Katharine Cook (married name Briggs) was born in 1875 and went to college at the age of 14, where she studied agriculture and graduated first in her class. While Briggs was expected to live as a traditional homemaker after receiving her diploma, her desire to learn remained unquenchable. She'd pour much of her energy into educating her daughter, Isabel—who, as an adult, would later help her develop the famous test.
Briggs was fascinated with the “correct” way to raise a child. She began studying developmental psychology, largely kept her daughter out of traditional school, and kept a detailed diary of Isabel's developmental progress. (Briggs referred to her living room a “cosmic laboratory of baby training.”) In the meantime, she wrote about child psychology in popular magazines like The New Republic and Ladies' Homes Journal, usually writing under the pseudonym “Elizabeth Childe.”
When a grown-up Isabel began attending Swarthmore College, she met a law student named Clarence “Chief” Myers. They two began dating and, eventually, Isabel brought Myers home over Christmas to meet her parents. The young man perplexed Katharine—his personality was so different from everybody else in their family—and she wanted to figure out why. Briggs visited the Library of Congress and began studying the psychology of personalities.
Everything changed after Briggs discovered Carl Jung’s 1921 book, Psychological Types. Simplified, Jung argues that human consciousness has two perceiving "function-types" (sensation and intuition) and two judging "function-types" (thinking and feeling), which are moderated by a person’s introversion or extraversion. Briggs was so fascinated by Jung’s theories that she began calling his book "The Bible" and wrote him fan mail. In 1926, she published an article in The New Republic distilling his theories into a sort of paint-by-numbers exercise entitled, “Meet Yourself: How to Use the Personality Paint Box.”
One summer, Isabel Briggs Myers (she married "Chief" in 1918) landed an unfulfilling job at a temp agency. She later gave it up for housework, but found homemaking just as lackluster an occupation. In a letter to her mother, Myers expressed a wish for “some highly intelligent division of labor that can be worked out, so everybody works, but not at the wrong things.” (She’d eventually find satisfaction as an author, later writing a detective novel called Murder Yet to Come, which won a $7500 magazine writing contest.) Her preoccupation with finding the right work, however, boosted Isabel's interest in her mother’s research.
With the adoption of the GI Bill and a new influx of working women, World War II saw the American labor force blossom. It was a boon for career consultants, too, who were seeking standardized tests that could sort all of these new workers into their ideal jobs. According to Merve Emre, author of The Personality Brokers, a slew of tests were, “made under the watchful eyes of executives eager to keep both profits and morale high.” Myers would adapt and pitch her mother’s personality tests to a consultant named Edward N. Hay, arguing that they could help people entering the workforce find their career match. Hay loved the idea.
Hay pitched the test to his biggest clients: General Electric, Standard Oil, Bell Telephone, and officials in the U.S. Army. Corporate honchos were quickly convinced that, by directing the right people to the right jobs, the test could help reduce turnover. According to Emre, Myers-Briggs encouraged employers to “reassign or fire people” according to their personality types. (At an electric company, for example, introverts could be assigned clerical work while extroverts were sent out to read meters.)
One concern with the MBTI is that nobody involved in developing it had any formal education in psychology or psychometrics (the study how to objectively measure psychological traits). Briggs, a devoted autodidact, would say, “One need not be a psychologist in order to collect and identify types any more than one needs to be a botanist to collect and identify plants.” Her critics, however, disagreed.
The Myers-Briggs indicator suffers from “low test reliability.” That is: If you take the test more than twice, there’s a good chance you’ll be classified as a different personality type. “If you retake the test after only a five-week gap, there's around a 50 percent chance that you will fall into a different personality category compared to the first time you took the test,” the philosopher Roman Krznaric wrote for Fortune. As a scientific metric, the test is consistently unreliable.
Researchers have described the MBTI as “an act of irresponsible armchair philosophy” and a “Jungian horoscope.” Critics argue that the mother-daughter team misread Jung’s work on types. (Indeed, Jung himself said that slapping personality labels onto people was “nothing but a childish parlor game.”) In the early 1990s, a U.S. Army Research Institute commissioned study concluded, “At this time, there is not sufficient, well-designed research to justify the use of the MBTI in career counseling programs" [PDF] and the psychometric expert Robert Hogan said that, "Most personality psychologists regard the MBTI as little more than an elaborate Chinese fortune cookie." Despite the criticism, the test is still used by a majority of Fortune 100 companies—all to the tune of $20 million a year.
