Charles Augustin de Coulomb (1736-1806), born into a French noble family, had available all the advantages for a good education. He attended the engineering school at Mezieres, the first school of its kind, where he showed a remarkable aptitude in mathematics. He received an excellent practical and theoretical education and decided on a career as a physicist with the Royal Corps of Engineers, one of the few careers open to a person of his noble birth. He retired as a physicist from the French military at age fifty-three because of poor health.
Coulomb pursued his interest in experimentation with electricity and magnetism, work he had begun while in the military, and invented a torsion balance system for measuring the force of magnetic and electric attraction. To understand his many findings, one must be an astute student in his field. For example, a coulomb is the quantity of charge transferred in one second by a current of one ampere. By international agreement, one coulomb is the quantity of electricity that deposits 0.00118 of a gram of silver. Coulomb published a treatise on the strength of materials which introduced methods still in use today.
In 1777, Coulomb’s magnetic compasses won a prize offered by the French Academy of Sciences, one of the world’s most prestigious institutions.


Emile Coue (1857-1926) was born at Troyes, France, and worked as a pharmacist from 1882 to 1910. During that period he studied hypnotism and autosuggestion. He acquired an unshakable belief that people could control their health, and possibly improve their personalities, by convincing themselves that they were improving. Mind over matter, some might say.
Coue accordingly established a free clinic at Nancy where he practiced a form of psychotherapy dependent upon autosuggestion, a method known as Coueism. «This method», he declared, «clears the mind of the causes of mental and physical ailments». Coue became well-known and lectured extensively in the United States and England. He advocated that distressing ideas be eliminated from the subconscious and suggested the repetition of his key phrase: «Every day in every way, I’m getting
better and better». He explained his theories in several books, the best- known one, published in 1922, was titled Self-Mastery Through Conscious Auto-suggestion.


The heliocentric or sun-centered theory of the universe was postulated by a great Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). For more than fourteen hundred years people had accepted the system of Ptolemy, namely, that the sun moved round the earth. That the opposite is true — that the planets revolved round the sun — had been considered many years before by the School of Pythagoras. Thanks to Copernicus, scientists have all come to agree that the sun is the center of the system of planets (the heliocentric theory), and that knowledge has become the foundation of modern astronomy.
Although friends of Copernicus urged him to publish his masterwork Concerning the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres, he hid his publication for many years, for he knew that, although he was dedicating his work to Pope Paul III, a mind dominated by theology could not admit into its thinking scientific facts that might conflict with his beliefs. He was right, of course. The book was published when Copernicus was lying on his deathbed, and it was promptly placed on the Index of Forbidden Books.
Copernicus was born in Thorn, Prussian Poland. He studied astronomy and mathematics at the University of Cracow, and then spent three years at the University of Bologna, where he also studied Greek and philosophy. He decided on a career with the church, becoming a canon at the Cathedral of Frauenburg, East Prussia. Although he remained at that post until his death, his chief interest was in astronomy.


Confucius, known by the name of Kung Chiu, was a great Chinese philosopher, a recognized sage of China. His most famous remark, as apt today as it was when first uttered, was «What you do not like done to yourself, do not unto others». The ethical concepts of this man of tremendous influence are still the ideals of millions of people. His maxims dealt not with religion, but with morals (emphasizing one’s virtue), the family (including remembrance of one’s ancestors), social reforms, and statecraft.
The father of Confucius, a courageous soldier of royal descent, died when his son was three years old. The boy’s mother had little money, but she gave him the best education that she could. At fifteen, Confucius mastered the teachings of the holy sages whose influence had made China a wise and united nation.
Confucius taught his followers that the secret of good government was in choosing honest and educated officials. At one time Confucius was appointed to a high position in the government of Lu, and he performed so well that he was considered the premier statesman in all of China. But he was subsequently forced to resign by a jealous duke. Confucius then traveled from place to place to find a prince who would listen to him. But his principles of good government were misunderstood or ignored by the rulers of his time.
Confucius taught for fifty years, yet died practically unknown. The publication after his death of the Hve Classics, which recorded his wise
teachings, became the bible of Confucianism and the ethical guide for his followers, which then grew in number.
Today the grave of Confucius is a place of homage.


