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Scientists and Writers Pay Tribute to Oliver Sacks on Twitter

Neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks
Chris McGrath—Getty Images Neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks speaks at Columbia University on June 3, 2009 in New York City.

The neurologist and author has died at age 82

High-profile scientists and writers honored the life of Oliver Sacks on Sunday, tweeting quotes, memories and farewells to the neurologist and acclaimed author who has died at 82, months after announcing his diagnosis with terminal cancer.

Sacks was famous for writing popular, understandable books based on his work, including “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.”

From surgeon-writer Atul Gawande to digital media scientist Michael Hawley, see eight high-profile figures paying tribute to the life of Sacks:

TIME People

Sarah Palin Defends Curt Schilling’s Comparison of Nazis and Muslim Extremists

<> on February 26, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong—Getty Images Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin addresses the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) February 26, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland. Conservative activists attended the annual political conference to discuss their agenda.

ESPN had removed the analyst from covering the Little League World Series

Several days after ESPN suspended analyst Curt Schilling for an offensive tweet about Muslims, Sarah Palin has come to the former Major League pitcher’s defense.

In the original tweet, posted Tuesday, Schilling shared a photo of Hitler with the caption, “It’s said only 5-10% of Muslims are extremists. In 1940, only 7% of Germans were Nazis. How’d that go?” His own comment on the image read, “The math is staggering when you get to true #’s.”

Schilling quickly deleted the tweet, and ESPN announced it had removed him from covering the Little League World Series. While Schilling once again took to Twitter to apologize and say he agreed with his punishment, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin posted a lengthy response to the incident on her Facebook page in which she called ESPN “a journalistic embarrassment,” adding “Your intolerant PC police are running amok and making a joke out of you!”

Palin went on to say she agreed with Schilling, in fact saying he was being too generous in his comparison. “The difference between Hitler’s army and the genocidal maniacs of ISIS,” she wrote, “is that the jihadists don’t have as much power… yet.” She said that ESPN had bought into ISIS’s propaganda, “helping mislead the public about the very real threat of terrorism.”

Palin also recalled offensive remarks made about her on an ESPN affiliate’s program in 2011, saying the “x-rated celebration of violence against women didn’t even draw a chirp from ESPN’s wussified leaders.”

Palin concluded her post by telling the network to “stick to sports.”

TIME latin america

Latin America Boasts the World’s Most Emotional Nations, Survey Shows

Citizens of Bolivia and El Salvador experience the most emotions daily

Latin Americans are in general the most emotional people on the planet while the world’s least emotional countries are predominantly from eastern Europe, a new survey has shown.

Bolivia and El Salvador shared top spot with 59% of “yes” responses when respondents were asked whether they experienced any of ten emotions — five positive and five negative — the previous day. Cambodia, Iraq and the Philippines were the only non-Latin countries in the top 10.

The poll, conducted by Gallup, surveyed 1,000 people in 148 countries during 2014. Respondents were asked whether they felt angry, stressed or sad, among other emotions, and also whether they were treated with respect, laughed a lot and felt well-rested.

The most and least emotional countries were ranked based on the average number of “yes” responses to the queries, thus mainly considering whether they felt a range of emotions rather than the nature of the emotions themselves.

Former Soviet nations like Russia, Lithuania, Georgia and Belarus dominate the ranks of least emotional countries, although the nation with the least emotional people — scoring only 37% — is the South Asian nation of Bangladesh.

Read more at Gallup

TIME People

The Strange Saga of George Washington’s Bedpan

george-washington-painting
Rembrandt Peale

Even the most mundane of objects associated with the Founding Father has a story

America’s first president had achieved a mythic status by the time of his death in late 1799, and the prized possessions of George and Martha Custis Washington were treated akin to sacred relics. His furniture, swords, clothing, tableware and more were passed down through his family and proudly displayed in their homes for visitors. But it was not only the attractive, decorative pieces that his descendants treasured: as mundane an object as George Washington’s bedpan stayed in the family for over a century.

