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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

first woman to receive Doctor of Philosophy ~ this day, 341 years ago !!

All great philosophies and philosophers of the world have been those who made man premier of their teachings. The first entity that man encounters in this boundless universe is his own self. Centuries before, Socrates, who was influenced by Sophism,  asserted that the real subject of man’s knowledge is the man himself. Out of copious philosophers who emerged in ensuing phases some assumed prominence in comparison to others.

Philosophy (from Greek  philosophia, literally "love of wisdom") is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras. Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it?  What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions.     Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge
"The School of Athens" by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino.jpg ~ Wikipedia commons

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, Ph.D., or DPhil; Latin philosophiae doctor or doctor philosophiae) is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities in most English-speaking countries. PhDs are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields.  The completion of a PhD is often a requirement for employment as a university professor, researcher, or scientist in many fields.  Individuals who have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree may, in many jurisdictions, use the title Doctor (often abbreviated "Dr" or "Dr.") .. .. this post is on a woman, the first person to receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia or Elena Lucrezia Corner (1646 – 1684) was a Venetian philosopher of noble descent who in 1678 became one of the first women to receive an academic degree from a university, and the first to receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree.  Elena was born in the Palazzo Loredan, at Venice, Republic of Venice, as the third child of Gianbattista Cornaro-Piscopia and his mistress Zanetta Boni. Her mother was a peasant and her parents were not married at the time of her birth.  Lady Elena was therefore not technically a member of the Cornaro family by birth, as Venetian law barred illegitimate children of nobles from noble privilege, even if recognized by the noble parent. Worse for Zanetta's case, she was from an extremely poor peasant family. Zanetta had likely fled to Venice in order to escape starvation, and soon found herself the mistress of a member of one of the most powerful noble dynasties in the Republic. Gianbattista and Zanetta married officially in 1654, but their children were barred from noble privilege, which galled him.

In 1664, her father was chosen to become the Procuratore di San Marco de supra, the treasurer of St. Mark's Cathedral, a coveted position among Venetian nobility. At that point, Gianbattista was second only to the Doge of Venice in terms of precedence. Because of this connection, Lady Elena was prominent in the Marriage of the Sea celebration, even though she was born illegitimate. Her father tried to arrange betrothals for her several times, but she rebuffed each man's advances. Early biographers' suggestion that she took a vow of chastity at age 11 are disputed by Francesco Ludovico Maschietto. In 1665 she took the habit of a Benedictine oblate without, however, becoming a nun. In Christian monasticism, an oblate is a person who is specifically dedicated to God or to God's service.

As a young girl, Lady Elena was seen as a prodigy. By the advice from Giovanni Fabris, a priest who was a friend of the family, she began a classical education. She studied Latin and Greek under distinguished instructors, and became proficient in these languages, as well as French and Spanish, by the age of seven. She also mastered Hebrew and Arabic, earning the title of Oraculum Septilingue ("Seven-language Oracle. ] Elena came to be an expert musician, mastering the harpsichord, the clavichord, the harp and the violin. Her skills were shown by the music that she composed in her lifetime.   She was invited to be a part of many scholarly societies when her fame spread and in 1670 she became president of the Venetian society Accademia dei Pacifici.

Upon the recommendation of Carlo Rinaldini, her tutor in philosophy, Felice Rotondi petitioned the University of Padua to grant Cornaro the laurea[d] in theology.[10] When Cardinal Gregorio Barbarigo, the bishop of Padua, learned that she was pursuing a degree in theology, he refused on the grounds that she was a woman. However, he did allow for her to get a degree in philosophy and after a brilliant course of study she received the laurea in Philosophy. The degree was conferred on 25 June 1678, [this day 341 years ago !]  in Padua Cathedral in the presence of the University authorities, the professors of all the faculties, the students, and most of the Venetian Senators, together with many invited guests from the Universities of Bologna, Perugia, Rome and Naples. Lady Elena spoke for an hour in Classical Latin, explaining difficult passages selected at random from the works of Aristotle: one from the Posterior Analytics and the other from the Physics. The last seven years of her life were devoted to study and charity. She died in Padua in 1684 of tuberculosis and was buried in the church of Santa Giustina. On 5 June 2019, Google celebrated her 373rd birthday with a Google Doodle.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
25th June 2019.

