Monday, 30 September 2019


Truman Capote
Today, The Grandma has received the visit of her closer friend Jordi Santanyí, who is a great writer.

He and The Grandma have in common their passion for Literature and they have decided to talk about Truman Capote the American writer, a great genius of nonfiction novel who was born on a day like today in 1924. Capote was a controversial writer whose legacy is still alive and whose works are a must of Universal Literature. The Grandma has remembered one of her favourite films, a Neil Simon's murder mystery Murder by Death (1976) where Capote has a main role as an actor.

Truman Garcia Capote (September 30, 1924-August 25, 1984) was an American novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, playwright, and actor.

Several of his short stories, novels, and plays have been praised as literary classics, including the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's (1958) and the true crime novel In Cold Blood (1966), which he labeled a nonfiction novel. At least 20 films and television dramas have been produced from his work.

Capote rose above a childhood troubled by divorce, a long absence from his mother, and multiple migrations. He had discovered his calling as a writer by the age of 8, and for the rest of his childhood he honed his writing ability. 

Capote began his professional career writing short stories. The critical success of one story, Miriam (1945), attracted the attention of Random House publisher Bennett Cerf, and resulted in a contract to write the novel Other Voices, Other Rooms (1948).

Capote earned the most fame with In Cold Blood, a journalistic work about the murder of a Kansas farm family in their home. He spent four years writing the book aided by his lifelong friend Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird (1960).

A milestone in popular culture, In Cold Blood was the peak of Capote's literary career. In the 1970s, he maintained his celebrity status by appearing on television talk shows.

Truman Capote
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Capote was the son of 17-year-old Lillie Mae Faulk (1905-1954) and salesman Archulus Persons (1897-1981). His parents divorced when he was 4, and he was sent to Monroeville, Alabama, where, for the following four to five years, he was raised by his mother's relatives. He formed a fast bond with his mother's distant relative, Nanny Rumbley Faulk, whom Truman called Sook. Her face is remarkable -not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind, is how Capote described Sook in A Christmas Memory (1956). In Monroeville, he was a neighbor and friend of author Harper Lee, who probably based the character Dill on Capote.

In 1932, he moved to New York City to live with his mother and her second husband, José García Capote, a Canarian-born textile broker from La Palma, who adopted him as his stepson and renamed him Truman García Capote. However, José was convicted of embezzlement and shortly afterwards, when his income crashed, the family was forced to leave Park Avenue.

More information: The New York Times

While still attending Franklin in 1942, Capote began working as a copyboy in the art department at The New Yorker, a job he held for two years before being fired for angering poet Robert Frost.

Years later, he reflected, Not a very grand job, for all it really involved was sorting cartoons and clipping newspapers. Still, I was fortunate to have it, especially since I was determined never to set a studious foot inside a college classroom. I felt that either one was or wasn't a writer, and no combination of professors could influence the outcome. I still think I was correct, at least in my own case. He left his job to live with relatives in Alabama and began writing his first novel, Summer Crossing.

Capote based the character of Idabel in Other Voices, Other Rooms on his Monroeville neighbour and best friend, Harper Lee. Capote once acknowledged this: Mr. and Mrs. Lee, Harper Lee's mother and father, lived very near. She was my best friend. Did you ever read her book, To Kill a Mockingbird? I'm a character in that book, which takes place in the same small town in Alabama where we lived. Her father was a lawyer, and she and I used to go to trials all the time as children. We went to the trials instead of going to the movies. After Lee was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and Capote published In Cold Blood in 1966, the authors became increasingly distant from each other.

Truman Capote
Capote began writing short stories from around the age of 8. In 2013, the Swiss publisher Peter Haag discovered 14 unpublished stories, written when Capote was a teenager, in the New York Public Library Archives. Random House published these in 2015, under the title The Early Stories of Truman Capote.

Between 1943 and 1946, Capote wrote a continual flow of short fiction, including Miriam, My Side of the Matter, and Shut a Final Door, for which he won the O. Henry Award in 1948, at the age of 24. His stories were published in both literary quarterlies and well-known popular magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Bazaar, Harper's Magazine, Mademoiselle, The New Yorker, Prairie Schooner, and Story. In June 1945, Miriam was published by Mademoiselle and went on to win a prize, Best First-Published Story, in 1946. In the spring of 1946, Capote was accepted at Yaddo, the artists and writers colony at Saratoga Springs, New York.

Random House, the publisher of his novel Other Voices, Other Rooms, moved to capitalize on this novel's success with the publication of A Tree of Night and Other Stories in 1949. In addition to Miriam, this collection also includes Shut a Final Door, first published in The Atlantic Monthly (August 1947).

After A Tree of Night, Capote published a collection of his travel writings, Local Color (1950), which included nine essays originally published in magazines between 1946 and 1950.

More information: The Guardian

A Christmas Memory, a largely autobiographical story taking place in the 1930s, was published in Mademoiselle magazine in 1956. It was issued as a hard-cover stand alone edition in 1966 and has since been published in many editions and anthologies.

Some time in the 1940s, Capote wrote a novel set in New York City about the summer romance of a socialite and a parking lot attendant. Capote later claimed to have destroyed the manuscript of this novel; but twenty years after his death, in 2004, it came to light that the manuscript had been retrieved from the trash back in 1950 by a house sitter at an apartment formerly occupied by Capote.

Truman Capote
The critical success of one of his short stories, Miriam (1945), attracted the attention of the publisher Bennett Cerf, resulting in a contract with Random House to write a novel. With an advance of $1,500, Capote returned to Monroeville and began Other Voices, Other Rooms, continuing to work on the manuscript in New Orleans, Saratoga Springs, New York, and North Carolina, eventually completing it in Nantucket, Massachusetts. It was published in 1948.

Capote described this symbolic tale as a poetic explosion in highly suppressed emotion. The novel is a semi-autobiographical refraction of Capote's Alabama childhood.

