November 22 - Laura Dern - Actress Today's Famous Person was born on February 10, 1967 in Los Angeles, the daughter of actress Diane Ladd. She was exposed to movie sets and the movie industry from infancy, and obtained several bit parts as a child. Her parents divorced when she was two and she lost contact with her father for several years as a result.

Her parents' background and her own early taste of the movie-making world soon convinced her to pursue acting herself. Like so many young actors, her decision may have been influenced by social awkwardness - the child of 60s counterculture parents, she was steeped in Eastern mysticism and political radicalism, and was seen as an oddball by her more conservative classmates. Her gawky physical appearance didn't help - even before her teens, she had achieved most of her impressive 5' 10" height, was rail-skinny (other than precociously wide hips), had huge feet and a slouching posture, and for all this was often teased by classmates. Perhaps as a nine-year-old she found refuge by studying acting at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute.

The first success for her came in 1980, with a role in Adrian Lyne's Foxes, a teen movie starring Jodie Foster. She followed this with several small parts, or parts in small movies, such as Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains and Teachers, as a student who has an affair with a teacher. (Her mother objected to her active presence on movie sets at age thirteen, which required her to sue for emancipation so she could play her role in "The Fabulous Stains"). Her next roles, as the blind girl who befriends the deformed boy in Mask, and as a teenaged girl whose sexual awakening collides with a mysterious older man in Smooth Talk, gave her career an important boost. She appeared to have made it with a leading role in David Lynch's acclaimed Blue Velvet, but it was four years before her next notable film, and this was the bizarre Wild at Heart, also directed by Lynch.

The following year, she starred in Rambling Rose, which would become her signature performance, as a sexually-precocious, free-spirited young housemaid in the South in the 1930s. She earned an Oscar nomination for her performance, and so did her mother and co-star, Diane Ladd. She continues to win prominent roles on the big screen, often in smaller, highly-regarded human dramas such as October Sky, I Am Sam and We Don't Live Here Anymore, although she is perhaps most widely known for her repeat role as Ellie Sattler in the summer adventure movies Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III.

Her pre-teen gawkiness matured into lithe beauty, but this doesn't prevent her from fearlessly throwing herself into a wide variety of roles which are sometimes unflattering, an excellent example being her unflinchingly comic portrayal of an intensely annoying loser whose pregnancy becomes a social and political football in Citizen Ruth. This results in her being one of the most interesting actors working in Hollywood today.

Having previously dated such Hollywood talent as Treat Williams, Renny Harlin, Kyle MacLachlan, Jeff Goldblum and Billy Bob Thornton, she eventually married musician Ben Harper in 2005. Early in her career, she was roommate to Marianne Williamson, the spirituality guru.

Today's Famous Person attended two days of college at UCLA and one semester at USC. Laura Dern
Meg Ryan
Elisabeth Shue
Renée Zellweger

Today's Famous Person
April 12 - Joseph Diller - Researcher Today's Famous Person (1850-1928) was born in Plainfield, Pennsylvania, August 27, 1850. He graduated from the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University in 1879 and then spent the next four years conducting post-graduate studies at the Universities of Harvard and Göttingen. From 1873 until 1877 he taught at the State normal school in Westfield, Massachusetts. From 1881 until 1883 he was a geologist on the Assos expedition to Asia Minor. In 1883 he became an assistant geologist for the United States Geological Survey and traveled across the United States.

He worked with the USGS for some forty years, until 1923. While his principal interest was in petrography, he was responsible for production of numerous geological maps, reconnaissance surveys and economic geologic studies. A majority of these were in Southern Cascadia, the complex region of southern Oregon and northern California that encompasses portions of the eastern Great Basin, Sierra Nevada, Cascade Volcanic, Great Valley, Klamath Mountains and Coast Ranges geologic provinces. Among his achievements were the production of six maps as part of the USGS Geologic Atlas Folio Series, in-depth reports on the evolution of Crater Lake and Lassen Peak, detailed descriptions of several mining districts, and the preparation of sets of hand specimens, thin sections and descriptions for colleges and universities. He was also a specialist on asbestos, coal, placer gold and chromic iron ore.

In 1883 John Wesley Powell, director of the United States Geological Survey, sent him and Everett Haden to Crater Lake as the first Geological Survey party to visit the caldera and study its formation. Their investigation of lava flows and rock formations would form the basis for his later theory that the mountain top collapsed rather than being blown away. Another topic of their study was the creation of Wizard Island, to which they journeyed on a log raft in order to view its cinder cone at close range.

Today's Famous Person is perhaps best remembered for his studies of Crater Lake and analysis of Tertiary peneplanation and regional uplift. Louis Agassiz
Joseph Diller
Harry Hammond Hess
Charles Lyell

Today's Famous Person
April 27 - Clyde Tombaugh - Astronomer Today's Famous Person (February 4, 1906 – January 17, 1997) was an American astronomer. He discovered Pluto in 1930, the first object to be discovered in what would later be identified as the Kuiper belt. At the time of discovery, Pluto was considered a planet but was later reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006. He also discovered many asteroids. He also called for the serious scientific research of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.

He was born in Streator, Illinois, son of a farmer, and his wife. After his family moved to Burdett, Kansas in 1922, his plans for attending college were frustrated when a hailstorm ruined his family's farm crops. Starting in 1926, he built several telescopes with lenses and mirrors by himself. To better test his telescope mirrors, with just a pick and shovel, he dug a pit 24 feet long, 8 feet deep, and 7 feet wide. This provided a constant air temperature, free of air currents, and was also used by the family as a root cellar and emergency shelter. He sent drawings of Jupiter and Mars to the Lowell Observatory, at Flagstaff, Arizona which offered him a job. He worked there from 1929 to 1945.

Following his discovery of Pluto, he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in astronomy from the University of Kansas in 1936 and 1938. During World War II he taught naval personnel navigation at Northern Arizona University. He worked at White Sands Missile Range in the early 1950s, and taught astronomy at New Mexico State University from 1955 until his retirement in 1973.

The asteroid 1604, discovered in 1931, is named after him. He discovered hundreds of asteroids, beginning with 2839 Annette in 1929, mostly as a by-product of his search for Pluto and his searches for other celestial objects. He named some of them after his wife, children and grandchildren.

Direct visual observation became rare in astronomy. By 1965 Robert S. Richardson called him one of two great living experienced visual observers as talented as Percival Lowell or Giovanni Schiaparelli. In 1980, he wrote a book Out of the Darkness: The Planet Pluto with Patrick Moore. In August 1992, JPL scientist Robert Staehle called him, requesting permission to visit his planet. "I told him he was welcome to it," he later remembered, "though he's got to go one long, cold trip." The call eventually led to the launch of the New Horizons space probe to Pluto in 2006. Following the passage on July 14, 2015 of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft the "Cold Heart of Pluto" was named [deleted] Regio.

Today's Famous Person died on January 17, 1997, when he was in Las Cruces, New Mexico, at the age of 90. James W. Christy
David C. Jewitt
Phil Nicholson
Clyde Tombaugh