An 18th-century bedpan isn’t all that different from one today. Then, it was round and made of pewter with a handle. In an era before plumbing and bathrooms, the bedpan could be gently heated and slipped under the covers of a sickbed. The elderly, ill, and women recovering from childbirth could use the bedpan without having to risk further injury by leaving their bed. While healthy adults could use a chamberpot, which might be kept in a cabinet or attached beneath a hole in a chair seat, the bedpan was designed for the immobile.

This particular bedpan was made by a New York pewterer named Frederick Bassett in the late 18th century. It was most likely used by either or both George and Martha Washington at the end of their lives. Because of the meticulous records kept by the family, we can trace the journey of this lowly item through the19th century and up to its return to Mount Vernon in 1936. Why was it kept, and who could possibly have wanted it?

When Martha died in 1802, all of the objects at Mount Vernon not specifically designated in George and Martha’s wills were sold (their wills dealt with slave property separately). Everything from a famous bust of George Washington ($250) to a tea caddy ($3.25) was recorded in the sales records. The bedpan was likely in the “1 lot sundries” purchased for $29 (and thus probably a pretty large lot of random pieces) by Thomas Peter, husband of Martha’s granddaughter Martha Custis Peter.

George Washington never had any children of his own, but he was quite close with Martha Washington’s four grandchildren (from her first marriage), and Martha Custis Peter was the second-oldest of these. The young Martha had married Thomas Peter in 1795, and the couple eventually built a mansion atop a hill in Georgetown.

The Peters were still in the process of setting up their household when they visited Mount Vernon for the sale of the contents of the house, from valuable furniture to kitchen tools to bedpans. The sale was technically open to the public, but only family members and close friends purchased items. They bought blankets, carpets, mirrors, chairs and dishes, not as famous relics but as useful housewares. The bedpan may have been acquired for the next time Martha gave birth or in case of family illness, or it may have simply been thrown in with the “sundries.” Martha, like her siblings, spoke reverentially of her illustrious grandparents and showed off decorative objects from Mount Vernon, but it is unlikely the bedpan was ever on display.

Martha and Thomas passed down the Mount Vernon objects, bedpan and all, to their daughter, whose name was (not kidding) Britannia Wellington Peter Kennon. Britannia, too, enjoyed sharing stories about the Washingtons and kept careful records of the objects she inherited. She left provisions in her will that her grandchildren would split up all of the “Mount Vernon Heirlooms” evenly and, if possible, keep them in the family. As Adam Erby, associate curator at Mount Vernon, explains, “The Peter family elevated many of Mount Vernon’s utilitarian objects to the status of almost religious relics.”

In the late 19th or early 20th century, the Peters did a thorough inventory of the heirlooms, placing a numbered label on each one to correspond to a list of some 529 pieces. By this time, now an era of indoor plumbing for wealthy families in an age of improved medical treatments, the descendants were confused as to the purpose of this mysterious pewter pan. It is listed in the inventory as “pewter dish (?) with handle.” It seems to have been confused with a kitchen item.

By this time, even the most ordinary objects Washington had owned had taken on great value. Buttons, pieces of cloth, and kitchen implements were donated to or purchased by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association to put on display in Washington’s home after the group took over the estate in 1860. In the late 1930s, Britannia’s granddaughter Agnes Peter Mott sold “interesting kitchen utensils originally at Mount Vernon” which quite likely included the mislabeled bed pan, to the Ladies Association. It entered the records as a “plate warmer.”

A handwritten letter on faded paper in Mount Vernon’s files, written around the time of the acquisition from Mott by an apparent pewter expert, finally set the record straight: “I think we must identify this as a ‘bed pan.’” For nearly 80 years, then, the humble bed pan of George and Martha Washington has received careful treatment as a treasured museum object, and even went on public display in Mount Vernon’s museum in 2010. The bedpan provides “tangible connections not only with the Washingtons,” Erby points out, “but also with the enslaved house servants who were responsible for emptying the bedpan.”

