January 24

There are 3 entries for this date: Garrett Lisi Frederick the Great Joseph Mazzini Wheeler

    Garrett Lisi

    Garrett Lisi

    On this date in 1968, Antony Garrett Lisi was born in Los Angeles. He earned B.S. degrees in physics and mathematics from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1991 and received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of California at San Diego in 1999. After graduation he moved to Hawaii and worked as a snowboard instructor and hiking guide. Lisi briefly taught at the University of Hawaii at Maui in 2005 before deciding to pursue independent research.

    He authored the paper “An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything,” published on the online database arXiv on Nov. 6, 2007. The Theory of Everything, also called the E8 Theory, unites the electromagnetic force, strong force and weak force, as well as gravity and all elementary particles, through the use of the mathematical structure E8. It is an alternative to the popular string theory, which purports that these forces and particles are united by a complex system of vibrating strings.

    The New Yorker called Lisi a “committed atheist” in its issue of July 21, 2008. In 2011 and 2012 he co-hosted “Invention USA,” a History channel documentary series. He lives with his longtime girlfriend, Crystal Baranyk, an artist.

    PHOTO: By Cjean42 of Lisi being interviewed in Los Angeles in 2011. CC 3.0

    “Lisi, an atheist, says the whole notion of God misses the point. He’s not after the creator of the universe — he’s after the universe itself. Everything.”

    —Lisi profile, Maui Time (Feb. 16, 2011)
    Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

    Frederick the Great

    Frederick the Great

    On this date in 1712,  Frederick II, future king of Prussia, was born in Berlin to Frederick William I and Sophia Dorothea of Hanover. Frederick endured a severe military education at the hands of his unsympathetic father, who once beat him publicly when he was 18. Frederick was forced to witness the execution by decapitation of a friend with whom he had planned an escape from Prussia.

    When Frederick ascended the throne in 1740, he instituted many domestic reforms, including the promotion of education and the arts, improved infrastructure, the creation of new industries and, while he was largely irreligious, the enforcement of universal religious toleration.

    He was prey to a violent temper, in part due to porphyritic illness, a nervous system condition that may have led to him being dubbed “the enlightened despot.” Under his sway, his court was turned into an international hub of Enlightenment and culture. He had married Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Bevern in 1733, an arranged union. He was widely believed to have been gay. Frederick and Elisabeth saw little of each other during his reign but remained married until his death. He corresponded for 40 years with Voltaire.

    By the time he died, he had doubled the size of his country. Frederick was the first to codify German law and he reformed the criminal codes and abolished torture. While holding absolute power, he dedicated himself as “first servant of the state” and modernized Prussia. His collected writings fill 31 volumes. He died at age 74. (D. 1786)

    “Theologians are all alike, of whatever religion or country they may be. Their aim is always to wield despotic authority of men’s consciences. They therefore persecute all of us who have the temerity to unveil the truth.”

    —Frederick the Great, letter to Voltaire (Nov. 4, 1736)

    Joseph Mazzini Wheeler

    Joseph Mazzini Wheeler

    On this date in 1850, Joseph Mazzini Wheeler was born in Great Britain. Wheeler, an atheist, is best known as the author of the monumental Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers (1889). Wheeler, who dedicated his life to freethought after moving to London in the early 1870s, was a close friend of freethought editor G.W. Foote. Wheeler also wrote Frauds and Follies of the Fathers (1888), Footsteps of the Past (1895) and co-authored Crimes of Christianity with Foote.

    He served for many years as vice president of the National Secular Society and was a frequent contributor to freethought periodicals. He served as subeditor of the National Secular Society’s publication The Freethinker from its founding in 1881 to his death at age 48. (D. 1898)

    “The merits and services of Christianity have been industriously extolled by its hired advocates. Every Sunday its praises are sounded from myriads of pulpits. It enjoys the prestige of an ancient establishment and the comprehensive support of the State. It has the ear of rulers and the control of education. Every generation is suborned in its favor. Those who dissent from it are losers, those who oppose it are ostracised; while in the past, for century after century, it has replied to criticism with imprisonment, and to scepticism with the dungeon and the stake.”

    —from "Crimes of Christianity" by J.M. Wheeler and G.W. Foote (1887)

Freedom From Religion Foundation