Allow me to introduce you to Robert Underwood Johnson (1853-1937). For the longest time, I only knew him as that one weirdly close friend of Nikola Tesla (himself a popular crush, it would seem). As I begin to research Robert further, I realized what a remarkable person he was in his own right.
Robert was the editor of the CENTURY magazine, which no longer exists, but in its time it published material by renowned writers and thinkers, including Tesla’s controversial article, THE PROBLEM OF INCREASING HUMAN ENERGY. Through his work with the magazine, Robert came to know anybody who was anybody in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One article I read referred to him as a “genius whisperer.” That’s not far from the truth.
Robert is best remembered today because of his friendship with Tesla. Tesla was a notoriously asocial man who had very few close friends. Robert, and his wife Katharine, were the exceptions. Robert and Tesla shared a love of poetry, and Tesla nicknamed Robert “Luka Filipov” after a hero from a Serbian epic. The two men would remain close for the rest of Robert’s life, with Robert referring to Tesla as his best friend on several occasions.
(There’s all kinds of talk that Tesla may have been in love with Katharine Johnson, or vice versa, and while I think there is some merit to that theory, it’s not entirely pertinent to this post. Though I can’t help but wonder if Robert knew, and how he felt about it… But I digress.)
In 1920, President Wilson appointed Robert ambassador to Italy, a post he held until the summer of 1921. Robert was a lifelong Italophile who had been given awards by the Italian government for his work supporting international copyright laws.
I should dedicate some space to what Robert would most want to be remembered for: his poetry. While not necessarily a great poet, he did publish several books, and it’s hard to deny his passion and enthusiasm. He even wrote a poem titled IN TESLA’S LABORATORY, dedicated to his friend. He favored formal styles of poetry, often speaking out against what he saw as the encroachment of modernism on classical forms of expression (for example, he did not care for the work of either T.S. Eliot or Walt Whitman). While I do not necessarily agree with this, it does show that Robert was a strong minded individual who was completely dedicated to the causes he chose to support.
As previously mentioned, Robert was a friend of a great many famous and talented people. He records his reminiscences in his memoir, REMEMBERED YESTERDAYS, a warm and engaging look back on a fascinating life.
Some other neat things:
- His famous friends, apart from Tesla, included Mark Twain, John Muir, and Rudyard Kipling.
- It was at Robert’s encouragement that Ulysses Grant wrote his memoirs. They were published in the CENTURY at first.
- He and Muir helped establish Yosemite National Park.
- Katharine and Robert had two children, Owen and Agnes. Owen went on to become a successful writer.
- In the early 20th century, Robert was the secretary of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. At this time, there were many rabidly misogynistic members of this all-male organization. When the question of the election of women to the Academy was raised, Robert supported letting women in, in spite of the often vicious opposition from other members.
- Apparently, as Katharine Johnson lay dying, she told her husband to always keep in touch with Tesla. Shortly there after, Robert wrote to Tesla saying that this might not be an easy thing to do, but it would not be his fault if it was not done.
- It’s like, wow, you can really tell how much he loved this woman.
- He signed his last note (before his death in 1937) to Tesla as “Luka Filipov.” Are you crying yet? I am.
OK, I’m sorry, this turned into a really long post, but Robert Underwood Johnson deserves the recognition. He was more than just Tesla’s friend. He was a poet, a diplomat, an editor, an environmentalist, an activist, a friend, a father, a husband. He was, I truly believe, a good and admirable person not only for his own time, but for ours as well. As a lover of all things Italian who’s been known to scribble down the odd poem now and again, I feel especially drawn to him. Everybody should have as good a friend as him. Hell, everyone should try to be as good a friend as him.
Tl:dr Robert was an insanely accomplished dude who was BFFs with some awesome people, was an awesome person in his own right, and was probably the best friend anyone ever had. He deserves to be more than just a footnote in the Tesla story.
Now, if you’ll permit me a little more room, a quick guide to the photos (from top to bottom):
- Robert as a younger man. I’m not gonna lie, I never found beards attractive until I saw this old, grainy photo.
- with Tesla in the laboratory. Supposedly they did this a lot.
- walking down the steps of the White House like a boss after being appointed Ambassador to Italy.
- seen here at left modeling for the sculptor Paul Swan, at right. That bust is majestic.
- portrait by William Merritt Chase, a fellow member of the Academy and one of the most important artists of the day.
