Marcus Samuel (1853-1927) was born in London to a wealthy Iraqi-Jewish family originally from the Netherlands. On a trip to the Black Sea in 1890, he saw the potential in oil (still a novel resource at the time). Samuel ordered the construction of 8 tankers that met the highest safety standards, receiving permission to transport oil to Asia across the newly-built Suez Canal. Thus was born Shell Oil, taking the name of the Samuel family business, which began meagerly just a few decades earlier by selling painted seashells. Using one of his tankers, Samuel once saved the stranded ship HMS Victorious, a feat for which he was knighted. Previously, Sir Samuel had served as the Sheriff of London, and even its Mayor! For his role in fueling the Allies in World War I, he was made 1st Baron of Bearsted, and later 1st Viscount of Bearsted. Lord Samuel was known for his incredible devotion to his wife and four children. So much so, in fact, that he died less than 24 hours after the passing of his beloved wife. At death, he left his large estate to be transformed into a public park, an orphanage and a nursing home. Today, his company is known as Royal Dutch Shell, after having merged in 1907 with the Royal Dutch oil company in order to compete with Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. Shell is currently the 5th largest company in the world, with a yearly revenue of over $360 billion.
Melvin Calvin (1911 – 1997) One of the greatest biochemists of the last century, this man mapped the entire chemical process of photosynthesis. He won the Nobel Prize for this in 1961. Of course, the mechanism bears his name: the Calvin Cycle. Since today is the holiday of Tu B’Shvat (the “New Year of Trees”), it is appropriate to feature Melvin Calvin. After all, he is known as the one who revealed their age-old secret: photosynthesis. (Also, we had Hans Krebs a few weeks ago, and it would be unfair to feature the Krebs Cycle and not the Calvin Cycle).
Words of the Week
Because each life form, even fruit, is entrusted to a specific angel. By saying a blessing over a fruit, we empower that angel to reproduce more of that fruit. One who refrains from partaking of a fruit deprives the world of the spiritual influence that the blessing would have provided. – Chemdat Yamim (from the Tu B’Shvat Seder)