He was born in Reichenbach, East Germany, only a few weeks after the partition of Germany, and grew up in Jena, East Germany. His father, a schoolteacher, was an adamant Marxist-Leninist. He also has a brother, Günther, who is three years younger. When he was 14, he was sent away to boarding school. Shortly after that, his parents divorced. He earned a degree in chemistry at the University of Jena. KGB career
In 1969, he was a senior at the University of Jena when he was approached by someone from the East German Secret Police who asked if he was interested in a job at Carl Zeiss AG. This turned out to be a ruse, however, and he was offered a job with the Stasi. The next year, he was studying for a doctorate in chemistry and working as an assistant professor when he was sent to East Berlin for several weeks of training with the KGB. He was told that the Soviet Union only had use for spies who were willing participants, and thus he was free to turn down the offer, but that he had only 24 hours to decide. Intrigued, he decided to join.
In February 1973, he announced to his family and friends that he was becoming a diplomat and leaving university to move to East Berlin. The KGB taught him Morse code, cryptography and techniques to avoid surveillance, as well as English. He was sent to Moscow in 1975, where his English was evaluated by an American woman who had married a Russian. He underwent two further years of training in the Soviet Union.
In 1978, he was sent to the United States as a sleeper agent. His alias was taken from a child who had died in 1955 at the age of 10, whose name KGB agents had found at a Jewish cemetery in Maryland. He was also given a back story that his mother had been German to explain the occasional accented word. He told his family that he was on a five-year mission to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, a top-secret facility that was home to the Soviet space program; he wrote dozens of letters to his family in advance that were mailed periodically from Baikonur.
He arrived in Chicago on October 8, 1978, flying in by way of Mexico, using a Canadian passport with the name William Dyson. The KGB provided him with a birth certificate and $6,000 in cash. His mission was to get a U.S. passport, insert himself into American society, to make contacts with foreign policy think tanks and "get close" to President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in order to influence policy.
He rented an apartment in New York City and assumed his new identity. His instructions had been to use the birth certificate to get a passport, but the bureaucracy proved more difficult than the KGB had anticipated. He established his identity first by obtaining a membership card at the American Museum of Natural History, followed by a library card, a driver's license and finally a Social Security card. He worked as a bicycle messenger and began attending Baruch College, studying computer programming.
He discovered that the people who trained him did not have an authentic understanding of Americans, and he struggled at first with his assignment. While his instructions were to infiltrate political circles and get close to Brzezinski, he was not given specific instructions on how he was supposed to accomplish that. He also learned that while his English was excellent, he was very pushy and argumentative when dealing with people. He was shocked when he was confronted with this fact by a fed-up friend. He realized that he was essentially too East German to fit in.
He received weekly radio transmissions from the Soviets and at night spent hours decrypting messages. Photos and documents hidden in small canisters were delivered to the KGB via dead drops around New York. His assignments including tracking a Soviet citizen living in California and a KGB spy gone rogue in Canada, and even writing an assessment of the American public's perception of the Soviet–Afghan War. Every two years, he went back to East Germany for three weeks of vacation and debriefing, always returning to the U.S. using fake passports. In 1984, he began working for MetLife and was able to provide the Soviets with programming code that helped their computer scientists keep up with the West.
On his first trip back to East Germany in 1980, he was allowed to marry his girlfriend, an accepted practice as the KGB believed a married spy with a spouse back home would be less likely to defect. He married again in the United States in 1986 after a woman he was dating, who was an illegal immigrant from Guyana, needed help to get a green card. He initially married her as a favor, but after she got pregnant, he then tried to make the marriage work. For several years, he led a double life, with a wife and son in East Germany and a wife and daughter in the United States. His two families did not know about each other. He later reflected that he kept his two identities separate in his mind.
In December 1988, while he was living in Queens, the KGB apparently believed his cover had been compromised. He was alerted on his way to work when he saw a small splash of red paint on the subway platform. The red paint was a predefined signal of the highest emergency, ordering him to immediately report to the Soviet Embassy in Canada to return to East Germany. Concerned about the welfare of his infant daughter, he decided he could not return. He ignored it for several months, until another KGB agent met him in the subway and quietly told him he needed to follow orders or he would wind up dead. He falsely told his handlers he had contracted HIV and needed to stay in the United States for treatment, relying on the KGB's fear of HIV/AIDS being spread in the Soviet Union. He promised them he would never defect. They either accepted his lie or were unable to extract him.
Meanwhile, the KGB reportedly told his German wife, who knew he was a spy, that he was dead. She reported him missing and then filed for divorce. His mother, who last saw him in 1986, truly believed he had gone missing in the Soviet Union. For years, she desperately searched for him, contacting the German embassies in Moscow and even writing to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1996, investigators with the German Foreign Office determined that the story he had told his mother was a lie. The project in Baikonur that he had claimed to be working on for many years had ended in 1978. His mother was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and died without knowing the truth.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall began coming down, followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later. In 1992, a KGB defector to Great Britain named Vasili Mitrokhin provided information to MI6 about Soviet spy operations around the world, including the name of our Famous Person in the United States.