Five Black rhinos fly 3700 miles to Rwanda

Rhinos are a highly threatened species. Prized for their horn, which is made from keratin and is a popular ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, they have been  a prime target for poachers. In Uganda, they were once abundant, but the last of the animals fell victim to illegal hunters in the 1980s.  ..

As I grew in Triplicane, have seen hundreds of cows and buffaloes ~ there were couple of ‘kosalas’ too ! – now the situation is different – there are less of buffaloes and bulls too – cows roam on the street, sometime chase, sometimes behave wildly – perhaps in search of food as green fodder is not being provided for .. .. have seen them being injected on roads before mulching .. and other day saw crude mode of IV fluid being injected .. ! ~ this is no post on Triplicane or its cows but on Rhinos !

Rhinos, along with equids and tapirs, are the only surviving members of an ancient and formerly diverse group of ungulates, which originated around 50 million years ago. The black rhinoceros or hook-lipped rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is a species of rhinoceros, native to eastern and southern Africa including Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Although the rhinoceros is referred to as black, its colors vary from brown to grey. The black rhino has a prehensile (or grasping) upper lip, which it uses to draw plant material into its mouth. Their population decreased by a massive 96% between 1970 and 1992, the largest decline of any rhino species. The black rhino has been the victim of persecution for being seen as volatile and dangerous over the 20th century, but in recent years its major threat comes from poaching for the international rhino horn trade.

The other African rhinoceros is the white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). The word "white" in the name "white rhinoceros" is often said to be a misinterpretation of the Afrikaans word wyd (Dutch wijd) meaning wide, referring to its square upper lip, as opposed to the pointed or hooked lip of the black rhinoceros.  The species overall is classified as critically endangered (even though the South-western black rhinoceros is classified as vulnerable). Three subspecies have been declared extinct, including the western black rhinoceros, which was declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2011.

Black rhinos are the smaller of the two African rhino species. The most notable difference between white and black rhinos are their hooked upper lip. This distinguishes them from the white rhino, which has a square lip. Black rhinos are browsers rather than grazers, and their pointed lip helps them feed on leaves from bushes and trees. They have two horns, and occasionally a third, small posterior horn. Populations of black rhino declined dramatically in the 20th century at the hands of European hunters and settlers. Between 1960 and 1995, black rhino numbers dropped by a sobering 98%, to less than 2,500. Since then, the species has made a tremendous comeback from the brink of extinction. Thanks to persistent conservation efforts across Africa, black rhino numbers have doubled from their historic low 20 years ago to between 5,042 and 5,455 today. However, the black rhino is still considered critically endangered, and a lot of work remains to bring the numbers up to even a fraction of what it once was—and to ensure that it stays there. Wildlife crime—in this case, poaching and black-market trafficking of rhino horn—continues to plague the species and threaten its recovery.

There is some welcome news as  five rhinos from European zoos (three from Dvur Kralove Zoo, Czech Republic, one from Flamingo Land, UK, and the other from Ree Park Safari, Denmark) have been together in Dvur Kralove Zoo since November 2018 and are making the long journey into Rwanda in June 2019.  The European-born rhinos will be joining 18 Eastern black rhinos that were moved in 2017 to Akagera from Thaba Tholo game farm in South Africa. With a total of 23 rhinos and a diversified gene-pool within the Akagera population, there is a better chance of a healthy population growing in the National Park (the African Rhino Specialist Group recommends at least 20 unrelated founder animals to enable a successful rhino population). Therefore, rhinos best suited for a translocation into Akagera National Park were selected: the selection must include a good genetic mix within the group itself, and the rhinos need to be at the right age, i.e. sub-adult. After a couple of years to settle in, the animals will be just coming into breeding age, and the cows should be capable of giving birth to seven or eight calves in their lifetime.

Thus to culminate the success of a well drawn project, Two males and three females, aged between two and nine, came from various European zoos and safari parks across Europe and arrived at Dvur Kralove safari park in the Czech Republic.  The animals were then flown 3,700 miles (6,000km) to the south African nation and will now join 17 other eastern black rhinos, which were donated in 2017.  All five were born and bred in Europe and have been in captivity for their whole lives.

