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Although one of the most famous names in the world, we know surprisingly little about William Shakespeare’s life.  He was the son of John Shakespeare, a councillor in Stratford-upon-Avon and was christened on 26 April 1564 although his date of birth is not recorded.  As his father held important roles in the town, it is assumed William attended the local grammar school; certainly, his references to the classics suggest a good classical education. Church records tell that at 18 he married 26 years old Anne Hathaway and she gave birth to their first child 6 months later; the banns were read once not three times and neighbours posted bonds a to the legality of the marriage.  Shakespeare famously “disappears” from written records for seven years ending up in London without his family; there are stories as to what may have happened including one that he left accused of deer poaching. 


Shakespeare bought property in both London and Stratford, including the 2nd largest house in Stafford for his own family.  When James I came to the throne, he became a patron, awarding Shakespeare’s company a royal patent in 1603 and they changed their name to "The King’s Men”.  Shakespeare was also a poet - his famous 154 sonnets being first published in 1609.  Details of when Shakespeare wrote some of his plays are sketchy; indeed, there are many claims that Shakespeare did not write them all. It is believed that "The two Noble Kinsmen "in 1603 may have been his last solo work. It is known that he continued to be involved in writing plays in collaboration with others, such as John Fletcher who took over Shakespeare’s role as company writer.  

Did you know this about Shakespeare..

Shakespeare has been credited by the Oxford English Dictionary with introducing almost 3,000 words to the English language. Estimations of his vocabulary range from 17,000 to a dizzying 29,000 words – at least double the number of words used by the average conversationalist.   We also all use phrases from Shakespeare almost every day, often without realising it. “All that glisters is not gold”, “pound of flesh”, “star crossed lovers” etc. 


Isaac Newton 1643-1727. Newton was born prematurely and was so small he was given little chance of surviving his first day. He was later, aged 3, abandoned by his Mother when she remarried and so he was brought up by his Grandmother. His natural brilliance was recognised by those around him and he subsequently attended Cambridge where he was guided by Isaac Barrow, the first Professor of mathematics at the university, who is believed to have directed the young Newton towards problems such as calculus.


Newton is probably most famous in popular culture for his theory of gravity; although he didn’t “discover” gravity as many claim – things had been falling, planets circling etc. perfectly happily since the dawn of time of time. The famous apple story has little evidence to support it. Newton’s laws of motion and gravity successfully describe most practical cases and stood unchallenged until Einstein made his relativistic improvements. Newton’s laws were certainly good enough to get man to the moon – the tiny relativistic effects were irrelevant.

Did you know this about Newton..

Less well known is Newton’s interest in alchemy – an early cross between magic and chemistry, which concerned itself with impossibilities such as turning metals from one to another (particularly into gold) and the discovery of unlikely substances such as the philosopher’s stone. Newton was also a noted astronomer and designed an efficient type of reflecting telescope which is still referred to as a Newtonian Reflector.


James Watt 1736-1819. Watt was a Scottish engineer. Many people wrongly credit him with the invention of the steam engine but the first patent for a steam engine was given in 1698 and, by the time Watt was born, the Newcomen steam engine was common sight in the mining industry. However, the young Watt was given the job of repairing a Newcomen steam engine and soon realised that it was extremely inefficient. He designed a separate condensing chamber for the steam so that heat could be retained in the working part of the engine increasing the efficiency and power available. These, together with other adaptions, were and he patented by him in 1769


Watt worked in many fields but is famous for his work with steam engines and recognition of which his name was adopted in Britain in 1889 as a unit of power. Interestingly, Watt had been involved the adoption of the “alternative” unit called “horsepower” which the Watt (W) has mostly replaced; your car salesman will probably tell you about the (hp), but the owner’s manual will record the kilo Watts. In 1960 the Watt became the official SI unit of power in 1960 to be used world-wide

Did you know this about Watt..

Fellow inventor and chemist, Sir Humphry Davy once said of Watt, “"Those who consider James Watt only as a great practical mechanic form a very erroneous idea of his character; he was equally distinguished as a natural philosopher and a chemist, and his inventions demonstrate his profound knowledge of those sciences, and that peculiar characteristic of genius, the union of them for practical application"


Edwin Landseer (1802–1873) was a prodigy and exhibited when only 13 at the Royal Academy (with which he had a long association). He was most famous as an animal painter, although he was talented in other areas too, including sculpture. It was even rumoured that he could paint with both hands simultaneously. Despite lifetime problems with his mental health as well as with alcohol and drugs, he was an immensely popular Victorian artist, particularly with the public and was knighted in 1850.

Lansdeer's Arch

In 1858 the government commissioned him to sculpt the 4 lions in Trafalgar Square. In the last few years of his life Landseer suffered from more severe mental illness and, at the request of his family, he was declared insane in July 1872.

Did you know this about Landseer..

On his death, there was much national grief with shops lowering their blinds, flags at half-mast and the Trafalgar lions hung with wreaths; huge crowds lined the streets to watch his funeral cortege pass. Landseer was buried in St Paul's Cathedral, London https://www.pinterest.co.uk/susieegordon/sir-edwin-landseer.