In the early 1950s, Capote took on Broadway and films, adapting his 1951 novella, The Grass Harp, into a 1952 play of the same name, later a 1971 musical and a 1995 film, followed by the musical House of Flowers (1954), which spawned the song A Sleepin' Bee. Capote co-wrote with John Huston the screenplay for Huston's film Beat the Devil (1953). Traveling through the Soviet Union with a touring production of Porgy and Bess, he produced a series of articles for The New Yorker that became his first book-length work of nonfiction, The Muses Are Heard (1956).

In this period he also wrote an autobiographical essay for Holiday Magazine -one of his personal favorites- about his life in Brooklyn Heights in the late 1950s, entitled Brooklyn Heights: A Personal Memoir (1959).

More information: Factinate

Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Stories (1958) brought together the title novella and three shorter tales: House of Flowers, A Diamond Guitar and A Christmas Memory. The heroine of Breakfast at Tiffany's, Holly Golightly, became one of Capote's best known creations, and the book's prose style prompted Norman Mailer to call Capote the most perfect writer of my generation.
The new book, In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences (1965), was inspired by a 300 word article that ran in the November 16, 1959 The New York Times. The story described the unexplained murder of the Clutter family in rural Holcomb, Kansas, and quoted the local sheriff as saying, This is apparently the case of a psychopathic killer.

Truman Capote
Capote was openly homosexual. One of his first serious lovers was Smith College literature professor Newton Arvin, who won the National Book Award for his Herman Melville biography in 1951 and to whom Capote dedicated Other Voices, Other Rooms.

La Côte Basque 1965 was published as an individual chapter in Esquire magazine in November 1975. The catty beginning to his still-unfinished novel, Answered Prayers, marks the catalyst of the social suicide of Truman Capote.

In the late 1970s, Capote was in and out of drug rehabilitation clinics, and news of his various breakdowns frequently reached the public.

Andy Warhol, who had looked up to the writer as a mentor in his early days in New York and often partied with Capote at Studio 54, agreed to paint Capote's portrait as a personal gift in exchange for Capote's contributing short pieces to Warhol's Interview magazine every month for a year in the form of a column, Conversations with Capote.

More information: Learning English

After the revocation of his driver's license, the result of speeding near his Long Island residence, and a hallucinatory seizure in 1980 that required hospitalization, Capote became fairly reclusive. These hallucinations continued unabated and medical scans eventually revealed that his brain mass had perceptibly shrunk.

On the rare occasions when he was lucid, he continued to promote Answered Prayers as being nearly complete and was reportedly planning a reprise of the Black and White Ball to be held either in Los Angeles or a more exotic locale in South America.

On a few occasions, he was still able to write. In 1982, a new short story, One Christmas, appeared in the December issue of Ladies' Home Journal; the following year it became, like its predecessors A Christmas Memory and The Thanksgiving Visitor, a holiday gift book.

In 1983, Remembering Tennessee, an essay in tribute to Tennessee Williams, who had died in February of that year, appeared in Playboy magazine.

Capote died in Bel Air, Los Angeles, on August 25, 1984, a month before his 60th birthday.

More information: Archive

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about,
but the inner music that words make.

Truman Capote

Sunday, 29 September 2019


The Grandma visited Washington National Cathedral
On a day like today in 1990, the construction of Washington National Cathedral was completed. This cathedral is a beautiful building that stands in the capital of the United States.

The Grandma wants to commemorate this day because this cathedral is special for her. She visited Washington some years ago and she was impressed with the beauty of the city, its architecture and its design. When she visited the National Cathedral, she was astonished to see an incredible and amazing grotesque that represents Darth Vader, one of the great villains of Star Wars. It was a surprise and the best representation of current art, not a long time ago and not in a galaxy far, far away...

The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, commonly known as Washington National Cathedral, is an American cathedral of the Episcopal Church. The cathedral is located in Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States.

The structure is of Neo-Gothic design closely modeled on English Gothic style of the late fourteenth century. It is both the second-largest church building in the United States, and the fourth-tallest structure in Washington, D.C. The cathedral is the seat of both the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and the bishop of the Diocese of Washington.

More information: Cathedral

The Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation, under the first seven Bishops of Washington, erected the cathedral under a charter passed by the United States Congress on January 6, 1893.

Construction began on September 29, 1907, when the foundation stone was laid in the presence of President Theodore Roosevelt and a crowd of more than 20,000, and ended 83 years later when the final finial was placed in the presence of President George H. W. Bush in 1990.

Decorative work, such as carvings and statuary, is ongoing as of 2011. The Foundation is the legal entity of which all institutions on the Cathedral Close are a part; its corporate staff provides services for the institutions to help enable their missions, conducts work of the Foundation itself that is not done by the other entities, and serves as staff for the Board of Trustees. 

Inside Washington National Cathedral
The cathedral stands at Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues in the northwest quadrant of Washington. It is an associate member of the recently organized inter-denominational Washington Theological Consortium. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1792, Pierre L'Enfant's Plan of the Federal City set aside land for a great church for national purposes. The National Portrait Gallery now occupies that site. In 1891, a meeting was held to renew plans for a national cathedral. On January 6, 1893, the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation of the District of Columbia was granted a charter from Congress to establish the cathedral.

The 52nd United States Congress declared in the act to incorporate the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation of the District of Columbia that the said corporation is hereby empowered to establish and maintain within the District of Columbia a cathedral and institutions of learning for the promotion of religion and education and charity.

The commanding site on Mount Saint Alban was chosen. Henry Yates Satterlee, first Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Washington, chose George Frederick Bodley, Britain's leading Anglican church architect, as the head architect. Henry Vaughan was selected supervising architect. 