Comstockery, an overzealous censorship of literature and other forms of art, was coined by George Bernard Shaw in reference to Anthony Comstock (1844-1915). People in this day and age may have a hard time believing that one narrow-minded person had the power to ban all the books and plays he felt were corrupting. But Comstock succeeded at doing it. And not simply banned: About 160 tons of books, stereotyped plates, magazines, and pictures were destroyed.
Comstock was the founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, an organization that advocated the banning of all literature
deemed to be salacious or corrupting. Comstock did the deeming — he was the self-appointed censor of books, plays, and pictures. He also led many campaigns against abortion, birth control, and pornography. Through his influence certain types of literature, especially that concerning birth control, were excluded from the mail by federal passage of the Comstock laws. Appointed special agent of the Post Office Department, he arrested more than three thousand persons supposedly in violation of the laws that bear his name. The Comstock Postal Act, in H. L. Mencken’s words, «greatly stimulated the search for euphemisms»: Pregnant became «enceinte», syphilis and gonorrhea were changed to «social diseases», and so forth.
The inquisitor took aim at Shaws play Mrs. Warren’s Profession. Shaw retaliated when he coined the word comstockery. Thus the self-righteous moral censor has attained a dubious immortality.
Inspired by Comstock’s censorious repression of thought and with Comstock as the guiding spirit, Boston’s Watch and Ward Society was organized in 1876. The society proved to be ever vigilant in guarding the morals of the good burghers of Boston. Publishers were pleased to have their books banned because to advertise that a book was «banned in Boston» was a sure way of spurring sales throughout the nation.


Samuel Colt (1814-1862) was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut. He received little education, and at the age of sixteen (some say thirteen) he ran away from home and became a seaman. The story is that he spent his nights on deck whittling a pistol that turned out to be the model for the Colt revolver, which he patented in 1835 and then manufactured.
His patent covered the first practical revolver, a single-barreled pistol with a revolving cylinder. The general idea was not original, but Colt used a rotating barrel of six chambers, and his cocking device is still used as a model for revolvers. His gun became the universal pistol: the gun of the Midwest; the gun of the cowboys; the gun for military service. It came to be known as the gun that won the West.
Colt was not immediately successful. His firearm was used in the Seminole War (1837) and then in the fracas between Texas and Mexico. Thereafter the demand for the gun lay dormant.
What turned things around in Colt’s favor was a large order for guns from the United States Army during the Mexican War (1846-1848). Colt then went from strength to strength, becoming one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of pistols and one of the wealthiest men in America. His revolver came to be known as «the six-shooter», and that term became generic for all revolvers, no matter who manufactured them.


Colossal is an ordinary word used by ordinary people, even though it doesn’t describe ordinary things. Its meaning, of course, is enormous in size, extent, or degree. Its closest synonym is gigantic.
In ancient times the Colossus referred to the bronze Colossus of Rhodes, a representation of the sun god Helios, built to commemorate the successful defense of Rhodes against King Demetrius Poliorcetes of Macedonia in 305 B.C. The Colossus was a huge statue erected across the entrance of the harbor of Rhodes. Pliny, the Roman historian, tells us that the statue was 70 cubits or more high, which, according to today’s measurements, means that it reached 120 feet heavenward and was so large that ships could sail between its legs. The word Colossus (Latin,
from the Greek Kolossos, «large») referred only to the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. English has acquired the word colossal from this humongous figure designed in 280 B.C. by a sculptor named Chares. In 224 B.C. disaster beset this monumental artwork when an earthquake toppled it.
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar immortalized this ancient statue when Cassius described the title character to Brutus:
Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world Like a Colossus-, and we petty men Walk under his high legs, and peep about To find ourselves dishonorable graves.


