personal wealth. Like Catherine he gave in to the temptation of absolute power; however in many dealings he was guided by the spirit of Enlightenment. He showed tolerance of religious differences, and gave protection to national minorities. As commander-in-chief of the Russian army (nominally from 1784) he emphasized a more humane concept of discipline, demanding that officers take care of soldiers in a paternal way.

In 1776, at Catherine's request, the Emperor Joseph II raised Potemkin to the rank of a prince of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1775 he was superseded in the empress's graces by Zavadovsky; but the relations between Catherine and her former lover continued to be most friendly, and his influence with her was never seriously disturbed by any of her subsequent favorites. A whole mass of facts testify to the enormous and extraordinary influence of Potemkin during the next ten years. His correspondence with the empress was uninterrupted. The most important state documents passed through his hands.

Government of New Russia

Potemkin achieved appreciable success in Russia's newly won southern provinces, in which he ruled as a real dictator. He supported a stream of both Russian and foreign colonists, he founded some new cities, and created the Black Sea Fleet. In 1783 he carried out the project of annexing Crimea to Russia, for which he received the title of His Serene Highness Knyaz Tavrichesky or prince of Tauride, after an ancient name for Crimea. Four years later he organized Catherine's widely advertised ceremonial travel with her retinues to the southern provinces. The purpose of the trip was the intimidation of Russia's enemies, and it led to a war for which the country appeared poorly prepared (Russo-Turkish War, 1787-1792). As commander, Potemkin was guided by a cautious strategy that was militarily justified but did not win him popularity.

His colonizing system was exposed to very severe criticism, yet it is impossible not to admire the results of his stupendous activity. The arsenal of Kherson, begun in 1778, the harbour of Sevastopol and the new fleet of fifteen liners and twenty-five smaller vessels, were monuments of his genius. But there was exaggeration in all he attempted. He spared neither men, money, nor himself in attempting to carry out his gigantic scheme for the colonization of the south Ukrainian steppes; but he never calculated the cost, and more than three-quarters of the design had to be abandoned when but half finished.

In 1790 he conducted the military operations on the Dniester and held his court at Jassy with more than Asiatic pomp. In 1791 he returned to St Petersburg where, along with his friend Bezborodko, he made vain efforts to overthrow the new favourite, Prince Zubov, and in four months spent 850,000 roubles in banquets and entertainments at the Tauride Palace, a sum subsequently reimbursed to him from the treasury. Then the empress grew impatient and compelled him (1791) to return to Jassy to conduct the peace negotiations as chief Russian plenipotentiary. On October 5, 1791, while on his way to Nikolayev, he died in the open steppe, 40 miles from Jassy, in consequence of eating a whole goose while in a high state of fever. His death occassioned Derzhavin's great ode Waterfall.


Very various are the estimates of Potemkin. Neither during his life nor after his death did any two people agree about him. The German pamphlet, published in 1794, is a fair specimen of the opinion of those who regarded him as the evil genius of Catherine and of Russia. But there were many, including the empress herself, who looked upon him as a man of manifold and commanding genius. He was indubitably the most extraordinary of all the Catherinian favorites. He was an able administrator, but wanting in self-control. Licentiousness, extravagance and an utter disregard for human life were his weak points, but he was loyal, generous and magnanimous. Nearly all the anecdotes related of him by Helbig, in the biography contributed by him to the journal Minerva (1797-1800), and freely utilized by later biographers, are absolutely worthless.

Potemkin village

Potemkin villages were, purportedly, fake settlements erected at the direction of Russian minister Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787. Conventional wisdom has it that Potemkin, who led the Crimean military campaign, had hollow facades of villages constructed along the desolate banks of the Dnieper river in order to impress the monarch and her travel party with the value of her new conquests, thus enhancing his standing in the empress's eyes.

Modern historians, however, consider this scenario of self-serving deception to be, at best, an exaggeration, and quite possibly simply malicious rumors spread by Potemkin's opponents. Potemkin did mount efforts to develop the Crimea and probably directed peasants to spruce up the riverfront in advance of the party bringing the empress by boat to the Crimea. But the tale of elaborate, fake settlements, the glowing fires of which were designed to comfort the monarch and her entourage as they surveyed the barren territory at night, is largely fiction. Potemkin had in fact directed the building of fortresses, ships of the line, and thriving settlements, and the tour - which saw real and significant accomplishments - solidified his power.

So, while 'Potemkin village' has come to mean, especially in a political context, any hollow or false construct, physical or figurative, meant to hide an undesirable or potentially damaging situation, the irony is that in fact there appears to have been no such thing.

Nicholas Winton

Because there are good people in this world.

Shortly before WW2, the story of the young stockbroker from London began in Prague, where he joined Blake, an emissary for the British Committee for the Refugees from Czechoslovakia (BCRC). On the first day of their trip, Winton visited the camps where many Jewish people were living. He was struck by the fact that the adults were being helped to escape, but not their children, and he quickly decided to do something about it.

'The problem of the children was that there was no organization to deal with it, and, on the other hand, that nobody thought that there was any chance of getting the children into any country because nobody would have them. But nothing is impossible which is actually possible -- if you follow what I mean.'

So there was a single young man with a well-paid job as a stockbroker in London. After returning home, as the Home Office dragged its feet, he worked hard in his spare time, and even faked passports and travel documents to speed things up. 'It was a forgery to bamboozle the Germans, not to bamboozle the British,' he says. 'We didn't bring in anybody illegally, we just speeded the process up a little.'

By the time that war broke out, just nine months later, Winton had saved the lives of 669 mainly Jewish children, after organising their escape from Czechoslovakia on trains bound for Britain. For nearly all the Winton children, the moment they boarded the train was the last time that they would see their parents.

The last train Winton organized, with another 250 children, was scheduled to leave Czechoslovakia on 1 September 1939. That day, war was declared, and the train never left. Most of those children did not survive.

The interesting point is that he has apparently completely forgotten the history, and never told his wife, Grete, about what he had done until she found a dusty scrapbook in the attic of their home in the late Eighties. The story was made public, Winton became famous, recieved awards, even a knighthood in the New Year Honours List. There is a documentary movie called 'Nicholas Winton: The Power of Good'.

To Winton, who seems like an alert 60-year-old, his rescue mission was only 'a small part of my life; just something I had to do. Just another job.'

A letter Winton wrote in 1939 seems to sum him up perfectly:

'There is a difference between passive goodness and active goodness,' he wrote. 'The latter is, in my opinion, the giving of one's time and energy in the alleviation of pain and suffering.

'It entails going out, finding and helping those who are suffering and in danger and not merely in leading an exemplary life, in a purely passive way of doing no wrong.'

Sir Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans (January 22, 1561 - April 9, 1626) was an English philosopher, scientist, statesman, spy, freemason, rosecrutian, and essayist. He was knighted in 1603, created Baron Verulam in 1618, and created Viscount St Albans in 1621; both peerage titles becoming extinct upon his death.

He began his professional life as a lawyer, but he has become best known as an philosophical advocate and defender of the scientific revolution. His works establish and popularize an inductive methodology for scientific inquiry, often called the Baconian method. Induction implies drawing knowledge from the natural world through experimentation, observation, and testing of hypotheses. In the context of his time, such methods were connected with occult trends of hermeticism and alchemy. It was in this areas that he is said to have truly excelled. It is said that he might be the Rosecrution High Master and one of the leading Freemasons of the century.

At 12 years of age, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge. At age 15, he entered Gray's Inn to pursue a career in law. Bacon was first elected to Parliament in 1584. His opposition to royal tax measures would probably have brought an end to his political advancement, but he had the support of the earl of Essex, whose prosecution for treason he later managed. Knighted (1603) after the succession of James I, Bacon became solicitor-general (1609), attorney-general (1613), lord keeper of the great seal (1617), and lord chancellor (1618); he was also created Baron Verulam (1618), and Viscount St. Albans (1621). Bacon retained James's favor by steadfast defense of royal prerogative, but in 1621 he was found guilty of accepting bribes and was removed from his offices.

Retiring to Gorhambury, he devoted himself to writing, science and esoteric works. It is also said that he travelled as a spy for England (the charges giving him a 'cover' for NOT being a government employee) and could of been one of the great Spy Masters (handlers of other spys) of the era. He wrote, under psuedonyms, several great early works on cryptography.

He also organized several occult organizations and helped revitialize several existing ones. He was said to utilize this vast network of connections to support the Crown and help set the stage for the American and French Revolution (one based on philosophy, one based on some manipulation of French aristocracy). It gets blurry on which were espionage, which were occult, and which were both.

