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Liszt Fever: Misha Dichter on Why Franz Liszt is a “Towering Genius”

One of the most singularly talented pianists of all time, Franz Liszt (1811-1886) dominated the musical world of the 19th century. An unrivaled virtuoso who also composed his own music, Liszt laid the bedrock for the Late Romantic and Impressionistic schools that would follow him. To this day, he is considered a musical genius who ranks alongside […]

Analyzing Language: Stephen Neale on Bertrand Russell’s Philosophy of Language (Part 1)

A British philosopher, logician, and mathematician, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) made significant contributions to the fields of mathematical logic, analytic philosophy, metaphysics, ethics, and epistemology. He also wrote extensively on a wide variety of subjects in science and the humanities, and in 1950 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Stephen Neale, Distinguished Professor of […]

Economy Class: Nicholas Wapshott Explains Why John Maynard Keynes Was “Ahead of His Time”

John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) was an influential British economist whose ideas on government intervention in the economy were considered to be both revolutionary and controversial. Nicholas Wapshott, author of ‘Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics’, shares his insight on why John Maynard Keynes Was “Ahead of His Time.”    

The Road to Hayek: Nicholas Wapshott on the Life and Work of Economist Friedrich Hayek

Austrian-born British economist Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992) is best known for his defense of classical liberalism and what is now called Austrian economics. He was also the winner of the 1974 Nobel Prize in Economics with Gunnar Myrdal for their “pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and for their penetrating analysis of […]

The Inventing Machine: Paul Israel on the Life and Work of Thomas Edison

One of the most influential American inventors of all time, Thomas Edison (1847–1931) is responsible for the creation of several devices that shaped the face of modern technology. Most famous for his invention of the first practical light bulb, Edison was also a shrewd businessman who bridged the gap between invention and large-scale manufacturing. Possibly […]

What’s Within: Colin McGinn on Nativism from Plato to Chomsky

The “Father of Modern Philosophy”, René Descartes (1596–1650) was one of the most prominent voices of the Scientific Revolution. A key philosopher of the 17th century, he developed a connection between algebraic logic and philosophical concepts—a practice that would eventually lead to the creation of modern philosophic study. His landmark works such as Meditations on […]

Incompleteness: Rebecca Goldstein on the Life and Work of Kurt Gödel

Best known for his Incompleteness Theorem, Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) is considered one of the most important mathematicians and logicians of the 20th century. By showing that the establishment of a set of axioms encompassing all of mathematics would never succeed, he revolutionized the world of mathematics, logic, and philosophy. Rebecca Goldstein is the author of Incompleteness: The […]

Rite of Passage: John Heiss on Igor Stravinsky’s Life and Legacy

The Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) was one of the most influential composers of the twentieth century. His career spanned from the early twentieth century when he composed ballets inspired by Russian myth and the era’s revived interest in distinctly Russian culture, to the experimentation in compositional styles that followed the Second World War. Though born in the nineteenth century, he lived and worked long enough to see his works inspire progressive rock music, just as he himself had been inspired by earlier masters like Bach and Tchaikovsky. His importance in the history of music is unquestionable.

Language Rules: Rom Harré on the Life and Philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein

Austrian-born English philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) is considered as one of the most influential—although controversial—thinkers of the 20th century. His work touched on topics such as ethics, logic, and language. Rom Harré is Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Psychology at Georgetown University and an Emeritus Fellow of Linacre College at the University of Oxford. He has published over […]

The Evolution of Charles Darwin: John Darnton on the Life and Work of the Father of Evolution

British biologist Charles Darwin (1809–1882) laid the foundations of the theory of evolution and transformed the way we think about the natural world. Few books have influenced human thought more than his On the Origin of Species. Published in 1859, it expounded his theory of natural selection, shocking society, and revolutionized science. Former New York […]

Standing on Aristotle’s Shoulders: David Roochnik on the Life and Work of Aristotle

The third and final member of a chain of Athenian philosophers who would shape the foundation of Western philosophy, Aristotle (384 B.C.E.–322 B.C.E.) was a student of Plato, who would eventually go on to mentor Alexander the Great. Nicknamed “The Reader” by Plato, Aristotle’s writings on science, ethics, and politics dominated Western society for centuries and […]