Moreover, this simple object testifies to the Washington descendants’ careful—and perhaps quirky—stewardship of anything and everything George Washington owned.

This article originally appeared on Smithsonianmag.com

More from Smithsonianmag.com:

TIME People

Marcy Borders, the Dust-Covered Woman in the Iconic 9/11 Photograph, Has Died of Cancer

She wondered if her exposure to the attack contributed to her illness

Marcy Borders, a survivor of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subject of one of that day’s most iconic photographs, died on Monday of stomach cancer. She was 41.

Her family first announced her death via Facebook early Tuesday morning.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Borders was one month into a new job as a legal assistant on the 81st floor of One World Trade Center. When American Airlines Flight 11 struck the building a few stories above her office, she fled, making it onto the street just as the adjacent tower collapsed. A stranger pulled her into a nearby lobby, where Agence France-Presse photographer Stan Honda took her picture: her face distraught; her body covered in ash. In the weeks and years following 9/11, the world would thusly know her as the “Dust Lady.”

Meanwhile, she found herself haunted by her experiences that morning, ultimately struggling with depression and substance-abuse issues.

“My life spiraled out of control. I didn’t do a day’s work in nearly 10 years, and by 2011 I was a complete mess,” Borders told the New York Post in June 2011. “Every time I saw an aircraft, I panicked. If I saw a man on a building, I was convinced he was going to shoot me.”

She checked herself into rehab in April 2011, eight days before President Obama appeared on television to announce the death of Osama bin Laden.

“The treatment got me sober, but bin Laden being killed was a bonus,” she told the Post. “I used to lose sleep over him, have bad dreams about bin Laden bombing my house, but now I have peace of mind.”

Borders was diagnosed with cancer last August. Speaking with the Jersey Journal a few months after her diagnosis, she ventured that her exposure to the pollutants emitted by the collapse of the World Trade Center may have contributed to her illness.

“I definitely believe it because I haven’t had any illnesses,” she said.

Read next: What We Can Learn From Behind-the-Scenes Photos of Dick Cheney on 9/11

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TIME conflict

The ‘Zealot’ Who Gave the John Birch Society Its Name

John Birch Society Exhibit
Spencer Grant—Getty Images New England Rally for God, Family & Country by the John Birch Society Exhibit held at the Statler Hilton Hotel on Park Square, Boston, 1972.

His death on Aug. 25, 1945, was commemorated by the anti-communist group

It was one of the last deaths of World War II, but its legacy had a lasting effect on our politics.

Seventy years ago Tuesday—on Aug. 25, 1945— a 26-year-old Army Air Force captain named John Birch was killed by communists in China at the twilight of World War II, after Japan announced its surrender. Some 13 years later, the John Birch Society–named for the young soldier–was founded to expose what they saw as rampant communism within the United States.

The secretive group wasted little time fanning the flames of anti-communist sentiment, with TIME reporting in 1961 on their theories about leftist agents in high-ranking government positions—including, they posited, Dwight Eisenhower. That report was read into the Congressional record a few weeks later and inspired debate on the Senate floor.

The group’s namesake was apt. As TIME reported, Birch was a champion crusader:

John Birch was born in Landour, India, to a husband-and-wife team of missionaries. When John was two years old, his family returned to the U.S., and he was raised in New Jersey and Georgia. In 1939 Birch graduated from Georgia’s Baptist-controlled Mercer University as the top man in his class, leaving behind him a record that is still recalled. “He was always an angry young man, always a zealot,” says a classmate. “He felt he was called to defend the faith, and he alone knew what it was.” Says a psychology professor: “He was like a one-way valve: everything coming out and no room to take anything in.”