Oh yes, and some people think he wrote a few dozen plays and sonnets under the psuedonym of William Shakespeare. Even if you don't believe this (and some of the evidence is pretty compelling), his place in the annuals of English Lit are assured by a number of books he compiled.

This is another person whose life is too complicate to write up simply. If anyone deserves the title 'universal genius'or 'Renaissance man' (accolades traditionally reserved for those who make significant, original contributions to more than one professional discipline or area of learning), Bacon clearly merits the designation. Like Leonardo and Goethe, he produced important work in both the arts and sciences. Like Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, he combined wide and ample intellectual and literary interests (from practical rhetoric and the study of nature to moral philosophy and educational reform) with a substantial political career. Like his near contemporary Machiavelli, he excelled in a variety of literary genres, from learned reatises to light entertainments though, also like the great Florentine writer, he thought of himself mainly as a political statesman and practical visionary: a man whose primary goal was less to obtain literary laurels for himself than to mold the agendas and guide the policy decisions of powerful nobles and heads of state.


Francis Bacon was born at York House, Strand London.

He was the youngest of five sons of Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal under Elizabeth I. His mother, Ann Cooke Bacon was the second wife of Sir Nicholas, a member of the Reformed or Puritan Church, and a daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, whose sister married William Cecil, Lord Burghley, the great minister of Queen Elizabeth.

Biographers believe that Bacon received an education at home in his early years, and that his health during that time, as later, was delicate. He entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1573 at the age of 13, living for three years there with his older brother Anthony Bacon.

At Cambridge he first met the Queen, who was impressed by his precocious intellect, and was accustomed to call him 'the young Lord Keeper.'

Here also his studies of science brought him to the conclusion that the methods (and thus the results) were erroneous. His reverence for Aristotle conflicted with his dislike of Aristotelian philosophy, which seemed barren, disputatious, and wrong in its objectives.

On June 27, 1576, he and Anthony were entered de societate magistrorum at Gray's Inn, and a few months later they went abroad with Sir Amias Paulet, the English ambassador at Paris. The disturbed state of government and society in France under Henry III afforded him valuable political instruction.

Around 1580 his uncle, Lord Burghley, helped him apply for some post at court which might enable him to devote himself to a life of learning. His application failed, and for the next two years he worked quietly at Gray's Inn giving himself seriously to the study of law, until admitted as an outer barrister in 1582. In 1584 he took his seat in parliament for Melcombe in Dorset, and subsequently for Taunton (1586). He wrote on the condition of parties in the church, and he set down his thoughts on philosophical reform in the lost tract, Temporis Partus Maximus, but he failed to obtain a position of the kind he thought necessary for success.

In the Parliament of 1586 he took a prominent part in urging the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. About this time he seems again to have approached his powerful uncle, the result of which may possibly be traced in his rapid progress at the Bar, and in his receiving, in 1589, the reversion to the Clerkship of the Star Chamber, a valuable appointment, into the enjoyment of which, however, he did not enter until 1608.

During this period Bacon became acquainted with Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1567-1601), Queen Elizabeth's favourite. By 1591 he was acting as the earl's confidential adviser. Bacon took his seat for Middlesex when in February 1593 Elizabeth called a Parliament to investigate a Catholic plot against her. His opposition to a bill that would levy triple subsidies in half the usual time (he objected to the time span) offended many people; he was accused of seeking popularity, and was for a time excluded from the court. When the attorney-generalship fell vacant in 1594 and Bacon became a candidate for the office, Lord Essex's influence could not secure him the position; in fashion, Bacon failed to become solicitor in 1595. To console him for these disappointments Essex presented him with a property at Twickenham, which he subsequently sold for £1800, equivalent to a much larger sum now.

In 1596 he was made a Queen's Counsel, but missed the appointment of Master of the Rolls. During the next few years, his financial situation remained bad. His friends could find no public office for him, a scheme for retrieving his position by a marriage with the wealthy widow Lady Elizabeth Hatton failed, and in 1598 he was arrested for debt. His standing in the queen's eyes, however, was beginning to improve. She had begun to employ him in crown affairs a few years previously, and he gradually acquired the standing of one of the learned counsel, though he had no commission or warrant and received no salary. His relationship with the queen also improved when he severed ties with Essex, a fortunate move considering that the latter would be executed for treason in 1601; and Bacon was one of those appointed to investigate the charges against him, and examine witnesses, in connection with which he showed an ungrateful and indecent eagerness in pressing the case against his former friend and benefactor. This act Bacon endeavoured to justify in A Declaration of the Practices and Treasons, etc., of ... the Earl of Essex, etc. He received a gift of a fine of £1200 on one of Essex's accomplices.

The accession of James I brought Bacon into greater favour; he was knighted in 1603, and endeavoured to set himself right with the new powers by writing his Apologie (defence) of his proceedings in the case of Essex, who had favoured the succession of James. In the course of the uneventful first parliament session Bacon married Alice Barnham, the daughter of a London merchant. Little or nothing is known of their married life: modern scholars speculate that he may have been a homosexual.

Meanwhile (in 1608), he had entered upon the Clerkship of the Star Chamber, and was in the enjoyment of a large income; but old debts and present extravagance kept him embarrassed, and he endeavoured to obtain further promotion and wealth by supporting the king in his arbitrary policy.

However, Bacon's services were rewarded in June 1607 with the office of Solicitor. In 1610 the famous fourth parliament of James met. Despite Bacon's advice to him, James and the Commons found themselves frequently at odds over royal prerogatives and the king's embarrassing extravagance, and the House was dissolved in February 1611. Through this Bacon managed in frequent debate to uphold the prerogative, while retaining the confidence of the Commons. In 1613, Bacon was finally able to become attorney-general, by dint of advising the king to shuffle judicial appointments; and in this capacity he would prosecute Somerset in 1616. The parliament of April 1614 objected to Bacon's presence in the seat for Cambridge -- he was allowed to stay, but a law was passed that forbade the attorney-general to sit in parliament -- and to the various royal plans which Bacon had supported. His obvious influence over the king inspired resentment or apprehension in many of his peers.

Bacon continued to receive the King's favor, and in 1618 was appointed by James to the position of Lord Chancellor. In his great office B. showed a failure of character in striking contrast with the majesty of his intellect. He was corrupt alike politically and judicially, and now the hour of retribution arrived. His public career ended in disgrace in 1621 when, after having fallen into debt, a Parliamentary Committee on the administration of the law charged him with corruption under 23 counts; and so clear was the evidence that he made no attempt at defence. To the lords, who sent a committee to inquire whether the confession was really his, he replied, 'My lords, it is my act, my hand, and my heart; I beseech your lordships to be merciful to a broken reed.' He was sentenced to a fine of £40,000, remitted by the king, to be committed to the Tower during the king's pleasure (which was that he should be released in a few days), and to be incapable of holding office or sitting in parliament. He narrowly escaped being deprived of his titles. Thenceforth he devoted himself to study and writing (and some espionage on the side).

This is when tracking his life becomes difficult.

I could write a huge bibliography on his works, but lets just say the list would be large and complicated. The man helped to redefine Western Thought.





In March 1626, while driving near Highgate, decides to experiment with the effect of cold on the decay of meat, purchases a fowl and stuffs it with snow. Catches cold and develops bronchitis, dying on April 9.

Of course, some say he didn't really die that day. That he actually took on a new identity, moved to France, and continued a shadowy life of Espionage and Occult activity.

Some other useful links, for a fantasy gamer






And another view


This came from a list of great historical names that you want to use as a character's name.

Saxo Grammaticus

(estimated. 1150 - 1220) was a Danish medieval historian of whose life practically nothing is known. The sixteen books of Danish history of this time, known as the Gesta Danorum, are attributed to him, and also contribute our principal evidence of his own existence.

We know he was a "follower" of Archbishop Absalon, which probably means he worked in the Archbishop's administration; his exact status is not determined. He might have been a clerk. But there were references of him doing a number of things. He was an average adventure, someone who did everything, but never got historical credit.

Maximinus Thrax

The first of the "soldier-emperors," Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus spent all three years of his reign on campaign. Although Rome's senatorial elite was eventually able to bring about the downfall of this non-aristocratic emperor, the victory was only a temporary check on the rising importance of the military in the third century.


Gunnlaug Ormstunge (worm-tongue):

A skald, and the center of Iceland's second most famous saga (behind Nje's saga.)

Ravn (Raven):

His nemesis.

Eirik Blodøks (Blood-axe):

Norwegian king, brother of Hafakon the Good, mostly famous or being just that, and killing a good amount of people in his way to the throne.

Magnus Lagabäter (Law-rebuilder):

Norwegian king, who spent much of his time tinkering with and improving the laws.

