Even before the Big Bang theory of the universe came into vogue, Edwin Hubble talked of "nebulae" swirling at great distances from Earth, with stars so far away, they appeared as thin mist in his telescope. The red glint in faint light wavelengths gave him the notion of a powerful force moving at tremendous speeds and that the more distant the nebulae, the faster they moved away from Earth.
Edwin Powell Hubble was a sky walker, a cruiser of far-off galaxies whose brilliance and curiosity led to his discovery of the fundamental structure of something as large as the universe.
At the time he arrived at this startling idea, he was a brilliant 30-something, explaining mysteries of the universe and how it works. He called it, naturally, Hubble’s Law, which clarified the rate the universe expanded in all directions.
By Fred Brown
The irony is palpable. Attempting to understand British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who created one of literature’s most enduring characters—the great detective Sherlock Holmes—one must become something of a sleuth himself.
It is a well-known fact, of course, that Sherlock Holmes smoked. Oh, did he ever smoke. In Doyle’s stories, cigarettes were part and parcel of his character, and even though he is most often seen wearing a deerstalker hat and puffing on a calabash pipe, Doyle never put the curved gourd in the detective’s hand or between his lips.
Holmes’ foil and sidekick, Dr. Watson, was a cigar and pipe smoker, while the detective preferred "oily clay pipes" and shag tobacco, the stronger the better. Holmes was known to smoke a variety of pipes, including a cherry wood and even churchwardens.
Doyle’s tobacco favorites, however, are a little more difficult to pin down. There is no doubt that he smoked, and liked his cigar as well as his pipe. But a couple of recent biographies leave a lot to be desired when it comes to finding out just what kind of tobacco and what sort of pipe the venerable doctor and famous author enjoyed.
By Fred Brown
John Roland Reuel Tolkien wrote one of the most famous openings in literature when he penned this line: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. . . " And those few words launched one of the most amazing careers in literary history.
J.R.R. Tolkien, called "Tollers" or "JRRT" by close friends, and "Ronald" by his family, has been called the greatest writer of the 20th century. That assessment can be argued, perhaps, but the fact is that his books "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings" became instant bestsellers read by millions, were turned into movies, and were responsible for wide - spread influence on other writers, such as J. K. Rowling and Kurt Vonnegut.
His books even created an entire industry for churchwarden - style pipes once his movies hit the big screen. The cinematic scenes of hobbits smoking the long curvaceous pipes kick - started a fad about as big as the cigar boom of a few years back.
By Fred Brown
Pints and pipes. That’s what most conversations centered on at The Eagle and Child Pub back in Oxford, England, in the 1940s and ’50s.
There, inside the number 49 Saint Giles landmark on most any weekday, patrons would have found the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien turning up their tankards and re-lighting their pipes.
This prolific pair called themselves the "Inklings," a title stemming from the fact that their "inklings" were with pen and paper. These brilliant Oxford scholars were not just writers but they represented some of the greatest minds of the century. And Lewis actually did dip his pen into an ink bottle and scribble out his manuscripts, one nib-full at a time.
By Fred Brown
Bertrand William Arthur Russell, grandson of a British Prime Minister, and one of Great Britain’s leading writers and philosophers, claimed to have remembered not only the day but also the very instant that he became a pipe smoker. Talk about your Eureka moment!
"I remember the precise moment," he said in an interview. It took place, he said, "One day in 1894 as I was walking along Trinity Lane, when I saw in a flash that the ontological argument (for the existence of God) is valid. I had gone out to buy a tin of tobacco; on my way back, I suddenly threw it up in the air and exclaimed as I caught it, "Great Scott, the ontological argument is sound. " (It may be noted in passing that in 1894 Russell was just 22 years old.)
By Fred Brown
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.- There it was - a priceless relic of the Civil War, displayed in a simple Plexiglas box in a small Virginia museum, its graceful lines accented by a dramatic beam of light, its bowl as scuffed and dark as Black Cavendish.
The pipe itself was beautiful, yes-but it was its provenance that made it so exciting: Its owner had been none other than Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.
An avid Civil War buff and pipe smoker myself, I had never known of its existence until a recent trip to Virginia Beach, Va., when I visited the prison at Fort Monroe where Davis had been incarcerated for two years after the defeat of the Confederacy by Union forces.
Davis was a pipe smoker long before he became the leader of the ill-fated breakaway Confederate states in 1861. In fact, there are recorded discussions of his “corncob” when he worked his Mississippi plantation, Brierfield, so named for its tangled woods and forests.
There’s no doubt, that the taste of our favorite tobacco blend is not the only reason many of us light up our favorite pipe. After a tough day doing whatever it is that we do there’s nothing quite like sitting back and contemplating what’s happened while we enjoy the simple pleasure of a pipe and that blend that we like so much.
It’s a time for reflection … for planning … problem solving and just plain daydreaming about what we could be doing and where we might be going. Now if you and I do that while we’re enjoying a bowl, what must some of the famous and talented people who are or were pipe smokers reflect on or think about over their evening pipe?