There are about 5,000 black rhinos remaining across their range in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, making them one of the most critically endangered species in the world. Black rhinos have been killed in increasing numbers in recent years as transnational, organised criminal networks have become more involved in the poaching of rhinos and the illegal trade in rhino horn. Uncontrolled hunting in the colonial era was historically the major factor in the decline of black rhinos.  Today, poaching for the illegal trade in their horns is the major threat, according to the WWF. Powdered horn is used in traditional Asian medicine as a supposed cure for a range of illnesses – from hangovers to fevers and even cancer.

The recent surge has been primarily driven by the demand for horn by upper-middle class citizens in Vietnam. As well as its use in medicine, rhino horn is bought and consumed purely as a symbol of wealth.  Akagera National Park has allowed a number of key species to be reintroduced, including lions in 2015 - which have tripled in number after they had practically disappeared from the country for about 15 years. The five new rhinos will be studied as they settle into their new home and are expected to be a positive addition to the area's ecosystem. 'This unique achievement represents the culmination of an unprecedented international effort to improve the survival prospects of a critically endangered rhino subspecies in the wild,' said Jes Gruner, manager of Akagera National Park. 'Their arrival also marks an important step in Akagera's ongoing revitalization and one that underscores the country´s commitment to conservation.'

The rhinos began their journey on Sunday after months of preparation at Safari Park Dvur Králové in the Czech Republic, according to the Rwanda Development Board. The animals were then flown 3,700 miles (6,000km) to the south African nation of Rwanda.  Rwanda, which has experienced a dramatic turnaround since a 1994 genocide, which left 800,000 dead, is billing itself as a Big Five safari destination to attract more tourists, with many coming to see the rare mountain gorillas. The translocation represents a significant moment for Rwanda's natural history.

Rhinos have been wiped out twice in the country by poaching - once during the 1940s and 50s, when their horns were in demand to make dagger handles, then again in 2010.  Sadly, on an earlier occasion,  Ten black rhinos  died after being moved to Tsavo East National Park. The only survivor was injured after being attacked by a lion.  One of the causes reported was  that the water in the park was too salty, causing the rhinos to become severely dehydrated.  The government had originally planned to move fourteen rhinos to the new habitat, but transportation of the final three was canceled after the initial deaths.  However, further reports suggest that between   2005 and 2017, the Kenyan wildlife ministry  transported 149 rhinos with only eight deaths, according to the Associated Press.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
25th June 2019.
Pic credit : James Hassell/Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute;

Monday, June 24, 2019

the Police Officer who arrested former PM Mrs. Indira Gandhi is no more !

I was too young .. .. yet Triplicanites could make me understand the electoral politics. Clearly there was a wave ~ in houses the elder generation was for Congress, the youth wre for the newly created Janata party  .. .. and in 1977 – newspapers screamed in bold letters [was that half page !!] ‘Indira defeated’ ~ nothing else mattered.  The man who defeated her in 1977 Lok Sabha elections was Raj Narain, a freedom fighter and politician who had won a famous electoral malpractice case against the then PM Mrs Indira Gandhi that led to her disqualification and subsequent imposition of Emergency in India in 1975 !!
Janata Party won – Morarji Desai became the first non-Congress PM of India and much more were to happen .. ..  on Oct 3, 1977, the Union Home Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh had the former PM Mrs Indira Gandhi arrested – and was that a political bungling ?   the arrest was made on charges of "planning the killing of all opposition leaders in jail during the Emergency." Indira Gandhi's arrest triggered nationwide strikes and protests. The Congress party supporters demanded her immediate release. They even hijacked an Air India flight in protest of their leader's arrest. In the face of such national unrest, Gandhi was freed from prison on the night of December 26, after spending one week in detention for breach of privilege and contempt of the Indian Parliament.

That was truly historical – arrest of PM of the Nation .. .. .. On Jan 19, 1966, Indira Gandhi became India's first Prime Minister. She continued to serve the nation at this post for almost 14 years. During her first term as Prime Minister, Gandhi had nationalised 14 banks in India.  In 1973, she was to nationalize Insurance Companies too !  After her re-election as the Prime Minister in 1971, Indira Gandhi extended her support to the freedom fighters of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), a move lauded till date.  Indira Gandhi was banned from the Parliament by the High Court of Allahabad on charges of electoral malpractice. She regained her position on the grounds of public support.