Odd Kolbiter (Coal-Biter):

Don't ask me. BTW, Odd is a genuine Norwegian name, with no relation to the English word.


Ajax was the son of Telamon. He was a Trojan War hero on the side of the Greeks. When Achilles was killed, his armor was to be awarded to the next greatest Greek hero. Ajax thought it should go to him. Ajax went mad and tried to kill his comrades when the armor was awarded to Odysseus, instead. Athena intervened by making Ajax think cattle were his former allies. When Ajax realized he had slaughtered the herd, he committed suicide as his only honorable end.


Hannibal (from Punic, literally "Baal is merciful to me", 247 BC - 182 BC) was a politician, statesman and military commander of ancient Carthage, best known for his achievements in the Second Punic War in marching an army )with elephants) from Spain over the Pyrenees and the Alps into northern Italy and defeating the Romans at the Battles of the river Trebia (218 BC), Lake Trasimene (217 BC) and Cannae (216 BC). Hannibal is universally ranked as one of the greatest military commanders and tacticians in history, alongside Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Frederick the Great, Genghis Khan and Napoleon, and only a few others.

Seleucus Nicator ("The Conqueror"), Seleucus I (surnamed for later generations Nicator, Greek: Se t) (c. 358 - 281 BC), Macedonian officer of Alexander the Great. In the wars of the Diadochi that took place after Alexander's death, Seleucus established the Seleucid dynasty and Seleucid Empire. This is the Empire of the East, that was the ancestor of the Persian Empires. He is said to be Alexander's greatest general.


Naram-Sin, grandson and successor of Sargon of Akkad, the Akkadian Empire reached its zenith. He was the first Mesopotamian king to claim divinity, and the first to be called "King of the Four Quarters". He traded with the Indus Valley civilization in current Pakistan (see Meluhha) and controlled a large portion of land along the Persian Gulf. Naram-Sin expanded his empire by defeating the King of Magan at the southern end of the Persian Gulf and conquering the hill tribes northwards in the Taurus Mountains. He built administrative centers at Tell Brak and Nineveh.

Shah Jahan

Moghul emperor of India and builder of the Taj Mahal. The name Shah Jahan comes from Persian "The Ruler of the World". Shah Jahan is best known as the builder of the Taj Mahal, a shrine to his Persian second wife, Arjumand Bano Begum, popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal ("Ornament of the Palace") whom he married on 10 May 1612, at the age of 20.

Richard Blood

The real name of legendary professional wrestler Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. I guess Blood was too evil sounding.

Crazy Horse

He was a respected member of the Oglala Sioux Native American tribe and is noted for his courage in battle. Crazy Horse was recognized among his own people as a visionary leader committed to preserving the traditions and values of the Lakota way of life and leading his people into a war against the take-over of their lands by the White Man.

Frederick Barbarossa AKA Fredrick the First

Frederick I was the elected king of Germany (1152) and crowned Holy Roman Emperor (1155). He was also Duke of Swabia and King of Italy. As son of Duke Frederick II of Swabia (German Schwaben) and Judith of Bavaria, from the rival House of Guelph (or Welf), Frederick descended from Germany's two leading principal families, making him an acceptable choice for the Empire's princely electors as heir to royal crown. He is known for good strong leadership and the third crusade.

Klemens Wenzel von Metternich

He was an Austrian politician and statesman and perhaps the most important diplomat of his era. Considered an unreliable liar and an amatory dilettante by many of his contemporaries, Metternich has earned the admiration of succeeding generations for his deft management of foreign policy, although his reactionary domestic policies still remain controversial.

King Hartha-Canute

Hartha-Canute, the father of Gorm the Old who became king of Denmark around 917. OR Hartha-Canute, the son of Canute the Great who ruled Denmark and England briefly in the mid-1000s.

Gilles de Rais

Gilles de Rais (1404-1440) was a French aristocrat, soldier, and at one time, a national hero. He was later convicted of torturing, raping and murdering hundreds of children; along with Elizebet Bathory, another sadistic aristocrat acting more than a century later, he is considered to be a precursor to the modern serial killer. He was a noted occultist (as was Bathory) known for diabolic rites.

Saladin (1137 or 1138-1193)

His name means -The Righteousness of the Faith. Saladin was a 12th century Kurdish Muslim military general who founded the Ayyubid dynasty of Egypt and Syria. In fact he managed to maintain power in Egypt even though it changed leadership on the average of once every three years. He was also renowned in both the Christian and Muslim worlds for his leadership and military prowess. He was said to be able to take on whole units of men. He was also known, even in Europe, for his chivalry and merciful nature during the Crusades. He and King Richard had a friend foe relationship, as the two great men understood each other. If it wasn't for the fanatical and less reasonable nature of both their sides, the two would of not only forged a peace in the holy lands, but an alliance of both kingdoms.

Skanderbeg (George Castriota) (1405-1468), Skanderbeg is the most prominent figure in the history of Albania. He was a descendant of the Kastrioti family, a respected family of princes in Albania. As was the requirement, he was sent to the Ottoman as a hostage. There he was trained in military matters. After serving in their forces, he returned to Albania and opposed the Ottomans. He gained papal favor by doing such. While eventually Albania fell to the Ottomans after his death, he managed to keep it free in his lifetime.

Historicals I plan to do someday.

You can google them yourselves or you can wait for me to do them.


would all be good people to do....

Wells, HG and Borroughs w are interesting, but not that much.

Alexander The Great

Julius Caesar

Marco Polo - Everybody knows this great adventurer.

Livingston - The famous African explorer.

Ali Bei - One of the best european explorers in Africa and middle east.

Walter Raleigh - The first explorer who look for the 'El Dorado'.

Edmund Hillary - The first who reach the Everest.

Ernest Shackleton - Artic adventurer.

Roald Amundsen - The first who reach the South Pole.

Thor Heyerdahl - He did the Peru-Polynesia journey with the Kon-Tiki.

Cristobal Colon - The oficial America's dicoverer.

Magallanes - Round the world sailor.

Africa: Livingstone, Ali Bei (add Stanley (central Africa), Speke (first european in Lake Victoria), Burton (fisrt european in Tanganika Lake) , Baker and his wife (dicovered Lake Alberto) and Pedro Páez Xaramillo, spanish and first european who saw the fountains of Blue Nile in Ethiopia.

Polar zones: Shackleton, Amundsen (add Bering, Barents, Ross (both, uncle and nephew), Erik the Red, Franklin, Peary (first one in North Pole) and Scott) (well, i really like this subject, that's why...)

America: Colon (add Núñez de Balboa, Cortes, Alaminos, Hudson, Lewis and Clark, Hernando de Soto...

Everest: Hillary (and don't forget Tensing!!!)

Pacific and south pacific: Vasco de Gama, Alvaro de Saavedra, Wallis, Elcano, Robert Burke (and don't forget William Wills!)

and why not? N.Armstrong, J.Cousteau, J.Oyarzabal, Y.Gagarin, Eesti


Henry Bollingbroke - another alleged diabolist

Copernicus - a few peoples' favourite name of all time

Stonewall Jackson

Fighting Joe Hooker

Buffalo Bill

Shoeless Joe

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin : the Mad Monk

Jack the Giantkiller (From the fable Jack and Giant Beanstalk)

Edward the Black (The Black Prince)


The Roman poet Catullus had a character named 'Peniculus' -- which meant both 'Broom' and 'Little Penis'. Can't make this stuff up.

Actually, Romans liked to give each other rude nicknames. 'Biggus Dickus' ain't too far off the mark.

Ann Beverly- Mother of sex pistols bassist Sid Vicious. Most famous for acquiring the heroin on which her son overdosed, and (allegedly) knocking over his urn and scattering his ashes in Heathrow Aeroport.

Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky- Ukrainian-born Occultist and founder of the influential Theosophical movement.. Traveled to New York and India, and claimed to talk to Ascended Masters, beings of great spiritual knowledge.

Among other eccentricities, kept a stuffed baboon in spectacles to mock Darwinism and, apparently, tried to convert actual Hindus to Hinduism.

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin- I'm amazed that this guy was only just mentioned. famously hard-to-kill Russian mystic, held considerable sway over the upper echleons of Russian Society, and the Royal Family in particular, in the last days of the Tsarist Monarchy despite his notorious womanizing and alcoholism. Claimed to be able to treat the Tsarevich's hemophillia. Survived being stabbed and having a tree knocked down on him, before prince Felix Yusupov and two accomplaces managed to kill him by a combination of poison, gunshot, beating, and being shoved into a frozen river through a hole in the ice. He allegedly predicted the Bolshevik Revolution if he was assassinated.

