Portal:France/Selected biography

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Selected articles

Selected biography 1

Portal:France/Selected biography/1

Painting, ca. 1485. An artist's interpretation, since the only known direct portrait has not survived. (Centre Historique des Archives Nationales, Paris, AE II 2490)
Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans" (French: La Pucelle d'Orléans), is a folk heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. She was born a peasant girl in what is now eastern France. Claiming divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII of France. She was captured by the Burgundians, transferred to the English in exchange for money, put on trial by the pro-English Bishop of Beauvais Pierre Cauchon for charges of "insubordination and heterodoxy", and was burned at the stake for heresy when she was 19 years old.

Twenty-five years after her execution, an inquisitorial court authorized by Pope Callixtus III examined the trial, pronounced her innocent, and declared her a martyr. Joan of Arc was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920. She is – along with St. Denis, St. Martin of Tours, St. Louis IX, and St. Theresa of Lisieux – one of the patron saints of France. Joan said that she had visions from God that instructed her to recover her homeland from English domination late in the Hundred Years' War. The uncrowned King Charles VII sent her to the siege of Orléans as part of a relief mission. She gained prominence when she overcame the dismissive attitude of veteran commanders and lifted the siege in only nine days. Several additional swift victories led to Charles VII's coronation at Reims.

To the present day, Joan of Arc has remained a significant figure in Western civilization.

Selected biography 2

Portal:France/Selected biography/2

Honoré de Balzac on an 1842 daguerreotype by Louis-Auguste Bisson
Honoré de Balzac was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled, La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon.

Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multifaceted characters, who are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. His writing influenced many subsequent novelists such as Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Benito Pérez Galdós, Marie Corelli, Henry James, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and Italo Calvino, and philosophers such as Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. Many of Balzac's works have been made into or have inspired films, and they are a continuing source of inspiration for writers, filmmakers and critics.

An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting to the teaching style of his grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was an apprentice in a law office, but he turned his back on the study of law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.

Selected biography 3

Portal:France/Selected biography/3

Messiaen in 1930
Olivier Messiaen was a French composer, organist and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex (he was interested in rhythms from ancient Greek and from Hindu sources); harmonically and melodically it is based on modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations. Many of his compositions depict what he termed "the marvellous aspects of the faith", and drew on his deeply held Roman Catholicism.

Messiaen entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 11 and was taught by Paul Dukas, Maurice Emmanuel, Charles-Marie Widor and Marcel Dupré, among others. He was appointed organist at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris in 1931, a post held until his death. He taught at the Schola Cantorum de Paris during the 1930s. On the fall of France in 1940, Messiaen was made a prisoner of war, during which time he composed his [Quatuor pour la fin du temps] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help) ("Quartet for the end of time") for the four available instruments—piano, violin, cello and clarinet. He was appointed professor of harmony soon after his release in 1941, and professor of composition in 1966 at the Paris Conservatoire, positions he held until his retirement in 1978. His many distinguished pupils included Pierre Boulez and Yvonne Loriod, who became his second wife.

He found birdsong fascinating, believed birds to be the greatest musicians, and considered himself as much an ornithologist as a composer. He notated bird songs worldwide and incorporated birdsong transcriptions into most of his music. His innovative use of colour, his conception of the relationship between time and music, his use of birdsong and his desire to express religious ideas are among features that make Messiaen's music distinctive.

Selected biography 4

Portal:France/Selected biography/4

Lemoine.jpg
Émile Michel Hyacinthe Lemoine (1840–1912) was a French civil engineer and a mathematician, a geometer in particular. He was educated at a variety of institutions, including the Prytanée National Militaire and, most notably, the École Polytechnique. Lemoine taught as a private tutor for a short period after his graduation from the latter school.

Lemoine is best known for his proof of the existence of the Lemoine point (or the symmedian point) of a triangle. Other mathematical work includes a system he called Géométrographie and a method which related algebraic expressions to geometric objects. He has been called a co-founder of modern triangle geometry, as many of its characteristics are present in his work.

