Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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There are 2 entries for this date: Richard Feynman and Irving Berlin
Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman

On this date in 1918, Richard P. Feynman was born in New York City. Feynman, with two other scientists, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 for his work in quantum electrodynamics. He received his undergrad degree from MIT in 1939, and his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1942. He worked at Los Alamos, then became a professor at Cornell from 1945-1950. Feynman became professor of theoretical physics at California Institute of Technology in 1950. When Physics World polled scientists asking them to rank the greatest physicists, Feynman was rated seventh, behind Galileo. Feynman was a writer and personality, as well. His first popular book was Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman. His academic classic was the 3-volume Lectures on Physics. His sister Joan once said: "If you wanted to have a good party, you had Richard there" (Los Angeles Times, Dec. 2, 2001). In What Do You Care What Other People Think? (1988), Feynman described himself as "an avowed atheist" by his early youth. "I thought nature itself was so interesting that I didn't want it distorted (by miracle stories). And so I gradually came to disbelieve the whole religion." Feynman was first treated for stomach cancer in 1978. He made headlines after being appointed to a commission investigating the 1986 Challenger shuttle disaster, when he figured out and demonstrated what went wrong with the O-rings. D. 1988.

“Start out understanding religion by saying everything is possibly wrong. . . . As soon as you do that, you start sliding down an edge which is hard to recover from. . . .”
"

—Richard Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (1981)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Irving Berlin

Irving Berlin

On this date in 1888, Irving Berlin (né Israel Baline) was born in Russia. He immigrated with his family to New York City at age 5. After his first wife died, Berlin, at 37, eloped with 22-year-old Ellin Mackay, a socialite and Roman Catholic, in a secular, civil ceremony. Her father disinherited her for marrying outside the faith. All three of their children shared "our father's agnosticism and sidestep our husband's faiths," his daughter Mary Ellin Bennett wrote in her book, Irving Berlin: A Daughter's Memoir. The celebrated composer of 1,500 popular songs wrote "God Bless America" as a show tune in 1918 for the musical " Yip, Yip Yaphank," but discarded it. He later revived and revised it when Kate Smith was looking for a peace anthem to sing in 1938. His daughter wrote that her father was "not a religious person" and opposed the drive to turn "God Bless America" into the national anthem. As Thousands Cheer biographer Laurence Bergreen writes: " 'God Bless America' revealed that patriotism was Irving Berlin's true religion. It evoked the same emotional response in him that conventional religious belief summoned in others; it was his rock." One of Berlin's lesser-known songs reveals his irreverent side, the rollicking "Pack Up Your Sins and Go to the Devil in Hades." (For more detail, see Irving Berlin the Agnostic: Patriotism was his religion.) D. 1989.

"Paradise doesn't compare.
All the nice people are there. [hell]
They come there from everywhere
Just to revel with Mister Devil."

—Irving Berlin, rf.org/shop/music/details.php?ID=CD1

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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