One Birthday, Two Remarkable Men


Birthdays do not really matter. But ideas do. And when big ones come along, we celebrate the men and women who shared them in various ways. One way, pedestrian as it may seem, is remembering them on their birthday. Artists and musicians, likewise. We had not remembered, when we posted this yesterday, of this coincidence, but the Gopnik essay mentioned below (we now recall) is worth reading and we thank the Atlantic‘s website for reminding us via this blog post by Alexis Madrigal:

February 12 was a big day in 1809. Abraham Lincoln was born in a wild Kentucky; Charles Darwin was born in a refined Shrewsbury, Shropshire. One man held together the Union. The other developed a theory that resonates through the sciences and beyond to this day. While it’s often difficult to unspool the impacts that individuals have on the world, it seems fair to say that these two minds did something consequential on this rock.

And in a 2009 essay, writer Adam Gopnik tried to get at the shared method of their influence.

“The deepest common stuff the two men share, though,” Gopnik says, “is in what they said and wrote—their mastery of a new kind of liberal language.”

“Darwin’s work remains probably the only book that changed science that an amateur can still sit down now and read right through,” he continues. “It’s so well written that we don’t think of it as well written, just as Lincoln’s speeches are so well made that they seem to us as obvious and natural as smooth stones on the beach.”…

Read the rest of the post here.

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