The FBI located him in 1994 and observed him for three years, bugging his house and even buying the home next to his in Pennsylvania. An FBI agent moved into the house next door and monitored his every movement to determine whether or not he was still an active agent in a sleeper cell. The FBI contacted the elderly parents of the real child whose name he was using, who had died in 1955, out of fear they would happen to discover their dead son's identity had been stolen and would alert local authorities. Although upset, they agreed not to disclose the information.
The FBI investigation quickly escalated when one day in 1997, during a fight with his soon-to-be ex-wife being recorded by the FBI, he confessed that he was actually a spy. Shortly after that, he was pulled over by the police on his way home from work and taken into FBI custody. During interrogation, he quickly confessed his real identity and that he had stopped spying in 1988. He shared his knowledge of KGB espionage training and the modus operandi of Russian sleeper agents. The FBI determined that he was no longer an active spy and found him to be a valuable source of information about spy techniques. He was never charged with any crime.
Today's Famous Person lived in Schaghticoke, New York until 2016. He now resides near Atlanta, Georgia. The FBI agent who lived next door and interrogated him after his detainment became a close friend.
Today's Famous Person
September 25 - John Harrison - Clock Maker Born in 1693, Today's Famous Person was an English carpenter and clock maker who invented the marine chronometer. This device enabled sailors to accurately calculate their ships’ longitude at sea and played an essential role in the development of long-distance seafaring. He spent most of his adult life creating and perfecting his “sea clock,” a solution that eluded other great minds of the day, including Galileo Galilei and Sir Isaac Newton.
He often worked with his brother James and one of their first major projects was a turret clock for the stables at Brocklesby Park. This clock proved to be revolutionary. Pendulum clocks of the day used oil to keep the mechanisms moving but they were also the main reason why most clocks failed. Not only are oils subject to changes in temperature that can alter their viscosity, but using too much or too little would also throw off the clock’s inner workings. So he used lignum vitae, a self-lubricating exotic hardwood to construct the escapement, which is the part of the clock that would typically need to be oiled. Eliminating the need for lubrication served as the basis for his first sea clock.
In 1714, following several devastating losses of crewmen on ships at sea that were attributed to the inability to calculate longitude, the British government established the Longitude Prize. A reward of £20,000 — several million in today's currency — was to be awarded to the person who could invent a navigational instrument that could find the longitude within 30 miles of a sea voyage.
Astronomers thought the answer lay in mapping out the heavens, but our Famous Person sought a more practical, mechanical approach. For a oceanic voyage starting in England and ending in the West Indies, a marine timekeeper would need to stay within a range of 2.8 seconds per day for a ship to sail within longitude. This was a huge challenge considering the device would need to withstand a range of temperatures and the unstable motion of a ship as well as exposure to storms and heavy winds.
However, sailors could ascertain local time of day at sea by checking the sun’s position in the sky. He believed that if a ship’s crew set sail knowing the time at a fixed reference point and could keep track of it, they would be able to calculate the time difference between that place and their own location. From there, they could determine the distance between the two places in terms of longitude.
He began working his first sea clock, or chronometer, in 1728 and completed it in 1735. Called the H1, his invention was not only able to maintain the exact time for a long duration, but it could also withstand changes to air pressure and temperature. After doing some test runs on the Humber River, he took his invention to London. It worked well on a test voyage to Portugal, but that was not enough for the board to award the prize, which required use on transatlantic routes.
He continued to work on improving his invention’s design, but the H2 and the H3 were not much more successful than the H1. Around 1750, he changed course and began working on a smaller timepiece, the marine watch (H4). He spent six years building it, and was able to prove that this watch could accurately measure longitude. On its first trial to Jamaica, the marine watch proved very accurate — it was only off by five seconds.
However, the Parliament board kept back the full prize and required him to do more trials, although they did dole out money to allow him to keep working. He appealed to King George III to get his full reward and recognition, and the monarch did eventually intervene. In June 1773, an Act of Parliament finally recognized him as having solved the longitude problem, and he received the balance of the £20,000 prize.
Married two times, he had a total of three children. His son, William, shared his father's passion, assisting him with the development of the chronometer. He later tested the H4 while en route to Jamaica.
Today's Famous Person died in London on March 24, 1776.
Today's Famous Person
September 26 - Louis Reard - Designer Louis Reard
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September 27 - Ty Barnett - TV Host Ty Barnett
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September 28 - William Hale - Criminal William Hale
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Today's Famous Person ------------------------------------------------------------ Today's Famous Person
October 5 - Charles Lazarus - Toys R Us Today's Famous Person (October 4, 1923 – March 22, 2018) was an American entrepreneur, executive, and pioneer within the retail toy industry. He founded the Toys "R" Us retail chain, which evolved from a children's furniture store he originally opened in Washington D.C. in 1948. He opened his first store dedicated exclusively to toys, which he named Toys "Я" Us, in 1957.
