April is also Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a “neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra.” Symptoms develop slowly and progress and different rates, depending on the person. Symptoms may include tremors, rigid limbs, and problems with gait and balance. The cause is still largely unknown, and while there is no cure, treatments such as medications and surgery are available. Parkinson’s is not fatal, but its complications can be, making it the 14th cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rated complications from PD as the 14th cause of death in the United States.
The disease is named after the British Dr. James Parkinson, who recorded the first detailed description in his 1817 “An Essay on the Shaking Palsy.” April 11 is World Parkinson’s Day, in honor of Dr. Parkinson’s birthday.
Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister CH (Order of the Companions of Honour) CBE (Order of the British Empire) (23 March 1929 – 3 March 2018) was the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes.
Roger Gilbert Bannister was born on 23 March 1929 in Harrow, Middlesex. He studied medicine at Oxford before attending St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School. He took up athletics at Oxford, using his medical knowledge to develop a training regiment and study the mechanical aspects of running. However, his studies only allowed him thirty minutes of practice per day. At the time, athletics was not a lucrative position. Bannister believed that he would stop being an athlete as soon as he graduated. But, when he was running a mile in less than five minutes after only three sessions, be began to consider competing in the 1948 London Olympics.
He was selected for the British Olympic team for the Helsinki games. He finished fourth in the 1500m final, setting a new British record. While Bannister did not compete at Helsinki, he continued training for the Commonwealth Games.
At the Oxford’s Iffley Road track on May 6, 1954, Bannister set a world record by running a mile in 3:59.4. The New York Times, declared that Bannister had “reach[ed] one of man’s hitherto unattainable goals.” Australia’s John Landy broke his record forty-six days later when he ran a mile in 3:57.4 in Finland.
The two would meet months later at the August 1954 Vancouver Games. Bannister won gold when he finished at 3:58.8 and Landy came in second at 3:59.6. Bannister retired from running that December to concentrate on his medical career. His memoir, The Four-Minute Mile was published in 1955, re-issued fifty years later as The First Four Minutes.
Within ten years, Bannister was on his way to becoming a leading neurologist. He would eventually become the Master of Pembroke College, Oxford. In 1971, he became the first chairman of the Sports Council, leading the charge on drug-testing in athletics. He was knighted four years later and became a Companion of Honour in the 2017 New Year’s Honours.
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2011 and died in 2018.
Bannister was the founding president of the British Milers’ Club (BMC). In 2004, on the 50th anniversary of Bannister’s accomplishment, the BMC held a special meeting where Craig Mottram of Australia won the men’s mile at 3:56.64 and Sonia O’Sullivan won the women’s mile in 4:27.79. The BMC had a new race in Bannister’s memory. The 2018 race offers £1000 for the series winner.
Margaret Bourke-White (June 14, 1904 – August 27, 1971) was an American photographer and documentary photographer, best known as being the first on several occasions on the international and war front.
Bourke-White was born in Bronx, New York to a Polish-Jewish father and a Catholic English-Irish mother. Her father worked with printing presses and the developing offset lithography and the rotary press and her mother worked in publishing. At Columbia University, she studied herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians), but switched to photography after taking a class taught by Clarence White. After her father died, she left soon and married Everett Chapman. They divorced a year later.
After graduating from Cornell in 1927, Bourke-White pursued photography as a profession, accepting an offer from Henry Luce, founder of Fortune magazine, as associate editor in 1929.
The following year, she went to Germany and the Soviet Union to photograph life there, becoming the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union. After returning to the United States, she published Eyes on Russia. She returned in 1931 to college material for a New York Times series, then in 1932, took motion pictures of Russian industry, becoming the first person to be allowed to leave the country with film.
In 1936, Bourke-White joined Life magazine and became one of four photographers. She traveled around the world for various assignments over the next decades and published and published books of her photographs. The magazine’s first issue, published on November 23, 1936, featured her photograph of Fort Peck Dam. She and writer Erskine Caldwell spent the next few years traveling around the world and co-publishing what they saw, from the living conditions of the poor in South American, to the Sudatenland conflict and preparations for war in London, the fall after they married.
In 1940, she left Life magazine to work for PM, and she and Caldwell travel the United States. In the spring of 1941, the couple traveled through across the Pacific, ending up in Russia. Bourke-White was the only US photographer there when the Germans attacked Moscow. She used the light of the German flairs to take photographs, which she sent to Life.
