• Fri
  • Aug 29, 2014
  • Updated: 1:52pm

Six degrees

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 May, 2010, 12:00am

J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, would be 150 today, if he were still with us. Inspired by the death of the Scottish writer's teenage brother in an ice-skating accident, the book was a phenomenal success both at home and abroad. Charles Frohman, who produced the West End and Broadway plays of the story, channelled Peter Pan with the line, 'Why fear death? It is the most beautiful adventure in life,' when declining a lifeboat seat aboard the rapidly sinking RMS Lusitania ...

The 1915 attack on the luxury transatlantic cruise ship (above) - by a German submarine - is largely seen as the event that brought the United States into the first world war. The German navy defended the move by saying the ship was carrying munitions and was therefore a legitimate target. That claim was denied by the US. Among the treasures that went down with the ship were artworks by Monet, Rembrandt and Rubens ...

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) was a humanist scholar who used his artistic talent to further his diplomatic career at the royal courts of Europe. He was knighted by both Charles I of England and Philip IV of Spain. Today, his works sell for tens of millions of US dollars and appear in the collections of the world's great museums and the odd celebrity, among them David Bowie ...

Bowie, who ranks among the 10 best-selling acts in British pop history, is known for his unusual looks: at the age of 15, he was punched in the face by a friend, leaving one of his pupils permanently open, which gives the erroneous impression that he has different coloured irises. The artist changed his surname from Jones to Bowie to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of The Monkees. The inspiration for his new moniker was Battle of the Alamo hero Jim Bowie ...

The 19th-century American pioneer, soldier and land speculator rose to prominence after the 1827 Sandbar Fight. What started as a duel between two other men deteriorated into a brawl in which Bowie, having been shot and stabbed, killed a sheriff with a large knife. This, and other stories of Bowie's prowess with the weapon, led to the widespread popularity of the Bowie knife, with one eventually making its way to the South Pole, as detailed in the diaries of Robert Falcon Scott ...

The explorer used the knife on his ill-fated 1912 Terra Nova Expedition. Having made it to the South Pole, Scott and four comrades perished on the return journey from a combination of exhaustion, hunger and extreme cold. Despite being close to death, Scott found the strength to write 12 letters. 'I may not have proved a great explorer but we have done the greatest march ever made,' he wrote to a friend: J.M. Barrie.


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