Mozart owned a pet starling, which he taught to whistle the theme from the last movement of his G major Piano Concerto. On May 27, 1784, the starling died. Mozart’s friends were required to attend the funeral, sing hymns at the graveside and listen to a recitation of a poem Mozart had written to honour the occasion.
Sir Isaac Newton was a cold, austere and difficult man. The slightest criticism of his work drove him into a furious rage, and his life was blighted by vicious feuds with other eminent mathematicians. A hypochondriac, obsessive, neurotic homosexual, he had no friends to speak of.
Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, established the first model of American democracy after he was expelled from Plymouth, Massachusetts for his “extreme views” on freedom of speech and religion.
Jose de San Martin
US State papers dating from 1994 released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that, during the Gulf War, the Pentagon toyed with the idea of developing an aphrodisiac bomb that would cause enemy troops to find each other sexually irresistible. An alternative was to make enemy troops sexually attractive to stinging and biting insects and rodents. They also spent 50 years looking into a stink bomb that would produce smells leading enemy troops to think one of them had farted or suddenly developed bad breath.
Jose de San Martin (1778-1850) is Argentina’s national hero. After successfully liberating Argentina from Spain in 1816, he went on to help liberate Chile and Peru. A polite and sophisticated man, he was dispirited by the internal power squabbles that followed independence, and left to spend the rest of his life in France.