After she and Caldwell separated in 1942, she wrote Shooting the Russian War before becoming the first female war correspondent of the US Air Force. That summer, she was assigned to cover an Air Force B-18 crew, but on the way to North Africa in December, her convoy is torpedoed. The next month, she became the first woman to accompany a B-17 crew on a bombing mission. That fall, she is sent to cover the war in Cassino Valley and Naples, Italy. She returns home and writes Purple Heart Valley.
She returned to the war in the fall of 1944, assigned to Patton’s Third Army, crossing the German border. She became one of the first to see the Nazi concentration camps, and was present when Buchenwald was liberated, and took photographs of the prisoners. Her photographs were published in Life and in her book, Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly about the war atrocities.
After the war, she moved to India to photograph the emerging class struggle. She met Ghandi, and took a picture with him, hours before he was assassinated. She wrote Halfway to Freedom between 1948 and 1949.
In 1949, Life sent her to South Africa. From 1952-3, she covered Japan and South Korea. In Korea, she began to feel the first effects of Parkinson’s Disease. Ten years later, Bourke-White published her final book, her autobiography, Portrait of Myself. She died in Connecticut in 1971.
Although she had taken her last photograph for Life in 1957, her name remained on the masthead until 1969.
Prince Claus of the Netherlands, Jonkheer van Amsberg (September 6, 1926 – October 6, 2002), was the husband of Queen Beatrix, and the Prince Consort of the Netherlands from 1980 until he died. He was born Klaus George Wilhelm Otto Friedrich von Amsberg, though he would later change the spelling of his first name to “Claus.”
van Amsberg was the only boy of his aristocratic parents’ seven children. He was born in Dotzingen, northern Germany, but his parents moved to Tazmania when he was two, to manage their sisal (plant native to Central America used to make rope, rugs, etc) plantation.
He returned to Germany in 1938, to attend boarding school, shortly after Hitler had appointed himself war minister. Like other young children, he joined the Hitler Youth. In 1944, he finished school and served in the German army in Denmark and in Italy, though he did not fight. A year later, at nineteen, he was captured near Merano Italy by US forces and sent to a POW camp. After being transferred to Britain, he worked as a driver and interpreter. After the war, the de-Nazification court cleared him and he went to Hamburg and got a law degree.
In 1961, van Amsberg joined the West German diplomatic corps and traveled around the world before joining the foreign ministry in Bonn. He met his future wife Dutch Crown Princess Beatrice in Switzerland in 1965. The romance was kept a secret for several months before a Dutch photographer exposed the relationship. Though her parents approved – her father was German-born – protests erupted in the Netherlands. An act of Parliament granted van Amsberg Dutch nationality.
That year, the Hague parliament reluctantly approved the couple’s engagement. 300,000 people signed a petition against the marriage and a smoke bomb exploded near the couple’s carriage during the wedding process nearly a year later. The house that Anne Frank lived in while in hiding was nearby. None of van Amsberg’s male family members attended the wedding, though his mother and six sisters were present. After the religious service, a royal degree named van Amsberg as prince of the Netherlands, changing the spelling of his given name to “Claus.”
Prince Claus worked to gain the Dutch people’s support. He denounced the Nazi regime, became fluent in Dutch, and involved in development work. He became especially interested in historical buildings, the environment and nature conservation, as well as the plight of Third World nations. After his wife became queen, she appointed him as a special adviser on development aid to the foreign ministry in view of his deep interest in the plight of the Third World nations. During his tenure, he came to believe that western aid to third world countries, such as cash and technology were a “concealed version of colonialism and imperialism.” He advocated for including culture within the policy encouraged countries to have self-respect and independence.
His most memorable moment came in 1998 awards reception for African fashion in the palace in Amsterdam. He declared admiration for Nelson Mandela’s casual dress and, after stripping off his tie, encourage the male audience members to do the same. This sparked a brief open-necked fashion craze, but the prince had to abide by royal decorum and resumed wearing ties.
One of his goals was to create an international platform for African creativity. The Prince Claus Fund was established on his 70th birthday in 1996, and has helped start an opera for the Sahel, a group of countries south of the Sahara Desert.
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991, and died of pneumonia. Prince Claus is survived by five sisters and his three sons, the eldest of whom is the first male heir to the Dutch throne in a century.