He was born on October 4, 1923, in Washington D.C., where he was also raised as a child. His parents, Frank and Phoebe, owned and operated a bike shop. He served as a cryptographer in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Following World War II, he returned to Washington D.C., decided to enter the children's furniture business during the late 1940s. He was inspired by his generation of U.S. servicemen who, like himself, returned from World War II, married and began having children during the post-war period. Initially, he began selling cradles and cribs inside his father's existing bicycle store. However, with help from an uncle who was already in the furniture store, he soon took over the family's entire storefront. In 1948, he opened his first store, Children’s Bargain Town, a children's furniture store located in Washington D.C. He primarily focused on strollers and baby cribs during his store's first few years in business.
Though he originally focused on children's furniture and strollers, he soon became interested in the toy business based on his customer's habits and preferences. He noticed that parents frequently visited his store to purchase the latest toys and stuffed animals, as their children quickly lost interest in their older toys in favor of new ones. During the 1950s, he became exploring the idea of opening a new store dedicated to toys, which were more profitable, rather than children's furniture.
In 1957, he opened his first store which exclusively sold toys, rather than furniture, which he named Toys "Я" Us in nearby Rockville, Maryland. He tweaked the name and logo of his new toy store by turning the "R" around to face the left, which made it appear as if a small child had written it.
Over the next several decades, Toys "Я" Us, headed by our Famous Person, expanded to suburban shopping areas across the United States. Under him, the company created the Geoffrey the Giraffe store mascot and introduced the "I'm a Toys "Я" Us kid." jingle. The company was considered a retail titan by the 1980s as it began to expand overseas with locations in Canada, Spain, and Singapore. In 1992, U.S. President George H.W. Bush appeared with him at the opening of the first Toys "Я" Us in Japan.
He retired as chief executive officer of Toys "Я" Us in 1994. He remained chairman of the company until 1998. That same year, Walmart surpassed Toys "Я" Us as the largest toy retailer in the United States for the first time.
In August 2013, he sold his duplex residence in Manhattan to billionaire Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor for $21 million dollars.
He was married three times. He had two daughters with his first wife Udyss: Ruth and Diane; they divorced in 1979. His second wife Helen Singer Kaplan was a sex therapist. He and Helen were married until her death on August 17, 1995. His third wife was an interior decorator Joan Regenbogen.
Today's Famous Person died of respiratory failure at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City on March 22, 2018, at the age of 94. His death occurred just one day before Toys "Я" Us began liquidation sales in the United States.
Alfred Carlton Gilbert
Today's Famous Person
October 8 - William McGuffey - Author Today's Famous Person (September 23, 1800 – May 4, 1873) was a college professor and president who is best known for writing the first widely used series of elementary school-level textbooks. More than 120 million copies of his textbooks were sold between 1836 and 1960, placing its sales in a category with the Bible and Webster's Dictionary.
He was born the son of Alexander and Anna [deleted] near Claysville, Pennsylvania, which is 45 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. In 1802 the family moved farther out into the frontier at Tuscarawas County, Ohio. He attended country school, and after receiving special instruction at Youngstown, he attended Greersburg Academy in Darlington, Pennsylvania. Afterwards, he attended and graduated from Pennsylvania's Washington College, where he became an instructor.
He was a roving instructor, traveling through the frontier of Ohio, Kentucky, and western Pennsylvania. He was "one of an army of half-educated young men who tramped the roads and trails drumming up 'subscription scholars'." These half-educated young men would travel to and from different settlements looking for a part-time teaching job. They would teach in log-cabins to children whose parents would pay for their education. The teachers would educate the children until the parents ran out of funding or until the parents did not care to have their children educated anymore.
He left Washington College in 1826 to become a professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. A year later, in 1827, he was married to Harriet Spinning of Dayton, Ohio, with whom he had five children. In 1829 he was ordained at Bethel Chapel as a minister in the Presbyterian Church. It was in Oxford that he created the most important contribution of his life. His books sold over 122 million copies. He was very fond of teaching children and he geared the books toward a younger audience.
In 1836 he left Miami to become president of Cincinnati College, where he also served as a distinguished teacher and lecturer. He left Cincinnati in 1839 to become the 4th president of Ohio University, which he left in 1843 to become president of what was then called the Woodward Free Grammar School in Cincinnati, one of the country's earliest public schools.
In 1845 he moved to Charlottesville, Virginia where he became Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia until his death in Charlottesville on May 4, 1873. A year after his first wife Harriet died in 1850, he married Miss Laura Howard, daughter of Dean Howard of the University of Virginia
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October 9 - Muddy Waters - Musician Muddy Waters
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4 - Philo Farnsworth - Inventor Philo Farnsworth
Today's Famous Person
October 31 - David Warren - Inventor David Warren