Biographies

The First Celebrity Chef: Marie-Antoine Carême

Today, there is an entire industry around celebrity chefs. But the first celebrity chef in the western world's history was born in late 18th-century France.

Ignaz Semmelweis and the War on Handwashing

Ignaz Semmelweis made a connection between hand hygiene and the prevention of childbed fever in the 19th century. He wasn’t taken seriously then, but today he’s known as everything from the father of infection control to the conqueror of childbed fever.

Constance Markievicz

Born Constance Georgine Gore-Booth to a wealthy Protestant family, Constance Markievicz made a somewhat surprising transition to become a leader in the Irish Nationalist movement.

The Daring Imposter Cassie Chadwick

Cassie Chadwick (born Elizabeth Bigley) committed fraud at a level that would be almost impossible to pull off in today’s world of instant communication. Her biggest con was convincing banks that she was the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie.

The Minuscule Science of Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek

Leeuwenhoek wasn’t REALLY a scientist -- he had no formal training. But he made dozens of scientific discoveries. He’s credited with discovering microscopic life in a variety of forms, using lenses he ground himself.

Giorgio Vasari

Vasari was an artist and architect in 16th-century Italy. But what really made him famous was his writing. He penned biographies of famous artists, but he wasn't exactly exacting about the details.

Phillis Wheatley

Perceptions and interpretations of Phillis Wheatley's life and work have shifted since the 18th century. This episode examines Wheatley's published writing while enslaved, and how her place in the world of black literature rose, fell, and rose again.

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

Gertrude Stein is an icon in the world of modernist literature. Alice B. Toklas is often described as her partner and assistant, but she was also published writer, and “assistant” really doesn't cover how important she was to Stein’s life and work.

Pauline Sabin

The battle over Prohibition is often framed as a battle of the sexes, with women serving as the “moral” voice of sobriety. But a woman named Pauline Sabin is often credited as being one of the major activists behind Prohibition’s repeal.

Aspasia and Pericles

This is often held up as one of history’s great love stories – Plutarch wrote that Pericles kissed Aspasia every single day. And that’s very sweet and romantic, but their high-profile relationship was central to a key period in Greek history.