It was reported that Mrs Gandhi's arrest had been the topic of discussion at almost every "informal Cabinet meeting". Industry Minister George Fernandes and Health Minister Raj Narain, and others had been pressing for Mrs Gandhi's immediate arrest. The Prime Minister Morarji Desai had advised caution: "We must take action only according to the law," he had warned. Law Minister Shanti Bhushan had concurred. Chaudhary charan Singh  wanted to launch the prosecution immediately after Janata assumed power in March. Fernandes' concept of a trial on the Nuremberg model had specially appealed to the leader who has an almost total belief in the sanctity of the democratic process. But there were too many pressing issues at hand. As the officials waded through the files, one political crisis after another had confronted the old man. Indira Gandhi could wait. There was time enough to catch her, he said to himself.  After months of hesitation, the Indian government moved without warning  and arrested former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and at least four members of her cabinet, charging them with corruption. The 59 year-old Gandhi was taken into police custody for an appearance in court on a  Tuesday after she refused to post bail. Gandhi demanded that she be taken away from her home in handcuffs but police agents refused her request. In a statement issued before being taken into custody, the former prime minister asserted her "arrest is a political one. It is to prevent me from going before the people. It is an attempt to discredit me in their eyes and the eyes of the world."  She too was in a confrontation mode daring the Govt to arrest her .. .. and finally is happened. 

Officials at that time stated that one case dealt with Gandhi's "illegally conniving" with others and pressuring two companies to obtain 104 jeeps for election work in several districts including her own. The second charge alleged she misused her position in awarding a $13.4 million government oil drilling contract to a French firm, despite a lower bid by a competitor. The names of the companies involved and other details were not made public.  Today comes the news that - V R Lakshminarayanan, the police officer who arrested Indira Gandhi in 1977 after the emergency on the orders of the Morarji government, passed away at his residence at Anna Nagar in Chennai on Sunday (23.6.2019). He was 91.

Indira Gandhi had pinned two medals on him for meritorious and distinguished service and Lakshminarayanan was loathe to handcuff her. When she held up her hands to be handcuffed, Lakshminarayanan told her he had forgotten to bring handcuffs. This is what he would recount when asked about the incident, said his nephew A Ranganathan, as reported in TOI. Lakshminarayanan had a distinguished career in the IPS and last served as director general of the Tamil Nadu Police. He was also joint director in the Central Bureau of Investigation after joining the IPS in 1951 with his first posting as assistant superintendent of police in Madurai when Kamaraj was chief minister. As chairman and managing director of the Tamil Nadu Police Housing Corporation (TNPHC) from 1981 to 1984, he built quarters at many places for police personnel. Lakshminarayanan has been a mentor to many police officers across the country.

VRL, the younger brother of the well known jurist V R Krishna Iyer, graduated in physics from Madras Christian College (MCC) in 1945 and then finished his graduation in law. Since his father and brother were in the judiciary he opted to join the Indian Police Service. He also served in the Malabar Special Police in Nagaland during the insurgency. His book ‘Appointments and Disappointments’ was much sought after among relatives and friends. Post retirement Lakshminarayanan spent most of his time mentoring junior police officers and doing charity work. He donated funds during the Kerala floods and for the education of children of police personnel. Lakshminarayanan is survived by his son Suresh Lakshminarayanan and daughters Usha Ravi and Rama -- all settled in the United States.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
24th June 2019.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Pat Cash who defeated Ivan Lendl in financial trouble !!

In 1983, my friends had booked a movie ticket [hard to get those days] and gracefully invited me – it was K Viswanath’s classic ‘Salangai Oli’ – Kamal Jayapradha starrer with classic hits of Illayaraja.  I refused as those were the days when Semis & Finals of Wimbledon would be shown live .. .. .. my favourite Ivan Lendl was to play John McEnroe.  A few years earlier, I had started following Tennis seeing the exploits of Bjorn Borg.  McEnroe defeated Ivan Lendl, played the unseeded Chris Lewis in the finals won in straight sets 6–2, 6–2, 6–2 to claims his 2nd Wimbledon title.   My friends were to make fun of me, not only for missing the movie but also for my unbridled support for Ivan Lendl.