More information: Washington, DC
When construction of the cathedral resumed after a brief hiatus for World War I, both Bodley and Vaughan had died. Gen. John J. Pershing led fundraising efforts for the church after World War I. American architect Philip Hubert Frohman took over the design of the cathedral and was thenceforth designated the principal architect. Funding for Washington National Cathedral has come entirely from private sources. Maintenance and upkeep continue to rely entirely upon private support.

From its earliest days, the cathedral has been promoted as more than simply an Episcopal cathedral. Planners hoped it would play a role similar to England's Westminster Abbey. They wanted it to be a national shrine and a venue for great services.

For much of the cathedral's history, this was captured in the phrase a house of prayer for all people. In more recent times the phrases national house of prayer and spiritual home for the nation have been used. The cathedral has achieved this status simply by offering itself and being accepted by religious and political leaders as playing this role. 
Inside Washington National Cathedral
Its initial charter was similar to those granted to American University, Catholic University of America, and other not-for-profit entities founded in the District of Columbia around 1900. Contrary to popular misconception, the government has not designated it as a national house of prayer.

During World War II, monthly services were held there on behalf of a united people in a time of emergency. Before and since, the structure has hosted other major events, both religious and secular, that have drawn the attention of the American people, as well as tourists from around the world.

The cathedral's final design shows a mix of influences from the various Gothic architectural styles of the Middle Ages, identifiable in its pointed arches, flying buttresses, a variety of ceiling vaulting, stained-glass windows and carved decorations in stone, and by its three similar towers, two on the west front and one surmounting the crossing.

The structure consists of a long, narrow rectangular mass formed by a nine-bay nave with wide side aisles and a five-bay chancel, intersected by a six bay transept. Above the crossing, rising 92 m above the ground, is the Gloria in Excelsis Tower; its top, at 206 m above sea level, is the highest point in Washington.

The Pilgrim Observation Gallery -which occupies a space about 3/4ths of the way up in the west-end towers -provides sweeping views of the city. 

Unique in North America, the central tower has two full sets of bells- a 53-bell carillon and a 10-bell peal for change ringing; the change bells are rung by members of the Washington Ringing Society. The cathedral sits on a landscaped 23 ha plot on Mount Saint Alban. The one-story porch projecting from the south transept has a large portal with a carved tympanum. This portal is approached by the Pilgrim Steps, a long flight of steps 12 m wide.

More information: Saving Places

Most of the building is constructed using a buff-colored Indiana limestone over a traditional masonry core. Structural, load-bearing steel is limited to the roof's trusses, traditionally built of timber; concrete is used significantly in the support structures for bells of the central tower, and the floors in the west towers.

The pulpit was carved out of stones from Canterbury Cathedral; Glastonbury Abbey provided stone for the bishop's formal seat, the cathedra. The high altar, the Jerusalem Altar, is made from stones quarried at Solomon's Quarry near Jerusalem, reputedly where the stones for Solomon's Temple were quarried. In the floor directly in front of that altar are set ten stones from the Chapel of Moses on Mount Sinai, representing the Ten Commandments as a foundation for the Jerusalem Altar.

There are many other works of art including over two hundred stained glass windows, the most familiar of which may be the Space Window, honoring mankind's landing on the Moon, which includes a fragment of lunar rock at its center; the rock was presented at the dedication service on July 21, 1974, the fifth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

Extensive wrought iron adorns the building, much of it the work of Samuel Yellin. A substantial gate of forged iron by Albert Paley was installed on the north side of the crypt level in 2008. Intricate woodcarving, wall-sized murals and mosaics, and monumental cast bronze gates can also be found.
Darth Vader Grotesque, Washington National Cathedral
Most of the interior decorative elements have Christian symbolism, in reference to the church's Episcopal roots, but the cathedral is filled with memorials to persons or events of national significance: statues of Washington and Lincoln, state seals embedded in the marble floor of the narthex, state flags that hang along the nave, stained glass commemorating events like the Lewis and Clark expedition and the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima.

The cathedral was built with several intentional flaws in keeping with an apocryphal medieval custom that sought to illustrate that only God can be perfect.

Artistically speaking, these flaws, which often come in the form of intentional asymmetries, draw the observer's focus to the sacred geometry as well as compensate for visual distortions, a practice that has been used since the Pyramids and the Parthenon. The architects designed the crypt chapels in Norman, Romanesque, and Transitional styles predating the Gothic, as though the cathedral had been built as a successor to earlier churches, a common occurrence in European cathedrals.

Numerous grotesques and gargoyles adorn the exterior, most of them designed by the carvers; one of the more famous of these is a caricature of then-master carver Roger Morigi on the north exterior of the nave. There were also two competitions held for the public to provide designs to supplement those of the carvers. The second of these produced the famous Darth Vader grotesque which is high on the northwest tower, sculpted by Jay Hall Carpenter and carved by Patrick J. Plunkett.

More information: Atlas Obscura

The west facade follows an iconographic program of the creation of the world rather than that of the Last Judgement as was traditional in medieval churches. All of the sculptural work was designed by Frederick Hart and features tympanum carvings of the creation of the Sun and Moon over the outer doors and the creation of man over the center. Hart also sculpted the three statues of Adam and Saints Peter and Paul.

The west doors are cast bronze rather than wrought iron. The west rose window, often used as a trademark of the cathedral, was designed by Rowan leCompte and is an abstract depiction of the creation of light. LeCompte, who also designed the clerestory windows and the mosaics in the Resurrection Chapel, chose a nonrepresentational design because he feared that a figural window could fail to be seen adequately from the great distance to the nave.

The cathedral contains a basement, which was intentionally flooded during the Cuban Missile Crisis to provide emergency drinking water in the event of a nuclear war.

More information: The Culture Trip

I'm not a religious person. But, when I look at a beautiful cathedral,
what brings awe, what induces awe is the idea that architecture,
you know, a beautiful cathedral, a beautiful building.

