This Week In History: March 2 – 6

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This week in history we’ll look at the lives of two very important individuals whose birthdays we will celebrate over the coming days. Their creativity and innovation have proved crucial to the development of human culture, so we shall honor them in this way. 


Photo in the    Library of Congress

Photo in the Library of Congress

On March 2, 1904, 116 years ago, Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. Geisel was an incredibly intelligent individual, attending both Dartmouth College and Oxford University. While his education could have provided a lucrative and steady career, he wanted to become a professional cartoonist and press his luck in the competitive American publishing industry. In 1937, Geisel’s first children’s book, “And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street,” was finally published after over two dozen rejections. If you didn’t recognize the title, you are not alone, as this book was not the hit Geisel had hoped for. 

It was not until 1957 when Geisel achieved fame as the legendary Dr. Seuss following the publishing of “The Cat in the Hat.” It was at this moment when Seuss’s zany characters and distinct cartoons would become a permanent part of American pop culture. Later stories, like “Green Eggs and Ham” would prove that if rhyming two words was too difficult, you could always make up a new word to keep the story moving. 

One of the most impressive aspects of Geisel’s stories was that while they were aimed at children, they often criticized society and sought to evoke bigger conversations. For example, “The Sneetches” (1961) dealt with prejudice, “The Lorax” (1971) rose environmental awareness and “The Butter Battle Book” (1984) satirized the buildup of nuclear weaponry during the Reagan administration. 


Michelangelo's David (1501-1504) in Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence.  Photo by    Jörg Bittner Unna

Michelangelo’s David (1501-1504) in Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. Photo by Jörg Bittner Unna

On March 6, 1475, 545 years ago, Michelangelo Buonarroti was born in Caprese, Italy. Arguably the greatest artist of the Italian Renaissance, Michelangelo grew up in the Republic of Tuscany, ruled by the wealthy and powerful Medici family. At the age of 13, after showing promise in his apprenticeship, he was brought under the protection of the patriarch of the Medici family: Lorenzo de’ Medici, the leader of Florence.  

Michelangelo came of age at the cusp of the Italian Renaissance, with influence from masters like Giotto, Donatello, Masaccio, Brunelleschi, Botticelli and Da Vinci. He first showed skill in sculptures, with “Pieta” in 1498 and “David” in 1504. Both works showed Michelangelo’s attention to detail, and perfectionism, garnering fame in Rome, Florence and the rest of the Christian world.  

His most famous work, however, was not a sculpture, but rather the epic frescoes of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Completed over the course of four years, Michelangelo insisted on doing it entirely on his own. The Sistine Chapel ceiling is now regarded worldwide as a masterpiece, with the most famous panel, “The Creation of Adam,” exemplifying Michelangelo’s talent, skill and knowledge of human anatomy. 

While genius is not a word you can often throw around, I think these two men deserve credit for the way in which they have impacted art and literature. I’d like to end by wishing both Dr. Seuss and Michelangelo, a very happy birthday!  


Gino Giansanti is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at gino.giansanti_jr@uconn.edu.

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