In his senior year, Birch organized a secret “Fellowship Group” and set out to suppress a mildly liberal trend at Mercer. He and twelve colleagues collected examples of “heresy” uttered by faculty members (example: a reference to evolution), whipped up support among Georgia’s Baptist clergy, finally forced the school to try five men on the charge. Mercer eventually dismissed the cases, but not before admonishing 75-year-old Dr. John D. Freeman, a world-famous Baptist leader, for using a theologically “unsound” textbook. That summer Dr. Freeman quietly retired from Mercer. Says a professor: “It broke him.”

After school, Birch followed his parents’ lead in becoming a missionary. He was serving in China when World War II arrived. In 1942, after meeting survivors of the U.S. air raid on Tokyo, Birch decided to enlist and was assigned to work behind enemy lines in China.

Read more from 1961, here in the TIME Vault: Who Was John Birch?

TIME People

How Duke Kahanamoku Saved Lives With His Surfboard

The swimming and surfing star was born on Aug. 24, 1890

Monday marks what would have been the 125th birthday of the late Duke Kahanamoku, who during his lifetime was an Olympic swimmer and Hawaiian public official. Kahanamoku is best known today for boosting surfing’s popularity and introducing the sport to many regions around the world.

But Kahanamoku’s prowess with a surfboard is worth remembering for more reasons than mere athletic glory.

And, as TIME reported in 1925, Kahanamoku had a chance to prove that point one day in Laguna Beach, Calif.:

Out through the surf put a gasoline launch, the Thelma, with a fishing party aboard. The beach crowd watched her careen on the breakers, herded to the water’s edge when the boat capsized. Good swimmers ran splashing out, split the first wave with a dive, plowed off to the rescue.

In the lead swam a figure darker than the most deeply sunburned, an Hawaiian duke, Kahanamoku of Olympic fame. Before him, as he swam, he pushed his long surf board.

Five of the capsized fisherman had drowned before the swimmers reached them, but it was no trick at all for Kahanamoku and his followers to buoy up 13 survivors, drag them across their boards, catch a wave and rush their gasping passengers ashore in relays.

In his 1968 obituary, the rescue of the Thelma passengers was credited with helping Kahanamoku recapture the fame of his Olympic days, eventually leading him to his post as sheriff of Honolulu. But, even as he grew older and his role on the shore grew larger, he never stopped surfing. “To the last,” the obituary concluded, “he was a symbol of the islands, surfing, swimming, and appearing as the 50th state’s official greeter.”

Read the full 1925 story, here in the TIME Vault: Duke

Read next: Beyond The Waves: An Intimate Look at the Life of Surfer John John Florence

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TIME People

How Eero Saarinen Became One of America’s Best-Known Architects

Eero Saarinen
Ron Case—Getty Images Architect Eero Saarinen with the model of the new proposed US Embassy in London, June 5, 1956.

Aug. 20, 1910: Eero Saarinen is born

It would have been difficult for Eero Saarinen to escape the pull of architecture. Born on this day, Aug. 20, in 1910, to Finland’s top architect — Eliel Saarinen — Eero grew up surrounded by blueprints and building models. His father’s studio doubled as the family’s immense living room, where Eero and his sister, Pipsan, mingled with the ever-present draftsmen and designers.

“Such a beehive of cultural activity was calculated either to smother or force the children,” TIME noted. “In the case of Eero and Pipsan, it forced. By the time Eero was five, his talent for drawing had shown itself. Sitting under his father’s drafting tables, he busily turned out his own versions of door details and houses.”

Of course, Eero didn’t remain in the shadow of his father’s drafting tables; he flourished in his own right. That he made a name for himself — apart from the family name — is evident in TIME’s 1956 cover story, which proclaimed, “…of the whole U.S. cast of modern architects, none has a better proportioned combination of imagination, versatility and good sense than Eero Saarinen.”

But as Eero told TIME, he owed a good part of his success to his father, who was both his role model and longtime collaborator. While the elder Saarinen was alive, according to the New York Times (in a 1953 profile written by the art critic whom Eero would later marry), “Eero neither rebelled nor rejected: he remained architecturally, as well as filially, deferential.”