Jack of All Trades: Rosa Mayorga on the Life and Work of Charles Sanders Peirce

Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) was a polymath whose interests spanned multiple fields including philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, and language. He is best known as “the father of pragmatism,” a school of philosophy whose principle that the usefulness, workability, and practicality of ideas, policies, and proposals are the criteria of their merit. Rosa Mayorga is Chair in […]

Freud: Right or Wrong? Edward Erwin on Why Freud is Still Important

Although some of his theories are still hotly debated, Sigmund Freud, (May 6, 1856–September 23, 1939) is widely regarded as a trailblazer in the realm of psychiatry and psychology. The Austrian psychiatrist and neurologist, who was allegedly the first to offer a comprehensive explanation of how human behavior is determined by the conscious and unconscious forces, […]

Analyzing Language: Stephen Neale on Bertrand Russell’s Philosophy of Language (Part 2)

A British philosopher, logician, and mathematician, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) made significant contributions to the fields of mathematical logic, analytic philosophy, metaphysics, ethics, and epistemology. He also wrote extensively on a wide variety of subjects in science and the humanities, and in 1950 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Stephen Neale, Distinguished Professor of […]

How Mendelssohn Brought Bach Back: Charles Rosen on The Bach Revival

Widely regarded as one of the greatest classical composers of all time, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was a German composer, organist, and violinist. During his lifetime, he worked as a teacher and organist and was a prolific composer of choral works, concertos, and preludes. The late American pianist and author, Charles Rosen, wrote voluminously on […]

“Revealing Intimacy”: Michael Patrick Gillespie on James Joyce’s “Profound Sense of the Human Condition”

The author of such literary classics as Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, James Joyce (1882–1941) was one of Ireland’s most celebrated novelists known for his avant-garde and often experimental style of writing. Michael Patrick Gillespie is a Professor of English at Florida International University and the Director of the Center for the Humanities in an Urban Environment. He has written eleven books […]

The “King of the Cats”: Paul Muldoon on the Life and Work of W. B. Yeats

Irish poet, dramatist, and prose writer, William Butler (W. B.) Yeats (1865–1939), is considered to this day as one of the greatest English-language poets of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923. Paul Muldoon is the author of numerous books of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Moy Sand and Gravel. He is a fellow […]

Looking For Hemingway: Gay Talese Talks of Men and Books

Pulitzer and Nobel-winning writer, Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961) was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, whose simple, clear, and distinctive style revolutionized literature. American author Gay Talese is the bestselling author of eleven books. He was a reporter for the New York Times from 1956 to 1965, and since then he has […]

‘Round Miles: Quincy Troupe on the Life and Music of Miles Davis

Widely considered as one of the top musicians of the 20th century, Miles Davis (1926–1991) was a major force in jazz. He was not only a gifted trumpeter and composer, but also an innovator who created a nine-member band called the “nonet,” in which unconventional (in jazz) instruments like French horn and tuba were used. […]

Maestros of Suspense: Jack Sullivan Talks About the Role of Music in Alfred Hitchcock’s Films

The undisputed “master of suspense,” Alfred Hitchcock (1899–1980) was an iconic film director and producer of over 50 movies, including Dial M for Murder, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, and The Birds. The techniques he pioneered inspired a new generation of filmmakers and revolutionized the “thriller” genre. Jack Sullivan, Professor of English at Rider University […]

The Man Who Knew Too Much: Jack Copeland on the Life and
 Work of Codebreaker and Computer Science Pioneer Alan Turing

Alan Turing (1912–1954) was an English mathematician, logician, pioneer of computer science, and wartime code-breaker. He is credited with creating a design for the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE), the early electronic stored-program computer, as well as the Bombe—a decryption device that the British government used during WWII to crack the German “Enigma,” machine, which encrypted secret messages.

The Riddle of Hume’s Treatise: Paul Russell on the Life and Work of David Hume

Scotland’s greatest philosopher, David Hume (1711–1776) was a key figure of the Scottish Enlightenment. He is generally considered one of the three main figureheads, along with John Locke and Bishop George Berkley of the influential British Empiricism movement. Although not well-received in his own time, his A Treatise on Human Nature, published in 1739, is now a classic text. Paul Russell is Professor […]