Jason Silva

Saturday, 28 September 2019


Alexander Fleming in Barcelona, 1948
The last days of May and the first of June of the year 1948 citizens applaused in some streets of the city of Barcelona nor any elite artist either sportsman. Citizens claimed a scientist who came to visit the city in response to the invitation of Dr. Lluís Trias de Bes, director of the Municipal Hospital of Infectious.

The illustrious visitor who was cheered on the streets was the Nobel Prize Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.

The Grandma remembers that event because she was one of thousands of admirers who appreciated the work of Alexander Fleming. Today, she wants to homage this Scottish biologist and pharmacologist who discovered penicillin when he noticed a bacteria-killing mould growing in his laboratory.

Sir Alexander Fleming (6 August 1881-11 March 1955) was a Scottish biologist, physician, microbiologist, and pharmacologist.

His best-known discoveries are the enzyme lysozyme in 1923 and the world's first antibiotic substance benzylpenicillin (Penicillin G) from the mould Penicillium notatum in 1928, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain. He wrote many articles on bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy.

Fleming was knighted for his scientific achievements in 1944. In 1999, he was named in Time magazine's list of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th century. In 2002, he was chosen in the BBC's television poll for determining the 100 Greatest Britons, and in 2009, he was also voted third greatest Scot in an opinion poll conducted by STV, behind only Robert Burns and William Wallace.

Born on 6 August 1881 at Lochfield farm near Darvel, in Ayrshire, Scotland, Alexander was the third of four children of farmer Hugh Fleming (1816–1888) from his second marriage to Grace Stirling Morton (1848–1928), the daughter of a neighbouring farmer. Hugh Fleming had four surviving children from his first marriage. He was 59 at the time of his second marriage, and died when Alexander was seven.

Alexander Fleming
Fleming went to Loudoun Moor School and Darvel School, and earned a two-year scholarship to Kilmarnock Academy before moving to London, where he attended the Royal Polytechnic Institution.

After working in a shipping office for four years, the twenty-year-old Alexander Fleming inherited some money from an uncle, John Fleming. His elder brother, Tom, was already a physician and suggested to him that he should follow the same career, and so in 1903, the younger Alexander enrolled at St Mary's Hospital Medical School in Paddington; he qualified with an MBBS degree from the school with distinction in 1906.

Fleming had been a private in the London Scottish Regiment of the Volunteer Force since 1900, and had been a member of the rifle club at the medical school. The captain of the club, wishing to retain Fleming in the team, suggested that he join the research department at St Mary's, where he became assistant bacteriologist to Sir Almroth Wright, a pioneer in vaccine therapy and immunology.

More information: Historic UK

In 1908, he gained a BSc degree with Gold Medal in Bacteriology, and became a lecturer at St Mary's until 1914. Fleming served throughout World War I as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps, and was Mentioned in Dispatches. He and many of his colleagues worked in battlefield hospitals at the Western Front in France. In 1918 he returned to St Mary's Hospital, where he was elected Professor of Bacteriology of the University of London in 1928. In 1951 he was elected the Rector of the University of Edinburgh for a term of three years.

During World War I, Fleming witnessed the death of many soldiers from sepsis resulting from infected wounds. Antiseptics, which were used at the time to treat infected wounds, often worsened the injuries.

By 1927, Fleming had been investigating the properties of staphylococci. He was already well known from his earlier work, and had developed a reputation as a brilliant researcher, but his laboratory was often untidy. On 3 September 1928, Fleming returned to his laboratory having spent August on holiday with his family. Before leaving, he had stacked all his cultures of staphylococci on a bench in a corner of his laboratory.

Alexander Fleming
On returning, Fleming noticed that one culture was contaminated with a fungus, and that the colonies of staphylococci immediately surrounding the fungus had been destroyed, whereas other staphylococci colonies farther away were normal, famously remarking That's funny.

Fleming showed the contaminated culture to his former assistant Merlin Pryce, who reminded him, That's how you discovered lysozyme.

Fleming grew the mould in a pure culture and found that it produced a substance that killed a number of disease-causing bacteria. He identified the mould as being from the genus Penicillium, and, after some months of calling it mould juice, named the substance it released penicillin on 7 March 1929. The laboratory in which Fleming discovered and tested penicillin is preserved as the Alexander Fleming Laboratory Museum in St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington.

He investigated its positive anti-bacterial effect on many organisms, and noticed that it affected bacteria such as staphylococci and many other Gram-positive pathogens that cause scarlet fever, pneumonia, meningitis and diphtheria, but not typhoid fever or paratyphoid fever, which are caused by Gram-negative bacteria, for which he was seeking a cure at the time. It also affected Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which causes gonorrhoea, although this bacterium is Gram-negative.

More information: The Sunday Post

Fleming published his discovery in 1929, in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology, but little attention was paid to his article. Fleming continued his investigations, but found that cultivating Penicillium was quite difficult, and that after having grown the mould, it was even more difficult to isolate the antibiotic agent.

Fleming's impression was that because of the problem of producing it in quantity, and because its action appeared to be rather slow, penicillin would not be important in treating infection.

Fleming also became convinced that penicillin would not last long enough in the human body (in vivo) to kill bacteria effectively. Many clinical tests were inconclusive, probably because it had been used as a surface antiseptic.

Alexander Fleming
In the 1930s, Fleming's trials occasionally showed more promise, but Fleming largely abandoned penicillin work, leaving Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford to take up research to mass-produce it, with funds from the U.S. and British governments.

They started mass production after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. By D-Day in 1944, enough penicillin had been produced to treat all the wounded in the Allied forces. In Oxford, Ernst Boris Chain and Edward Abraham were studying the molecular structure of the antibiotic. Abraham was the first to propose the correct structure of penicillin. Shortly after the team published its first results in 1940, Fleming telephoned Howard Florey, Chain's head of department, to say that he would be visiting within the next few days. When Chain heard that Fleming was coming, he remarked Good God! I thought he was dead.

