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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 of the Royal Society of Literature, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches...


The Mozart Effect: Anne-Sophie Mutter on the Life and Work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Considered by many to be the greatest composer of all time, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) composed hundreds of pieces of music. Among his most famous works are Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music, 1787) and the operas Don Giovanni (1787) and Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute, 1791). He died of a mysterious fever at age 35. One of the greatest violin virtuosos of our time, German-born Anne-Sophie Mutter has performed concerts in all the major music centers of Europe, the USA,...


Language Rules: Rom Harré Talks About Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Language

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 Emeritus Fellow of Linacre College at the University of Oxford. He has published over 30 books in the Philosophy of Science and the foundations of Social...


Freud’s Faults: Frank Sulloway on the Father of Psychoanalysis’s Dubious Methods and Practices

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, is regarded as the founder of psychoanalysis. Frank Sulloway is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology and a member...


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

One of the most influential American inventors of all time, Thomas Alva 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 the single most important figure of the Second Industrial Revolution, Edison’s vast network of corporate contacts ensured that his...


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. Jack Copeland is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, where...


Einstein’s Dreams: Alan Lightman on the Life and Work of Albert Einstein

Generally considered one of the most influential physicists in history, Albert Einstein’s (1879–1955) groundbreaking theories reshaped the scientific community’s view and understanding of the universe. He developed the special and general theories of relativity and won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. Alan Lightman is a novelist, essayist, physicist, and educator. He is Adjunct Professor of Humanities and formerly senior lecturer in Physics...


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 had a profound impact on the development of Western culture. With his subjects ranging from natural science to metaphysical and...


On God, Truth and Superman: Paul Katsafanas on Friedrich Nietzsche’s Radical Philosophy

German philosopher of the late 19th century, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) boldly and daringly challenged the foundations of Christianity, traditional morality, and other prevalent social mores. He was at the forefront of the existentialism, perspectivism, and nihilism movements that emphasized the importance of human individuality and freedom; discovery of truth only in the context of our own perceptions and interpretations; and rejection of religious and moral doctrines. Paul Katsafanas...


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.” He joins us on Culture Insight to share his insight into the life and work of John Maynard Keynes.


By His Own Design: Robert Twombly on The Individualism of Frank Lloyd Wright

Widely hailed as the greatest American architect of all time, Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959) designed hundreds of iconic buildings and structures throughout the early 20th century. Well-known for his creative and visionary designs, Wright believed that America should break away from traditional European architectural designs, and helped to establish a uniquely American style of structure. Over the course of his 70-year career, Wright planned over a thousand designs ranging from homes to...


Janna Levin On Kurt Gödel: Incompleteness Theorem Is Not Just A Numbers Game

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. Janna Levin is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University. Her scientific research concerns the Early Universe, Chaos, and Black...


Churchill’s Rock: Sonia Purnell on The Life and Times of Clementine Churchill

Best known as the wife of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Clementine Ogilvy Spencer-Churchill served as one of her husband's closest confidantes, aiding him during his brightest moments as well as his darkest hours. During World War II, she led the Young Women's Christian Association's wartime efforts and also assisted in the Red Cross's efforts to provide relief in Russia. Sonia Purnell is a political reporter who has worked for a number of high-profile newspapers, including the...


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

Austrian-born economist Friedrich A. Hayek was noted for his criticisms of the Keynesian welfare state and of totalitarian socialism which was laid out in his popular book The Road to Serfdom (1944). In 1974, he shared the Nobel Prize for Economics with Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal. Nicholas Wapshott is the author of Keynes/Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics and Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage. A former senior editor at the London Times and the New...


Jaakko Hintikka: Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Groundbreaking “Language Games” are Not Child’s Play

Thanks to his groundbreaking work in logic, the philosophy of mind, mathematics, and language, as well as two published works, Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) played a leading role in the 20th-century analytic philosophy. Jaakko Hintikka was Professor of Philosophy at Boston University. Author of over 30 books, he was the main architect of game-theoretical semantics and of the interrogative approach to inquiry, and also one of the architects of...


‘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. He also invented a style known as “cool jazz,” characterized by softer and more subdued tempos than traditional jazz rhythms. Quincy Troupe is an awarding-winning author of...


The Mathematical Artistry of Paul Dirac: Michael Atiyah on the Life and Work of Quantum Genius

Paul Dirac (1902–1984) was an English theoretical physicist and mathematician who was instrumental in the development of both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. In 1933, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger. Sir Michael Atiyah is one of the world's greatest living mathematicians and is well known throughout the mathematical world. He is a recipient of the Fields Medal, the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel Prize, as well as the Abel...


ReJoyce: Philip Kitcher on James Joyce’s “Amazingly Lyrical” and “Startlingly” Original Prose

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. Philip Kitcher has taught at several American Universities and is currently John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia. He is the author of over a dozen books including Advancement of Science, Science, Truth and Democracy, The Ethical Project and Joyce's Kaleidoscope. A Fellow of the...


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, is regarded as the founder of psychoanalysis. Along with the “talk therapy” that remains the staple of psychiatric treatment to...


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 after him. To this day he is considered a musical genius who ranks alongside his contemporaries Chopin and Schumann as one of history’s most influential musicians. Now in the fifth decade of an illustrious international...