Felix Yusupov- Flamboyant Russian nobleman, helped organize the murder of Rasputin. Fled to france after the Revolution, taking the equivalent of millions of dollars in art and jewelry with him. Sued MGM for making a movie about the murder (interestingly, it was for their portrayal of his wife as Rasputin's mistress, rather than Felix himself as a murderer). Claimed to have seduced King Edward VII whilst in drag.


Edgar Allen Poe- In addition to being famously Drug-addicted and melancholic, the author of short stories was also an accomplished hoaxter, producing at least one fictional autobiography and writing a series of newspaper articles claiming, in all seriousness, to document a trans-atlantic baloon flight.

Ambrose Bierce- famously cynical writer; topographical surveyor for the Union in the American Civil War, rescued a wounded comrade while under heavy fire at the battle of Girard Hill; became a newspaper columnist and got his employer, William Randolf Hearst, in hot water after he (allegedly) called for the Assassination of PResident McKinley in an anonymous poem. Disappeared in Mexico in 1913 after leaving a tour of Civil War battlefields to join up with Pancho Villa's army.

Sundiata Keita

Sundiata Keita or Sunjata Keita (meaning the Lion King )(c. 1190 - c. 1255) is a semi-historical hero of the Mandinka people of West Africa and is celebrated in the Epic of Sundiata as the founder of the Mali Empire.

Sundjata is also known by the name Sogolon Djata. The name Sogolon is taken from his mother, the buffalo woman (so called because of her ugliness), and Djata. In the rapidly spoken language of the Mandinka, the two names were merged to become Sondjata of Sundjata or Sundiata. The last name Keita is a clan name more than a surname.

The story of Sundiata is primarily known through oral tradition, transmitted by generations of Malian griots.

The Epic of Sundiata

In the Epic of Sundiata, Naré Maghann Konaté (also called Maghan Kon Fatta or Maghan the Handsome) was a Mandinka king who one day received a divine hunter at his court. The hunter predicted that if Konaté married an ugly woman, she would give him a son who would one day be a mighty king. Naré Maghann Konaté was already married to Sassouma Berté and had a son by her, Dankaran Toumani Keïta. However, when two Traoré hunters from the Do kingdom presented him an ugly, hunchbacked woman named Sogolon, he remembered the prophecy and married her. She soon gave birth to a son, Sundiata Keita, who was unable to walk throughout his childhood.

With the death of Naré Maghann Konaté (c. 1218), his first son, Dankaran Toumani Keita, assumed the throne despite Konaté's wishes that the prophecy be respected. Sundiata and his mother, who now had given birth to two daughters and adopted a second son from Konaté's third wife Namandjé, suffered the scorn of the new king and his mother. After an insult against Sogolon, Sundiata requested an iron rod from the blacksmith Nounfari, which he used to pull himself upright and walk for the first time. Nonetheless, the hatred of Sassouma Berté and Dankaran Toumani Keita soon drove Sundiata, his mother, and his two sisters into exile in the Mena kingdom.

Meanwhile, Soumaoro Kanté, cruel sorceror king of Sosso, attacks the Mandinka kingdom, causing Dankaran Toumani Keita to take flight in fear. The oppressed Mandinka people now send for the exiled Sundiata. Forging a coalition of neighboring small kingdoms, Sundiata wages war against the Sosso, finally defeating Soumaoro Kanté at the Battle of Kirina (c. 1240). Soumaoro Kanté disappears in the Koulikoro mountains, and Sundiata assumes the title "Mansa," "king of kings," as the first ruler of the Mali Empire.


Sundiata Keita established his capital at his home village of Niani, near the Malian border of present-day Guinea. Though he converted to Islam, Sundiata also exploited local religion, building a reputation as a man of powerful magic.

Sundjata was not an absolute monarch despite what the title implies. Though he probably wielded popular authority, the Mali Empire was reportedly run like a Federation with each tribe having a chief representative to the court. The first tribes were Mandinka clans of Traore, Kamara, Koroma, Konde, and of course Keita. The tribal council was in charge of checking the Mansa's power, enforcing his edicts among their people, and selecting the successor (usually the Mansa's brother or sister's son).

Sundiata Keita died in 1255, probably of drowning. Tradition holds that he died while crossing the Sankarini river, where a shrine remains today. He had three sons who succeeded him to the throne of the Mali Empire: Mansa Wali Keita, Ouati Keita and Khalifa Keita. The famous West African ruler Mansa Musa is his grandnephew.

Sundiata is possibly identical with Marijata, also celebrated as founder of Mali empire in one or more pieces of oral history recorded by the Arab historian Ibn Khaldun in the late 14th century.

Mansa Musa

Mansa Kankan Musa I or Mansa Musa [1] a 14th century king of the Mali Empire. He is remembered for his fabled hajj and as a benefactor of Islamic scholarship.

Musa was the grandson of the founder of the Mali's Empire, Sundiata Keita, and ruled over Mali while it was the source of almost half the world's gold. Musa was a devoted Muslim and Islamic scholarship flourished under his rule. With Musa as a benefactor, Sankore University in Timbuktu reached its height. Craftsmen and especially Islamic scholars came from all over the Muslim world to receive a free education at Sankore's guilds and madrasas.

Musa is, perhaps, most famous for his hajj. As part of his pilgrimage to Mecca, Musa gave gold away generously. When he passed through Cairo, he gave out so much gold that it took at least 12 years for the price to recover. The Arab historian al-Umari records that Musa was so generous that he ran out of money and had to take out a loan to be able to afford the journey home. Musa's hajj, and especially his gold, caught the attention of both the Islamic and Christian worlds.

He was succeeded in 1337 by his son Maghan and in 1341 by his brother Suleyman. The Mansa-Ray are the 8th generation of Mansa-Musa that travelled out of Mali to the Western Coast of Africa to help spread peace, justice and the teachings of Mansa-Musa. They never returned to Mali. Most can be found in countries like Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Shaka Zulu

Shaka (sometimes spelled Chaka) (ca. 1781 - ca. 22nd September 1828) is widely credited with transforming the Zulu tribe from a small clan into the beginnings of a nation that held sway over that portion of Southern Africa between the Phongolo and Mzimkhulu rivers. His military prowess and destructiveness have been wildly exaggerated, as has the cohesion of the 'state' he created. Nevertheless, his statesmanship and vigour in assimilating some neighbours and ruling by proxy through others marks him as one of the greatest Zulu chieftains.

Shaka was probably the first son of the chieftain Senzangakhona and Nandi, a daughter of a past chief of the Langeni tribe, born near present-day Melmoth, KwaZulu-Natal Province. The Zulus had a practice of uku-hlobonga - a heavy-petting, safe-sex practice, that got out of hand in this case. Though conceived out of wedlock around 1781 (not 1787 as most accounts speculate, though there is little secure evidence), he was not, as the legend has it, disowned by his father or chased into exile. His parents married normally, and he was certainly not named after an intestinal beetle, though the insult became common later; he was probably named Mandhlesilo at this point. He almost certainly spent his childhood in his father's settlements, is recorded as having been initiated there and inducted into an ibutho or 'age-group regiment'. The tale of bullying by his Langeni cousin Makhadama is almost certainly a metaphor for later troubled politics between them. In fact, he did not exact revenge on the Langeni later, but largely peacefully allied with them. Most sources attest that only as a young man, when succession disputes surfaced, did Shaka conflict with his father and defect to Dingiswayo and the Mthethwa, to whom the Zulu were then paying tribute

It was probably Dingiswayo who named Shaka thus, with reference to the striking of an axe. Dingiswayo called up the emDlatsheni iNtanga (age-group), of which he was part, and incorporated it in the iziCwe regiment. He served as a Mthethwa warrior for perhaps as long as ten years, and distinguished himself with his courage, though he did not, as legend has it, rise to great position. Dingiswayo, having himself been exiled after a failed attempt to oust his father, had, along with a number of other groups in the region (including Mabhudu, Dlamini, Mkhize, Qwabe, and Ndwandwe, many probably responding to slaving pressures from southern Mozambique) helped develop new ideas of military and social organisation, in particular the ibutho, inaccurately translated as 'regiment'; it was rather an age-based labour gang which included some better-refined military activities, but by no means exclusively. Most battles before this time were to settle disputes, and while the appearance of the 'impi' (fighting unit) dramatically changed warfare at times, it largely remained a matter of seasonal raiding, political pressures rather than outright slaughter, the extent of which has been hugely exaggerated. The idea that more powerful armies caused the Mfecane, or (Mfengu), migrations - conquest, disrupted societies fleeing, and in turn using the same military techniques to destroy other societies, that caused other wars and more displacement - must now be thoroughly questioned and modified; violence climbed over a period of half a century before Shaka, through multiple causes, and really exploded only after the white invasions of the late 1830s and after. The 'Mfecane' is now being discarded as a concept, and relatively few of the migrations can be directly or solely attributed to the Zulu.