More information: Time

Norman Heatley suggested transferring the active ingredient of penicillin back into water by changing its acidity. This produced enough of the drug to begin testing on animals. There were many more people involved in the Oxford team, and at one point the entire Dunn School was involved in its production.

After the team had developed a method of purifying penicillin to an effective first stable form in 1940, several clinical trials ensued, and their amazing success inspired the team to develop methods for mass production and mass distribution in 1945.

Fleming was modest about his part in the development of penicillin, describing his fame as the Fleming Myth and he praised Florey and Chain for transforming the laboratory curiosity into a practical drug.

Fleming was the first to discover the properties of the active substance, giving him the privilege of naming it: penicillin. He also kept, grew, and distributed the original mould for twelve years, and continued until 1940 to try to get help from any chemist who had enough skill to make penicillin. But Sir Henry Harris said in 1998: Without Fleming, no Chain; without Chain, no Florey; without Florey, no Heatley; without Heatley, no penicillin.

Alexander Fleming
Fleming's accidental discovery and isolation of penicillin in September 1928 marks the start of modern antibiotics. Before that, several scientists had published or pointed out that mould or Penicillium sp. were able to inhibit bacterial growth, and even to cure bacterial infections in animals.

Ernest Duchesne in 1897 in his thesis Contribution to the study of vital competition in micro-organisms: antagonism between moulds and microbes, or also Clodomiro Picado Twight whose work at the Institut Pasteur in 1923 on the inhibiting action of fungi of the Penicillin sp. genre in the growth of staphylococci drew little interest from the directors of the Institut at the time.

Fleming was the first to push these studies further by isolating the penicillin, and by being motivated enough to promote his discovery at a larger scale.

Fleming also discovered very early that bacteria developed antibiotic resistance whenever too little penicillin was used or when it was used for too short a period. Almroth Wright had predicted antibiotic resistance even before it was noticed during experiments.

More information: Science History

Fleming cautioned about the use of penicillin in his many speeches around the world. On 26 June 1945, he made the following cautionary statements: the microbes are educated to resist penicillin and a host of penicillin-fast organisms is bred out... In such cases the thoughtless person playing with penicillin is morally responsible for the death of the man who finally succumbs to infection with the penicillin-resistant organism. I hope this evil can be averted. 

He cautioned not to use penicillin unless there was a properly diagnosed reason for it to be used, and that if it were used, never to use too little, or for too short a period, since these are the circumstances under which bacterial resistance to antibiotics develops.

On 11 March 1955, Fleming died at his home in London of a heart attack. He is buried in St Paul's Cathedral.

More information: ACS

It is the lone worker who makes the first advance in a subject;
the details may be worked out by a team,
but the prime idea is due to enterprise,
thought, and perception of an individual.

Alexander Fleming

Friday, 27 September 2019


Edgar Degas
Today, The Grandma has invested in a new project buying a new Edgar Degas' painting for her collection.

She has studied all the possibilities about the picture to obtain and she has been reading more information about Degas to try to understand him and his passion for art.

Edgar Degas (19 July 1834–27 September 1917) was a French artist famous for his paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings. He is especially identified with the subject of dance; more than half of his works depict dancers. Regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, he rejected the term, preferring to be called a realist.

He was a superb draftsman, and particularly masterly in depicting movement, as can be seen in his rendition of dancers, racecourse subjects and female nudes. His portraits are notable for their psychological complexity and for their portrayal of human isolation.

More information: Edgar Degas

At the beginning of his career, Degas wanted to be a history painter, a calling for which he was well prepared by his rigorous academic training and close study of classical art. In his early thirties, he changed course, and by bringing the traditional methods of a history painter to bear on contemporary subject matter, he became a classical painter of modern life.

Degas was born in Paris, France, into a moderately wealthy family. He was the oldest of five children of Célestine Musson De Gas, a Creole from New Orleans, Louisiana, and Augustin De Gas, a banker. His maternal grandfather Germain Musson, was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti of French descent and had settled in New Orleans in 1810.

Edgar Degas
Degas, he adopted this less grandiose spelling of his family name when he became an adult, began his schooling at age eleven, enrolling in the Lycée Louis-le-Grand. His mother died when he was thirteen, and the main influences on him for the remainder of his youth were his father and several unmarried uncles.

Degas began to paint early in life. By the time he graduated from the Lycée with a baccalauréat in literature in 1853, at age 18, he had turned a room in his home into an artist's studio. Upon graduating, he registered as a copyist in The Louvre Museum, but his father expected him to go to law school.

Degas duly enrolled at the Faculty of Law of the University of Paris in November 1853, but applied little effort to his studies. In 1855 he met Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, whom Degas revered and whose advice he never forgot: Draw lines, young man, and still more lines, both from life and from memory, and you will become a good artist.

In April of that year Degas was admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts. He studied drawing there with Louis Lamothe, under whose guidance he flourished, following the style of Ingres. In July 1856, Degas traveled to Italy, where he would remain for the next three years.

More information: The Art Story

In 1858, while staying with his aunt's family in Naples, he made the first studies for his early masterpiece The Bellelli Family. He also drew and painted numerous copies of works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, and other Renaissance artists, but -contrary to conventional practice- he usually selected from an altarpiece a detail that had caught his attention: a secondary figure, or a head which he treated as a portrait.

Upon his return to France in 1859, Degas moved into a Paris studio large enough to permit him to begin painting The Bellelli Family -an imposing canvas he intended for exhibition in the Salon, although it remained unfinished until 1867. He also began work on several history paintings: Alexander and Bucephalus and The Daughter of Jephthah in 1859–60; Sémiramis Building Babylon in 1860; and Young Spartans around 1860.