For most of his life, Lemoine was a professor of mathematics at the École Polytechnique. In later years, he worked as a civil engineer in Paris, and he also took an amateur's interest in music. During his tenure at the École Polytechnique and as a civil engineer, Lemoine published several papers on mathematics, most of which are included in a fourteen-page section in Nathan Altshiller Court's College Geometry. Additionally, he founded a mathematical journal titled, L'intermédiaire des mathématiciens.

Selected biography 5

Portal:France/Selected biography/5

Sophie makes her ascent in Milan on 15 August 1811 to mark the 42nd birthday of Napoleon.
Sophie Blanchard (25 March 1778 – 6 July 1819) was a French aeronaut and the wife of ballooning pioneer Jean-Pierre Blanchard. Blanchard was the first woman to work as a professional balloonist, and after her husband's death she continued ballooning, making more than 60 ascents. Known throughout Europe for her ballooning exploits, Blanchard entertained Napoleon Bonaparte, who promoted her to the role of "Aeronaut of the Official Festivals", replacing André-Jacques Garnerin. On the restoration of the monarchy in 1814 she performed for Louis XVIII, who named her "Official Aeronaut of the Restoration".

Ballooning was a risky business for the pioneers. Blanchard lost consciousness on a few occasions, endured freezing temperatures and almost drowned when her balloon crashed in a marsh. In 1819, she became the first woman to be killed in an aviation accident when, during an exhibition in the Tivoli Gardens in Paris, she launched fireworks that ignited the gas in her balloon. Her craft crashed on the roof of a house and she fell to her death. She is commonly referred to as Madame Blanchard and is also known by many combinations of her maiden and married names.

Selected biography 6

Portal:France/Selected biography/6

Fauré in 1907
Gabriel Urbain Fauré (12 May 1845 – 4 November 1924) was a French composer, organist, pianist, and music teacher of the Romantic Music era and genre. He was one of the foremost French composers of his generation, and his musical style influenced many 20th-century composers. Among his best-known works are his Pavane, Requiem, and nocturnes for piano. Although his best-known and most accessible compositions are generally his earlier ones, Fauré composed many of his greatest works in his later years, in a harmonically and melodically much more complex style.

Fauré was born into a cultured but not particularly musical family. His talent became clear when he was a small boy. At the age of nine, he was sent to a music college in Paris, where he was trained to be a church organist and choirmaster. Among his teachers was Camille Saint-Saëns, who became a lifelong friend. After graduating from the college in 1865, Fauré earned a modest living as an organist and teacher, leaving him little time for composition. When he became successful in his middle age, holding the important posts of organist of the Église de la Madeleine and director of the Paris Conservatoire, he still lacked time for composing; he retreated to the countryside in the summer holidays to concentrate on composition. By his last years, Fauré was recognised in France as the leading French composer of his day. An unprecedented national musical tribute was held for him in Paris in 1922, headed by the president of the French Republic. Outside France, Fauré's music took decades to become widely accepted, except in Britain, where he had many admirers during his lifetime.

Selected biography 7

Portal:France/Selected biography/7

Monteux during his conductorship of Les Ballets Russes, c. 1912
Pierre Benjamin Monteux (4 April 1875 – 1 July 1964) was a French (later American) conductor. After violin and viola studies, and a decade as an orchestral player and occasional conductor, he began to receive regular conducting engagements in 1907. He came to prominence when, for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes company between 1911 and 1914, he conducted the world premieres of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and other prominent works including Petrushka, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé, and Debussy's Jeux. Thereafter he directed orchestras around the world for more than half a century.

From 1917 to 1919 Monteux was the principal conductor of the French repertoire at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He led the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1919–24), Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra (1924–34), Orchestre Symphonique de Paris (1929–38) and San Francisco Symphony (1936–52). In 1961, aged eighty-six, he accepted the chief conductorship of the London Symphony Orchestra, a post which he held until his death three years later. Although known for his performances of the French repertoire, his chief love was the music of German composers, above all Brahms.