Mark Twain is widely considered the author of the first great American novel—The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—but his rollicking tales aren’t the only legacy he left behind. His poignant quotes and witticisms have been told and retold (sometimes erroneously) over the last century and a half, and his volume of work speaks for itself. Over the course of his legendary career, Twain—real name Samuel Langhorne Clemens—wrote more than a dozen novels plus countless short stories and essays and still found time to invent new products, hang out with famous scientists, and look after a house full of cats.
Like many of history’s literary greats, Mark Twain (né Samuel Langhorne Clemens) decided to assume an alias early on in his writing career. He tried out a few different names—Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, Sergeant Fathom, and, more plainly, Josh—before settling on Mark Twain, which means two fathoms (12 feet) deep in boating jargon. He got the idea while working as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River—a job he held for four years until the Civil War broke out in 1861, putting a halt to commerce. (However, another popular theory holds that he earned the nickname in a bar. According to reports in a couple of 19th-century newspapers, he’d walk into a pub and call out “mark twain!,” prompting the bartender to take a piece of chalk and make two marks on a wall for twain—two—drinks. Twain denied this version of events, though.)
Shortly after his stint on The Big Muddy, Twain headed west with his brother to avoid having to fight in the war. He took up work as a miner in Virginia City, Nevada, but the job wasn't for him. (He described it as "hard and long and dismal.") Fortunately for Twain, he didn’t have to work there long. In 1862, he was offered his first writing job for Virginia City’s Territorial Enterprise newspaper, where he covered crime, politics, mining, and culture.
In 1864, Twain headed to Calaveras County, California in hopes of striking gold as a prospector (he didn’t). However, it was during his time here that he heard the bartender of the Angels Hotel in Angels Camp share an incredulous story about a frog-jumping contest. Twain recounted the tale in his own words in The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. It was published in 1865 in The New York Saturday Press and went on to receive national acclaim.
Twain started writing the sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1876, but he wasn’t too pleased with his progress. After writing about 400 pages, he told a friend he liked it "only tolerably well, as far as I have got, and may possibly pigeonhole or burn" the manuscript. He put the project on the back burner for several years and finally finished it in 1883 following a burst of inspiration.
While Twain was putting off writing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he was busy working on a game he dubbed Memory Builder. It was originally supposed to be an outdoor game to help his children learn about England’s monarchs, but he ended up turning it into a board game to improve its chances of selling. However, after two years of work, it was still too convoluted to be marketable and required a vast knowledge of historical facts and dates. That didn’t stop him from patenting the game, though.
Memory Builder wasn't Twain's only invention; he also patented two other products. One was inspired by his love of scrapbooking, while the other came about from his hatred of suspenders. He designed a self-adhesive scrapbook that works like an envelope, which netted him about $50,000 in profits. His “improvement in adjustable and detachable straps for garments” also ended up being useful, but for an entirely different purpose than Twain originally intended. According to The Atlantic, “This clever invention only caught on for one snug garment: the bra. For those with little brassiere experience, not a button, nor a snap, but a clasp is all that secures that elastic band, which holds up women's breasts. So not-so-dexterous ladies and gents, you can thank Mark Twain for that."
Only one video of Twain exists, and it was shot by none other than his close friend, Thomas Edison. The footage was captured in 1909—one year before the author died—at Twain’s estate in Redding, Connecticut. He’s seen sporting a light-colored suit and his usual walrus mustache, and one scene shows him with his daughters, Clara and Jean. On a separate occasion that same year, Edison recorded Twain as he read stories into a phonograph, but those audio clips were destroyed in a fire. No other recording of Twain’s voice exists.
When you think of Mark Twain, you probably picture him in an all-white suit with a cigar or pipe hanging from his lips. It’s true that he was photographed in a white suit on several occasions, but he didn’t start this habit until later in life. According to The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, “In December 1906, he wore a white suit while appearing before a congressional committee regarding copyright. He did this for dramatic emphasis. Several times after that he wore white out of season for effect.” He also refused to trade his white clothes for “shapeless and degrading black ones” in the winter, no matter how cold it got. So take that, people who subscribe to the “no white after Labor Day” rule.
Twain really, really liked cats—so much so that he had 19 of them at one time. And if he was traveling, he would “rent” cats to keep him company. In fact, he had a much higher opinion of felines than humans, remarking, “If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.” He also had a talent for coming up with some great cat names; Beelzebub, Blatherskite, Buffalo Bill, Sour Mash, Zoroaster, Soapy Sal, Pestilence, Bambino, and Satan were just a few of the kitties in his brood.
Twain is one of the most misquoted authors in history. According to one quote wrongfully attributed to him, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” What Twain actually said was, “[He] was endowed with a stupidity which by the least little stretch would go around the globe four times and tie.” There are many, many examples of these.
