I share a birthday, June 20, with English biochemist Frederick Gowland Hopkins.
His father’s cousin was the renowned poet Gerald Manley Hopkins. Frederick and I have never exchanged birthday cards or gifts, and I don’t see the point in starting now, not out of some obligatory courtesy. Besides, I’m not entirely sure that my gentle greetings and thoughtful gifts to Freddie would be appreciated or reciprocated given that he died in 1947.
Frederick was born in Sussex in 1861 and likely had an effortless and delightful British accent. I envy every man with a British accent because everything they say sounds more interesting and profound.
As a young child Frederick showed more interest in reading books and writing poetry than playing soccer and video games. This may account for why he had sufficient solitude to spend hours studying things (some alive, most were dead) he found at the seashore. Or perhaps he was home schooled.
Frederick was eight when his mother gave him his father’s old microscope. It was in later years that he told his therapist, “I wanted a bike for Christmas. Instead I got my old man’s used microscope. No wonder I was a nerd with no friends. I stopped believing in Santa and started resenting my parents all in the same week.”
Fast forward and young Mr. Hopkins went to college for a degree in chemistry and went on to study medicine. He leaned more toward research, turning down an opportunity to work in a Walgreen’s walk-in clinic outside London. Hopkins was fascinated by nutrition and its effects on the body’s metabolism. He also knew that the big money in medicine was in writing and publishing diet books.
His dedication led him to the discovery that there are elements in food that animals need to survive and to thrive. Hopkins called these “accessory nutrient factors,” but we know them today as vitamins. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1929 for his discovery, a prize he shared with fellow researcher Christiaan Eijkman. Hopkins and Eijkman took the prize money and opened a chain of vitamin stores called “GNC” in U.S. shopping malls.
Yet with all his fame and fortune, Frederick Hopkins always envied and longed for the life of poetry, depression, and poverty that his cousin Gerald enjoyed through suffering.
I also share my birthday with country music’s legendary guitarist, Chet Atkins, born outside Luttrell, Tennessee in 1924.
Self-taught through YouTube videos, Chester Burton Atkins developed an innovative guitar playing style that influenced guitarists in every musical genre, except for possibly rap and polka. Countless guitarists have been praised for their finger-picking prowess only to hear, “Yep, he’s amazing; but he’s no Chet Atkins.”
Whenever I feel badly about living in Music City and loving music, but having no musical talent of my own whatsoever I play a clip like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvmfsivdavQ of Chet Atkin playing two songs simultaneously. I do this so I can feel even worse about myself.
I also share my birthday with Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman, who made me promise not to mention her age (52). On her official website Nicole claims to have been born in Honolulu, which makes sense. With her blonde hair and porcelain-smooth pale skin she certainly looks like a native Hawaiian.
Nicole’s father was a successful biochemist and clinical psychologist. I’m not sure how those two careers merge, but it’s possible that Dr. Kidman prescribed for his therapy patients a medication or two that he whipped up in the back of his garage where he kept the sailboat.
At age three, the Kidman family moved to Sydney, Australia which may have something to do with Nicole having an effortless and seductive Australian accent. I envy every man with an Australian accent because everything they say sounds interesting and sexy. I believe the accent explains why Nicole has stayed married to Keith Urban longer than to Tom Cruise. Well, the accent and the fact that Nicole found Scientology to be nuttier than a Payday candy bar.
I picture Keith making Nicole swoon as he sings to her one of his hit love songs. And as one of the great guitarists in country music I imagine Keith keeping his lovely wife spellbound as he lays back on the couch, creating stunning instrumentals on the spot.
These are such magical moments, and then Nicole says, “My gosh, you’re amazing, Keith. But you’re no Chet Atkins.”
Ramon Presson, PhD, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Franklin (www.ramonpressontherapy.com) and the author of several books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read Presson’s previous columns go to www.franklinhomepage.com/?s=ramon+presson