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 3 entries for this date: Frances Hamerstrom , Kerry Packer and Marquise du Châtelet
Frances Hamerstrom

Frances Hamerstrom

On this date in 1907, biologist Frances Hamerstrom was born into a wealthy family in Boston. After her tutoring, horseback-riding and lacemaking lessons, she sought refuge with wild animals--usually injured animals neighborhood kids brought her. The tomboy turned into a social butterfly who flunked out of college and embarked on a short career as a fashion model in the late 1920s. After meeting Frederick Hamerstrom at a Dartmouth prom, whom she soon married, she returned to college. Frederick, known as "Hammy," was the nephew of Clarence Darrow. She earned a degree in biology from Iowa State College in 1935. Both Fran and Hammy worked on advanced degrees under Aldo Leopold in Wisconsin. Fran was the only woman to earn a graduate degree under the ecologist, the only woman to share a nest with a golden eagle, and the first woman to train and fly a golden eagle. The state of Montana offered the pair a job as biologists but told Fran she would be called a secretary--"and they'd pay me like a secretary." Instead they accepted an offer to research the near-extinct prairie chicken in Wisconsin. While raising two children and saving that species, they developed a management system of land patterning. To reach out to the public, Fran wrote Strictly for the Chickens. Her other popular books included An Eagle to the Sky, and children's books, Walk When the Moon Is Full and Adventure of the Stone Man. She also wrote Birding with a Purpose and My Double Life: Memoirs of a Naturalist (1994). The Hamerstrom parents had two rules: "No chewing gum, and no church." Speaking of their 55-year marriage, Fran quipped: "You'll notice that our 'pair bond' has lasted fairly well and I think it's because we're both remarkably tolerant people. He's an agnostic and I'm an atheist, and we've put up with each other all this time!" Fran was critical of "the Christian mentality . . . that one isn't supposed to learn from animals. One is more or less supposed to look down on them, manage them, use them, but not learn from them." D. 1998.

“When I was eight years old, I tried prayer. And it didn't work!”

—Frances Hamerstrom. Speech before 1986 national convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, reported in Freethought Today, January/February 1987.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Kerry Packer

Kerry Packer

On this date in 1937, Kerry Packer was born in Sydney, Australia. His father was the wealthy Sir Frank Packer, an influential figure in Australian publishing and broadcasting. After his father’s death in 1974, Packer inherited Sir Frank Packer’s media legacy: He became head of the Australian Consolidated Press (1974–2005), chairman of Publishing and Broadcasting Limited, and owner of Channel Nine. In 1977, Packer founded World Series Cricket, an independent cricket competition televised on Channel Nine, which provided higher salaries for players and changed the way that cricket was played for television. In order to form World Series Cricket, Packer recruited famous players from traditional cricket teams, making him the subject of worldwide controversy. He married Roslyn Redman Weedon in 1963 and they have two children, James and Gretel.

In 1990, Packer suffered the first of many heart attacks while playing polo. The heart attack left Packer clinically dead, but he was successfully revived after about eight minutes. “Believe me, there is nothing on the other side. I’ve been there,” Packer said of his experience (quoted in a Dec. 27, 2005 BBC News article). D. 2005

“The good news is there’s no devil. The bad news is there’s no heaven. There’s nothing.”

—Kerry Packer, speaking about the time he spent clinically dead after a severe heart attack (quoted in a Reuters News Service article on Dec. 27, 2005).

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Marquise du Châtelet

Marquise du Châtelet

On this date in 1706, Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, later known as Marquise du Châtelet, was born in Paris. The daughter of the Baron de Breteuil, she showed great aptitude and was given broad latitude to study. Émilie was translating Virgil by age 16. She married Marquis Florent du Chastellet in 1725 when she was 18 and he was 34. They had three children before theirs became a marriage in name only (basically an arranged marriage in the first place), although she resisted any idea of divorce. One of their sons was imprisoned and guillotined in 1793 at age 66.

Living a social life in Paris, Émilie met Voltaire. He became her longtime companion under the eyes of her tolerant husband. Voltaire changed the spelling of her name to Châtelet. When Voltaire was facing arrest, they went to live at her husband's country estate at Cirey, where they engaged in some of their most productive years of work and were known for working day and night. Emilie wrote treatises on mathematics, physics and philosophy. She is best-known in France for translating Newton's Principia, which, as the only French translation of that work, was reprinted in 1966. Her philosophical magnum opus, Institutions de Physique (Foundations of Physics), was published in 1740 and was soon translated into several other languages. Posthumously, her ideas were heavily represented in the most famous text of the French Enlightenment, the Encyclopédie of Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond D'Alembert, published shortly after her death.

Du Châtelet began an affair with the poet Jean François de Saint-Lambert in 1748 and gave birth to their daughter, Stanislas-Adélaïde, on Sept. 4, 1749. Du Châtelet died six days later from a pulmonary embolism. She was 42. Her daughter died 20 months later. Du Châtelet had dedicated her Deistic manuscript, Doubts about Revealed Religion, which was posthumously published in 1792, to Voltaire.

Public domain photo of a painting by Maurice Quentin de La Tour.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

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