- an Onion headline edit by yours truly. Robert was tough and downright feisty when he had to be, but I think this still applies.
Representatives at the coronation of Nicholas II,
Emperor of Russia
Representatives of Bavaria: They are arranged in a group with four
seated and three standing behind them. Prince Louis of Bavaria
(1845-1921), later King Ludwig III, is sitting at the centre of the
group holding a hat with a feather plume on his lap. They are all
wearing ceremonial military uniform and are holding swords.
Representatives of the Grand Duchy of Baden:
They are arranged in a group with four
seated and two standing behind them to the left. They are wearing
ceremonial military uniform and are holding swords.
Representatives of Denmark: They are arranged in a group with three
seated and three standing behind them. Crown Prince Frederik, later King
Frederik VIII (1843-1912) is sitting at the centre of the group facing
partly to the right. They are all wearing ceremonial military uniform.
4) Representatives of the Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine:
There are ten men arranged in a group with
four seated and six standing in a row behind them. Ernst Ludwig, Grand
Duke of Hesse and by Rhine (1868-1937) is sitting second from the left.
All are wearing ceremonial military uniform or formal dress.
Representatives of France:
They are standing in a group on a stone staircase with an open door behind them. All are wearing ceremonial military uniform.
Representatives of Romania: They are arranged in a group with Prince
Ferdinand of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (1865-1927), later King Ferdinand I
of Romania, sitting at the centre. All are wearing ceremonial military
Representatives of the United States of America:
They are arranged in a group with three
women at the centre wearing formal dresses. General McCook, the military
envoy, is standing to the far left and there are two men to the far
right. All are wearing ceremonial military uniform.
Representatives of the United States of America:
Clifton Rodes Breckinridge (1846-1932), the
Minister to Russia, is seated in the middle of the group. His wife is
sitting beside him to the left and Mrs Peirce is sitting to the right.
Five men are standing in a row behind them with Admiral Selfridge
(1836-1924), the naval envoy, standing second from the right wearing
Representatives of the Netherlands:
Seated at the centre of the group is a
woman wearing a formal dress with a young girl standing beside her to
the left. There is a man seated to the left and two men seated to the
right. Six men are standing in a row behind. All of the men are wearing
ceremonial military dress.
Representatives of Japan:
There are nine men arranged in a group with
five seated and four standing behind. Yamagata Aritomo (1838-1922), the
Ambassador Extrodinary, is sitting at the centre of the group. All are
wearing ceremonial military uniform or formal dress.
Representatives of Turkey:
There are six men arranged in a group with
four seated and two standing. Mr Zia-Pascha, the Ambassador Extrodinary,
is sitting second from the right. They are all wearing military uniform
or formal dress and several are wearing a fez.
Representatives of China:
There are twenty-two men standing in a
group with Li-Hung-Tchang (1823-1901), the Ambassador Extraordinary,
seated at the front of the group to the right. They are wearing a mix of
traditional Chinese costume and western military uniforms.
Representatives of Siam:
Prince Shira of Siam is sitting to the left
with a small table in front of him. There are two attendants beside him
to the right, one seated and one standing. They are all wearing
ceremonial military uniform.
Representatives of Württemberg:
There are five men arranged in a group with
three seated and two standing behind. Albrecht, Duke of Württemberg
(1865-1939) is sitting at the centre of the group. They are all wearing
ceremonial military uniform.
Representatives of Mexico:
Don Manuel Iturbe, the Envoy Extraordinary,
is sitting to the left wearing a heavily embroidered jacket and a sash.
Two men are standing to the right, also wearing formal dress.
Representatives of the Emirate of Bukhara:
There are six men arranged in a group with
five sitting in a row and one standing behind. Emir
Seid-Abdoul-Akhad-Khan (1859-1911) is sitting at the centre of the
group. They are all wearing traditional costume or military uniform.
Representatives of the nobility:
There is a large group of men gathered in
front of a stone building which has three arches supported by columns, a
balcony and windows in the gothic style. All are wearing military
The suite of Nicholas II:
There are sixty-five men arranged in a long
group with the front row seated. All are wearing ceremonial military
uniform and many are carrying swords.
