CONFUCIUS – THE MOST INFLUENTIAL CHINESE PHILOSOPHER

The Chinese teacher and philosopher Confucius was the founder of the school of philosophy known as the Ju or Confucianism, which is still very influential in China. He was born on 551 B.C.E in Tuo, China.

INFO OF HIS LIFE

Confucius is the Latinized name of K’ung Fu-tzu (Great Master K’ung). His original name was K’ung Ch’iu; he is also known as K’ung Chung-ni. The most detailed traditional account of Confucius’s life is contained in the Records of the Historian (Shih chi) by Ssu-ma Ch’ien, who lived from 145 B.C.E. to 86 B.C.E. Many modern scholars have dismissed this biography as only legend. Nevertheless, from this manuscript one can reconstruct a satisfactory outline of the philosopher’s life and influence.

According to the Records of the Historian, Confucius was a descendant of a branch of the royal house of Shang, the dynasty (a family of rulers) that ruled China prior to the Chou, and a dynasty which ruled China from around 1122 B.C.E. to 221 B.C.E. His family, the K’ung, moved to the small state of Lu, located in the modern province of Shantung in northeastern China.

It was believed that Confucius’s father divorced his first wife at an advanced age, because she had borne him only daughters and one disfigured son. He then married a fifteen-year-old girl from the Yen clan, who gave birth to Confucius. Ssu-ma Ch’ien refers to the relationship as a “wild union,” which very possibly indicates that Confucius was an illegitimate child, or a child born out of wedlock.

In the Analects, Confucius’s book of teachings, he writes that during his youth he was poor and was forced to acquire many different skills. It is clear that even though the fortunes of his family had declined, he was no commoner. Confucius unquestionably belonged to the aristocratic (ruling) class known as the shih. In the time of Confucius most shih served as court officials, scholars, and teachers. Confucius’s first occupation appears to have been as keeper of the Lu granary. Later he worked as supervisor of the fields. Both were low positions but consistent with his shih status.

CAREER AS A TEACHER

It is not known exactly when Confucius began his teaching career, but it does not appear to have been much before the age of thirty. In 518 B.C.E. he is said to have met the famous teacher Lao Tzu (sixth century B.C.E. ), who reportedly bluntly criticized Confucius for his stuffiness and arrogance. Confucius eventually returned to Lu around 515 B.C.E. For several years after his return he does not appear to have accepted a governmental position. Instead it appears he spent most of his time studying and teaching, gathering a large number of students around him. Although one can only guess about the school’s exact course work, it undoubtedly included instruction in ritual, music, history, and poetry.

Around 498 B.C.E. , Confucius decided to leave his home in Lu and embark on a long journey throughout eastern China. He was accompanied by several of his disciples (followers). They wandered throughout the eastern states of Wei, Sung, and Ch’en and at various times had their lives threatened. Confucius was almost assassinated (killed) in Sung. On another occasion he was mistaken for the adventurer Yang Hu and was arrested and held until his true identity became known.

Confucius was received with great respect by the rulers of the states he visited, and he even seems to have received occasional payments. He spent much of his time developing his ideas on the art of government, as well as continuing his teaching. He acquired a large following, and the solidification of the Confucian school probably occurred during these years. Not all of his disciples followed him on his travels. Several of them actually returned to Lu and assumed positions with the Chi clan. It may have been through their influence that in 484 B.C.E. Confucius was invited back to Lu.

FINAL YEARS

Confucius was warmly received in Lu, but there is no indication that he was given a responsible position. Little is known about his last years, although this would have been a logical time for him to work on the many texts and documents he supposedly gathered on his journey. Much of his time was devoted to teaching, and he seems to have remained more or less distant from political affairs. This was an unhappy period for Confucius. His only son died about this time; his favorite disciple, Yen Hui, died the very year of his return to Lu; and in 480 B.C.E. another disciple, Tzu-lu, was killed in battle. Confucius felt all of these losses deeply, and his sadness and frustration must have been intensified by the realization that his political ideas had found no support among the rulers of his own state. Confucius died in 479 B.C.E in Qufu, China. His disciples conducted his funeral and observed a mourning period for him.

CONFUCIUS’S TEACHINGS

Although we cannot be certain that Confucius wrote any of the works he is credited with, it is still possible to know something about the general nature of his philosophy. Shortly after his death his disciples compiled a work known as the Lun yü, commonly translated as the Analects but more accurately rendered as the Edited Conversations. This work consists of conversations between Confucius, his students, and an occasional ruler. The primary emphasis of the Lun yü is on political philosophy. Confucius taught that the primary task of the ruler was to achieve the welfare (well-being) and happiness of the people of his state. To accomplish this aim, the ruler first had to set a moral (good character) example by his own conduct. This example would in turn influence the people’s behavior.