Edgar Degas
In 1861 Degas visited his childhood friend Paul Valpinçon in Normandy, and made the earliest of his many studies of horses. He exhibited at the Salon for the first time in 1865, when the jury accepted his painting Scene of War in the Middle Ages, which attracted little attention. Although he exhibited annually in the Salon during the next five years, he submitted no more history paintings, and his Steeplechase -The Fallen Jockey (Salon of 1866) signaled his growing commitment to contemporary subject matter.

The change in his art was influenced primarily by the example of Édouard Manet, whom Degas had met in 1864, while both were copying the same Velázquez portrait in the Louvre, according to a story that may be apocryphal.

Upon the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Degas enlisted in the National Guard, where his defense of Paris left him little time for painting. During rifle training his eyesight was found to be defective, and for the rest of his life his eye problems were a constant worry to him.

After the war, Degas began in 1872 an extended stay in New Orleans, Louisiana, where his brother René and a number of other relatives lived. Staying at the home of his Creole uncle, Michel Musson, on Esplanade Avenue, Degas produced a number of works, many depicting family members. One of Degas's New Orleans works, A Cotton Office in New Orleans, garnered favorable attention back in France, and was his only work purchased by a museum, the Pau, during his lifetime.

Degas returned to Paris in 1873 and his father died the following year, whereupon Degas learned that his brother René had amassed enormous business debts. To preserve his family's reputation, Degas sold his house and an art collection he had inherited, and used the money to pay off his brother's debts. Dependent for the first time in his life on sales of his artwork for income, he produced much of his greatest work during the decade beginning in 1874.  

More information: Daily Art Magazine

Disenchanted by now with the Salon, he instead joined a group of young artists who were organizing an independent exhibiting society. The group soon became known as the Impressionists.

Between 1874 and 1886 they mounted eight art shows, known as the Impressionist Exhibitions. Degas took a leading role in organizing the exhibitions, and showed his work in all but one of them, despite his persistent conflicts with others in the group. He had little in common with Monet and the other landscape painters in the group, whom he mocked for painting outdoors.

Conservative in his social attitudes, he abhorred the scandal created by the exhibitions, as well as the publicity and advertising that his colleagues sought. He also deeply disliked being associated with the term Impressionist, which the press had coined and popularized, and insisted on including non-Impressionist artists such as Jean-Louis Forain and Jean-François Raffaëlli in the group's exhibitions. The resulting rancor within the group contributed to its disbanding in 1886.

Edgar Degas
As his financial situation improved through sales of his own work, he was able to indulge his passion for collecting works by artists he admired: old masters such as El Greco and such contemporaries as Manet, Pissarro, Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Édouard Brandon. Three artists he idolized, Ingres, Delacroix, and Daumier, were especially well represented in his collection. In the late 1880s, Degas also developed a passion for photography. He photographed many of his friends, often by lamplight, as in his double portrait of Renoir and Mallarmé. Other photographs, depicting dancers and nudes, were used for reference in some of Degas's drawings and paintings.

As the years passed, Degas became isolated, due in part to his belief that a painter could have no personal life. The Dreyfus Affair controversy brought his anti-Semitic leanings to the fore and he broke with all his Jewish friends. His argumentative nature was deplored by Renoir, who said of him: What a creature he was, that Degas! All his friends had to leave him; I was one of the last to go, but even I couldn't stay till the end.

Although he is known to have been working in pastel as late as the end of 1907, and is believed to have continued making sculptures as late as 1910, he apparently ceased working in 1912, when the impending demolition of his longtime residence on the rue Victor Massé forced him to move to quarters on Boulevard de Clichy. He never married and spent the last years of his life, nearly blind, restlessly wandering the streets of Paris before dying in September 1917.
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Degas is often identified as an Impressionist, an understandable but insufficient description. Impressionism originated in the 1860s and 1870s and grew, in part, from the realism of such painters as Courbet and Corot. The Impressionists painted the realities of the world around them using bright, dazzling colors, concentrating primarily on the effects of light, and hoping to infuse their scenes with immediacy. They wanted to express their visual experience in that exact moment.

Technically, Degas differs from the Impressionists in that he continually belittled their practice of painting en plein air.

Degas, who believed that the artist must live alone, and his private life must remain unknown, lived an outwardly uneventful life.

During his life, public reception of Degas's work ranged from admiration to contempt. As a promising artist in the conventional mode, Degas had a number of paintings accepted in the Salon between 1865 and 1870. These works received praise from Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and the critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary. He soon joined forces with the Impressionists, however, and rejected the rigid rules and judgments of the Salon.

More information: Wiki Art

Only when he no longer knows what he is doing
does the painter do good things.

Edgar Degas

Thursday, 26 September 2019


La Torre del Rellotge, Barceloneta, Barcelona
Today, The Grandma has visited the Port of Barcelona. She likes visiting this place and seeing how many people sail by their fishermen boats, touristic ferries that visit the coast, line cruises that travel from Barcelona to Genoa and Balearic Islands and international cruises that sail along the Mediterranean.

The Port of Barcelona is one of the most important ports of the south of Europe and the activity is frenetic and passionate.

The Grandma likes to seat near La Torre del Rellotge (the Tower of the Clock), the old lighthouse of Barcelona, located in La Barceloneta, the fishermen neighbourhood.

As a new feature of the Barceloneta area, the Torre del Rellotge was very important: it was one of the first lighthouses in the Mediterranean. Designed in 1772 by the engineer Jorge Próspero de Verboom, who was in charge of renovating the entire port, it became an important symbol of the neighbourhood in the 18th century.

Visible from many places in the port, the Torre del Rellotge is located on the famous Moll de Pescadors (fisherman's wharf), which also housed the passport office, the marine command headquarters and the health inspection post during the 18th century. While improvements were being made to Barcelona’s port, a decision was taken in 1904 to convert the defunct lighthouse into a clock tower, which it remains today.

