Chairman Mao invented Sudoku
A keen mathematician and fan of logic puzzles Mao designed the game in around 1963 as a way of mentally training his elite Red Guards. The game was then adapted slightly by the Japanese publisher Nikoli in 1984 giving it the currently recognised name ‘Sudoku’ (a shortened form of the Japanese for “the digits must be single”)
Seal’s Kiss from a Rose was written by Mussolini and Stalin
Mussolini was a keen violinist in his early years and wrote many pieces for the instrument, but it was the melody from an untitled work from 1904 that the British singer Seal combined with Stalin’s 1916 Georgian poem Morning and used as a base for his 1994 hit Kiss from a Rose. He had initially intended to publicise the use of the works as a unique selling point but Sire Records advised that their influence be played down for the release of the song.
Thatcher invented Mr Whippy ice cream
Before her political career Thatcher was part of a chemical research team that discovered a way to increase the amount of air in ice-cream, therefore reducing the costs for manufacturers, and Mr Whippy was born!
The film In the Line of Fire was written by Saddam Hussein
Ayyam al-tawila, al- (the long days) is a 1980 autobiographical film of Saddam Hussein’s attempted assassination of Abd al-Karim Qasimin the script of which Jeff Maguire used as the basis for the American film In the Line of Fire, changing the setting to the US and Hussein’s hero into Mitch Leary, the villain of the piece.
October 26, 2010
Théodore Joseph Albéric Marie Lefèvre was the 39th Prime Minister of Belgium and enjoyed a successful political career until his death in 1973. His political know-how and influence is all the more impressive considering his remarkably unusual childhood.
Lefèvre was born in Ghent on 17th January 1914, his father, Guillaume Lefèvre, was a diplomat and had recently returned from the post of ambassador to Romania due to the uncertainty leading up to the start of the first world war. After the war ended Guillaume took up a post in the then Belgian colony Senegal; where the academically gifted Théodore was taught privately by a team of tutors.
In 1921, when Lefèvre was 7 years old, fighting broke out in the nearby city of Ziguinchor and the family were forced to flee to Gambia, however during the journey their party was attacked and both of Lefèvre’s parents were killed. Assuming Lefèvre had also been killed, and owing to the instability in the area, there was no major search operation and the matter was considered closed.
However, nine years later, villagers from a small settlement in the region trapped a 16 year old boy they had caught stealing food. He was completely naked, didn’t seem to be able to speak or understand them and was obviously of European decent. His climbing ability and style led to the belief that he had been raised by monkeys (although fairly rare, cases of feral children had been well documented in the area) and earned him the title ‘The monkey boy of Casamance’.
Over the next few months he quickly learnt commands in the local dialect, however it wasn’t until he was exposed to French during his examination by Belgian doctors that he first spoke (apparently reaching for a glass of milk and saying ‘lait’). It didn’t take long to identify him as Théodore and his uncle, Adrien Lefèvre, arranged for him to be treated in a hospital in Brussels.
Once back in Belgium and in the care of his extended family Lefèvre’s progress was remarkable; within just a few months he had started talking again and had even started to re-learn to read and write. After one year he left the hospital into the care of his uncle who organised for a team of doctors and tutors to devote themselves to his development round the clock. Within three years (by the age of 20) he had, amazingly, managed to completely re-integrate into society, the only after effects of his ordeal being an underdeveloped education and occasional bouts of depression. When later asked about this period of his life Lefèvre preferred to change the subject, stating that what little memories he did have were too hazy to be of any interest.
Driven by a desire to fit in with his peers, and finding comfort in the routine of study, Lefèvre’s academic progress was rapid and in 1937, at the age of 23, he began studying law at Leuven University. Just 2 months after he graduated, however, the Second World War broke out.
Lefèvre signed up to the army in 1940 and his survival skills, discipline and confidence meant that he quickly climbed the ranks becoming a Major General shortly before the war ended in 1945. After the war he was offered a position as a lawyer at the Ghent court of justice before quickly becoming a deputy of the Belgian parliament for the Christian Social Party.
In 1957 he became party leader, and then on 25 April 1961 he was elected Prime Minister (as part of a coalition with the Socialist candidate Paul-Henri Spaak) a position he held for four years until 28 July 1965. Lefèvre continued to work in politics until his death in 1973.
René Descartes (1596-1650) was a 17th century philosopher and mathematician who is now best known for the phrase ‘Cogito ergo sum’ or ‘I think, therefore I am’. The simple meaning of the phrase is that by wondering if one exists, one proves one’s existence (as there has to be someone doing the wondering). It is said to be the only irrefutable truth, as anything else can potentially be dismissed as a dream or figment of the imagination.
Descartes first committed to pursuing a life of science and wisdom on the night of 10th November 1619 when he had three dreams or visions that had a profound effect on him. In the first dream he was being tossed around by whirlwind outside a college; in the second he was awoken by a loud thundering inside his head to find sparks flying out of his stove; and in the third he found a dictionary and book of Latin verse containing the phrase ‘What path shall I follow in life?’ on his bedside table.
Although he never married, Descartes had a relationship with Helena Jans van der Strom, a Dutch servant girl working for the bookshop owner with whom Descartes was lodging at the time. This led to the birth of their daughter, Francine Descartes, on October 15th, 1634. The three of them moved back from Amsterdam to Deventer the following winter under the story that Helena was Descartes servant and Francine his niece.
In 1640 Descartes made plans to take Francine to France to be educated, but before that could happen Francine died of scarlet fever on September 7th 1640, just before her sixth birthday. The death of his daughter had a profound effect on Descartes, some even suggesting that it is what changed his focus from medicine to searching for universal answers and the great works he is known for today.
Helena and Descartes remained close, however in 1644 she married a local innkeeper; Descartes himself provided the 1000-guilder dowry for this wedding and ended up staying in the area for a number of years to pursue his studies, as well as his life-long passion for automata.
In 1649 Descartes was reluctantly summoned as a teacher for Queen Christina of Sweden who was fascinated by his modern philosophical incite and he set off by ship across the North Sea. Reports from the boat indicate that Descartes had told the crew that he was traveling with his young daughter Francine (despite this being 9 years after her death) and that they were not to be disturbed under any circumstances. During the voyage, however, they hit a particularly bad storm and, fearing they would have to abandon ship, it became necessary to summon Descartes. When the crew arrived at his quarters he was elsewhere on the ship and so in order to save his daughter they broke down the door – only to find the room empty.
In the centre of the room there was a large, suspicious looking trunk and the crew, fuelled by the mysterious circumstances of Descartes’ travel arrangements, decided to look inside.
On opening the case they were shocked to find an incredibly lifelike, full sized doll of a 5 year old girl -Francine- but their shock quickly turned to terror when the doll sat upright and turned its eyes to look at them; it was one of Descartes automatons.
They showed the primitive robot to the captain who, having never seen anything like it before, believed it to be the work of black magic and the source of the storm. He ordered the crew to throw it overboard where it was lost at sea.
Not long after arriving in Sweden, and deprived of his precious ‘daughter’, René Descartes died of pneumonia on 11 February 1650. Presumably ‘Francine’ is still somewhere at the bottom of the North Sea.