Confucius is the first Chinese thinker to introduce concepts that became fundamental not only to Confucian philosophy but to Chinese philosophy in general. The most important of these are jen (benevolence), yi (propriety, or being proper), and li (ritual, or ceremony). Confucius believed that the chün-tzu, or “gentleman,” must set the moral example for others in society to follow. In the Lun yü jen, what has been translated as humaneness or benevolence (being kind) is a quality a chün-tzu should develop and attempt to encourage in others. Li is considered the rules and ritual that are observed in religious and nonreligious ceremonies and, as applied to the chün-tzu, composed rules of behavior. Yi represents what is right and proper in a given situation. The chün-tzu, by observing the ritual and because of his good nature, always knows what is right.

Confucius was basically a humanist and one of the greatest teachers in Chinese history. His influence on his immediate disciples was deep. His students continued to explain his theories until, in the first Han dynasty (206 B.C.E. –8 C. E.), the theories became the basis of the state ideology, the body of ideas reflecting the social needs of a culture.

AMARTYA SEN – THE INDIAN ECONOMIST

Amartya Kumar Sen, born on 3rd November 1933, is an Indian economist who was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory and for his interest in the problems of society’s poorest members. Sen was best known for his work on the causes of famine, which led to the development of practical solutions for preventing or limiting the effects of real or perceived shortages of food.Sen was educated at Presidency College in Calcutta (now Kolkata). He went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he received a B.A. (1955), an M.A. (1959), and a Ph.D. (1959). He taught economics at a number of universities in India and England, including the Universities of Jadavpur (1956–58) and Delhi (1963–71), the London School of Economics, the University of London (1971–77), and the University of Oxford (1977–88), before moving to Harvard University (1988–98), where he was professor of economics and philosophy. In 1998 he was appointed master of Trinity College, Cambridge—a position he held until 2004, when he returned to Harvard as Lamont University Professor.

Welfare economics seeks to evaluate economic policies in terms of their effects on the well-being of the community. Sen, who devoted his career to such issues, was called the “conscience of his profession.” His influential monograph Collective Choice and Social Welfare (1970)—which addressed problems such as individual rights, majority rule, and the availability of information about individual conditions—inspired researchers to turn their attention to issues of basic welfare. Sen devised methods of measuring poverty that yielded useful information for improving economic conditions for the poor. For instance, his theoretical work on inequality provided an explanation for why there are fewer women than men in some poor countries in spite of the fact that more women than men are born and infant mortality is higher among males. Sen claimed that this skewed ratio results from the better health treatment and childhood opportunities afforded boys in those countries.

Sen’s interest in famine stemmed from personal experience. As a nine-year-old boy, he witnessed the Bengal famine of 1943, in which three million people perished. This staggering loss of life was unnecessary, Sen later concluded. He believed that there was an adequate food supply in India at the time but that its distribution was hindered because particular groups of people in this case rural laborers lost their jobs and therefore their ability to purchase the
food. In his book Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (1981), Sen revealed that in many cases of famine, food supplies were not significantly reduced. Instead, a number of social and economic factors such as declining wages, unemployment, rising food prices, and poor food-distribution systems led to starvation among certain groups in society.

Sen’s first wife was Nabaneeta Dev Sen, an Indian writer and scholar, with whom he had two children: Antara, a journalist and publisher, and Nandana, a Bollywood actress. Their marriage broke up shortly after they moved to London in 1971. In 1973, he married his second wife, Eva Colorni, who died from stomach cancer quite suddenly in 1985. They had two children, Indrani, a journalist in New York, and Kabir, who teaches music at Shady Hill School.

His present wife, Emma Georgina Rothschild, is an economic historian, an expert on Adam Smith and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. Sen usually spends his winter holidays at his home in Santiniketan in West Bengal, India, where he likes to go on long bike rides, and maintains a house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he and Emma spend the spring and long vacations. Asked how he relaxes, he replies: “I read a lot and like arguing with people.”