Architecturally, it is a pyramidal stone tower standing on a plinth. Later, in 1904, when it was converted into a clock tower, stucco was added along with the clock housing.

The former lighthouse, also has its own little story: it has the honour of being one of the geodesic points where the scientist Pierre François André Méchain took the measurements he used as the basis of the metric system.

Looking at the horizon and thinking in how many experiences The Grandma have lived, she has remember one of them, one very special when she sailed by the Queen Mary, the British ocean liner that became very famous during the last century and was launched on a day like today in 1934.

The RMS Queen Mary is a retired British ocean liner that sailed primarily on the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967 for the Cunard Line -known as Cunard-White Star Line when the vessel entered service. She was the flagship of the Cunard and White Star Lines, built by John Brown & Company in Clydebank, Scotland.

Queen Mary, along with RMS Queen Elizabeth, were built as part of Cunard's planned two-ship weekly express service between Southampton, Cherbourg and New York. The two ships were a British response to the express superliners built by German, Italian and French companies in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  

Queen Mary was the flagship of the Cunard Line from May 1936 until October 1946 when she was replaced in that role by Queen Elizabeth.

The Grandma greets Queen Mary
Queen Mary sailed on her maiden voyage on 27 May 1936 and won the Blue Riband that August; she lost the title to SS Normandie in 1937 and recaptured it in 1938, holding it until 1952 when she was beaten by the new SS United States. With the outbreak of the Second World War, she was converted into a troopship and ferried Allied soldiers during the war.

Following the war, Queen Mary was refitted for passenger service and along with Queen Elizabeth commenced the two-ship transatlantic passenger service for which the two ships were initially built. The two ships dominated the transatlantic passenger transportation market until the dawn of the jet age in the late 1950s. By the mid-1960s, Queen Mary was ageing and, though still among the most popular transatlantic liners, was operating at a loss.

After several years of decreased profits for Cunard Line, Queen Mary was officially retired from service in 1967. She left Southampton for the last time on 31 October 1967 and sailed to the port of Long Beach, California, United States, where she remains permanently moored. Much of the machinery, including one of the two engine rooms, three of the four propellers, and all of the boilers, were removed.

More information: Queen Mary Shadows

The ship serves as a tourist attraction featuring restaurants, a museum and a hotel. The ship is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has accepted the Queen Mary as part of the Historic Hotels of America.

With Germany launching Bremen and Europa into service, Britain did not want to be left behind in the shipbuilding race. White Star Line began construction on their 80,000-ton Oceanic in 1928, while Cunard planned a 75,000-ton unnamed ship of their own.

Construction on the ship, then known only as Hull Number 534, began in December 1930 on the River Clyde by the John Brown & Company shipyard at Clydebank in Scotland. Work was halted in December 1931 due to the Great Depression and Cunard applied to the British Government for a loan to complete 534. The loan was granted, with enough money to complete the unfinished ship, and also to build a running mate, with the intention to provide the weekly service to New York with just two ships.

One condition of the loan was that Cunard would merge with the White Star Line, which was Cunard's chief British rival at the time and which had already been forced by the depression to cancel construction of its Oceanic.

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Both lines agreed and the merger was completed on 10 May 1934. Work on Queen Mary resumed immediately and she was launched on 26 September 1934. Completion ultimately took ​3 1⁄2 years and cost 3.5 million pounds sterling. Much of the ship's interior was designed and constructed by the Bromsgrove Guild. Prior to the ship's launch, the River Clyde had to be specifically deepened to cope with her size, this being undertaken by the engineer D. Alan Stevenson. 

The Grandma welcomes Queen Mary
The ship was named after Mary of Teck, consort of King George V. Until her launch, the name was kept a closely guarded secret.

Legend has it that Cunard intended to name the ship Victoria, in keeping with company tradition of giving its ships names ending in ia, but when company representatives asked the king's permission to name the ocean liner after Britain's greatest queen, he said his wife, Mary of Teck, would be delighted. And so, the legend goes, the delegation had of course no other choice but to report that No. 534 would be called Queen Mary.

This story was denied by company officials, and traditionally the names of sovereigns have only been used for capital ships of the Royal Navy. Some support for the story was provided by Washington Post editor Felix Morley, who sailed as a guest of the Cunard Line on Queen Mary's 1936 maiden voyage.

In his 1979 autobiography, For the Record, Morley wrote that he was placed at table with Sir Percy Bates, chairman of the Cunard Line. Bates told him the story of the naming of the ship on condition you won't print it during my lifetime. The name Queen Mary could also have been decided upon as a compromise between Cunard and the White Star Line, as both lines had traditions of using names either ending in ic with White Star and ia with Cunard.

The name had already been given to the Clyde turbine steamer TS Queen Mary, so Cunard made an arrangement with its owners and this older ship was renamed Queen Mary II.

Queen Mary was fitted with 24 Yarrow boilers in four boiler rooms and four Parsons turbines in two engine rooms. The boilers delivered 400 pounds per square inch steam at 371 °C which provided a maximum of 158,000 kW to four propellers, each turning at 200 RPM. Queen Mary achieved 32.84 knots on her acceptance trials in early 1936.

More information: Queen Mary Cruises

In 1934 the new liner was launched by Queen Mary as RMS Queen Mary. On her way down the slipway, Queen Mary was slowed by eighteen drag chains, which checked the liner's progress into the River Clyde, a portion of which had been widened to accommodate the launch.

When she sailed on her maiden voyage from Southampton on 27 May 1936, she was commanded by Sir Edgar T. Britten, who had been the master designate for Cunard White Star whilst the ship was under construction at the John Brown shipyard.

Queen Mary measured 80,774 gross register tons (GRT). Her rival Normandie, which originally grossed 79,280 tonnes, had been modified the preceding winter to increase her size to 83,243 GRT, an enclosed tourist lounge was built on the aft boat deck on the area where the game court was, and therefore reclaimed the title of the world's largest ocean liner from the Queen Mary, who only held it for a few weeks.