To me, Lendl was the MS Dhoni of those days – exceptionally talented, very cool player.  He was World No. 1 for some time, won French Open, won US Open but ‘grass was for cows’ as he failed again and again at Wimbledon.  When he lost, I would not read the newspaper as I  could not digest details of his loss. He was a tennis machine, stoic in patience, yet not so endeared to the crowd.  May be because of his baseline game in an era of serve and volleyers.    In 1987, I was hoping for his title triumph,   Lendl narrowly avoided the ignominy of early  defeat. In a rain interrupted match, Lendl went  to bed on Thursday night a set down and 5-5 in the second, against the Italian Paolo Cane. The crucial moment came the following day, when Cane, leading 2-1 in sets, broke Lendl in the fourth set to lead 4-3. Cane had two points in the next game to lead 5-3, but Lendl hit back, winning the next four games to take the set 7-5, and easily strolling through the last set 6-1.

In 1987, I had reasons to believe that Lendl would make it .. .. Boris Becker,  the two-time defending champion,  lost in the second round to Peter Doohan. Andre Agassi made his first appearance in the main draw at Wimbledon, losing in the first round to Henri Leconte. Agassi would not compete at Wimbledon again until 1991 due to his disagreement with the All England Club's dress code. Lendl made it through to his second final in a year, in a tight four set victory over Edberg, the crucial moment occurring when Lendl won the third set on a tie break.  So came the finals – Ivan Lendl against Pat Cash, the Australian.  Lendl was in great form but on that evening 32 years ago,   Pat Cash, sporting a black-and-white chequered headband that would never be sanctioned today, punched an angled volley into the open court and then celebrated his first grand-slam title with an unscheduled ascent towards his friends and family in the player’s box above the scoreboard.

The final on Sunday July 5 was definitely a clash of styles: the popular, crowd favourite Cash, with his serve-volley game, against the stand-offish, machine-like Lendl, relying on his powerful baseline play. But Cash's game was so well oiled in the first set that Lendl only won six points on the Australian's serve (before the tie break), and Lendl knew the kind of afternoon he was in for when in his first service game he had to save five break points.  In the Second, Cash was simply brilliant.   Cash showed no nerves, and rather appropriately served his way to the championship – not sure in the manner Lendl reacted after the loss, but I was crestfallen.

Aside, the man Peter Doohan who ousted Boris Becker   reached his highest Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) singles ranking of World No. 43 in Aug 1987.    Doohan died in  2017 from motor neurone disease. Motor neuron diseases (MNDs) are a group of neurodegenerative disorders that selectively affect motor neurons, the cells which control voluntary muscles of the body.  A motor neuron (or motoneuron) is a neuron whose cell body is located in the motor cortex, brainstem or the spinal cord, and whose axon (fiber) projects to the spinal cord or outside of the spinal cord to directly or indirectly control effector organs, mainly muscles and glands.

Today’s MailOnline carries an article on Pat Cash .. ..  Wimbledon champion Pat Cash claims God 'sent' him money when he was left almost penniless after divorcing his wife.  The 54-year-old tennis star told The Mail on Sunday that money 'miracles' have happened 20 times in his lifetime.  He said: 'Whenever I need money, God sends some.  'Just enough to pay the bills. It happens all the time. Whenever I am in trouble or stuck, I get a new deal, renew a contract or am offered another income stream. This has happened 20 times. It's weird. 'I had legal bills and financial commitments towards my family and ex-wife – and nowhere to live.'

Cash, who won the Wimbledon men's singles title in 1987, credits his faith with helping him through the darkest times in his life.   He said: 'I remember one day looking up to the sky and going, "'God, will you please take over all my finances?"  'Within hours, a friend of mine called and asked me to play a tennis event which paid several thousand pounds and the highest fee I had ever earned for a set of doubles.'  Cash has talked in the past about his financial troubles, saying that playing tennis professionally from a young age left him with little knowledge about personal finance.

He has also detailed that playing in the Association of Tennis Professionals' Champions Tour has helped him earn money in retirement.  Besides winning Wimbledon in 1987 (defeating Ivan Lendl) he also made Australian Open finals in 1987 and 1988 on his way to career prize money of approximately £1.5 million.  Cash divorced his ex-wife Emily Bendit in 2002,  after 12 years of marriage.  The pair has twin boys - Shannon and Jett Cash - who were born in 1994.  Cash also had two children in a previous relationship with former Norwegian model Anne-Britt Kristiansen.

.. .. it is hard to read that stars rising to such heights get in to deep financial trouble.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
23rd June 2019.