On the death of Senzangakona, Dingiswayo aided Shaka to defeat his brother and assume leadership in around 1812. Shaka began further to refine the ibutho system followed by Dingiswayo and others, and with Mthethwa support over the next several years forged alliances with his smaller neighbours, mostly to counter the growing threat from Ndwandwe raiding from the north. The initial Zulu manoeuvres were strictly defensive, and mostly Shaka preferred to intervene or pressure diplomatically, aided by just a few judicial assassinations. His changes to local society built on existing structures, and were as much social and propagandistic as they were military; there were very few open fights, as the Zulu sources make clear. Shaka is often said to have been dissatisfied with the long throwing assegai, and credited with introducing a new weapon - the Iklwa, a short stabbing spear, with a long, swordlike spearhead. It was named, allegedly, for the sound made as it went in, then out, of the body. Shaka is also supposed to have introduced a larger, heavier shield made of cowhide and to have taught each warrior how to use the shield's left side to hook the enemy's shield to the right, exposing his ribs for a fatal spear stab. In fact, such tactics had been long in use, and the Zulu continued to use throwing spears, too.

Much has been made of the story that to toughen his men, Shaka required them to discard their leather sandals, forcing them to train and fight in bare feet. This was not the case. However, it is probably true that Shaka's troops practiced by covering more than fifty miles in a fast trot over hot, rocky terrain in a single day so that they could surprise the enemy. Young boys from the age of six up joined Shaka's force as apprentice warriors (udibi) and served as carriers of rations and extra weapons until they joined the main ranks. This was used more for very light forces designed to extract tribute in cattle, women or young men from neighbouring groups; they preferred this surprise tactic to open battle, in which they were, contrary to popular impressions, as often unsuccessful as they were victorious. There is virtually no evidence that Shaka actually invented new tactics, or participated in battles after he became 'inkosi' or chieftain. There is only one instance in the evidence that the so-called 'horns and chest', or 'bull's head' formation was used (in 1826 against the Ndwandwe), in which event the two 'horns' accidentally ended up stabbing each other!

In the initial years, Shaka had neither the clout nor the kudos to compel any but the smallest of groups to join him, and he operated under Dingiswayo's aegis until the latter's death at the hands of Zwide's Ndwandwe. At this point Shaka was so under-resourced that he was forced to flee southwards across the Thukela river, establishing his capital Bulawayo in Qwabe territory, with Qwabe help. He never did personally move back into the traditional Zulu heartland. In Qwabe, Shaka was able to intervene in an existing succession dispute, and help his own choice, Nqetho, into power; Nqetho then ruled as a proxy chieftain for Shaka. This was the pattern, so that the bulk of the so-called Zulu kingdom at this time was ruled by almost entirely independent but friendly chieftains, including Zihlandlo of the Mkhize, Jobe of the Sithole, and Mathubane of the Thuli. These peoples were never defeated in battle by the Zulu; they did not have to be. Shaka won them over by subtler tactics of patronage and reward. The ruling Qwabe, for example, began re-inventing their genealogies to give the impression that Qwabe and Zulu were closely related in the past - a handy fiction. In this way a greater sense of cohesion was created, though it never became complete, as subsequent civil wars attest.

Hence the idea that Shaka 'changed the nature of warfare in Africa' (or even in his corner of southern Africa) from 'a ritualised exchange of taunts with minimal loss of life into a true method of subjugation by wholesale slaughter', is a wild exaggeration. There is virtually no evidence in the Zulu sources that any such slaughter occurred - with the solitary exception of a renegade unit, the iziYendane, who went on a horrific but geographically limited rampage south of the Thukela, against Shaka's orders; when he learned the truth, he killed off the leaders and disbanded the unit. Some of them consequently conspired with his half-brother Dingane to assassinate Shaka.

In 1816, after the death of his father, Shaka had seized power over the then-insignificant Zulu clan. Though he was boosted in by the Mthethwa, and his brother Sigujana was killed, the coup was relatively bloodless and accepted by the Zulu. Shaka still recognised Dingiswayo and his larger Mthethwa clan as overlord after he returned to the Zulu, but some years later Dingiswayo was ambushed by Zwide's amaNdwandwe and killed. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Shaka betrayed Dingiswayo. Indeed, the core Zulu had to retreat before several Ndwandwe incursions; the Ndwandwe were clearly the most aggressive grouping in the sub-region.

Shaka was able to form an alliance with the leaderless Mthethwa clan, and was able to establish himself amongst the Qwabe, after Phakathwayo was overthrown without much of a fight, if any. With Qwabe, Hlubi and Mkhize support, Shaka was finally able to summons a force capable of resisting the Ndwandwe (of the Nxumalo clan). It is asserted everywhere that his first major battle against Zwide of the Ndwandwe was the Battle of Gqokli Hill, on the Mfolozi river. In fact this battle is a pure invention of E A Ritter's: there is not a single scrap of evidence in preceding literature and records that it ever happened. One minor scrap is attested to, known as the 'kisi' fight, in which a night fight occurred; Shaka is said to have told his troops to use the password 'kisi' to avoid stabbing each other; the outcome is unclear in the sources. This is the sole example of a tactic being suggested by Shaka.

The decisive fight eventually took place on the Mhlatuze river, at the confluence with the Mvuzane stream. This is very well attested in Zulu accounts, with only minor variations in detail. Shaka feinted a retreat,then caught the lightly-equipped Ndwandwe on the river bank and inflicted a resounding defeat. The Zulu force pursued the invaders to Zwide's capital, but failed to capture the chief. In fact, the Ndwandwe remained formidable; Zwide and his general Soshangane (of the Shangaan) moved off north, to inflict further damage on less resistant foes and avail himself of slaving opportunities, and Shaka later had to contend again with Zwide's son, Sikhunyane, in 1826.

The increased military efficiency led to more and more clans being incorporated into Shaka's Zulu empire, while other tribes moved away to be out of range of Shaka's impis. The ripple effect caused by these mass migrations would become known (though only in the twentieth century) as the Mfecane. Some groups which moved off were (like the Hlubi and Ngwane to the north of the Zulus) impelled by the Ndwandwe, not the Zulu. Some moved south (like the Chunu and the Thembe), but never suffered much in the way of attack; it was precautionary, and they left many people behind in their traditional homelands. It is often asserted that Mzilikaziof the Khumalo was a 'general' of Shaka's, who fled; but there is no evidence for this, or that there was a major fight. Mzilikazi moved away with a small group, and his path into Zimbabwe over twenty years was impelled by forces which had nothing to do with Shaka at all. The Jere and Msana groups under Shoshangane and Zwangendaba, who were allied to Zwide and moved north after the Mhlatuze fight, were never attacked by Shaka, and probably moved more to take advantage of slaving opportunities in Mozambique than out of fear of the Zulu. Hence the term 'Mfecane' is falling into disfavour with scholars.

This is not to say that the Zulu did not themselves show aggression or competence. Shaka was clearly a tough, able leader, the most able of his time, and during the last four years of his reign indulged in several long-distance raids. Two were against the Mpondo to the south, an increasing vector of his attention (Shaka moved his capital southwards even further in 1827, to Dukuza); the first, in 1824, was a failure; the second in 1828, only partly successful. A raid against Macingwane of the Chunu, possibly in 1825, is virtually the only one which conforms to the stereotype of the large Zulu army inflicting a serious defeat on another large force. A totally unauthorised raid, led by Dingane against Matiwane of the Ngwane in 1826, was a disaster; and so was an ill-explained foray towards Delagoa Bay in 1828, the so-called 'Balule' campaign. Only in 1826, against Sikhunyane, was there an unqualified victory which allowed Zulu sovereignty to be extended (though again under a proxy ruler, Maphitha). In no case does there appear to have been widespread slaughter, and the record is at best mixed. The 'nation' was cobbled together under difficult circumstances and with patchy success - and there was always internal dissention to deal with.

When the walls fell, Dingane and Mhlangana, Shaka's half-brothers, appear to have made at least two attempts to assassinate Shaka before they succeeded, with support from Mpondo elements, some disaffected iziYendane people, and the white traders at Port Natal (now Durban). The details must remain controversial, including the exact date (late September 1828). What is clear is that Dingane was obliged to embark on an extensive purge of pro-Shaka elements and chieftains, running over several years, in order to secure his position. A virtual civil war broke out. Dingane ruled for some twelve years, during which time he was obliged to fight, disastrously, against the Voortrekkers, and against another half-brother Mpande, who with Boer and British support, took over the Zulu leadership in 1840, and ruled for some 30 years. Later in the 19th century the Zulus would be one of the few African peoples who managed to defeat the British Army at the Battle of Isandlwana.

