Ferdinand Édouard Buisson was born on this date in 1841 in Paris. He was a French academic, educational bureaucrat, pacifist and Radical-Socialist (left liberal) politician. He presided over the League of Education from 1902 to 1906 and the Human Rights League (LDH) from 1914 to 1926. In 1927, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to him jointly with Ludwig Quidde. Philosopher and educator, he was Director of Primary Education. He was the author of a thesis on Sebastian Castellio, in whom he saw a “liberal Protestant” in his image. Ferdinand Buisson was the president of the National Association of Freethinkers . In 1905, he chaired the parliamentary committee to implement the separation of church and state. Famous for his fight for secular education through the League of Education, he coined the term laïcité (“secularism”).
Jaroslav Heyrovský was born on this date in 1890. He was a Czech chemist and inventor. Heyrovský was the inventor of the polarographic method, father of the electroanalytical method, and recipient of the Nobel Prize in 1959. His main field of work was polarography. Jaroslav Heyrovský was born in Prague on December 20, 1890, the fifth child of Leopold Heyrovský, Professor of Roman Law at the Charles University in Prague, and his wife Clara, née Hanl von Kirchtreu. He obtained his early education at secondary school until 1909 when he began his study of chemistry, physics, and mathematics at the Charles University in Prague. From 1910 to 1914 he continued his studies at University College, London, under Professors Sir William Ramsay, W. C. McC. Lewis, and F. G. Donnan taking his B.Sc. degree in 1913. He was particularly interested in working with Professor Donnan, on electrochemistry. During the First World War Heyrovský worked in a military hospital as a dispensing chemist and radiologist, which enabled him to continue his studies and to take his PhD degree in Prague in 1918 and D.Sc. in London in 1921. Heyrovský started his university career as an assistant to Professor B. Brauner in the Institute of Analytical Chemistry of the Charles University, Prague; he was promoted to Associate Professor in 1922 and in 1926 he became the University’s first Professor of Physical Chemistry. Heyrovský’s invention of the polarographic method dates from 1922 and he concentrated his whole further scientific activity on the development of this new branch of electrochemistry. He formed a school of Czech polarographers in the University and was himself at the forefront of polarographic research. In 1950 Heyrovský was appointed Director of the newly established Polarographic Institute which has since been incorporated into the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences since 1952.
John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. died on this date in 1968. He was an American author of twenty-seven books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books, and five collections of short stories. He is widely known for the comic novels Tortilla Flat (1935) and Cannery Row (1945), the multi-generation epic East of Eden (1952), and the novellas Of Mice and Men (1937) and The Red Pony (1937). The Pulitzer Prize-winning The Grapes of Wrath (1939), widely attributed to be part of the American literary canon, is considered Steinbeck’s masterpiece. In the first 75 years since it was published, it sold 14 million copies. The winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature, he has been called “a giant of American letters”. His works are widely read abroad and many of his works are considered classics of Western literature. Most of Steinbeck’s work is set in southern and central California, particularly in the Salinas Valley and the California Coast Ranges region. His works frequently explored the themes of fate and injustice, especially as applied to downtrodden or everyman protagonists.
Sir Alan Lloyd Hodgkin OM KBE PRS died on this date 1998. He was an English physiologist and biophysicist, who shared the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Andrew Huxley and John Eccles.