The gentlemen appointed by General Washington, are Colonel Laurens, one of his aid de camps, and Viscount Noaille of the French army. They have this day held an interview with the two British officers on the part of Lord Cornwallis, the terms of capitulation are settled, and being confirmed by the commanders of both armies, the royal troops are to march out to morrow and surrender their arms. It is a circumstance deserving of remark, that Colonel Laurens who is stipulating for the surrender of a British nobleman, at the head of a royal army, is the son of Mr. Henry Laurens, our ambassador to Holland, who being captured on his voyage, is now in close confinement in the Tower of London.*
*Connected with this transaction there is a concurrence of circumstances so peculiarly remarkable, that I cannot omit to notice them in this place. Mr. Henry Laurens, who was deputed by Congress as our ambassador to Holland, was captured and carried into England, and closely and most rigorously confined in the tower of London. Lord Cornwallis sustains the office of constable to the tower, of course Mr. Laurens is his prisoner. The son, Colonel John Laurens, stipulates the conditions of the surrender of the constable, who becomes our prisoner, while Mr. Laurens, the father, remains confined in the tower as a prisoner to the captured constable. Congress had proposed that Mr. Laurens should be received in exchange for General Burgoyne, but the proposal was rejected by the British Government. After Cornwallis was captured however, he was readily received in exchange for Mr Laurens
A military journal during the American revolutionary war, from 1775 to 1783 by James Thacher
This was James Thacher’s journal entry on October 18th, 1781
An illegitimate, rebellious Italian princess gets shipped to England so Mr Ambassador Hero can husband hunt her a spouse.
What part made you fangirl squeal:
Two words. Ruby. Tiara. If I explain or expound I WILL RUIN YO FEELS & YOU’LL SUE ME OVER ROMTASTIC SPOILERS!
Dude. Of COURSE Lucia! Chick’s an independent sassy princess who SLAYS. Her brain & bod & personality make her queen!
How smexy was the smex?
Not frequent, but DAAAAAAAAMN dat carriage scene! I was face-fanning and heart-clutching and everythang.
Name That Trope:
Opposites Attract, Alpha Heroine/Beta Hero, At Odds/Enemies To Lovers
Whose Line Is It Anyway:
“He knew not to mock her size or constitution. He liked his balls too much to do that.”
Got any bitching to do?
Yes. It ended. What the fuck?!
Visually Depict Yo Book Feels:
Famous last words:
Seriously. Good book is gooooooooooooood. The hero goes all jealous with his angsty-pants of “ME NO CAN HAVE,” the heroine goes all bomb-diggity with her brains and attitude! If there’s a criticism against this book, that critic is lying they ass right off their backside.
“Mr Ambassador, you may not know much about me, but what you should know is that I’m about as straight a shooter as you’re gonna find in Washington. So you should believe me when I tell you that I do not want, as my first act as Commander-in-Chief, to attack Iran. But as both of us know, it’s not always up to us how history plays itself out. Now I have chosen to believe that your country is not playing on our emotions tonight. But nevertheless you’ll feel the full impact of them if you do not comply with my demands. Mr Ambassador, dock your Destroyers. Or the lead story in the morning news will not be about the attack on our capital, but the devastating attack on yours. Please, Mr Ambassador, let’s not get off on the wrong foot here tonight.”
The first 100 days fly by, you’ve never been so busy in your life. Traveling across the country, talking at schools, working with teachers and other administrators. It’s been a whirlwind but a total blast. You’ve really gotten to know your team, Sam was funny, easy going and loyal. Thor looked like a hulking football player but he was sweet, kind of like a teddy bear. Bucky was a flirt, sarcastic and charming as hell. Steve was quiet, thoughtful and seemed to notice everything. He was always the first one there if you were feeling even the slightest bit uncomfortable. Which, being a single woman around dozens of men, happened more often than you’d like. Then there was Quill. Your secretary whose name fit his job description perfectly, he was carefree and easy to talk to and wrote exceptional speeches.
“Thank you so much for coming First Lady Hill.”
“It’s a pleasure.” You tell the ambassador with a smile. Much to your team’s discomfort you’d had Jessica get a tour of different school set for you, you’d wanted to go abroad and one of the first places you had scheduled to go was the Middle East. Much to your security detail’s chagrin. They were on high alert, Steve has never been more than two feet from your side.
“Some of the locals aren’t exactly thrilled with you being here.”
“That’s not a big surprise.” You tell him and the guys shift uncomfortably.
“We’ve got some Marines on standby to escort you to the two schools.”
“Wonderful. What time?”
“Perfect. I’m just going to get changed and ready to go. I have a head scarf, should I wear it?”