Aaron Burr- American lawyer and politician, famously killed president Alexander Hamilton in a duel, then conspired to found his own empire in what is now the American Southwest.

And a pair of distant relatives of mine,

Red Hugh Roe O'Donnell- Irish chieftain, kidnapped at the age of sixteen by the english. Escaped five years later to lead an Irish uprising against the English, but was ultimately defeated at the battle of Kinsale. Died in spain several years later while attempting to seek aid for the Irish cause, probably of the plague, despite persistent rumors of poisoning.

Niall Garve O'Donnell- cousin of the above, sided with the english when Red Hugh was declared chieftain instead of him. Later fell out of favor with them and died imprisoned in the tower of london

The Romance of the Three Kingdoms

At once both historical fact and literary fiction, the three kingdom period of China is chock full of incredible human beings, some of them real, some of them fiction, and many a little bit of both, as legends often are.

URL=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_JianSun Jian/URL

A relatively minor warlord at the beginning of the three kingdoms era, Sun Jian was a brilliant strategist said to be a descendant of Sun Tzu, author of the Art of War. At the age of 16, he alone fended off a ship of pirates by jumping onto a hill and waving a sabre as if commanding a regiment. Decieved, the pirates fled. Pursing, and taking the head of one, his reputation was assured.

Later, he would be instrumental in the suppression of Zhang Jiao's Yellow Turban rebellion, and in the deposition of Dong Zhou, who sat behind the puppet emperor Xian. In 191, he was ambushed and slain while riding his horse. He would be first succeeded by Sun Ce, and then Sun Quan, his eldest two sons.

URL=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_QuanSun Quan/url

Finally inheriting the lands of his father in 200 AD, Sun Quan's rule was, at first, a stable one, as he built his power along the Yangtze River. In 207, his forces, together with Liu Bei and the advice of a number of skilled strategists, decisively defeated Cao Cao at Chi Bi.

Skilled not at war or governance on his own in the way many of his rivals were, Sun Quan's charisma allowed him to attract and maintain many a skilled subordinate, and he was able to delegate much of his authority. Unable to reach a deal with Cao Pi, he proclaimed himself Emperor of Wu in 229, and finally died in 252 at the age of 71, the longest lived ruler of the Era.

URL=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Shang_XiangSun Shang Xiang/URL

The youngest daughter of Sun Jian, Sun Shang Xiang is portrayed as a tomboy, whom always had warrior handmaidens at hand. She was eventually given to Liu Bei in marriage, and she aided him in escaping her father's kingdom, by scolding the Sun officers.

While her final fate is unknown, it is said that she committed suicide by drowning after Liu Bei's death in battle. There is no mention of her in real battle at the time, but such aggression would not be inconsistant with her personality.

URL=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cao_CaoCao Cao/URL

A man of enormous personal ambition and skill, Cao Cao is often cast as the villain of the era. As the Han dynasty disintegrated, he rose to power as a warlord through his exploits first during the Yellow Turban Rebellion, and then through his own rebellion in alliance with the other warlords of the time against Dong Zhou, the man behind the puppet Emperor Xian.

Desiring the unification of China beneath his own hand, he rose to power as the lord of Wei, one of what eventually came to be one of three powerful nations within China. Until his death in 220 AD, he continued to battle in stalemate with Liu Bei and the Sun family, still desiring to unite China. When his eldest surving sun, Cao Pi, set aside the puppet Xian, he was posthumously crowned the first Emperor Wu.

A brilliant tactician, poet, and apparently lover, Cao Cao fathered no less than -twenty five- sons, and his impact on the history of ancient China is inestimable.

URL=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xiahou_DunXiahou Dun/URL

One of Cao Cao's first and most capable officers, Xiahou Dun is widely acclaimed for the power of his loyalty. While much less is known of him than of Cao Cao, he is popularly portrayed as both an effective warrior and governor, even though it is known that he lost an eye to an arrow in battle. It is said that he then tore the arrow from his face, taking the eye with it, and subsequently ate the eye, for it was a gift from his parents that he could not forsake.

Such was his loyalty that when Cao Cao perished in 220, so did Xiahou Dun, wasting away and dying from grief and Sickness.

(Others later)

John Dee (July 13, 1527 - 1608)

Dr Dee was a noted British mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, occultist, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He is virtually unknown in modern times, although he has had a profound influence on popular culture- without him, there would be no Harry Potter, no Gandalf, no wizard pointy hat wearing wizard in robes bearing a crystal ball. He created the archetype.

Dr. Dee straddled the worlds of science and magic just as they were becoming distinguishable. As a brilliant magician, mathematician, scientist, and secret agent, John Dee was one of the few people worthy of the title Renaissance Man. Something of a prodigy, Dee entered St. John's College at Cambridge at age 15. He achieved notoriety early on with a charge of sorcery, which stemmed from a mechanical flying beetle demonstrated in a stage play. One of the most learned men of his time, he had lectured to crowded halls at the University of Paris when still in his early twenties. He was an ardent promoter of mathematics, a respected astronomer and a leading expert in navigation, having trained many of those who would conduct England's voyages of discovery. (He coined the term "British Empire.") After spending many years studying mathematics and cartography, he took an interest in hermetic science (natural magic, judeo christian magic), a pastime then accepted by the church. For Dee, as with many of his contemporaries, these activities were not contradictory, but particular aspects of a consistent world-view.

The man's work at Oxford is astounding. He helped to redefine many aspects of mathematics while teaching there. His interest in astronomy expanded upon that, as well as showed the first inkling of his interest in the patterns of the world and the occult.

His fame as an astrologer was quite vast. He was engaged for determining horoscopes for many members of the Royal Court. He became somewhat involved in the court, and befriended the wrong people (politically speaking). In 1555, he was arrested and charged with "calculating" for having cast horoscopes of Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth; the charges were expanded to treason against Mary. Dee appeared in the Star Chamber and exonerated himself. Clearing his name yet again he returned to Oxford and his studies.

When Elizabeth took the throne in 1558, Dee became her trusted advisor on matters astrological and scientific, choosing Elizabeth's coronation date himself. From the 1550s through the 1570s, he served as an advisor to England's voyages of discovery, providing technical assistance in navigation and ideological backing in the creation of a British Empire, and was the first to use that term.

In 1577, Dee published General and Rare Memorials pertayning to the Perfect Arte of Navigation, a work that set out his vision of a maritime empire and asserted English territorial claims on the New World.

Note: Elizabeth's and his friendship continued, although in much secrecy, due to Dee's growing (if undeserved) reputation as a black magician.

Dee was Elizabeth's court astrologer, and soon after, her spy. As an agent of the crown, Dee conducted several mysterious missions for purposes mostly unknown to this day. He relished his espionage duties, creating elaborate, sophisticated ciphers. In his correspondence with the Queen during these episodes, he signed his communiques "007," a moniker that would be used again, as any fan of the spy genre will recognize.

In between spy missions, Dee continued his studies in mathematics, cartography, and alchemy, as well as his experiments in magic. He expanded existing navigation techniques, promoted the use of spotting glasses (telescopes), and the use of codes for the military. It is also said that his espionage work involved paranormal threats against the crown and England. That is why he was tasked with them.

Dr. Dee's interest in the properties of glass soon merged with his interests in magick, and encouraged by books on demonology, he began to experiment with using glass and crystals as divination devices, a practice known as scrying. All of his experiments were fruitless. In despair, he turned to outside help, eventually settling upon John Talbot, a pharmacist turned alchemist who had turned to criminal means to support his obsession with alchemy. Talbot, who changed his name to Kelley upon entering Dee's employ, became Dee's full time crystal gazer.

As a piously religious man, despite the rumors surrounding him, Dee had no interest in contacting demons, opting instead to try to converse with angels. The experiment was a success- a being referring to itself as 'Madimi,' soon manifested. Kelley would gaze into a crystal and describe his visions to Dee, who posed various questions and kept scrupulous notes. The result of years of effort in this endeavor was the Enochian magical system- a means of contacting angels through the use of a system of 'calls' and a language Kelley claimed was dictated directly from the angels.

The Enochian language, named after the biblical Enoch, has a sophisticated grammar that has baffled skeptics. While it must be remembered that Dee had considerable background in ciphers and languages, his scrupulous diaries indicate that it was Kelley who received and dictated the material to Dee, making it that much more mysterious. Kelley was not the educated man Dee was, and had not the ability or the talent required to create such a language. In fact, Kelley seemed unaware of the spiritual import of what he was doing- during one session he interrupts the angel's message to ask for money! (I love this story).

