1800-1900

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Darwin

Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) was born at Shrewsbury, England. Becoming interested in entomology and the emerging science of geology, he obtained the position of naturalist on a five-year, world-wide coastal survey. From the information he gathered then and later, Darwin developed a theory that replaced the accepted notion of species being immutable and created separately. Darwin recognized that just as man could could take advantage of small variations in species in selective breeding, nature would likewise select small variations in species when these gave the individuals slight advantages in the struggle for existence. With this theory of evolution by natural selection, Darwin revolutionized biology and related sciences. He also opened the way for an understanding of the position of humanity in nature, providing a rational alternative to centuries of conflicting accounts by different tribes and races of their divine origins. 

         

Tolstoy

Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy (1828-1910) was born at his family’s estate at Yasnaya Polyana, central Russia. At Kazan University he studied law and oriental languages but left before graduating. He published short stories, often based on his military service, and two major novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, that were recognized as masterpieces. War and Peace also represents a theory of history. Tolstoy later found a meaning to life in the simple words of Jesus that were reflected in other great religions and philosophies. Based on his religious thinking, Tolstoy sought to change society by civil disobedience and non-violent resistance, which he urged in writings circulated in Russia and abroad. His love for humanity at large also influenced his theory that enjoyment of art was not to be confined to a privileged few but should reach a wide audience.

 

Hardy

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was born in a village near Dorchester, England. He began writing verse and essays in 1861 and had his first of many novels was published in 1871. After harsh Victorian criticism of his later novels, now recognized as masterpieces, he gave up prose fiction and concentrated on poetry. Hardy's poetry showed a humanistic attention to the basic, universal feelings and concerns of individual people. Commonplace sights, events, and activities are combined with insight into human nature to create a new and lively experience for the reader, achieved by the skilful exploitation of a wide range of meters and verse structures. As the topic of a large number of his poems, love and the relationships between the sexes clearly fascinated him.

 

Sun Yat-sen

Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) was born in a village south of Canton, China. After a traditional Chinese education he transferred to missionary schools in Honolulu, Hawaii. He returned to China to attend Queen’s College and the Medical College at Hong Kong, gaining his medical degree in 1892. Two years later he produced a remarkable document specifying a plan to modernize China. He subsequently founded the Society to Revive China, dedicated to expelling the ruling Manchu Dynasty, establishing a Chinese republic, and bringing relief to the peasants.  Sun was sworn in as President of the first Chinese Republic in 1912. His three basic goals were to restore China as a viable, sovereign nation, to institute a democratic government, and to improve the livelihood of the Chinese people. 

 

Gandhi

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), later known as Mahatma Gandhi, was born in Porbandar, India, where he first went to school. He was the son of Kaba Gandhi, a Prime Minister in Porbandar and a member of a court body for settling disputes between chiefs and their clansmen. His mother and father were deeply religious, and strict vegetarians, as was Gandhi himself. Gandhi devoted his life to public service. In South Africa he successfully developed a special form of non-violent protest (Satyagraha), which led to the removal of discriminatory laws against Indians in the early Twentieth Century. Gandhi focused the latter part of his life to gaining independence for India. Through an extraordinary effort of will he had more impact on this massive undertaking than any other person.

 

Rodó

José Enrique Rodó (1872-1917) was born in Montevideo where he received his primary education but was otherwise largely self-taught. Rodó was a director of the Uruguay National library, and taught Western literature at Montevideo University. He  later became a newspaper editor and a member of parliament, but his primary occupation was in writing essays, literary criticism and journalism. In his philosophical works, Rodó sought to establish moral and aesthetic values that included respect for the cultural traditions of Europe, a desire to develop a unique South American culture (distinct from that of the United States), and a commitment to preserve humanistic values.

 

Zitkala-Ša

Zitkala-Ša ( 1876-1938), later known as Gertrude Bonnin, was born on the Yankton Sioux Reservation, South Dakota. She went to Earlham College, Indiana, where she won prizes for violin and piano performances, and for oratory and singing.  Bonnin published articles under her adopted Indian name, Zitkala-Ša (Red Bird), articulating her outrage at the treatment of indigenous Indians by European immigrants and at the cruel treatment of Indian children. Gertrude Bonnin became secretary of the Society of American Indians, in 1916, moving with her husband to Washington, D.C., where she sought the granting of U.S. citizenship to Indians. For the rest of her life, Gertrude Bonnin and her husband campaigned for recognition of the Indian rights throughout the U.S.