Today we celebrate a Dutch botanist who helped advance the cause of medicine and botany in Austria.
We'll also learn about the Brontë sisters on the anniversary of their first published work.
We hear an excerpt from Kurt Vonnegut on his thoughts on why there should really be six seasons.
We Grow That Garden Library™ with a book about creating a home that is inspired by nature.
And then we’ll wrap things up with the birthday of an Indian polymath and poet who won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
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May 7, 1700
Today is the birthday of the Dutch botanist Gerard van Swieten.
As Swieten turned 40 years old, Empress Maria Theresa inherited the Habsburg Empire. She had much to do to get her kingdom in shape.
When it came to medicine, Austria was about 200 years behind its European neighbors.
The Empress acted quickly, recruiting the best medical experts she could find; Gerard van Swieten was one of the most important people she brought on board. By May 1745, Swieten moved his family to Vienna and set the stage for world-class medical training in Austria.
Swieten totally reorganized medicine at the University of Vienna, adding a botanical garden and a chemical laboratory, each headed by a professor.
A student of the great Boerhaave, the father of physiology and clinical teaching. Swieten published, in Latin, five volumes on his teachings; those volumes influenced medical practice throughout Europe. It also contained the first description of episodic cluster headache.
Swieten exchanged letters with Linnaeus on botanical matters for over a decade.
He named his youngest daughter, Maria Theresia, after the Empress, who was also her godmother. His son Godfried would become famous in his own right as an Austrian ambassador and patron of great classical composers such as Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.
The genus of mahogany, Swietenia, was named after Swieten.
May 7, 1846
The first printed copies of "Poems" by Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë were published under the pseudonym of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Just two copies were sold.
To avoid prejudice as female writers, the sisters kept the first letter of their first names: Charlotte was Currer Bell, Emily became Ellis Bell, and Anne was Acton Bell,
Emily's older sister, by two years, was Charlotte. Her younger sister and closest friend was Anne. They were two peas in a pod.
After the death of their mother and two older sisters, the four remaining Brontë children were exceptionally close: Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell.
Emma Emmerson wrote a piece called the Brontë Garden. In it, she revealed:
“The Brontës were not ardent gardeners, although… Emily and Anne treasured their currant bushes as ‘their own bit of fruit garden’."
Charlotte [once wrote:]
"Emily wishes to know if the Sicilian Pea (Pisum sativum)and the Crimson cornflower are hardy flowers, or if they are delicate and should be sown in warm and sheltered situations."
The children’s father, Patrick Brontë, was a bit of a writer as well. He once wrote;
Oh why, in the snow and storms of December,
When the branches lie scattered and strewn,
Do we oftest and clearest and dearest remember
The sunshine and summer of June?
Here’s an excerpt from a sad little poem Emily Brontë wrote called I know not how it falls on me:
I know not how it falls on me,
This summer evening, hushed and lone;
Yet the faint wind comes soothingly
With something of an olden tone.
Forgive me if I’ve shunned so long
Your gentle greeting, earth and air!
But sorrow withers even the strong,
And who can fight against despair?
One sort of optional thing you might do is to realize there are six seasons instead of four. The poetry of four seasons is all wrong for this part of the planet, which may explain why we are so depressed so much of the time. I mean, Spring doesn’t feel like Spring a lot of the time, and November is all wrong for Fall and so on. Here is the truth about the seasons: Spring is May and June! What could be springier than May and June? Summer is July and August. Really hot, right? Autumn is September and October. See the pumpkins? Smell those burning leaves. Next comes the season called “Locking.” That is when Nature shuts everything down. November and December aren’t Winter. They’re Locking. Next comes winter, January, and February. Boy! Are they ever cold! What comes next? Not Spring. Unlocking comes next. What else could April be?
― Kurt Vonnegut, American writer, If This Isn't Nice, What Is?: Advice for the Young
Grow That Garden Library
This book came out in 2017, and the subtitle is Interiors Inspired by Nature.
In this book, Hans helps us appreciate the link between our home interiors and our emotional health.
Hans shares the elements of loving homes and comforting spaces. When it comes to interior design, nature is his muse. By incorporating natural elements into our homes, we can reduce stress and boost our mood.
Hans loves to incorporate items like still lifes and natural finds and artifacts. And Hans is a master at creating vignettes to style your home, and when they are done well, they add visual interest and connections to our personal history and the natural world.
Using earthy colors and textures to engage our senses, Hans creates homes that exude warmth and tranquility. If you’re looking to create a personal sanctuary grounded in the beauty and simplicity of nature, then Inspired by Nature is perfect for you.
This book is 208 pages of the beauty, peace, interest, and magnetism created by nature-inspired design - right inside the home.
Today’s Botanic Spark
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
May 7, 1861
Today is the birthday of the Indian Polymath and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
In 1913, he became the first non-European and the first lyricist to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Here are some of his quotes regarding nature.
This first one is about the butterfly:
The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.
Here are two quotes about flowers:
The greed for fruit misses the flower.
“I have lost my dewdrop," cries the flower to the morning sky that lost all its stars.
And finally, here are three quotes about trees:
Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.”
The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life.
I asked the tree: tell me about God.
Then it bloomed.
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