Dee and Kelley continued their work while travelling around Europe seeking work as alchemists; Kelley eventually became suspicious of the nature of the so-called 'angels' and began to resist the work. When Dee pressed, he resumed for a little time - only to have a vision so terrifying that he refused to scry again, and left Dee's service permanently. (Kelley died shortly after leaving Dee's employ, of injuries received from a fall during in an attempted prison break.) Dr. Dee returned to England to find his house and library had been destroyed by a mob. He returned to the university, held various academic posts until 1604, when he was once again charged with sorcery, and was forced to appeal to King James for protection. He died in poverty only four years later.

John Dee's legacy is deep and broad - his cartographic tools allowed unprecedented explorations, and he made many advances in European mathematics and geometry. His fearsome appearance in a tall pointed hat and his penchant for crystal balls gave the world the archetype of the European Wizard. He is said to have founded the Rosicrucian order, the first of many magical secret societies, which promoted spiritual growth throughout the centuries. This claim is probably false, but he was obviously involved in its early years.

Note: A couple of interesting facts

Long after his death, a young man in the United States used a scrying crystal to contact an angels- who gave him a book written in a mysterious angelic language. The young man, Joseph Smith, went on the found the Mormon Church.

In the nineteen fifties, archaeological digs turned up magical talismans created nearly two thousand years ago by Coptic Christians, which bear mysterious characters which bear a startling resemblance to Dee's angelic language.

Enochian is often (allegedly) spoken by those who "speaks in tongues" exhibiting Glossolalia and XenoGlossolalia. It the speaker is not taken by the spirit, they seem to be able to communicate between themselves, those few can translate this back into normal speak when they return to normal.

Thomas Attwood Digges

Born in 1742, this son of one of Marylands most prominent Catholic families thought he was destined for greatness. At age 26, Mr. Digges sailed from the British colonies to Europe in hopes of gaining fame and fortunes. He settled in Portugal and engaged in international trade.

At the same time, he began working on a novel. In 1774, Digges moved to London. The following year, he published his largely autobiographical novel the first ever written by an American "Adventures of Alfonso." He continued in a variety of international trades.

He had a close relationship with George Washington as the Digges estate was located just across the Potomac River from General Washingtons Mount Vernon. This made him a natural choice for enlisting with the Revolutionary effort in England. He consequently took part in illegal shipping of munitions to the American rebels. Now why many considered him as a potential double agent and he did embezzle charitable funds aimed at arranging the escape or comfort of American prisoners. But he was also America's most important spy.

He never stole military secrets. He stole "technology". From the first moments of the North American confederation, the transfer of protected technology from Europe was a prominent feature in the economic, political and diplomatic life of the emerging country. Independence could only come with economic independence. Economic independence could only come with technology and the skills of people to use it.

In case of fact, Alexander Hamiltons "Report on Manufacturers" contained a call for an aggressive policy of technology piracy on the part of Americans to obtain this independence.

Exporting industrial equipment from Britains textile, leather, paper, metals, glass and clock making industries was prohibited in the 1780s. (The restrictions were particularly comprehensive in all that was connected with the textile industry, covering existing as well as future developments. ) In fact, it was illegal for people of certain crafts to immigrate from the country. This allowed Britan to maintain its technological and manufacturing advantages over the Europeans (and Americans).

In the decade following American independence, he traveled through England and Ireland in search of artisans willing to violate British laws and migrate to America with their advanced machinery. Digges was well aware of these laws. Yet, by taking such personal risks in circumventing them, he had hoped to profit handsomely while rehabilitating his patriotic credentials. He arranged the "defection" of hundreds (if not thousands) of technicians and creators, as well as the "removal" of technological pieces from various factories and offices. It was the influx of these people and their skills that helped the American Rise in late 18th and early 19th century.

Digges proclivity to steal, not pay his debts, and engage in industrial espionage landed him in a British jail for some time in the mid 1780s, in 1792 and probably in 1795. While he was unpopular at home in America, a number of highly placed Americans, including George Washington and Hamilton, worked towards his releases and to rehabilitate his reputation.

Digges is one of those little known people who actually shaped history.

Alzbeta Bathory a noble-woman and mass murderer

As a noble woman she came of one of the most important Hungarian stocks. The Polish king, was her mother's brother. She was borne in 1560. It was the time when people used to eat with their hands, the time of Turkish wars, riots, burning down villages, religious fights, torturing and executions. Serfs in Hungary did not have any rights.

Alzbeta became married when she was fifteen. It is said that 4,500 people took part in the wedding. Her husband, Frantisek Nádasdy, was borne in 1555. He was an important aristocrat, a counsellor to the king, and a head commander of the Hungarian army – and also a robust man, a cruel person, a soldier whom Turks were afraid of, too. He was called Black Beg. He used to dance with dead bodies of killed Turks and throw their heads high to the air after a battle. He did not behave in a different way during negotiations with inhabitants of Cachtice as they complained about his manners to the ruler – obviously uselessly. Nádasdy obtained Cachtice in 1602 by purchase from the king Rudolf II. At the time of her husband's absence, it was his wife who controlled huge property of the family. It was not simple for her. In 1605, the Cachtice Domain was destroyed by later Hussite soldiers from Moravia and Turkish attacks represented a permanent threat, as they plundered Cachtice (together with other villages) in 1599. Crops used to be poor and permanent arrivals and departures of armies deprived people of even the last. She had five children with her husband. Two of them died in young age. Her husband died in January 1604.

Evidently she committed torture and murder of young girls continuously from 1585 to 1610. Inhabitants got to hate her so that she and her supporters used to go out only under armed escort. In 1609, a priest from Cachtice accused her in public of killing young girls. Complaints about Báthory piled up and they came even from Vienna, where she had a manor house. Finally, they came to the ruler who ordered the palatine count to start investigation. But the palatine was a good friend of the family. Before his death, František Nádasdy consigned his whole family to him. The palatine found himself in a non-enviable situation. Obviously, he informed the Báthory's family first and protected huge property of a Nádasdy family against possible confiscation, as Alzbeta wrote her last will in 1610 in which she legated the property to her children. Three months later, the palatine Thurzo came to Cachtice unannounced and caught Alžbeta just torturing. Being caught in the act was the only possibility how to put such important person as Báthory was on trial at that time. Investigation took place immediately, more than 200 witnesses gave evidence in the trial. Many honoured people were among them. Her supporters were sentenced but the trial with the principal offender had never taken place. Many shocking statements on torturing of girls were heard in this trial. Alžbeta was sent to prison in the Cachtice castle in which she died on August 21, 1614. She tortured young girls with burning candles, heated iron, pricked with needles, sprayed with cold water in frosty weather. Not always she killed them. Witnesses stated that they saw young girls so burnt that they could not get into a coach. She even used to celebrate Christmas (the palatine Thurzo caught her torturing just after Christmas) and also wedding of her daughter, in which two German maids died, by torturing. Dead bodies were buried in different ways – in a cemetery, in a field, in grain pits. Once they buried them so carelessly that dogs unearthed the decomposing bodies and spread them along the courtyard. Her supporters stated different numbers of victims – 37 or 50 tortured young girls – in the trial. There were about 650 victims according to the list, which is said to be found among Alžbeta's things. Báthory's supporters Ilona Jó and Dorota Szentés were sentenced to cutting off fingers on their hands with pincers and to death by burning at the stake. Ficko – less than thirty years old Ján Ujváry – was beheaded. The sentence was executed at the river Váh close to Bytca.

(taken from: {http://www.bathory.sk/bat_info/index.htm})

According to the legend, the Landlady was very beautiful and afraid of old age. Once her servant-girl hurt her accidentally with a comb. The Landlady hit the girl with such a force that she was squirted by the girl's blood. When she looked to a mirror later, she had an impression that her skin seemed younger in the squirted spot. She succumbed to the temptation to become younger and wanted to have baths in the girls' blood. Girls from the environs were lured to the castle where they were killed using special iron maiden. The iron maiden had a necklace around its neck. When a girl wanted to take the necklace olf the iron maiden, it gripped her and long knives coming from the maiden breast killed her. Blood then drained to a bath. But these horrible deeds were discovered, the Cachtice Landlady was caught red-handed. She was imprisoned in the castle until her death.

Hetty Green 1834-1916

To call her miserly is something of a gross understatement. Some people are too weird to be fictional.

Hetty Green was the wealthiest businesswoman of her age, at times possibly the richest person. The key to her success was simple as hard to emulate: she bought things when nobody wanted them, and sold when everybody wanted them. She seemed to have money to lend when no one else did, so a long line of borrowers was always at her door. She offered tough terms and charged a high price. She was nicknamed "The Witch of Wall Street".

