April 26

There are 3 entries for this date: Samantha Cristoforetti David Hume Eugène Delacroix

    David Hume

    David Hume

    On this date in 1711, David Hume was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. The influential empiricist philosopher was raised by his widowed mother, a strict Calvinist. He entered the University of Edinburgh at age 11 and studied there for three years, after which he was self-educated.

    His first philosophical book, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739-40), was guardedly skeptical (making references to “monkish virtues”). Critics used the book to deny Hume a teaching position at the University of Edinburgh and later at Glasgow University. Through this controversy, Hume humorously wrote a friend that he was “a sober, discreet, virtuous, frugal, regular, quiet, good-natured man, of a bad character.” (Cited in 2000 Years of Disbelief by James A. Haught.) Hume was finally granted a relatively congenial position as librarian at Edinburgh University in 1752.

    In Essays, Moral, Political and Literary (1741), Hume dismissed priests as “the pretenders to power and dominion, and to a superior sanctity of character, distinct from virtue and good morals.” In An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), he famously asserted that “a miracle can never be proved, so as to be the foundation of a system of religion.” Hume defined a miracle as “a violation of the laws of nature.”

    His other books include The Natural History of Religion, which Hume, who was dying of cancer, arranged to be published posthumously. In The Natural History of Religion, Hume wrote: “Examine the religious principles which have, in fact, prevailed in the world, and you will scarcely be persuaded that they are anything but sick men’s dreams.” In the same work, Hume called the god of the Calvinists “a most cruel, unjust, partial and fantastical being.”

    Hume also wrote The History of England (six volumes, 1754-61). The charitable and cheerful Hume was well-respected by fellow Britons, clergy excepted, and was on friendly terms with Adam Smith and Edward Gibbon. D. 1776.

    “The Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one.”

    — Hume, "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" (1748)
    © Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

    Eugène Delacroix

    Eugène Delacroix

    On this date in 1798, Eugène Delacroix was born in France. The painter was part of the Romantic movement and was known for such swashbuckling and colorful canvases as “Liberty Leading the People to the Barricades,” which marked the Revolution of 1830. One of his quieter canvases was a poignant, unfinished portrait of Chopin, which hangs in the Louvre.

    Art historian Étienne Moreau-Nélaton wrote that Delacroix read and agreed with Diderot and Voltaire and had a secular funeral. D. 1863.

    “He wasn’t a practicing Christian. The subjects of his religious works were mainly well-known themes from the New Testament.”

    — Biographical entry on Delacroix from Art and the Bible website
    © Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

    Samantha Cristoforetti

    Samantha Cristoforetti

    On this date in 1977, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti was born in Milan to Antonella and Sergio Cristoforetti. She completed her secondary education at the Liceo Scientifico in Trento in 1996 after having spent a year in Minnesota as a foreign exchange student at St. Paul Central High School.

    She graduated in 2001 from the Technical University of Munich with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering with specializations in aerospace propulsion and lightweight structures. She wrote her master’s thesis on solid rocket propellants during a 10-month research stay at the Mendeleev University of Chemical Technologies in Moscow.

    As part of her training for the Italian Air Force Academy, Cristoforetti completed a bachelor’s in aeronautical sciences at the University of Naples Federico II in 2005. She earned her fighter pilot wings in 2006 after a joint Euro-NATO training program at Sheppard Air Force Base near Wichita Falls, Texas. She was selected in 2009 as an astronaut by the European Space Agency (ESA) from among over 8,000 applicants, becoming Italy’s first female astronaut.

    In 2014 she flew with an American and a Russian astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS) in low Earth orbit. The ISS is jointly owned and operated by the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and the ESA. As flight engineer, she stayed 199 days, setting the record for the longest single space flight by a woman until it was broken by American Peggy Whitson in 2017.

    Mattel had honored Cristoforetti as a Barbie Shero, “a woman who has broken boundaries in order to inspire the next generation,” and her Barbie Role Model doll in a spacesuit floated in zero gravity next to her aboard the ISS. She had grown up enchanted by Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek,” and one day she posted a photo of her wearing a Starfleet pin and giving the Vulcan salute.

    She is also a fan of Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” A short video she made in space to memorialize Adams on her next mission got over 17 million views on TikTok. It shows her using a towel for various tasks, including drying her hair, and ends with “Happy Towel Day. And remember, don’t panic and always know where your towel is.” A towel is “just about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can carry” for practical and psychological reasons, Adams declared in the guide.

    Cristoforetti’s second trip to the ISS launched in April 2022. She carried out the first spacewalk by a European woman and became the first European female commander of the ISS during her mission before coming home to Cologne, Germany, in October 2022.

    At home were her husband, Lionel Ferra, a native of France employed by the ESA, and their children: Kelsi Amel (b. 2016) and Dorian Lev (b. 2021). Cristoforetti speaks Italian, English, German, French, Russian and Chinese. She published “Diary of an Apprentice Astronaut” in 2020, which was translated from Italian.

    Asked once if it was harder becoming an astronaut or a mother, she replied: “I don’t know what was more difficult. In general, I think we should free ourselves from ‘ranking’ things the way journalists do. Real life experiences aren’t like that, you can’t quantify them.” (Sisters of Europe online, February 2019)

    Her ESA bio says she “is an avid reader with a passion for science and technology, and an equal interest in humanities. … Occasionally she finds the time to hike, scuba dive or practice yoga.”

    PHOTO: Cristoforetti in orbit about 250 miles from Earth; ESA/NASA photo.

    “ ‘Of all the souls I have encountered … his was the most human.’ Thx @TheRealNimoy for bringing Spock to life for us.”

    — @AstroSamantha tweet by Cristoforetti honoring Leonard Nimoy the day after he died, slightly shortening a line by James Kirk eulogizing Spock in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (Feb. 28, 2015)
    —Compiled by Bill Dunn
    © Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

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