In 1932 he began a conducting class in Paris, which he developed into a summer school that was later moved to his summer home in Les Baux in the south of France. After moving permanently to the US in 1942, and taking American citizenship, he founded a school for conductors and orchestral musicians in Hancock, Maine.

Selected biography 8

Portal:France/Selected biography/8

Nostradamus: original portrait by his son Cesar
Michel de Nostredame (14 or 21 December 1503 – 2 July 1566), usually Latinised as Nostradamus, was a French apothecary and reputed seer who published collections of prophecies that have since become famous worldwide. He is best known for his book Les Propheties (The Prophecies), the first edition of which appeared in 1555. Since the publication of this book, which has rarely been out of print since his death, Nostradamus has attracted a following that, along with much of the popular press, credits him with predicting many major world events.

Most academic sources maintain that the associations made between world events and Nostradamus's quatrains are largely the result of misinterpretations or mistranslations (sometimes deliberate) or else are so tenuous as to render them useless as evidence of any genuine predictive power. Nevertheless, occasional commentators have successfully used a process of free interpretation and determined 'twisting' of their words to predict an apparently imminent event.

Selected biography 9

Portal:France/Selected biography/9

Prost in 2012
Alain Marie Pascal Prost, OBE, Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur is a French racing driver. A four-time Formula One Drivers' Champion, Prost has won more titles than any driver except for Juan Manuel Fangio (five championships), and Michael Schumacher (seven championships). From 1987 until 2001 Prost held the record for most Grand Prix victories. Schumacher surpassed Prost's total of 51 victories at the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix. In 1999, Prost received the World Sports Awards of the Century in the motor sport category.

Prost discovered karting at the age of 14 during a family holiday. He progressed through motor sport's junior ranks before joining the McLaren Formula One team in 1980 at the age of 25. He finished in the points on his Formula One début in Argentina and took his first race victory at his home Grand Prix in France a year later, while he was driving for the factory Renault team.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Prost formed a fierce rivalry with mainly Ayrton Senna, but also Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell. In 1986, at the last race of the season, he managed to pip Mansell and Piquet of Williams to the title. Senna joined Prost at McLaren in 1988 and the two had a series of controversial clashes, including a collision at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix that gave Prost his third Drivers' Championship. Before the end of a winless 1991 season Prost was fired by Ferrari for his public criticism of the team. After a sabbatical in 1992, Prost joined the Williams team. With a competitive car, Prost won the 1993 championship and retired from driving at the end of the year.

Selected biography 10

Portal:France/Selected biography/10

Henry with the New York Red Bulls
Thierry Daniel Henry is a French footballer who plays as a striker for New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer. Henry was born in Les Ulis, Essonne (a suburb of Paris) where he played for an array of local sides as a youngster. He was spotted by AS Monaco in 1990 and signed instantly, making his professional debut in 1994. Good form led to an international call-up in 1998, after which he signed for the Serie A defending champions Juventus. He had a disappointing season playing on the wing, before joining Arsenal for £11 million in 1999.

Henry emerged as Arsenal's top goal-scorer for almost every season of his tenure there. Under long-time mentor and coach Arsène Wenger, Henry became a prolific striker and Arsenal's all-time leading scorer with 228 goals in all competitions. The Frenchman won two league titles and three FA Cups with the Gunners; he was nominated for the FIFA World Player of the Year twice, was named the PFA Players' Player of the Year twice, and the FWA Footballer of the Year three times. Henry spent his final two seasons with Arsenal as club captain, leading them to the 2006 UEFA Champions League Final.

In June 2007, after eight years with Arsenal, he transferred to Barcelona for a fee of €24 million. His first honours with the Catalan club came in 2009 when they won the La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble. In 2010, he joined the New York Red Bulls of the Major League Soccer, and won the Eastern Conference title with them in 2010.

Henry enjoyed similar success with the French national team, having won the 1998 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro 2000 and 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup. Henry retired from international football after the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Off the pitch, Henry is an active spokesperson against racism in football, partially due to his own experiences.


Historical archive

The portal used to display a single article. An archive of the selections is at Portal:France/Featured Person Archive, and is recorded in the history of Portal:France/Featured personality.

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