Sunday, November 22, 2020

Fun with birthdays, inspired by Nov 20

 On Nov 20, 2020  the Google Doodle was of Benoit Mandelbrot for his 96th birthday. Why have a Doodle on his 96th bday? Anyway, the Doodle is here.  

On Nov 20, 2020 I read that Joe Biden turned 78. Why no Google Doodle of him? Maybe when he's 96. 

This got me thinking of who else might have a Nov 20 birthday. I found the following (`found' is not quite right as I will explain later).

In order of age. 

Benoit Mandelbrot: Dead at 85, would have been 96

Bobby Kennedy: Dead at 43, would have been 95.

Sergei Novikov: 82 years old. (Won Fields Medal in 1970 and did work on Solitons)

Dick Smothers: 80 years old (Tommy Smothers is not his twin, Tommy  is 3 years older) 

Joe Biden, 78 years old (in most crowds he would be an old-timer, but in this crowd he is the baby of the bunch- though there is a reason for that as you will see later)

There are more Nov 20 famous people (famous to someone- I have not heard of most of them) here

Some thoughts on all of this trivia

1) I keep a list of famous (to me) people over 80 (though if I look someone up who is not quite 80 I may put him on the list anyway, as is the case for Biden and Trump) so if they die I won't be one of those people saying `I thought they were already dead'.  I then began putting people on it who were  already dead so I could find matching bdays. Hence it was easy to find Nov 20 birthdays of people over 80, and one under. 

2) Mandelbrot is more famous than Novikov since Mandelbrot has those pretty pictures. This is not a criticism of his work. Is it possible to make people who do hard and abstract math more in the public eye? Probably not. 

3) There is an awesome song about the Mandelbrot set (though some of the comments on the you tube video say its the Julia Set, but HEY- if they have math in a song, I am happy and don't get too fussy about how accurate it is- though I would understand if Julia fans are annoyed). The song is here. It has 464 likes and 41 dislikes. That always puzzled me- why does it have any dislikes? I've seen really awesome songs still have some dislikes. Well, as Rick Nelson sings in Garden Party (see here) ,you can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself. He got 25,000 likes and 702 dislikes. An awesome ratio, but why are there any dislikes? 

4) I don't think Novikov will have a song about his work anytime soon.

5) Joe Biden has had some novelty songs about him in the past, and will do have more in the future once he is the Whitehouse. (Is the statement `Joe Biden is the president-elect' biased?)

6) I like the variety of the Nov 20 birthdays: two math, two politics, one entertainment. 

7) I originally thought Nov 20 is NOT special and that most days would have around 5 bdays in my files. but actually no- I did a spot check of Nov 21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30 and they are all either 0,1, or 2 bdays. Prob not significant since this is just my small file. OR people avoid having babies close to thanksgiving (not sure of that one, but people DO avoid Feb 29 and Dec 25). 

8) Of more interest are people born the same DAY and YEAR. I have a few of those, but I will point out one relevant to our field:

Albert Meyer and Art Garfunkel are same DAY and same YEAR.

(ADDED LATER: Art Garfunekl got a BA in Art History and then an MA in Math Eduacation)

Most famous SAME DAY and SAME YEAR of all time? I would guess

Abe Lincoln and Charles Darwin. 

Second place

 Margaret Thatcher and Lenny Bruce.

 (I really doubt that's second place) 


  1. Birthday of Edwin Hubble, Christian Goldbach, and Windows.

  2. I checked and Wikipedia and YES, all three were born Nov 20.
    I wondered how a product could have a birthday, but YES
    Windows initial release was indeed Nov 20, 1985.

  3. Fields medalist Tim Gowers, nov 20 1963. Why did you choose nov 20? (which is my birthday as well :)

    1. I chose Nov 20 for two reasons:
      1) I noticed the Google Doodle of Mandelbrot on Nov 20 AND I knew it was also Biden't Bday.
      2) I knew it was YOUR birthday!

  4. The chess problem community has a website "Chess Composers - Whose birthday is it today?" by Eric Huber & Vlaicu Crişan, at, which for each day of the year lists chess composers born at this date. E.g. for Nov 20, see A good idea that could also be used for other fields. Though I did not spot a really prominent composer born Nov 20 :-)