The Grandma at Queen Mary's arrival, Long Beach
Queen Mary sailed at high speeds for most of her maiden voyage to New York, until heavy fog forced a reduction of speed on the final day of the crossing, arriving in New York Harbor on 1 June 1936.

Queen Mary's design was criticised for being too traditional, especially when Normandie's hull was revolutionary with a clipper-shaped, streamlined bow. Except for her cruiser stern, she seemed to be an enlarged version of her Cunard predecessors from the pre–First World War era. Her interior design, while mostly Art Deco, seemed restrained and conservative when compared to the ultramodern French liner. Queen Mary proved to be the more popular vessel than her larger rival, in terms of passengers carried.

In August 1936, Queen Mary captured the Blue Riband from Normandie, with average speeds of 55.82 km/h westbound and 56.73 km eastbound. Normandie was refitted with a new set of propellers in 1937 and reclaimed the honour, but in 1938 Queen Mary took back the Blue Riband in both directions with average speeds of 57.39 km/h westbound and  58.69 km/h eastbound, records which stood until lost to United States in 1952.

Among facilities available on board Queen Mary, the liner featured two indoor swimming pools, beauty salons, libraries and children's nurseries for all three classes, a music studio and lecture hall, telephone connectivity to anywhere in the world, outdoor paddle tennis courts and dog kennels. The largest room onboard was the cabin class (first class) main dining room (grand salon), spanning three stories in height and anchored by wide columns. The cabin-class swimming pool facility spanned over two decks in height. This was the first ocean liner to be equipped with her own Jewish prayer room  -part of a policy to show that British shipping lines avoided the antisemitism evident at that time in Nazi Germany. 

More information: NBC Los Angeles

The cabin-class main dining room featured a large map of the transatlantic crossing, with twin tracks symbolising the winter/spring route, further south to avoid icebergs, and the summer/autumn route. During each crossing, a motorised model of Queen Mary would indicate the vessel's progress en route.

As an alternative to the main dining room, Queen Mary featured a separate cabin-class Verandah Grill on the Sun Deck at the upper aft of the ship. The Verandah Grill was an exclusive à la carte restaurant with a capacity of approximately eighty passengers, and was converted to the Starlight Club at night. Also on board was the Observation Bar, an Art Deco-styled lounge with wide ocean views.

Woods from different regions of the British Empire were used in her public rooms and staterooms. Accommodation ranged from fully equipped, luxurious cabin (first) class staterooms to modest and cramped third-class cabins. Artists commissioned by Cunard in 1933 for works of art in the interior include Edward Wadsworth and A. Duncan Carse.

Queen Mary in Long Beach, California
In late August 1939, Queen Mary was on a return run from New York to Southampton.

The international situation led to her being escorted by the battlecruiser HMS Hood. She arrived safely, and set out again for New York on 1 September. By the time she arrived, the Second World War had started and she was ordered to remain in port alongside Normandie until further notice.

In March 1940, Queen Mary and Normandie were joined in New York by Queen Mary's new sister ship Queen Elizabeth, fresh from her secret dash from Clydebank. The three largest liners in the world sat idle for some time until the Allied commanders decided that all three ships could be used as troopships. Normandie was destroyed by fire during her troopship conversion.

Queen Mary left New York for Sydney, Australia, where she, along with several other liners, was converted into a troopship to carry Australian and New Zealand soldiers to the United Kingdom.

In the Second World War conversion, the ship's hull, superstructure, and funnels were painted navy grey. As a result of her new colour, and in combination with her great speed, she became known as the Grey Ghost. To protect against magnetic mines, a degaussing coil was fitted around the outside of the hull. Inside, stateroom furniture and decoration were removed and replaced with triple-tiered (fixed) wooden bunks, which were later replaced by standee (fold-up) bunks.

During the war Queen Mary carried British Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic for meetings with fellow Allied forces officials on several occasions. He was listed on the passenger manifest as Colonel Warden.

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Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth dominated the transatlantic passenger trade as Cunard White Star's two-ship weekly express service through the latter half of the 1940s and well into the 1950s.

Queen Mary was retired from service in 1967. On 27 September, she completed her 1,000th and last crossing of the North Atlantic, having carried 2,112,000 passengers over 6,102,998 km.

Queen Mary is permanently moored as a tourist attraction, hotel, museum and event facility in Long Beach. From 1983 to 1993, Howard Hughes' plane H-4 Hercules was located in a large dome nearby. The dome was later repurposed as a soundstage for film and television. The structure is now used by Carnival Cruise Lines as a ship terminal, as a venue for the Long Beach Derby Gals roller derby team and as an event venue.

Since drilling for oil had started in Long Beach Harbor, some of the revenue had been set aside in the Tidelands Oil Fund. Some of this money was allocated in 1958 for the future purchase of a maritime museum for Long Beach.

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On 8 May 1971 Queen Mary opened her doors to tourists. Initially, only portions of the ship were open to the public as Specialty Restaurants had yet to open its dining venues and PSA had not completed work converting the ship's original First Class staterooms into the hotel. As a result, the ship was open only on weekends.

On 11 December 1971 Jacques Cousteau's Museum of the Sea opened, with a quarter of the planned exhibits completed. Within the decade, Cousteau's museum closed due to low ticket sales and the deaths of many of the fish that were housed in the museum.

On 2 November 1972 the PSA Hotel Queen Mary opened its initial 150 guest rooms. Two years later, with all 400 rooms finished, PSA brought in Hyatt Hotels to manage the hotel, which operated from 1974 to 1980 as the Queen Mary Hyatt Hotel.

Following Queen Mary's permanent docking in California, claims were made that the ship was haunted. In 2008, Time magazine included The Queen Mary among its Top 10 Haunted Places.

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We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest.
We must learn to sail in high winds.

Aristotle Onassis