HONORS & AWARDS

  • He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work in welfare economics in 1998.
  • In 1999 he received the Bharat Ratna ‘the highest civilian award in India’ by the President of India. In 1999 he was offered honorary citizenship of Bangladesh from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in recognition of his achievements in winning the Nobel Prize, and given that his family origins were in what has become the modern state of Bangladesh.
  • He received the 2000 Leontief Prize for his outstanding contribution to economic theory from the Global Development and Environment Institute.
  • He was the 351st Commencement Speaker of Harvard University.
  • In 2002 he received the International Humanist Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union.
  • Eisenhower Medal, for Leadership and Service USA, 2000.
  • Companion of Honour, UK, 2000. In 2002, he received an honorary degree from the university of Tokyo.
  • In 2003, he was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Indian Chamber of Commerce.
  • Life Time Achievement award by Bangkok-based United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
  • In 2009, Sen became a member of the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation’s International Advisory Board to contribute to the organisation’s work in poverty reduction and sustainable development.
  • He was chosen to deliver the Demos Annual Lecture 2010

PUBLICATIONS

  • Choice of Techniques, 1960. Sen, Amartya, An Aspect of Indian Agriculture, Economic Weekly, Vol. 14, 1962.
  • Collective Choice and Social Welfare, 1970, Holden-Day, 1984, Elsevier. Sen, Amartya, On Economic Inequality, New York, Norton, 1973. (Expanded edition with a substantial annexe by James E. Foster and A. Sen, 1997).
  • On Economic Inequality, 1973.
  • Poverty and Famines: an Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, 1981a.
  • Sen, Amartya, Poverty and Famines : An Essay on Entitlements and Deprivation, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1982.
  • Sen, Amartya, Food Economics and Entitlements, Helsinki, Wider Working Paper 1, 1986.
  • Sen, Amartya, On Ethics and Economics, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1987.
  • Drèze, Jean and Sen, Amartya, Hunger and Public Action. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Hunger and Public Action, jointly edited with Jean Drèze, 1989.
  • Sen, Amartya, “More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing”. New York Review of Books, 1990.
  • Sen, Amartya, Inequality Reexamined, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992.
  • Nussbaum, Martha, and Sen, Amartya. The Quality of Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity, with Jean Drèze, 1995.
  • Sen, Amartya, Reason Before Identity (The Romanes Lecture for 1998), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Commodities and Capabilities, 1999.
  • Sen, Amartya, Development as Freedom, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Development as Freedom, 1999. Reason Before Identity, 1999.
  • Freedom, Rationality, and Social Choice: The Arrow Lectures and Other essays, 2000.
  • Sen, Amartya, Rationality and Freedom, Harvard, Harvard Belknap Press, 2002.
  • Rationality and Freedom, 2004.
  • Inequality Reexamined, 2004.
  • The Argumentative Indian, 2005.
  • Sen, Amartya, The Argumentative Indian, London: Allen Lane, 2005.
  • Sen, Amartya, The Three R’s of Reform, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 40(19): pp. 1971-1974, 2005.
  • Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Issues of Our Time), New York, W. W. Norton, 2006.
  • Imperial Illusions: India, Britain, and the wrong lessons. By Amartya Sen.
  • Response by Niall Ferguson. Equality of Capacity by Amartya Sen.
  • The Idea of Justice Harvard University Press & London: Allen Lane,2009.

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THOMAS ALVA EDISON – THE WIZARD OF MENLO PARK

Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, on February 11, 1847. He attended school for only three months, in Port Huron, Michigan. When he was 12 years old he began selling newspapers on the Grand Trunk Railway, devoting his spare time mainly to experimentation with printing presses and with electrical and mechanical apparatus. In 1862 he published a weekly, known as the Grand Trunk Herald, printing it in a freight car that also served as his laboratory. For saving the life of a station official’s child, he was rewarded by being taught telegraphy. While working as a telegraph operator, he made his first important invention, a telegraphic repeating instrument that enabled messages to be transmitted automatically over a second line without the presence of an operator.

Edison next secured employment in Boston and devoted all his spare time there to research. He invented a vote recorder that, although possessing many merits, was not sufficiently practical to warrant its adoption. He also devised and partly completed a stock-quotation printer. Later, while employed by the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company of New York City he greatly improved their apparatus and service. By the sale of telegraphic appliances, Edison earned $40,000, and with this money he established his own laboratory in 1876. Afterward he devised an automatic telegraph system that made possible a greater speed and range of transmission. Edison’s crowning achievement in telegraphy was his invention of machines that made possible simultaneous transmission of several messages on one line and thus greatly increased the usefulness of existing telegraph lines. Important in the development of the telephone, which had recently been invented by the American physicist and inventor Alexander Graham Bell, was Edison’s invention of the carbon telephone transmitter.

In 1877 Edison announced his invention of a phonograph by which sound could be recorded mechanically on a tinfoil cylinder. Two years later he exhibited publicly his incandescent electric light bulb, his most important invention and the one requiring the most careful research and experimentation to perfect. This new light was a remarkable success; Edison promptly occupied himself with the improvement of the bulbs and of the dynamos for generating the necessary electric current. In 1882 he developed and installed the world’s first large central electric-power station, located in New York City. His use of direct current, however, later lost out to the alternating-current system developed by the American inventors Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse.