The river Rhine, it is well known
Doth wash your city of Cologne;
But tell me, nymphs, what power divine
Shall henceforth wash the river Rhine?
Cologne, a city on the Rhine, where «eau de cologne» was first made, was founded in 38 B.C. as Ara Ubiorum. When the city became a Roman colony in A.D. 50 its name was changed to Colonia Agrippina in honor of the Roman empress Agrippina Minor (A.D. 15-59), who was born there. Later the French modified the name to Cologne, and that is the way it has remained in English.
Historians studying the life of Agrippina would all agree that the city was entitled to a breath of fresh cologne, for the empress adulterated everything around her during her brief (43 years) life. She poisoned at least one of her husbands, committed incest with her brother, the emperor Caligula, and married her uncle, the emperor Claudius. She was the mother of Nero by one of her husbands and was as ruthless as her son. Nero came to hate her, charged her with an attempt on his life, and had her put to death. The empress, one might say, had lived a pretty active life but suffered a ghastly end. The stench of her nefarious activities, fortunately, has not affected the fragrance of the city’s colognes.
The cathedral of Cologne is famous because, according to medieval legend, it houses the bones of the three Wise Men of the East, the Magi.


Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956) was a British journalist who became a detective-fiction writer; his best-known novel was Trent’s Last Case. But Bentley was immortalized not by his novels, but by his humorous quatrains about a person or thing that he mentions in the first line. Bentley, according to G. K. Chesterton, could «write clear and unadulterated nonsense with... serious simplicity».
Bentley wrote the first clerihew when he was sixteen years old: «Sir Humphrey Davy/ Abominated gravy./ He lived in the odium/ Of having discovered sodium». Possibly the most well-known clerihew is «Sir Christopher Wren/ Said ‘I’m going to dine with some men./ If anybody calls/ Say I’m designing St. Paul’s.’ «
Eventually Bentley published his clerihews as a book. It included: «George the Third/ Ought never to have occurred./ One can only wonder/ At so grotesque a blunder». And: «The art of Biography/ Is different from
Geography./ Geography is about Maps, / But Biography is about chaps». Another: «It was a weakness of Voltaire’s/ To forget to say his prayers, / And which, to his shame, /He never overcame».


So much has been said and written about this greatest political figure in twentieth-century Britain that no one should expect anything original. Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965) was born at Blenheim Palace, in Oxfordshire, England, third son of politician Lord Randolph Churchill and his American wife, Jennie Jerome. He attended Harrow and Sandhurst and was commissioned in the Fourth Hussars. Churchill led an exciting life in different capacities and in different places. He changed his politics as he saw fit and, through the Liberal Party, was appointed lord of the admiralty in 1911. After active service in France, he became Lloyd George’s minister of munitions and then secretary for war and air. He supported the Irish Free State and affirmed Palestine as a Jewish homeland. Churchill was out of the cabinet (but in Parliament) from 1929 to 1939, returning as the first lord of admiralty under Neville Chamberlain. The Germans invaded and conquered Norway, and he became prime minister on May 10, 1940. His refusal to consider Britain’s defeat and his rallying phrases bolstered the spirit of Britons.
Churchill’s rhetoric was- well chosen, clear, and poignant. He was a scholar, and his words came from an unlimited mental library accumulated throughout his life. Among the outstanding Churchillians are «I
have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat»; «Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few»; and «the soft underbelly of the Axis». At Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, where Churchill spoke at the invitation of President Truman, he declared that there had descended upon Europe «an iron curtain», cutting off the East from the rest of Europe. That phrase caught on and was repeated on innumerable occasions. Chagrined by the fall of France, he exclaimed, «Let us therefore brace ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ »
As happens to few persons, Churchill was made a citizen of the United States by a presidential proclamation issued by President Kennedy. It read: «In the dark days and darker nights when Britain stood alone — and most men save Englishmen despaired of England’s life — he mobilized the English language and sent it into battle. The incandescent quality of his words illuminated the courage of his countrymen. Given unlimited powers by his fellow citizens, he was ever vigilant to protect their rights. Indifferent himself to danger, he wept over the sorrows of others. A child of the House of Commons, he became in time its father. Accustomed to the hardship of battle, he has no distaste for pleasure. By adding his name to our rolls, we mean to honor him — but his acceptance honors us far more. For no statement or proclamation can enrich his name — the name Winston Churchill is already a legend».
Churchill’s Conservative Party was returned to power in 1951, with Churchill as prime minister. He resigned in 1955. His masterpiece The Second World War was published in six volumes.
In 1965 Queen Elizabeth and the royal family attended the funeral of Mr. Churchill. This was an unprecedented honor, as the queen does not attend funerals save those of family.