“Yes.” The ambassador tells you with a small smile. “I’ll meet you out front in two hours.”
“Thank you Mr. Ambassador.” He nods and you and your crew head upstairs.
“This isn’t a good idea.” Steve says the second the door to your room closes, “These aren’t people we want to mess with.”
“Steve I can’t just let them win.”
“You’re risking your life. All of our lives.” He argues.
“You guys can stay here. I’ll go with the Marines.”
“Fat chance.” Bucky huffs, and the other three nod their agreement.
“I’m just saying, I don’t want any of you to do anything you’re uncomfortable with. That includes you Peter, if you’re uncomfortable with this don’t feel like you have to come.”
“If one of your boys are willing to give me a gun I’m in.”
“Um, can we do that?” Thor asks looking over at Steve.
“I was military. Air Force.”
“I’m good with it. I want as many guns out there as possible.” He rubs his forehead and closes his eyes for a second. “Buck I want you up high. Covering our six.”
“Thor, you’ve got point, Sam left side, Quill right I’ll take flank. And you.” He rounds on you, “No arguments. You do as you’re told got it?”
“Yes dear.” You tell him pulling the headscarf over your hair and pinning it like the cultural specialist Kamala had taught you.
“I need you to take this seriously.”
“I am. I’m just trying to get you to relax for a second. We’re safe here in the embassy.”
“Honestly First Lady we’re not completely safe anywhere in this region.”
Zulu has the distinction of being the first predominantly African-American parade in New Orleans and the third oldest parading krewe. Founded by a group that called themselves the Tramps, Zulu was originally made up of makeshift floats and was intended to be a spoof of the white krewes, especially Rex. The king wielded a banana scepter and sat on a throne of palmetto leaves. The parade followed no defined route and often stopped at popular bars in the African-American neighborhoods. As unlikely as it sounds, Zulu, not Bacchus, was the first krewe to feature a celebrity monarch when Louis Armstrong reigned in 1949. Members of Zulu wear blackface and grass skirts to openly mock the minstrel shows that were once popular in the past. Civil rights organizers from out of state pressured the Zulus to stop this tradition, and for a while they briefly did. However, the civil rights organizers eventually moved on to other issues and the traditions returned. Today, Zulu is an integral part of New Orleans Mardi Gras. Zulu coconuts, which are decorated by the krewe, are some of the most sought after throws in all of Carnival. Zulu features a unique cast of characters, including the Witch Doctor, Mr. Big Shot, Mr. Big Stuff, the Ambassador, and the Soulful Warriors. Zulu bravely chose to parade after Hurricane Katrina despite massive damage to its den and the death of several krewe members. It also was the first krewe to integrate. Zulu is truly a Mardi Gras treasure, and certainly will be for many years to come.
TOP 20 - 11/28/2015 20) X Ambassadors - Renegades [Debut] 19) Gwen Stefani - Used To Love You [Debut] 18) Rudimental f/ Ed Sheeran - Lay It All On Me (=) 17) Ariana Grande - Focus (+2) 16) Demi Lovato - Confident (+1) 15) Hailee Steinfeld - Love Myself (-4) 14) Alessia Cara - Here [Re-Entry] 13) Meghan Trainor f/ John Legend - Like I’m Gonna Lose You (+2) 12) Taylor Swift - Wildest Dreams (-2) 11) Drake f/ Kehlani & Charlie Puth - Hotline Bling (-3) 10) Tori Kelly f/ Big Sean - Hollow (+2) 9) One Direction - Drag Me Down (+5) 8) Ellie Goulding - On My Mind (+1) 7) Justin Bieber - Sorry (+6) 6) Selena Gomez - Same Old Love (=) 5) Elle King - Ex’s & Oh’s (=) 4) Tinashe f/ Chris Brown - Player (-1) 3) Adele - Hello (-2) 2) JoJo - Say Love (+2) 1) SHAWN MENDES - STITCHES (+1) Contenders: Pia Mia - Touch Post Malone - White Iverson Travi$ Scott - Antidote
Prompt by@inuhimesblog: The crew of the Enterprise is still on Yorktown awaiting the completion of their new Enterprise. As a thank you Starfleet invites the crew’s family to stay in Yorktown until they set sail (If they wish). The triumvirate has to deal with their parents in person for the first time in a while. Mrs.McCoy, Joana, Ambassador Sarek, and Mrs.Kirk all get to meet each other… It should be an interesting time for the boys.