From an early on she had to do with the world of finance (her family was in whale oil business, and she was reading them financial papers by age of six). Her Quaker background may explain some of her frugality, but she went far beyond:

- refused to pay the doctor to treat her son's leg wound, so it eventually had to be amputated

- never turned on the heat nor used hot water

- had two changes of clothes, both black and tattered

- rode the ferry with the cars rather than pay the passenger fee

- would travel hundreds of miles alone to collect debt payments (note that at the time most women wouldn't travel without an escort)

- and she never tipped.

Before she invested a dime in anything, she would find out the names of all the principles of the company. She would dig up every bit of dirt she could find. She would then take all the accusations against each person and interview them at length, demanding detailed answers. She would do the same when people came to her to borrow money, not lending unless she felt she effectively owned the person in question.

She knew love, for a time at least. Edward H. Green was a wealthy bachelor who, for some odd reason, took a liking to her. He wrote her a love letter, and, on the same day, wrote a check for a cheap suit of clothes from a tailor. He inadvertently switched the letters, so that Hetty got the letter intended for the tailor. She was so touched that he would spend so little on a suit that she agreed to marry him. Later he lost all his money. She provided no help and let him languish in poverty the rest of his days.

She loved to sue people and insult them in the courtroom; but never won. Later in life she started to be paranoid, and thought everyone was out to get her money. When she died, she left her two children $100 million. After the death of one, the other was the guardian of a $200 million estate, which she bequeathed "like someone throwing handfuls of money from a tall building" (according to one Time-Life writer), apportioning it among hundreds of charities, churches and universities.

(Note to the children: while they certainly lived a much more opulent life than she, they came through the Great Depression relatively unscathed by following Hetty's investment philosophy of conservative buying backed by substantial cash reserves.)


The article that inspire her: http://www.mises.org/story/2689 (most quotes come from here)

The Wikipedia post: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hetty_Green

Another bio with some interesting details: http://rsparlourtricks.blogspot.com/2005/11/shrewdness-and-gumption.html

SS-Hauptscharfuhrer Konrad Morgen - the Bloodhound Judge

Konrad Morgen was born in 1910 and decided that he would become a lawyer. When the Nazis came to power he became an Assistant Judge of the SS, and gained a reputation for deciciding cases based on the evidence alone. His superior was so annoyed at this that he posted him to the frontline for a time, until the high command posted him in 1943 to deal with non-political financal crimes. He was now a SS Obersturmführer (1st Lieutenant). He found out that the Commandant of Buchenwald Concentration Camp was hiring out camp labourers to civilians, racketeering in food supplies, murdering inmates who opposed him and generally running the camp for his own profit, and had embezzled at least 100,000 Marks.

He submitted his evidence to Nebe, the Chief of the Criminal Police, who blanched on realising the impact of the evidence and hastily passed it on to the Gestapo chief Müller who promptly shifted responsibility to Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the chief of the RSHA. Even he was not willing to handle the now red hot evidence and got the Chief of the SS Legal Department involved, who, now predictably, kicked it up to Himmler himself. He then asked Himmler for help and surprisingly, Himmler gave him the OK to lauch criminal proceedings against Koch and his accomplices. He proved Koch was guilty, and Koch ended up dragged off by the SS Legal Department and executed by a firing squad.

He was now allowed to investigate the other concentration camps and jumped on what he thought was a crime wave involving the slaughter and mass cremation of prisoners. To his horror he found that Hitler had ordered the killings and the SS Legal Department could not stop them. However, he managed to prosecute a few top officials in Maidenek for what were termed 'arbitrary killings'. His policy, in his own words, was to take a 'practical route to justice' by 'removing from this system of destruction the leaders and important elements through the means offered by the system itself'. Up to 200 concentration camp guards ended up being packed off to penal units on the Eastern Front or otherwise punished because of his investigations.

He then started investigating Höss, the Commandant of the Auschwitz extermination camp, who retaliated by having one of Morgen's deputies, Hauptscharführer Gerhard Putsch, dissapeared and murdered, and his files burned. At this point, Morgen realised that he had to take up the issue of the mass murders with Himmler himself if he were to have any chance of stopping them. He managed to wrangle an interview with Himmler with the help of the Chief Justice of the SS Court, but was foiled at the last minute as he was turned away from the SS Reichsführer's anteroom, where he was waiting for the meeting. Hitler then got to hear of what was happening and put an end to his investigations.

After the war he testified against the Nazis but he refused to testify against Ilse Koch, Karl Koch's wife, as he did not have any concrete proof that she committed any of the alleged crimes against camp inmates, though he did believe that she was guilty. The Western Allies threatened to send him to the Soviet Union, but let hin go.Morgen practised law in West Germany and died in 1976.

Jay J. Armes

Because The Real World needs Pulpy Super Heroes

Did I mention he has his own action figures?

And his own, (short lived) comic books

Jay J. Armes was born Julian Armas in Ysleta Texas in 1038. He had a fairly normal childhood until he was 12. Armes lost his arms in an accident involving explosive railroad signaling devices when he was twelve years old. Both hands were replaced with the classic metal hooks found at the time. Armas's practiced with his existing prosthetics to such an extent he develope notable "manual" dexterity with his hooks. However, he found the limited. He (and some relatives) designed and manufactured improved hooks over time. In High School, he created a variety of hands for a variety of purposes.

In 1958, after being unable to join the El Paso Police Department due to his "disability", he became a private detective. He actually managed to achieve great success in the field, doing survailance, investigation, and bodyguard work. Part of his success is attributed to his various additions. (He was able to do thing that were unexpected). He recruited some of the best in his field (at the time) to form the agency named "The Investigators". His clients include Elvis Presley, Howard Hughes, and Elizabeth Taylor. One of dhims most famous investigation involved the 1972 return of Christian Brando after a custody related kidnapping. His clients normally do not reveal themselves. He and the FBI have a friendly rivalry going as he broke case and case that they were unable to do. The most successful private detective in the country, he unwinds from the daring challenges that are his everyday fare in a million-dollar mansion complete with private zoo and tigers that prowl on the loose. A charismatic man who collects cars, cloths, and the material rewards of his phenomenal success with style, his is deeply religious and contributes ten percent of his earning to his local church. A crack shot, a karate expert, a veteran of thirteen assassination attempts, he is a man of peace who jealously protects his family's privacy and safety. There is no doubt about it, Jay J. Armes has almost everything--except hands.

After thirty years, he retired from field work. He split his time between the agency and the El Passo Council. He now still returns to the field now and again.

Jay J. Armes is a legend, and that legend is larger-than-life man. Some of Armes' devices make the fictional equipment of James Bond seem like child's play.

His base prosthetics give him an "invunerable touch" allowing him to reach into fire, smash doors, and even cut through metal.

He many of his claws have built in .22 magnum 2 shots.

He does have a "gun mounted" hand, allowing him to fire a standard gun.

He has a hand that has electronics used for ranged recording equipment

He has a hand that allows him to climb.

He is a pilot, scuba diver, stunt driver, is actually licensed to fly a jet packand karate black belt. He is the master of the dealiest Karate Chop in the world.

Samuel Whittemore

Unless you are a resident of Massachusetts (USA), you probably have never heard of this man. Here is a man with a grit score higher than anyone besides Chuck Noriss (and it might be close).

n 2005, Samuel Whittemore was proclaimed the official state hero of Massachusetts.

Samuel Whittemore was a farmerin Menotomy, Massachusetts/ . He was eighty years old when he became the oldest known colonial combatant in the American Revolutionary War

On April 19, 1775, British forces were returning to Boston from the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the opening engagements of the war. On their march, they were continually shot at by colonial militiamen.

Whittemore was in his fields when he spotted an approaching British brigade. Whittemore loaded his musket and ambushed the British from behind a nearby stone wall. He killed one man with his musket. He then drew his dueling pistols and killed another. He managed to fire five more shots before a British detachment reached his position. Whittemore then attacked with a sword. He was shot in the face, bayoneted thirteen times, and left for dead in a pool of blood.

Liberty will not die it seems.

He was found alive a little while later by colonial forces. He was still trying to load his musket to fight again. He was taken to a local doctor, who held out no hope for his survival. However, Whittemore lived another eighteen years until dying of natural causes at the age of ninety-eight.

A monument in Arlington, Massachusetts reads:

Near this spot, Samuel Whittemore, then 80 years old, killed three British soldiers, April 19, 1775. He was shot, bayoneted, beaten and left for dead, but recovered and lived to be 98 years of age.