In 1887 Edison moved his laboratory from Menlo Park, New Jersey, to West Orange, New Jersey, where he constructed a large laboratory for experimentation and research. (His home and laboratory were established as the Edison National Historic Site in 1955). In 1888 he invented the kinetoscope, the first machine to produce motion pictures by a rapid succession of individual views. Among his later noteworthy inventions was the Edison storage battery (an alkaline, nickel-iron storage battery), the result of many thousands of experiments. The battery was extremely rugged and had a high electrical capacity per unit of weight. He also developed a phonograph in which the sound was impressed on a disk instead of a cylinder. This phonograph had a diamond needle and other improved features. By synchronizing his phonograph and kinetoscope, he produced, in 1913, the first talking moving pictures. His other discoveries include the electric pen, the mimeograph, the microtasimeter (used for the detection of minute changes in temperature), and a wireless telegraphic method for communicating with moving trains.

At the outbreak of World War I, Edison designed, built, and operated plants for the manufacture of benzene, carbolic acid, and aniline derivatives. In 1915 he was appointed president of the U.S. Navy Consulting Board and in that capacity made many valuable discoveries. His later work consisted mainly of improving and perfecting previous inventions. Altogether, Edison patented more than 1000 inventions. He was a technologist rather than a scientist, adding little to original scientific knowledge. In 1883, however, he did observe the flow of electrons from a heated filament—the so-called Edison effect—whose profound implications for modern electronics were not understood until several years later. Edison died in West Orange on October 18, 1931.

INVENTIONS:

  • 1868 Edison’s first invention was a Vote Recorder
  • 1869 Printing Telegraph
  • 1869 Stock Ticker
  • 1872 Automatic Telegraph
  • 1876 Electric Pen
  • 1877 Carbon Telephone Transmitter
  • 1877 Phonograph
  • 1879 Dynamo
  • 1878 Thomas Edison founded the Edison Electric Light Company
  • 1879 Incandescent Electric Lamp
  • 1880 223,898 Thomas Edison 1/27 for Electric Lamp and Manufacturing Process
  • 1881 Electric Motor
  • 1881 238,868 Thomas Edison 3/15 for Manufacture of Carbons for Incandescent Lamps
  • 1881 251,540 Thomas Edison 12/27 for Bamboo Carbons Filament for Incandescent Lamps
  • 1883 he observed the flow of electrons from a heated filament—the so-called “Edison effect”
  • 1886 Talking Doll
  • 1889 Edison Electric Light Company consolidated and renamed Edison General Electric Company
  • 1890 Edison, Thomson-Houston, and Westinghouse, the “Big 3” of the American lighting industry
  • 1892 Edison Electric Light Co. and Thomson-Houston Electric Co. created General Electric Co
  • 1897 Projecting Kinetoscope
  • 1900 Storage Battery

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SIR ISSAC NEWTON – THE INVENTOR OF GRAVITY

Isaac Newton was born on 4 January 1643 in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire. His father was a prosperous farmer, who died three months before Newton was born. His mother remarried and Newton was left in the care of his grandparents. In 1661, he went to Cambridge University where he became interested in mathematics, optics, physics and astronomy. In October 1665, a plague epidemic forced the university to close and Newton returned to Woolsthorpe. The two years he spent there were an extremely fruitful time during which he began to think about gravity. He also devoted time to optics and mathematics, working out his ideas about ‘fluxions’ (calculus).In 1667, Newton returned to Cambridge, where he became a fellow of Trinity College. Two years later he was appointed second Lucasian professor of mathematics. It was Newton’s reflecting telescope, made in 1668, that finally brought him to the attention of the scientific community and in 1672 he was made a fellow of the Royal Society. From the mid-1660s, Newton conducted a series of experiments on the composition of light, discovering that white light is composed of the same system of colours that can be seen in a rainbow and establishing the modern study of optics (or the behaviour of light). In 1704, Newton published ‘The Opticks’ which dealt with light and colour. He also studied and published works on history, theology and alchemy.In 1687, with the support of his friend the astronomer Edmond Halley, Newton published his single greatest work, the ‘Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica’ (‘Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy’). This showed how a universal force, gravity, applied to all objects in all parts of the universe.In 1689, Newton was elected member of parliament for Cambridge University (1689 – 1690 and 1701 – 1702). In 1696,Newton was appointed warden of the Royal Mint, settling in London. He took his duties at the Mint very seriously and campaigned against corruption and inefficiency within the organisation. In 1703, he was elected president of the Royal Society, an office he held until his death. He was knighted in 1705.

Newton was a difficult man, prone to depression and often involved in bitter arguments with other scientists, but by the early 1700s he was the dominant figure in British and European science. He died on 31 March 1727 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

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