When he was born on November 30, 1835, Halley’s Comet was visible from Earth. It appears roughly every 75 years, and Twain predicted he would die the next time it graced the sky. As he put it in 1909, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’ Oh, I am looking forward to that.” He ended up passing away at his Connecticut home on April 21, 1910, one day after Halley’s Comet appeared in the sky once again.
You probably know George Harrison as a Beatle, the lead guitarist of the most famous band in the world. We’re guessing that there’s a lot you don’t know about the youngest of The Fab Four, who was born on February 25, 1943.
George Harrison turned 27 on February 25, 1970, less than two months before Paul McCartney told the world he had no future plans to work with the Beatles. It had been 12 years since Harrison had joined John Lennon’s band, The Quarrymen—shortly after McCartney, his Liverpool schoolmate—in 1958.
Before Harrison organized the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, there were performances for charity, of course. But when his friend, the great Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, told him about the plight of Bangladeshi refugees, victims of both war and a devastating cyclone who now faced starvation, Harrison felt compelled to devote himself to the cause. He recruited stars like Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Badfinger, and Leon Russell, and together they played two sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden on August 1, 1971. Harrison then arranged for the release of a concert album and film. The ventures had raised more than $12 million by 1985, and profits from sales of the movie and soundtrack continue to benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF.
Harrison nicknamed his 120-room Friar Park mansion “Crackerbox Palace” after a friend’s description of Lord Buckley’s tiny Los Angeles home. The 66-acre property, about 37 miles west of London, was first owned by Sir Frank Crisp, a lawyer who lived there from 1889 to 1919. Harrison bought the estate in 1970—and quickly penned “The Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp,” which appeared on his first solo album, All Things Must Pass, also in 1970.
Friar Park was a strange place, with gnomes, grottos, a miniature Matterhorn, and lavish gardens, which Harrison loved to tend. According to the Victoria County History website, the house itself “is an architectural fantasy in red brick, stone, and terracotta, mixing English, French and Flemish motifs in lavish, undisciplined profusion.”
All four Beatles were Dylan fans, and first met him in 1964. But Harrison felt a special bond with him, and spent weeks at Dylan’s Woodstock, New York home in the fall of 1968. The Band was there, too, and Harrison loved the collaborative atmosphere. During this time Dylan and Harrison co-wrote “I’d Have You Anytime,” which appeared on 1970's All Things Must Pass. The two would become bandmates in the Traveling Wilburys, and maintained a close, lifelong friendship.
"He never shut up," friend and fellow Traveling Wilbury Tom Petty once said of Harrison. "He was the best hang you could imagine."
During the band’s early years, they had extended runs as a house band in Hamburg, Germany, and were paid so poorly (and had to be on stage for so many hours) that they shared a small room in the club’s basement. Hence the witnesses to George’s deflowering, at age 17. "We were in bunkbeds," Harrison recalled. "They couldn't really see anything because I was under the covers, but after I'd finished they all applauded and cheered. At least they kept quiet whilst I was doing it."
EMI Films, Life of Brian’s original backer, withdrew funding for the Monty Python comedy classic just before filming began, scared that the religious subject matter would be too controversial. Harrison, a big fan and friend of the Pythons, set up his own production company—Handmade Films—to fund the project. Why? "Because I liked the script and I wanted to see the movie,” he explained. Harrison not only saw the film, he appeared in it, as Mr. Papadopolous, "owner of the Mount.” Monty Python’s Life of Brian, released in 1979, was a huge hit in both the UK and U.S., and was ranked as the 10th best comedy film of all time in 2010 by The Guardian.
Harrison began recording the songs that would comprise All Things Must Pass at Abbey Road on May 26, 1970, just weeks after the Beatles broke up. The triple album was released in late November, along with “My Sweet Lord,” the first single from the album. Both the record and the single spent weeks at the top of the Billboard and Melody Maker charts in early 1971, while receiving rave reviews.
2 Person Bed
Harrison wrote “Don’t Bother Me,” his first first solo composition, while sick in bed at the Palace Court Hotel in Bournemouth, England, in the summer of 1963. It “was an exercise to see if I could write a song,” Harrison said. “I don't think it's a particularly good song ... It mightn't even be a song at all, but at least it showed me that all I needed to do was keep on writing, and then maybe eventually I would write something good." “Don’t Bother Me” appeared on With The Beatles, their second studio album.
In the fall of 1963, Harrison traveled to Benton, Illinois to visit his sister, Louise, and her husband, George Caldwell. During his 18-day stay, Harrison also became the first Beatle to play in the U.S.—appearing on stage with The Four Vests at the VFW Hall in Eldorado. He played the second set with the band, taking over lead guitar and singing "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Your Cheatin' Heart."
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