“I often contributed technical solutions and plans,” Eero is quoted as saying, “but only within the concept he created.”

Still, the Saarinens were innately competitive — and had a knack for winning contests. At age 12, per TIME, Eero placed first in a matchstick design contest sponsored by a Swedish newspaper, winning 30 Swedish kronor — or about $8. The same week, his father was a runner-up in an international contest to design the Chicago Tribune Tower, and won $20,000.

The tables eventually turned in Eero’s favor, however, creating at least one awkward scene at the Saarinen house. Both father and son — separately — entered the 1948 competition to build a monument for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis. Per TIME:

The elder Saarinen submitted a formal monumental design; Eero’s entry was an audacious, 590-ft. stainless-steel arch that looked like a giant, glistening croquet wicket—which he had conceived while bending a wire and wool pipe cleaner. A telegram announced Eliel the winner. The family broke out the traditional champagne to celebrate.

Only days later was the secretary’s mistake uncovered: the $40,000 first prize was properly Eero’s.

Read more about Eero Saarinen from 1956, here in the TIME archives: The Maturing Modern

TIME Military

Meet the First-Ever Female Army Ranger Graduates

Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver proved their strength at the famously challenging school

The two female soldiers who will make history this week as the first to graduate from the Army’s grueling and legendary Ranger School have been identified as Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver, Washington Post reports.

While Griest, a military police officer from Orange, Connecticut, and Haver, an Apache helicopter pilot from Copperas Cove, Texas, have not previously been identified by the Army, the Washington Post and other outlets were able to name the women after observing Ranger School training multiple times this year.

The two women, both in their 20s, proved their strength at the famously challenging school designed to create elite combat leaders. They withstood exhausting hikes, sleepless nights, little food and simulated combat exercises to test their tenacity, teamwork skills and response time.

This Friday, Griest and Haver will become the first female soldiers in history to graduate from the course in Fort Benning, Georgia, where they’ll receive the coveted Ranger Tab alongside their male counterparts.

Griest and Haver are among a test group of women who attended the first coed course, which began in April with 381 men and 19 women, but ended its run with only 94 men and two women. One woman currently remains in the program and is still attempting to complete it.

Although the course runs 62 days, it appears it took Griest and Haver longer to complete it. “These two women began the course April 20. They were ‘recycled’ at different phases of the course, but have been at the school since that date,” Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson told PEOPLE on Wednesday. (A recycled course refers to one that’s been redone.)

Haver graduated high school in Texas in 2008 and was a cross country runner. Washington Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III was one of her classmates, according to a story in her hometown newspaper, the Post reports. She graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 2012.

Griest, also a West Point graduate (class of 2011), has run competitively as well. Last December, she was the distinguished honor graduate in a pre-Ranger School course run by her unit, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, according to the unit’s Facebook page.

The graduation of Haver and Griest will mark a major milestone in the military’s efforts to integrate women into positions that have not yet been allowed to serve. And even though the ceremony is just days away, the class is still training up until Friday.

“The class is now back at Ft. Benning. They are graduating, but they are still in training,” a source at Ft. Benning tells PEOPLE. “I just saw the class. They all look tired. They look like they’ve been through the wringer. This is a significant achievement for everyone.”

Despite the monumental accomplishments, the new female graduates won’t be allowed to try out for the elite 75th Ranger Regiment. “The women who successfully completed and graduate from the Ranger course will receive a certificate of completion and be awarded and authorized to wear the Ranger Tab. They will return to their unit,” Johnson told PEOPLE on Tuesday. “They will not go on to serve in a Ranger Regiment.”

Last week, retiring Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said that any soldier who remained in Ranger School – male or female – can meet the standards the service has established for a job and should be able to serve in it, he told the Post.

Odierno expects the Army will start another Ranger School course in November, which it will again study to decide if the course will be open to women permanently.

— With reporting by Susan Keating

This article originally appeared on People.com

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